There’s a mug my father acquired during a work-related stay in London in the mid-1970s that’s always my first choice for coffee drinking when I’m in Northern California. It’s illustrated with a cheesy painting of happy soccer fans, accompanied by the slogan "West Ham Are Magic."
Today I feel the magic. I sort of adopted West Ham as my team when we lived in London in 2000-2001, partly because of the mug, partly because our postman was so thrilled when he delivered tickets to a game at Upton Park. But today’s FA Cup final, which the Hammers tragically lost to Liverpool on penalty kicks after two exhausting hours of fantastic, end-to-end soccer, made me a West Ham fan for life.
They weren’t nearly as good as Liverpool. All of their three goals were lucky breaks of one sort or another, while Liverpool’s three were brilliant. But West Ham kept fighting and fighting, most valiantly Marlon Harewood who almost kicked in a winning goal with his sprained ankle in overtime.
What really cemented my loyalty, though, was this: The West Ham song is "I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles," an American hit from the 1920s about futility and crazy dreams. And all through the broadcast (which cost $24.95 on pay-per-view and was worth every penny) you could see bubbles wafting by the camera.
It was really not my intention to turn this into an all-Glenn-Hubbard, all-the-time blog. But I’m too busy writing on the book (or at least like to pretend that I am) to post much else, and I did go to see the G man speak last night at Columbia, where he gave a University Lecture on “Business, Knowledge, and Global Growth.”
A University Lecture seems to be a big deal. Hubbard was introduced by Provost Alan Brinkley who in turn had been introduced by President Lee Bollinger. The rotunda at Low Library was more or less packed. And the speech lasted a whole hour.
It was a defense of business schools, which have been under attack lately in some unlikely places like Harvard Business Review and Business Week. Not to mention the new Atlantic that arrived in the mail a couple days ago. Hubbard’s argument (you can read a summary by Hubbard’s PR people here): Entrepreneurial capitalism is essential to raising living standards, and business schools like Columbia’s foster not entrepreneurial capitalism but social entrepreneurship as well.
He made one mention of the famous “Every Breath You Take” video. He was talking about how the U.S. lags other countries in broadband connections, then added (it wasn’t in the prepared text): “I would point out that Columbia Business School’s recent video about me managed to make it around the world pretty quickly.”
The topic came up again at the post-lecture dinner. In his remarks at the end of the meal, Bollinger told Hubbard that “we’ll be watching you.” I was invited to the dinner, I think, because Hubbard has zeroed in on me as a potential vessel for his message that business schools are great. It was a pretty good dinner, and I got seated at the head table with Hubbard, Bollinger, and Brinkley, among others. So here goes: Business schools are grrrrrrreat!
That’s right, another video of Columbia Business School student Michael O’Rorke impersonating the school’s dean impersonating a pop star! Could life possibly get better?!? This one is a take-off on Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” and it’s not nearly as well done as “Every Breath You Take.” But it does feature a cameo by Dean Glenn Hubbard himself at the end.
A reader on the Upper West Side wonders if I shouldn’t be working on my book instead. (I’m taking off the month of May to polish up my manuscript.) She has a point. But posting Glenn Hubbard videos doesn’t take any time. Watching them does.
We went to the taping of the Daily Show tonight (we being Mrs. By Justin Fox and I, together with a pair of leading residents of Montclair, N.J.). It was hard at first to get into the whole loud-cheering state of mind required of a TV show audience. But the other audience members were so entertaining that eventually we couldn’t help but join in.
The big revelation was that Rob Corddry, Jason Jones and the other “senior correspondents” aren’t just standing in front of a green screen when they make their supposed reports from Belarus or Lincoln Center or wherever. They’re standing in front of a green screen 10 feet away from Jon Stewart’s desk. TV is magic, isn’t it?
He’s not just the star of parody videos. The man also participated in a Q&A at Fortune with London Business School Dean and Clinton administration economic-policy bigwig Laura Tyson a few weeks ago, and now I have finally gotten around to posting an abridged transcript at fortune.com. I also wrote a little summary to go with it, the gist of which is that Republican Hubbard and Democrat Tyson agreed that income inequality is becoming one of the big issues of the day. Not so much inequality per se as the fact that even while the economy has been growing and unemployment low, most Americans have been at best treading water because most of the gains from globalization and rising productivity have been lining the pockets of the already-affluent. (Don’t know that Hubbard would put it exactly that way.)
For a quarter century, starting in the mid-1970s, the biggest economic-policy challenge facing the U.S. was slow productivity growth. And so, after some initial hesitation, politicians responded with pro-productivity changes like deregulation, tax cuts, and reduced trade barriers. Now we’ve got the higher productivity growth, and it only makes sense that we should start to pay more attention to other matters, like how the proceeds of that higher productivity are distributed. So far this is an issue that George Bush has almost entirely ignored. Now even a still-pretty-loyal former Bush administration economist is saying that’s a mistake. This seems to me a signal that we might be on the verge of a pretty major shift in economic policy, maybe not quite on par with the New Deal and Reagan revolution, but still a big deal. The big question is whether we can figure out a way to address inequality without destroying productivity growth in the process with things like tariffs and high taxes on capital.
This is a Columbia Business School student, playing Columbia Biz Dean Glenn Hubbard as Sting (or is it Sting as Glenn Hubbard?), complaining about Ben Bernanke getting the Fed chairman job (instead of him) to the tune of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
It’s brilliantly done, with some nice Fed jargon slipped in and even some pretty good singing. And it’s one more indication that the new era of user-generated content (or, as I’ve seen one blogger more eloquently if tendentiously put it, “authentic media”) holds untold riches in store. In the past, something like this would have been done at a talent show seen by a couple hundred people. By putting it up on YouTube, the creators have immediate access to a global audience. They posted it last Thursday. As of mid-morning Monday, it had been viewed more than 108,000 times. And I’m betting that on this one the viral contagion is just getting going (I first heard about it this morning). [I had to switch to Google video because the YouTube link stopped working.]
Of course, it’s only a parody. It’s interesting that so much of the “authentic media” being created these days consists of commentary on or parody of the creations of those of us in what I guess has to be called the inauthentic media. But maybe this is just the transitional phase. The popular music industry seems to be starting to come out the other side of the great Internet destroying-and-reinventing machine, and I’m mostly of the impression that the new iTunes/MySpace/podcast infrastructure is a lot better at getting interesting music to people than what went before. It’s just that, not having any clear idea of what the rest of the media is going to look like — and being employed by a big media company — I can’t help but worry about my paycheck.