Tuesday, 30 June 2009

a seriously good sign of no green shoots...

My clever Management Consultant friend has been pining for some time off.  Thus far, at her firm, there has been a lot of redundancies, but, no clever deals offered.  But one has just been put on the table.  20% pay for 6, 8, 10 or 12months off, beginning in September.  She is pleased but unsure as she has a large mortgage.  I can tell it is a pleasure for her to ponder the options.  The story is good from her side, but, less good as far as the economy goes. The firm is a worldwide leading management consulting megalith - they likely have a finger on the pulse better than most firms due to the nature of their business.  An offer such as this suggests the firm does not anticipate any green shoots what-so-ever for a while.  

Clever friend from the North had also purchased tickets to the Michael Jackson concert.  The company is offering either a refund, or, two souvenir tickets.  She is leaning refund.  I suggested she hedge, refunding one, and ebay-ing the other.

A survey is in order.  Anyone venture a guess as to what a ticket might fetch? 

The clever way forward would be to put it up on ebay before deciding...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Frogs, Tea, and Dragon Slayers...

It is rather dull out there in market-land and looks to remain so for the summer. There is a host of good data due from America this week, so, there will be something to talk about later.  In the meantime, I've been busy reading about the case of the one legged frogs here on the BBC. What else? Dead Bankers from Clapham here at (apologies) The Daily Mail. And something cheerful?  Put the kettle on.  Tea is good for you, according to the BBC here.

Oh.  You want something Economic?  Go read this Sunday's Home section in the Times.  The lovely French home featured had me on the phone last night.  It is owned by Dragon's Denner Duncan Bannatyne and he is hopping mad about paying top-of-the-market prices for it.  So much, that he has terribly rudely insulted my Very Blonde girlfriend's father, who was the previous owner. Clearly, VB girlfriend's dad is a bit of a Dragon slayer.  I have do have a soft spot for Glaswegian men, but, in this case, an anonymous man winning over a man who has made his investing very public is one of those nice kinds of victories people use as plot devices in children's storybooks.  Moral?  Always.  Modesty and self-belief can go hand in hand and are a successful combination.  Steely business skills are the part they probably left out of the children's version.  Pity.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Blog hungover again...

I've had a case of lightness, daftness, devil-may-care-ness about the blog as of late. The workload has swamped up and taken away some quality pondering time. The swirl of ideas has been spun away by deadlines and, well, I have lost the knack. It will be back. Promise.

It is a bit of a party season thing as well - the late evenings are turning the brain into a sloggy soup. From last night's magic carpet garden I distinctly remember a few conversations and a wonderful potato thing. Israeli Bonds, Turkey, French Castles, The Economy, and my drunken girlfriend who-wants-to-be-an-MP, vodka in the eye purposefully, and I missed dessert. There are indeed a few morsels in there, and more. But that might be gossip. I'll give you a bit cloaked in economics.

All topics did seem to lead back to the economy. My sweet castle-laden friend spoke of her husband dying her hair for her to save some money. Bond-man gleamed with gratitude for actually still having a job. The girl-who-looks-younger-than-all-of-us spoke of trying to get into a free anti-wrinkle trial. That all sounds so light, but, I've kept the best conversations to the side. MP-to-be chatting with Perfect Hostess was an evening highlight...(hush - no!)

Still on the light side...as I am on a dafty tangent - the clothes...there were a lot of boho embroidered things wafting about. The high end kind. Hippie-lux has always been a thing, but, it speaks the right way these days. I had on a swedish version and I felt oh-so-secretly blonde for the evening.

My point? Hangovers do not make good writing friends, thinking friends, or get anything-done friends. But honestly, if Missmc reformed and stayed home to write the blog, the economy would clearly suffer. Or at least some French vineyards would.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Herd behavior and Nostalgia...

Do I have to write about that? Is there anyone else in the world that can flash you back to certain moments in your life so efficiently? Not for my generation. I never owned any of his music, or, was a big fan, but I can most vividly recall a substantial amount of my life through each and every song. He was everywhere.

A certain exuberance would hit a party when a Michael song came on. It usually was a kitschy moment, where everyone would shed inhibitions, don exhibitions, and, be happy. There was a certain free innocence about those Michael Moments. As I was a bit of an uptight child I found these free outbursts more as things to study rather than to participate in. But the analytic did not last long -- within a few bars I would be drawn in. Out I went on the dance floor within seconds. Every time. But I never went so far as to attempt a moonwalk. No no no.

I'm off to a party tonight, and, I can already see where the party will be going...

It is good timing for some worldwide exuberance. I'd even venture to say the market will rocket today. Herd behavior and 80's nostalgia is a heady combination.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Making Worlds

Green shoots are getting terribly boring.  The crystal ball club continues to issue proclamations of an upswing, or, at least that there is a bottom.  I am ever-loving a glass-half full, but, I think the glass is still chipped.  No matter what you see in the glass, the structure still needs attending to.  Or you might get a bloody lip.

Rather than gaze at the half-full half-empty chipped thing, how about a wander around?  Outside that world, there are others.  Daniel Birnbaum curated the exhibition at this year's Venice Biennale entitled "Making Worlds".  Here he is, explaining the different linguistic interpretations of the exhibition title, and, with that, he invites you to "open your eyes"...

I think I need a plane ticket.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Val on a tangent

Missmc had a lengthy conversation with her financial-advisor-who-sounds-just-like-Jack-Nicholson last night.  The easiest way to sum it up is to bring in a bit of fiction...

There were a few cars on the road, causing everything to happen.  Val saw she was in the same place still while others were moving.  Slightly this way and that.  The man next to her was on the phone.   A believer.  Val took a deep breath.  She could hear him through the window.  "Don't miss out.  It's on the fence.  It has to go somewhere.  Sentiment is...." He veered to the left and disappeared.

She looked down.  Beside her it lay in open disarray.  Inside, an uncharged phone, a few letters, and money scattered, floating about listlessly.  She reached inside for a tissue, and pulled over.  It was a clear day and she knew where she was going.  But she wondered why they were always so hard to see through.  Sunglasses back on, she flicked off the radio and sped back in there.  She kept glancing to see if he was with her or not.  But they were on different roads.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The metaphorical accident...

An artwork at the Venice Biennale gives an unexpected commentary on the American housing market...on you tube here...highly recommended...funny...

The High Low...

It was father's day yesterday and the children were filled with exuberance.  On Friday we went shopping for a gift.  The eight year old picked out a rather expensive Paul Smith shirt.  I explained the price was a bit much even for such a great Dad.  We kept looking.  The little one picked out a fairly ridiculous teal coloured neck scarf.  I asked him why he thought Dad might like it and he said "This would really set him apart".  Sure would.  After a bit of looking, the saleswoman sidled up to us and whispered some magic words.  The shop was having a Secret Sale.  Starting right now.  We promptly went back to the handsome overpriced shirt and had it wrapped up.  I threw in a blouse for myself and home we went.

Dad loved the shirt and the handmade cards.  "I love Dad because he has a key to the park" was written inside one.  Sweet.  We went off to lunch on the roof of Boundary and managed to get a nice table in the sun.  Afterward, we went to the Whitechapel Gallery to see the Isa Genzken exhibition.  I've always been a fan, but, this exhibition was not as fantastic as I had wanted it to be.  I think it was the location.  The new Whitechapel is lovingly architected and a cool thing.  But Genzken's work works better in the old school architecture of Hauser and Wirth.  Her art is made from the detritus of city life...and there is just too much of that in the neighborhood of Whitechapel.  The lack of dichotomy sunk the work a bit.  Humble materials need a bit of lux around them to work correctly.  At least for me.

That was our aesthetics & economics lesson for Father's Day.  On the same note, the father's day shirt works the high/low really well with a low-fi lumberjack plaid woven into a lovely linen....

Friday, 19 June 2009


My Financial Manager has been hiding out throughout much of the crisis.  I've not spoken to him since sometime in November.  An email has arrived today requesting we make an appointment to chat.  As he is in another time zone, and, I am fairly hard to reach via telephone, this makes sense.  It is, however, a bit more formal than our usual relationship.  So, does he have something important to say?  I tremble at the thought he might be leaving his position.  Perhaps though, he is feeling bullish and green-shootish enough to take on skeptical Missmc.  He is a notorious contrarian so I am incredibly confused as to what to expect conversation wise.  Silence seemed to be his winter strategy.  

Above is a little chart by Doug Short that tracks bear markets upon one another, adjusted for inflation.  He has a fine website that experiments with the art of chart-o-logy worth a view every now and then.  These kinds of charts are a bit like horoscopes and can be presented and read in a variety of ways.  If the colour were shifted a bit, it would be a fine pattern for a Missoni...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Regulation by Prescription...

I really like this story on gambling rats from the BBC.  And I like this story from the FT about vending machines in Germany that one can buy gold from.  And I like the tangents both stories are forming in my brain.  Like, why not just make the gold machine a gambling machine?  If you placed it next to a vending machine for cigarettes, you could capitalize on the effects of dopamine and get people to place more and more money in them...

On the science side of human behavior, perhaps the bankers need to be handed some kind of dopamine inhibitor to keep the appetite for risk lower?  Regulation by Prescription?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

All about Tracey

I shirked all responsibility and spent the morning having tea with author friend B. at the Wolseley.  After a catch up, we wandered over to see the Tracey Emin exhibition at White Cube.  Seeing an Emin show is a challenging thing, as there are so many preconceptions and opinions regarding the work before laying eyes on it.  The cultural era of "Hello, let me tell you a little bit about myself" hit a high note in the 90's, and, Tracey rode that wagon in a zesty tabloid kind of way.  Madonna is also a product of the "Me" cultural marketing that incorporated sex and girl stuff.  But she is more pleased with her sexual self.  On the other hand, Tracey has always asked for a bit of pity whilst she flirts.

But back to the exhibition.  The work on offer features some bad poetry lit in neon that no matter whether straight from the heart, or contrived, is bad poetry.  Several very good pieces stitched on blankets with small baby blanket patches hang under glass frames.  They are pretty great in a formal sense, and, make sense for Tracey in a conceptual sense.  There are a lot of drawings featuring female masturbation.  Which, as far as drawings go, are quite alluring as she has a good hand - for drawing I mean.  Confessional notebooks with a raw quality sketching unfinished thoughts are clustered together.

All good.  What churns and turns the work wrong is the let-me-tell-you-a-little-about-myselfness of it.  It is such a self-focused enterprise, begging for pity and love, like the Big Issue selling-lady with a baby that I saw at 10pm the other night.  That sounds cold, but, I am uncomfortable when I feel I am being manipulated. Surely the Big Issue can be sold during better hours to accommodate baby?  

I can't find a reason to love Tracey, as she does not really converse with me.  But I am not an emotionally driven person.  I do think she has a lovely way of translation, and, her drawings have a powerful sway.  But, I would like to hear about something other than herself.

Monday, 15 June 2009

A real Bond story...

Gosh.  This is a real Bond story.  Two Japanese (still being confirmed) businessmen were detained in Italy after trying to carry an absurd amount of U.S. Treasury bonds over the border into Switzerland.  134billion worth.  In a false-bottomed case.  

I expect this story is going to become incredibly interesting.  The authorities said they would confirm whether the bonds are real or not in a few days.  One website said the bonds were accompanied by very credible looking paperwork.

Obviously, speculation abounds.  I can't wait to hear more.

It all seems so bizarre, I give you the story as reported by Bloomberg.  No other major media source seems to be reporting this at the moment.  Probably for good reason.  Surely they must be forgeries and it is a non-story.  But the story of the who and why is fascinating.

Please return to your seats...

I do seem to be obsessed with the word "Optimism".  The O word took a battering yesterday in this article by Wolfgang Munchau in the FT.  It is a fine read.  In the past few weeks, the market and the world economies have been mucking about, getting a bit less dramatic about themselves and settling into something a bit boring or inflicting the dreaded green shoot visionary thing on us.  In the press.  In the background, outside of the media, the data has been droning on in a deep bass note.  Think of the media, the markets, and the data entanglement like a little symphony.  Here is what it has been like over the past few weeks.  Cymbal crash.  The piccolos did a little solo.  Then, the music-to-snooze-by movement by was played by a few violas.  The clarinets joined to create a pleasant lull.  A few more pips.  Backstage, the bassoonist was doing his own sad thing.  A few of his mates played double-bass alongside.  The conductor realized they had not been accounted for, and looked behind the curtain.  There they were.  An intermission was called.

"The second half will begin in ten minutes..." announced a crisp voice over the static intercom...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

My other hat is back on

The art world rose to heady levels in the 00's.  This period of ex-uber-ance was fantastic for investors who played the market through the auctions.  For the humble collector, it was less of a bonus as prices for good contemporary art rose and the market was flooded with lesser goods.

During the beginning of the rise, Missmc was exhibiting video works in exhibitions around the world.  During the peak, Missmc was home, with the duties of motherhood taking precedence and shows were canceled, galleries were resigned from and the wearing of several hats was just too hard.  

Life after motherhood will continue with the good help of Mark Rowland, of Rowland Contemporary.  Missmc has a new gallery and one of the most decent dealers in the art world looking after her work.  

Curious?  Visit Rowlandcontemporary.com and look under artists at "Susan Black".  There, you will find abstract landscapes that sometimes contain a glimmer of the charts and graphs that had taken over her interests.  The painting entitled "The Silver Lining" was done in the dark market  days of October.  You will perhaps see more.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Child Trust Fund - Hedging the Children...

The very meager child trust fund held by child number two is dwindling.  It was started by a check given to him by the U.K. government in the amount of 250.00 pounds.  The government began this initiative a few years ago for qualifying children.  The stated goal was to encourage saving for children at a young age.  Since depositing the check into a UK growth and income fund we've not made any further contributions.  But we will.

Last year, he made £47.32.  This year, he has lost £55.49.  Very much in keeping with the movements of the markets.  He has 13 years to go before he can access the funds.  That ought to be just enough time to make a bit of money beyond the inflation rate.  Fingers crossed.  

I'm thinking of changing funds.  Adding in the 1.5% charge HSBC is laying on top for managing the account, I am unsure how well they or we can do.  From looking online at results of various funds before the credit crunch, and, returns from the past year, I'd say the CTF account through "Family Investments" looks reasonable.  An added bonus is all those little Nectar points accrued at Sainsbury's and through my gas and electric bill can be put into the fund.  That seems rather gimmicky, but, useful.  I need to do a bit more research.  These funds all seem to offer the least amount of information possible and make choosing very difficult.  And I can't choose based on a gimmick.  If they would just give me some info on the makeup of the fund...

Child number one has no such account as he was born before the qualifying period.  I suppose I ought to set up something similar.  It would be interesting to put his money into something that is dot opposite in investment strategy.  Alas, there seems to be no such thing that would provide the same tax benefit.

Hedging the children -- sibling rivalry at its finest...I suppose there is good reason that is not an option.

Friday, 12 June 2009

All about me and you...

Whilst reading this post on the Psychology of Economic Forecasting by Edward Harrison I was diverted by a link to take the Myers-Briggs typology test.  Of course, I sat there and analyzed the questions and deconstructed the wording and choice of adjectives.  I was not sure the results would be completely accurate given my interior conversation concerning the methodology.  But, the test seems to account for that.  So what is Missmarketcrash according to the Jungians?  I am a INTJ.  Very strong on the intuition and thinking.  And moderately introverted.  The J is for Judgmental and I was mid-scale on that.  After the test, there are a few articles that elaborate on your type and famous people like you.  I hate that kind of thing.  But that is probably why I matched up with Hannibal Lecter.  A reclusive mastermind was the more polite terminology on offer.  Lest you all run away, I am also supposedly the same type as Newton, Bohr, and my favorite, Ada Lovelace.  Appropriate for a digressing blogger, de Montaigne was also a match for me.  The test recommended career choices.  Missmc is best suited  to being a natural scientist, an IT person, a lawyer, or, a librarian.  

Now.  I am still a bit confused by the opposites laid out by the test.  Judging vs Perceiving.  Thinking vs Feeling.  Sensing vs Intuition.  Introversion vs Extraversion.  I am sure there are plenty of scholarly papers picking apart the same thing, and, perhaps recommending modifications.  For instance - is the concept of opposites the best way to examine personality traits?  And are these opposites true opposites?  

It is certainly entertaining nonetheless.  Try it here.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


The construction industry in the U.K. has suffered a spectacular decline as seen from the latest figures released from the Office for National Statistics.  Missmc's neighbor is a Project Manager for a large commercial Irish Construction firm.  He has been making people redundant at a steady pace since last autumn.  As of this morning, he still works there, but, his boss was fired yesterday.  Such troublesome news cancelled our tennis evening last night.  It seems only a matter of time, but, optimism and wishful thinking have kept the family going.  

The bank that has financed a large amount of loans to the firm is soon to be passing the loans onward to the newly created National Treasury Management Agency in Ireland.  Little has been in the British press regarding the NTMA - details may be found here.

If my neighbor is still working at the company when the loans are transferred, the Irish taxpayers should be reassured that one of the best men is still left standing, toiling away, to make good on the loan. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Summer Au Pair...

 Missmc has started the search for a summer au pair.  This year, the choices are very very good.  A PhD student economist from Italy?  An architecture student from the Czech Republic?  A journalist from Poland?  All good fits for this house.  The journalist from Poland could be an awkward fit as she only eats Halal.  So I am not sure how to respond to her as we are generally an open-minded house -- a summer of Halal cooking is not quite what I had in mind.  But she seems bright and lovely so she will remain on the b list...

In addition, there were three economists and one management consultant who have responded to my au pair ad.  Unemployed graduates, not students.  Economics?  In previous years, we have attracted journalism and philosophy students as well as the usual large response from unskilled escapees from various hard situations.  The awkward part of interviewing and culling candidates is the humanist in me has to go on holiday.  There are many heart-breaking stories and my motherly instinct wants to scoop them all up and help out.  The hard-nosed other side of me wins and looks for the smartest and most able.  

And then, I feel horrid.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Is it?

Missmarketcrash has mild flu-like symptoms.  Oh my.  A fever.  Swollen glands.  A sore throat.  A very odd stomach.  Headache.  Aching limbs. Exhaustion.  Chills.  A very sore knee.  Muscle aches.

No coughing.  Yet.

It couldn't be.  I am much too busy for that.

I still had the children to entertain today so we set off to the new Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.  Saatchi is clearly of the size-does-matter school of thought and his thing is really big.  And well-architected.  The current exhibition, entitled Abstract America was just the thing for a fever.  In my altered state I saw lots of things, even things that were probably not even there.  One painting by Aaron Young was one of those affairs where you stare at some center dots and then look up for an after-image.  I burst into laughter and walked around the gallery exclaiming "I saw Jesus".  I've never felt so foolish.

Upstairs, I looked at a room filled with paintings by Amy Sillman.  My serious head went back on as I remembered doing an exhibit with her long long ago.  She was most awfully stand-offish.  Good art can overcome such things.  The paintings at Saatchi have a fantastic capability and presence.  They are a real highlight of the exhibit. 

What else?  Elizabeth Neel.  And what not?  The Snake who ate a box.  

Back home, as I lay in bed the show went on repeat through my fevered brain.  The fevered brain started pondering the definition of abstraction.  And Jesus.  As gimmicky as that piece seemed, it was a good theoretical inclusion.  The painting is abstract.  The after-image is not.  Or is it?  Is Jesus an abstract thing?  Abstract art can often lead you to the concrete, whether a concrete abstract or a concrete concrete.  The trace of a piece often jumps out of the intended boundaries.

Speaking of jumping out, Missmarketcrash still does not understand how the catalogue and the show have completely different artists.  What happened there Mr. Saatchi?  

Thursday, 4 June 2009

That is what friends are for...

Wandering through Leigh Caldwell's blog this morning whilst drinking a strong cup of coffee I ran into an excellent post that I had overlooked.  It is so entertaining, and, I am so overwhelmed with work this morning, I will shirk (I love that word) responsibility and see you tomorrow --

Press Here....


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Half-full or Half-empty?

Image from Nationwide Consumer Confidence Index

This morning, the BBC reported on the Nationwide Consumer Confidence Index and used the word "optimistic" in the headline.  

Looking at the report directly, the Chief Economist from Nationwide used the word "pessimistic" in his summary.  With a nod to a bit more confidence appearing than the previous results.  The funny little barometer in the report posted above is indicating "stormy" but it is on the up and up.  Because it is as it is.  Or is it?

Here is the report.  If you are non-UK based, please bear in mind that "Nationwide" is a financial services company.  It does have some snappy charts worth a gander.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Because, it is as it is...

What an exuberant market day yesterday was.  Irrational?  We shall see.  In the meantime, Missmc has been flicking through Alain Badiou's Logics of Worlds, Being and Event II looking for some kind of correlative track of thought.  Hands down, this is the hardest book to read that I've ever ever encountered.  I do think a mathematically inclined brain would fare better.  I've wrestled with the the first thirty pages, glanced at the handy dictionary of symbols, and wandered through "notes, commentary and digressions".  And I can't get in there.  This book is less the famously socialist Badiou and focuses more on the concept of logic.  So far, I am thinking he has a bit of Russell's mathematical acrobatics crossed with Wittgenstein's Tractatus, but I could be far far off the mark. 

In a recent interview with Badiou on Hardtalk (BBC), the focus was on the political in relation to the economic crisis.  His theoretical abstractions were bashed about a bit by the interviewer whose mandate seemed to be to reveal Badiou as a raging communist.  When Badiou was asked about reactions to the economic crisis and whether he thought the French were "angry enough" (daft) he responded thoughtfully, dismissing the idea of anger in itself as enough.

To paraphrase, he said, "You must have some ideas, some great ideas"..."ideas of the possibility of something else"...

Here is the interview. Parts two and three add nothing and are worth skipping so I've not posted them...

But you should not miss the best quote from part 2 --

"As a philosopher, I never accept the world as it is, because, it is as it is..." "chuckle chuckle".

Monday, 1 June 2009

She brags but you still like her anyway...

Ah.  The first day of summer.  If you would like a behind the scenes peek at what else Missmarketcrash does with her day, pick up the July issue of the Living Etc...(U.K. version).  Flick to the article entitled "Good Vibrations" and take a gander at Helen Tucker's lovely renovated home.  Formerly a solicitor, Helen has done a rather fine job of renovating a few house-wrecks and is now doing interior design.

So...what has this all to do with Missmarketcrash?  If you look carefully at the photographs, you will see several skinny horizontal paintings scattered throughout the house.  And those were painted by yours truly.  Missmc is much more comfortable as a filmmaker/video artist in the contemporary art game, but, there they are, a few paintings....

Oh.  You want an economics link with the blatant self-promotion?  Read this.  The contemporary art market really has fallen off a cliff this year.  It ought never to be just about money.  But is there such a thing as pure pleasure to an economist?