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.”

Drugs and driving: Road tripping

“IT was like any other accident. Except for one thing—when the speeding Vauxhall Astra collided with 14 year-old Lillian Groves on June 26th 2010, the man behind the wheel, John Page, was high on cannabis. He was tested nine hours later, by which time the drug’s concentration in his bloodstream was too low for him to be charged with drug driving.”

Male grooming: Razing prices

“TALK of hipster beards and three-day stubble is all well and good. But the shaving market might be seeing a far more significant change than that. Admittedly, it is not so much revolution as evolution, but developed-world consumers are starting to get fed up with trading up.”

Abuse on Twitter: Troll attack

“THERE was a time when trolls were creatures you would find hidden away in Scandinavian caves and J.R.R. Tolkien novels. Today they are infesting the internet. Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner, Stella Creasy, a member of Britain’s parliament, and Mary Beard, a classics professor, are their latest high-profile victims. All three have chosen to retweet just some of the disgusting messages they have received since July 24th, when it was announced that an image of Jane Austen would appear on the next £10 note. Ms Criado-Perez had petitioned the Bank of England to choose a female figure.”


When we log out for the final time, will our digital selves outlive us?  European companies like SecureSafe and Planned Departure have recently begun to address the issue of data rights after death.  The concept is not just theoretical: since July 2012, the parents of dead teenager Alison Atkins have been unable to access images, messages and poems that are locked away in cyberspace.

An Interview with Peter Hitchens: Shouting into the Wind

“I didn’t arrange that,” Peter Hitchens blushes.  A stranger has just told him of her appreciation for everything he stands for and, for once, he’s been caught off guard, disarmed by praise.  The stone wall of rhetoric, dogmatic conviction and obduracy against which I’ve been fighting an attritional struggle for the past hour is felled in an instant.  And I can’t help feeling relieved.

Spare a thought for philosophy: An interview with A.C. Grayling

“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation.  Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose.  We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves.  And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend.