Category Archives: quote

Harsh words and grim prospects

from Mike “Mish” Shedlock, a “registered investment advisor” with what look to me like Libertarian predilections:

In total, the Treasury has now committed to squander $700 billion and that is before Obama squanders anywhere from $750 billion to $1 trillion trying to prop up a dying consumer-based economy that really can’t be propped up.

More or less the same analysis of the overall plight as Jim Kunstler, though I’m not sure on which points the two would disagree. Kunstler (in his Forecast for 2009) is focused on the upshots of what he summarizes as the Happy Motoring fallacy, which is of course not just about cars:

Happy Motoring is at the core of our unsustainability trap. The car system is going to fail in manifold ways whether we like it or not, and it will fail due to circumstances already underway…

Another voice with some of the same tidings is NYU economist Nouriel Roubini:

But the worst is still ahead of us. In the next few months, the macroeconomic news and earnings/profits reports from around the world will be much worse than expected, putting further downward pressure on prices of risky assets, because equity analysts are still deluding themselves that the economic contraction will be mild and short… The credit crunch will get worse; deleveraging will continue, as hedge funds and other leveraged players are forced to sell assets into illiquid and distressed markets, thus causing more price falls and driving more insolvent financial institutions out of business. A few emerging-market economies will certainly enter a full-blown financial crisis.


I’m pretty much a sucker for Doc Searls take on stuff, so I did as he suggests and went to Typealizer and put in oookblog’s URL and here’s what I got back:

ENTP – The Visionaries

The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of the day, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical abilitity.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

Hmmm. Guilty. And slightly preening-of-feathers too.

Another snippet from John Thorne

Again I’m struck by how Learning and Cooking [might could] have kindred pleasures:

One of the rarely discussed pleasures that cooking has to offer is just what we have done here –throwing ourselves into the water and letting it sweep us away… until it eventually deposits us, shivering but exhilarated, on a strange stretch of riverbank. Of course, we have to be prepared to swim like hell if we need to, but the real joy comes from surrendering to the flow. (Mouth Wide Open, page 98)

(from a chapter on menudo)


From H5N1, on the probable consequences of financial meltdown:

The hot-zone countries will have no money left for anything except their militaries. The developed countries will focus on rescuing their billionaires, moaning about gas prices, and keeping lipstick on their pigs…


Sentences like this renew one’s faith in humanity:

Because of parallax, the likelihood of a solar eclipse depends not only on a syzygy’s nodal elongation, but also on whether it occurs north or south of the ecliptic, as was recognized in antiquity.

(See Freeth et al. in Nature, via xefer, where there’s also a link to a 44 page (!) Supplement)

Not irrelevant to the present moment

Tripping along in my leisurely reading of Guy Davenport’s Geography of the Imagination (which, by the way, is mostly about poets and other artsy rapscallions), I came upon this marvelous bit of invective:

True, it was a year in which the country had to turn out a pack of scoundrels, porch climbers, thieves, bullies, liars, and bores from the Executive Branch of the government, a year in which the sludge of usury which forms the basis of our economy began to slither and lurch, a year indistinguishable from any other in the national contempt for the arts. (pg 273)

(Davenport refers to 1974, but…)

Guy Davenport

I can’t recall at whose behest I ordered The Geography of the Imagination, but I did and it came and I’ve been nibbling at it for a week or so now. Quite a few memorable bits of erudition and copious novel linkages of things I only sort-of know about, but tonight I was brought up short by one sentence:

One suspects that Thoreau would have married a woodchuck or a raccoon, if the biology of the union could have been arranged… (pg 71)

Glorious sentence

It’s the most delicious pleasure to linger over bits of prose like this, where every word and clause is artfully placed to inform the reader:

Since those moments on the terrace, Harold had daily become more of the solicitous and indirectly beseeching lover; and Esther, from the very fact that she was weighed on by thoughts that were painfully bewildering to her –by thoughts which, in their newness to her young mind, seemed to shake her belief that life could be anything else than a compromise with things repugnant to the moral taste– had become more passive to his attentions at the very time that she had begun to feel more profoundly that in accepting Harold Transome she left the high mountain air, the passionate serenity of perfect love for ever behind her, and must adjust her wishes to a life of middling delights, overhung with the langourous haziness of motiveless ease, where poetry was only literature, and the fine ideas had to be taken down from the shelves of the library when her husband’s back was turned.
(George Eliot, Felix Holt: The Radical pg 426)

Protection rackets

During my years of wandering the Groves of Academe I read many thousands of pages of books and papers, and (I can see now) shuttled from one enthusiasm to the next, driven and drawn, blown and tumbled through a vast array of subjects and quite a few academic disciplines. The file cabinets in the barn hold a lot of the remains of the odyssey, and promise/demand many hours of rainy-day sorting –but perhaps (some would say) might as well go straight to recycling. Anyway, my pantheon of much-admired writers includes Charles Tilly. Today’s Crooked Timber tells me that Tilly has won the Social Science Research Council’s Hirschman Prize, and there’s a link to a pdf of his (1982) essay Warmaking and Statemaking as Organized Crime. I grabbed it and started reading… and was projected back to the Maxell Moment mindspace

that I have so often enjoyed as a reader of fine academic prose. Listen:

Apologists for particular governments and for government in general commonly argue, precisely, that they offer protection from local and external violence. They claim that the prices they charge barely cover the costs of protection. They call people who complain about the price of protection ‘anarchists’, ‘subversives’, or both at once. But consider the definition of a racketeer as someone who creates a threat, then charges for its reduction. Governments’ provision of protection, by this standard, often qualifies as racketeering. To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary, or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket.

Hmmmm. 1982. I’m just saying…