REMINISCENCES OF A STOCK OPERATOR

by Edwin Lefevre

This book came highly recommended, and for someone intensely interested in financial markets, it has value. It may be an Investment Classic. It is written in textbook fashion, meaning it is poorly written and prolix. It is a blue pencil special.

This reader read 100 pages and stopped. The first problem is the text is a narrative using I: Everything must be explained by I, and neither I nor the author do that. I does not explain well the stock market, stock picking or timing. It seems out of nowhere I is in a brokerage shop or a firm where he buys or sells. I happily tells when he’s made money, based upon what analysis of the market, a stock, conditions or being drunk or using drugs? (e.g. Union Pacific)

This reader tired of reading that I had talked to friends, brokerage people, or there was this stock or that, and all the while this reader knew he was reading too many words. There ought to be one-quarter or one-third fewer words in this book, because there is no explanation of analysis or the market or stocks. This reader did not need to read that many words about I’s social career. Hence, the text should be 200-225 pages instead of 300 pages.

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GOOGLE GUY

Like everything else on the Internet, this incident has arisen to cartoon character status, because those are the only persons many Americans will believe. The Google Guy was given space on Saturday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

In 1790 in Vienna an honest observer would say Mozart was the most original composer of the times. Franz Joseph Hayden was equally excellent, but in a different way. What about Beethoven? He had arrived and played the piano for Mozart, who unjustly wasn’t impressed. When Mozart heard Beethoven improvise, he said, “The world will hear from this young man.”
Hayden took Beethoven on as a student. The pupil fought with his teacher all the time, but something was conveyed. Fifteen years later during the performance of The Seasons the old man got up to leave. Beethoven was kneeling before him. Embarrassed and overwhelmed, Hayden got Beethoven to stand so he could look at his peer.

In 1793 who would have known the disagreeable student would be the best composer to live, ever. By 1808 Hayden knew it. Beethoven’s collective work shows a steady improvement and use of the imagination. Later pieces are consistently better than the earlier. And who knew after 1808 Beethoven would compose the Fifth Concerto, the Seventh Symphony, Eighth Symphony, sonatas, quartets and when deaf, the Ninth Symphony. He wrote Wellington’s Victory to pay the rent.

I’ve seen the Google Guy interviewed, and who is he? He does not realize there are big grand issues he is not addressing. The issue is, how to prompt an employee’s imagination to do the work presented. The answer is not forthcoming by comparing men to women. To do that one needs gobs of data, personal knowledge and be educated in teaching the disciplines which Google finds important. We’re talking about higher forms of mathematics where 2 + 2 = 5. If a Google employee can teach that, one might be able to evaluate other employees, if there is complete access to academic and psychological reports for each individual.

Remember the Google Guy is looking for distinctions in imaginations. In 1830 Chopin left Poland on his way to Paris. He stopped in Germany to hear Mendelssohn perform. They were both 20 years old. When the music wasn’t very good, Chopin went on his way: “No use meeting Felix.” Mendelssohn had every musical gift Mozart had, but did not know how to use the talents – focus to produce compelling music. Polish speaking Chopin was fleeing a failing revolution at home against the Russian occupier. Chopin’s music is almost always precise, surprising and pleasing.

Somebody who collects gross data off the Internet, and tries to make it comprehensible does not have the facts and figures to conclude anything about anyone. Hence, the Google Guy, likely has a storied career in education, perfect scores on the SAT, and everything else – ornaments for the resume. He also has a list of letters following his name longer than the alphabet, reflecting victories in science and wizardry contests and extending far into his Wazoo. Such credentials are why this guy should not write. There have always been exact answers in his world.

I can tell Google Guy that how he did it is not how writers do it. Sources may be available but what do they indicate? They are not formulas, equations and therms. The studies produced are by researchers seeking answers. Do they ever ask enough questions? Like a political poll the best any one can derive from studies are inclinations and trends. I assume that the A-Hole U which Google Guy attended did not teach him how to research any better than it taught writing and interpretation. Google Guy’s abilities are best left in the imagination, working through math problems, conceptual relationships among sets, numbers and equations and hoping to arrive at a defensible conclusion or a better product. Most human beings and situations are far from those efforts, and being human they don’t always act predictably.

What specifically is not happening at Google? Work is not being done? Someone in management is to blame. Employees need better training. Google is a choice employer. There should be enough scrutiny of new employees so urging them to work is not a problem. They are self-motivating; they have initiative; they use their brains to confront issues before them.

Or does Google hire employees who are not qualified? Are Google employees happy with their performances in academia, and now want to coast during employment? And since this is California, are there substance abuse issues? Perhaps some employees have psychological problems, and a few physical limitations.

What do Beethoven, Hayden and Mozart have to do with Google? I suppose Google hires employees hoping each will contribute often over the long term. Some may be standouts but not fully noticeable today. In a decade how will these people have helped?

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

In literature this voice is not used often; there are good reasons why. Having “I” tell the story greatly limits the options a writer has available in any writing. The reader and world already know whose point of view is being presented: I, and to be consistent I must fill in all the action and description. A derivation into description present in a third party tale is noticeable and a flaw.

It may seem that dialogue can be accurately reported by using I. Indeed, some of the sentences may have been previously uttered, but there is not enough paper in the world to record every conversation completely. In all literature conversations reported in dialogue are edited and representative. That selection process picks the jewels coming from the human brain through the mouth rather than a jumbo mix of participles, prepositional phrases and adverbs. Someone writing dialogue I, the first person narration needs to tone down and eliminate as many words as possible: First, the words come from I, a person the reader is familiar with. Second, unless the dialogue drives the story forward, it should be dropped. In a first person narration I is the primary mover of the story. If points in dialogue have not been made, they may have already been implied, or they are not important and possibly conflicting. An author cutting his dialogue – this is my styleHORRORS! It is an impossible task.
Writing a novel is the first person narrative and having flashbacks seems an impossibility. I have tried reading such a novel. The author tried to clarify by dating each chapter of the multi-decade story: Chapter 1, Winter 2008; Chapter 2, Autumn, 1982, etc. Embracing I along with keeping track of incidences in I’s life over the decades is more than a reader should endure: Chapter 3, Winter, 1983; Chapter 4, Spring 1984; Chapter 5, Summer 2008.

The author jumped relying on dates and seasons and dialogue from those times, but I wondered, why bother. The author supposedly wanted to tell a first person narrative about a police investigation of a local heroin distribution ring. It seems a timely subject beset by the awkward telling.

So I put the book down. There are others to read, one by Joseph Conrad.

TRUMP VULGARITIES

In the draft of the film script, The Lady Eve, which Preston Surges handed to Barbara Stanwyck read on the pages where she and her father watched Henry Fonda, the mark, come aboard:

JEAN [Stanwyck]
,,,and I hope he’s got a big fat wife so I don’t
have to dance in the moonlight with him. I don’t
know why it is but a sucker always steps on your
toes.

COL. H [Father]
(looking over rail)
And is a mug about everything.

JEAN
I don’t see why I have to do all the dirty work…
There must be plenty of rich old dames just
waiting for you to push them around.

COL. H
You find them and I’ll push them.

JEAN
Boy, would I like to see you giving some old
harpy the three-in-one.

COL. H
Don’t be vulgar, Jean. Let us be crooked but
not common.

(Axel Madsen, Stanwyck, Harper Collins, NY, 1994, p. 189.) A Brooklyn girl, Stanwyck, knew every vulgar term and could use each appropriately. She never did.

But last week we had Anthony Scaramucci mouth off, vulgarly, in the most ordinary, common ways showing no class, no education, of awareness or propriety, morals, ethics and comportment. Being a street thug was good enough.

Living the low life of a ground crawler was surprising to Scaramucci’s boss, Don Trump, and he was upset that Scaramucci upstaged him: Fire Scaramucci, who may now be mooching in his infamy and notoriety. Don Trump is on vacation.