Sunday, April 20, 2008


To pleasant songs my work was erstwhile given, and bright were all my labours then; but now in tears to sad refrains am I compelled to turn. Thus my maimed Muses guide my pen, and gloomy songs make no feigned tears bedew my face.

— Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Things are a mite quiet here at the Volcano Lair, Dear Readers.

I assume the clever among you will have already inferred this fact from the relentless drumroll in the financial press about declining M&A volumes, struggling investment banks, and the like. Blah, blah, blah.

Like all dutiful merger advisors, I continue to do my best to persuade my corporate clients that now is the time to strike, while Steve Schwarzman and Henry Kravis are busy renovating their secret Italian love nest away from the harsh glare of media scrutiny. But the intelligent and well-funded among these—a distressingly high proportion thereof, to my continual disappointment—just look at me skeptically and say, "Why bother?"1

Indeed, "why bother" is an attitude I perceive generally in the financial zeitgeist at present. The media, sad to say, are not helping.

Admit it, now, how many of you are enthralled to pick up your morning newspaper to read the 337th story this month on the subprime/mortgage/CDO/CDS/auction rate security crisis du jour and whether it is a) over, b) just getting started, or c) all Ben Bernanke's fault? Even the perma-bearish Bloggers of the Apocalypse, like Nouriel Roubini and pals, have become tired and tiresome to read; now, in what should be their hour of glory. They were a lot more fun to listen to when the party was in full swing, and their jeremiads carried the desperate tang of Cassandras who know they are right but can get no-one to listen.

Meanwhile, the rest of us soldier on, heads down, with appropriately downcast and guilty expressions painted on our faces to show that we, too, realize we were at fault in this and therefore should not be sacrificed on the General Altar of Economic Contrition. Even the profiles of potential villains of the month we read nowadays, like those of mortgage meltdown lottery winner John Paulson and evil-genius-turned-bumbling-oaf Stephen Feinberg, carry all the gustatory excitement of cold mashed potatoes on a dirty plate. Who cares?

It is against this cheerless background that your Dedicated Correspondent finds it difficult to lift the proverbial pen and dash off yet another scintillating missive from the frontiers of Vanity, Hubris, and Financial Shenanigans. If they are not in fact being good, the Naughty are busy pretending to be so—or at least hiding in St. Tropez—and the Vain and Hubristic are mostly lying in such an impressive pile of smoking ruins that even the most vengeful scold is getting tired of pissing on their ashes.

In short, Dear Readers, I lack material.

But I have high hopes that this condition is merely temporary. Neither economic recession—whether in progress, merely looming, or just a figment of anti-capitalist scaremongers—nor a newly discovered probity and sobriety among the Captains of Finance and Industry can persuade me that Human Folly has been repealed in perpetuum. I am unshakeable in my belief that there are individuals out there, right now, who are planning their own apotheosis and subsequent self-immolation on the field of Mammon with such a grandeur and flair that my very fingertips tingle with excitement. I promise you, Faithful Readers, that as soon as they lumber out I will set forth, quill and keyboard in hand, to puncture their pomposity and skewer their self-regard as of old.

In the meantime, I can do little more than paraphrase the Immortal Bard:

"An ass, an ass! My kingdom for an ass!"

1 The unintelligent and underfunded generally ask another question: "Can you introduce us to your restructuring partner?"
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