Archive for December, 2009

Small gifts at this time of giving transform into something special that does not happen at any other holiday season.  When everyone is giving and thinking of their love ones, themselves, and especially people in need whom they may not know personally, small gifts seamlessly collect together gaining force and purpose.  We know because we see so many others giving that our small gift will not remain small and incidental.  The collective effort to help others is wonderful.  Far more than the snow and decorations, it is the beauty of the holiday season.

Every gift you give is good.  There are no poor choices when helping others.  And there seems to be an added pleasure in giving to causes you have supported in previous years.  Everyone smiles when they see a loyal friend return again with a gift.

And as the season of giving comes to a close and a new year begins, consider adding new causes to your giving list.  A new cause need not be costly to be a rewarding addition to your life.  The paradox of giving is that the giver is the first to be rewarded and for whom the gift lasts the longest.  Charles Marlin

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Settling down for a pleasant winter evening read of a good article on modern risk management techniques is good only when the article is as well written as Nick Rockel’s “Greed, Fear & Forecasting Doom,” in the November 2009 issue of Institutional Investor.  I know it is well written because I dashed through it like a child born with skates in a land of frozen lakes.  I learned what I knew before.  Watch out for cracks and weakened ice.

There is no denying that risk management experts and practitioners are a sophisticated lot, erudite and confident.  They are accustomed to being richly rewarded for their services, but then their ancestors were of the same expectation.  Their family tree is large and fruity with examples of rain makers, patent medicine men, purveyors of saintly relics, alchemists, blood letters, high priests, and families born to rule.  The problem is that no one in that family tree ever got it right just as their descendents got nothing right in last fall’s crash.

Last fall’s crash was a dramatic set of price changes that eluded standard risk models, what Yale’s Frank Fabozzi calls “fat tails.”  Others call them black swans.  Some say they are a once in two life times occurrence, and others say they happen every couple of years.

Who is a person to believe if the experts are in guerrilla action against each other?  You should follow the advice your mother gave you when you went off to college.  If you don’t understand the game and the players keep changing the rules, put your pants on and go home even if you have to walk the whole way.  Your mother was a smart woman.

The next morning you may wake up tired and in serious need of a shower and fresh clothes, but the important aspect to note is that you are ready for another day at the office.  Your work may not be brilliant but it earns you a paycheck, and no one accosts you in the hall demanding proof that what you do has ever proven useful.  Charles Marlin

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Kati Marton, author and journalist, has written a likeable book, Enemies Of The People: My Family’s Journey To America.  It is likeable as the romance of Endre and Ilona Marton, Budapest residents during a very dark period.  It is likeable as cold war history of Hungary.  It is likeable as a spy thriller with an unusual twist.  It is likeable as a family history rediscovered from the most evil of sources.  It is likeable as a personal narrative of a woman who reconstructs her childhood.  It is likeable as a story of the Americanization of a proud Hungarian family.

The Martons began life under the oppression of the dying Austro-Hungarian Empire, survived youthful resistance to the Nazis, only to find themselves raising a young family under the crushing control of Stalinism.  They became the two goats among sheep as the last independent journalists behind the Iron Curtain until they were arrested and imprisoned.  Their crimes were that they worked as correspondents for the Associated Press and United Press and they were friendly to the American Legation in Budapest as well as many other Westerners.  Their two young daughters witnessed the arrest first of their father and then a short time later of their mother.

Despite the imprisonment and punishment the parents received following the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 they survived to reunite their family.  They were released only because the Hungarian government and their Soviet managers wanted the advantages of trade and travel with the West.  They were finally expendable for a price.

The story continues during the years of Americanization for parents and children.  Putting the whole story together was possible only because the files of the AVO, the Hungarian secret police, and the FBI files were turned over to the author.  She found secrets aplenty but never shame or dishonor.  She was most fortunate of daughters and researchers.  Charles Marlin

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It’s a Rosenquist, but not a billboard.  Or a collage.  Or a print.  Or a painting.  It’s a biography, well sort of.  James Rosenquist with the help of David Dalton wrote a jumpy, gossipy Painting Below Zero: Notes On A Life In Art.  The title is remarkably forthright.  There are stories from North Dakota, from New York, and from Aripeka, Florida.  There are sign painter friends, a sanitized list of romances, and then his important art world friends and associates.  In between all of this he justifies his images, art, and art making.  The man put his name on it, so why not?

Maybe it is simply too soon for an intense biography, and instead this will serve as a motivation and primer for future biographers.  He fully deserves the best of attention from those who can do the job.  For all those, and there are few not among them, who love the art and artists of his high years this will be light and pleasant reading.  As a consequence every reader will try harder with the next Rosenquists they see.

The black and white photographs are more tabloid than informative, but the thirty-two color pages are a delight.  The gatefold color pages of F-111 are a major plus for the book.  The dust jacket is not directly attributed to Rosenquist but I hope he did it because the front cover is a great artist’s portrait.  If there is an original it should be enshrined in the National Portrait Gallery or a temple of his choosing.  Charles Marlin

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