Interesting Times

The phrase “may you live in interesting times” is a somewhat ubiquitous anecdote that has been widely mis-attributed over the years.  Per Wikipedia:

May you live in interesting times” is an English expression which purports to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically; life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than in “interesting” ones, which are usually times of trouble.

Despite being so common in English as to be known as the “Chinese curse“, the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced. The most likely connection to Chinese culture may be deduced from analysis of the late-19th-century speeches of Joseph Chamberlain, probably erroneously transmitted and revised through his son Austen Chamberlain.[1]

Regardless of origin, we are indeed living in an interesting time, to say the least.  I graduated college right in time for the fallout of the tech bubble popping, followed closely by the attacks of 9/11.  Then, a decade in my career in real estate finance, the Great Financial Crisis hit.  I thought I would never experience anything as strange as those events.  Was I ever wrong.

In the past two weeks, we’ve seen the world economy – which was cruising along at a seemingly stable clip – plow to a grinding halt like a bug to a windshield.  The level of economic destruction in such a short period of time has been unprecedented.  There is not a bit of hyperbole in that statement either.  For some context, have a look at this:



That second chart of the jobless claim number Goldman Sachs expects later this week makes the peak of the Great Recession look like little more than a blip.  The news flow at the moment is like drinking out of a fire hose.  In the next few days, expect to hear about a massive stimulus package, nationwide mortgage and rent forbearance programs in addition to other efforts to prop up the now-ailing economy.  These initiatives will almost definitely have two defining characteristics:

  1. They will be unprecedented in scale
  2. They will still not be drastic enough – at least initially.

Given that the economic developments are coming fast and furious (the medical side of this is obviously more important but its not something that I can speak on intelligently, so I’ll rely on experts rather than pretending to be one), I’m going to try to step up the blog game as there is just too much happening too quickly to stick to a twice a week schedule.  In the coming weeks, I’ll try to post interesting information as I find it, with some commentary, as opposed to waiting a few days.  I’ll still post the most interesting articles that I come across in a linkfest format – probably on Fridays.  I’ll also try to do market updates as often as possible based on what I’m hearing from contacts, as well as writing a feature post or two when a topic calls for it.

Please let me know what you think of the new format and, as always, please send anything that you find interesting my way.  In addition to the blog format change, I have some big professional changes coming up that I can’t share just yet but will post here soon.

Stay safe.

Landmark Links – A candid look at the economy, real estate, and other things sometimes related.

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