Friday, December 21, 2012

Shlock doctrine

In the Wall Street Journal this morning a story noted that the futures were off as everybody was apprehensive after Boehner said the Republicans had balked at his "Plan B". I quote:  "A selloff in the US Friday would revive memories of September 2008 when the chamber voted down the Bush administration's first Wall Street bailout plan, sparking a 778-point fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average."  Ummm. The Dow ended up the day down 121 points, not even a percent down.

Similarly, a new conservative member of the Board of Commissioners or whatever in my mom's hometown voted not to approve funding for the next phase of a Senior/Recreation Center, stating that it would be irresponsible to move forward, given that "we're in a depression."

Well, I'm sorry, but this is all bullshit. We are alternately beset by memories of the financial crisis and their shadows, but we are not still there. It's all reminiscent of Naomi Klein's shock doctrine.  The deep-pocketed (of whom there are many) are trying to freak out the less so by preying on their fears, the better to scoop up their assets. Unemployment is not crazy high, the markets aren't insanely overvalued, and the fiscal cliff is not the abyss that was autumn 2008.  Shit, the Fed just put forward QE4, promising to pump another $45 billion of liquidity into credit markets monthly, on top of the $40 billion it pledged just a few months ago.  This most recent tranche, at $540 billion annually, is just about equal to the total projected impact of the Fiscal Cliff if we go over it.

Shit is a little bit crazy out there, but it ain't all that..

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More books by and about men

Just worked through Eric Ambler's Cause for Alarm.  Of the great triumvirate of old spy writers:  Le Carre, Ambler, Graham Greene, I must say I'm most convinced by Le Carre.  Greene is too self-serious, Ambler is a little too larky and lah-di-dah at times. That said, he was really just developing the lexicon of espionage himself, so it's hard to fault him too much. Things he does seem ham-handed sometimes because we've seen this stuff honed so finely as the genre took flight.

Now I'm on to Robert Caro's The Power Broker, about Robert Moses. I'd always been intrigued by the book, but all the hullabaloo around his most recent volume on LBJ made me go out and by it. It is truly a tombstone of a book, Tolstoyan.

I'm all too aware of the fact that I've been reading exclusively male books, need to remedy that. I'm sure I won't plow directly through the Caro, will have to intersperse it with some novels.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Graham's new joke

Q:  What do  you get when you cross a German dessert with an annoying person?
A:  A pfeffernuisance.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

China needs an Olga Korbut

China has all of this money, and is tired of just lending it, it wants to buy things -- land and companies -- and participate in commerce. Problem is, the west is afraid of China, doesn't get it. There are very few friendly Chinese faces to the west, real ambassadors. Gong Li was close, but she's just a mask, albeit a comely one. Jack Ma of Alibaba and Taobao may be as close as the country has come, but he's a total geek.

China needs somebody like Olga Korbut. Come to think of it, Yao Ming was also not bad, but at 7'6", he's kind of an outlier. Oddly enough, Jeremy Lin,* who's honestly as American a story as you could get (think if Dave Chappelle ran a "National Draft" instead of a "Racial Draft".  How much would China and the USA bid for Jeremy Lin?  It would be huge.

*currently putting up decent numbers in Houston

Ultimate! Natalie scores!

It was cold and rainy yesterday, but the Philips ultimate team nonetheless trucked over to play its former arch nemesis Culbreth. When I got there a little before halftime (I have to remember they keep starting early to use sunlight), Natalie told me she had caught the frisbee once (her first in a game), and proudly showed me the mud on the knees of the black sweatpants I had been so happy to find in her size last week at the Target out by Southpoint.  And we were up 6-0, after getting spanked 15-0 by Smith the day before (a couple of strategic personnel moves by the coach didn't hurt).

The second half was even better.  Natalie caught two, one of which was for a point, and she threw a completed pass to a teammate (also a first).  It was a little wobbly, but who cares. The Phillips B team won, and the A team lost only 9-8 after a bad day the day before at Smith.  And Natalie was glowing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dreamscape

Mary says she doesn't understand watching sports. I understand that it can be overdone. And yet, you've gotta watch some. Part of it is just watching what I term The Struggle being acted out before me, and beyond that, there's something idealized about The Struggle being conducted within a pretty strict format of rules and honor/sportsmanship. Sports are the way life's supposed to be.  You step onto the field and everybody understands the rules. There are heroic/tragic moments like Luis Suarez of Uruguay putting up his hands to stop Ghana's desperation ending seconds' goal in the World Cup 2010 finals (in Africa!). At the time, I thought it was the most low-down and despicable thing he could do, but upon reflection, it was the absolute right thing to do, the only thing he could do, and he processed it in microseconds and realized what he needed to do. Maybe the most dramatic moment in sports ever. And then Gyan (a super nice guy, who had killed the US in the previous game) blows the penalty.

Mostly, I view watching sports, and for me soccer, as an eternal dreamscape.  It is about imagining what you can do if everything goes right. As in below.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Native Speaker

I had better go ahead and write about Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker before the book fades from memory. It is a very very good book, richly layered and folded back onto itself, yet direct and human as well. The one and the many, this one, that many. I can't very well pass judgment on its evocation of the immigrant experience, but it rings true, memories of father and son lost, seemingly nearly regained, then exploding and fading, all at once. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

No cop-killer I

I had a dream last night that I killed a cop. Or, rather, that I thought I did, and I felt horrible about it, though, come to think of it, there was no body, there was just a place on the side of a country road where there was maybe a little blood or something, and towards the end of the dream I was getting ready to call the cops and tell them where I was and that I had killed one of theirs (to be sure, it was a generic cop, not "officer Smith" or anything). And then I woke up and I was greatly relieved to learn that, of course, none of this had happened. I hadn't done anything wrong.

In general I can be pretty hard on myself, have pretty high if not downright unrealistic expectations, but fuck it. I didn't kill no cop.

Reminds me of a great scene from the 1994 movie The Glass Shield, which was a pretty early movie for Ice Cube and one where he really showed he could act. He's playing a kid suspected of killing a white woman, and when he's brought in for questioning they're trying to pin it on him, so they ask where he was at the time of the crime and he responds:  "I don't know where I was but I know I didn't kill no white lady," and his timing and tone and everything were just perfect. The perp was, in the end, if memory serves correctly, a cop. I shoulda iced that motherfucker.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


The topic for today's 10am AA meeting was resentments, which is a big one. Rather than share there, I thought I'd post here.

Just within the last 24 hours I had thought about how there were a couple of friends who live long distances away from me with whom it feels like I have to do all the work of staying in touch with them, and I resent that. Not infrequently, however, I get an excess of inbound traffic of people asking for my time or attention, and I come to resent that. It leaves me with not enough time for myself. Net net, then, it boils down to being troubled about my inability to control the way people pay attention to me. Which is just one of those things. Sometimes I really strive for the attention, other times it becomes a burden.

On the blog I know at least that if I post more frequently and more directly, I'll get more traffic, which, I will confess, I like, thought I don't like it enough to actually promote the blog much, which I view as cheap.

I know that, professionally, the more I blog and tweet the more attention I get out there in the public sphere.  Problem is, in my new role, my firm has never done any marketing whatsoever, has always gotten business in word of mouth, and I won't be allowed to bring in business until my boss decides I'm ready to represent the firm, at which point in time she'll remove my training wheels, as it were, so I have to sit on my hands in my public persona for a while. Which is, truth be told, OK.  I am, by the standards of today's longevity expectations for ruling class Americans, still kinda young, so there's plenty of time to make noise professionally.