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Archive for August, 2009

This isn’t a media consumption or creation thing, exactly, but I thought I’d relate this story about what a crappy investor I am.

As background, I NEVER buy individual stocks.  I was surfing around the world of investment websites, however, and I noticed that Fannie Mae (FNM) was trading at well under a dollar a share.  On the theory that the company would either be nationalized (in which case the shareholders would lose everything, total wipeout) or eventually return to some kind of a normal trading price (over $5/share, at any rate), I thought it would be a good bet to plunk down some noncritical amount of cash on the sucker.   This has nothing to do with the underlying soundness of the company, mind you.  I’m not even sure that I understand what FNM is (some kind of public/private hybrid?) —  I know it will look bad for the government if it nationalizes it, so they will probably avoid that at all costs.

On June 8, 2009, I bought 250 shares of FNM.  It was at $.68/share on that particular day.  Why did I choose that day?  Beats the hell out of me.  It dropped like a rock for a while — it was down to $.30 at some point in the 52-week period.  Since I’ve owned it, it’s been down in the 50 cent range.  Disaster!  Today, it’s up to $1.70/share.  My calculations show me that I have an enormous  paper profit — well over 100% in under 2 months.   (The volatility of a bear market!)

But this is why it’s gambling, and why I’ll always be the guy stuck at the nickel slot machines.  I think I’m probably right about this pick, and that it  may go up some staggering amount (percentage-wise) in the next months or years.  I don’t have the money (or the stomach, if you look at it that way) to really place a serious bet on the matter, however.   But also, the amount that I was willing to bet was so small that even an enormous profit, in terms of percentages, is not worth taking.  So I’ll just let it ride. 

See, a good investor would walk away with the earnings and be happy at his good fortune (whatever the nominal amounts).   Now, however, I’ve gotten greedy AND lazy, and won’t do it. 

People who make money in the stock market are either 1) emotionless robots, 2) wild optimists who just happen to get lucky, 3) crooks, or 4) some mixture of the above.

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I recently watched this film, as a result of  — well I don’t know what.   Why do people watch things?  I was pleasantly  surprsed at how well it stands up, mostly due to James Cagney’s performance.   Check out this scene of domestic bliss with Tom (Cagney) and his girlfriend having breakfast.   

There’s a surprising sexual undercurrent in this movie — nothing graphic, of course, but strong.  Especially notable was scene in which an old prostitute helps a drunk Tom take his shoes off.  Kneeling at his feet, she looks up at him meaningfully  and says, “I want to do things for you, Tommy.”  (Later on, of course, he slaps her down for seducing him when he was drunk.)  I couldn’t find a clip of this, unfortunately.   A lot of freedom in the pre-Hays Code period, I suppose.

Also, I found it interesting that this film, which indisputably glorifies the exciting, lawless and violent life of the criminal, is bumpered at the beginning and end by lengthy text pages explaining how the film is just an “examination” of this lowlife type, showing him as an example that society has to deal with, etc.  Meanwhile, the “good” characters (idiot mother, studious brother Mike) are complete milksops next to the electric Tom.

A couple of trivia notes:  There’s a scene in which Tom’s enemies shoot at him with a machine gun, barely missing him and hitting the wall over his head.  It’s extremely realistic in the film, for a good reason: the effect of the bullets hitting the wall was produced by shooting a machine gun at James Cagney.  So the story goes, the shooter was supposed to aim wide of Cagney, but instead “missed” and  shot directly at him — the star was only saved because he happened to trip and fall at the exact moment.   Cagney laughed the event off, but later was instrumental in founding the Screen Actor’s Guild, the union which would put an end to such unsafe practices.  

So we have unions to thank for film directors no longer shooting guns at their actors.  Go organized labor!

Also, the story goes that the actress in the grapefruit scene above had an unhappy ex-husband, who used to go to the movie just for that scene — and he had timed it so that he could go in, see her get a grapefruit smashed in her face, and leave.

And finally, a scene of Cagney’s total badassery, as he takes revenge on the mobsters who shot at him with said machine gun.  (The head mobster’s name is “Schemer.”  There’s another scene — in the gun shop — before the particular one I like.)

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3 QUESTIONS

Just this morning, I ran across this post posing three bloggy questions that persons such as myself who operate webpages such as this  one should be asking themselves.  In the name of justice, honor, the Oxford Comma, and being cool, I shall answer them for myself.

1.  Am I consistent?  The point of this being, do I provide my readership with content at predicable intervals?  Do I have regular features that they can look forward to?  Do my readers know that, when they spend their valuable internet time-tokens on a visit to Overestimated, will they get high-quality postings of the type and tone they’ve grown to know, love, and rely upon?

Answer:  No.  Those who come to this page expecting new, trenchant, regularly posted  material — well, if you haven’t figured out that by now that it ain’t comin’, you have my pity.   

2.  Am I universal?  Rather than using my blog as a personal diary, am I addressing issues of general interest, to which a wide variety of readers can relate?

Answer: No.  Seriously, no. 

3.  Am I transparent?  Am  I getting any bloggy kickbacks for my work here?  Will a positive review (of, say, The Road To Wigan Pier) get me rewards under the table (lifetime membership in the George Orwell Appeciation Society and a free years’ supply of louse-infested tripe)?

Answer:  I am sorry to say that I receive no reward, neither monetary nor social nor emotional nor meretricious, for writing on this blog.   I would be happy to accept any of the above —  minus the tripe, of course.

Damn. I had hopeed for a perfect score.

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Same set, same characters.  The group is telling “walked into a bar” jokes.  The host lays one on us: “A baby seal walked into a club.”

Har har.  Not my kind of joke, but I appreciate it. It’s a specialty number, obviously meant to be used when a group is working through a string of these. 

Something like one millisecond later, the host’s wife walks in the room, gets a whiff of the conversation and says, “A baby seal walked into a club.” 

Ugh. 

Just to wash that out of the brain here’s one that my wife heard somewhere this week:  A man goes to the supermarket, and as he’s checking out the cashier girls looks up at him.   “You must be single.”

He is taken aback.   “What makes you say that?”

 “Because you’re so fucking ugly.”

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Shouldn’t I?

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