My review of Michael Lewis’ new book The Big Short appears in the Christian Science Monitor this morning. If you’ve read Lewis before (Moneyball, Liar’s Poker), you know he can spin a good tale. The Big Short is no exception. The most rewarding aspect of the book, though, is that it provides a clear but comprehensive primer on the factors that caused the 2008 financial crash:
CDOs took the worst pieces of each subprime bond and recombined them into a new product that was meant to appear less risky than the sum of its parts. The gambit was like a meatpacker grinding together bits of bone and gristle and calling it top sirloin, and it worked because Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s – the meat inspectors of the financial world – were either asleep at the wheel or on the take, depending on your level of cynicism. Regardless, CDOs opened the possibility of an infinite regress of wagers – a bet on a bet on a bet – and enabled speculation in subprime mortgage bonds to reach the economy-destroying heights that it did.
I made a false start at War and Peace last summer and then picked it up again in December. Last week after three months of reading, I finished it. It was a wonderful experience (I already miss having the book to turn to each night) and I wrote an essay for The Millions reflecting on all the different ways the book came to affect my life.
The essay has since made its way over to Reddit, so if you use the site you can check it out there.
I had two pieces published last week. The first is on a recent study of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code that revealed glaring inconsistencies and excesses in the degree to which different crimes are punished, and which blamed legislative hyperactivity for the problems.
The second piece is an interview with independent filmmaker Mynette Louie, whose recent film Children of Invention has played well on the festival circuit but has had trouble making back its budget. The interview focuses on how the same trends that are affecting all types of media- the fragmentation of audiences and the glut of content- have changed independent film.