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Monthly Archives: May 2012

After JPMorgan’s $2 billion loss that’s likely related to the London whale (love that nickname), Jamie Dimon’s rants against the evils of  Wall Street regulation and the Volcker rule look shakier than ever. Now i’m not usually one for heavy regulation- I do think governments hardly have the expertise to tell businesses/banks how to run themselves, but at the same time, the size of the finance industry in today’s day and age is getting somewhat out of hand.

To put things into perspective, research done by a NYU finance economist showed that even though the internet age has brought leaps and bounds in financial technology and innovation, the costs of have actually increased more than the benefits, implying that the finance sector today is actually more inefficient than a century ago.

Phillippon, the economist, takes into account the output of finance e.g. matching savers with borrowers, pooling risks, and producing information through price changes, and the costs, total compensation for providing such services. He then estimated the unit cost of the financial middleman, which was 1.3 percent of all financial assets percent in the early 1900s and amounts to some 2.3 percent currently, with much of the rise having occurred since the 1970s.

Now i know it’s just one research paper by an academic, but if the way he’s calculated the costs and benefits is reliable, then this really an interesting bit of information to consider when weighing the pros and cons of regulating Wall Street.

The Business Week story has more details.

In December of 1983, when Barack Obama was 22, he met Genevieve Cook, one of his first loves. It was at a Christmas party at the East Village in New York. And Obama wrote of her in his memoirs:

“There was a woman in New York that I loved,” he wrote. “She was white. She had dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes. Her voice sounded like a wind chime. We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends, mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs. That’s how it was.”

Yet, Genevieve’s diaries spoke of a man whose warmth was still cold, distant at times. He harboured dreams, wanted to effect change, yet hid so much about his past, and erected walls. When Genevieve told him he loved her, his reply was “thank you”.

The sexual warmth is definitely there—but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness—and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me. – Genevieve’s diary

And in the end, their love and connection wasn’t enough. He was in pursuit of something entirely different, searching still for himself, only at the beginning of crafting his identity. Obama was still coming to terms with who he was- black or white, american or international, but Genevieve, hailing from distinguished, white and upper-class families, no longer fit in his path. In his memoirs, he describes it,

“I pushed her away. We started to fight. We started thinking about the future, and it pressed in on our warm little world.”

The future, pressing in on warm little worlds no longer big enough for two.

Source: Vanity Fair

RIP Maurice Sendak, a genre-breaking author and illustrator. Thank you, most of all for  “where the wild things are”, for writing about children and childhood, not the way adults want children to see it, but for the way childhood often is now- wrought with uncertainty, turbulence, treading carefully in between invisible enemy lines, mines, traps, drawn up and set by warring parents. Thank you for creating a wonderful story about escapism, for me to escape to.

NYT’s obituary had it right when it described Sendak as someone who “wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche”.

Spike Jonze’s movie version of where the wild things are was also great, the soundtrack from Karen O and the kids even better- one of my favourites.

Buzzfeed compiled a bunch of Sendak’s best quotes. Some of the gems include:

“Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.”

“Fuck them is what I say. I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”

“I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You’re going to trip over that for a good part of your life.”

This documentary, First Position, is about young dancers training extremely hard for one of the world’s most prestigious competitions and I really want to watch it. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for dance shows- Footloose, Saturday Night Live, So you think you can dance etc. There’s something about dance that makes me really love watching it, perhaps it’s the entertainment and wow value, when you see someone successfully attempt a body-bending feat. Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s nostalgic and reminds you of another bygone era, be it that of the waltz, ballet, lindyhop etc.

A couple of days back I was having brunch at a a nice cafe/restaurant, one of those that seem to attract many families with little ones in tow. At the table next to mine sat a lady with two daughters, probably about 7-9 years old. I wondered where her husband was. She looked distant, perhaps he was away on a business trip. At first it seemed hard to tell if she was their mother, as their conversations sounded like that between equals, and not of a typical parent-child relationship. They were free to order as many cupcakes as they wanted, eat whatever, and however much they cared to devour. But what caught my attention immediately was that the mother was sipping a glass of white wine at lunch, and then ordered another promptly after she was done. At which point one of her daughters said:

“You cannot drink too much, if not you can’t drive us home!”

Then I realised, If i ever have kids, there is a high chance that I may become just like the lady, dragging my daughters around for brunch and having prosecco for my first meal. Well at least I hope I would treat my daughters the way she did, talking to them as adults instead of talking down to them.