Not-Quite-a Linkfest

Hotnot_20080620205400A few projects have blown up this year, demanding a lot of time and attention.

From a time perspective, something had to give — and the main casualty was the Linkfest. It was a huge timesuck, and I have been using the hours on other (hopefully more) productive projects.

However, I continue to see very interesting articles that many people have likely missed. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or even a narrative — its actually kinda random. 

No time for a full fest, but (but enough Ben Steinery!) here’s a quick flavor of what you may have overlooked:


Nasty, brutish and short (Economist on shortselling)

Banks Find New Ways To Ease Pain of Bad Loans (WSJ)

Mail Delivery as Economic Bellwether (Portfolio)

Sentiment read: Are We Too Gloomy? (TBP)

Bye, Bubble? The Price of Oil May Be Peaking (Barron’s)

MonoDuoline Downgrade Fallout: Muni Prices, MBIA Collateral (naked capitalism)

Two Sides to Story Define Wall Street in Cioffi’s Tale at Bear  (Bloomberg)


-Lean-and-Mean Is Paying Off for the Economy (BusinessWeek)

-BW: 10.8 million jobs is trivial? (CEO Economic Update) 

Profits Plunge, Buybacks Don’t (Floyd Norris)

New Crisis Threatens Healthy Banks  (Washington Post)

• President Bush was inaugurated 7.5 years ago — and S&P500 returns are negative since (Angry Bear)

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas (NYT)

Podcast: China is a Giant Pac-Man (Disciplined Investor)

Oil price conspiracy theorists: Rev your engines (Salon)

What Happens if We’re Wrong? (Peter Bernstein, NYT)
Better title: What Happens WHEN We’re Wrong?

• I did a long radio interview for World Affairs Monthly Interview covering, well,just about everything: Insanity Distilled.


CEO Economic Outlook Index (Business Roundtable) 

What Conspiracy? (TBP)

The Real Cost of Living Index: 9.5% (Telegraph)

A Feeble Recovery: The fundamental economic weaknesses of the 2001-07 expansion (EPI)   

The Economy Why It’s Worse Than You Think (Newsweek)


Fed’s Bear Stearns Books Look Prime for Cooking (Bloomberg)

Walter Bagehot Was Wrong James Grant of the Fed (NY Sun)

New Evidence of Inflation Vexes Central Banks (WSJ)

Market Has Irrational Expectations for the Fed (Bloomberg)


Housing Starts Drop 32% to 17 Year Low (TBP)

Anatomy of a Meltdown: The Credit Crisis 3 part series (Washington Post)

Number of new UK houses being built plummets nearly 60% (Guardian)

The FHA Time Bomb (WSJ)

Did Bank of America write the Dodd bailout bill? (LA Times)

Subprime Mortgages: What, Where, and to Whom? (Federal Reserve Board) 



THE REBELLION WITHIN An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism. (New Yorker)   

Here is the US news from Bangalore (BBC)

GOOD Guide: to the Shadowy Organizations That Rule the World (Good)

The Case (Almost) for Drilling (Slate)

• Smart, funny, blond and British: Video: What’s not to love about Lara Logan? (Daily Show)


Upset subscribers want Netflix to mind their peeves and queues (GMSV)

One Third of Sun-like Stars Have Earth-Sized Planets (NYT)

Healthy Returns – How to Live Longer  (Barron’s)

Plastics unite to make unexpected ‘metal’  (New Scientist)

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic (Gristmill)

AT&T hedges bets, advertises iPhone 3G "real world" speeds of 1.4Mbps (GMSV); See also iPhone running Windows XP (ZD)

Water-fuel car unveiled in Japan (Video)

Diamonds on Demand (Smithsonian magazine)

• Thank goodness! — Guzzling coffee may cut heart disease   (New Scientist)

And the Survey Says… The surprisingly accurate Family Feud surveys  (free WSJ)

Ben Stein’s Expelled Exposed: a case study in antiscience propaganda  (Scientific American)

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap (The Register) 


Steely Dan, one of the most interesting bands in America, is on Tour (TBP)

Led Zep’s Stairway to Heaven is Worth $572 million (TBP)

Success Story 2: Review of The Pixar Touch (NYT Review of Books)

Music blogs’ network effect (Fortune)

So much for Big Music’s plans for "360" (Silicon Alley Insider)

Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song (Research)

How to Nap (Boston Globe)


Got a comment, suggestion, link idea? Or do you just have
something on your mind?
The linkfest loves to get email!  If you’ve got something to say,
send email to thebigpicture [AT] optonline [DOT] net.

Category: Economy, Financial Press, Technology

Revisiting the Underlevered American Household

Category: Credit, Economy, Financial Press, Wages & Income

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Fascinating stuff:  Little Denmark, with its five-and-a-half million people, is the happiest country in the world, says a study done by an English University. 60 Minutes reports why the Danes are so happy and explores why the U.S. is way down the list.



See also this study:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the happiest of them all? (PDF)

Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts, May 2008

And The Happiest Place On Earth Is…
Morley Safer On Why The Danes Are Considered The Happiest People On Earth
60 Minutes, June 15, 2008


Category: Psychology, Video

Traffic Indicates . . .

Category: Markets, Psychology, Weblogs

Iowa Floodwaters

Category: Commodities, Science

WSJ Interview: George Soros

Interesting interview with George Soros:

WSJ: You argue that the crises we’ve experienced in the past 25 years have been, in retrospect, "testing events" that convince us the system is stable, encourage us to take even bigger risks, leading to one, cataclysmic collapse. Could this be just another testing event?

Mr. Soros: Each time the authorities saved us, that reinforced the belief that markets are self-correcting. Each time when you bail out the economy, you need to find a new motor, a new source of credit and a new instrument that allows for the credit expansion. [It's] difficult to imagine what you can do when you are already lending effectively 100% on inflated house prices.

I have a record of crying wolf at these times. I did it first in "The Alchemy of Finance" [in 1987], then in "The Crisis of Global Capitalism" [in 1998] and now in this book. So it’s three books predicting disaster. [After] the boy cried wolf three times … the wolf really came. If we can sail through this without a recession, then the superbubble story is seriously impacted … I [will] have cried wolf again. Unfortunately, if you go into a recession, [it is not] proof of reflexivity, or vice versa.

WSJ: How is that you are rich despite your world view having been wrong so far?

Mr. Soros: I’m only rich because I know when I’m wrong.

There are no more important or truer words in trading than this: Bad trade, I was wrong, sell out the position. (That sounds strangely familiar) Soros makes it clear that he understands that quite well.

The whole interview is worth a few minutes of your precious weekend time . . .


Hey Greg! Your cube’s desk looks awfully clean . . .  Oh, that’s right — I almost forgot!


Soros, the Man Who Cries Wolf, Now Is Warning of a ‘Superbubble’
WSJ, June 21, 2008; Page B1


Category: Commodities, Economy, Markets, Psychology, Video

Friday Night Jazz: Steely Dan


I’m a huge fan of what the BBC once called "one of the most important and intelligent bands the US has produced: Steely Dan.

Saw ‘em live a few times, most recently on Wednesday night at the Beacon Theater. If you ever get a chance to see a concert in a small venue with large artists, its a very interesting experience (3rd row center doesn’t hurt either).

Their music is characterized by "complex jazz-influenced structures
and harmonies, literate and sometimes obscure or ambiguous lyrics,
filled with dark sarcasm." They are known for their "adroit musicianship
and studio perfectionism." (Wiki)

I was trying to figure out the best way to recommend material from The Dan — which albums you must own — but I simply cannot offer up anything better than the 4 CD box set.

The 4 CD box set
itself is the first six 7 of the Dan’s studio releases on 4 discs for the bargain price of $36.

Steely_dan_boxed_setSteely Dan are justly famous for their use of "chord sequences
and harmonies that explore the area of musical tension between
traditional pop music sounds and jazz." These 4 CDs reveal a musical dynamism that is unmatched in modern
music.  The lyrics are sardonic,
engaging and humorous. Indeed, it is one of the greatest catalogues in the annals of
pop/jazz music history. That’s one reason why Steely Dan makes my short list of greatest American Rock and Roll bands. (Note that on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums, Pretzel Logic is #385 and Can’t Buy a Thrill is #238.

Also of note: Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980  contains what may very well be the best Amazon review I have ever come across.

Your other option is to grab a few single discs. If I had to cut it down to just 3 CDs, here’s how I would roll: Surely, you can pick any of the five early Dan CDs — all are great — but my favorite is 1975′s Katy Lied ($7.97). The album saw took otherwise classic rock style songs, and arranged and played them in a jazz idiom. With Michael McDonald’s background vocals, the Dan infused a smoky Soul flavor. It was complex mashup of styles that worked wonderfully.

My second disc choice has to be the great Aja, a groundbreaking 1977 CD. It was a favorite of audiophiles, stunned recording engineers, oh, and  dominated FM radio for a year. Aja was even more heavily jazz-influenced than Katy Lied, and was graced with  top-notch jazz musicians: Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter and Chuck Rainey.

Aja won numerous awards, shot into the Top Five in the U.S. charts within three weeks of release, and was one of the first American LPs to be certified ‘platinum’ for sales of over 1 million albums. It was that good. Aja is #145 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums. If I have any complaint about this slick disc, it was that the radio play was so overwhelming it became a bit played out way back when.

Last year, I mentioned the making of Steely Dan’ Peg (off of Aja) that I randomly discovered on YouTube. It was simply terrific. If you are any type of Dan fan, you must go order this right now.

The third selection is Donald Fagen’s solo disc, The Nightfly (a previous Friday Night Jazz selection). Even if you get the Dan box set, you have to add this CD to the mix. The WSJ called The Nightfly "one of pop music’s sneakiest masterpieces" and I think that moniker fits well. The key to this is the music’s timeless quality. It was retro back in
1982, and over the years, has never grown to sound tired or even of a specific era. It remains fresh, even 25 years later.

Not only did the CD win critical acclaim amongst the jazz and pop
reviewers, but the disc delighted audiophiles of all stripes. You see, The Nightfly was one of the first fully digital recordings of popular music. Add to that the usual crisp, sleek production The Dan were famous for, and you have a recipe for a phenomenal recording.

Any of the above provides a rewarding aural experience. These are amongst the best music from the  1970s/80s era, and indeed of all time.


Before we jump to the videos, one little bit of trivia: Since both Becker & Fagen were avid readers of 1950′s "Beat" literature, they decided to name the band "Steely Dan" after a dildo in William Burroughs’ "Naked Lunch" . . .


videos after the jump.

Read More

Category: Digital Media, Friday Night Jazz, Music

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Category: Currency, Economy, Markets, Psychology

World Affairs Monthly Interview: Insanity Distilled

Category: Media, Podcast, Web/Tech, Weblogs

The US Gasoline Slide

Category: Economy, Energy