Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Moving Image Announces Curatorial Advisory Committee for New York 2012 and New Partnership with The Armory Show




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2011


We are very pleased to announce that Moving Image: Contemporary Video Art Fair will return to the Waterfront Tunnel in New York March 8-11, 2012.

Moving Image has been conceived to offer a viewing experience with the excitement and vitality of a fair, while allowing moving-image-based artworks to be understood and appreciated on their own terms. The newly formed Moving Image Curatorial Advisory Committee for New York 2012 is inviting a selection of international commercial galleries and non-profit institutions to present single-channel videos, single-channel projections, video sculptures, and other larger video installations.

Curatorial Advisory Committee for Moving Image New York 2012:

  • Viktor Misiano, Independent Curator and Critic, Chief-Editor, Moscow Art Magazine (Moscow/Ceglie-Messapica, Italy)
  • Elizabeth Neilson, Director, Zabludowicz Collection (London)
  • Berta Sichel, Curator-at-large at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, independent curator and art writer (Madrid/Berlin)
  • Stephanie Roach, Director, The FLAG Art Foundation (New York)
  • Dr. Stephan Urbaschek, Independent Curator (Munich)


NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH THE ARMORY SHOW

Moving Image
is also delighted to announce a unique partnership with New York City's premier contemporary art fair, The Armory Show. Moving Image will curate the inaugural edition of 'Armory Film,' a series featuring an international selection of leading contemporary video and experimental films. Screenings will take place during the course of the fair and will be shown in the dedicated Media Lounge on Pier 94. Please check www.thearmoryshow.com for details in the coming weeks.

For more information about The Armory Show and the Media Lounge, please contact Lauren Pearson at l.pearson@thearmoryshow.com.

Moving Image New York

Waterfront New York Tunnel
269 11th Avenue
Between 27th and 28th Streets
New York, NY 10001

March 8 - 11, 2012

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 8, 6 - 8 pm

Fair Hours:

Thursday – Saturday, March 8-10, 11 am – 8 pm

Sunday, March 11, 11 am – 4 pm

Moving Image was founded by Edward Winkleman and Murat Orozobekov.

For more information about Moving Image, contact Ed or Murat at 212.643.3152 or email us at contact@moving-image.info.


Or visit the Moving Image New York 2012 website.


Image above: installation view of Moving Image New York 2011, featuring Glen Fogel's installation "With Me...You," presented by Participant, Inc., New York, and Callicoon Fine Arts, New York. Photography by Etienne Frossard.

Suppose They Gave a Class War and Nobody Came?

Gallerist's Adrianne Jeffries has written an in-depth piece on the OWS protesters support of the Sotheby's art handlers labor dispute with their company. Moments of her retelling of the well-heeled buyers crossing the picket line at the recent contemporary auctions read almost like a movie script:
One protester gave the Sotheby’s clients the finger, provoking a gray-haired buyer with a checkered scarf. “Fuck you! Fuck you!” he shouted in a French accent. Once inside, he stood behind the glass window like a kid at the zoo, sticking out his tongue, mouthing obscenities, zealously grasping an imaginary phallus and pumping it a few times into his mouth before he grew bored or realized how many cameras were around. “He’s in Sotheby’s a lot,” one of the locked-out art handlers told Gallerist as he aimed a flashlight at arriving clients’ eyes. One picketer hoisted a cutout of Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht’s head on the end of a long pole. “I’m Bill the CEO,” the back of the sign said. “I gave myself a 125% raise, HA.”http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

The real Mr. Ruprecht was inside with “a big African American bodyguard,” said one veteran art adviser, who noted that it was the first time they’d seen Mr. Ruprecht with a detail. “Sotheby’s had staff beyond, beyond,” the adviser noted. “It was like a hand-off. It started many feet ahead of the building, and as you got to the corner, a guy came and walked you a few feet to the next, who walked you a few feet to the next, so you’re not alone for a step.”
But it's difficult when comparing that scene to what's been happening in Egypt, for example, and not feel it's all a bit of silly theater this side of the Atlantic. As Jeffries reported:
“Shame on you! Go home!” protesters shouted as the likes of Eli Broad, Larry Gagosian and Jose Mugrabi scurried past the picket line before being sucked through the revolving door into the marble vacuum of the auction house. A small brass band outside Sotheby’s pumped out a zippy rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as a pair of girls clapped and two-stepped on the sidewalk. An older gentleman leaned over the metal barricades placed by the police and gave a zealous thumbs-down. “Boooo!” he taunted, then turned to Gallerist. “This is fun, isn’t it?”
Of course, revolution has always been a bit of theater. Think Madame Defarge pulling her seat up, knitting in tow, to comfortably settle in for another evening's entertainment in the form of serial beheadings. She remained calm only so long as her bloodlust was satisfied. And so it's not wise to underestimate the real violence that even "theater" can bring mean.

And yet, as Jeffries writes, the Sotheby's art handlers do not seem to be getting much more accomplished with the OWS support than perhaps a bit of better theater:
[T]he 99 percent tactics don’t appear to have won the union much sympathy with Sotheby’s clientele. “It was uncomfortable,” another art dealer said. “It was an ugly scene. I personally felt it was a slightly frightening, a hardcore element above just the union workings.” However, this dealer added, “I took leaflets from everyone. I think that’s the right thing to do.” The protesters don’t realize that patrons of a Sotheby’s auction are generally underlings themselves, this dealer said, referring to the buyers placing bids on behalf of collectors. “A large majority of people in that auction room are working people: people working for the mega-rich. It’s part of a service industry.”

“I understand that’s probably a good way of getting attention and of getting their issues heard, but it seems to me that it was overly aggressive,” said one uptown dealer. “The shouting and being photographed and all the noise and the general feeling of running the gauntlet.”

“To be honest, I don’t even know what the dispute is about,” one art adviser told Gallerist. “I think it has to do with wages.”
But what theater...and like any powerful script, this one seems to be kindling a bit of self-analysis among the audience, if not quite self-awareness:
As for the protests, “some people were offended by it, and some didn’t give a shit,” said the veteran adviser. “They like being in the 1 percent! Anything that points that out is probably a good thing.* That’s why they collect, after all. They’re very self-centered, these people. The whole art world really believes they are the epicenter of the world.”
[*reminds me of something I read on Facebook "I don’t care if you call me a narcissist, at least we’re talking about me."]

So why share this? Because I've been trying to do a bit of self-analysis myself, and this provided a good back drop.

It's a very uncomfortable place to be during a class war, the art world. The ideas we trade in often align with the goals of the protesters. The objects we trade in often align with the goals of the 1%. All the while we have businesses to run, bills to pay, artists to promote, collectors to serve, and our consciences to deal with. The best we can do is try to keep our heads about us and recognize that it's never simply black and white...there are no comic book heroes or villains here, just complex, messy people and the (perhaps misguided) perception that there's not enough to go around.

What works best for me when I find myself between a philosophical rock and a hard place is to focus on my values and remind myself what I believe in.

In the context of the art world, I believe in promoting contemporary artists. I believe in selling art. I believe in educating the public. I believe in providing quality service to those who buy art and support artists. I believe in treating people fairly. I believe in being honest about when you're not treating people fairly and changing that behavior.


In the end, I find this statement by Theodore Roosevelt very helpful:
It's a very conservative point of view, but it's among the conservative points of view I happen to agree with. And there really need be no class warfare so long as everyone feels this is a shared guiding principle, and that we all agree misconduct should be rooted out. After that, accumulate the wealth you (legally and fairly) can.

And when you do...buy some frickin' art!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Sometimes Silence Says So Much More

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Warning: Low Flying Expectations

Saw an ad for a lecture recently by a legend in the art world to whom I ascribe only the best of motives, and while I entirely understand the point of view this legend is coming from it struck me as a pity that we live in a time when he felt compelled to frame the invite this way:
A lecture on the current art scene and how to look at art without feeling inferior.
That seems an awfully low bar to set for viewing contemporary art (how to view it without feeling inferior). What ever happened to the idea that viewing art could/should exhilarate, inspire, emotionally overwhelm, or infuriate you? That it would spark an emotional or intellectual response that made you feel more alive? That it would make you gasp or cower or really want to lick its surface?

If the best one can hope for is not feeling inferior (to whom? the artist? the art world? the curators?), why on earth should anyone outside that realm give a flying f*ck about contemporary art?

Such low expectations only serve to fulfill the inevitable insularity of fine art if it can't reach a wider audience on its own terms. Yes, education is still part of that process. No one is asking artists to dumb down their work in order to reach the public at large, but the ultimate goal of reaching that public has to be to enrich them, not just leave them feeling unharmed.

Aim higher.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't Let this Indian Summer Fool You...

...you know in just a few weeks, the weather in New York (if history is any indication) is going to turn super cold and slushy and drizzly, just like your nose. A snow storm is not at all unusual right after Thanksgiving. And if you leave it to the last minute, you'll end up staying in a South Beach hotel that doubles as brothel/meth lab. So get online and book your flight and hotel for Miami now!

In fact, beat the crowds and come on down for the first day of SEVEN. Doors open at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011. Or join us later that same evening for some brews and chow in our new sculpture garden at the SEVEN Early Bird BBQ:

What: Early Bird BBQ at SEVEN
When: Tuesday, Nov 29, 5:00-7:30 PM
Where: SEVEN's new location, 2637 N Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33137

Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

с днем рождения!!

It's November 9th...that means only one thing across most of the Northern Hemisphere...someone very special is celebrating a birthday today!!!!

To ensure he understands...being a man of many languages, let me just say...

Doğum günün kutlu olsun, aşkım!

с днем рождения!!

Tulgan kunum menen!!!

Happy, Happy, Birthday Murat!!!!

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Topless Bars

Sorry...I meant Top 10 Favorite "sTopless" Bars.

Actually, I just meant to distract you with something salacious, yet spectacular, yet simplified, to ensure it appeals to your constantly tasked attention and is immediately comforting in how it suggests this post will be bite-sized, most likely painless, and if you're lucky entertaining.

Unlucky you.

I'm actually responding to an email from a monthly arts magazine in which they indicate they're reviving one of their most popular features. Yes, it's a Top {some number here} list of some sort. Mind you, I like Top XXX art lists as much as anyone. In no particular order, some of my favorites include
  • Hyperallergic's "The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World" (see 2011 edition)
  • ArtNews' Top 200 Collectors (see 2011 edition)
  • Art Review's "Power 100" (see 2011 edition...and how refreshing that number 1 is an artist!)
  • Gallerist NY's "The 50 Most Powerful Women in the New York Art World" (see first edition) In fact, Gallerist seems particularly fond of the numbered list format, but then no one is covering the art world as impressively as they are these days.
  • Tyler Green's "Museum collection top tens" (see here) (and be sure to catch Green's new series of podcasts beginning this Thursday)
But it was the sense that this magazine was reviving a Top XXX list because it had been popular that struck me as noteworthy. At one point they had stopped publishing it (for whatever reasons), and now it's back.

I can't help but imagine an editorial brainstorming session focused on increasing circulation and someone who had resented the cutting of the Top XXX list piece casually (but secretly, somewhat smugly) reminding everyone how it used to help spike newsstand purchases. The popularity of other publications' Top XXX issues surely came up, as did some ideas on how to tweak it so that it wouldn't feel like your grandfather's Top XXX list.

And I guess there's nothing wrong with that. Periodicals can periodically rotate through their greatest hits. There are, for example, only 6 types of articles ever published in most men's health magazines (get killer abs easily, get more sex easily, lose weight/put on muscle easily, dress for success, try this cool new sport you'll probably die doing, and pathetic attempts at interviewing someone).

And yet...reviving a Top XXX list because it was "popular"...ehhh...I don't know...the lack of subtlety there chafes my neck a bit.

Then again, if I'm on the list, I'll immediately forgive all...just saying.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Occupy the Voting Booth

OK, so finally we got down to Zuccotti Park to see for ourselves what has sparked the now worldwide movement (and, as I've noted before...if you're looking to measure the importance of something, look no further than at how influential it is).

It was a sunny, crisp day and the atmosphere in the tent city better known as Occupy Wall Street was thoughtful, peaceful, and rather chipper. We paused at various stations, listening to the speakers (when we could actually hear them), reading the signs, and just taking it in. I told Murat as we approached the park that I wanted nothing more out of this first visit than to merely observe. To try to open my mind and just see for myself.

There is, of course, a great deal of humor to appreciate in the effort. Murat snapped the following photo:


And a great deal of opportunism...people whose message has nothing to do with inequality or the economy taking advantage of an audience others worked to gather.

There were people who looked like the most normal person you'd ever meet, and there were people who looked as if they could rake in a small fortune working in a freak show.

The thing that struck me about the "alternative" looking people, though, was how matter-of-factly the tourists and others accepted them. As I walked past one gentleman whose entire face had been tattooed and I apparently must have let my surprise show on my face, he gently nodded hello and carried on.

It was this that drove home for me that everyone in the park was someone's brother or son, sister or daughter, grandparent or partner. And it drove home for me that, by extension, we were all family. I know how crunchy that sounds, but it's also a well-established concept with Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc. etc., so be careful in dismissing it too quickly.

Still, I wasn't entirely comfortable with everything I saw in the park. Again, the opportunism was obvious, but so too was the naivety. And while, as I've said before, in the beginning of a protest that's understandable, it would seem that certain actionable goals might have been more clearly defined by now. I'm not entirely opposed to revolution as an agent of change (read Jefferson on the topic if you think that's unpatriotic), but I'm not interested it in as a lifestyle. To paraphrase the Beatles, when you're looking for wider buy-in for your revolution you're increasingly going to find more people who would love to see your plan.

Then again, naivety is more understandable among younger people (who've yet to spend too much time in the school of hard knocks). And younger people were definitely the majority among the protesters.

Moreover, younger people reportedly have more to be upset about:
The wealth gap between younger and older Americans has stretched to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing and college debt.

The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday.

While people typically accumulate assets as they age, this wealth gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation.

The analysis reflects the impact of the economic downturn, which has hit young adults particularly hard. More are pursuing college or advanced degrees, taking on debt as they wait for the job market to recover. Others are struggling to pay mortgage costs on homes now worth less than when they were bought in the housing boom.

And it's clear that politics will prevent any help from coming out of Washington any time soon:

Tragically, the more entrenched the jobs shortage becomes, the more paralyzed Congress becomes, with Republicans committed to doing nothing in the hopes that the faltering economy will cost President Obama his job in 2012. Last week, for instance, Senate Republicans filibustered a $60 billion proposal by Mr. Obama to create jobs by repairing and upgrading the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure. They were outraged that the bill would have been paid for by a 0.7 percent surtax on people making more than $1 million.
Outrage is relative, as I hope many senators are going to learn in November 2012. Senate Republicans, in fact Senators in general, are not even remotely representative of their constituents economically speaking [via Sullivan]:

According to a Roll Call analysis of Congress members’ financial disclosure forms, the collective net worth of American lawmakers jumped 25 percent to over $2 billion in just the last two years — with 50 of the richest Congressmen and women accounting for 90 percent of the increase.

In 2008, the minimum net worth of House Members was just over $1 billion. In 2010, it rose to $1.26 billion. Senators experienced a more modest increase during this same time period, going from $651 million in 2008 to $784 million last year. Roll Call notes that the real net worth of individual members is likely higher, since their estimates do not take into account non-income-generating properties such as private homes.

This graph drives the point home more succinctly:


Looking to people who are not part of the 99% (allow me the short-hand this one time, if you will) to represent the concerns of the 99% strikes me as a significant form of idiocy. It's asking our leaders to vote against their own personal best interests. Since I don't think it's sensible to ask anyone to vote against their own personal best interests, one obvious solution would be to vote and vote again until the legislature is more truly representational (in terms of background, wealth, education, and religion) of the public at large.

Now I saw enough signs in Zuccotti Park to know how many people are disillusioned by the electoral process in the US. They've given up any hope that it's possible to get someone elected without the financial support (read: ownership) of puppetmastering corporations or others in the 1%. Moreover, certain minorities are very unlikely to ever be represented in Congress, as they're not concentrated in anyone area enough to overcome the biases needed to get elected.

And yet no matter how I look at the situation, I always come back to the voting booth. Without that as the ultimate action, all the rest is pointless. It's not reasonable to ask a body in which at least 40% are in the top 1% to represent the interests of the 99%. The problem isn't just that the corporations own the politicians, it's that the politicians can't really relate to how hard it is out there for their constituents. The make-up of our legislature has got to change. Enough with billionaire politicians...it's time we elect people who actually need the jobs.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

A Tale of Two Performances

Performance is our post-Halloween treat in New York this year. We get to go places where there's an unusually high number of places to actually sit. We get to slow down and delight in the sublime triumphs or complete fiascoes that only live productions can guarantee.

One performance that a lot of people have been talking about opened Performa 11 (but, unfortunately, last night was the last chance to catch it):
Elmgreen & Dragset Happy Days in the Art World
  • Tuesday, November 1, 7:30 pm — 9:30 pm
  • Thursday, November 3, 7:30 pm — 9:30 pm
The artists Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset) will present a theatrical performance titled Happy Days in the Art World, a darkly comic self-portrait of the two artists, drawing references from Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days (1961). The play tells the story of two main characters, played by renowned actors Joseph Fiennes and Charles Edwards, as well as actress Kim Criswell, and is directed by Toby Frow. The characters use a droll sensibility to unveil their personal history together, their experience of being a “single work of art,” and their fears about what will happen to their substantial art careers when they break up.
Although I'm a fan of Elmgreen & Dragset's work, we already had plans to see another performance last night, so I missed this.

Now, I realize it's not fair to compare the two productions, given I've only seen the one (and it's not even part of Performa), but Ben Davis saw Elmgreen & Dragset's and his response was fresh in my mind while I watched the one we attended.

So fair or not, I want to share what I was thinking of that Ben noted in his less-than-enthusiastic description of Elmgreen & Dragset's play :
Say what you will about the piece, it did indeed demonstrate the power of performance in at least one way: A team of crack actors — notably Joseph Fiennes of “Shakespeare in Love” fame — almost managed, through sheer talent and force of will, to breathe some life into a project that was essentially a multimillion-dollar inside joke, covering up its hollow, self-congratulatory core with a veneer of class. [...]

[T]he scenario is evidently intended as some kind of allegory of the purgatory that is life as a globe-trotting mid-career artist duo.

Upon waking, one of the men declares that he has had a dream in which they were both successful artists “based in a city where everyone else was an artist — Berlin, I think!” In this dream, we hear, ID and ME had an appointment with a “Ukrainian oligarch” who was driving to meet them in a sports car “covered in butterflies.” The two then realize that they seem to have been deposited overnight in some sort of placeless dungeon, and they get down to investigating their situation. It seems grim — evidently they are not at “a yoga retreat, or a workshop with Marina!” Feeling hunger pangs, a member of the duo later moans, “Where’s that Thai soup kitchen when you need it?” As art-world satire, this is about as toothless as it gets. And it doesn’t get better.

I’ll spare you recounting the rest of the plot. Suffice it to say that it all leads up to a visit from a mysterious messenger who delivers a statement saying that ID and ME will receive a visit from… Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector — though, as with Beckett’s Godot, it is not certain when or if she might come (“Waiting for Spector” does have a nice ring to it, actually). All in all, the production values and direction of “Happy Days in the Art World” are first-rate, and Fiennes and Edwards give it their best, sometimes for whole minutes managing to infuse some sense of wit and human gravity into the material. Elmgreen & Dragset's pastiche of Beckett is credible enough — but mainly it just makes you wish that these talented actors were actually performing Beckett.

Again...I haven't seen it so I'll refrain from adding anything to his take other than to note that that line, "essentially a multimillion-dollar inside joke," stayed with me, while Murat and I watched another performance at The Boiler:
Stations Lost a Theatrical Performance by Tony Fitzpatrick

Remaining Performances:
Nov 3rd-6th
Thurs & Fri 8pm; Sat 7 & 9 pm; Sun 7pm

Tony and Stan took a journey to find the dark heart of America. Stan went to Cleveland. Tony took a detour…to Istanbul. This is their story.

From America’s border-towns to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Stations Lost is the story of two friends, Tony Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein, and their commonalities and divergent paths in an ever-expanding world. Tony takes us through his childhood as a rebellious Catholic schoolboy obsessed with superheroes, reading MAD Magazine, and meeting Chester Gould through his adult understanding of the superhero mythos that leads him to strike out in search of the everyday superhero in the world via a journey to Istanbul.

[Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Tony's work...and have noted as much before on this blog.]

Why I think it is fair to discuss these two works in the same post is they both take a Beckett-esque approach (two actors on a sparse stage, an acutely abstract sense of progressive narrative, themes of global travel, and an intentional sense of Existentialist angst) to exploring themes of feeling rudderless in one's own time.

Where the two diverge, if Ben's assessment is correct, is the socioeconomic realm in which the buddy pairs make their observations. Tony's piece barely mentions the art world, per se. It's more about the world at large. Rather than Ukrainian oligarchs or high-powered curators, Tony and Stan's landscape is populated by disciplinarian nuns, overbearing Uzbek bazaar merchants, and the good people of Cleveland, Ohio (who Tony gives short shrift, I'll note). Moreover, there were no art world insider jokes.

Mind you (as our gallery program will quickly tell you), I am not opposed to insideriness. There are unquestionably issues that can only be well explored from that point of view. And this IS the world I choose to inhabit.

But, Ben's quote in my head, I came away from Tony's performance wondering whether, despite all it's artsiness, it would speak to more people from the heartland than Elmgreen & Dragset's play. Then I began to wonder why I was wondering that. Elmgreen & Dragset clearly know the audience for that piece and made their choices based on that. So I don't think the question of insideriness really matters.

What matters, I concluded, is heart. Tony, I get the sense, wasn't playing to a particular audience (although I understand that quite a list of VIPs have seen it)...but rather just being Tony (who, as I've noted before, is a person I'd happily make king of the art world were the decision mine). Indeed, the arc of Tony's incredibly un-PC narrative led me back to a place that left me feeling more human, more connected than when I walked into the Boiler. I hope the same happened for audience members who got to see Elmgreen & Dragset's piece. There's really no higher marker of success for a performance, in my opinion, than that.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Greed :: Open Thread

As we're finding in the post on profits, it's difficult to discuss possible societal issues related to the economic crisis without agreeing on a definition of greed. I think my own working definition is ripe for tweaking, so I'll put it out there for critique as a means of hopefully finding a way to discuss it productively.

Before we get to the definition, I'd like to suggest we leave out whether "greed" itself is immoral or not. I think that's best left as a theological question. I'd also argue we agree it's not unethical in and of itself. It's a personal choice. And we in America are all about defending one's right to make personal choices. Of course, that doesn't mean others can't criticize that choice.

As for that definition, though, my working one operates around what separates merely wanting more from greed. I don't see wanting more as problematic on its own. I think it's a healthy part of human nature. I think it becomes unhealthy as it approaches hoarding (and at a certain point that's interrelated with greed), but in general, wanting more (even more than your neighbors or more than others might selfishly consider your fair share) is fine by me.

What separates wanting more from "greed" for me is defined by how one goes about it. By one's actions. Here I think we can discuss morality and ethics. Seeking more in an intelligent, legal, ethical, moral way is all well and good. But that pursuit approaches "greed" when one's actions approach the opposite and become stupid, illegal, unethical, or immoral. In other words, the consequences of one's actions must be considered in defining "greed." And, arguably, as long as no one (or thing) is being hurt by one's actions, no matter how much one accumulates, they're not being greedy.

While out there swimming, for example, I could drink down all the water from Lake Erie my stomach can handle, every day of my life, and--should the toxins not kill me--it most likely wouldn't make a bit of difference to any other living person (and probably not many other living creatures, other than the tiny creepy crawlies I inadvertently swallow). It would never reasonably be seen as "greedy." Because there's so much of it (and so few other people reasonably want it), I could never take more than my fair share.

Moving the discussion back to the economic crisis and the sorts of actions being examined as the source for our woes, clearly, while things are in motion, there are shade of gray as to whether this or that action is stupid or even unethical (I'd argue legal and moral are less gray, but...). But the results are now in, and I think everyone would agree that selling packages of toxic mortgages to unsuspecting customers who trusted you, securities you knew were likely to go bust, while also shorting those same securities is unethical behavior. There's no gray in there for me at all. That was greedy, pure and simple.

You can expand upon the theme here, though, and point to the greed of home buyers who accepted the mortgages they knew damn well they couldn't really afford. The "best practices" here are well established.

To get to the heart of the "greed" issue as it applies to both banks and home buyers, though, one need look no further than Ninja loans. Ninja loans may have been legally available, but only greedy people would think they were entitled to them. And only greedy banks would put their shareholders at rick by offering them.

At this point of the argument someone will inevitably point to the Community Reinvestment Act and insist that piece of legislation tied the banks' hands. They had no choice, the meme goes. They were only doing what an interfering government was making them do. This doesn't stand up to the evidence though:
In a 2003 research paper, economists at the Federal Reserve could not find clear evidence that the CRA increased lending and home ownership more in low income neighborhoods than in higher income ones.[84] A 2008 Competitive Enterprise Institute study resulted in a similar finding.[85]
Indeed, the law itself insists on sound practices:
The Act requires the appropriate federal financial supervisory agencies to encourage regulated financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered, consistent with safe and sound operation (Section 802.) [emphasis mine]
More precisely:
The Community Reinvestment Act has encouraged banks to lend fairly and responsibly for over 30 years. The Community Reinvestment Act does not impose fines; it periodically examines FDIC-backed banks and issues them a CRA-compliance rating. [Community Reinvestment Act] To receive a high rating, banks must meet the financing needs of as many members of their community as possible and must not discriminate against racial and ethnic groups or certain neighborhoods. However, a bank cannot receive a high rating unless it is also maintaing “safe and sound banking practices.” [Community Reinvestment Act] In other words, the CRA requires banks to lend to working-class families and people of color, but only when those people have been deemed credit-worthy.
I'm not sure how, when the best practices for being credit worthy are so well established, anyone could argue that Ninja loans were anything other than an incredibly stupid (and therefore greedy) idea.

Again, to my mind, it's stupid and immoral actions that define greed. Not wanting profits, but wanting profits above all else, above reason, above what you know is honest and right.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Quick Quote for a Busy Wednesday

Went through a serious Bukowski phase as a young man. Someone posted this on facebook, and it made me remember why:
“There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die.”

Charles Bukowski

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