May 22, 2012

Seven hours of The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information


On May 25th PME-ART will be performing a new version of The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information for the opening of OFFTA in Montreal. We will tell every story, and play every record, we have. We've never tried it before but think it will take about seven hours. (The audience can come and go as they please. They can also arrive at any time.) We've been gathering these stories for the past five years. Come for the beginning, the middle, the end, or any time in between. Tell your friends. It is likely we will only ever do this once.

You can find out the details here.


May 16, 2012

But the Japanese are able to carry such high levels of debt because when they get into financial difficulties the government bails them out.


From Connie Bruck's 1989 book The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the JunkBond Raiders:

In their 1985 annual report, the President's Council of Economic Advisers had weighed in with its conclusions, surprising only in their ambitiousness. They purported to settle once and for all the decades-long debate over whether takeovers are beneficial or harmful. This august council concluded that mergers and acquisitions "improve efficiency, transfer scarce resources to higher value users, and stimulate effective corporate management." The conclusion was remarkably definitive but, apparently, more polemical than proven. In some of the more interesting testimony that emerged from the congressional hearings on takeovers, F.M. Scherer, a Swarthmore College economics professor, had rebutted the Council's findings. In his testimony in March 1985 he pointed out that the report's conclusion that takeovers improve efficiency relied on stock market event studies, which are short-run in orientation (examining stock prices during periods ten to thirty days before and after the announcement or consummation of the merger). If one looks at a period of ten years or so, Professor Scherer testified, the results are very different.

Scherer has developed the premier data base in this country for looking at the financial consequences of merger. This data base draws upon twenty-seven years of merger history and seven years of sell-off history for nearly four thousand individual businesses.

These are some of Scherer's findings, from his case studies and statistical research:

- Contrary to the Council's view that merger-makers sought companies where management had failed, most in fact targeted well-managed entities. What they were generally attracted by was not sick companies or slipshod management but undervalued assets.

- Takeovers by firms with no managerial expertise in the acquired company's line of business tended to impair, not improve, efficiency.

- Takeovers frequently led to short-run profit-maximizing strategies, such as the "cash cow" strategy under which "a business is starved of R & D, equipment modernization, and advertising funds, and/or prices are set at high levels inviting competitor inroads, leading in the end a depleted, non-competitive shell."

- On average, acquisitions were less profitable for the acquiring firms than the maintenance of existing businesses and the internal development of new business lines.

- Many of the takeovers led to selloffs, which did improve the efficiency of the simpler, self-standing entity.

- While Scherer had relatively few hostile takeovers in his sampling, in those he did study he found that the takeover aggravated performance deficiencies that existed earlier.

In response to questions from panel members, Scherer also made and interesting point about the high-leverage, or debt-intensive, capital structures of many U.S. companies, which are coming to resemble Japanese companies' financial structures. Indeed, in the gospel according to Milken which is spread by so many of his acolytes, it is often noted that Japanese companies have for years carried much higher debt-to-equity ratios than American companies. True enough, Scherer commented, but the Japanese are able to carry such high levels of debt because when they get into financial difficulties the government bails them out.


May 13, 2012

Fitting in


On not quite fitting anywhere.


May 12, 2012

Passage from 'Le nez qui voque' by Réjean Ducharme


But yesterday, before falling asleep, I had some serious thoughts about ideas, or (take your pick) some serious ideas about thoughts. Here they are. An idea is not as immobile, powerless, and docile as you think; it acts, engenders, and arranges; it shapes and comprises its own dynamism; it runs, and runs all by itself. Furthermore, at the moment of its conception, the idea splits in two; that is, as soon as it is born, it works toward its own materialization and toward the materialization of the opposite idea. It tends simultaneously toward both poles, and, if we do not judge it, do not stop it, it carries us along in both directions. But in the case of most civilized beings, there operates automatically upon their awareness of the idea, a choice, a violent revolt against one or the other of these two impulses that it gives rise to: they think it's crazy to devote yourself simultaneously to the north and the south, to the right and the left, to slowness and swiftness. In others, of a younger, purer, less sclerotic intellect, the possibility of a double action in opposite directions is perfectly clear, perceptible, logical, and understood. Why, in addition to moving and being moved in its own direction, is the idea moving and being moved in the opposite direction? Because it is the nature of the soul, an avidly creative will, to represent spontaneously for itself in the form of ideas all the possibilities that an object offers to its action, and to want to accomplish all of them by this very fact. The soul cannot not want what it imagines: there is no such thing as unwill. When you don't want to, all you're doing is not doing what you want to do. This explanation doesn't elucidate anything. For example, I simultaneously feel both the need to see Chateaugué and the need to tell her to go hang herself somewhere else. But those are things that are too subtle for civilized beings. You'll understand, perhaps, if I say that you feel, under the influence of two simultaneous impulses born of the very same idea, both the need to do good and the need to do evil. My thoughts are so serious and subtle! He's so afraid of not being understood and appreciated! Enough! It's September 14.

- Miss Take (Le nez qui voque) by Réjean Ducharme (translated by Will Browning)


May 9, 2012

A page from Mercury by Ariana Reines


Give up the habit of weeping for yourself, says the woman to the man with the malady of death in the novel by Marguerite Duras.

The sex parts of good books are usually the worst parts, that is too bad about good books.

Some bad books have good sex in them. And sex that I can see is somebody else's.

I want to have the sex that's mine, that sex that I have, okay.

Time to tell the difference between what's emitted and what's left over and what was there in the first place.


May 5, 2012

The news


It feels to me that everything in our culture is wrong, everything is sick, misguided, lacking empathy and devoid of wisdom. But I know this 'everything' of mine is also misguided. Because we need to find the openings that already exist, so there is something to build from. Nothing starts from absolute scratch. And there are good moments everywhere and in (almost) everything

Yesterday I was reading a newspaper and thought: if newspapers are filled with lies, half-truths, tepid spectacle and propaganda, it would simply be better not to have them. If by some act of magic all the newspapers disappeared tomorrow, what would it be like? Since this is an impossible, hypothetical situation: let's say there would still be information available on the internet. But what kind of information? Is there any way one could say it might be better or worse?

The strange thing is not that the newspapers reflect the interests of their corporate owners, but that there would be any reason to believe it might be otherwise. I have never much believed in objectivity, journalistic or otherwise. I think objectivity is the perfect cover for propaganda. It is a way of saying: my position is in fact not my position at all, rather it is an objective truth. I believe that admitting to ones subjective biases (while at the same time questioning them) brings us much closer to reality. All thinking is autobiographical.

When I write these things it is always at the back of my mind that I have no high horse to ride forward on. I am afraid of people and too much want to be famous (like many artists and writers, I suppose.) Even though all my small experiences of success so far have only (or mainly) made me miserable. And I am so full of doubts sometimes it is like I barely exist. But we cannot fight injustice with doubts. As a mode of thinking doubt can be rich, but as a weapon it is weak.

Objectivity is of course connected to the paradigm of the scientific method. But this seemingly obvious connection sidesteps the fact that science is also full of doubt. About doubting received wisdoms and wanting to test them through experiment. When something is described as a scientific fact we think we can rely on it with some certainty, but it is perfectly possible that some new scientific fact might sweep it away tomorrow. Scientific facts are also achieved by reducing the number of parameters one takes into consideration. The oil makes the car go fast, but the oil also causes pollution. The scientists working on making the car go faster must focus their energy on only one of these facts. (Unlike the scientists one lab over developing hybrid vehicles.) The newspaper gives us (often incomplete or out-of-context) information, but it also shapes our subjectivity, our understanding of the world. And in this, by it's very nature, it must be narrow. In cannot shape our subjectivity in an open, full, curiosity-enriching manner. Newspapers are simply not built like that, nor to they set themselves such goals.

Can we imagine a different model? That the word 'news' might represent something completely different than it does today? Here is a fictional scenario: in ever neighborhood their would be three people elected by the community whose full time job it would be to know what's going on in the world. They would also assign certain local people the task of researching specific questions or issues. They would be in regular communication with others who do a similar job around the world. Once a week the neighborhood gathers and hears a presentation of the news. Then everyone can ask questions and discuss.

Because the other thing I constantly wonder is why we need to hear these things every day? It seems once a week, or even once a month, would be more than sufficient.


Lisa Robertson's minimalist fable about the sociality of intuition


In Kants words:

The light dove cleaving in free flight the thin air, whose resistance it feels, might imagine that her movements would be far more free and rapid in airless space. Just in the same way did Plato, abandoning the world of sense because of the narrow limits it sets to the understanding, venture upon the wings of ideas beyond it, into the void space of pure intellect. He did not reflect that he made no progress by all his efforts; for he met with no resistance which might serve him for a support, as it were, whereon to rest, and on which he might apply his powers, in order to let the intellect acquire movement for its progress.

I read Kant's casting of resistance or contingency as rest or support, necessary to movement or change, as a minimalist fable about the sociality of intuition: Nothing is represented to and for the intuition which has not met with the sheer resistance and partial histories of unpredictable bodies.

[From Lisa Roberson's essay Perspectors/Melancholia which can be found in her prose collection Nilling.]


May 4, 2012

It's true that I'm at war with myself


It's true that I'm at war with myself
and that nothing good can come from being
at war with oneself
but I think your work might benefit
from being at war with yourself
just a little bit more

And by you I mean all of you
at war with oneself and at war with
the world
and against war
completely, utterly and totally
against war
against it and in it

For war one requires an army
I am not an army
often I don't know what I am
where there is fascism one
must fight against it
there are so many things one must
fight against
some committing crimes of pure power
are evil while others are only misguided
and evil is also misguided
I change so little
how can I expect others to change more?

I know it is naïve and trite
to speak so generally
about such general things
but I'm not afraid of being naïve
and I'm not afraid of being wrong