Monday, December 30, 2013


Ansel Adams, Oak Tree, Snowstorm
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

— Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Happy New Year, my friends. May you find satisfaction in your duties, joy in your pleasures, and sufficient occupation in both.

© 2013 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Greatest Hits of 2013

Okay, so maybe they’re not all masterpieces.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from “Ulysses

Once again, O Dearly Beloved, it is time to look back on the year just ending to see if we can draw any useful lessons. As usual, I am drawing a blank. I tend to find such annual retrospectives uninteresting, since in my experience that which is meaningful in life does not come prepackaged in neat, calendar-year-sized chunks. Nevertheless, through the page ranking magic of Google Analytics, at least I have the ability to share with you those ten posts which you, My Most Attentive and Discerning Audience, have anointed the most popular of my works in Anno Domini Two Thousand and Thirteen.1

This is the seventh year I have maintained this site, with greater or lesser diligence as the spirit moves me and non-blogging obligations allow. Seven years is a long time in any relationship, as marital psychologists and Tom Ewell alike can tell us. We will see in the coming year whether you and I can sustain our little pixellary romance, or whether like all good things this relationship must come to an end. I make no promises other than to be myself.

But do not think of that now. Look back on 2013 and revisit the year’s greatest hits, as determined by you. Enjoy.

THE CANON, 2013 Edition:

1) Curriculum Vitae
(March) — Your clear favorite. A career précis for young investment bankers which lays out the path from wet-behind-the-ears tyro to grizzled old veteran in corporate finance and M&A, with summary descriptions of the roles and responsibilities at each step along the way. Any silly young fool who wants to join my industry after having read my scribblings over the past seven years should absorb this piece as a final gut check. If you still want to become a banker after that, well, then you are beyond my emendation.

2) The Invention of Leisure (November) — Goldman Sachs, Great Vampire Squid of yore, confused many an observer when they recently instituted a policy which for all intents and purposes appears to treat its most junior investment bankers as a species of near-human. I explain why this is neither as humane nor as sustainable as it may appear, and remind my attentive readers that, in my industry, “it is always the human beings who are taken out behind the woodshed and shot first.”

3) Go Ask Alice (September) — In which Your Ever Patient Guide to Financial Markets uses the occasion of an impending IPO for an obscure ornithologically-themed message service to explain, for the umpty-goddamnedth time, just how initial public offerings work. I’m sure it had no effect on the bullheaded financial commentariat this time, either, but I published it anyway. Call me stubborn. I’ve been called worse.

4) Mr. Indispensable (May) — Wherein I propose with animated language that the Grand Poobah of überbank J.P. Morgan, Jamie Dimon, be stripped of his Chairmanship for having done an absolute crap job at it. A few of you read it, but absolutely none of you did anything about it. Story of my life.

5) In Praise of Jargon (April) — In which I take the occasion of a sneering, uncomprehending excoriation of business jargon to “reach my hand across the gaping divide between those who work for a living and those who cannot understand why they have to to proffer a little gentle education.” I also seize the opportunity to take a few cheap but deserved potshots at British English, while I’m at it. Chomskyan giggles all around.

6) Go Ahead, Live a Little (May) — Do investment bankers take sabbaticals? Hell. The fuck. No. This piece explains why not.

7) To Whom It May Concern (August) — “Most of what happens to individual investment bankers can be boiled down to being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time.” Luck favors the prepared, but preparation is no guarantee. Good luck, children.

8) A Photograph, Not a Circuit Diagram (January) — Wherein Your Humble Correspondent attempts to puncture some recent hysteria about bank accounting and explain that, no, the impression it conveys that banks are scary, opaque, and complex is exactly correct, salutary, and entirely the point. I suspect my missile sailed far over the heads of its intended target, but hey, it gave me a chance to string together some more words. As I do.

9) Skin in Which Game? (February) — Apparently unsatisfied with picking twitter fights with economists, financial commentators, and other riffraff, a certain author and aficionado of heavy rock lifting and public attention decided to attack Yours Truly for the veil of pseudonymity which I bear in this public forum. I responded with a balanced explanation of my longstanding rationale, which no doubt failed to satisfy the aforementioned interlocutor. Upon reflection, I discover that I could not give a rat’s ass whether it did or not.

10) Our Glassy Essence (October) — Wherein Your Friendly Would-Be Epistemologist turns his skeptical eye upon scientists, specifically those who claim that science has killed philosophy. I explain that no, Philosophy is not dead, but rather is sneaking up behind Science at this very moment to kick it in the balls.

* * *

Finally, lest you think me concerned solely with popularity, here are a couple more cognate posts published this year which the procrastinators and neurotically obsessive among you might find entertaining, notwithstanding their failure to pierce the top ten. Given the weakness in the overall market, I’m afraid this is all the bonus most of you are going to get this year. And no, you can’t sell it for three years.

Bonus Twaddle, Time Wasters, and Suchlike:

10 Reasons I’m Not Posting Anymore (August) — About as detailed an explanation as My Loyal But Disappointed Readers will ever receive for the paucity of my posting in this opinion emporium, sadly. Innumerate, too.

Wherein Your Droll, Semi-Victorian Bloggist Jumps the Shark (January) — Some eager young beaver from the seething cesspit of the cultural avant-garde—Brooklyn, New York—interviewed me on behalf of his bearded, literary, plaid-shirt-wearing audience for some inexplicable reason. While the experience is unlikely to get me to trade my lion skin for skinny jeans and a goatee, you might find it amusing.

Pip-pip, and all that. Happy 2013.

1 As I have explained before, the Google Analytics data is necessarily incomplete and potentially unreliable, as they miss the actual eyeballs harvested by each respective post from the far greater numbers of people who simply visited the home page of this humble opinion emporium when they were first posted. But let us presume, entre nous, that this ranking is fit enough for purpose here, shall we?

© 2013 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Parting Glass

Georges de la Tour, The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, 1640
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.

— Voltaire

Curatio funeris, conditio sepulturae, pompa exsequiarum, magis sunt vivorum solatia, quam subsidia mortuorum.

— St. Augustine, Civitas Dei 1

* * *
Michel de Montaigne writes of the duty we owe to princes:2
We owe subjection and obedience equally to all kings, for that concerns their office; but we do not owe esteem, any more than affection, except to their virtue. Let us make this concession to the political order: to suffer them patiently if they are unworthy, to conceal their vices, to abet them by commending their indifferent actions if their authority needs our support. But, our dealings over, it is not right to deny to justice and to our liberty the expression of our true feelings, and especially to deny good subjects the glory of having reverently and faithfully served a master whose imperfections were so well known to them, and thus to deprive posterity of such a useful example. And those who out of respect for some private obligation unjustly espouse the memory of a blameworthy prince, do private justice at the expense of public justice.
One could say the same about parents, with minor modifications. Part of growing up is becoming aware that one’s parents are human beings, with all the flaws attendant thereto, not the omnipotent and omniscient gods of our infancy. This, speaking from my personal experience, can be quite a blow, especially if the revelation is received early enough in one’s life.

My father was a brilliant engineer, troubled by his blue collar origins. He struggled to make his way through life with, as he put it, one foot in the world he came from and one foot in the present. His family did little to help him. My mother was brilliant, too, in her own way, and struggled with different demons incubated in the privileged upbringing of her family. Their marriage early produced me, too early really for a man and woman not far removed from childhood themselves. It did not last long. I was raised an only child of divorced parents who struggled separately to be parents, and who only partially succeeded. The timeline and details do not matter here—for my life is not a commonwealth I share with others to whom I owe a duty of honesty, outside my immediate family—but suffice it to say I became estranged from both my parents. Age and distance, sadly, did not improve our relationships.

My father died many years ago, succumbing finally to the demons he never fully escaped. My mother died within the past two weeks. I have not been overwhelmed with grief, for estrangement acts as a kind of grieving itself, sapping the heart of love, delight, and admiration in slow anticipation of the final separation of death. I am sad she is gone, of course, because she was my mother. You cannot help but love your mother, no matter how worthy you think she may have been as one.

* * *
They say as you grow older you become your parents. I am no spring chicken, but I have not seen this yet. Of course I have some of their flaws (or at least those flaws I am aware of) in addition to my own, but I have spent a great deal of effort trying to become a better man and father in reaction to the mistakes I saw my parents make. Let us say, then, that one grows in reaction to one’s parents, good or bad. My efforts, good or ill, will be judged in time by my own children.

In the meantime, I have made peace with my parents in my heart. If nothing else, they meant well, and they tried to do what they thought was right. We can ask little more, even of ourselves.

I am not here to render public justice. And as for private justice, there is only love.
But since it has so ordered been
A time to rise and a time to fall
Fill to me a parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.
So good night and joy be with you all.

— Traditional, The Parting Glass

Goodnight, Mom and Dad. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

1 “The arranging of funerals, the conditions of burials, the pomp of obsequies, are rather a consolation for the living than any help to the dead.” (Trans. Michel de Montaigne, “Our Feelings Reach Out Beyond Us.”)
2 “Our Feelings Reach Out Beyond Us," The Complete Works, Trans. Donald M. Frame. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 10.

© 2013 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.