Friday, 28 October 2011

Financial Markets TV Part 4: Inside Job

And so to our last Financial-Market programme. Winner of the Oscar last year for bext documentary, Inside Job is the sort of programme that intends to leave you foaming at the mouth with indignation at what you are seeing. And very effective at this it is too.

Jerome and I were talking about this a few weeks ago. He had already seen the film, while I hadn't. As we talk about our trading business, Jerome continues to put the view that we are living in the final period of Western economic success. The contingent liabilities for health and pensions are too high, the level of debt in the economy is too high, everything is going to collapse. But luckily, before it does, Jerome and I will have made millions from our trading and we will settled somewhere else, enjoying the fruits of our labour. Jerome sees this as something like a secret lair that a James Bond / Austin Powers villain would have.

He could well be right

Financial Market TV Part 3: Freefall

Night 3 of our Financial Markets TV watching is a UK drama based around two main, interlocking stories. On the one hand, there is the guy who works for the sub-prime mortgage broker, who meets an old school friend one day and persuades his to take one of his deals, with its low starter rate of interest, etc. Then there is the second story set in an investment bank where the dealers are packaging up the loans and selling CDOs.

Basically no one comes out of the show well. The mortgage guy eventually loses his job, the family who buy their house then lose it and are back in a small flat at the end, the head trader is sacked and ultimately commits suicide.

Perhaps the only character to emerge unscathed is the dealer played by the rather gorgeous Rosamund Pike. She quits after her affair with the head trader seems to be leading nowhere, supposedly to write about her City experiences (there are a few such books - I rather liked Venetia Thompson's Gross Misconduct)

The underlying anti-materialism message was rather well done I thought, especially with the kids of the family who lose their house, who seem quite ok with it all, unlike the father who seems devastated by it all - to have dreams, to pursue them and them lose. Probably a very common story at the moment.

The rather gorgeous Rosamund Pike as a bank trader

Financial Markets TV Part 2: Too Big to Fail

Day 2 of our Financial TV watching is Too Big to Fail, based on Andrew Ross Sorkin's book of the same name which I read a few months ago and which is very good. Featuring an all-star cast, it covers the couple of weeks around the Lehman's collapse and the bail out of AIG. Again, we are rather impressed with this. perhaps not as good as Margin call, but pretty good.

Not sure I have seen William Hurt in a film since Altered States (one of our all-time favourite movies, and one we should see again as some point)

Financial Market TV Part One: Margin Call

We have been collecting various movies, drams and documentaries related to the Financial Market troubles and the time has come to watch them one aftre the other in a great splurge of viewing. First up is Margin Call, a US movie set in a fictional investment bank which is facing problems with its warehousing of sub-primes. This has a rather stella cast, featuring Kevin Spacey as the head of the trading desk, Demi Moore as the Head of Risk Management, Jeremy Irons as the bank's Chief Executive and the guy who played Spock in the last Star Trek film

But I thought the real star waas Stanley Tucci, who plays the risk manager within the sub-prime trading area who initially suspects that all is beginning to go pear-shaped but is made redundant before he can pass on his fears. Tucci seems to play the role exactly as a Nassim Taleb character

The deputy head of the trading desk and "Spock" - the dealing rooms were very realistic I thought

I haven't seen Demi Moore in a film for years, but actually rather liked her portrayal of the Head of risk who is forced to carry the can for the problems. She only seems to feature in the news when there are stories about her relationship with the guy who is now in Two and a half Men. I think she remains rather gorgeous - as i get older, I am struck by how I now find older women more attractive. There is probably an evolutionary reason for that.

The dawn of Demi's last day - quite a view from her office (certainly better than any I had when I worked).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Rediscovering Sneaker Pimps & Kelli Ali

Jerome is very excited today by the news that The Stone Roses have reformed and are playing shows next year. Our discussion of them (who I was never very fond of) leads onto the Inspiral Carpets, who I loved, The Charlatans, Lush (who I also loved), and finally Sneaker Pimps, a band I had almost entirely forgotton about but loved around 1996?

Never has a band made a dafter decision than the founders of Sneaker Pimps did when they decided to sack Kelli Ali, the singer. True, she might not have been there from the start, but she was clearly a major feature of their sound (and look). The first album is stupendous, especially the cover version of the song Brit Ekland sang in The Wicker Man. I have one or two of her solo cds which I will have to dig out I reckon.

From the video to "Spin spin sugar"

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dinner with daughter

Gerhard Richter Panorama

off to london

The Longest Day?

Awake at 4:00am, head buzzing with trading related ideas. A brief attempt at getting back to sleep fails, so at work by 4:30. A brief pause just before 7:00 to watch Q3 for tomorrow's Grand Prix from Korea. A trip to the paper shop, then 4 hours more work.

Jerome arrives at 12:30. We spend an hour going through my latest work, then off to the pub for some lunch and a couple of pints of beer. A long dog walk then more work in the afternoon, until just after 6:00 when we start to get ready for the Village's annual "Call my wine bluff" competition. Our teamates duly arrive and we have two bottles of red wine and a bottle of proseco to get us in the mood to identify wine.

Sadly we come last out of 14 teams in this year's competition - we have nearly won in years past. We share the six bottles of wine between 8 of us during the evening.

Things wrap up about 11:00 and we adjorn to the pub for two more hours of drinking.

Home and in bed by 1:30 for a 22.5 hour day. And I was up at 6:30 the next morning - rather hungover it must be said - to watch the Grand Prix that started at 7:00.

Monday, 10 October 2011


Hypocondria has always seemed to me to be one of those daft psychological "illnesses" that should disappear with a bit of rational thought. But lately I have been pondering alot on cancer. Of course my dad died of cancer back in 2006 (can it really be so long ago?) and my brother died of it way back in 1974 (June 5th to be precise). And in the past few days, Steve Jobs and Graham Dilley have both died young (in their mid 50s)

I have been slowly working through the pile of press cuttings from the past 6 months or so and I was surprised to notice that I have kept a large number of cancer-related articles. There was a series in The Times called "Living with cancer" for instance. Then, over the summer, I bought Megan O'Rourke's The Long Goodbye, an account of her mother's death from cancer.

Yet I don't go rushing off to the doctors whenever I don't feel 100%. Indeed I have only been to the doctors twice in the last 15 years. Yet there is the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that it is only a matter of time before I succumb to cancer. Today I am feeling quite tired this afternoon. It doesn't matter that I worked 15 hours on Friday, 12 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday and 12 today so far - that I am tired this afternoon is a sure sign that something must be wrong.

Very curious to experience something that I had always dismissed as nonsense.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A trip to London - Emma is not a "veggie" anymore

Emma returned from her two week visit to China last weekend and we have been up to London to see her. The trip has been a great success and she is already planning her next trip and scouting out the possibilities that we might fund some of it for Christmas and next year's birthday. Her target is South America - possibly the Galapagos Islands followed by Peru (Manchu Pinchu, etc)

Over lunch, she tells us that she survived in China on a diet that seems to have mostly consisted of KFC chicken nuggets and ice cream. Having decided a few months back to start eating chicken, she is now pondering on moving onto other meats. She had a little taste of bacon at lunchtime, but this evening, at the pub just round the corner from her flat, she actually tried a few pieces of my rump steak and was most impressed. Almost as impressed as she was by my knickerbocker glory - what a fine meal that was.

So after 12 years, she is a veggie no more. And on Thursday this week is going to an Argentinian steak restaurant with a friend from Cambridge - that that would be just about the hardest place to be a veggie one would think