F RONT S TREET March 2011
... VERY I NTERESTING
In Which We... Francisco Marco, Matador, seen here getting gored at the Festival of San Fermin.
Red Menace Blow on page 11
Wreck a on page 15
Run with the Bulls on page 6
Deliver a Great Speech, Fearlessly on page 4
Bourbon on page 13
Eat Sheep Well on page 14
THE NEXT ASSET BUBBLE?
From The Editor What is Front Sreet? It i s T H E C U R E F O R C O M M O N CONVERSATION. Front Street it is what we all want, but can’t find on the internet: Witty insight into world events, practical tips on getting ahead in life, and telling one a hell of a good story. Is Front Street libertarian? Possibly, but a little Rastafarian as well. We like hunting, except for those of us who don’t. We are free-market because it makes us richer and healthier and stuﬀ cheaper and better for more people. But you’d better pay it back or everything will go to hell. We are anti-whining and pro-standing-on-your-own-two-feet. We wish ascots would come back in style, but understand that they won’t and why. Live your life – work hard – and enjoy the spoils. Be nice. Mostly, we think adults should live their lives the way they want to live it and take the consequences. Career takes up most of our waking hours, so we’d better be good at what we do and learn to enjoy it. So Front Street is accessible insight and commentary into today’s world of business and culture. We’d better make our time oﬀ the clock count too. Have long conversations with your children before they learn what is expected of them, talk to your grandparents after they’ve stopped caring about it. So Front Street is intrepid adventure. Make your life interesting, VERY INTERESTING. Front Street Street is about an interesting life. Go run with the bulls, swim with sharks, take in a week of Major League spring training, start your own company, restore an old house your way, or make your own beer. Front Street wants to change “That would be great if we...” to “That was great when we...”. Front Street is more than what we want to be; it’s what we can be. If you are going to force a motto from us, it is this: HE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST TOYS MAY WIN, BUT THE ONE WITH THE BEST STORIES NEVER DIES. 2| MARCH
Front Street Media PO Box 111517 Memphis, TN 38111 www.frontstreetdigital.com Managing Editor: RICHARD MURFF Senior Editor: DAVID SEALE Contributing Editors: Bernie Murﬀ, Hugh Ma"ory, Tommy Terre", Jimbo Lattimore, Joe Caufield, Peter Fitzhugh Subscriptions: www.frontstreetdigital.com/ subscriptions Advertising Inquiries: 901.412.7362 or rjmurﬀ@frontstreetdigital.com Editorial Comment and Contributions: firstname.lastname@example.org
All rights reserved. Front Street Communications 2011
Table of Contents FEATURES DOING BUSINESS WITH CHINA: THE DRAGON BLOWS A BUBBLE. page 13.
HEMINGWAY NEVER ATE HERE:SPAIN WINS IT’S FIRST WORLD CUP, THE BULLS STILL RUN, AN OCTOPUS DIES. page 6.
DEPARTMENTS JANUS: Public Speaking: For most of us, it’s scarier than death. page 4
MAMMON: The Dragon Blows a Bubble: Doing business with China is a law unto itself. page 13 Atlas Spinning: A rough year ahead for sovereign debt. page 13
BACCHUS: Bourbon: In the perfect Mint Julep or neat. page 11
EDESIA: Eat Sheep Well. Spring is hear, but there is no need to fear lamb. page 17 A Cheesy Graph. The evidence against $ommage isn’t that damning. page 20
MUSE: Books - A few reads to get you rockin’, laughin’ and and may even get you thinkin’. page 15 Music - Our list of great non-teenie bopper music you aren’t likely to hear on American Idol. page 10
LUDUS: Backstop: David Seale on minor league baseball and the true heart of the game. page 12 Interval Training. Don’t barf in the neighbor’s yard. page 18
EXODUS: Hemingway Never Ate Here: Spain wins it’s first World Cup, the Bulls Still Run, and an Octopus dies. page 6 FRONT STREET | 3
Worse than Death... by Peter Fitzhugh
Most Americans fear public speaking more than death. We think it’s time to check your priorities. PERHAPS IT IS BECAUSE PEOPLE generally don’t know the time and date or their demise while a speaking engagement is staring at you from your smartphone calendar. As far as witnesses go, it’s considered bad form to pass judgment on the way you die. Unlike death, if you cock-up a speech, you have to deal with the consequences. The Greeks invented modern rhetoric, the Romans elevated it to a sport, the Arabs crafted it in to a poetic art, but they didn’t do it by accident. They knew some tricks. To wit, here are some tips that may not conquer death, but will let you survive, even soar, the next time you get in front of the podium. The Opener: The hook is crucial. A good hook sets the tone, it is the foundation. Don’t waste your opener on niceties – save those for the middle or end – begin with a bang: “Next year will change this company forever.” Whatever your hook, don’t fight the murmur of an audience settling in. Wait,
4 |MARCH 2011
never ask, for complete silence. They will give it to you. History’s most renowned speakers waited up to a full minute in tense silence before speaking. This pause works well if there is a Q & A. It helps you frame a non-rambling response while giving you an air of thoughtful gravitas.
Eﬀective: George Bush’s “We will not fail, we will not falter.” Metaphor – Unfortunately, this requires ima gination. Some fodder: flagging sales = sinking ship, a great second quarter = soaring eagle. Lincoln’s “Don’t switch horses in midstream” metaphor got him reelected as the civil The Sound Bite: One of the modern war dragged on. masters of this was Winston Churchill who reduced what you might call the The Quote: It is never a bad idea to sound bite to a simple formula: CREAM show your audience that some revered or Contrast, Rhyme, Echo, Alliteration, figure, generally accepted to be smarter Metaphor. than yourself, agrees with you. The dead Contrast – “There is only one are imbued with a “been to the other side” answer to defeat and that is victory.” gravitas, so smart dead people are the Rhyme – A good subconscious ploy best. for the sound bite, but don’t stress the Quote a universal pariah for the rhyming syllables when speaking or you’ll opposite affect. The National Rifle s o u n d l i ke a p r e a c h e r o r a b ox i n g Association is always throwing around promoter. that quote by Adolph Hitler about Echo – “The thing we have to fear, is universal gun registration making the fear itself.” FDR street safer. It doesn’t matter your stance Alliteration – Like the rhyme, on gun control, no sane person will agree alliteration is an old verbal trick that is with Hitler. very affective when not stressed, but absurd when it is. Absurd: Peter Piper Brevity is the Soul of Wit: Less is Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers. more. The “thud” aﬀect of 90 pages may
get you points in a written report (though probably not) but that sort of heft in a speech will send an audience back to the Fantasy Football stats from whence they came. President William Henry Harrison gave an impressive sounding three-hour inauguration speech – whereupon he got pneumonia and died 32 days later. His predecessor, James K. Polk, spoke for three minutes at his inauguration. Explain yourself and get out.
victims of the law of diminishing returns. The problem is that numerical abstractions are harder on the brain than words like “synergy.” Pick your strongest stat, use it, and move on. When using a powerful stat, remember to bring it down to the dark and bloody earth. “We added 250,000 new customers in 2010, and increased per order volume by 30%...” will give you credibility, now close with “that doubles the number of customers, who have increased their average order by $25.”
The Narrative: The truth is that people remember stories better than they remember speeches. Stories apply your point in a way that stats and abstract words like “synergy” and “incentivize” can’t. Buzzwords may sound clever, but in tr uth most of us are too busy to contemplate abstracts. A message applied is a message understood.
The Wit: Don’t open with a joke. Feel free to use a relevant story that is funny, but like opening niceties, put it in the middle or at the end of your remarks, where it isn’t expected. Never read text meant to be funny – no one but Steve Allen could ever read funny. Just tell it. If you are going to use an old joke, The Question: Posing a question is a make it yours. Your story didn’t happen to good way to engage an audience. It’s got a “a business student in the Northeast” to be a real question though: “Would you but to a kid who lived down the street. pay just $12.99 a year for witty insight into world events, practical tips on getting The Closer: Like any sales pitch, you ahead in life, and a few damn good close a speech with short and powerful, stories?” It is a good question with an and it never hurts to appeal to emotion: to obvious “yes” answer. If you ask “Is duty, patriotism as a stand in to company everybody ready to get excited?”, they will loyalty, do the right thing and soar like the only hate you. The point of a good eagles. rhetorical question isn’t to get an answer; Remember that most of the public it’s to get the audience thinking. If you speaking pitfalls come from lack of press for an answer with a rousing “I can’t preparation. Churchill spent an hour hear you!” they will probably fantasize preparing for each minute of on a speech. about killing you. Churchill was prepared; he was also bold, confident, and himself. FS Regarding the AV Club: Quit. If a power point can be avoided, avoid it. Visual gimmicks are a poor substitute for Above: William Henry Harrison’s inaugural address went on for a compelling idea, and they are used more three hours and the universe as crutches than as props. reeked a horrible vengeance. How many times have you seen a speaker flawlessly set up the laptop, Middle: James K. Polk spoke for connect the projector, open the right file, three minutes at his inauguration. then get the lighting and screen exactly In all the time he saved he went to right? You haven’t. There is always that war over Texas, and bought moment when smart guy is staring at the California, Arizona and New audience saying, “You in the back, can you Mexico. get the lights? Not all of them…one more…no, turn that back on.” Below: Winston Churchill, one of Don’t be that guy. the greatest speakers in history, had to take English three times, The Stats: Lies, Damn Lies and never went to University, and had Statistics aside – a powerful stat can be a a lisp. p o we r f u l to o l f o r y o u r c r e d i b i l i t y. Unfortunately stats are also the first FRONT STREET | 5
Hemingway Never Ate Here.
by Joe Caufield
Spain in a state of unbridled euphoria really is something to see. We were in Pamplona to cover the 2010 Festival of San Fermin, known the world over as the Running of the Bulls. Sometime after I’d driven in from Paris – before I’d suited up to do street battle with a savage, snorting flank steak – Spain had, for the first time, won the FIFA World Cup. To put this into terms a state-bound American can understand: Imagine if the New Orleans Saints had won the 2010 Super Bowl the night before Mardi Gras. 6 |MARCH 2011
PAMPLONA, LIKE NEW ORLEANS, is a very old city known primarily for a convulsing quasi-religious party that defies both common sense and piety. Running down the old city center today isn’t much different from the experience Ernest Hemingway made famous in 1925: same routes, buildings and ankle wrenching cobblestone streets. The whole thing buoyed in a river of cheap red wine. Outside the old city that the world loves and thinks it knows, the rest of Pamplona’s architectural style is what can only be called Modern European Aﬀordable. The architecture hardly matters when a culture known for its passion really turns inside out. The euphoria was hard to describe. Spain exploded with national pride despite the fact that the game had been called at an aquarium in Germany; Paul the Psychic Octopus had predicted the outcome of the al l the German matches, including their loss to Spain. Then Paul predicted Spain’s victory over the Netherlands. Around half-time of the final game – with the score tied 0-0, I was having a lukewarm Spanish beer with a pair of Americans, Larr y and Stephen. It was one of those places you picture a young Hemingway taking it all in. Except for the sign at the door that read, in English, “Hemingway Never Ate Here.” We were eating tapa s that wa s a basically octopus in pie-crust. Which shows you how much faith the Spanish put in psychic octopods. Later that summer the Germans reported that Paul had died of natural causes. FIFA is planning a memorial. There was television set up in the central plaza that wasn’t much smaller than a soccer pitch where the packed crowd was gripped by every movement in a really long and mostly scoreless game. A 1-0 victory in overtime is hardly a blood bath. But you’d never know that from the sudden release of energy in the massive crowd at the final whistle. This was more than the Super Bowl really, it was the Olympics with all the gold on the line – there is a national pride infused into the glory. Unlike countries rich-enough to be cavalier about their patriotism, the Spanish are rabid about theirs. And as they are about to get an expensive bailout from the Germans, they need to hold onto all the pride they can. Within minutes of the victory, everything from hotel balconies to ancient statues of people only the locals had ever heard of were draped with the Spanish flag. All this Spanish nationalism was unexpected in a city that is the capital of Navarre, one of the disputed Basque provinces that’s always trying to secede from Spain. For once they shut up about being another country. Everyone, even the Basque, loves a winner.
Eventually this sense of national pride stirred something inside me, it overwhelmed me. I realized that I was an American and I don’t care about soccer. I went back to the hotel. The cheering and chanting from the street was still going strong when I came downstairs the next morning. It had never really stopped. I skipped breakfast. The entire course from the pen to the ring, the “running of the bulls”, isn’t but about half a mile of well motivated sprint. You don’t need to bulk up on carbs; terrified doses of adrenalin achieve the same result. What you need is to be very nimble. Or at least as nimble as a fairly sedentary forty-year old man who is overly fond of cocktail hour can be. What was going on around me wasn’t “cocktails.” It may have been in honor of the town’s patron saint, but it was just a gigantic drunken mêlée. Still, the festival organizers in Pamplona are fairly strict about the dress code: White shirt, white pants, red sash at the waist, red kerchief around the neck. For a much more eloquent description go dust of your copy of The Sun Also Rises. It hasn’t changed. A Your note on the shoes: white. Stadium or mine... You’d think that running shoes would be the best choice but you’d be wrong. It doesn’t matter how in shape you are, or hi-tech your shoes m a y b e , y o u a r e n’t outrunning a bull. The trick is to be able to get out of the way at the right time. You are really better off with basketball shoes. Larry the American was telling me this while we were stretching before the run. While I was bending over to touch the toes of my Saucony r unning shoes, actually. Stephen was up in the hotel room, practicing his postgoring phone call to Mrs. Larry. We weren’t the only ones doing stretches, but we were in the minority. Simon, an Australian, was jogging in place. Ricardo, a kid who’d sloshed beer on me last night, had a diﬀerent approach. He was throwing up in an alley and wiping his mouth with the Spanish flag he was wearing as a cape. About thirty foreigners surrounded by every university student in Europe, all of who had been drinking for about twenty consecutive hours. These were the people who had been in the square tailgating before the World Cup final, the ones who had exploded into a fury of nationalism and championship zeal afterwards, the ones who’d kept me up all night. Just good folks. The crowd from last night wasn’t doing anything we’d call stretching, but the awkwardness of changing clothes in the street while that drunk was something to watch. These people were plenty liquid. Thanks to the time-honored miracle of the street vendor, none of these patriotic sports fans actually went home to
FRONT STREET | 7
Blood, Signage and semi-nudity: Animal Rights Activists, seen here making themselves obvious.
change into the appropriate get-up. For about €10 you can buy the whole kit on the street. While I’m not certain what the open container, public intoxication or nudity laws are in Spain, if the establishment turns a blind eye for San Fermin, they completely ignore the mayhem for a World Cup victory. It wasn’t all fiesta. Spain apparently has the same professional worriers and killjoys as America. There were protestors from organizations like PETA, but in the mêlée drastic measures were taken to not get lost in the crowd. The measure was pockets of women wearing plastic horns, buﬀ panties, and nothing else holding up signs in various languages. The message was universal: “Shame on you!” They were delightful girls but with one passing glance it was obvious which ones were the true believers and which were the actresses and models on PETA payroll. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, semi-nude is semi-nude, but anyone who has witnessed a protest rally knows that true believers are generally not lookers. That’s why they scream and hold placards, so people will notice them. Really good-looking people rarely have to resort to signage or covering themselves in blood to get attention – they just smile. Really good-looking people are also getting invited to be naked by nearly everyone who can work up the nerve. Unlike the average true believer, they’ve got nudity options. Can you imagine a semi-nude National Organization of Women rally? You couldn’t unsee that. “Alright, free day-care in the workplace…just, for the love of God…put your shirt back on!” Actually, that sort of distinction happens with the bulls, too. Mixed in with the dozen or so fearsome wild black bulls were some tame brown ones (who weigh about the same). The brown ones, for the record, are not petting zoo candidates. They are trained to run from the pen to the ring and keep the black ones from getting turned around. They are not there to talk their wild brethren down should you run afoul of one. We’d been told that rockets would signal the start of the run, but perhaps Spain’s financial woes were already starting to
8 |MARCH 2011
pinch. What they called a rocket sounded more like a firecracker or someone dropping a broom. Still, the mob lurched forward and if you missed that you’d get trampled. I wedged myself between Larry the American and Simon the Australian because they seemed sober and limber as opposed to 99% of the crowd that was still slinging sangria and beer on each other. It hardly mattered though, this wasn’t a race in any traditional sense: it was forward falling mosh pit. I’d been knocked around like this before, but I was 19 and it was a Clash concert. It’s hard to run full speed for long distances when you are completely blotto, so despite the home crowd’s relative age advantage, we thinned out along the route quickly. I have no idea what kind of carnage was taking place behind me because I wasn’t about to look back. Larry, in better shape than me, was taking the full out run in stride. Then he looked. The human face is capable of radical transformation: the perfectly pleasant face of an American enjoying a spirited jaunt in a foreign country turned to get a bearing on the stampeding herd behind us. The face that pivoted back was decidedly more business-like. We might even call it pensive. Then, from behind, came a surge of laggards trying to make one last eﬀort to stay ahead of the bulls. Larry and Simon were gone and some caped Spaniard was at my right. When he tried to climb me I decided it was time to change tack. I stumbled headlong to a wall. The caped Spaniard fell, knocked over by a guy getting knocked over by a bull. Despite the connectivity, I can’t say I felt one with the universe. The only thing to do is flatten yourself and pray for the bubble wrap of drunken Spanish good will. Once the herd overtakes you, jump back in and keep running to the bullring. There you’ll find yourself in the ring with the angry and confused wild bulls that suddenly realize there is no escape from their predicament. Which common sense tells you is exactly where you don’t want to be.
Left: The Bulls, seen here filing their official protests. Below: Tontos!
The true spirit of the festival of San Fermin isn’t about common sense. Runners were jolting over to the bulls to touch them a dart away without being gored. The crowd, normal sangria-swilling drunks safe in their seats, love this. The stadium fills with calls of “Tontos!” “Are they cheering for the bull?” I asked Simon. “No, Mate, they aren’t screaming Toros, they’re screaming Tontos. Listen!” They were. Tontos! “What does Tontos mean?” I asked. “It means dumbass.” Some poor fool slapped a black bull on its forward flank. Before he could get clear, he was gored in the leg and flung into the air. Shouts of “Tontos!” rolled down from the seats. No one was dead yet, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. Beneath the ring there is a bullfighting museum. The costumes on display there are as beautiful as coronation robes. The intricacies of the dance between bull and matador would take a lifetime to master. But given the scene I’d just witnessed there was only one question I had to ask: What happens to a bull if it kills someone? “That is a bad bull.” Said the old man conducting a tour. “They go here.” He waved to the wall hung with a heads of bulls past. “Wait a minute, some of those are cows.” I said. “Those are the mothers of homicidal bulls. They breed badly.” It did make me wonder if we’d have so much crime if we’d hang our criminals and their parents. I don’t want to find out. Outside, there were still protestors, still drunks milling around. Yet, the streets seemed empty after a frantic eightminute haul. Hemingway had mixed emotions about bullfighting: blood sport, thing of beauty, or both? Only one word kept ringing in my head, Tontos, Tontos, Tontos! You can say a lot of things about the Spanish, some good and some bad, but you have to admit that they are perceptive about the human condition. FS
Memo to American’s Traveling Abroad: HOW TO BEHAVE WHEN GRIEVOUSLY WOUNDED BY OWN SENSE OF ADVENTURE 1. If you think that your Spanish medics are teasing you about the blood gushing out of your trespassed backside, they are. But right now they are your only hope for avoiding a truly undignified but hilarious obit. Keep your mouth shut and take it like a man. 2. Order a hamburger before you leave. Contrary to what you might think, this is very local. Those bulls that nearly killed you before they were killed by the fellow in the fancy pants are turned into hamburger. Eating a bull burger may be the only way to regain your dignity if you executed yourself poorly. 3. It will be the worst hamburger you ever eat. Did you see any fat on that thing that went stampeding by? You will love America more 4. Should your picture wind up on the internet: Lie and Deny. That’s why everyone dresses alike.
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Music OUR LIST OF GREAT NON-TEENIE BOPPER MUSIC YOU AREN’T LIKELY TO HEAR ON AMERICAN IDOL... MATTHEW MAYFIELD. This Birmingham-based singer-songwriter already has a large core audience from his days in Moses Mayfield and music featured on two seasons of Gray’s Anatomy. He’s also prolific: he tours constantly and released several monthly EP’s this past spring, and all are great, but we are partial to Man-Made Machines. His love songs are intelligent but with edge, and he has that rare gift of being able to balance acoustic ballads with tasty rockers. If pressed to give a favorite, his 2009 album, Five Chance Remain Hers is at the top. “Open Road” and “Her Name Was December” are great examples of his love song/rocker one-two punch. For girls who wish Dave Matthews would write more love songs and guys who think John Mayer needs a punch in his sensitive nose, Matthew Mayfield is the answer.
DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS . They may be based in Nashville, but Drew’s roots are definitely in his hometown of Memphis. Drew balances tenderness with energy, and his songwriting is the perfect vehicle for The Neighbors’ guitar and harmonies-driven roots rock. His wife, Ellie is an excellent vocal foil for Drew’s soulful baritone, especially in songs like “Heartache Heartbreak” and “Live Forever”. They released Live Forever in December of 2009 and toured all over the US in 2010 in support of it. Our favorite is their 2008 album Passenger Seat. In fact, “Fire and Dynamite” may be in our top 10 favorite songs ever. Ever.
THE WHIGS. One of the best songs of 2010 is the Whigs’ “Kill Me Carolynne”, so they made this list. A power pop trio out of Athens, GA, The Whigs spent 2010 selling out clubs and small arenas in Europe and the States in support of March’s In The Dark. Then spent the fall opening for Kings of Leon in arenas worldwide. Like contemporaries Snow Patrol and Franz Ferdinand, they deliver edgy pop rock, but with a Southern smirk and swagger. In The Dark makes you believe they’d drink a few beers with you, crack a few jokes, and stand behind you in a bar fight later on.
VULTURE WHALE. You know an album is terrific when your favorite song on it changes every time you listen to it. Vulture Whale’s 2009 Vulture Whale 2 has that eﬀect on us. Mix The Stones with Cheap Trick and Mike Campbell’s guitar, then add some tongue in cheek, and you’re close to VW. While their self-titled debut in 2008 has some great moments - “You Shoulda Been Rockin’” and “Land It” are superb - and their 2010 EP, Bamboo You, takes power pop and adds some British vocals for some memorable musical moments, VW2 is a force with which to be reckoned. “Tote It To Cleveland, AL”, “What Do”, “Sugar”, and “That’s Cold” are just a few powerful gems among many. The Birmingham quartet will be releasing Vulture Whale 3 in early 2011, and for a bonus, check out VW lead singer Wes McDonald’s truly excellent solo album The Guest.
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Bacchus THE FABLED MINT JULEP... A
CLASSIC BOOK IS ONE THAT EVERYONE HAS HEARD OF,
but no one has read. The same goes for the South’s classic drink. Think horses and hounds, seersucker and the heat – combine bourbon, mint, sugar and ice and what you have, ladies and gents, is a Mint Julep. That perennial classic of local ingredients and local spirit. As refreshing a drink as you can imagine and, best of all, simple to make. First: Use good, solid Ke n t u c k y b o u r b o n . A Tennessee bourbon will do just fine as long as it is not Jack Daniel’s or a knock-oﬀ Tennessee Whiskey. There is a diﬀerence. Jack Daniel’s has a flavor that is unique and wonderful, but its sweetness will throw things off later in the process. Neither Scotch nor Rye will do the trick either. What you need, as Walker Percy put it, is a “little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx.” He wasn’t being fancy, Dr. Percy was a MD. Now: Put half an inch of sugar into the bottom of a pewter or silver julep cup (a frosted cocktail glass will do), and dampen it with water. Crush a leaf or two of mint and muddle it all together at the bottom with a spoon. Then: Crush your ice. If your fridge won’t give you crushed ice, use the blender or – for the purist – wrap it in a kitchen towel and whack it with a hammer. You are making a bourbon slushy. Slip in another sprig or two of mint along the side of the glass and pack the powered ice down to where nothing else can possibly fit into the glass. After which: Pour your bourbon into the full glass. The ice will a) make room for the bourbon and b) frost your glass immediately with a good stir or two. A little grated nutmeg on top and you have stepped into the stuﬀ of legend. It’s that simple - the classics always are. Tread lightly here, though, this is the drink that introduced William Faulkner to bourbon. If you have the time to prepare a head of time, whip up a mint simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water, handful of mint leaves, brought to a boil for five minutes) which will make the bourbon and the sweet mix more evenly. Either way, there is about five ounces of bourbon in it so savor the flavor. Think of it like a breast: one isn’t enough, three is too many. And now you know.
BUT DRINK THIS BEAUTY AS IT COMES.... RIDGEMONT RESERVE 1792 This classic has a good price point, at between $24-27 Ridgemont Reserve 1792 is a bargain for what you get. Although we’re sure it would make a fantastic julep, you might develop a “Big Daddy” mien out of whack with the modern world. It is so good you may not want to dilute the spicy, citrus hints this gem from Bardstown, KY with foreign flavors. 1792 is a simple, honest bourbon but it has enough of a bite to let you know it’s there. It is lush and oaky. Try this one first on the rocks or with a splash of water.
Why the splash of water? The snobs who used to contain themselves to being insufferable about wine will tell you that a splash of water “opens up” a fine whiskey. And this may be true for all we know. The real reason (and one that won’t make you sound like a tosser) that you want a splash is so you can taste what you’re drinking. The human tongue is overwhelmed by a snort of undiluted spirits. It has nothing to do with being tough or looking like John Wayne. It has everything to do with taste. Which, if you’ve got a purpose for drinking higher that just getting plowed, is why you bought something other than Night Train.
FRONT STREET | 11
BY DAVID SEALE
How Not To watch a ball Game. There are certain things, you just don’t do. IN 2008 I JUMPED AT THE CHANCE to see a game at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, KY. I’d heard the home to the Cincinnatti Reds’ AAA team, the Louisville Bats, was a great minor league park. The park sits on the Ohio River right, on the edge of downtown Louisville. My dad and I assumed, wrongly, that because it is on I-65 along with Nashville and Birmingham and due north of both cities, Louisville is in the Central Time Zone. Not true. So I was glad for once that dad insists on arriving at sporting events an hour early. We arrived just as the first pitch was being thrown. What a welcome LSF provides. The main entrance is a converted train depot; inside, it f e e l s l i ke a b a s e b a l l museum, the walls adorned with life-size, restored and photos of Louisville baseball legends and their greatest moments. You expect Bob Costas to emerge from the shadows. Shops and restaurants make up the interior of the old depot, but we were in a hurry to get to our seats. Through the turnstiles, the stadium opens up. Like newer stadiums in Memphis and Clearwater, the main concourse is open and covered, lined with concessions and smaller shops. Depending upon your seats, (we had great
ones about fifteen rows behind home plate) the downtown skyline or the magnificent bridge spanning the river and connecting Kentucky with Indiana are in full view. The stadium in Louisville was built in 2000, but baseball in the city is goes back much further. Louisville has sponsored a professional baseball team since the late 1800’s. In 1902, it was a charter member of the American Association of Baseball, an aﬃliation it held until the league was absorbed by the International Lea gue in 1998. Outside the stadium is a bronze statue of Louisville native and Dodgers great Pee Wee Reese, and inside Above: One the converted depot are photos of big bat Andy Van Slyke, Willie McGee, Left: and Vince Coleman before they Louisville mascot, seen joined the St Louis Cardinals here World Series teams of 1985 and ‘87. accosting Other Louisville greats include Tommy Lasorta Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk and Honus Wagner. But perhaps the greatest testament to the city’s love and dedication to the national pastime is that Louisville was the first minor league city to draw a million fans, which they did in 1983, surpassing the total attendance of three major league teams that same year. That afternoon, we had the Louisville Bats versus the Pawtucket Sox, the Boston Red Sox AAA aﬃliate, in what would turn out to be an engrossing ball game, as inning after inning went by without a single hit by the Bats. By (Continue on page 19)
12 |MARCH 2011
THE DRAGON BLOWS A BUBBLE By Richard Murﬀ
For the masochist looking for the next great asset bubble – look East young man. China isn’t the home of the next big disaster; it is the next big disaster. THE COUNTRY’S ENTIRE ECONOMY from domestic output, imports, military, is one big asset bubble. Unlike democracies and their unruly private sectors, China spends all its domestic – and most of its foreign – political capital blurring the line between the state and the market. The fundamental difference between China and the dotcom, real estate and financial bubbles is that China is bigger than all of them combined. And they have a shiny new army. Just imagine in Goldman Sachs had private storm troopers and could nationalize condo developments in Arizona. The good news is, that like all bubbles, things are going to get much better in the East before they get much worse. The building spree along the bustling coastline and in the capital continues, but who is filling all that space created is another story. There are blocks of impressive buildings sitting empty: Swish middle class dwellings the rich don’t want, the poor can only dream about and the middle class can’t aﬀord. If the Middle Kingdom doesn’t fit recognized patterns of rising Empire, it does fit the pattern of the classic asset bubble. Beijing
has let the money supply increase by 50% since 2009, interest rates fall, kept the Yuan weak and credit easy. The influx of foreign money isn’t helping, either. There is too much Western money chasing too few assets in China. That is the only way bubbles are made, and it works every time. To make matters stranger, none of that Western money is entirely sure what, exactly, it is chasing in China. The test record for Chinese companies is very short, and the pools of data too small to get a reading on accuracy. China is notorious for papering over its failures and bolstering its homegrown and subsidized successes. Even if the government made data available, take it with a grain of salt. Remember those Chinese gymnasts in the Beijing Olympics? The ones that were the size and build of my nine year old daughter but all had state-issued birth certificates that said they were 16. There is no good way to measure China’s successes or failures: the oﬃcial data will be whatever Beijing says it is. The same way they turn a wiry nine year old into a teenager.
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CAPITALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS Western buy-out firms are profitable when they take control of a company and apply harsh medicine whether the minority owners like it or not. While Chinese firms are very willing to take foreign money, they can’t sell controlling interest. China calls this “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics”, and what it means for foreign buy-out firms is that they cannot work the savage magic they do in the free market. Complete control of the primitive Chinese financial system rests with a government unaware of how capitalist economies really work. China wants to gain access to foreign markets without granting access to theirs. Normally this wouldn’t work but that bubble watch word has kicked in regarding the triumph of China: Irrational Exuberance. Western firms are unsure about how to play this new game. The only thing that they do know is that they are getting into the ring. No one wants to be left out of a market with 1.6 billion nest eggs crazy for all things bourgeois. They have embraced an investment strategy for dealing with these “Chinese Characteristics” called PIPE (Private Investment in Public Equity). Which is what your average stockbroker does the part of the week he isn’t playing golf. The problem for Western firms is that mere stockbrokers don’t fetch those eye-watering fees that buy-out firms are used to making. Chinese firms have been on a buying spree of their own as well. Buyouts by Chinese and Hong Kong firms have accounted for some 10% of the big international buyouts in 2010. Ten years ago, in a reversal of Xuande Emperor’s 1433 order to torch the Chinese fleet, China’s masters urged domestic companies abroad with the slogan, “Go Out.” A dictum that surely sounds more profound in Chinese. Abroad, Chinese firms are hard to ignore – they are so flush with cash that they tend to over pay for assets. Which causes asset price bubbles. This is the same mistake many Japanese firms, flush with savings, made during their boﬀo expansion in the 1980’s. The similarity bears some Eastern-style meditation. To Western eyes, a business, person, or country on a buying spree has either a large income or a long credit line. This isn’t the case with Japan in the 80’s and it isn’t the case with China today. Both countries were net savers until they saw what Western Style foolishness that saved cash could buy and they started spending like lottery winners. Their spending sprees weren’t the result of a booming economy, but the cause of it. No matter how big the Chinese savings glut is, it is also finite. The same can be said of choice targets for Chinese takeovers abroad. The Chinese, traditionally, are fearsome negotiators. The communists, however, are not. Orders are issued and the fellow one rung down executes them. Central planners are, by definition, not prone to negotiate. The Chinese like to deal with single sellers, not waves of contrarian stockholders. Which puts a lot of Chinese money chasing relatively few foreign targets. If history has proven one thing conclusively, it’s that central planners have never succeeded in control a strong economy. Whether the market heels to Beijing, or Beijing heels to the market remains to be seen.
A Tale of Two Cities: Shanghai from two angles
A LAW UNTO THEMSELVES Then there is the matter of the law: in the West, the government acts as a referee of sorts between market players (In theory at least – if you get big enough money, you can get yourself appointed referee a la Henry Paulson and give billions in low interest loans to your buddies at the one bank that doesn’t need bailing out). In China, not only is the government a market player, it is the market player. And it is loathe to sell or give away any interest that will change that position. In addition to regulation that would make even Washington feel grabby, Beijing “oﬀers” “Window Guidance” to their domestic “private” banks. (Of course you’ll excuse the excessive use f quotation marks, it really is the only way the get the spirit of Chinese euphemism existing in the shadows of Communist government communication). Banks and their Window Guidance counselors meet a few times a year to discuss how to a “private” bank ought to be run. This is like having your motherin-law be your court ordered professional mentor. The end result for a lot of Western firms settling up shop in China is that they are forced to hire the otherwise unemployable sons of high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians for fat money and posh titles to ensure political protection from the yawning window of state guidance. Most companies are responsible for the upkeep of communist party cells within their firms. Which is like being forced to take you mother-in-law’s regular bridge partner to lunch. (Continue on page 19)
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TURN OFF THE TELEVISION AND GO READ A BOOK...THE FRONT STREET WILL GET YOU ROCKIN’, LAUGHIN’ AND AND MAY EVEN GET YOU THINKIN’ LIFE by Keith Richards We are assured before page one: “This is the Life. Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten any of it.” What do you say about the long awaited memoir written from ground zero of Rock n’ Roll? You say “Read it!” This isn’t a cheesy kiss and tell, this is the inside story of a movement that defined the second half of the twentieth century. It is also a fascinating look into the artistic process of a lifelong, sometimes rocky collaboration, as well as the story of a young bloke who had no idea what to do with his life other than not make another man’s tea. Life is a genuine memoir, if not a traditional narrative. But where he rambles, it is worth it. Richards, among other things, is an incredibly gifted storyteller, Of course, it helps to be telling the story of modern music. When it is told in a voice so authentic that you can almost hear Keef mumbling his strange tale to you, that’s even better.
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole
Thirty years have passed since John Kennedy Toole’s became the only writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize posthumously for A Confederacy of Dunces. Written in New Orleans in the middle sixties, Toole’s anti-hero, Ignatius J. Reilly, is a one-man assault on the modern age that is funny to the point of madness. It is both a comic masterpiece detailing the job hunt of a “medievalist philosopher” and a testament that education does not equal intelligence. Ignatius is an innocent in the den of the French Quarter peopled by over-sexed beatniks, strippers, pornographers, good cops and bad, homosexuals, lesbians, capitalists, Protestants, Catholics, Y’ats, Doris Day movies and a frazzled parakeet that can only be accused of being itself. During Toole’s lifetime, Dunces was rejected because “it wasn’t about anything.” This is a book about everything. A decade after Toole’s 1969 suicide, his mother pestered novelist Walker Percy into reading the smudged manuscript. When he asked why, she replied, “Because it is a great novel.”
DON’T VOTE IT JUST ENCOURAGES THE BASTARDS by PJ O’Rourke
Regarding P.J. O’Rourke, London’s Mail on Sunday wrote, “...the only person to have more entries in The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations is Oscar Wilde. This makes O’Rourke either the funniest man alive, or the wittiest heterosexual of all time.” With Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards, O’Rourke at sixty has gotten grouchy, as we all knew he would. The good news is that he is much funnier than your father. Released just before the midterm elections, this hilarious read is even more timely with the kick-oﬀ to the 2012 electionering taking hold this spring. This is the book that will put red states and blue, stimulus, health care, sinking dollars (and loads of them) and an entire page on climate change into side-splitting perspective. This is the man who wrote “giving power and money to politicians is like giving car keys and whiskey to teenage boys.” Maybe so, but if we’re gonna take this wild ride, we might as well have a laugh along the way. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, no matter how dedicated a bibliophile, who won’t admit that the future of books starts with a little “e”. Don’t worry, we’ve been through this before: Book binding beat out the old “scroll in a jar method”, Guttenburg’s press put scribes out of work and made all those beautiful illuminated manuscripts artifacts, then the typewriter put a press on every desk.
If we aren’t at the tipping point in the digital revolution. We are very close.
Spring 2012 promises to see the roll out of cheaper competition for Apple’s iPad with Google’s Andriod, Samsung’s Tab, and the LG/T-Moble’s G-Slate. At $299, these will fill the price and functionality gap between iPad’s $499 and dedicated e-readers at $140, bringing down the price of all by Christmas. Lower price, higher functionality, wider selection...the early adaptors seem happy. Here come the rest of us.
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ATLAS SPINNING ... on what makes the world go round. In The Jungle, Upton Sinclair proved to America that no matter how tasty a sausage might be, you really don’t want to see it being made. The same has been famously said about laws. You could say the same thing about securities and hedge funds. The end result might be delicious, but the process is a foul, bloody mess. Books have been written about the messy underside of the supposedly dull bond market: about those halcyon days when “Bond daddies” bragged about scalping customers bad enough to drive them out of business. Then the Wall Street Journal told the world to steer clear of Memphis, poor old George Lenox got shot in his gold Cadillac and the regulators came crashing down. The next bad boys of the investment world were the hedge funds – secretive, unregulated pools of money that explained themselves to no one. They didn’t have to – they promised “absolute returns” (positive returns in up and down markets), and as long as they delivered, investors didn’t care how long the money was locked down. No one asked any questions. In short, as long as there is fat in the sausage, no one really cares how it was made. Then, in 2008, something happened – more to the point – something and someone happened. Hedge Funds dropped 19% that year, proving (a) returns weren’t absolute and (b) that any fool, regardless of a full Windsor knot, can make money in a rising market. And Bernie Madoﬀ happened, and absolute returns went from being memory to mere fantasy. The ensuing regulations, and with a new influx of lawmakers eager to make slap their name on the cause du jour there will be plenty, will reign the hedge funds they way it did with the bond daddies. But be careful what you ask for, it will reign in returns as well. The really good returns will always exist in the shadows – largely because of what is called asymmetrical information (I Canary Warf Trader: seen here thinking violent, Saxon thoughts.
16 |MARCH 2011
know something you don’t). Once you shine a light on those fat returns, they will scatter l i ke r o a c h e s . W h i c h brings us to the first paradox when it comes to regulation and returns: profits hide in asymmetrical information, but that’s where the con men hide as well. Treasuries and muni bonds have a low rate of return because you know what you are getting into. Mutual Funds pay better, have a higher risk, but they still are open about what they’ve done with your money. Hedge Funds traditionally sent qualified investors a statement once a quarter and locked money down for years at a time. They were secretive about what dark tricks they performed to generate those returns largely because managers didn’t have to deal regulators. They are unregulated because they used to only be for the rich, and the rich are supposed to be clever enough to fend for themselves. Which is the second paradox of financial regulation: the laws designed to protect the little guy guarantee that he will be the last to the trough. The magic that held the CMO’s and credit default swaps aloft for so long was largely that no one knew what they were dealing with. It was the financial equivalent of Donald Duck stepping out of an airplane and not falling until he looks down and sees what he’s done. Wall Street has proven that it needs to be reigned in, but be careful what you ask for. The returns will suﬀer because regulators don’t like the wild risks that traders take. Which means that in the head of some trader or quant, somewhere, the equations of new security are coming together. It’ll be a High Risk/High Reward little number that the SEC doesn’t know what to do with. It’ll be for the rich because they can handle it and there will be plenty of fat in it for the broker. The rich will get richer, and the rest of us will want in on the deal. Chances are, they’ll let us in. Repeat. FS
THE MANLY CHEF Eat Sheep Well
Top: Lamb done right. Bottom: Abraham decided not to “french” his son Issac, as an angel points out a nearby ram. Issac’s version of the incident is unrecorded.
A FTER A LONG HIBERNATION the bear awakes to two things: spring and hunger. Well, so do I. Don’t get me wrong, I love those winter hearty soups and stews, but I need some fresh grilled vegetables, a nice side salad, and Yo u ’ l l need a lamb. “frenched” rack. This O Lamb, that gastronomical rite of simply means that the fat spring. It was about ten thousand years and gristle stuck to the ago that sheep were first domesticated in bone portion opposite the the Fertile Crescent, and they’ve been loin has already been born in the early spring ever since. I don’t removed. It’s not a hard know if it’s the first wearing of the process to do: you just cut shepherd’s heavy turtleneck sweater, but between the bones to sheep always feel amorous in the fall. So remove the majority and the birth of the young lamb coincides then scrape the bone clean with the first bits of warmth and color with the back of your knife. after a long and cold winter. That being said, it’s easier I eat a disproportionately small to have your butcher do it. amount of lamb for how much I love it. It’s important that the lamb sits Now using the mustard mixture as the It’s like my favorite hat: I love it, I just outside the refrigerator for about an hour glue, put a thin layer of the herbed-panko don’t remember to wear it that much. before you start cooking. Put it in the over the fat side. Keeping the breaded When I do, I feel a little more dapper. I sink for cleaning purposes. Preheat your side up, put the skillet in a preheated need that; after all, football season is over. oven to 400°F. Get a cast iron skillet hot 400°F degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes It’s expensive, so if I’m making over medium heat - this may take four or depending on how you like it. A meat lamb... I’m swinging for the fences; it’s a thermometer inserted into the thickest five minutes. Rack of Lamb or nothing. Fortunately, it’s Combine a good handful of the part of the meat should read 125°F for pretty easy. panko (Japanese style bread crumbs) with rare, 135°F for medium rare, and as a A good rack of lamb can be delicious a good sprinkling of the fresh chopped mistake for anything above that. Let rest simply seasoned with salt and pepper. rosemar y and thyme, about 1/2 to a for 10 minutes. This goes great with This time I might dress it up a little. teaspoon each. Mash one nice-sized risotto or creamed potatoes and any fresh Mustard, garlic, rosemary, thyme and clove of garlic in a mortar and pestle if and crisp green vegetable. panko should do just fine; any more than Now it is important to note that this possible, or just mince real fine with a that and I risk losing the lamb in the knife. Mix the garlic with a tablespoon of is not a strict recipe. Want different seasonings. Remember the Lamb is the herbs? Add them. Like your mustard a good quality mustard. Star, the Diva, the Kardashian. I think I By now the skillet should be ready. Spicy or Dijon or Creole? Use that. Want watched too much Entertainment Tonight Sear the fat side until golden, about 5-7 the breadcrumbs golden? Then toss in his winter... Damnit! minutes. Remove from heat. Turn the olive oil before putting them on the rack. Anyway Mary, you’ve done your part, rack over so it is fat side up and carefully If it works then great, if not you have a I’ll take over from here. (everything is rather hot at this point) great reason to have Rack of Lamb again. Keep trying something new. FS spread the garlic mustard over the fat. FRONT STREET | 17
FitMemphis founder and publisher Drew Roberson – a former pace runner for the US Olympic team – shares some of his most grueling (and eﬀective) HIIT workouts. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprint interval training, is an exercise strategy utilizing short, intense sessions to improve overall performance. The high-intensity bursts with lower overall effort is an effective cardio program which keeps the body burning calories long after the workout is over. Recent studies have shown that as l i t t l e a s t wo we e k s o f H I I T c a n substantially improve insulin action in young, healthy men. So HIIT may be useful in the prevention of type-2 diabetes. I’ve performed these HIIT workouts on the track, on the street, in a park, and on a golf course. They are pretty short, so intensity of the work interval is the key. This first rest/pause time trial was designed by Rolf Krumann and Paul Schmidt of Germany to help 400-meter runners moving up to 800 meters get in some quality distance work. This workout helps you to gain some much needed overall conditioning. First, always, warm up (for me, usually a mile run) and then nail 1 minute hard; followed by an easy 1 minute jog. With the intervals run at a medium hard pace, start with: • 2 minutes (1 minute rest) • 3 minutes (1 minute rest) • 4 minutes (1 minute rest) • 3 minutes (1 minute rest) • 2 minutes. Move to... • 2 minutes (1 minute rest) • 4 minutes (1 minute rest) • 6 minutes (1 minute rest) • 4 minutes (1 minute rest) • 2 minutes
In my younger days, I tried to maintain a 60–70 second, 400-meter pace for the 1 minute hard interval. Now, my goal is to not vomit in front of my neighbors. This is a basic r unning workout, but it is brutally eﬀective. Some distance runners can do it all day. Most people will see a benefit from as little as 2–3 sets.
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The following is a staple of the training program of Brooks Johnson, the former Stanford and US Olympic track team coach. Try it if you are feeling impressed with your progress. It’s likely to correct self-satisfied delusions. Three hundred meter/brisk 100meter jog/300 meters: It is the hardest, most lactic acid inducing workout I’ve ever done. The 300-meter sprints induce lactic acid on their own. The 300-meters almost back to back with a quick 100meter jog recovery are horrible. Remember, these 300 meters are run hard even though they are back to back. Johnson advocates doing three sets of this. The first time I tried it, I did one set and it took me half an hour to recover enough to walk back to the car. T h i s w o r ko u t w i l l t e s t y o u r endurance and your ability to maintain
First thing to do is get a good pair of running shoes from a specialty running store. They have an interest in keeping you comfortable and safe – dedicated runners go through a lot of shoes. Once your feet are covered, look inward. A good dietary rule of thumb when training breaks down like this: • 50-60% complex carbohydrates • 25-30% good fats (like those in nuts, olive oil and Omega 3) • 15-20% protein. That last sentence might lead you to believe that any of your intrepid editors have a medical background. They don’t. Always consult a physician before starting or radically changing either a training program or diet.
BACKSTOP the sixth inning, we realized what was happening. It’s a strange feeling when the opposing team’s pitcher is on the precipice of a no-hitter. The true fans want their team to win, but to see a no-hitter in person? It creates an incredible internal conflict for any hometown fan, evident in the uneasy reactions by the crowd as one bats hitter after another failed to get on base. In the end, history was not made, and it was my fault. No, I didn’t streak across the infield in the buﬀ. I did the one thing you are not supposed to do when a no-hitter is on the near horizon. As the eighth inning was about to start and the Pawtucket pitcher began warming up, just six outs away from a game he’d never forget, I called my brother, Michael. “You are not going to believe what is happening here at the Bats game.”
He got excited. “What? What’s going on?” “The pitcher for Pawtucket has thrown seven inning of no-hit baseball. I’m about to see a no-hitter in person!” He paused a second and then stated, “No you’re not.” “I really think I am. This guy’s still throwing smoke and no one has even gotten close to good wood on him. I think he can do it,” I said. “He could have done it, David, if you hadn’t called me and told me about it.” The gravity of his words sank in. And in my silence, the first hitter that inning for the Bats, the son of former Cardinals second baseman Tommy Herr, swung at the first pitch and drove it between the shortstop and second base for a clean single, breaking up the no-hitter. I had mentioned the unmentionable, a n d i n d o i n g s o b r o ke o n e o f t h e unwritten rules of the game: never talk about a no-hitter in progress. The Louisville crowd gave the pitcher a standing ovation, but there was some
relief that they could now go back to cheering on their Bats with full gusto. The game was tied 1-1 when imposing purple clouds over the city dumped buckets of rain on us. The LSF field crew raced into action and pulled the blue tarp over the infield dirt, as the umpires called a rain delay. The crowd retreated under the covered concourse, and after forty-five minutes the rain was gone and the game resumed. The Bats scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a dramatic win. Fo r s e v e n s o l i d i n n i n g s , t h e Pawtucket Sox and their young, lanky pitcher were close to a no-hitter but instead didn’t even win the game. The Louisville crowd went from pulling for an opposing hurler to make histor y to screaming for their home team’s winning run scored in the ninth. And I walked out of the stadium thrilled by the outcome I told myself to never, never, never call a no hitter. FS
ATLAS SPINNING Certainly there is political foolishness in any system, but in China it is a state-run franchise protection racket – all for a market about which we have no reliable data. China may not be a level playing field, but even on a good day, there aren’t many of those. It is hard to imagine that these skyrocketing asset prices in China aren’t going to eventually go the way of all bubbles. Will the Middle Kingdom kick a 600-year habit and integrate with the wide world before the inevitable happens? At some point, probably only after the crash, Western firms will start to ask themselves how long they will continue to support China’s homegrown businesses and the expense of their own profits. FS Check out past stories, along with additional pictures and video at www.frontstreetdigital.com. Print issue is available monthly, with new content and additional features updates on the website daily. For Subscription information go to www.frontstreetdigital/subscriptions. For Advertising inquires call 901.412.7362 or email rjmurﬀ@frontstreetdigital.com. For Editorial comment and submissions: email@example.com.
19 | FRONT STREET
Now, isn’t that something... During a trip to Switzerland in 2009, my daughter and I took a train to Paris for a day. At the end of a long day of sightseeing, we sat in Gare de Lyon, waiting for the train to take us back to Lausanne, and as she read, I watched travelers in the station. And I noticed something: no fat people. In fact, I didn!t see a single human one could even call close to overweight. I remarked to my daughter about my observation, and we looked at people for another half hour. In fact, for the rest of our time in Switzerland, we saw nary a porker. Fast forward to last week. A friend was stating that to lose weight, she was giving up cheese, “because cheese is nothing but animal fat”. I know that cheese is high in fat and cholesterol compared to other foods, but then I thought back to our trip to Switzerland and France, two countries renown for their cheese and dairy exports, and I recalled the near absence of obese individuals. Surely my experience debunked my friend!s claim, but we only saw a portion of the population on our trip. I needed more info. On the graph below, the blue lines indicate the percentage of a country!s population whose body mass index (BMI) exceeds 25, indicating a condition of being overweight. The red line is the amount of kilograms of cheese consumed per capita in the same countries. *"
While this graph doesn!t tell the whole story, it does show that, while conventional wisdom would say that cheese is a villain to those trying to stay thin, one of the slimmest countries in the developed world is also the fourth largest consumer of cheese - France. And both Mexico and Japan consume little cheese, yet they are on opposite ends of the blubber spectrum. Does this mean that you can jam your pie hole with gruyere and mozzarella until you pass out from a food coma? No. But it does show a lack of a direct correlation between cheese consumption and obesity. And that!s good to know.