Unsolicited Endorsements IXX

Album: Big Boi — “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors”

I’ve always been an Andre 3000 guy. When Outkast kinda-sorta split up to create Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003), you had to choose a favorite. At the time, I was partial to Andre’s mix of soul, rock and hip-hop.
Since Outkast’s last project dropped in 2006, Andre has lent his vocals and production skills to a collection of strong singles and become the immaculately groomed face of Gillette razors. Big Boi has used that six-year stretch to author two solo albums: 2010’s very good Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty and this week’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. The latter album is a jaw-dropping and very Outkast-like trip through an array of unexpected collaborations and a variety of rich soundscapes. The highlights of the album rely on indie up-and-comers such as Little Dragon and Phantogram to provide balance and texture — and it doesn’t hurt to add guest spots from A$AP Rocky and T.I.
Now all we need is some new music from the other half of Outkast — even if he isn’t my favorite anymore. — Asher Fusco
Book: The Big Short by Michael Lewis 

Yes, this book was released in 2010. Yes, I read it in the spring of 2011. But I’m reading it again. I do this with books. To me they’re like movies. I can see (read) them again and again and again.

Michael Lewis’ The Big Short is a natural re-read. The characters are stranger and quirkier than fiction. The concepts – mezzanine tranches versus ground floors of packaged loans, how demand for credit default swaps on subprime loans begat synthetic versions of these because a few smart traders were willing to make bets, Merrill Lynch being Merrill Lynch and many others – require multiple looks to understand them. Plus, you can brag to your friends that you know what a collateralized debt obligation is!

There’s something else, too. Michael Lewis is one of my favorite authors, maybe my very favorite, for numerous reasons. He’s a hell of a writer, a relentless reporter and he’s hilarious. But the biggest reason I like him is because he focuses on the contrarians.

He’s one himself. As we know from Liar’s Poker, Lewis had one of those dope jobs he attained through luck, sitting next to the right person at a dinner one night in London. He then ascended through training to the ideal Solomon Brothers New York trader’s position (take that, equities in Dallas) and was primed to make a ton of money each year even though he had no fucking idea what he was doing (and neither did a lot of his colleagues). Then he quit. He wanted to become a writer.

In Moneyball, Lewis crafts the tale of the baseball executive who looked at his own faults and found a way to beat a money-rigged system. I love that book. In The Big Short he gives us the most relevant example of the contrarian for recent times: the few people who were smart enough to see the financial world fantastically crumbling around them and persistent enough to make something out of the mess. It’s a reminder that the crowd doesn’t always need to be followed and, for that matter, probably shouldn’t be followed.  —Mark Dent

Lost pastime: Sending postcards

So, I don’t want to go all “Kevin Costner in The Postman” here, but I had a revelation last week.
I was traveling from Pittsburgh to Kansas City earlier this month, and had a 90-minute layover in Chicago. I had time to kill, and friends to catch up with, but my computer’s battery was drained. And then it hit me: I’ll send postcards.

I mailed out a few (sorry if you didn’t get one) and it was liberating. The postcard, as with most tangible mail, is a lost art. And that’s too bad. For one, I’m a sap for great city skylines, and the postcard (save for the “paradise shot”) seems to have cornered the market on the “skyline shot.”

 

Then there’s the size. It’s perfect. You don’t feel compelled to write a Dickensian novel, but it’s just enough space to say, ‘hey, i’m in a different place… but still thinking of you.’ And then, finally, there’s the act of sending and receiving mail. That “claaannnk” sound as you drop your postcard in the mailbox and the door shut behinds. The act of locating a stamp, which, for me, in these times, always seems to be about as difficult as moving a heavy couch up a narrow, winding staircase. And finally, the confirmation from your friend that your postcard arrived. You know, those confirmations make for the best text messages. — Rustin Dodd

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