Month: July 2013

The most elegant description of a hedge fund ever written

The most elegant description of a hedge fund ever written appears in The Fear Index, by Robert Harris:

” You see that girl over there, the one in that group with the short dark hair that keeps looking at you? Let’s say I’m convinced she’s wearing black knickers – she looks like a black-knickers kind of a gal to me – and I’m so sure that’s what she’s wearing, so positive of that one sartorial fact, I want to bet a million dollars on it. The trouble is, if I’m wrong, I’m wiped out. So I also bet she’d wearing knickers that aren’t black, but are any one of a whole basket of colours – let’s say I put nine hundred and fifty thousand dollars on that possibility: that’s the rest of the market; that’s the hedge. This is a crude example, okay, in every sense, but hear me out. Now if I’m right, I make fifty K, but even if I’m wrong I’m only going to lose fifty K, because I’m hedged. And because ninety-five percent of my million dollars is not in use – I’m never going to be called on to show it: the only risk is the spread – I can make similar best with other people. Or I can bet on something else entirely. And the beauty of it is I don’t have to be right all the time – if I can just get the colour of her underwear right fifty-five percent of the time I’m going to wind up very rich. She really is looking at you, you know.”

How many f-bombs is too many?

The Electric Church coverI  am reading The Electric Church by Jeff Somers. I like the book. It is violent and there is a great deal of cursing (easy to please around here, aren’t we?). On Jeff Somers’ blog there is an interesting quote from an unhappy reader. Apparently this individual was none too pleased with the coarse language:

This was my first Jeff Somers book, and I will be avoiding any other books from the series. I would have rated this book 3 or 4 stars if not for the overuse of the F-Word. The F-ING writing style is F-ING like this: If you are F-ING fine with having to deal with the the F-ING F-Word, sometimes twice in the same F-ING sentence, then F-ING go for it. I’m not overly sensitive. I use the same word myself at dumb drivers, for example. My objection is the way it detracts from the narrative, like having a conversation with a person with limited vocabulary, throwing in F-bombs throughout their conversation.

What this unhappy reader doesn’t seem to realize is that it’s not Somers narrating his book. It’s his protagonist, Avery Cates. Avery Cates is a hit-man who came of age in a shattered society where most people don’t live to see thirty, where everything is burnt out and ruined and even if you manage to find some bathtub gin to dull the constant misery it’s liable to make you blind.

Consequently, Avery Cates says “fuck,” “shit,” “damn” and “hell” a lot. Avery Cates really isn’t concerned about offending anyone.

I have no problem with a character who drops a lot of f-bombs, provided it fits with the character.

Excessive cursing is a lot less obnoxious than other dialogue “quirks.” Phonetically rendered dialects, for example. This was an H.P. Lovecraft specialty. I would venture that no one in the history of published fiction has written more obnoxious dialogue than Howard Phillips Lovecraft. A character in The Dunwich Horror describes a monster thusly:

“Bigger’n a barn … all made o’ squirmin’ ropes … hull thing sort o’ shaped like a hen’s egg and bigger’n anything with dozens o’ legs like hogsheads that haff shut up when they step … nothin’ solid about it – all like jelly, an’ made o’ sep’rit wrigglin’ ropes pushed clost together … “

That’s right: “sep-rit,” “hull,” “haff” and “clost.” Someone wrote these words as dialogue and someone else paid to publish them.

I will take a boatload of fucks over that shit any day.

Monster mash: Silent Hill Revelation’s strange brilliance

Silent Hill: Revelation is a classic case of style over substance. I could not describe its plot in detail. Something about a blood cult trying to impregnate a hapless teen with the latest incarnation of some unnamed diety. Yog-Sothoth, perhaps. Sean Bean is involved. He spends most of the production waiting for his check. You can’t really blame him. The writing is laughable. The dialogue displays all the nuance of a haphazard translation of video game cut scenes from Japanese.

And honestly I couldn’t care less. Somehow, against all odds, Silent Hill: Revelation works.

Really it’s a creature feature. It’s all about atmosphere. The plot is just a mechanism that propels us from monster to monster. Fortunately they are damned interesting monsters (pun, anyone?), including:

nurses silent hill

Blind, faceless nurses that hunt by sound!

silent hill mannequin spider

A spider made of mannequin parts!

Pyramid Head

That pyramid-headed fellow with the outsize butcher knife!

woman in spider web

A chick trapped in a spider web!

Carrie Ann Moss holding Sean Bean captive in the lap of - er, whatever that thing's supposed to be...

Carrie Ann Moss holding Sean Bean captive in Magic Mike’s lap!

Hopefully this brief photo montage has effectively conveyed the inspired lunacy that is Silent Hill: Revelation. 

You may still be looking for a plot. In that case give up now. You won’t like what you find.

Instead, crack open a  beer and enjoy the monster mash. The Silent Hill franchise is perfect for a drinking game. Perhaps I will create one.