February 13th, 2009

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Good to know that he was one of the foresightful ones

At the forefront of concerned regulators is Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and one of the financial world's most powerful voices. In a speech in Hong Kong on September 14th, Mr. Geithner praised the banking industry for becoming more robust, overseeing growth in the number and size of lending firms and innovating in credit instruments. These, he said, had "strengthened the efficiency and resilience of the overall financial system."

But he gave warning: "The same factors that may have reduced the probability of future systemic events, however, may amplify the damage caused by, and complicate the management of, very severe financial shocks. The changes that have reduced the vulnerability of the system to smaller shocks may have increased the severity of the larger ones."
That snippet is from The Economist, September 23rd 200*6*, in a now quite sobering three-page examination of the growth of credit innovation. Fully two years before it became fashionable to do so, this article laid out the pros and cons of the new credit-default swaps and related instruments, talking about the rise of the shadow credit economy. Geithner is the most-cited person in it, pointing out that the complexity and opaqueness of the new mechanisms were likely to cause big problems down the road, calling for bigger capital cushions and improved transparency, and indicating that he thought more supervision was likely needed.

One wonders if he had any clue that, when those problems arose, he would wind up the person on the hot seat to deal with them. Probably not, and being able to see a runaway train coming doesn't mean that you're going to able to lasso it. But it does increase my respect for the man a notch, that he was beginning to sound the alarm when most in the industry were still slapping each other on the backs for having made the world a better place...
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A lucky week to go see the 'dolls

Last night's outing was to the Boston Babydolls, whose current show, Unlucky in Love, is playing this week. It's a great show, probably their best to date.

There are no weak spots. Every act is great, from Mina's delightful fan dance to Ruby and Honey's brilliantly funny duet of two prison escapees on the run, to Joy's thrilling torch songs. Even when things went wrong, they did so right -- in Honey's "Everything that can possibly go wrong does so" routine, her intentionally-flying shoe managed to send her next props off into the audience, in a billiard shot so perfect that I knew it wasn't planned, simply because it wasn't *possible* to do it deliberately. (But she covered for it without missing a beat, and even worked it right into the dance.) And the whole thing is wrapped in a Scratch monologue that ties it together exceptionally well.

The standout routine, as so often, was Betty's -- I never know what she's going to come up with next, and I always look forward to it. This time, it's not even really a strip; rather, it's a symphony in bedsheets, billowing around her as she dances. It's absolutely captivating, one of those moments that crosses the line from performance into Art.

The best summary I can give is that this show really wants to be taped, simply so that it can be shown to the *next* generation of Burlesque with the adminition, "this is what it's supposed to look like". Highly recommended. It's playing tonight and tomorrow in Arlington, and I gather there are still tickets available for tomorrow's show, so go see it...
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The Quest for G

In case you haven't seen it yet, I commend (with caveats) the remarkably bizarre Quest for G commercial, on YouTube. This nine-minute video is a *very* straight-up pastiche of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, mixed with a bunch of sports jokes, as a Gatorade ad.

It's a curious choice, because you have to know *both* Monty Python and sports rather well for it to make any sense at all. If you do -- well, it's not quite so much consistently funny as weirdly fascinating. Someone spent a *lot* of money on this thing: I mean, it includes a *lot* of big-name sports stars making very apt fun of themselves (it's worth watching just for Usain Bolt's Ego as a major character). But I have to wonder how large the target audience really is...