Bookmark found in a book.
A bank’s earnings are a quantum event; they are entirely probabilistic, and the answer you get depends on who’s doing the observing. You make some guesses with some degree of statistical likelihood, and then you apply one of a half-dozen accounting regimes to the guesses, and you get a number, and then you’re like, ooh, look at this number, it’s so numeric.
But it’s not a thing in the world. It’s just the output of applying your rules to your inputs. But your inputs are fictions, and your rules are fictions, so it’s very silly indeed to treat your output as a fact.
Matt Levine, “Bank of America Made $168 Million Last Quarter, More or Less”
This is one of the best things you will ever read about how banks describe money. As a thing they have. Or don’t. Or, more to the point, as an idea of a thing they have or don’t.
Every American sports franchise has a failed trade in its history. Most have traded a great player for prospects or draft picks who didn’t quite make it. What makes the 1991 trade of Bret Saberhagen from the Kansas City Royals to the New York Mets so memorable is not that the team got worse. It’s how much worse and how quickly.
The 1992 Royals lost their first seven games. I remember this. I also remember they won their eighth game when a man named Keith Miller got a base hit when the opposing team was trying to walk him intentionally. (More on him in a second.) He swung at a pitch that was two feet outside, and he somehow got a hit out of it. The opponent, the Oakland A’s, insisted he stepped out of the batter’s box to swing, so it shouldn’t have counted. But it was their first win of the year, so the Royals were just thankful. I remember all this from my daily perusal of the Kansas City Star’s sports page in 1992. I was ten, but the start of my day changed with how the Royals had done the night before. If the news coming through my clock radio told me the Royals won, I would run down to the breakfast table quickly. If they lost, I would take my time.
I took my time a lot that year.
After winning their first game, the Royals proceeded to lose another nine in a row. They were 1-16. Never has a team been sunk so quickly in a season. Literally in the history of baseball, no team had ever been 10.5 games behind after just 17 games played. Not that it got better from there. They played sub-.500 ball the rest of the way and finished a done-by-the-All-Star-Game 24 games behind.
That spring, during the 1-16 start, a particular joke, one premised on an abused child testifying during a divorce hearing, became very popular at my grade school. It’s tasteless and it’s not funny, though it is not graphic. Skip the next paragraph to avoid it. (Ten-year-olds laugh at awful things.)
A boy’s parents are getting divorced, and the judge asks him to choose which parent he wants to go with. He is noncommittal, so the judge asks if he’d like to live with his dad. “No, my daddy beats me,” the boy replies. The judge asks if he’d like to live with his mom. “No, my mommy beats me, too.” So the judge asks if there’s anyone he’d like to live with. The boy thinks for a second and replies, “I want to live with the Royals. They don’t beat anybody.”
The joke, such as it was (and again, it was awful), made sense: the Royals wouldn’t—couldn’t—beat anybody. You’d never have anything to fear from them.
The markers of Britishness for me include empiricism, irony, the ad hoc approach, pluralism, and a critical awareness of its own rich and sometimes appalling history. It’s sceptical, too: it has seen a thing or two and knows nothing lasts. But perhaps what recommends it most is the frail senescence that makes it an undemanding kind of belonging, and unexpectedly fits it for the modern world.
Ian Jack, “Is this the end of Britishness?”