Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stuff We Like

Perhaps something a little irreverent is called for today.
Surely somebody will be offended by something in these lists.

Stuff White People Like

Of course I love the post on Vintage

Stuff Asian People Like

Stuff Black People Love

Stuff Parisians Like
Digg this

Tuesday Bailout Blues

So the bailout didn't pass and the market dropped 777 points. With all this panic in the streets I wasn't sure whether or not the sun would come up this morning..but alas it did.

Harvard Economist Jeffrey Miron, as reported by CNNpolitics.com, was against the bailout plan.

Here's some of what he wrote.

This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.
Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.

The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.
The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.
Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines).
Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.

Thoughtful advocates of the bailout might concede this perspective, but they argue that a bailout is necessary to prevent economic collapse. According to this view, lenders are not making loans, even for worthy projects, because they cannot get capital. This view has a grain of truth; if the bailout does not occur, more bankruptcies are possible and credit conditions may worsen for a time.
Talk of Armageddon, however, is ridiculous scare-mongering. If financial institutions cannot make productive loans, a profit opportunity exists for someone else. This might not happen instantly, but it will happen.
Further, the current credit freeze is likely due to Wall Street's hope of a bailout; bankers will not sell their lousy assets for 20 cents on the dollar if the government might pay 30, 50, or 80 cents.
The costs of the bailout, moreover, are almost certainly being understated. The administration's claim is that many mortgage assets are merely illiquid, not truly worthless, implying taxpayers will recoup much of their $700 billion.
If these assets are worth something, however, private parties should want to buy them, and they would do so if the owners would accept fair market value. Far more likely is that current owners have brushed under the rug how little their assets are worth.

So what should the government do? Eliminate those policies that generated the current mess. This means, at a general level, abandoning the goal of home ownership independent of ability to pay. This means, in particular, getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with policies like the Community Reinvestment Act that pressure banks into subprime lending.
The right view of the financial mess is that an enormous fraction of subprime lending should never have occurred in the first place. Someone has to pay for that. That someone should not be, and does not need to be, the U.S. taxpayer.

This echos what Rep. Kaptur said in her speech to the House. Wall Street billionaires keep their gains...yet shift their losses to the taxpayer.

In the end, I think that some measure of of a bailout will pass.

Digg this

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman - A Class Act

I was sorry to read to about the death of Paul Newman.
Actor, humanitarian, husband, father, race car driver...what a life he led.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward Wedding 1958

50th Wedding Anniversary

What I find to be astounding out of his many accomplishments is the fact that he distanced himself from the culture of Hollywood and had a 50 year marriage.

His long marriage to Woodward ran counter to Hollywood's tradition of fast weddings and quick divorces, and the pair lived in a 200-year-old Connecticut house, far from the heart of the entertainment industry.
Asked the secret of his marriage, Newman once said there was no reason to roam, asking: "I have steak at home. Why should I go out for a hamburger?"

Could Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt be the Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of our generation?

I hope so. So far they've distanced themselves from Hollywood, had a big family and devoted a large part of their lives to humanitarian causes.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt


Digg this

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Some No Nonsense Comments about the Bailout

Since I don't know how to add videos to this blog I'm just going to link to this statement by US Representative Kaptur of Ohio about the Wall Street Bailout.

Digg this

Savvy Shopping - Something Serious

Since we are getting this report from the Wall Street Journal
Neiman Marcus Sees Bleak Holiday
Luxury-Goods Retailer Reports a Doubling of Its Quarterly Loss And Warns the Wealthy Are Cutting Back

Upscale retailer Neiman Marcus Inc. offered a bleak outlook for the holidays and said its quarterly loss more than doubled from a year earlier, signaling a further downturn in the U.S. luxury-goods market.
Neiman, which posted a $35.7 million loss for its fiscal quarter ended Aug. 2, warned that the American luxury market is likely to be hit hard by the recent financial crisis as wealthy and upper-middle-class consumers change their attitudes toward spending.

I thought that we needed some savvy shopping on the serious side.

If done right the combination of navy and black can be completely chic like in this suit from Neiman Marcus. The lines are severe but slimming.

To soften the look, this somber suit needs a big bold brooch.
I especially like this one because of the mixture of elements with the warmth of the textured gold, the sleekness of the emerald leaves, the richness of the rubies and the sparkle of the diamonds.

Carved Emerald Leaf Brooch with Diamonds and Rubies from Beladora.com

Fashion for a financially fragile fall.
Digg this

Friday, September 26, 2008

Around the World in 28 Days

Or..a month of fun!
Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Let's just say that 6 months or so ago you saw that all that risky debt that your firm was holding was soon to go under and that as the CEO you would have to serious 'splaining to do to the Board, the SEC, the Press and most worrisome, those pesky pension fund managers that held your stock.
What to do...what to do?
The answer of course is to resign with your fat benefits package that includes tens of millions in severance pay.
Not being one to stay at home and you know...cultivate your own garden...and let's face it, your architects, interior decorators and art consultants have already taken care of your Manhattan penthouse, your country home in upstate NY, your beach house in Bridghampton and your ski in - ski out chalet in Vail...so you decide that it's finally time to take your spouse on that much needed vacation.
Around the world in 28 days.
A loose interpretation of Phileas Fogg's famous journey around the world, this remake by The Leading Hotels of the World stars you and a guest traveling east on a private jet from London to New York.
Over the course of 28 days (not 80), you will visit Paris, Dubai, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, and Chicago and stay in some of the world's ultra-lux pads like the Prince's Suite at the Rambagh Palace (pictured) in Jaipur. But the hefty $1 million price tag affords a lot more than fancy sheets. Travelers can take a hot-air balloon ride over the Dubai desert, have cocktails aboard the Taj yacht on the Arabian sea, drive through Udaipur in a vintage car, take a private tour of the Gem Palace in Jaipur, helicopter over Hong Kong and partake in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Tokyo.
Happy Trails!
Digg this

Bailout Is the New Black (Friday)

Well, the main stream media is finally getting around to reporting on the subject that I was ranting about last week. CEO compensation.
This is an especially important topic in light of the bazillion dollar bailout that will come on the backs of taxpayers.
From the AP
Stanley O'Neal walked away from Merrill Lynch with a package now worth about $66 million. Less than a year later, the storied investment house was forced into a takeover by Bank of America.
Ken Thompson was ousted from Wachovia in June with a "golden parachute" now worth more than $5 million, and Chuck Prince was forced out at Citigroup with a parting gift now valued at
$16 million.
and from Breitbart.com
For example, the CEO of bankrupt Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, received total compensation of 71.9 million dollars in 2007, including stock, bonuses and other pay, according to a survey published by Forbes magazine.
Martin Sullivan, the chief executive of AIG, who left the insurance giant before it was rescued this month by the federal government, received 14 million dollars, a survey in
USA Today said. He also quit with a severance package worth 47 million dollars.
When the government took over collapsed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ousted bosses Daniel Mudd and Richard Syron were not allowed 12.59 million dollars worth in severance payments.
Yet they still got out the door with 9.43 million dollars in retirement benefits.
Two questions remain...
If the CEOs of these failing businesses had been paid even more, would these businesses be in the black now?
If you paying a CEO 14 million for failure....how much do you have to pay him for running the business successfully?
Enough said...you get the drift.
Digg this

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is The The Statement Necklace A True Trend?

After years of seeing celebrities and socialites wearing chandelier earrings and cuff bangle bracelets, but nothing around the neck, I've been keeping an eye out for "The Statement Necklace" which has been the trend on the runway...since at least 2005.

Since the early 2000s, necklaces from Lanvin and Vera Wang to Prada have taken on more and more heft with each passing season. The unapologetically chunky jewelry , featuring stacked, oversized beads and pendants, can offset minimalist or demure designs. Another sales appeal: It’s more likely to be more comfortable, and sometimes less overtly recognizable, than the season’s “It” heels (just look to Prada’s stumbling shoes for spring).
I just perused the red carpet photos from the the Emmys and "The Statement Necklace" definitely wasn't an integral part of "The Look".
Come to think of it, I'm only seeing this look in magazines....I haven't even seen any of the serious fashionistas on Rodeo Drive sporting this look.
Is this something that only exists in the minds of designers and accessories editors?
Digg this

Sunday, September 21, 2008

This Rocks!

Lesotho mine yields one of world's largest diamonds

LONDON (Reuters) - Miners in the southern African kingdom of Lesotho have found one of the world's largest diamonds, a near-flawless white gem weighing nearly 500 carats, mining group Gem Diamonds said on Sunday.
The diamond was discovered in the Letseng Mine on September 8, the company said in a statement. It has been analyzed by experts in Antwerp and found to weigh 478 carats, with very few inclusions and of outstanding color and clarity.
"It has the potential to yield one of the largest flawless D color round polished diamonds in history," the company said.
In the course of a few days nature brings us the fury of hurricane Ike and a diamond as beautiful as this.
Digg this

The Fly - A Sci-Fi Love Story

Seriously... who else but the Los Angeles Opera would consider staging the 1950's Sci-Fi cult classic "The Fly" as an opera.
With a libretto by Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), music by Oscar winning composer Henry Shore (The Lord of the Rings) and direction by David Cronenberg (the director of the film 'The Fly"). Add to this team sets by designer Dante Ferretti who did the Academy Award winning design for "The Aviator'.

What's not to love.

And what to wear to see this dark drama of love, loss and science gone dreadfully wrong?

Well something black of course.

Beladora Antique Victorian Diamond Brooch worn on a black silk cord as a pendant. Perfect with the neckline of this 1950's Nettie Rosenstein black silk suit from Hemlock Vintage.

Digg this

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spring Collection 2008 - Or Why I Have A Huge Wardrobe

I have a huge wardrobe...no really I do. At some point in my young life I found clothes that not only were classic in their styling, but were flattering to my figure. So I bought them and I've continued to buy those types of clothes ever since.
More importantly, I've kept them.
God knows with what I'm seeing from designers this year, I need them.

So it's not all that unusual for me to put together an outfit with a dress (Donna Karan) from 1996 , a handbag (lizard which lasts forever...if you take care of it) from 1986, and a scarf (Hermes) from 1976, estate jewelry from 1966, and shoes from 2006.
I know what you're thinking....
I must look like a train wreck.

Well trust me....I look like no more of a wreck than these models from the Spring 2008 Collections....
What costume party are they going to?

Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal writes about the Spring Runway Fashions
So hoarders, take heart. Pull out your old clothes and wear them again: Nothing is out of style, according to New York's runways. We've seen long hemlines, micro-minis, pencil skirts and flouncy skirts. Big-legged pants, skinny-legged pants. Lots of leather and much chiffon.

The runways so far this week have major nods to two diametrically opposed eras -- the romantic late 1960s-early 1970s and the go-getter 1980s -- often on the same runways. Alice + Olivia's hippy-dippy collection (presented two days after Diane von Furstenberg's hippy-dippy collection) included a 1980s-type yellow blouse with big bows and cap sleeves alongside a Victorian white lacy dress whose mother was worn to Woodstock.

It's surprising that women's fashion is getting frilly, given that other aspects of design and architecture are going minimalist. (Our frocks will clash with our living rooms.) But fashion design has to move fast to keep us shopping for new looks, and the cycle of new looks now is so quick it's a blur.

Of all the new looks, I prefer the Romantic Hippy Chick but I wouldn't sport this look at the office.

For working women Binkley goes on to say Working women who want subtlety next season will have to turn to Michael Kors, or Oscar de la Renta if they can afford him -- or rely on what's already in their closets.

With designs like what I'm seeing in the Spring 2008 Collections, I'm glad that I've got a flattering collection of clothes to choose from right here at home.

Digg this

Where The Boys Are

Apparently Everywhere
according to these two books "Guyland" by Michael Kimmel and "Men to Boys" by Gary Cross, both reviewed this week in this Wall Street Journal article
Man and Sillyman
How the model of American masculinity became a stoner with an Xbox

Here are the excerpts:

Not so long ago, unmarried men were called "bachelors," but the word now seems oddly out of date. Back in the day, bachelors were a minor, outsider group populated mostly by loners of ambiguous sexuality or Hefnerian swingers with a taste for cool jazz and dry martinis. Today, as men marry well into their 20s and 30s and enjoy both a boundless pool of sexually available women and a commercial culture awash with "stupid fun," the young, unmarried male has become a far more prominent -- and more vexing -- social type. He has devolved into the child man -- or, if you like, man child, boy man or "basement boy" (a nod to his penchant for taking up residence in the rec rooms of suburban parents) -- with crude obsessions for Xboxes, "hot babes," and Will Farrell and Seth Rogen movies. The emergence of this social type is the subject of two timely books, "Men to Boys" and "Guyland."

Michael Kimmel, the author of the frequently cited "Manhood in America" (1996) and now of the cleverly titled "Guyland," finds that young men today just wanna have fun. After spending their college years in a haze of alcohol and hook-ups, young men go on to "re-create . . . their college lifestyle in the big city," where they flock to the sort of bar that advertises "Spring Break 52 Weeks a Year."

Mr. Kimmel is just as depressed as Mr. Cross is by such cultural signs, but for different reasons. Mr. Kimmel sees the roots of modern immaturity in what he calls The Guy Code, a set of informal rules about male behavior that requires guys to "shut down emotionally" and embrace homophobia to feel more powerful in a world where the privileged status that men enjoyed for centuries is no longer guaranteed.

Where "Guyland" concentrates on “A kind of suspended animation between boyhood and manhood, Guyland lies between the dependency and lack of autonomy of boyhood and the sacrifice and responsibility of manhood.”
"Men to Boys" traces over three generations from the lingering Victorian ideals of masculine self-restraint, gentility and "measured deference to female culture at home" to the buffoonery of radio host Howard Stern and ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman.

No longer has male hedonism to do with learning how to be well-dressed or cultivate a taste for wine, women, and song. It is about immediate satisfaction of the appetite and pleasures of the youth.”

Duly deconstructed beginning in the 1960s, male maturity was in full rout by the 1980s, when, for instance, Pepsi proclaimed itself "for those who think young." The coup de grâce was performed in the 1990s by the advent of slacker culture and the "endless thrills" of elaborate videogames. Mr. Cross observes that the current generation of young men has been uniquely shaped by a popular culture in which the "celebration of the puerile" never flags: "South Park," "Dumb and Dumber," Maxim, Comedy Central. Meanwhile, a slew of "western, crime, and adventure movies" were "transformed from morality tales into spectacles of violence."

While I know some middle age men who are endless adolescents, never marrying or having to do anything besides cater to their endless pleasure, be it women or video gaming or sports cars, I actually know more men who are married, some even with 4 or 5 kids, who are responsible, hard working, mature adults and quality husbands and fathers.

So is this "Culture of the Adolescent" an epidemic in our society? I don't really know. I hope not.

Now someone needs to write a corresponding book about women.
Digg this

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Tale Of Two Cities- London and New York

The Golden Calf by Damian Hirst sold for $18.6 million
New York
Well it's been a roller coaster week in the stock market with the bankruptcy or Lehman Brothers, the bailout of AIG, and continued uncertainty about Washington Mutual, Morgan Stanley and other firms with shaky financials. The SEC has issued a temporary ban against short selling of financial stocks. Long term Lehman employees with mortgages, college tuition's, and basic family living expenses to pay, are now unemployed. Individual investors who had only recently recouped what they had lost in the market crash of 2001, have seen the the value of their investments seriously eroded
Meanwhile, this week Contemporary artist Damian Hirst, rumored to be worth a billion dollars, is now some $172 million richer after Sotheby's two day sale of his new works. Lots were sold to Gagosian and White Cube galleries and Russian gazillionaires.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
But the biggest spender -- bidding over the telephone and said by industry insiders to be Christie's owner, the keen Hirst collector Francois Pinault -- paid £13.2 million for three lots. The most expensive, "The Golden Calf," a 20-ton calf with 18-karat-gold hooves and horns in a formaldehyde glass tank, was perhaps the most symbolic work in the sale, representing as it does the idolatrous worship of money. (Note the exquisite irony of this particular work selling for 18.6 million)
And a description of who was at the auction from the Times Online:
But inside the saleroom the drama was palpable - the art auction as high-risk spectator sport. Sir Norman Rosenthal, until recently the exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy and one of the men who helped to make Hirst’s reputation, was among the onlookers, along with sundry hedge fund managers in open-neck shirts and haughty-looking younger women with big hair and expensive facial features.
While I find the work of Damian Hirst interesting, I can't understand why "The Kingdom", a tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde, could justify a price of $17.2 million.

Is Contemporary Art a con?
One comment that I read referring to this sale is "There is no Contemporary Art, there is only marketing". I couldn't have said it better myself.
Digg this

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Around Town - The LA Opera Salon Event

Vintage Christian Dior in Sapphire Silk at Retro Dress
Art Deco Sapphire and Diamond Bracelet at Beladora

The Opera Council of the Los Angeles Opera puts on a special Opera Salon event for its Board members and Patron donors. While I'm not a patron donor, I'm lucky enough to have a good friend who is on the Board who invited me to this week's Salon with a short talk by William Friedkin who directed two of the one act operas of Il Trittico. (Yeah...it's good to have friends in high places!)
William Friedkin , the Academy Award winning director of such films as The French Connection and the The Exorcist, loves Opera. Who knew? He gave a charming talk, with some particularly amusing stories, about the evolution of his career from starting in the mail room at a local Chicago TV station to directing TV programs to eventually directing movies. About ten years ago Zubin Metha, asked him to direct an Opera and he's been directing them ever since.
I haven't seen Il Trittico yet but everyone is raving about it. Of course, with the quality direction of Friedkin, the sopranos of the LA Opera, and the music of Puccini, which in my opinion is absolutely sublime, I know it's going to be wonderful.
And...when I go next week I will be wearing something like this vintage Dior suit in Sapphire with vintage Sapphire jewelry from Beladora.com.
Oh, and none other than Woody Allen is directing the third one act opera of Il Trittico.

Digg this

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CEO Compensation At Failing Financial Firms

OK...so the world goes on after Lehman goes down.
And I'm not going to dwell on the subject of the Investment Banks.
But....I can't help but be appalled by the huge salaries, bonuses, stock options and retirement packages that the CEOs and other top executives of financial institutions earned, while their businesses and clients were taking a hit.

The Scottsman has some of the details on Wall Street executive compensation.

Lehman Brothers
Fuld joined the bulge bracket. He was paid $34.5 million in 2005, comprising a base salary of $750,000, a $13.8 million cash bonus, and stock and options worth $19.94 million.

So how does his demise compare with the other fallen idols who have now fled the crashing debris in Wall Street? They may have driven their banks – and their shareholders – into enormous losses. But the former Masters of the Universe will never know what it's like to live in a subprime home.

Chuck ("I'm still dancing") Prince left Citigroup with a package said to be worth $40 million. He also received a pension of $1.74 million and another one million stock options – worthless at the time of his departure.

Merrill Lynch
Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal spent much of last summer perfecting his golf swing, confident that his trusty lieutenants at Merrill could avoid those subprime bunkers. It turned out to be a bad call.
He was ousted last October as the first waves of the credit crunch struck, with a retirement package reckoned at more than $160 million.

Bear Stearns (bailed out by your tax dollars and mine)
Jimmy Cayne, 15 years at the top of Bear Stearns, was said to be on the golf course in June 2006 just as the bank dropped the first of many clangers, with a 10 per cent dive in profits. Worse followed, with the bank having to put up $3.2 billion to try to rescue its imploding hedge fund.

By mid-March last year, when the bank collapsed, Cayne, who would rush from Wall Street by chopper to the private Hollywood Golf Club in New Jersey to play 18 holes before dark, had already relinquished the reins, handing over the chief executive's role to Alan Schwartz.

When Schwartz went cap in hand to the New York Fed for a $30 billion bail-out, Cayne was said to be competing in the North American Bridge Championship in Detroit.
Cayne and his wife, Patricia, sold all their 5.6 million shares in Bear Stearns – worth as much as $1.2 billion in January 2007 – for $61.3 million at the end of March this year. The couple recently bought two adjacent apartments in New York's plush Plaza building for $28.2 million.

He left with a $30 million "golden goodbye" – enough to do up his Park Avenue property and a mock Tudor mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. But it emerged that the mansion, set in 2.3 acres of land, was surplus to requirements. "It no longer meets his needs,'' said the local estate agent, trying to sell it for $6.15 million. He was forced to cut the asking price.
That's how tough it gets at the top in Wall Street.
Digg this

Monday, September 15, 2008

Further Fannie and Freddie Fallout

While I'm on the topic of Finance, I'm pissed off that the US Treasury needed to bail out the corrupt and mismanaged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Johnson received $21 million in his last year as chief executive and a consulting contract worth $600,000 a year.
But when good numbers -- and the bonuses that came with them -- weren't possible anymore, the executives who came after Johnson allegedly rearranged the math and, even after accounting problems were found, used the company's political clout to fend off closer regulation. That was the conclusion of Fannie Mae's chief regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, in a 340-page report that determined the company's $10.6 billion accounting scandal was rooted in a corporate culture that dates back 20 years.
To keep up with Wall Street expectations, however, the company began holding onto more mortgages and mortgage-backed securities for investment purposes. The same practice nearly drove the company into bankruptcy in the early 1980s, when interest rates strayed into the double digits. Its smaller rival, Freddie Mac, copied the strategy. Around the time Freddie Mac's accounting scandal broke in 2003, the companies' combined portfolios totaled $1.5 trillion.
If Fannie Mae could afford a $21 million dollar a year Chief Executive, don't you think they could have found one who wouldn't implement the same risky strategy that almost bankrupted the company some 20 years ago?
HOW WASHINGTON FAILED TO REIN IN FANNIE & FREDDIE: Basically, it was bought off. "Blessed with the advantages of a government agency and a private company at the same time, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac used their windfall profits to co-opt the politicians who were supposed to control them. . . . Fannie Mae, and to a lesser extent Freddie Mac, became enmeshed in the fabric of political Washington. They were places former government officials went to get wealthy -- and to wait for new federal appointments. At Fannie Mae, chief executives had clauses written into their contracts spelling out the severance benefits they would receive if they left for a government post. The companies also donated generously to the campaigns of favored politicians."
Digg this

Monday Morning Meltdown

How the day ended

A 500 point drop. The worst drop since 2001
Now...about the CEO
So how does an 158 year old business go from a record net profit in 2007 to a bankruptcy in 2008.
Dow Jones 1 Year Chart
Lehman Brothers 1 Year Chart

Well it's another Black Monday at least as far as the markets are concerned. Triggered by Lehman Brother's inability to find a buyer and subsequent filing for Chapter 11 the Dow is down around 300 points.
In the past 15 months, Merrill and Lehman have both had tens of billions of dollars worth of risky, hard-to-sell assets carried on balance sheets that were piled high with debt. When the credit crunch hit in mid-2007, the assets kept deteriorating in value and couldn't easily be sold, eating into both firms' capital cushions. Recently, Lehman's balance sheet topped $600 billion and Merrill's $900 billion.

Meanwhile Merrill Lynch, also not in stellar shape, is being bought by Bank of America.

The deal shows how the credit crisis has created opportunities for financially sound buyers. At $50 billion, Merrill is being sold at about two-thirds of its value of one year ago and half its all-time peak value of early 2007.
"Why would Bank of America do this?" said analyst Nancy Bush at NAB Research LLC in Annandale, N.J. "Ken Lewis always likes to buy the biggest thing he can. So why not this? You are master of the universe, basically."
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley aren't going bankrupt but...
Both firms are due to report their fiscal third-quarter results in the next few days and are expected to try to make the case that they're very different from Lehman and Merrill. Analysts are expecting each to stay in the black but are bracing for write-downs of $1 billion to $2 billion each at Goldman and Morgan Stanley.
And the good news for the day...
Oil has dropped to below $97.

Digg this

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fashion Week Reporting - Are Sample Sizes to Skinny?

When I want to read quality reporting on the Fashion Industry and Luxury Brands, I check out the Heard on the Runway blog on the Wall Street Journal online. While I enjoy reading WWD, I find their articles to be more product promotion than actual serious reporting about the Fashion industry.

From the blog:

It’s a fair bet that there has been nary a runway show all week without the presence of a model with an eating disorder. The industry has begun trying to come to terms with the high prevalence of malnutrition among the six-foot-tall models who are asked to slip into size zero clothing samples.
One tell-tale sign of severe malnutrition is a blotchy mosaic of mineral deposits under the skin. At runway shows, this is visible on some models’ arms and legs from as far back as the third row. A fashion photographer told me recently that they use special software to digitize this effect out of photographs.

Skinny Model

What I would like to know is how much better do the clothes look on an anorexic model? Would an extra 5 or 7 pounds on these girls be so devastating as to ruin the designer's concept on the runway?
There is a simpler and more effective way to end the extreme pressure for models to look emaciated: show larger sample sizes on the catwalks and magazines.
“We see this as a first step,” says Ms. Billinkoff, the CFDA’s spokeswoman, of the signatures on the petition. “Depending on the reaction, it’ll be time to mobilize.
Will the next step be to go back up in a sample size from a zero to a two or a four or a six — which is what it used to be?”
Note: A little over 20 years ago on one of my trips to Paris I did my usual shopping for some pret a porter. Even then I was looking for a bargain so at Ungaro I ended up purchasing clothes that had been samples worn by the models in the Paris shows. They were chic and priced right.
My point...I was reasonably thin but certainly not skinny...and the clothes fit me fine. Today's models would have been swimming in the clothes that fit the runway models from 20 years ago.
Question: Were runway models during the 1980s too big to show clothes properly?
Digg this

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fashion Week - Baby Phat Fans - Udderly Ridiculous

I think that Kimora Lee Simmons is quite talented.
I especially like these floaty, translucent caftans from her spring collection.

But I was just wondering if her designs come in XXL boob size.

Swedish model Victoria Silvstedt at Baby Phat Show

Is it just me or is there something a little tranny about this girl?

Ice T and Coco at Baby Phat Show

Why does this photo remind me of cow's udders?
Digg this

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is it really Fall or just Global Cooling in Sunny Southern California?

I assume that you spend your Friday nights out on the town, maybe having dinner at the hot new restaurant or at at dinner party with friends discussing the latest election news and the sudden drop oil prices despite hurricane Ike.
For me it was a typical Friday night. You know, stay at the office until 9:3o finishing up all those pesky tasks that didn't get completed during the week.
Eventually I made my way home and took the pooch out for a walk. Nothing unusual there...a big black dog that wants to run while I stumble my way through the dark in my pencil skirt and high heels. Except for one little thing...tonight I noticed an unusual aroma in the air. The smell of fire.
And no, the Santa Monica mountains above Brentwood were not on fire.
My neighbors were actually have fires in their fireplaces!

Noooo...it can't be. It's only September, one of the hottest months in Southern California and it's already foggy and dark outside. Can it be fireplace weather already?
Where..oh where...did summer go?
Digg this

Celebrity Nonsense - The Rich Are Different

Denise Rich
September 12, 2008 --
DENISE Rich enthralled 100 Fashion Week-lings at Brasserie Cognac with a report on her summer vacation:
"London is the best place to buy Jimmy Choo, St.-Tropez has the coolest Pucci. I get my Lacroix in Cannes, Louis Vuitton in Paris and Cavalli in Bal Harbour. Don't tell anybody."

Yes Denise....I won't tell anyone...but what I really want to know is where do you get all that pink eyeshadow...CVS?

Digg this

Is 80 The New 60?

Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Beach

We all know that 50 is the new 30, but is 80 the new 60?

Well apparently for my father it is.

Last night, as we celebrated my father's 80th birthday, I was wondering what kept him so youthful. Is it something in the Orange County water?

Here's a man who could be sitting in a Lazyboy in front of the HD tv. But no...he's too busy with working out at the gym 4 days a week for 1 1/2 hours each session, playing golf 1 or 2 times a week, working in his garden, singing in the choir at church, going to movies, seeing his friends, volunteering for neighborhood projects, and reading books. Next month, he and my step mother are off to Spain on vacation.

I think that the secret is in the balance of elements in his life, physical, spiritual and intellectual. And moderation in all things.

Digg this

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Memorandum - Carolyn Wahlstrom Beug

9/11 Memorial Lights

Carolyn Beug

Filmmaker/Video Producer. She won an MTV Video of the Year Award for her work on Van Halen's music video for there song, "Right Here, Right Now." She was a Senior Vice-President of Entertainment and Educational Production for Walt Disney Records, Disney Music Publishing and Disney Ice Shows. She was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Carolyn, you are not forgotten nor are all the other victims of September 11, 2001 and their families.

Digg this

Around Town - Angeleno Fashion & Photography Event at the W

David Drebin Fashion Photography for Angeleno Magazine's 9th Anniversary Issue

The Uber Cool W Hotel in Westwood

Randy Gerber' s Whiskey Blue Bar at the W

So there I was with my around town partner in crime Kristopher Dukes, at Angeleno Magazine's launch party for their September Fashion Issue, held at the uber cool W Hotel in Westwood. It was so packed with local fashionistas that we had to take refuge in the Whiskey Blue bar. Nice bar, bitchy bartenders.

The highlight of the evening was meeting Dr. Alexander Rivkin of the Westside Medical Spa and his gorgeous girlfriend. Alex is the doctor for those of us who don't believe in jumping into cosmetic surgery. A Yale trained surgeon and instructor at UCLA Medical Center, he specializes in non surgical treatments including:

Non-Surgical Nose Job™ (Injection Rhinoplasty™)
Non-Surgical Chin Enhancement
Non-Surgical Cheek Enhancement
Non-Surgical Jowl Lift
Non-Surgical Eye Lift
Non-Surgical Facelift

He even has his own blog.

He doesn't know this yet but he's going to be my new best friend. (Sorry Kristopher, but I have to give to give preference to the man who can make injections...)

Digg this

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fantasy Football Favorite Out For The Season

Tom Brady in Stetson Ad

Well, this year's pro football is going to be a lot less exciting now that brilliant quarterback and fashion icon, Tom Brady, is out for the season with knee injury.
The big questions are....what's going to happen to your fantasy football team.....is Gisele going to find a younger, less injured man....and, are one of the manning boys going to win the Superbowl again this year?
Digg this

Monday, September 8, 2008

From Bag Snob to Bag Slave

From the Times Online
It is only when you start to contemplate life without an It bag that you realise how far removed from handbags these accessories have become. They are personalities in their own right, with their own agendas and profiles.
You don’t own an It bag — you hook up with it and hope for the best.
Digg this

Litttle Lord Fauntleroy Fashion

Obedient Sons Shorts Suit For Men
Is this the end of western civilization as we know it?
So, we've gone from men as perpetual adolescent waifs to men as perpetual little boys.
The best comment on Ann Althouse about this picture was
Proof, once again, that you can get models (and actors for that matter) to pretty much do, or wear, anything.

Digg this

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Savvy Shopping or Buying into the Sell

Also from WSJ this article on bling and the hot jewelry designers.

Today, the question ‘Who are you wearing?’ is just as likely to apply to your jewelry as your clothes.

So, like with clothes, bags and shoes, jewelry designers are selling a lifestyle or rather a narrative promoting an aspirational lifestyle. Is this anything new? Hasn't Cartier, Van Cleef, Harry Winston and Bvlgari always been doing this?

Well actually no. The great jewelry houses sold beauty, originality, quality and intrinsic value...sometimes with a named designer and sometimes not.

Now it's all about the cult of personality. Stephen Webster's rock and roll lifestyle is as important as his designs to the aspirational buyer.

Webster isn’t a rock star—he just channels the lifestyle of one. As a jewelry designer, he is part of a cadre that’s challenging the way people view and wear contemporary pieces. His crystal pendants, cocktail rings and diamond cuffs are part Punk, part Harry Potter. And his clients (including Madonna) are as interesting as his backers (financier Ron Burkle invested in the business in 2007). All of this adds up to commercial appeal: He sells his collection, priced from $2,000 to $250,000, at stores like Neiman Marcus.
Beyond the gems is an image that fans find consuming. “I really try to put everything I like into my jewelry—driving a motorcycle or listening to certain music, socializing and being with certain people,” Webster says. Customers “need to know what they’re buying into

I think Stephen Webster jewelry is awesome, particularly the Crystal Haze Collection. But it's pretty clear to me that wearing it isn't going to get me invited to parties at seaside villas on exotic Mediterranean islands with the rock stars and Ron Burkle.

I just love the line "Customers need to know what they are buying into". What the hell does than mean anyway?


Once again the lack of interest in the "It" bag is mentioned.

In the past, fashion designers provided that lifestyle association. The $2,000 “It” bag is the most recent example. The point was to create demand for a purse that everyone would wear. Today, with bag overload, some women are seeking items that are more individual, more lasting. Jewelry fits the bill. By way of example, in June, Saks Fifth Avenue said sales of trendy bags had softened, while high-end baubles were moving swiftly.

Digg this

Roland Mouret on Fashion in the WSJ

I guess that is was only a matter of time before the Wall Street Journal came out with a glossy.
As the print media looses its luster to the internet while the glossies stay strong, the new WSJ, both in print and online, is a great hybrid read magazine.
This edition has an interview with one of my favorite fashion designers, Roland Mouret.
Here are the highlights
The fashion industry has become like pushers, creating a need, a desire to have an item immediately. Also, in some cases, they sell it so cheaply that you can throw it away again next season. If you are buying a T-shirt for $4, somewhere along the line someone is losing.
We create fake trends for the sake of selling—not because they have a meaning in our society. The concept of the “it” bag is a proof of the fake trends. Bags don’t have meaning. They are just a sales tool. New season, new bag. Designers don’t have to work or think about how to make their customers look good with a bag. That’s why it’s an easy choice; the only differentiation is in the price—now there are $20,000 bags!
How can fashion be all about being just one size? Nobody has any curves anymore. Body fascism is endemic. We can’t take a risk to redefine ourselves anymore because we are all worried about our shape. No wonder young people are beginning to re-create the excesses of the eighties: Wouldn’t you do the same if you’d lived through the attempted “perfection” of the ’90s and the noughties?
Also, don't miss the video of Mouret pulling a project runway type task of creating one of his incredible dresses out of WSJ newspapers.
Digg this

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Around Town - Garnier for the OC Great Park in Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

Jacques Garnier Photos (no they aren't actually this tiny)

So, tonight it was another "First Thursday Art Walk" in Laguna Beach. Every first Thursday of the month all the art galleries are open and there's a lot of activity in sleepy little seaside Laguna Beach .

After a short wrap up committee meeting for the Jewel of Orange County event for the Great Park Conservancy at the Peter Blake Gallery, we were treated to a short presentation by photographer Jacques Garnier. Garnier is in the progress of creating a photographic documentary over a 15 year period of the evolution of the area that will become the Great Park.

I was fascinated by Garnier's project not only because he documents historical change, but because he does it with the eyes of an artist.

Digg this

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Savvy Shopping - Craving a Cardigan

So we've just finished an August with no sun spot activity and now we've got a predicted colder than normal winter ahead.
Could it be too early to start shopping for my Fall fashion essential?
No, I didn't think so.

Besides, even if the predicted cool weather doesn't arrive and we have a moderate 75 degrees all winter long, the temperature in my office is still something akin to Northern Maine, rather than sunny Southern California.

Thus, the overwhelming need for a cardigan...or two...or three.

95% Cotton, 5% Cashmere perfect for California

Urban Outfitters BDG Boyfriend Cotton & Wool Cardigan $54.00

Nordstrom Soprano Rayon & Spandex Boyfriend Cardigan $36.00

Urban Outfitters BDG cardigan...too slouchy
Nordstrom Soprano cardigan...too tight
Richard Chai cardigan...just right

Digg this
Add to Technorati Favorites