On WhatsApp Deal: Who Dares to Be A (Young) Billionaire?

[THE NEW YORK TIMES, FORBES, LTTW, SAN FRANCISCO] Every one of us perhaps ever dreamed of success at relatively young age, by doing what we love. In today’s climate, having our own car, house, and years of savings might suit the dream perfectly. For some, dreams do come true; but what if it turns out to be much, much more than we expected? What if we’re talking millions to billions of dollars here? What if we’re talking seven generations of savings? Who dares to dream the dream anyway?

Speaking of whom, the WhatsApp pair of Brian Acton (at 42) and Jan Koum (at 40) are ones who dare. On recent news, the pair were selling their 5 year old mobile messaging company to Facebook for $19 billion!—a number worth more than long-established companies such as Gap, Harley-Davidson, and Xerox, to name a few. As expected, the Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp has freshly been discussed around the globe, from the suit-and-ties to the casuals, from the hardcore users to the non-users.

In a recent Forbes article, contributor Reuven Cohen stressed to one question: why? If Facebook already has a significant portion of the global instant messaging market through its own Facebook Messenger, what’s driving the gigantic valuation? Mr. Cohen analyzed this by emphasizing people’s ‘attention’ as the hard currency of cyberspace, which he quotes from Thomas Mandel and Gerard Van der Leun in their 1996 book Rules of the Net. At 450 million global users and growing, WhatsApp’s users—unlike many other mobile apps usage—actually use this service on a daily or even hourly basis.

To be brief, Mr. Cohen pointed out like this: the better Facebook gets at keeping your attention, the more valuable it become. Accordingly, this may very well be the fundamental value behind Facebook’s purchase—and yes, it worth billions of dollars.

On a different angle, a New York Times article by Nick Bilton was stressing out the deal’s correlation to the behavior among the Silicon Valley newly billionaires; as he wrote, “…these are heady times in technology — and everyone, it seems, is rethinking his or her number.” The mentioned number refers to how much money it would take for them to sell their start-up, quit their job or close their venture capital fund — or in some cases, just turn their back from it all.

Getting rich is somewhat common in circle of technology nowadays; and WhatsApp’s Brian Acton and Jan Koum are adding to the list of names of the people who become millionaire and billionaire at young age. We already have Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both at 40 year-old, whose net worth is about $24.4 and $24.9 billion; the wonderboy Mark Zuckerberg (at 29), co-founder and CEO of Facebook, whose net worth is about $19 billion as of September 2013; and Tumblr’s founder and CEO David Karp, a 27 year-old whose net worth exceeds $200 million.

For most of us who don’t live under the US dollar currency—far below in this case, the above numbers are almost unreal, even perhaps unimaginable. However, the big gasp also belong to the Americans such as John Gabbert, chief executive of Pitchbook Data (a database of private equity deals and industry players), who said that 10 years ago, entrepreneurs were more down to earth about their numbers. The founders of Plumtree (Software) probably made $5 to $10 million each from the I.P.O.,” Mr. Gabbert said. “That looked like success back then. That’s pretty good money. You could live forever on that.”

Mr. Bilton use Mr. Gabbert’s opinion to notify the possibility of changing behavior among today’s entrepreneurs, as WhatsApp’s Jan Koum will personally make about $6.8 billion on the deal— the rough equivalent of San Francisco’s annual budget—and how does he go about earning such ‘superwealth’ at young age, how would he make use of it, and how does it affect the people close to him and the rest of young generation worldwide.

If a large sum of money is considered as power, and such power to be possessed by individuals at young age, then how does the ‘youth culture’ around the world respond to this matter? On top of this, does culture matters in managing of money?


Obituary, Paco de Lucia

[CNN, BBC, LTTW, FLAMENCO WORLD] One of the guitar giants, Paco de Lucia, who is considered the world over as the Maestro of Flamenco Guitar, has died. He was 66. He is reported to have died in the Mexican resort of Cancun after a heart attack while playing with his children on a beach. Miguel Nunez, the Algeciras spokesman, said the preliminary cause of death appears to be a heart attack.

The Flamenco has grown to be one of the most well-known among the world’s roots music in decades, where the audiences have a huge enthusiasm for artist like The Gypsy Kings; but de Lucia paved the way.

Paco de Lucia is known for his many daring works in response to the development and establishment of Spain’s Flamenco music. He was believed to be the first person who capable of evoking the true rhythm of Flamenco dancing into guitar playing, for which he is credited with transforming the folk art of Flamenco into a more vibrant new style. Moreover, he has determined the direction that Flamenco guitar has taken for decades.

A pioneer of the New Flamenco style, de Lucia’s career is defined by wearingly global tours, recordings, and crossover collaborations with musicians such as Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Ravi Shankar, and Chick Corea.

Paco de Lucia was surely one among the world’s inspiring individuals whose works have been the beacon for many young generations. We may have lost him, but he was and still is sounding the heartbeat we all should listen to.

Adiós, maestro…


Paco de Lucia – Entre dos Aguas (1976)

My Struggling to Find Music’s Relation to Films

by Veka Prameshti*

[Jakarta, LttW] Recently I read news about Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross doing another film score for David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ – a movie adapted from a novel written by Gillian Flynn that tells a story about a couple’s dark marriage. Well, little surprise that David Fincher chose the duo to do the film score, as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are very well-known for creating music that brings out the dark, mysterious, thrilling, gloomy kind of ambiance that puts the audience on edge while watching movies in which they score the music (e.g, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, ‘The Social Network’).

I’m no expert in this, but you may call me music and film enthusiast who is struggling to find the relation among music and films; and that leads to the questions, how do Mr. Reznor and Mr. Ross response to Mr. Fincher’s movie? If I’m referring to Keith Negus’s thinking, in which music alone could construct a variety of images within our mind, what would actually happen when those images are ‘reduced’ to a single image—or a scene in this case—belongs uniquely to the director? And vice versa, if an image could ‘speak’ loud enough already, why would a director needs music anyway?

Let’s take silent films as an example; Michel Hazanavicius’s film ‘The Artist’ (2011) might suit the criteria. As a non-audible moving picture, the audience have no way of knowing the tone in which the actors are speaking in; in this case, the audience rely solely on the moving visual, and the actors’ acting to present the story that is being told. In my opinion, however, those two are not enough. In order for a story to be captured and understood by the audience, a movie needs a way to communicate what facial expressions and written texts cannot. This is where music comes in; it made a whole lot of sense to me with the language of music throughout the film.

One of the scenes of ‘The Artist’ (2011)

Another case comes from the Disney’s animated film ‘Fantasia’ (1940), which seems quite the opposite with what music does to silent films. In ‘Fantasia’, music turns out to be the point of departure, before later responded by the story and the visual. The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski; seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (Wikipedia). As far as I can remember, ‘Fantasia’ is all centered on the story and animation, while music is at the peripheral; and I was wrong. However, the thought that classical music fits perfectly with the animation, remain the same. In fact, it has become my habit to visualize classical music with films in general; a good example might be Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, and the legendary John Williams who scores for the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ trilogies.

Excerpt from ‘Fantasia’ (1940) featuring The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

Music surely does a lot of things to films; it creates ambiance, sets the tone of the movie, imply the sense of space, create contradictions, giving direction of emotion, and so on. Music also expresses, highlights the intangible and invisible aspects in a movie. All in all, it helps as well as enhances the story telling process. However, my view may seem very music-oriented—and it doesn’t feel right; then I assume, this must be related to the artistic and symbolic understanding on both sound and visual symbols, in which I’m lacking of.

In search of a good explanation on the relation between music and film, I was borrowed a copy of “Popular Music in Theory” (Keith Negus, 1996) from a friend, and found the semiotic connections between sound and visual as analyzed by Andrew Goodwin. “For Goodwin, video images had not simply been imposed on a musical song but had been drawn out of the music due to the way that the music itself carried certain meanings and signified in various ways,” as recalled by Keith Negus. “Goodwin suggested that the sound-image relationship could be approached via the distinctions between icon, index, and symbol.” (see the box below)

Referring to the above account, I assume that within the general conception of the sound of films, music—or commonly termed as the original soundtrack—is just one of the determinant factors to give sound to films, or in other words, to communicate the story to the audience. Else there are atmospheric sound effects, audible dialog, etc. Again, I have to have enough understanding on the visual symbols as well to get to know the relation among these two. Knowing that cultural context is one of the prerequisites, I must understand the history behind whatever musical genres and visual symbols a film director may use; then I would start to comprehend the core message of a film.

Disappointingly, I often fail to consider that films are basically an interdisciplinary work in which moving images and sound should be experienced as one. Furthermore, after being introduced upon Sacred Bridge’s thoughts and analysis on cultural creations such as movie— in which one possess a great deal of inter-mechanism works among literature, acting, visual arts, fashion, sound, music, technology, and so on— then my short of references regarding all of those fields had determined how I appreciated any movie creation.

Most of the greatest movies in history aren’t just great because of the good actors, or directors, or composers. They are great also because they had the perfect teamwork to tackle such disciplines involved. For music, they need composers who are able to create the right symbols, which would allow the audience to feel, connect, and engage in the story told through motion pictures. At last, I will not be able to entirely drown in the feeling of intense suspense or fear in the movie ‘Silence of the Lambs if it weren’t for the music composed by Howard Shore, who also worked on ‘The Lord of The Rings’ Trilogy, ‘The Aviator’, ‘Hugo’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Doubt’, just to name a few.

In conclusion, for a motion picture to have profound effects on the audience – not only does it need to have a great cast and crew; on top of it all, it requires the audiences’ awareness and understanding on all of those ‘unspeakable’ meanings, carried thorough musical and visual symbols. So, good luck with the struggle, folks!


*Veka Prameshti is our newest local contributor regarding issues around music and arts.

To Artist Andrea Buttner, Poverty Is “Good”; To Me, I Don’t Really Care Much About It

by Bhima Aryateja

[THE IRISH TIMES, LTTW, DUBLIN] Poverty is often related to all things negative. To some extent, poverty can even lead to crimes, violence, drug abuse, etc.; although in reality, we don’t really care about much, do we?

In this case, there is one who does. A German artist named Andrea Büttner responses poverty through art. She sees poverty as a virtue, as presented in her Solo exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland, opened from January 24 throughout March 19, 2014. Büttner, a PhD at the Royal College of Art, London, has long been interested in subjects as ‘poverty’, ‘shame’, and ‘vulnerability’. Büttner’s works have surprised many audiences by the thoughts and symbols she used as response to the complex and problematic issue like poverty.

Inspired by the links between the notions of poverty as expressed in the 12th century by St Francis of Assisi, and in the 20th century by the Italian art movement of arte povera – radical art is (in theory) free from the concerns of the marketplace, she doesn’t view poverty as a state of devastating physical want. Within this corridor of thinking, she realized that poverty is one reason that makes many people feel ashamed; but there is also other things left unnoticed, that is the artistic, philosophical, religious and political explorations of poverty can also worked as a conscious choice, to be part of a good way of living the world.

To do so, she distills ideas and things down to a simple form. Her fabric sculptures, for example, are a series of square monochrome abstracts, each a slab of intense color. She clearly likes the idea of taking a humble, workaday material and recasting it in a pure, aesthetic form in the privileged context of an art gallery. Similarly, she uses plywood shuttering to make her woodcuts. Shuttering is a disposable building material commonly used to shape cast concrete structures such as the gallery itself, as she points out. The woodcuts refer to St Francis of Assisi.

In the end, Andrea Büttner has shown us that there are many ways to response to issue as poverty, how complex and intricate it may seem. To artist Andrea Büttner, poverty is “good”; and her art can show you that she really care about poverty—let’s hope so. Now the challenge is, how to make one really care about what the art says? One such as myself.

Caring is believing

Poverty itself, however, has more than one definition, and area of ‘problem’. One figure which has been suggested is that an income of half the national average indicates poverty; the World Bank Organisation measures poverty based on incomes, or in this case, a person is considered poor if his or her income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs; the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines poverty as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions, also debility due to malnutrition.

Within those definitions, I may trapped to the very common perception of poverty as a state of indignity or helplessness, and moreover, the human inability to create something positive out of it. Having live my life this way all this time, perhaps this constant ignorance had become a habit of mine that’s very hard to get out of. Thus, issue as poverty is neither mine to care, nor mine to comprehend.

Happily though, there are also others who care and take a stand before it; ones who are able to see it as a force of courage, creativity, and conscience within self and others. In the latter case, art is a very good example of one who can gain from and even rise up above poverty. In the context of art’s creation, poverty can be experienced as both artistic and aesthetical force. In fact, we have witnessed the birth of many great works of arts that derived from such force, such as El Sistema, Kool Herc, Jean Michel Basquiat, and more.

Having seen many examples as such caring individuals and groups, I realize how often I complain about how ignorant people are about poverty, when I’m actually one of them. Poverty is still around us; in fact, it is very close to where I live. So I guess ‘seeing is believing’ is far than enough if one speaks about poverty. It takes a lot of caring as well; then the world will start to believe.