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