The Holiday Zeitgeist – 5.26.2019


Every morning, we run the Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories. On the weekend, we leave finance to cover the last week or so in other shifting parts of the Zeitgeist – namely, politics and culture. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But these are articles that have struck a chord in narrative world. 

In lieu of the usual narrative map here, a brief note to our regular Zeitgeist readers: beginning in the next week or so, you should see a site re-design that will change how you see this content:

  • We will be separating the ‘curated’ content into brief individual notes throughout the day, which will allow us to cover topics published throughout the day as opposed to just in the morning.
  • You will either be able to access Zeitgeist content by either (1) clicking The Zeitgeist in the Content menu at the top of the site, or (2) reviewing the individual inks on the “ticker tape” at the top of the home page.

It’s Not Just the Citizenship Question – the Digital Divide Could Hurt the Count of Latinos in the Census [Route Fifty]

This is about the census, but those who read our inaugural ET Election Index will recognize shared DNA with one of the most interesting narrative clusters that emerged from the early primary process: ‘this is election where Latino voting patterns are going to matter.’

I don’t have any insight into whether that is true, but we have consistently found that high attention narratives with limited coverage tend to become highly covered narratives. I feel confident saying you will read a lot more stories about this topic in the coming months.

The FDA Tells the Food Industry to Change How It Uses ‘Expiration’ Dates [Gizmodo]

The food label is a great case study in the core concepts of narrative construction. Most obviously, of course, the label is an opportunity to create and support the identity of the brand being sold. How are you being told to think about the brand?

Even the rules promulgated by the FDA for food labeling, however, railroad both food design and presentation into certain directions. We have long recognized the food pyramid, FDA guidelines and information provided on nutritional labels as a rather goofy cartoonified version of nutrition. But the target of this article is an entirely different cartoon, one I daresay it’s about time the FDA dealt with: expiry and best-by dates.

Image result for expiration label on salt

April 2020? I buy a bottle of Himalayan Salt that precipitated 600 million years ago in the late neoproterozoic in whatever part of Gondwanaland Pakistan belonged to, and of course they give me the grains that are just about to go bad!

Letter: Mink the bear isn’t the problem [Concord Monitor]

Even with the strong pull of the Zeitgeist in national media and global always-on conversations, my heart is warmed when I am reminded that there is always room for a crazy-ass letter-to-the-editor in a local paper.

You keep doing you, Mink the Bear and Mr. Williams.

The Sublime Sensation of the Swimming Hole [Smithsonian Mag]

Hamilton Pool

I suppose it shouldn’t bother me as much as it did, but I spent a good amount of time enjoying the wonder of this place. It’s called Hamilton Pool, and it’s a popular natural location about halfway between Spicewood and Dripping Springs, two of the most Texan places in Central Texas. Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood is, by the way, a criminally underrated beef enterprise worthy of visiting if you ever make it out to Hamilton Pool.

It has always been crowded, and in the last decade or two, you really had to line your car up pretty early to be assured of a good day there. But now, apparently, Hamilton Pool has to be booked online. And it’s even worse than that – apparently monopolization and resale is a thing already.

The whole idea – the very meme attached to swimming holes, at least to me – is that of a found thing. A place that only some people know about that you think you remember how to get to, and which has a rope someone attached some years ago, and it is probably still safe. It’s Holy Theatre and Rough.

I don’t have any good answers for the realities that rapidly expanding populations and broadened wealth – both good things – have forced upon our experiences with nature. There are more of us and more who can now afford to see and do these things. Commercialization and order are almost certainly the fairest ways to manage limited supply, I suppose. That doesn’t change how viscerally my brain responds to the idea of booking a reservation to Hamilton Pool, though.

The Meaning Behind the Democrats’ Infighting Regarding Impeachment [Epoch Times]

I would tell you my opinion on the political import of impeachment discussions, but I am starting to recognize that those opinions are consistent with the emerging narrative. Oh sure, I might argue that I thought them first, but there’s enough reason to doubt the provenance of my views.

What would that opinion be? What is the emerging narrative?

“Continuing to discuss impeachment is a zero upside, 100% downside political maneuver. It will fuel division and rhetoric that benefits extreme candidates – and Trump – and doing it outside of whatever is necessary to placate is a risky move.”

Yes, this particular opinion piece is written by an author from the right, but there’s a reason this ranks so high in the Zeitgeist. I’m more confident this is the narrative, and correspondingly less confident in the independence of my opinion.

What Does the Release of John Walker Lindh Mean? [New York Times]

Yeah, look, I’m all for talking about how we turn people into symbols and then talk about the symbol. That’s kind of what we do here, after all.

But just so that we are super, super clear, the person or persons who greenlighted this revisionist John Walker Lindh fanfiction at the paper of bloody record can go straight to hell.


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Mark Kahn
Mark Kahn

Away from the few items where expiration dates seem to reasonably align to that food’s expiration, expiration dates are like Chinese economic statistics: They are widely inaccurate as a measure of what they purport to measure, but they do tell us something about something, but I’m not always sure what.

michael gjerde
michael gjerde

I would bet (and I am a betting man) that the FDA article had very few links to today’s narrative…you chose it solely for the opportunity to be truly snarky (and funny) about the expiration date of Himalayan sea salt! Thanks, it made my day, Oh, I will miss your daily zeitgeist email as it was a wonderful breakfast ritual here on the west coast.


The Daily Zeitgeist

Frauds and Traitors

By Ben Hunt | August 16, 2019 | 2 Comments

Throwing words like “Fraud!” and “Traitor!” around so casually … it doesn’t reveal the true frauds and the true traitors.

It makes it easier for them to hide.

Read more

When Potato Salad Goes Bad

By Ben Hunt | August 15, 2019 | 4 Comments

On Tuesday, the Macy’s narrative was “I think they can make their comps.”

On Wednesday, the Macy’s narrative was “I think they can cover their dividend.”

This is what it means for a narrative to go bad. This is what it means for a story to break.

And when a story breaks, so does the stock. Not just for a little while, but for a loooong time.

Just ask GE.

Read more

A Cartoon in Three Parts

By Rusty Guinn | August 8, 2019 | 2 Comments

Cartoons are not evil. And yet they are the engine behind the Long Now, and very much at the center of our financial Zeitgeist. What is a clear eyed, full-hearted investor and citizen to do?

Read more

The Last Chance

By Rusty Guinn | August 7, 2019 | 6 Comments

You want scarcity? Access to the upper echelons of high society? Well, say no more. It’s your very last chance to buy this most special, most fantastical, most legendary, most unattainable of whiskies.

Read more

Are You Sweet Talking Me?

By Ben Hunt | August 6, 2019 | 4 Comments

It’s my favorite part of any Batman movie … that scene where the henchman pays a visit to the crazed supervillain – the Joker is the gold standard here – and you just know that the meeting is about to go terribly, terribly awry for the thug.

It’s a funny scene in a movie.

It’s a crappy way to run a country.

Read more

The Donkey of Guizhou

By Ben Hunt | August 5, 2019 | 7 Comments

My point in relating the fable of the Donkey of Guizhou is not that I believe China is the tiger and the United States is the donkey in our current trade-war-going-to-currency-war.

My point in relating the fable of the Donkey of Guizhou is not that I believe the current United States president is a braying donkey in his “easy to win” trade-war-going-to-currency-war.

I mean … I do, but that’s not my point.

My point is that Chinese political leadership believes that they are the tiger and the current United States president is a braying donkey.

Read more


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