Friday, January 25, 2008

Fundamentals and Sentimentals

I don't know about the rest of you but I get a big dose of daily rage listening to NPR's incoherent coverage of our economic woes. Just a few days ago I learned that there is an “Index of Builder Sentiment” which, apparently running the gamut from “gay and enthusiastic” to “completely hysterical” is used to gauge how long term our down turn will be. This morning I listened to the professional interlocutor ask plaintively how things were going of the resident economic expert. Interlocutor: [gibberish run through NPR econ speak. Not actual transcript] He described the stock market fall and rise of the last week and then asked, hopefully, whether this didn't indicate that the “fundamentals of the market” were still sound. There was a short pause while resident expert thought about shouting “No, you idiot, that's why they are called fundamentals and not super-fucking-ficials but you could almost hear the shrug as he decided to go with “sure, things are going to be ok...because (wait for it) the market now believes that Ben Bernanke is on their side.” But, he added hastily “the mood is still somber.”

This exchange, like much of NPR's coverage, reminded me irresistibly of my favorite Monty Python episode ever. Episode 35 “Housing Project built by Characters from 19th century literature” and “M1 Exchange built by characters from Paradise Lost.” []

See if you can spot the similarities:

"In contrast to the site in Bristol, it's progress here on Britain's first eighteen-level motorway interchange being built by characters from Milton's 'Paradise Lost'..."
He turns and we zoom past him into the angels etc.
Narrator (voice over) : "What went wrong here?"
Cut to a foreman in a donkey jacket and helmet.
Foreman: "Well, no one really got on. Satan didn't get on with Eve ... er... Archangel Gabriel didn't get on with Satan... nobody got on with the Serpent, so now they have to work a rota: forces of good from ten till three, forces of evil three to six."
Narrator: "But even more modern building techniques are being used on an expanding new town site near Peterborough; The local Council here have over fifty hypnosis-induced twenty-five story blocks, put up by El Mystico and Janet. I asked Mr Ken Verybigliar the advantages of hypnosis compared to other building methods."

Cut to a man in a drab suit. SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: 'MR K. V. B. LIAR'

Mr Verybigliar: " “Well there is a considerable financial advantage in using the services of El Mystico. A block, like Mystico Point here, (indicating a high-rise block behind him) would normally cost in the region of one-and-a-half million pounds. This was put up for five pounds and thirty bob for Janet.”
Voice Over: “But the obvious question is are they safe?” Cut to an architect's office. The architect at his desk. Behind him on the wall are framed photos of various collapsed buildings. He is a well-dressed authoritative person. SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: 'MR CLEMENT ONAN, ARCHITECT TO THE COUNCIL'
Architect: “Of course they're safe. There's absolutely no doubt about that. They are as strong, solid and as safe as any other building method in this country provided of course people believe in them. “
Cut to a council flat.
Tenant: “Yes, we received a note from the Council saying that if we ceased to believe in this building it would fall down.”
Voice Over: “You don't mind living in a figment of another man's imagination?”
Tenant: “No, it's much better than where we used to live.”
Voice Over: “Where did you used to live?”
Tenant: “We had an eighteen-roomed villa overlooking Nice.”
Voice Over: " “Really, that sounds much better.”
Tenant: “Oh yes - yes you're right.” Cut to stock shot of block falling down in slow motion. Cut back to tenant and wife inside. Camera shaking and on the tilt.
Tenant: “No, no, no, of course not.” Cut to stock film again. The building rights itself. Cut back to interior again. Camera slightly on tilt. They are holding bits of crockery etc.
Tenant: “Phew, that was close.”