The Zeitgeist – 4.10.2019


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 in financial media. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But for whatever reason these are articles that are representative of some sort of chord that has been struck in Narrative-world.

April 10, 2019 Narrative Map – US Equities

In Puerto Rico, Building a Disaster-Proof Business Is Part of Recovery [New York Times]

Wait … an article about Puerto Rico that’s not about tax shelters or bond defaults or crappy local government or Trump idiocy or crypto bros? … an article that’s about entrepreneurship and the sort of small businesses that are the life blood of a vibrant local economy? What the hell, New York Times?

Also, thank you.

Forget real estate – ‘art flipping’ is the latest way rich millennials are building wealth, and it’s an investment baby boomers largely ignored [Business Insider]

The most interesting part of this utterly non-interesting filler article, the type of article that makes me yearn for a “contributor” story where I can at least belittle the author, is the use of the word “millennial”.

I counted 24.

The separate hyperlink to “rich millennials” as opposed to just plain old “millennials” gives it away. These are invitations for rage engagement, where readers who just can’t wait to mock “rich millennials” go for a quickie.

It’s all part of the Game of You.

PagerDuty seeks $1.69 billion valuation in its upcoming IPO and raises its price range, even as Lyft falters on the public markets [Business Insider]

Another gem from BI today … these mythical “concerns” that Lyft might just “bring the whole market down” is a classic example of how financial media intentionally builds a wall of worry in order to create a “problem” that can be “solved”.

Walmart is doubling down on robot janitors. Here’s why [CNN]

The actual article here is pretty boring … all about how Walmart is rolling out 900 giant robots to mop the floors at facilities … so I thought I’d use this space to celebrate Mr. Handy from Fallout, a boon companion if there ever was one.

My strong sense is that Rusty plays a cooperative game of Fallout 4. You know … building workshops, protecting the good folk of settlements throughout the Commonwealth, joining the Minutemen … that kind of stuff.

Not me. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

The Deadbeat Billionaire: The Inside Story Of How West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Ducks Taxes And Slow-Pays His Bills [Forbes]

As Above, So Below

That’s the tag line for the Epsilon Theory note that’s a manifesto for my life as a citizen – Things Fall Apart (Part 3) – Politics. Here’s the money quote.

“As Above, So Below” means that our social lives are organized as a fractal, that when there is disorder in the heavens or the seats of worldly power, so is there disorder in our communities, our families, and our personal lives. It means that when Pharaoh hardens his heart, whether he lives in a marble palace on the Nile or a white house on the Potomac, so do OUR hearts harden, as well.

It means that the widening gyre, which we can see represented most clearly on a national scale and in national elections, is no less potent and no less present in our everyday lives. It means that Things Fall Apart in ways both large and small. Always and in all ways.

How does Trump break us?

By emboldening human Grendels like freakin’ Jim Justice to crawl out from their Oligarch caves.

They’re everywhere now, at every level of social organization. They walk among us openly and celebratedly. As if they own the place.

Which they will if we let them.

Beowulf’s secret? A strong right arm is a good start, but it’s clear eyes and a full heart for the win.

And one more thing …

This is a great article by Chris Helman (@chrishelman), and it frankly makes me even angrier at Forbes for publishing their “contributor” and “brand partner” drivel so hard, because it detracts from the truly original work that professionals like Chris create for Forbes. Thanks for writing with clear eyes and a full heart, Chris!


The Daily Zeitgeist

We Didn’t Say it WASN’T a Press Release

By Rusty Guinn | June 24, 2019 | 1 Comment

It isn’t just that cannabis always seems to make the top of the Zeitgeist. It’s why – and sometimes the answer is, “Because people are paying for it to be at the top.”

Read more

The ANDs of Asylum

By Rusty Guinn | June 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

In the midst of a complicated issue, an article from a small regional outlet manages to remind us of the power of AND in storytelling and connecting the understanding of those across the widening gyre.

Read more

Zeitgeist Narrative Map – Week of June 16 in Review

By Rusty Guinn | June 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

This is our graph of the narrative structure of the last full week in financial markets news.

Read more

That Time I Bought Blockbuster Debt

By Ben Hunt | June 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

Management is not lying to you. It’s probably a really good turn-around plan. It could probably work out fine … IF they are given enough time. But they won’t be. Particularly when it’s the second turn-around plan.

Secularly declining companies ALWAYS run out of time.

It was one of the most expensive lessons of my investing career. And worth every penny.

Read more

Democracy Dies with Dancing

By Rusty Guinn | June 18, 2019 | 0 Comments

There’s a critical, indispensable feature of a free nation we call a free press. And then there’s the meme of free press!. The latter is a pure narrative construction, and a thing well supplied in the DC market.

Read more

The Not-So-Much War

By Rusty Guinn | June 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

A tug-of-war is only a tug-of-war if both sides, y’know, are capable of pulling on the rope.

Read more

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When can we expect the Epsilon Theory mock draft? Will it be a dualing mock draft like Mel and Todd? Will there be trades? The people want it, and dammit, they deserve it!

Rusty Guinn

Ben is such a Bama homer, he’d be sending in the cards for draft-ineligible true sophomores by the end of the 1st round!


As would half the NFL GMs.

Sean Garman
Sean Garman

The art article is interesting because it is a perfect example of “what” is happening but not “why”. Wealthy millennials are buying art (in my view) because they have observed their already-wealth parents purchasing pieces of art, which then appreciate in value, and they believe it will continue to appreciate.

This is not necessarily “smart” investing, but rather people acting out the “greater fool” theory. Children who have been exposed to the art world have a better view on the emerging artists and can purchase average works from average artists (if I can assume the future contours of the art world) and can easily flip it to the new rich who have not been exposed to the art world. This works until no one buys.


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