New Yorker Wins Megasztar, Hungary’s “American Idol”

Hungary’s version of American Idol, Megasztar ended this weekend, and the winner is Viktor Kiraly, who was born an raised till age 16 in New York.  Music runs in the family; both parents were musicians, sister Linda published CD’s in the US and the UK, and Viktor started his band with identical twin brother, Ben.

Here’s You Are So Beautiful by the new “Megastar”

From an earlier round, Where Do I Begin (Love Story):

And it wouldn’t be Christmas-time without Santa Claus is Coming to Town:


Zimbabwe Going After Hungary’s World Record in Hyperinflation


Zimbabwe’s currency plunged to a new record low on Thursday, trading at an average 1 billion to the U.S. dollar on a recently introduced interbank market and triggering massive price increases.

That’s one Billion, with a B. Unimaginable… almost. The world has seen worse.

Until now Hungary held the rather unpleasant world record for the most extreme hyperinflation ever. After World War II, in July 1946 the monthly rate was 41,900,000,000,000,000% (4.19 × 1016%). I can’t even read out such a large number, and it’s monthly, not annual.

The currency in Hungary for decades was the Pengo. The first banknote I’m showing on the right is 1 Billion Millpengo. (Millpengo = 1 Million Pengos). Crazy enough? It was soon followed by 100 Million Bilpengo, where Bilpengo = 1 Billion Pengos. But it’s not over yet: the highest denomination ever printed, but fortunately not issued ( new currency was issued instead) was 1 Billion Bilpengo. Again, I don’t even know what number it translates to, but Wikipedia says it would be one sextillion or 1021 pengo. Another indication of how surreal it was is the fact that all these banknotes were printed on the same day…

Instead of the large numbers, let’s try to imagine what such hyperinflation means in everyday life. Wikipedia says it amounted to prices doubling every fifteen hours. My parents’ recollection is even worse: employees were paid daily in large wads of cash and they had to rush to the stores to spend their earnings before it would become worthless. They would join endless lines, and by the time they got to buy their bread, it cost double the amount it was when they joined the line.

In Zimbabwe, a loaf of bread, which cost about Z$15 million before the polls (in which Mugabe lost but does not give up) now costs about Z$600 million. Will Zimbabwe displace Hungary’s world record?

Update: Hungary also holds the world record of kissing.

Update (6/16/09): Mint has the story of nine hyperinflationary currencies.