FireChat App Takes Off Amid Hong Kong Protests

That’s the subject of a brief story I wrote yesterday:

A new mobile messaging app that enables users to communicate in the absence of cellular or Internet connections is seeing a surge in downloads among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

The free FireChat app, which launched in March, was downloaded 100,000 times in Hong Kong between Sunday morning and Monday morning, said Micha Benoliel, co-founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Open Garden, which developed the app.

It is unclear how many protesters are using it to communicate regularly during the protests, which mark Hong Kong’s most serious confrontation with Beijing in more than a decade. Students and other protesters have flooded the city’s streets in the weeks since Beijing’s decision on Aug. 31 to impose limits on how Hong Kong elects its leader. The protests escalated Sunday, with police using pepper spray and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Click through for more.

‘1984: Pop’s Greatest Year’

Rolling Stone:

From Prince to Madonna to Michael Jackson to Bruce Springsteen to Cyndi Lauper, 1984 was the year that pop stood tallest. New Wave, R&B, hip-hop, mascara’d hard rock and “Weird Al” Yankovic all crossed paths on the charts while a post-“Billie Jean” MTV brought them into your living room. In the spirit of this landmark year, here are the 100 best singles from the year pop popped. To be considered, the song had to be released in 1984 or have significant chart impact in 1984, and charted somewhere on the Billboard Hot 100.

Just incredible.

Any Top 100 list that has “Sunglasses at Night,” “The Warrior” and “People Are People” at 100, 99 and 95 respectively is going to be spectacular. Worth a look — and listen — indeed.

Hello Kitty is British — and is Not a Cat

Anthropologist Christine R. Yano, who has studied the history of Sanrio’s Hello Kitty:

“I was corrected — very firmly,” Yano said. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

And:

Hello Kitty may not be a cat but she has a surprisingly specific backstory: she is British, her real name is Kitty White (no relation to Breaking Bad’s Walter White), and she’s the daughter of parents George and Mary White. She has a twin sister, is stuck in time as a third grader (even though she turns 40 this year), and lives outside of London. She has a horoscope sign, too: she’s a Scorpio.

There’s more from the Los Angeles Times here.

Via my colleague @shibanimahtani, who summed up, in this tweet, what I’m sure has been a common reaction to the story:

Audio of the day

There is something oddly calming — despite the underlying menace — of this Death Star ambient audio, which lasts for no less than 12 hours:

This is the classic Death Star sound from Star Wars for 12 hours. Perfect for imagining that you are a Jedi working towards justice in deep space. Also great for meditating, relaxing, sleeping, or drowning out other annoying sounds.

Oh, and YouTube user crysknife007 has more where that came from. Check out the “Extended Star Wars Sounds” playlist.

Joel Mokyr on Tech, Innovation and Economic Growth

Joel Mokyr, a Northwestern University economist and author, in a WSJ op-ed:

There is nothing like a recession to throw economists into a despondent mood. Much as happened in the late 1930s—when there was a fear of so-called secular stagnation, or the absence of growth due to a dearth of investment opportunities—many of my colleagues these days seem to believe that “sad days are here again.” The economic growth experienced through much of the 20th century, they tell us, was fleeting. Our children will be no richer than we are. The entry of millions of married women into the workforce and the huge increase in college graduates that drove post-1945 growth were one-off boons. Slow growth is here to stay.

What is wrong with this story? The one-word answer is “technology.” The responsibility of economic historians is to remind the world what things were like before 1800. Growth was imperceptibly slow, and the vast bulk of the population was so poor that a harvest failure would kill millions. Almost half the babies born died before reaching age 5, and those who made it to adulthood were often stunted, ill and illiterate.

What changed this world was technological progress. Starting in the late 18th century, innovations and advances in what was then called “the useful arts” began improving life, first in Britain, then in the rest of Europe, and then in much of the rest of the world.