Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The lead paint on those nifty derivatives.

This is really depressing and important:
As TWN readers know, I have been on a lot of international travel lately—to Beijing, Mumbain, Tokyo, Berlin, London, Brussels, and Tel Aviv. In all of these places, I met angry and frustrated finance ministry bureaucrats, central bankers, retail bankers, investment bankers, and other fund managers. All of them had a single message that rang a bit like the US accusing China of shipping out poisoned pet food and lead-paint covered toys. They said American regulators failed. “You exported poisoned financial products.” Most Americans have no idea how low American prestige had fallen in the world before the financial crisis—but for the mother ship of modern day capitalism to fail so badly in managing the social contract between economic stakeholders and the finance industry is yet another enormous blow to America’s ability to compel other nations to do as we do, or as we want.
Steve Clemons, via Henry at Crooked Timber, who has more thoughts on this.

If Spain were a person.

"If Spain were a person, she would be one of those types who rushes around the apartment madly cleaning, only to fall exhausted on the couch before jumping up to clean some more."
-- Francis Strand

I need more bookshelves.

Luc Sante has lots of books:
I have a very large library by most normal standards, have seemingly arranged my life in order to acquire as many books as possible--I worked for three years right out of college in a large secondhand bookstore, then for a literary review where I raided the mailbag on a daily basis, and spent much of my free time in book barns and flea markets. Meanwhile I've moved around, often; only once did I live in a single place for as long as ten years (and it was possibly the rattiest of all my residences). I lived in New York City in that bygone era when as soon as you got a $20 raise you'd move to a slightly bigger apartment. My older friends probably still suffer joint aches from helping carry my hundred boxes up to sixth-floor walk-ups.

But after living in smallish apartments for decades I just spent seven years in a house with a full-size attic, and everything went to hell. Books entered my house under cover of night, from the four winds, smuggled in by woodland creatures, and then they never left. Now that I have moved again--into a house that's not necessarily smaller but that I am determined to keep from being choked with books like kudzu--I have just weeded out no fewer than twenty-five (25) boxes worth: books I won't read and don't need, duplicates, pointless souvenirs. I discovered that I owned no fewer than five copies of André Breton's Nadja, not even all in different editions. I owned two copies of St. Clair McKelway's True Tales from the Annals of Crime & Rascality, identical down to the mylar around the dust jacket. I had books in three languages I don't actually read. Etcetera. It was time to end the madness.

I still possess a great many books. But I'm not a book collector. Over the years I've gotten used to the inevitable questions. No, I haven't read all of them, nor do I intend to--in some cases that's not the point. No, I'm not a lawyer (a question usually asked by couriers, back in the days of couriers). I do have a few hundred books that I reread or refer to fairly regularly, and I have a lot of books pertaining to whatever current or future projects I have on the fire. I have a lot of books that I need for reference, especially now that I live forty minutes away from the nearest really solid library. Primarily, though, books function as a kind of external hard drive for my mind--my brain isn't big enough to do all the things it wants or needs to do without help.

Optically scanning the shelves wakes up dormant nodes in my memory. Picking up a copy of Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller or George Ade's Fables in Slang or Chester Himes's Blind Man With a Pistol and leafing through it for five minutes helps restore my writing style when it has gone stale. Seeing that the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant is fortuitously shelved right above The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner might get something going in my subconscious (or it might not). Many books are screwy, a great many are dull, some are irredeemable, and there are way too many of them, probably, in the world. I hate all the fetishistic twaddle about books promoted by the chain stores and the book clubs. But I need the stupid things.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The paradox of Alice Springs.

3C Review finds Bill Bryson on Alice Springs:

Because it is so bang in the middle of nowhere, Alice Springs ought to seem a miracle—an actual town with department stores and schools and streets with names—and for a long time it was sort of an antipodean Timbuktu, a place tantalizing in its inaccessibility. In 1954, when Alan Moorehead passed through, Alice’s only regular connection to the outside world was a weekly train from Adelaide. Its arrival on Saturday evening was the biggest event in the life of the town. It brough mail, newspapers, new pictures for the cinema, long-awaited spare parts, and whatever else couldn’t be acquired locally. Nearly the whole town turned out to see who got off and what was unloaded.

In those days Alice had a population of 4,000 and hardly any visitors. Today it’s a thriving little city with a population of 25,000 and it is full of visitors—350,000 of them a year—which is of course the whole problem.These days you can jet in from Adelaide in two hours, from Melbourne to Sydney in less than three. You can have a latte and buy some opals and then climb on a tour bus and travel down the highway to Ayers Rock. It has not only become accessible, it’s become a destination. It’s so full of hotels, motels, conference centers, campgrounds, and desert resorts that you can’t pretend even for a moment that you have achieved something exceptional by getting yourself there. It’s crazy really. A community that was once famous for being remote now attracts thousands of visitors who come to see how remote it no longer is.

That's from In a Sunburned Country.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Out of Africa.

This is the craziest thing I've seen all day: A Luftwaffe pilot just learned that he shot down his favorite author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 63 years ago.

Via Kottke.

That story also links to this news that the wreck of the HMAS Sydney has finally been found. For no particular reason, I was reading this page about the ship's disappearance just a few days ago. Strange world.

At this rate, I don't give the Washington Post three months.

Robert Novak on today's op-ed page, discussing the Fed's intervention to save Bear Stearns:
The expense of such an intervention is not a problem because the Fed, unlike the president and Congress, can print money.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eyes wide shut.

"A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict."
- George W. Bush, five years ago today, as quoted in today's FT.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A subprime primer.

Nothing subprime about this.

Funny Smells.

Paul Anka:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Attn: Democratic Party elders.

This stuff is awful. Someone tell Hillary to go away. To think that we could be hearing Obama attack McCain for wanting to gut Social Security instead.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The truth is, they need her in the worst way.

Did Limbaugh conservatives put Hillary over the top in Texas?

Monday, March 03, 2008


Sunday, March 02, 2008

3 p'tits chalets.

Handshake drugs.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Soothing fun.

I like the looks of this. Via Chris Hayes.


The Waifs:

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