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tripleindemnity
09 May 2009 @ 04:59 pm
I wrote this on a forum site where someone commented on his recent first experience with silent film (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) with live orchestral accompaniment and asked about other silent films to seek out, especially of the horror genre.

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I'm a big fan of silent films, and they're certainly an even more effective experience with live accompaniment.

Orchestral accompaniments are pretty rare, though, as the cost of a written music, arrangements and a full orchestra are just too high for all except special occasions. Mostly one sees them with piano accompaniment, which may, or may not, use music similar to what would have been used in the teens and twenties.

I don't know what the situation is in the UK, in the US there are a few cities where one can garner opportunities to see silent films with live music. Boston, San Francisco Bay area, LA, DC, for example. In the UK I know the British Film Institute used to show silents with live piano, assume they still do.

When it comes to film history, a film as late as 1919 is unlikely to be "the first" of anything, contrary to what promoters may say. There were thousands of films cranked out around the globe in the preceding years, and believe me they were trying every genre they could think of.

Dr. Caligari may be the first to use a deliberately surrealistic art/set design, however, which were a very creative and artistic response to the low budget necessitated by a small film company and the economic devastation of Germany in the wake of WWI (immediately prior to WWI the German film industry was probably the primary challenger to Hollywood's dominance in the world market). IIRC the style of Caligari's acting was taken from a particular avante-garde theater in Berlin, as were some of the actors.

There were plenty of silent horror films in the 1920's, when major filmmaking turned almost entirely to features. Amongst the best (and best known) are Nosferatu, The Phantom Carriage, The Phantom of the Opera, The Unknown, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Faust (Murnau's version from 1926, although there were about a dozen others over the course of the silent era). Other films from the silent era have fairly strong horror elements even if they're not explicitly called horror films, for example, The Wind and The Man Who Laughs.

For silent films in general, I ran across a good list of the Top 100. Having seen about 80% of these, I would quibble with the ordering, but not with the fact that these are certainly some mighty good silent films. Their top 10 is after the cut:
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tripleindemnity
04 May 2009 @ 11:22 am
My intention, after the first day's blogging, after waiting for Bill's post-midnight arrival from Rochester, was to blog similarly every day.

The reality was there was too much music (over 40 acts) and too little sleep. It just didn't happen, though if I have the time over the next few days I'll try to catch up with some of it, before it's too late and all the memories blend together. However, those people who are actually paid to write tend to have their attention focused enough to put fingers to keyboard as, for example, Jon Pareles:

On JazzFest itself:

Gospel singers were harmonizing and brass-band horns were pumping out a parade oompah. Between them, Glen David Andrews was dressed like an R&B star in shades and a heavily sequined T-shirt, shouting to the rafters, singing about the Lord. It was Friday afternoon in the gospel tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In typical New Orleans style, traditions were getting all mixed together...

Jazzfest is a one-stop gathering of nearly every ranking local act. This year there were brass bands like the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth, who massed together onstage. There was funk-charged blues from Walter Wolfman Washington. There was brawny, clattering bayou zydeco from Rosie Ledet and C. J. Chenier. There were songwriters like Theresa Andersson, who multiplied her voice through electronics; Anders Osborne, whose bluesy songs hinted at grunge; and Alex McMurray, a droll, raspy singer playing nimble jazz guitar.

There was tumultuous avant-garde jazz from the saxophonist Kidd Jordan and creamy-toned ballad playing from James Rivers, who had performed at the first festival. There was R&B in slow, percolating grooves from Dr. John and there was philosophizing and two-fisted barrelhouse piano from the prolific New Orleans songwriter Allen Toussaint. Some local musicians were ubiquitous: Troy Andrews, known as Trombone Shorty, turned up onstage (playing trumpet) with Glen David Andrews (his cousin), Bonnie Raitt, the Dirty Dozen and the Midnite Runners, a local brass-band supergroup. His own band, Orleans Avenue, performed on April 24, the festival’s opening day...

[W]hat makes Jazzfest unique takes place on a smaller scale: moments like the parades of Mardi Gras Indians and the Social Aid and Pleasure Club. They used to reveal their feathered outfits and fancy suits on only a few days a year in certain neighborhoods; Jazzfest determinedly introduced them to outsiders. On Saturday afternoon, the Undefeated Divas Social Aid & Pleasure Club was parading in front of the Pin Stripe Brass Band, waving feathers and carrying placards that said “Swagger Like Us.” Jazzfest has let the rest of the world see how.


And on the Ponderosa Stomp:

The Stomp’s long lineup also included the 80-year-old Alabama bluesman and harmonica player Jerry McCain; Lady Bo, who played guitar in Bo Diddley’s band when he made his hits in the late 1950s; Wanda Jackson, a rockabilly singer who had Elvis Presley as a mentor; the gospel-charged soul singers Otis Clay and Howard Tate; the organ-driven garage psychedelia of ? and the Mysterians; the swamp-pop drummer and singer Warren Storm; and the rambunctious rockabilly singer and guitarist Ray Sharpe.

Lazy Lester, the harmonica-playing Louisiana bluesman who released “Pondarosa Stomp” as the B-side of a 1966 Excello Records single, was also on hand, with Presley’s longtime guitarist James Burton and the organist Stanley Dural, a k a Buckwheat Zydeco, among his backup musicians...

Concentrating on lesser-known tunes and performers, the Stomp can stir thoughts about careers, genres, songwriting and luck — not to mention the catalytic effect of ex-girlfriends in the history of rock ’n’ roll. Heartache and smoldering lust filled set after set. Dan Penn sang the hymnlike hits he wrote for others (“I’m Your Puppet,” “Do Right Woman,” “Dark End of the Street”) in a duo with the keyboardist Bobby Emmons, revealing a rich, hickory-cured voice of his own...

There’s something wistful about the Ponderosa Stomp, with so many performers whose early triumphs were fleeting, and some whose voices haven’t been treated well by time. But more often, there’s exhilaration, a chance to prove that for many of the musicians, the spirit in their songs has long outlasted their youth. L. C. Ulmer, a bluesman from Mississippi born in 1928, played eerie, droning, irregular rural-style solo blues, now electrified. At one point he was joined onstage by three women in burlesque costumes, shimmying by his side. He finished the song exultantly: “I feel like I’m 16 again!”
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tripleindemnity
24 April 2009 @ 11:23 pm
Bands seen:
  1. Willis Prudhomme and Zydeco Express--alright but didn't really do it for me
  2. Marc Broussard--a little too jam band-y and pop-y for my taste.
  3. Samolian Warriors Madis Gras Indians--Oh yeah, now we're talking.  Some good Indian rhythms going on, some great uptown costumes with representational beadwork, great drumming work, the usual Indian chants, Shoo-Fly, Indians, Let Them Come (?), going on forever till they become almost mantra-like, but with a second-line rhythm.
  4. Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings in the Blues tent.  No, not that Roy Rogers nor Ike Turner's backing band.  Some really, really good white slide guitar in a power trio, but sadly only ok singing.
  5. Henry Butler --definitely got the N'Awlins music going on, although the sound  and mix at the Congo Square stage was just as bad as I remember.  Why is it that the sound at Congo Square almost always sucks, when the 10 other stages are always good to great?
  6. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue--Trombone Shorty definitely knows his way around a 'bone, but the band was more jam-bandy then NOLA brass band funky.  When it did get funky, I definitely got into it. 
  7. Congo Square: Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Yacoub Addy and Odadaa!.  Apparently this is a recreation of a new album showing the influences of African music on American jazz and vice versa.  Definitely it was just terrific.  Almost haunting stuff at the beginning (for once the sound on the Congo Square stage did not suck), some great African sounds, great both small jazz and big band sounds, from mainstream fully charted to serious trad jazz.  It was wonderful, although also two-and-a-half hours, way more than any act I've ever seen at JazzFest, so while it was going on we went to see
  8. Joe Cocker--who was really good (and sure got a huge audience).  Although a lot of those arrangements sounded just like the 30-40 year old records.  They were great then, they're great now, but does recapitulating the records show that Cocker likes to give the people what they want, or a lack of musical imagination and expansion.
  9. Real Untouchables Brass Band--who confusingly had a different name on their matching T-Shirts.  Some really good funky N'awlins brass bands just the way I like it.  They may not be Rebirth, but they sure know how to funk it up.

And in amongst all that music was some great eating
  1. I kept reading about the Soft Shell Crab Po'Boy in the musicians recommendation on the WWOZ web site.  They said they head straight for it the first thing in the fest.  They know their crab.
  2. Rosemint Iced Tea--not quite sure what a rosemint is, but it sure knows how to steep.
  3. Cajun Bread--deep fried (I think?) patty with this spicy sausage stuffing that was delicious.
  4. Sno-Balls--Apparently "nectar" tastes like almond and looks bright red.  I'd thought sno-balls would be like italian ice, but it was drunk, not spooned or coned.  Interesting... but there's other sno-balls on the grounds, might have to try a different one (especially cause I did see people with plates of round icy stuff they were spooning).  Shockingly, not ice cold in temp, even though it was literally ice. 
  5. Pheasant, quail and andouille sausage gumbo--another one from the WWOZ musicians.  My god, was that good.  It was transporting... just amazing stuff in a little styrofoam bowl.  It may have passed Brennan's turtle soup for me as the best soup I've had in NOLA
  6. Crawfish Streusel--I was going for the Crawfish Monica, but apparently so had everybody else, they were sold out an hour before the day is over.  So since I'd noticed the crawfish streusel a couple of stands down.  I didn't know how one could streuselize a crawfish.  Apparently one puts it in this long cylindrical bread thing and surround it with some sort of cheesy spicy sauce and who knows what else... Mmmm, mmmm good.  It may have only been third on today's list, but it would be extraordinary anywhere else, and was pretty amazing even for NOLA
Other observations:
  1. Do not listen to Michael when he tells you you should get a base tan.  I've now got arms like a boiled lobster, though the rest of me seems to be more-or-less ok.  Lots of Banana Boat upfront tomorrow. 
  2. Last year's observation proved correct.  Taking a cab to the Fest (at $4 a head) makes sense.  But taking the shuttle bus back makes even more sense.  We were back in less than half an hour, we probably wouldn't have been halfway through the taxi line in that time!
  3. Even if it's not that hot, it's hot enough.  I was drinking water like a fish and still thirsty.  In April.  New Orleans sure ain't Boston
 
 
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tripleindemnity
05 March 2009 @ 08:09 pm
J. suggested I give her sis and bro, who are headed for New Orleans, a few tips on where to eat, drink, and catch some music. And, as usual when it comes to the Crescent City, I got kind of carried away. So at J's (as opposed to Jay's) suggestion, I'm posting it for posterity.

New Orleans has a food (and music) culture unlike any other place I've been in the US. It's not just an upper-class thing, it permeates all levels of society. So even the cheapest looking dives and holes-in-the-wall can have fantastic food, it just gets less fancy as it gets cheaper. But you'd be surprised at just how good a dish as seemingly simple as, say, a fried shrimp po'boy or red beans and rice can taste if done just right, by people who really know what they're doing, with quality fresh ingredients.

Those places where Big Easy food can fail are those that are really oriented towards vacuuming up tourist dollars, rather than serving good food to local residents. The tourist places may have menus that often look the same as those that are truly authentic, but the quality of the ingredients and cooking is way below par. Unfortunately, those are the places you'll often hit if you're going to the usual tourist haunts, like in the French Quarter: there can be some wonderful and excellent cheap food in the Quarter. But right next door will be a place with bland food with no taste, not-fresh ingredients, and no pride in the kitchen. But it will often look more appealing cause they make their money enticing tourists who'll never come back again. It's the latter places you want to avoid.

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tripleindemnity
05 March 2009 @ 06:54 pm
This is too good to pass up, Jon Stewart taking on Rick Santelli.

I love how it builds up and up until the final... well, see for yourself:


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tripleindemnity
23 February 2009 @ 03:27 pm
I hadn't heard of David Tenenbaum story until last week, when I happened upon a link to the story while perusing TalkingPointsMemo. The all too real parallels to the Dreyfus Affair of more than a century earlier were striking. Struck me enough to finally write up my sleepy observations on the The Life of Emile Zola.

A couple people asked me about Tenenbaum, so here's a longer piece a few months old from The Washington Post.

I love how one of the items that made his Tenenbaum's Army research colleagues suspicious of him was his carrying a backpack, instead of a briefcase. And that he was hired to work with foreign governments on improving vehicle armor, yet it was that very work that made his co-workers (very) wrongly suspect him of espionage.
 
 
 
tripleindemnity
20 February 2009 @ 04:56 pm
Unfortunately I managed to sleep through portions of 1937's Academy Award winning (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay) biopic The Life of Emile Zola a couple days ago on TCM...

Larger portions than I'd thought, as reading online synopses just now indicate I missed whole sections I wasn't aware I'd lost. Although the actual length of the film itself seems to be somewhat variable in any case--I've seen listings of 114, 116, 123, and 128 minutes--so perhaps I just created my own extremely shortened version... Like a version that's pretty much missing the entire J'accuse trial that's apparently the centerpiece of the less somnambulic versions.

However, I've taken keyboard to LJ not to praise Life nor to bury it, but to highlight a couple of what I suspect were older techniques I noticed when I managed to stay awake.

First was some interesting use of the narrative use of onscreen diagetic text in place of spoken remarks or intertitle information. Although the title may be The Life of Emile Zola it's an awfully compressed life, as the primary focus of the film is Zola's efforts on behalf of the falsely accused Alfred Dreyfus.

The Dreyfus Affair was a major event in the life of modern European Judaism, yet nowhere in the film is Dreyfus's religion ever mentioned... nowhere is it mentioned but, when going through a list of staff officers who were the potential source of the information leak, the French generals stop at a page containing Dreyfus's personnel information and one literally runs his finger beneath the entry for "Jewish" on Dreyfus's dossier.

Similarly, when Zola makes his major decision to take on the cause of Alfred Dreyfus, you learn of his decision by reading over his shoulder the letter of nomination to the "French Academy" (in English, of course, it is a 1930's Hollywood movie) and then you see Zola tearing the nomination into little pieces. Zola knows his decision to publicly support Dreyfus will have a deleterious effect on his reputation and social standing, but it's a decision he feels he has to take anyway. A knowledge that's conveyed solely through the tearing up of the letter the audience has been allowed to read.

I was struck in watching that this seemed unusual even for a contemporary film intended for what is presumed to be a visually and cinematically sophisticated audience. Almost always these extremely important turning points will have some sort of verbal highlighting in the script, yet they weren't present in this movie.

My thought: 1937 was only eight or nine years after the triumph of talkies over silent film, and both these scenes could easily have been done in exactly the same non-verbal fashion in a silent movie. Silents and silent technique were doubtless common currency of all those working on this picture: did they simply assume that these techniques were still equally accessible to their intended audience? Furthermore, did these silent-adept filmmakers assume that conveying these important pieces of information purely visually would cause the audience to focus on, and thus highlight, these important plot points?

Secondly, in the first portions of the film--the compressed potted history of Zola's life--the passage of time isn't indicated so much by the usual visual techniques of using dissolves or fades to black to indicate the ellipses of long passages of time... Rather, it's done via lead actor Paul Muni's facial hair, which changes in style and heightens in grayness as the different eras tumble one upon the other. (The toll of time is also indicated via Muni's expanding waistline, but that's not so obvious in his "younger" years.)

Again, is this the use of a silent technique, assuming the audience will just "get it" without the need for dated title cards or the classical cinematic signifiers?

Note: IMDB claims that the film was shot in reverse chronological order in order to start Muni with a larger beard at his oldest characterization and then cutting the beard and grayness back as he got "younger". IMDB also claims that Muni spent 3.5 hours in makeup before the start of every day of shooting. With that much time in the makeup chair every day, I'm sure Hollywood studio makeup artists would have had no problem giving Muni a very believable face and graying beard... in fact, if that isn't what they were doing, what was taking all those hours every day? Plus, Muni's beard doesn't "end" large and bushy and get shorter earlier in the film, the shape actually changes significantly over "time" (until he begins with only a mustache when the film opens with Zola sharing a garret with Cezanne). I rather suspect that piece of trivia is either an oversimplification of the actual shooting schedule (it's extraordinarily rare for any film to be shot in chronological sequence) or simply made up out of whole cloth by a studio publicist.

All Too Modern Addendum: One would have thought the Dreyfus Affair was a product of 19th Century European anti-semitism... or one would have hoped it was until one read today of a very similar case that's currently in litigation in the contemporary US army, as Orthodox Jewish Army Engineer David Tenenbaum was accused of being a spy solely because of his religion and his job required contact with Israeli engineers:

An Orthodox Jewish Army engineer who was cleared of spying for Israel sued the U.S. Defense and Justice departments Thursday, saying they made false security claims to prevent him from seeking compensation.

David Tenenbaum and his wife, Madeline, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit, calling the secrecy claim "frivolous" and an "abuse of power."...

The Pentagon put Tenenbaum on paid leave in 1997 while it investigated whether he was supplying secrets to Israel. Investigators cleared him, and he still works at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren.

Tenenbaum, 51, is the son of a Holocaust survivor and speaks Hebrew. One of his primary duties at the tank command was to design and develop safer combat vehicles, and he was in frequent contact with military engineers from other nations, including Israelis.

Though he kept his job, Tenenbaum lost his security clearance for a time and said the case hurt his career...

In the suit filed Thursday, Tenenbaum's lawyers said those who instigated the 1997 probe "falsely accused Tenenbaum of being an Israeli spy on the sole basis that Tenenbaum is Jewish."

"To avoid losing at trial and facing a substantial judgment," the suit alleged, the defendants claimed their case "required the use of state secret information, which could not be presented in a public trial."...

In March 2006, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Pentagon inspector general's office for a review.

The inspector general's report, released in July, concluded that Tenenbaum was "subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination."


http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/02/20/america/Spy-Investigation.php

So I guess the Dreyfus Affair really isn't so far behind us after all.
 
 
 
tripleindemnity
03 February 2009 @ 06:57 pm
Saw this reasonably good 1947 Humphrey Bogart film noir last week. I've seen it a couple of times before and liked it well enough, but haven't seen it for years.

And what struck me on repeated viewing was that there are scenes obviously lifted straight from The Maltese Falcon (1941). It first made an impression on me seeing the scene in Captain Murdock's (Bogart's) hotel lobby, where the police detective is hiding behind a newspaper, sitting in an easy chair up against a pillar in the middle of the lobby, just like Wilmer/Elisha Cook, Jr. is seen waiting for Sam Spade in Falcon.

And then there's the earlier scene where the pair of police detectives braces Murdock up in his hotel room, just as the detectives brace Spade in his apartment. And there's the scene where Martinelli in his office feeds Murdock a mickey in a drink a la Gutman and Spade in Gutman's apartment. And the scene towards the end where Murdock tells Dusty Chandler he has to send her up the river even though he likes her.

Of course, Lizabeth Scott seems to be doing her best to mimic the Lauren Bacall of To Have and Have Not (1944) and especially The Big Sleep (1944/46) throughout much of the movie, likely at the director, John Cromwell's, instruction. And, of course, the whole sequence with Coral and Murdock unexpectedly winning all the money at craps and then ending up in Martinelli's office is straight from The Big Sleep as well.

My guess is there's probably other lifts from either those movies or other Bogart detective/noirs from the intervening six years, but my usually dim memory didn't let me in on them.

My guess also is that Cromwell had no compunctions about stealing the essence of those scenes, and others, due to the ephemeral nature of films in the 1940s. There was no TV, there were no DVDs, there were, effectively, no revival houses. Movies played once, and that was it. Now it might take as much as two years or so for a film to work its way down from first run theaters to the fifth run, and even lower, levels. But once a picture was off theater screens it was pretty much gone forever. Plus, of course, new movies went up every week, people just didn't memorize them while seeing them over and over again.

So Cromwell probably felt no plagiaristic compunction at all in screening those earlier films, or just remembering his favorite "good bits" from his own viewings of those earlier films, and putting them in his own picture to hopefully re-entertain the audience again. It was a different era, I doubt a director of a non-sequel and (somewhat) arty picture would ever be so blatant today.

(An interesting example of the inaccessibility to the general audience of earlier films is the half-hour and hour-long condensations that were re-enacted on radio during this same era. Done today one would assume that they were marketing for a current or coming film. In fact, many of the radio versions were performed years after the film being reduced to pure sound was off any commercial screen. My guess is the studios wouldn't let the radio version be put on earlier as they would think of it as free competition for theatrical ticket revenue. Instead the radio versions were essentially souvenirs, the only way anyone in the audience had of re-experiencing an older movie they had previously enjoyed.)

Note 1: Note that the original 1947 New York Times review says that "Mr. Bogart is, of course, beyond criticism in a role such as "Dead Reckoning" affords him." so a little more than six years after Maltese Falcon Bogart's mastery of "slug 'em-love 'em and leave 'em" "whodunits" was firmly established. However, the Time's reviewer either doesn't recognize or chooses not to comment on Dead Reckoning's resemblance to those earlier "whodunits".

Note 2: I don't recall any reference to "dead reckoning"--or any form of navigation--in the movie. Was that phrase purely used to get "dead" in the title as a signifier for the audience of the film's genre, or was there an earlier story/script version where "dead reckoning" was uttered, or it was shown that Murdock was a navigator, or there was some other literal motivation for the title that got cut from the final film, while the (quite evocative, I think) title phrase remained?
 
 
 
tripleindemnity
26 November 2008 @ 05:25 pm
In which the sheep image (herd-like and not very bright) certainly seems apropos.

Thanks to an excellent column by Thomas Friedman in today's NYTimes I've just read the best piece I've seen so far on Wall Street's current debacle.

Written by Michael Lewis--author of Liar's Poker and Moneyball so it's both well researched and well written--Lewis shows how a few actually saw through the house of cards, but everyone else on Wall Street was running around with two fingers in their ears and the rest in your pockets, selling "products" guaranteed to go bad, but guaranteed to make them millions first:

Then came Meredith Whitney with news. Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for Oppenheimer Securities who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day, she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what in the stock market, but it was pretty obvious that on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of had shaved $369 billion off the value of financial firms in the market. Four days later, Citigroup’s C.E.O., Chuck Prince, resigned. In January, Citigroup slashed its dividend.

From that moment, Whitney became E.F. Hutton: When she spoke, people listened. Her message was clear. If you want to know what these Wall Street firms are really worth, take a hard look at the crappy assets they bought with huge sums of borrowed money, and imagine what they’d fetch in a fire sale. The vast assemblages of highly paid people inside the firms were essentially worth nothing. For better than a year now, Whitney has responded to the claims by bankers and brokers that they had put their problems behind them with this write-down or that capital raise with a claim of her own: You’re wrong. You’re still not facing up to how badly you have mismanaged your business.

Now, obviously, Meredith Whitney didn’t sink Wall Street. She just expressed most clearly and loudly a view that was, in retrospect, far more seditious to the financial order than, say, Eliot Spitzer’s campaign against Wall Street corruption. If mere scandal could have destroyed the big Wall Street investment banks, they’d have vanished long ago. This woman wasn’t saying that Wall Street bankers were corrupt. She was saying they were stupid. These people whose job it was to allocate capital apparently didn’t even know how to manage their own.


Note that many of the Wall Street brainiacs in the article were making 10's of millions of dollars a year to be Masters of the Universe yet didn't have a clue of what they were selling or the amazingly unstable financial structures they were building that were doomed to almost certain failure.

The funny thing, looking back on it, is how long it took for even someone who predicted the disaster to grasp its root causes. They were learning about this on the fly, shorting the bonds and then trying to figure out what they had done. Eisman knew subprime lenders could be scumbags. What he underestimated was the total unabashed complicity of the upper class of American capitalism. For instance, he knew that the big Wall Street investment banks took huge piles of loans that in and of themselves might be rated BBB, threw them into a trust, carved the trust into tranches, and wound up with 60 percent of the new total being rated AAA.

But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.


Geez, I'd have been happy to run Citigroup or Lehman Brothers into the ground for a mere million or two a year. The results couldn't have been any worse. I mean, I actually know that prices sometimes go down, too.
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tripleindemnity
26 November 2008 @ 05:09 pm
J thought I should post my 1996 MTV debut here as well as Facebook:



After two long days of shooting my bro told me to put on the gaffer's belt and close out the shoot. The feeling of ennui (or would that be exhaustion?) isn't exactly acting.

This really did get on MTV, though my part was often cut cause there's no music in the last couple seconds. My understanding is that the video got some decent airplay in some European countries where dance music makes the pop charts... perhaps I didn't end up on the cutting room floor in Ibiza?

Note that the version below doesn't suffer from Youtube's compression artifacts, but I couldn't figure out how to embed it in an LJ page:

http://www.clevver.com/music/video/139890/winx-hypnotizin-video.html
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