The Bull Hunter by Dan Denning

Within the first minute and 34 seconds you know you are going to understand this book because Denning quotes James Dyson:

“Of the world’s ten largest corporations by revenue, 9 make big, heavy things, like cars.”

This is easy to follow, sensible stuff – and just the kind of obviousness that industrial strength money market manuals pass over.

Give him time, and Denning will explain a lot of “obvious” things. For example, that you can’t automatically grow rich by buying stocks. Or that you can’t automatically stay rich by being an American. Or that just because you live in America doesn’t mean you can’t invest in anything but fictional (paper) assets. Or that a bear is called a bear because once upon a time when traders were also hunters, bear skin jobbers sold skins from bears they had not yet caught. By entering into these early futures contracts, the hunters were guaranteed a fixed price. By “selling short” they lost out on the possibility of getting a higher price for their bear skins in the future. The practice came to describe those who sold short on a stock or commodity.

In fact, within the first 13 minutes, the ‘obvious’ no longer is.

Home ownership, Denning writes in 2005, is “the new serfdom” and paints a picture of a housing bubble where no equity is built and no real ownership is achieved. Combine falling home prices with increases in monthly payments AND a flat income, writes Denning, and you get trouble. In other words, you get 2008.

The Bull Hunter

Inside the Red Mansion by Oliver August read by Simon Vance

Oliver August, correspondent for the Times of London in China is learning Chinese. His teacher asks him what Oliver means. Oliver responds: ‘Since a man that works on a farm was a farmer, a man who harvested olives was an Oliver’. His teacher then couples two radicals – olive (gan) and farmer ( no ). The 26 year old reporter is thereafter laughingly referred to as Farmer.

“Nobody in their right minds called themselves a farmer. Millions are fleeing the land to become city dwellers, to partake in the industrial revolution, to become richer. When I introduced myself people guffawed to each other. A foreign farmer has come to our China… !”

Oliver August is a sieve of a China in transformation from below. We get the language, the images, the words, the emotions, the slogans, the mixture of groundlessness and lawlessness, the sense that a Chinese being can rely neither on the earth nor on the sky for his limits. “Modern China was a magic mirror: you could see whatever you wanted to see…,” writes Oliver.

The country was both free and oppressed, at once anarchic and authoritarian, totally chaotic yet highly regulated.

Lai Changxing is an emblem of this new country; hence his is the story tracked by Oliver.
But alongside the story of the legendary Lai, a rogue reminiscent of America’s 19th century captains of industry, Oliver gives us the gossip, the rumours, the news. And the only way to report this news is “to get out and report what you saw yourself,” in sideways glances, from overnight trains, from hired cars driven by monks, from the streets and the restaurants…

But still more, Oliver gives us economics, politics, philosophy. Not cut and pasted out of wikipedia but lovely, incisive, pieces of thought, fresh from the sea, still smelling of fish.

The more China modernizes the more ravenous its appetite for the past becomes….

These wealthy Chinese who finally thought it safe to return from abroad “were known as sea-turtles who had finally brought home their nest eggs…”

A myo tan low is a building that scratches the sky…

A big-faced building iDam yam zi dasha is a building that gives the owner a lot of face…

The Overlook by Michael Connelly read by Len Cariou

Everything good comes together in this slow moving L.A. smoothie with the wizened, reflective, and much humbled Harry Bosch. Gone is the bull in the china shop attitude, the stubborn in your face overconfidence. In its place is the humility that comes from being too old or at least older than one’s culture,