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[This piece, taken from the writing collection of the same title, is re-posted as an anniversary tribute. Dad died on August 12, 2013. ] The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder is my favorite book. It is probably also the most underrated novel of the last century. I never merely re-read it; every few years it summons me, and like a somnambulist I turn to the bookshelf and reach for my copy. A novel such as that is a conjurer’s orb: your hands surround and caress it, your eyes peer into its depths and… a voice sounds. The voice wields the kind of authority that dismisses fiction. The images, the characters—the story chronicles a series of events so rife with Truth that they must have occurred,

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Movies

    NOW THAT MERYL STREEP and Nicole Kidman are both starring in the second season of the TV series Big Little Lies, it’s probably safe to say that the bell is  ringing furiously to signal the end of an important socio-cultural era: the great period of feature films that began almost a century ago.  While there are still feature films and movie theaters, it seems as if most of the films are superhero fantasy or animated films. The energy, the talent, and the money is pouring out of “movies” into these TV-based series. We might have a net maintenance of creativity–perhaps even more. Maintenance of quality? Not as easy to say; the productions are very good and getting better as the market heats up. But

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Markets

[NOTE: This material does not represent investment advice in any way. It is for educational purposes only. Investing is personal. See your personal guru before making decisions.] Bulls can live 20 years, but they aren’t much good to the herd after ten. Bull markets are probably the same. This one is ten years’ long in the tooth, but it’s weathered a number of “storms” along the way, so many investors could need to get quite scared before they sell. The scariest thing for me is the global trend toward authoritarianism; you can check a lot of boxes to compare the first part of the last century with today. I could probably list six or seven parallels. Protectionism is a big one. Wealth inequality is another. That

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Markets

[NOTE; This information does not constitute investment advice whatsoever. It is intended for education and entertainment only. Investment decisions should be made with the personalized attention of a professional] Stock markets follow patterns because people in groups follow patterns. One very reliable such pattern is that during major market corrections, the indexes tend to drop and then correct (bounce back) 50% before they resume the downward trend. That’s where we are now. Note the bounce is almost exactly half the distance back to the highs . The market dropped and just completed a 50% retracement or bounce. If a larger correction is coming, this would be the time to step aside. But you don’t get to know in advance. Today’s action is pretty weak and

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Markets

[NOTE: The following does NOT constitute investment advice of any kind. It is for education or entertainment only]  ‘There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld 2002                  That the stock market fell does not surprise me: I have wondered how the rally could continue before the long list of threats to the global economy would reduce share prices. But I was surprised that it happened so abruptly.  I should not be surprised at that, however, because markets generally fall much faster than they rise: investors often “get in” in increments and “get out” in a cataclysm.  And while stocks only

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  WHAT HAVE YOU done for me lately? I find tremendous irony in the fact that the US president was the star of a reality show where he was surrounded by less-than-brilliant sycophants and presented as the epitome of  business success in charge of a thriving empire (though it turns out his decision-making often led to bankruptcy). The  climax of each episode was when he got to pronounce to a hapless contestant “You’re fired!”  The irony makes an entrance in that he is now at a point in his tenure where the party that embraced him (only after they realized that he could get them power) may soon make a similar pronouncement to him.   Almost two years ago on this blogsite, I posted that

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Movies

  Like past comedy talents such as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, Steve Carell continues along the path toward rebranding himself as a “serious” actor. In the brand-new film Welcome to Marwen, he gets a role and a movie that should garner some Oscar attention. The film has all the ingredients of a Best Picture nomination: it has a socially prominent issue, an innovative format, and strong and diverse female roles. Based on a true story, “Marwen” very artfully follows themes and threads woven between two worlds: the real, small-town world of a disabled man and the handful of people (mostly women) invested in his well being, and the quasi-real, delusional, fortress realm he creates and catalogues through the lens of his disease-and-drug-fueled imagination. Leslie

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Markets

[Disclaimer: The chart and the following content do not constitute investment advice of any kind. This material  is for educational or entertainment purposes only. ]   (SPX Chart from www.bigcharts.com retrieved Nov.20, 2018)   THE OCTOBER WIND BLEW all the leaves off the Wisconsin trees last month and did it over the course of only a few very windy days. Stock prices drifted ten percent lower, too, in recent weeks and everyone wants to know what chill wind sent them lower. I can explain the “why” because there are only two  reasons stocks fall. The details are harder to derive. I have never been able to talk about the investing environment without providing some background. No forecasters (I do not act as a forecaster here) worth

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Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” in the early ‘sixties when she covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker.  The phrase was in response to how Eichmann had matter-of-factly claimed to have only been “doing his duty.” The phrase applies  in many countries today, but each in a unique context.  As for the United States, with the 2016 election, our country managed to elect as president an individual who personifies much of our culture–its superficiality and the worship of wealth, power, and privilege. During the first two years of his tenure, the former reality TV star and red-toothed capitalist has shown us ourselves (not all of us, but enough of us) and the result is so lacking in virtue

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Movies

There can be no question that the quality of summer films has deteriorated. It is understandable when you consider the money and talent (the talent goes where the money and the work is) has migrated in a big way toward the mini-series model. The switch-over names are getting bigger (e.g. Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Emma Stone) every season and the theater productions are increasingly less appealing.  I did manage to see a few films and so will do a quick review for each. The best movies of the year will probably be released over the next several weeks. Hunter Killer–This  Hunt for Red October ripoff has a very few moments’ worth of good action, but the idea that team of special forces could penetrate a

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