As I’ve noted in some prior blog entries, Bill Gross, the world’s preeminent bond manager from PIMCO, also happens to be an excellent writer. I read his monthly comments as much for their style and wit, as I do for their content. His piece this month Don't Care, although primarily about the sovereign debt crisis, seques into the topic using the experience we’ve all had, the vapidity of cocktail conversation, the inherent disinterest of people in other people, coming to the conclusion that “the careful discrimination between sovereign credits is becoming more than casual cocktail conversation. A deficiency of global aggregate demand and the potential impotency of policymakers to close the gap are evolving into a life or death outcome for the weakest sovereigns, with consequences for credit and asset markets worldwide.”
But I am not going to discuss sovereign debt here (perhaps the most serious one ultimately being our own) but, instead, the experience he so eloquently and hilariously describes as the blather of the social gathering. He even incorporates a graph entitled the “Cocktail Party Empathy Chart,” the X-axis being “Seconds Into The Conversation” and the Y-axis being “How Much I Really Care About What You Are Saying.” As one might imagine, there is a diagonally dropping line from ten to zero in about ninety seconds.
Although Gross covers the five topics such conversations normally wander off to, I’ll use his general observation as my own seque into a very recent experience relating to my last entry , in which I said I was happy to see the preview performance of American Buffalo as it gave me an opportunity to form my own opinion of the production. Since then, three professionally written reviews have appeared, one in the Palm Beach Post which was positive but, I thought, could have been more enthusiastic and two unconditionally excellent reviews, one in The New Times, Broward/Palm Beach and the other from Skip Sheffield’s blog.
We were at a social gathering recently and someone asked whether anyone had seen this new production of American Buffalo so I began to glowingly describe the production and was interrupted by the comment that the Palm Beach Post didn’t seem to be overly enthusiastic. Exactly my point I began to say, and before I could expand upon that it was pretty clear to me this person was more interested in talking about something else relating to one of those five “unbearable minute-and-a-half” topics, not really wanting a thoughtful reply. On Bill Gross’ X/Y graph, I hardly lasted the 90 seconds!
But why should this be a surprise? We don’t even listen to each other on the bigger issues. Look at the recent hyped meeting on healthcare between the President and leaders of Congress, each party pushing its own agenda, preening for their constituents in the all-day televised meeting. Hey, it makes no difference whether we will bankrupt the nation, as long as I look good! Who cares what the other has to say?
But I digress. Thanks, Bill Gross, for reminding us that we need to listen to each other, although I guess he might agree it all seems pretty hopeless.