Posts Tagged ‘time-travel’

The Great Read-cession, Part III

Reckless Endangerment

We’re up to Part III of John’s breakdown of the books of the financial crisis. Click here for Part I, and here for Part II.

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, And Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon

by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, 2010

 

Reckless Endangerment is one of a specific subgenre of financial crisis literature, which might be called the “Blame X” genre. Human nature being what it is, there is a lot of demand for books that find someone or something to blame for the whole ordeal.

Reckless Endangerment’s targets are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities (GSEs hereafter) designed to aid the housing market, and specifically Jim A. Johnson, the CEO who brought Fannie Mae to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective). Morgenson and Rosner lay almost all the blame for the financial crisis on Johnson’s reckless efforts to expand Fannie’s market share: “A Pied Piper of the financial sector, Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the eventual crisis of 2008.”

The GSEs are frequent targets of this kind of criticism, and for good reason: The bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created by far the biggest losses of all the government bailouts of 2008-09: The costs have already exceeded $180 billion and could reach $363 billion (conversely, Treasury claims to have actually profited on TARP*). And they were terribly run companies before that: In 2004, they were charged with massive accounting irregularities that led to the resignation of their CEO, and several executives were implicated in the “Friends of Angelo” bribery scandal.

*Though those claims should be taken with a grain of salt, as we’ll see later.

Morgenson’s book does a thorough job of portraying the extent and nature of corruption that was almost inherent to the GSEs. Particularly appalling is the incestuous relationship between the companies and the government. The entire concept of a “government-sponsored enterprise” sounds almost Orwellian: The institutions were created as government agencies* during the New Deal, but Lyndon Johnson partially privatized them, in what was essentially an accounting gimmick, when costs related to the Vietnam War made government expenditures look bad. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while lamenting the destruction of traditional marriage…

  • Further proof that William Faulkner can write about anything, as if we needed it. Remember the words of Moe Szyslak: “William Faulkner can write an exhaust pipe gag that would really make you think.” Our favorite sentence from this Faulkner Sports Illustrated piece from 1955? “But [the ice] looked not expectant but resigned, like the mirror simulating ice in the Christmas store window, not before the miniature fir trees and reindeer and cosy lamplit cottage were arranged upon it, but after they had been dismantled and cleared away.”
  • We are far from the first ones on this, but sometimes, taking two things that independently aren’t funny, like say, Kanye West tweets and New Yorker cartoons, and putting them together equals comic gold.

Getting Lost (Redux): The Constant

“The Constant” is arguably the most popular episode of Lost ever, which in a lot of ways is quite astonishing. Unlike “Through the Looking Glass,” which had a twist that anyone could have anticipated getting a big reaction from fans, “The Constant” is a mythology-heavy time-travel plot involving one character who wasn’t a regular castmember for the show’s first two seasons, and another who was never a regular. Nevertheless, Desmond and Penny, largely because of this episode, became the most compelling romantic relationship on the show for a lot of viewers.*

*This doesn’t say much for the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle, or Charlie/Claire, or Sun/Jin, which were set up from the show’s very beginning.

Desmond’s time-traveling ability had been known since “Flashes Before Your Eyes” in Season Three, but whereas that was a more straightforward flashback, “The Constant” cuts back and forth. He has become “unstuck in time” thanks to a storm that interrupts the helicopter flight back to the freighter. The odd time-properties of the Island* cause people who have recently been exposed to radioactive energy or electromagnetism (like say, in an electromagnetic explosion) to lose their grip on time. Continue reading

FlashBack…to FlashForward

FlashForward

JOHN S: FlashForward premiered on ABC last night (with an encore for those who missed it tonight at 8), and Tim and John S watched–we weren’t lying when we said FlashForward was the #9 reason to be excited for the Fall TV Season. So Tim, what did you think?

TIM: First off, you said it was #9. I would have had it at like #3, behind the return of Survivor and Degrassi’s Nina Dobrev in The Vampire Diaries. Those are really the only two things that could excite me more than a show in which the presentation of a friendship bracelet is accompanied by pulse-poundingly dramatic music.

JOHN S: Yeah, there was a TON of pulse-pounding dramatic music in this show. It was like 80% of the episode.

TIM: Right, and that’s one of the things I kind of expected. It reminded me a lot of the premieres of 24 and, predictably, Lost, in its explosive and perhaps overly dramatic tone. At the same time, I think that’s what shows have to do these days to survive: You rarely build an audience when you’re building characters. One of the smarter things FlashForward did was to avoid breaking for a commercial for 15 minutes. By that point, we had already seen the en medias res opening, the flash back four hours, the blackout, and the realization that it was global. It lays most of its cards on the table in those 15 minutes (two big ones left to be played later in the episode) and tries to hook you in as quickly as possible (like 24 does with its four hours in two nights with limited commercial interruptions).

Was it too dramatic? Ehh, a show that’s so conceptually driven is almost required to get it all out there in its first episode. If FlashForward were to save some of its expository twists (something like the fact that the blackout was indeed global or that everyone not only blacked out, but also saw a vision of their future) for later episodes, it probably wouldn’t create the same kind of buzz leading in. It’s not like you’re going to draw in viewers with your “…AND THEY SEE THE FUTURE!” trailers and then save that information for later.

Am I making any sense? Continue reading