Sunday, November 30, 2008

bread and circuses

a thought for the thoughtful

We are having an economic melt-down, and a political melt-down - that seems to be leading to a societal melt-down (just read some of the comments on the boards at CBC, G&M, NP, MacLean's, etc. There is talk of Harper proroguing Parliament, illegal tape recordings, "coups d'etat" (oh please!), "bloodless coup" (I'm swooning now), internecine squabbling about who gets to be PM, separatist and socialists, Western secession, with-holding food supplies to Ontario and Quebec (they produce about 80% of their own food).

I've been meaning to write about The Five Stages of Collapse
So here are the five stages as I defined them almost a year ago. The little check-mark next to "financial collapse" is there to remind us that we are not here to quibble or equivocate, because Stage 1 is pretty far along. Stages 2 and 3 - commercial and political collapse, are driven by financial collapse, and will overlap each other. Right now, it is unclear which one is farther along. On the one hand, there are signs that global shipping is grinding to a halt, and that big box retailers are in for a very bad time, with many stores likely to close following a disastrous Christmas season. On the other hand, states are already experiencing massive budget shortfalls, laying off state workers, cutting back on programs, and are starting to beg the federal government for bail-out money
The article is worth the read. My take is that financial, commercial and political collapse are well under way, societal collapse is coming, and cultural collapse will follow thereafter (no more Internet, no more mp3s, no more movies, books, no more electricity, no more schools, hospitals,...those kinds of things).

I get this little niggling in the back of my mind of the SPP agreement Harper signed with Bush last Valentine's Day - that permits American military to enter Canada in "the case of an emergency". What could be more of an emergency for Harper than getting his butt kicked to the curb?

So how about those numbers? I was wrong about the 7000 TSX, and there is a rather bullish sucker rally on. Strangely, it took off on news of the impending "constitutional crisis" (are you scared yet?).

Mayhem in Mumbai. Catastrophe in Congo. Giant meteorites! Dogs and ponies, and bread and circii (or circuses, if you must). How's that employment security? Thinking of buying a pre-sale? How about "moving up"? There are now 3 miserable houses on miserably-sized lots for under $400K in all of East Van. You still have to pay over $400K for a full(ish)-sized lot. It's not sinking in yet.

I hear a train a-coming...

Friday, November 28, 2008

no comment

I am practically speechless, I have too much to say. Where to start? Where to finish? "There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life." That is what Fellini said.

The "Old Chinese Curse" (supposedly, NOT!) May you live in interesting times seems applicable here too. Things certainly are interesting - fascinating, even. I am digesting so much information these days that I am in overload mode. There is a lot of really serious shite coming down the pike. Another of my favourite quotes (from NASA) is; Don't let your pre-occupation with reality stifle your imagination. Yeah! I could lay out all kinds of wild scenarios...

My mind has been turning back to art. It is a nice refuge from the madness. That is why we do it. The painting above is entitled Half Life. You can draw your own meanings and context from it.

The one below is entitled The Cleaning of Democracy - Lima 2001. It was inspired by student protests against Fujimori - in which they symbolically washed Peruvian flags outside the government buildings - to be rid of the corruption that was tainting the country. Those could be Canadian flags washed of the Maple Leaf. Today, we have the Opposition building a coalition to bring down the Conservatives, and cleansing our own Parliament of their stench. I am most excited about this.

We are on shifting ground, and I see no stability in sight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the big ones

Thanks to Saturday Night Live for providing me with some blog fodder.

I get weary of the doom and gloom, so a little levity is welcome.

Update: SNL/NBC seems to have canned the YouTube vid, but I found another...

Friday, November 21, 2008

TSX - the week in moving pictures

My holdings are down ~50% this week. Such fleeting exuberance I had 6 months ago, such nebulous hope. It is just not as much fun as the track. At least there, you get to see the jockeys fall off of their horses. Watching the numbers turn red on the board is just boring. Though, I thought that it was funny that Washington sent the automotive executives home on their private jets to come up with a business plan. Wankers.

So in lieu of any meaningful analysis, some exciting video in representation of the markets this week.

The TSX is up some today, but yesterday it sure looked like the above video - with the same cartoonishness. I bet that it goes below 7000 on Monday.

What to do with that leased BMW that you can no longer afford. Strangely, I found the denouement to be funny in its impotence.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I've been as busy as a hen on an anthill - doing lots of reading, trying to figure out what the heck is going on in this world. I don't have much of a clue, but that is okay - nobody else does either. I could write about what I think is going on, but there is a shortage of tin foil, so I will spare you from that for now.

The $700 billion bail out package in the States is more like $2 trillion, and it is probably much more than that. Goldman Sachs is purportedly using $7 billion of the $10 billion that they received for Christmas bonuses for the big-wigs. WTF? Same band, same song. RE continues to unwind, but things are sticky on the way down, or are they? Now, the "Obama Factor" is going to save Vancouver RE! The credit card companies keep cranking up my credit limit, and offering me 2.99% rates for six months - to go on a winter vacation, or buy Christmas presents, or consolidate other debt (that I do not have). Credit Crunch my eye. Condo projects are biting the dust in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary...and there are big holes in the ground where the buildings were supposed to go up. So reminiscent of the early 1990s. Garth Turner is writing about squirrel meat and canned beans, shot guns and ammo (he is sounding jaded). I was squawking about a Depression 5 years ago, and people though I was nuts, but now it is in the main stream of consciousness. Have a gander at this video - from Fox News, no less. You have to love such an interview taking place in a bar.

It is all getting terribly repetitive. Deck chairs and icebergs and sinking ships. Gaack!

Most poignant quote of the day - Forget about gold – the ONLY precious metal is lead.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


You may have already seen this, but I thought that it was wryly funny.

Okay, I just have no time or energy right now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I came across this (redacted) story in the Glum and Moving (italics and emboldening mine), about a woman who waited too long to list. I wonder how many stories like this there are - aside from the flippers with shooting stars in their eyes.
When Pat Webb moved to Vancouver a year ago, she didn't think twice about buying a condo in tony Kitsilano...

Perhaps she ought to have had a sober second thought.

But in August, the 70-year-old retiree decided to move back to the United States. She had sensed Vancouver's market was slowing, but a neighbour's condo had sold a week earlier, so she too tried to sell.

And she realized that the market is even more fickle than she.

She listed her one-bedroom, 705-square-foot condo for the price she paid – $509,000 – on Aug. 30. Ms. Webb has since reduced that to $485,000. It still hasn't sold.

That sucks. She tried to sell it for what she paid for it, and couldn't. Plus, she has not accounted for the Property Transfer Tax, lawyer fees, RE agent commission, etc. Then, along came the stock market troubles. I sure hope that she didn't get burned on that, on top of the condo losses.

Today time is all but up, as Ms. Webb is moving back to California. Barring a last-minute miracle sale by her agent, Lindsay Wilkinson, Ms. Webb said she will try to rent out the condo this year and relist in the spring.

Waiting for a miracle... That is sad. I don't think that she realizes that when she re-lists in the spring, the market will have eroded by tens of thousands of dollars more. Her best move would be to bite the bullet, and list for $429K now, else she will be following the market all the way to the bottom.

“I'm disappointed, but not overly surprised,” she said. “I was right on the cusp and then [the market] changed. So timing's everything.”
That has got to hurt. It just illustrates that one can't time the market.

Incidentally, thanks Derek and Brian, for the e-mails. I did not get a chance to remark on them here before they became stale.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

sesame street

One of these things is not like the other one...

I read something that prompted me to look and see what is available in Beverly Hills, and found this 3 bedroom/3.5 bath beauty for $2,995,000. It is on a half acre (21,825 square feet), and basks in warmth and sunshine year-round. And, you might bump into Salma Hayek whilst looking over the asparagus and arugula at the Atelier Market.

So, maybe you can't get a Green Card, and need to settle for something in Vancouver. There is always V738247 in Shaughnessy for $2,888,000. On a 16,748 square foot lot, 3 bedrooms, with 2.5 baths, it basks in sunshine and relative warmth for about 100 days per year. And you might bump into David Emerson whilst having your BMW lubed. of these things is not the same (although the prices are so close).

Things are still way out of whack here folks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

terminal velocity in terminal city

Most hopeful blurb of the day...
Priced to sell is this immaculate Renfrew Heights bungalow boasting 3 bdrms up plus a 2 bdrm basement suite. Features 14 year old kitchen overlooking the sundrenched South facing backyard, updated bathroom, hardwood floors on the main, double glazed windows plus a superb location, half block to Gladstone Elementary & within walking distance to the Skytrain.
$595,000.00 2610 E 21ST AV MLS® V724803

It may have been priced to sell last spring, but those days are so over. Chop $80K off, and you might get some action, but you better be quick! That 14 year old kitchen is almost 15 years old, and that doesn't sound like such a great feature. Where is the granite? The stainless steel, and oiled glass? And that sun-drenched back yard is a faint memory until next June. By that time, you will be glad to sell for $395k.

MLS® V726475 may well be one of the "better" deals out there. This is a fairly quiet area, and there is purportedly an 8,321 sq ft lot for $555k. The lot seems quite irregular, but it is smoking big.

Things are definitely moderating, but there is a long way to fall yet.