Captain's Blog, stardate 3/7/07
Waiting for the other shoe to drop on Wall Street, some March Madness favorites and a report from New Orleans, all from Fortune's Managing Editor Andy Serwer.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- SIGH OF RELIEF? Can we all breathe easier now? All I can tell you is maybe. Frankly I was really very surprised another shoe didn't drop after last week's little firestorm. Aside from subprime lenders like New Century (Charts) and NovaStar (Charts), which have absolutely torpedoed, the market was simply repriced down 4 percent or so. Which considering the insane gains we've reaped over the past six months is hardly anything to complain about.
Nervousness remains however, and rightly so. There are other ripples in the credit markets, and Wall Street is far from quiescent.... Meanwhile Saks (Charts) reported boffo numbers in February - love luxury! And Friendly Ice Cream says it may be for sale. They need to hire some more waiters!
NEW ISSUE OF FORTUNE: So, I'm sure you saw me on Squawk Box breaking the news that GE (Charts) is America's Most Admired Company. Did Joe Kernan love that? YEAH baby! Joe did point out that Time Warner (Charts) was not on the list. True, but we gettin' there! (With every little $144 million settlement with the state of Ohio, we are getting there!)...
Also a hot story by Alex (three sticks) Taylor on Toyota (Charts), America's best automaker. And you must read Bethany McLean's story on Fairfax and Jerry Useem's story on Apple's stores. Marc Gunther's piece on garbage is very cool too.... In the next issue, we'll have an amazing profile of a man who I consider the coolest CEO on the planet. (No his first name isn't Steve!)
ON JOSEPH CAMPBELL: It's been 20 years since he passed away, and yes Eric G is right, he lives on, on PBS. I must admit, I'm a big fan. My wife had a book about him out last night and I stayed up late reading it. (Mrs. Street has all the happenin' books!) I never knew Campbell prepped at Canterbury for instance, (along with JMP's Jimmy Lee - but he went later!), or that Campbell was a track star at Columbia, and that he saw Buffalo Bill at Madison Square Garden, and that he knew John Steinbeck and Jerry Garcia!
Bottom line, we could use a little bit more of Joseph Campbell in our world right now. This is a guy who looked for connections and commonalities between and amongst cultures (taking Jung's communal or collective subconscious steps further), which we could use much more of in this age of divisiveness. Ya dig?
DEEP BLUE FROM NOLA: Deep went down to New Orleans this week to help - yes they still need help. Here's where he's at: "New Orleans is still a big mess. I doubt many of the people will come back. The visible NOLA - that which the tourists see - the big corporate engines are back. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are up and running. The invisible NOLA remains neglected and there are rows and rows of housing in various states of repair, some lots are even leveled, but I'd say only 1 out of 5 homes is occupied in areas north of the city.
"I'd say the people who could least afford a rebuild and clean-up are the ones that get hit the worst. The water stains have not faded either. [Deep is working out of a camp in D'Iberville, MS.] The drive out to Mississippi was a quick flyover past numbers of abandoned apartment complexes, thousands of fallen trees, piles of rubble, and reminders that Katrina's ghost may haunt this area for a generation. The camp I'm staying at is extremely well organized with five rows of five tents that sleep six. We had a two-hour orientation that was motivational, inspirational, heart warming and sad. The directors of the camp explained how they got involved, what these volunteer groups mean to the community, and what is expected of us.
"The most important thing is 'listen' - hear what the individuals you are helping are saying - it's therapy. I'm only here for a week - the two heads of this camp have been at it for 16 months now. Talk about organizational skills. I've been assigned to stay at camp most of the week. I'm on the kitchen crew getting all the meals ready for the team that heads out to town. They say an army lives on its stomach no?... The people our crews are helping have decided to stay and rebuild but still need help, most are just flat out of energy to start, never mind complete any projects.... There were no big entertainers, executives or major corporations that reside here so 08/28 doesn't quite resonate the way 09/11 does but it still is a national disaster on an epic scale. Wish I had more time to write but I need to go start dinner for the crews."
LOOSE CHANGE: Saw "Last King of Scotland," what a tour de force for Forest Whitaker. Just amazing! It's kind of small movie except for him. I'd still recommend it.... Found this book "Wedding in December," by Anita Shreve on an airplane, really a chic-lit kinda deal, but I read the whole thing. Sort of Big Chill book, but one amazing thing I learned about was the "Halifax Explosion." Do you know about this? In 1917, two ships collided - one carrying munitions and chemicals such as benzol, nitrocellulose, picric acid and TNT - in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, killing some 2,000 and wounding 9,000. It was the largest "artificial" (meaning non-natural or man-made I guess) explosion until the first atomic bomb in 1945. It completely devastated the city. Look it up. What a strange and terrible tragedy....
Hoop? Yes, I do. I mean 'tis the season! So you want to bag Tubby Smith in the Bluegrass state? Who are you going to replace him with?... Speaking of the SEC, no team in the western division wants to go to the dance I guess.... Wilbon likes Davidson!... I like Notre Dame (I'm scared of Mike Braaaay!).... Players I dig: (Big Mama) Al Thornton, Curtis Sumpter, Nick (the Freak) Fazekas, and of course Citgo, AKA Greivis Vasquez.... I'll do my Final Four next week....