Tag Archives: Michael Lewis

WHAT TO READ: Chipotle Cups?

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Before there were smartphones and iPads, we used to read cereal boxes while we were eating — and we loved it.

This, I assume, is the driving principle behind a bunch of new paper products at your local Chipotle, which will feature short pieces by authors including Michael Lewis, Toni Morrison and George Saunders. The idea is the spawn of Jonathan Safran Foer who “was sitting at a Chipotle one day, when he realized that he had nothing to do while noshing on his burrito. He had neglected to bring a book or magazine, and he didn’t yet own a smartphone. ‘I really just wanted to die with frustration.'”

Out of this horrible experience was born the idea for something interesting on the cups. And rather than proposing that the next edition of McSweeney’s be published as a sleeve of paper cups, Safran Foer emailed Steve Ells, Chipotle’s CEO. Read the full history here.

I wish I could say something smart-alecky about this like it’s a dumb idea, but it’s actually a really cool idea.  And this is not the first cool, quick art that Chipotle has been party to.

Go stuff your face and stuff your brain at the same time.

– Michael Moats

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CSI: Wall Street

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
How a few smart weirdos actually made money in the last five years
Status: Available now no money down low interest no need to qualify!

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

FOR ALL OF ITS ENGAGING STORIES, excellent journalism and unbelievable real life events, the most important section of “The Big Short” comes on page 14, when a financial analyst studying subprime mortgage data before the crash has a revelation about what he is seeing:

“It was as if the ordinary rules of finance had been suspended in response to a social problem. A thought crossed his mind: How do you make poor people feel wealthy when wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.”

For my money, this is Patient Zero of the financial crisis. To be sure, greed and fraud and poor oversight from both government and financial institutions played a key role.  But if you want to talk about how Wall Street managed to establish its dumbass ideas as a pillar of our nation’s economy, find out where it received buy-in from the American people. And not just poor Americans, but everyday American families.

Once upon a time a family could get by on a single income, until, gradually, two incomes became necessary to sustain a middle class existence. By the turn of the 21st century, a lot of two-income families, whose incomes were not rising, needed some way to generate more money to keep up with the costs of paying for health insurance and/or sending the kids to college. Those families could add a third income — which despite its quaint, child labor Industrial Revolution era charm, never really caught on (though there’s still hope!).  Or they could take out a loan on the one financial asset whose value had kept up with everything else: their home. Historically low interest rates made it easier to swallow, and we went on thinking all was well, until it wasn’t.

These few lines from page 14 are also important because they are, for the most part, the only glimpse Lewis provides of the saddest stories in all this: the people who were left with nothing but damaged collateral when the market fell out, and to this day have received less relief than is good for them or our country. “The Big Short” is, in fact, the opposite story. Over the course of the book, Lewis follows a handful of eccentrics who managed to make money betting against the system. The approach is risky since, well, just imagine the pitch meeting:

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