March 9, 2005

I've dug beneath the wall of sound

Heroin addicts, Pakistan, 2001, by James Nachtwey

* Check out photographer James Nachtwey's site for additional war/documentary photographs.

* The cunning realist provides two interesting anecdotes regarding the big business feeling on Social Security reform. [via] excerpt:

"This week, I spoke to an executive at a large publicly-traded technology firm. We talked about the state of his business, the outlook for the future, and the performance of his company's stock. One issue he is extremely concerned about is the FASB-required expensing of employee stock options, which will become mandatory for all public companies later this year. This new accounting rule will have the effect of making the stock of many companies that are profitable appear far more expensive from a price to earnings ratio perspective, and those companies that have no earnings at all--many of which are tech companies--will become even more unattractive to asset managers like me.

"This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective. This executive also made it completely clear (albeit in casual, friendly terms--which is perhaps the only way he would have voiced this sentiment at all) that he looked forward to private accounts 'picking up the slack' that the new accounting rules and increasingly difficult business conditions in general will create."
"This week I also spoke to a former co-worker of mine, who works at one of the largest investment banks in the world. We had a brief conversation about the private accounts issue. Predictably, there was no beating around the bush here; executives of investment banks and brokerages are known for direct, often crass language. He said: 'I want that dumb public money coming across my desk.' It's debatable whether that money would come across HIS desk as well as how much the financial industry in general would benefit from private accounts, but his expectation is clear. And just like my friend at the technology company, my former co-worker is employed by what is considered a 'blue chip' company, which would presumably fall under the rubric of 'safe' equities in which a private account program would invest.

"One last point: In addition to my belief that Bush's 'ownership society' is, at least in the examples of my two friends above, in many ways a program to transfer risk from the 'owners' to the public, I have another misgiving about private accounts. I strongly believe that the last thing we need is for the stock market to become an even greater national priority. I believe this on a political, fiscal, monetary and spiritual level. With an even greater public focus and reliance on the stock market, the political pressure to take extraordinary, unconventional measures to boost stock prices--pressure that already exists--will be overwhelming."

* Not so new but not so old interview of MWard in which he discusses Transistor Radio, which I've had a hard time getting out of the cd player. excerpt:

Antidote: Yes. So what's going on after tour, are you going to start recording, take a break?

Ward: I'm finishing a record. It's going to be released in January, February.

Antidote: What do we have to expect for that?

Ward: A little bit of everything that I've already done. A little bit of new experiments I think. A lot of collaborations on the new album, maybe more so then I ever have and that's been an experiment for me. I think it's going to be a good one. I'm still working out the kinks. There's a lot of collaborations on this album. It's very helpful to me. I tend to be a perfectionist... When you open the door to someone else, it's somewhat of a liberating experience; because you are freeing yourself of your own expectations. Bringing in another voice is an experiment and I love it.

Antidote: Can you give us a hint on who you are collaborating with?

Ward: Yeah, the new album has a bunch of them. My Morning Jacket, heard of them? Giant Sand, John Parrish from PJ Harvey's band. All kinds of people.

Antidote: No. Not at all. I wanted to ask "What is the appearance you want to present to the world?"

Ward: Well, that's an interesting question. I'd much prefer some sort of selflessness rather then forcing my personality on people. I feel like music is richest for me when there's mystery involved. Disolving all those mysteries is not something that's very intriguing to me. Creating mystery in music and words is intrigue to me. So as far as ego goes, my guitar has more of an ego then I do I hope, because, I'm more interested in the instrument then what's happening with my own personal feelings. Even though feelings are important. Now I'm contadicting myself. Imposing my face in media isn't intriguing to me. I want to present my music,my first passion, my instrument, rather then my own selfish fancies.


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