Saturday, January 24, 2009

Origins of the Banking Crisis

Pundits routinely trace the roots of the financial system's current tailspin to the sub-prime mortgage boom of the past several years.

Ogden Nash foresaw elements of this crisis germinating over a half century ago. Bankers were a favorite Nash target. In a 1956 issue of the New Yorker, Nash lampooned the banking industry for transforming themselves from sage pillars of savings into financial hucksters.

Business Day in Australia's entitles it's article bemoaning the growth of financial derivatives, with the first two lines of Nash's poem 'Anybody for Money? Or Just Bring Your Own Basket'

Consider the banker
He was once a financial anchor...

Nash goes on to sternly admonish bankers for acting like car salesman, before concluding with:

In Nash's eyes bankers transformed themselves from cornerstones of financial common sense to "behaving so provocatively robbable." As the credit card lending crisis begins to share headlines with the mortgage crisis, we are reminded that Main Street's bank branches were the storefronts for Wall Steet's back rooms: Places where the high velocity, mind blurring complexity of the financial derivatives and securitization market melted into the toxic asset dump that Kate Jennings derides in Business Day.

There has long been a cyclical, good times, bad times pattern in banking: The 90% stock margin lending of the roaring 20's followed by the credit drought of the 1930's. The real estate boom of the 1980's and the ensuing S&L crisis.

As banking's cultural pendulum swings back to prudence, Nash, the former bond salesman, deserves credit for his prescient parody that, like so much of his work, used humor to gain attention for his genuine concern for society's wellbeing.

Ogden Nash poems copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ogden Nash: Obama Advisor

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue's newest resident has received much advice. He's acted swiftly on Nash's chief recommendations: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog" and “Dogs are upright as a steeple, And much more loyal than people.”

According to the Obamas have been to the pound but the choice "has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary." Front runners are the Labradoodle and Portuguese Water Dog.

Presumably the Secret Service will be managing Nash's quip that "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of."

Ogden Nash poems copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ogden Nash 's Dogs

In his twenties, Ogden Nash was a restless advertising copywriter who eventually struck out on his own. Yet his craft continued to display a knack for penning phrases that resonated and became part of the American lexicon.

"A dog is man's best friend" is one that continues to resonate. Nash's views on dogs have had a long lasting impact on others.

According to WTHR, Indianapolis, Ogden Nash was the first to characterize a dog as "man's best friend." It is in fact the first line of "An Introduction to Dogs". Annie Hillard, the Solitary Walker, shares her story of long term affinity with this poem in a recent post. Liesel's Garden Party features a fine picture collage to accompany these verses.

Nash wrote a lot about dogs, I won't try to capture all the verses here, but here are some lesser known ones first published in the New Yorker:

January 08, 1949

For a Good Dog
My little dog ten years ago…

August 21, 1948

Two dogs have I
For years we've had a little dog…

September 19, 1942

Please pass the biscuit
I have a little dog…

October 22, 1949

Love me but Leave my Dog Alone
Once there was a handsome man named Mr. Beamington and he…

July 21, 1951

Roll Over And Play Alive Or, Who Says You Can't Teach An Old Dog Tiresome Old Tricks
Brooks are often called rippling, but rivers are really…

October 12, 1957

Fellow-Creatures, Tray and Outre
The truth I do not stretch or shove…

Ogden Nash poems copyright © by Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

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