Monday, November 18, 2019

November 18th Links

  • Mark Twain read the Book of Mormon and, knowing what Smith would have read, not to mention knowing about frontier fakery, came to conclusions about both the sources of its prose and the sequence of its composition. [New Yorker]
  • Hugh liked to tell the story of a statue that had been exposed as a forgery. In the nineteenth century, it had been passed off as an ancient Etruscan sculpture; but in the twentieth century a sharp critic had detected its recent origin. How? The forger had endowed it with the ancient Etruscan mannerisms he could see; but also, unconsciously, with the nineteenth-century mannerisms he couldn't see. His contemporaries couldn't see them either, so for a while the counterfeit succeeded. But as fashions changed, those nineteenth-century mannerisms "rose to visibility." As Kenner put it, "The style of your own time is always invisible." This was a favorite moral of his. You have to be alert for the unconscious assumptions you share with your own era. Conservatives and radicals, thinking themselves opposites, may actually share the same prejudices without being aware of them. [link]
  • In his book "The Counterfeiters," Hugh Kenner tells of asking a museum director what had alerted her to a suspected forgery of the horse. "Simple," she said. "The faker had worked into that horse every Etruscan mannerism he knew about and every 19th-century mannerism he didn't." [NY Times]
  • The document known to us as the Donation of Constantine is one of the most famous medieval forgeries. Written at an unknown date and place in the heart of the Dark Ages, for unknown purposes, it was embedded in the Forged Decretals in the early 9th century, and so drifted into the main collections of legal material used in the Middle Ages, including Gratian's Decretum. In the absence of a stable political environment in Italy from the collapse of the Roman empire to the establishment of the modern Italian state, the papacy was obliged to provide for its own security. The document was used to justify it doing so. The text purports to be a legal document issued by the Emperor Constantine, transferring control of Italy and the western provinces to Pope Sylvester in gratitude for being cured of leprosy. The renaissance Popes, whose spiritual role seemed often secondary to their function as the heads of a minor Italian state, used it extensively to oppose the territorial ambitions of the great powers and support their own. But in the Renaissance, for the first time in a millennium, it was possible to compare such documents with the genuine products of antiquity. St. Nicholas of Cusa was one of the first to notice that the Donation did not agree with the picture given by other documents. But it was left to the quarrelsome but brilliant scholar Lorenzo Valla to make public that the document was a fraud. This he did around 1450, while working for King Alfonso of Aragon, Sicily and Naples, who was attempting to make claims to various parts of Italy. [link]
  • In general, there are three ways to trace art forgeries, namely detecting anachronisms, comparison with the artist's palette and differentiation based on impurities. The term "anachronism" points to an error in chronology, especially a chronological misplacing of artifacts. [Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy in Forensic Science]
  • The stock market may be efficient, but emulation is the way of the world. Take a good idea. Drive it into the ground like a tomato stake. Boom: It's a bad idea. Private equity was one such good idea. You borrowed the money with which to buy a nice, stable public company. You didn't overpay. You leveraged the balance sheet, but you didn't overleverage (well, you usually didn't). You fixed up the operations, extracted fees, and paid yourself a cheerful dividend. When the time was right, you sold. [Barron's]
  • Trump left the stage and we rushed off to his plane to fly to New York. Vitale whispered to me, in effect, "Get this book out fast. He is a wasting asset." On the flight, I was watching Trump carefully to see how he was doing. I couldn't spot a trace of anxiety. I don't remember anyone mentioning the story or his finances. After a sumptuous lunch of shrimp, charcuterie, and assorted desserts, Trump took Maples into his private cabin and reĆ«merged about ninety minutes later. Considering the Journal story, I would not have been surprised had he opened the jet's door and jumped out. And yet he seemed unfazed. [New Yorker]
  • Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. is a homebuilder with Caa1/CCC+ credit ratings and a history of creative debt refinancing, and today it announced the commencement of its latest refinancing, which features 1.75-lien notes. This follows the announcement last week of the completion of another Hovnanian refinancing involving first-lien loans, 1.125-lien notes, 1.25-lien notes and 1.5-lien notes. There are also existing second-lien notes, and unsecured notes. The list is therefore (1) first-lien, (2) 1.125-lien, (3) 1.25, (4) 1.5, (5) 1.75, (6) second-lien and (7) unsecured. If you have second-lien notes, you are sixth in line. [Bloomberg]
  • If your market is highly competitive, you may need to spend nearly as much to acquire your customers as you derive from their full lifetime value in order to win the bids to display your ads to those customers, so you may need a ratio like 1.5::1. If there is less competition for your customers, or you prioritize profitability over quantity, you can maximize your returns by targeting a CLV to CAC ratio as high as 4:1. [link]
  • Theroux is also as acerbic as ever. Entering Puebla, he writes that "[t]here is not a big city in Mexico — no matter how charming its plaza, how atmospheric its cathedral, how wonderful its food, or how illustrious its schools — that is not in some way fundamentally grim, with a big-box store, a Sam's Club, and an industrial area, a periphery of urban ugliness that makes your heart sink." [LA Times]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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