The Great British break-off

It’s no longer fashionable to wonder whether the latest Great British sporting achievement might—in fact—be the last. Yet as Andy Murray, a Scot in Saltire blue, chipped the ball delicately over the head of David Goffin to claim Britain’s first Davis Cup for 79 years, that insistent question was the only thing that returned. For the team of two Scots and two Englishmen had prevailed on Belgian soil, in the heartland of the European Union: the place that is likely to be pivotal in determining whether there will still be a British team at international championships like this in 79 years’ time.

…up in a puff of smoke

It probably came as a surprise to most to see that The Economist’s ‘Country of the Year’ for 2013 was Uruguay.  Their decision was in no small part down to the nation’s recent move to regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Brian Westby: A Review

It’s a good job Forrest Reid didn’t write to be famous. Almost seventy years after his death, his novels gather dust in libraries: unthumbed and unadmired. Highly thought of by friends like E.M. Forster and Walter de la Mare during his lifetime, the Ulster writer has since fallen into obscurity. Until now, that is.

Corporate names: Verbal identities

“ONE has to go back 213 years to find the first TSB branch in the small parish of Ruthwell, Scotland. The bank, which grew and eventually merged with Lloyds 18 years ago, is now going it alone once again. And it opted to keep its old 19th century name, which is a curious choice: it runs counter a trend in corporate naming, particularly in banking.”

The toy industry: Child’s play

“TWO toy industry heavyweights are in unfamiliar territory: they are watching their numbers tumble. Hasbro’s year-on-year operating profit was down 11% in the last quarter and Mattel’s net income fell 24%. Sales of Barbie, a Mattel property, plunged for the fourth quarter running, this time by 12%. After Buzz Lightyear’s first flight across Andy’s room in Toy Story,Sherriff Woody says mockingly, “That wasn’t flying! That was… falling with style!” Perhaps the same could be said of Hasbro and Mattel.”

Designer headphones: The sound of music

“FOR decades the market for expensive headphones was mainly limited to hi-fi buffs. But now that the boxy stereo system in the corner of the bedroom is largely a thing of the past, and young music fans listen mostly on portable devices, headphones have become as much of a fashion statement as the music player itself. Among the first to spot the potential of this market was Dr Dre, an American rapper-cum-tycoon.”

Technophobes: Disconnected

“IT IS perhaps easy to forget that not everyone is connected to the internet. But one in five Britons do not use the web. Fully 16% of British adults have no internet access in their homes. A study from Ipsos-MORI attributes this phenomenon to two interlinking factors: ability and security. Of those who are not regularly plugged in, a large proportion would like to be better at navigating it. They can only perform basic activities, such as searching the web or sending an email.”