Posts Tagged ‘LSU’

America Bleeding

November 7, 2016

In the middle of my teenage years, back in the day, I was a high school student. On the other side of the city where I grew up, our state university provided education for thousands of students who had already matriculated to the college level of learning.

Here is a picture which I lifted, by iPhone helicoptering technology, from a book that I recently perused. The image depicts a campus walkway, circa 1965, where students are going into and out of the LSU student Union building. A few years after this photograph was snapped, I became one of those students, 1969 version, who traipsed from class to class on the campus of LSU.

LSUnionWalk

The book from which this image is lifted is linked here:

  https://www.amazon.com/Treasures-LSU-Laura-F-Lindsay/dp/0807136786

This morning, while viewing this photo as part of the research for the novel that I am now composing, I found something interesting about it. Take a look at the apparel that these students are wearing. Most of them are clothed in solid colors, which, in this photo, registers as either black or white. On almost every student whose garb depicts this black/white arrangement, the black is on the lower half of the body–the pants, or skirt part.

Considering the way Americans dress nowadays, this seems to be a boringly plain, regimented arrangement. It is, however, perhaps a little more dignified than what we might see at a typical 2016 visit to, say, Walmart, McDonald’s, or any college or university.

Notice, however, that six of these students in the picture are wearing a clothes motif that stands apart from the black/white pattern. And in every one of these six individuals, the fashion statement is the same:

Plaid.

Six students are wearing plaid.

This was a new trend in youthful clothing  during the mid-1960’s. It was, however, the beginning of a virtual tsunami of color that would be be flaunted in the coming years, in the clothes and fashions of young people. By the end of the decade, this small bursting forth of crisscrossed chromaticism would metamorphose into a riot of  self-expressive color displayed uninhibitedly on our young bodies. Thus would we baby boomers strive, in our own threadish way, to find and establish own generational identity.

My memory of this elaborative fashion development began in my eight-grade, 1964-65. The pattern retained in my mind from that time is a certain kind of plaid:

Madras.

The Madras plaid came from India, specifically a city there named Madras, which has since had its name changed to Chennai.

What was really groovy for us back in the day was that Madras plaids had an earthy, handwoven look. The fabric itself had curious little irregularities in it. . . little clumps in the thread, and variations in the weaving. The look and feel of it was a departure from the American stuff, which was obviously machine-made, bland and boring.

So we started wearing the Madras plaid in–I think it was–about 1965. This photograph seems to have captured the very inception of that style-shattering sea-change in our thread preferences.

A very attractive feature of the Madras was this: it bled.

When you washed your plaid shirt, or pants, the colors would “bleed.”

With each washing, the threaded pigments would migrate slightly out into the white regions of the fabric.

This was way-cool.

It was groovy. All that color was leaping out of the grooves of regimented style, testing the compartmentalism of society, violating the tick-tacky of conformity, even setting the stage for a fading American resolve to retain our post-WWII position as policeman of the world.

But this fashionable Madras bleeding was but a small shriveling on the torso of the American corpus writ large.

At the same time, in the mid-1960’s, America was bleeding real, red blood, and it wasn’t cool.

It was hot blood, 98.6 degrees.

America was bleeding in Vietnam.

America was bleeding in the ghettoes of the cities.

America was bleeding in Selma.

America was bleeding in Watts, in Detroit.

America would bleed in Orangeburg, at Jackson State, at Kent State.

But that was nothing new.

America had bled at  Lexington and Concord, at Yorktown.

America had long been shedding blood in the cotton fields, and at the trading blocks in New Orleans, in Charleston.

America had bled in Kansas, and at Harpers Ferry, Fort Sumter, Antietam.

America bled at Gettysburg and Appammatox.

America bled at Little Big Horn and at Wounded Knee.

America bled through the hands, the arms and backs and feet of thousands of immigrants who drove steel stakes into the railways that stretched all the way from Boston to San Francisco.

America bled at Haymarket, Chicago

America bled prolifically at Verdun, Amiens, Flanders

America hemorrhaged at Pearl Harbor, at Normandy, at the Bulge, at Iwo Jima  and Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

And America continued its bloodletting in Korea, at Inchon.

America bled at Ia Drang, at Khe Sanh,  at Saigon and Hué and Danang.

America wept bloody tears at My Lai.

America bled from Kuwait to Baghdad

America bled in Beirut and Mogadishu, and in Kosovo.

America bled at the Word Trade Center on 9/11.

America bled at Fallujah, and in Helmand, Qandahar and Kabul.

America weeps for the blood shed at Mosul and Aleppo.

America weeps, America bleeds in millions of D&C’d in uteri.

We have always been bleeding somewhere. It is the way of all flesh.

And America is still bleeding; she is bleeding now.

As to which way we will be bleeding tomorrow, that remains, until 11/9, to be seen.

Glass half-Full 

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From Black Friday to Derivatives Saturday

November 28, 2015

Back in the crash of ’08, clueless underlings such as myself suddenly were made aware of a mysterious component of our financial system called “derivatives.”

What is a derivative? you may ask. Funny you should ask. I didn’t know either, and I still don’t. Although I have been trying to figure it out for seven years now, every time I think I know what a derivative is, I encounter acronymic terminology such as MBS, CDO, or SEC.

These slimmed-down nomenclatures should simplify things, but they do, in fact simplify nothing. Although everybody knows SEC stands for Southeastern Conference, which is the football conference where the best American football is played, and where my alma mater LSU exercises its right to excel in athletics, except when teams like Alabama or Florida are on the field.

Tyger

But I digress. I was explaining to you what a derivative is and I mentioned some of the simplifying terminology.

For instance, as alluded to above: MBS.

Well some well-positioned bloggists of the worldwideweb identify an MBS as a Masters of Bullsh*t, which is attained through much blood sweat and tears and dedicated gamesmanship acquired at a venerable institution, such as Barnwell University or Cayman College. The MBS is attained through years and years of shoveling potentially useful data into HFT, which produces a yield from which its index is derived,  and lucrative assets which are then deposited into accounts on behalf of the bullish denizens of WallStreet. These rich deposits build up the notional value of our economy as a hole, thus enriching all of us, not only those who are forever horsing around on Wall Street, but also  you and me and all the folks on Main Street, Easy Street and Ventnor Avenue.

Somebody has to do it. I don’t mind doing my part, working with a shovel. Keeps me in shape.

Anyway, that’s not the MBS of which I spake. I’m talking about Mortgage Backed Securities. I think Uncle Freddie Mac and Aunt Fannie Mae gave these instruments as gifts back during the holidays of 2007, when life was oh simple then, before time had rewritten every line.

My understanding of a Mortgage Backed Security is that they’re something like an Arkansas RazorBack, which is probably why they didn’t work out so well for investors, although Arkansas is ranked third in the SEC west, behind Florida and–excuse my language–Ole Miss.

After that is my LSU Tigers, presently in fourth place of SEC west, but as always and forever will be, bound for greatness.

It’s quite complex to describe just how LSU could be in fourth place, because its position in the rankings is derived from the ratio of victories to losses, divided by the number of footballs passed beneath the legs of a center when he hikes the ball to the quarterback during any given play of the game.

Nevertheless, as I was saying before, a derivative is derived from the outcome, that is to say the, rear-end of a complex financial instrument.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, as any serious investor is wondering, about the real question here, which is: how much is it worth?

One thing that my research has revealed, and one thing I can tell you with surety is this: The value of any particular derivative is derived from fluctuations in the value of the underlying asset.

Here’s an example: how much is my ticket to this season’s Sugar Bowl worth? Well, at this point it’s an open question, but let’s just say this: I’ll give you my ticket to the Sugar Bowl for your two tickets to the Orange Bowl.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Texas Aggies be forewarned), the guys who are shoveling out in the barn are asking what’s the real value of these derivatives. And as I explained before, you remember that the value of any particular derivative is derived from fluctuations in the value of the underlying ass-set. That should come out plain enough.

As for the collective value of all the derivatives, this figure is derived from its notional value, which is calculated based on the notion, as defined by the US Treasury, the Fed, the NYSE, and the AP sportswriters, that whatever goes around comes around, so therefore if the value of the aforesaid derivatives passes through enough piles of assets then when it comes out the other end nobody really knows what its worth, so that it can be revalued at the going rate.

This is unpredictable, of course, as the LTCM affair had indicated  back in the Glass-Steagall days, but it is bound to be worth, somehow somewhere when you least expect it, more than it was in January of 2009. So that’s progress, although the Progressives may not agree with me. I don’t pay much attention to all those freaks on the fringe anyway.

And you understand, of course, that all this has taken place after Cronkite passed from the scene.  Before that, it was pretty much everybody working together in America toward the same values and goals. But that was then and this is now. Derivatives happens.

I’m glad I could clear this up for you. As for the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl,  may the best team win, as it frequently does, but sometimes not.

 

Glass Chimera

The Money Bowl

December 8, 2013

I entered into the Money Bowl last night, and there I saw the great Florida State football lean, mean, passin’ machine shred Duke’s ACC hopes into scrap.

I say Money Bowl because it was the first time in many a year that I have entered into the great, gleaming gridiron realm of state-of-the-art stadium excellency that Bank of America/Panthers Stadium certainly is and will always be in the minds of Charlotteans, although they tell me that now Dallas is building one for the Cowboys that puts Charlotte’s colossal Collosseum to shame.

Yes, it hath been many a year since I saw such a bright sight as the inside of big stadium all lit up  like that, because you see, I grew up down on de Mississip at Baton Rouge, where Huey Long had, back in the 30s, mustered all the mud of south Louisiana politics and all the dust of north Louisiana hot air into a brand new Tiger Stadium at LSU, where Billy Cannon ran the 97-yard kickoff return to beat Ole Miss back in ’57, and where all my people and me studied and earned degrees and all along the way went on Sat’dy nights to what was, back in the day, the shrine of Tiger football, Tiger Stadium, where I sold concessions when I was in junior high  back in the 60s and then went on to actually live in that great edifice because they had made the north end of it into a dormitory that overlooked Mike the Tiger’s cage over which I would sit on the wide sill of that dorm room during freshman year, looking down at Mike’s little caged domain and listen to Abbey Road and dream about maybe leaving’ Louisiana in the broad daylight.

Which of course I did, later on, leave Louisiana after matriculation in ’73, and went to Florida where I got humiliated  for driving on revoked license and then doin five days jail time, sentenced by a Judge Rasmussen, and then leaving that state, home of those crazy Seminoles and their Gator cousins and I wouldn’t give you a nickel for the whole dam state now anyway.

‘Specially after last night, and what the Seminoles did to Duke, where my son did university, and there we sat last night in the cold in the Money Bowl, with Duke Energy Tower flashing big diagonal neon stripes throught the mist in the background and Bank of America Center over there with its spiky litttle shafts of light on top and Wells Fargo-used-to-be-Wachovia-back in the day somewhere in that sparkly skyline  still doin their thing out in the Golden West.

You see Charlotte is new money, not old money like New Orleans was with its Superdome, or Houston, which was old-new money and its state-of-the-art AstroDome back in the day, down where I come from,  and because Charlotte is such new money,  not old money like New Yawk or Boston, and so Charlotte had to erect the Panthers pantheon-home state-of-the-art or so they say in order to show the world what new money is really all about because you see the queen city has always been a wannabe and always will be, ever since the gold diggers out in California eclipsed the Carolina gold find back in 1848, when the California discovery made Carolina’s little gleaming vein look like a flash in the pan, which it actually was comparatively speaking, as it all turned out. So Charlotte had finally made it, and there we were last night sitting in the cold and watching all those Seminole fans in their maroon and gold doing their obnoxious chop chop thing and rubbin’ it in after they had absconded that chant from the native Americans and still got away with it, and it really is a case of the new money down there in Tallahassee shredding the old-new money of Duke, chopping it into smithereens, and there we were having to watch all this as the third quarter ended and Florida State waltzed into the end zone again for the umpteenth time, but then we went to Denny’s somewhere out there in the vast suburban money land and it wasn’t so bad after all, although there was no joy of course over in Durham because might the Blue Devils had struck out.

I mean Panthers Stadium is a lot like Tiger Stadium  used to be back in the day, except you know, better, and also excluding  what happened there last night.

Glass half-Full

The Berkeley bathroom experience

September 24, 2013

Yesterday we were wandering around in Berkeley, and I found myself at the mid-campus Campanile just about the time that nature was calling. So I ambled over to an interesting academic building where I knew a bathroom could be found.

When you’re sightseeing on a college campus, finding a facility is not difficult, if you know what to do: just act like you’re any other student or professor whose cerebral deliberations are caught up in the clouds of knowledge-pursuit;  walk right in the nearest building like you belong there. Before you can say fool on the hill you’ll discover that magic sign,  “Men” or “Women”, as the case may be, which offers assurance of imminent deliverance.

It is really a very simple prospect, much easier than, say, finding an appropriate place to do your business in a moment of need in the downtown area of any major city. Although in the downtown predicament, your troubles are over if you can locate a McDonalds. God bless MacDonalds. I mean, I didn’t really appreciate McDonald’s until I stumbled upon one in Rome while searching for a cup of identifiable American style coffee.

But I digress. So there we were at Berkeley yesterday and I walked up the stone steps of a lovely old building called Moses Hall. I immediately understood after entering the place that I had stumbled upon the hallowed halls of the Philosophy Dep’t. It seemed a little unusual that the old Hebrew, Moses, would be associated with philosophy, which is Greek thing.

Nevertheless, slipping with no trouble at all, into my accustomed perpetual-student identity–just, for a novelist, like putting on an old glove–I ascended the well-worn marble stairway with its absolutely smooth wooden handrail, then turned a few corners, and located, within a minute or less, the appointed place for bladder catharsis.

I stepped inside the bathroom, and oh, what a philosophical experience it was.

Indeed, a time warp it was. Suddenly, I was back in a bathroom in Allen Hall at LSU, where I had studied as a clueless English major back in the day, 1970 or thereabouts. This bathroom in Berkeley was almost an exact duplicate of the one I had made frequent use of when I was a student:

Marble walls, perfectly illuminated in the bright sunshine through large, old wooden sash windows with brass handles. White and gray streaky, dappled marble, and not only on the walls, but also the large partitions between roomy toilet stalls. Chrome fastenings on the partitions, well maintained and not rusty nor grimy. Pristine white fixtures: large, sparkling urinals, and toilets with chrome handles.

Ancient, rounded lavatory white fixtures with separate hot valve and cold valve, shining with seasoned chrome anneal that was old enough to reveal at its spout edges and knobby handle-ends the brass integrity beneath.

An entire floor of solidly grouted 1-inch hexagonal white ceramic tiles. I mean, an Interstate gas-station bathroom this was not.

It was a perfect place for a philosopher to productively continue his pondering, even while enduring the interruption of a trip to the bathroom.

And I thought: this place was built in the ’30s, just like the bathroom in Allen Hall, where the main hall walls had been painted, old Post Office style,  with murals that depicted for posterity those swarthy, 1930’s-style agricultural workers who had heard America singing while they coaxed fruitful productivity out of the land of milk and honey, between rows of wheat 0r barley or corn, back in the day when our parents and grandparents were working themselves out of the “Great” Depression.  This was my memory of the halls, back at the ole alma mater, LSU where I first learned how to think too much: Allen Hall, shaded by stately oaks that reside perpetually in the verdant groves of academe. So very similar in appearance and feeling to the campus I was now exploring.

Sure enough, as I exited the building a few minutes later, there was a brass plaque on the wall in the vestibule entryway: Moses Hall was built by the University of California in 1931.

Since I am now a Republican who resides in North Carolina, I have heard, from time to time, a critical word or two about Roosevelt and his New Deal. But one thing I can say for those NewDealers–the WPA, CCC, etcetera etcetera etcetera–they sure knew how to do bathrooms with aesthetically exceptional sustainability.

And I walked out of there relieved.

Glass half Full