Friday, February 13, 2009
Snatches from the Pink Snapper – 8: A birthday gift
Down at the Snapper Martilla and I were reminiscing over our childhoods. She dredged up a memory that reminded me of just how much children have to go through to reach adulthood—a reverse metamorphosis whereby they commonly lose their wings to emerge as something a great deal less lovely.
Well, that's one way of looking at it. The facts of the story invite a host of reactions.
Martilla was turning 7 and for her birthday she wanted a horse. She lived out in the country where other kids had horses, so it wasn't an unreasonable expectation, and besides, nobody told her she couldn't have one.
On her birthday she came home from school excited that she would find a horse. Her dad led her out to a section of the fence where a bridle had been tied. "Look," he said, "I got you a horse, but he's run away." Then he pointed to a cow patty about 5 feet away. "See, he left you a present."
Though Martilla didn't get her horse, she did get a pair of cowboy boots of which she was very proud, and she wore them to school the next day.
Snatches from the Pink Snapper – 7 (6/24/08)
Monday, February 09, 2009
Liquid Commodity of the Day: Underwear
Sergei Ryazanov, 30, a businessman from the Siberian city of Surgut, took out an advertisement a month ago offering to barter excess metal piping. So far, he has not been impressed by the offers he has received; he said people were not desperate enough to drop prices. He is looking for a truly liquid commodity, something universal, like gasoline. Even underwear, which, he said, “is much more liquid than automobiles.”
I'll trade you my briefs for some turnips and guarantee their liquidity.
First Advocate of the Day: Michelle Obama
... [I]n a departure from her predecessor, Mrs. Obama has ... begun promoting bills that support her husband’s policy priorities....
It is a notably different approach than the one embraced by the former first lady, Laura Bush, who like most others steered clear of discussing legislation.
—Rachel L. Swarns reporting in "‘Mom in Chief’ Touches on Policy; Tongues Wag"
Ya gotta be kidding. Laura Bush didn't know any more about the Bush administration's legislative agenda than her husband did. It would have been like looking to Sarah Palin for a comment.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Revelation of the Day: Allegations against Michael Steele
Michael Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee a little more than a week ago, and already the FBI has paid a visit to his sister.
Steele was formerly chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and the state's lieutenant governor. He also ran for Senator in 2006. The upshot of all this is that he had a lot of loose campaign cash on his hands.
Now Steele's finance chairman during his run for the Senate, Alan B. Fabian, is telling anyone who'll listen that Steele was using the money in violation of campaign finance laws. Among the allegations is that Steele paid his sister, Monica Turner of the now defunct Brown Sugar catering services, for work she did not perform—hence the federal agents' visit with Ms. Turner.
The catch here is that Fabian has been sentenced to a 9-year sentence for his participation in a $40 million fraud scheme and is clearly looking for some leniency.
Steele is taking a dismissive stance—"It's from, what, a convicted felon? And it has no substantiation in fact"—neglecting to note that this convicted felon was indeed his finance chairman and in a position to know what he's talking about.
But it was not these matters, first reported by the Washington Post, that caught my attention, since it's only reasonable to assume that any Republican politician above the level of dogcatcher is crooked. It was the manner in which these allegations emerged.
It was not, as I hope no one supposes, because of a doggèd investigation by the Washington Post's intrepid reporters, but because of a little slip-up at the Justice Department—
The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document....
The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.
Defense memorandum? Prosecution memorandum? What the hell, a memo's a memo.
The best thing Barack Obama did on his first day in office was to issue a directive ordering all federal departments and agencies to adopt a presumption in favor of any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request—which is to say he wants the government to be more free with its information. The Justice Department has apparently taken the directive to heart.
This is bound to cause some friction, which will inevitably generate some heat. And—who knows?— maybe a little conflagration. But in the office of the chairman of the RNC, or at the Justice Department?
Can you name this painter?
One writer who makes his money from money has turned to dumpster diving. James Altucher—author, columnist and hedge fund manager—has been looking for smart investment tips in the wreckage of the Bernie Madoff portfolio. He thinks he's found some in Madoff's bin. (Warning!—he always thinks he's found some.) If you have a few million and no idea where to put them, read his column.
But what was more interesting was a revelatory experience he had recently with a friend in the art world. He reports—
I had breakfast the other day with a new friend who forges paintings for a living. Before I continue, I have to say that once this article appears she will probably not be friends with me anymore, even though I will not mention her name or any other revealing details.
In fact Altucher does reveal some interesting details—
... [M]y new friend works for a famous “painter.” I checked her boss out on the web and saw his paintings. They were stunningly beautiful. But here is the catch – he does not paint them at all.
Online, against each painting, it says “oil on canvas,” which is a farce. Here’s what he does: he takes a photograph of whatever he wants to paint, then he blows up the photograph to picture size. Then my friend uses oil paints to paint over the photograph, replicating it exactly, every colour, every line, so that it is a perfect replication of the photo underneath. If you scrape the oil off, you do not get a blank canvas – you get a photograph.
The artist has paintings in museums and galleries, according to the Wikipedia description. And not a single buyer has ever scraped off the oil.
So Altucher has given us this—
- The medium is oil.
- The surface is canvas.
- The artist's name appears in the catalogs of museums.
- The paintings are currently on sale in galleries.
- Photos of the paintings of the photos can be found on the net.
- The artist's name is (probably) a distinct entry in Wikipedia.
- The artist is male.
- The artist has a female assistant who enjoys dining with hedge fund managers and the like.
- The paintings are detailed and representational—the sort of thing you'd expect George Bush to buy if he ever bought a painting.
- There is a photograph beneath each painting for anyone daring enough to take a knife to it.
Right now, it feels as if every industry is either a scam or filled with scamsters and you do not know where to go or whom to trust.
So can any of my readers help restore a sense of trust for investors in the art world and help them avoid this fraud (devaluing some of their previous acquisitions, I should add)?
I'm completely useless here. If a painting isn't abstract I scarcely know what it represents.
A note on understanding elites (9/03/07)
Make the most from your catastrophes! (And WIN valuable prizes!) (4/01/08)
Quote of the Day: Million-dollar homes and other investments (11/18/08)