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Friday Night Jazz: Favorite Holiday CDs

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 05:30 PM

Its that time of year: It started around Halloween, and by now I am already tired of walking into stores and getting assaulted with endless repetitions of really bad, really corny Xmas music we've all heard far too many times to enjoy any longer. (I say, F&%k Rudolph!)

Here's a way to get into the holiday musical spirit without having to endure the usual annoying cloying tunes. This is one holiday-themed list that won't make you ill.

Since we first mentioned these CDs years ago, many of them have been remastered. And once again, we see many of them on sale at Amazon for under $10.


Ella_swinging_xmas_2 1. Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas

There truly is no better Christmas album than this one.  It is 180 degree from all that junk holiday music you hate: Recorded in 1960, it is without a doubt the swingingest Christmas album ever recorded.

A Jazzy big band, brilliant arrangements and Ella's perfect voice make this album a must have Christmas albums, period.

Even though I already own this, I fear I must add this remastered  version of Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, Ella Fitzgerald


Charlie_brown 2. A Charlie Brown Christmas

The classic Peanuts Christmas Jazz Masterpiece: For those of a certain age, "the first time you listen to this disc you will undoubtedly be transported directly back to your childhood" (one reviewer noted)and thats absolutely true.

Indeed, for lots of us, this was our first introduction to Jazz -- and Vince Guaraldi is still a great intro. A must have.  A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special


3. Oscar Peterson Christmas

: Oscar Peterson Christmas

Sophisticated yet unobtrusive, this CD is an ideal jazz instrumental backdrop to all your holiday activities. Peterson mades this warm, mellow album accessible to non-Jazz buffs, while at the same time keeping it sophisticated and interesting enough for afficianadoes to enjoy. This CD, along with the Ella disc, are two of my favorites. Its perfect for sipping an evening cocktail and sitting in the dark with nothing on but Christmas lights.  Oscar Peterson Christmas


December 4.  December, Piano Solos

December holds the distinction of single-handedly putting Windham Hill on the map. This collection of solo piano works crossed over from new age to popular to seasonal.

I always loved having this as one of 5 CDs on the carousel (back in the days of 5 CD disc players). Yes, kids, there was a shuffle play before the iPod. December, Piano Solos: 20th Anniversary Edition, George Winston >


5. Merry Christmas from Motown

: Merry Christmas from Motown

A terrific collection of favorite Motown artists doing all the usual songs; The work was interesting enough that the series from Motown saw a few more versions of this after the success of the first one.

This first collection is all Motown A-list:  The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes,  Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Stevie Wonder.

Merry Christmas from Motown (Various Artists)



6.  A Winter's Solstice: Windham Hill Artists

Following the success of December, this album became one that built a Windham Hill tradition of New Age seasonal music / mixed artist collections.

They are now up to number VI in the Winter Solstice Series. A Winter's Solstice: Windham Hill Artists

7. Christmas with the Rat Pack

: Christmas with the Rat Pack

Break out the cocktail shaker, its time for some Christmas drinks with Frank, Sammy and Dino!  This is a boozy holiday compilation, a perfect retro lounge soundtrack for a bachelor pad. My favorite comment about this:  "the novelty of having three of the 20th century's most notorious sinners belt, whoop, and sing the praises of sleigh bells, roasting chestnuts, and the virgin birth would be enough to recommend this dizzy, 21-track delight, but there's actually some rewarding pop archaeology here as well."
Christmas with the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin Sammy Davis Jr.


8.  Wintersong

: Wintersong

Sarah's elegantly beautiful voice mixes some traditional (but not ubiquitous) Christmas songs along with some more modern holiday tunes (John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" and Joni Mitchell's "River"). If you enjoy her lovely and haunting voice, you will most likely enjoy this collection. (I suspect this collection may grow on me) Wintersong, Sarah McLachlan


9. James Taylor at Christmas

: James Taylor at Christmas

Nicely balanced between pop and jazz selections, with more stately hymn-like fare and balladry. Anything JT does manages to sound fine via his charmingly understated, mellow, soulful voice. (and a must own for JT fans)  James Taylor at Christmas


10. Rhino: Swingin Christmas and Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One (2 way tie).

These two are similar hipster recordings:

: Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One

Ultra-Lounge is a martini-and-mistletoe combo from the late 50s/early 60s. Think of the Doris Day movies of that era (or even Tony Randall's), and you get the picture of the big band sound on many of the tracks. Its very retro, and features the likes of Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Lou Rawls, Julie London, Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee, Billy May, and Les Brown.  Ultra-Lounge: Christmas Cocktails, Part One

: Rhino: Swingin Christmas

The Rhino collection digs deeper back to the 40s to more recent cuts -- a diverse collection of songs covered by Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Esquivel, The Manhattan Transfer,  Vic Damone. (Les Brown is the only artist present on both discs).

Rhino: Swingin Christmas 

That should be enough to keep you warm all winter!

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 05:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
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History of the Dow

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 01:30 PM

How's this for some chart-porn?


Just beautiful . . .


Acck! Would whoever sent me this gorgeous chart please reveal themselves? I cannot seem to find you name

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New Home Sales Cut in Half

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 11:30 AM

I was chatting with a friend about our earlier post taking apart the New Housing Sales data (Sales drop 23.5%), and he asked -- "Gee, how far do you think that's from the top?"

A few clicks later -- and courtesy of Asha G. Bangalore, we learn that sales of new single-family homes are down 47.6% from their peak in July 2005.



To contextualize this, if the current path continues into 2008, Centex CEO Timothy Eller said to Bloomberg, "This looks like it's going to be the deepest correction of any housing correction since World War II."

Truly amazing.


Existing Home Sales - Sales and Prices Are Down, Inventories Keep Climbing Up
Asha G. Bangalore,
Northern Trust, November 28, 2007 

Housing Slump's Third Year Will Be `Deepest' Since World War II
Dan Levy and Brian Louis
Bloomberg, Nov. 30  2007

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Rally Continues on Bernanke Comments

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 09:59 AM


Markets up smartly on the heels of Bernanke's speech last night. The panic had become palpable, leading to dovish comments from Bernanke and Kohn. Thus, as we discussed on Monday and Tuesday, the Christmas Rally has finally arrived. (Kudos to Guy Ortmann, Howard Lindzon, and Mike Panzner, who all pretty much nailed this one)

You should read Bernanke's full speech (here), but the money quote is below:

"The incoming data on economic activity and prices will help to shape the Committee’s outlook for the economy; however, the outlook has also been importantly affected over the past month by renewed turbulence in financial markets, which has partially reversed the improvement that occurred in September and October. Investors have focused on continued credit losses and write-downs across a number of financial institutions, prompted in many cases by credit-rating agencies’ downgrades of securities backed by residential mortgages. The fresh wave of investor concern has contributed in recent weeks to a decline in equity values, a widening of risk spreads for many credit products (not only those related to housing), and increased short-term funding pressures. These developments have resulted in a further tightening in financial conditions, which has the potential to impose additional restraint on activity in housing markets and in other credit-sensitive sectors. Needless to say, the Federal Reserve is following the evolution of financial conditions carefully, with particular attention to the question of how strains in financial markets might affect the broader economy."

Careful out there. We may get snow this weekend!


National and regional economic overview
At the presentation of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, NC
Board of Governors of Federal Reserve, November 29, 2007

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New Home Sales Rebound! (Sales drop 23.5%; Prices fell 13%)

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 06:30 AM

Yesterday morning, Commerce released the New Residential Sales data.

Encouragingly, the media has caught on to the monthly nonsense built into the way numbers get reported, as evidenced by this WSJ headline:  New-Home Sales Post Modest Gain Because Prior Months Revised Down

As we noted same time last month on "No, New Homes Sales DID NOT Rise . . .", the game is to report the present UNREVISED latest data versus the revised lower last month's data.

Example: September 2007 sales of new one-family houses were initially reported at 770,000, up 4.8% from the prior months downward revision of 735,000.

As we warned, that phantom 4.8% gain was likely to disappear when the revisions get reported: Surprise! September got revised down to 716,000 -- that swung the monthly numbers to a loss of 2.6%. Not very astonishing -- all you need to do is read the data and do the math.

For the latest month of data, we see the same pattern emerge:

- The year-over-year change from October 2006 is minus 23.5%; (The statistically significant margin of error was ±10.3%).

- The median sales price of new houses sold in October 2007 dropped 13% to $217,800 -- a significant drop from October 2006 price of $250,400; (average sales price dropped exactly $1,000 o $305,800). Monthg to month, prices fell 8.6%.

- Initial number of for new one-family houses sold October 2007 was 728,000 -- this will likely be revised downwards, also winging it to a loss.

- The fractional initial unrevised gain of 1.7% has a margin of error of ±11.0%, and therefore is not statistically significant.

- Inventory improved, falling 6.7%, representing an 8.5 month supply at the current sales rate.

NOTE: New Home Sales are a measure of contract signings, and do not reflect cancellation rates, which remain significantly elevated in the 20-40% range.


While Homebuilders have been doing what they can to cut inventory levels, the problem they face is competition from existing homes for sale -- which make up more than 80% of total Homes for sale inventory.

Chart courtesy of Barron's and Econoday


Commerce Dept, Novermber 29, 2007

New-Home Sales Post Modest Gain Because Prior Months Revised Down
WSJ, November 29, 2007 10:27 a.m.

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iPod, Sansa, Zune

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 07:30 PM

SansaOf all the portable media players I have used (and thats lots), none compares very favorably to the iPod. 

But as of late, the gap between them is closing:

Today, long time Apple buff David Pogue gave a pretty nice review to the Zune. And I've spoken to many Sansa users who are very happy with that as their musical gadget of choice.

Its funny to me that Apple spent so many years as the oddball, anti-establishment PC. Now, Steve Jobs has become THE MAN, and other mainstream companies like Sandisk and Microsoft  have become the plucky contrarian device makers.

Its somewhat amusing.

Today's NYT had two articles about burgeoning iPod comptitors:  The new SanDisk Sansa View, and the revised Microsoft 2nd Generation Zune.

The Times noted the new SanDisk Sansa View compares favorably to the iPod Nano from Apple, at least on paper:

The View comes in 8-gigabyte ($150) and 16-gigabyte ($200) versions, while the Nano has 4 gigabytes ($150) or 8 gigabytes ($200). The View has a 2.4-inch screen as opposed to a 2-inch screen on the Nano. SanDisk claims 35 hours of audio and 7 hours of video playback on a single charge; the Nano claims 24 and 5. The View has a built-in FM radio; the Nano requires a $25 accessory for radio play.

And there’s more. The Nano’s storage capacity can’t be expanded, while the View can add as many as 8 gigabytes using a MicroSD card. The View is bigger than the Nano, about the size of an open slider phone, weighing in at 2.9 ounces compared with the Nano’s 1.74 ounces. In this case, bigger may actually be better"

Zune And then Pogue's review of the Zune was not too bad either:

"You can navigate the Zune’s bright, clear, animated software by clicking the dial at any of its four compass points; select something by clicking the center; and — here’s the twist — scroll through lists by rubbing the pad’s face. Music-player companies have struggled for years to come up with a controller as good as the iPod’s click wheel; Microsoft, in Zune 2.0, has finally done it.  The sound quality is very good, especially if you use the 80-gig Zune’s included earbuds. They’re not hard disks like the iPod’s and those of the smaller Zunes; they’re soft rubber bulbs that snuggle securely into your ear canals, sealing out the outside world. . . The 80-gig Zune is still thicker and chunkier than its iPod rival, too."

Ipod_classic Me? I'm still an iPod guy:

Here are some of the iPod features that the Zune lacks: Games, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock, password-protected volume limiter, graphic equalizer, notepad, auto-synched copy of your computer’s calendar and address book, and Disk Mode, which lets an iPod serve as an external drive for carrying around computer files. Above all, you may miss that thriving virtual bazaar of iPod accessories: more than 3,000 stereo docks, cases, car adapters, and so on, compared with only a handful for the Zune. Here are some of the iTunes software features missing in the Zune’s software: Smart Playlists, which assemble groups of songs based on criteria that you specify (“80’s up-tempo songs I haven’t heard in three months”), choice of visualizers (screen-saver effects that dance to the music), closed captioning for videos and TV, Cover Flow view, and a graphic equalizer. The Zune store is missing a lot of iPod features, too: TV shows, movies, audio books, monthly allowances and comprehensible pricing."

A Portable Multimedia Player Takes on the Apple Nano
NYT, November 29, 2007

Microsoft Challenges the iPod (Again)   
NYT, November 29, 2007

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Hollywood Studio Exec Explains The Writers' Strike

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 04:30 PM

A studio executive explains the Hollywood writers' strike (as written by striking Colbert Report writers).

Bloody brilliant.

Also, the AMPTP finally fights fire with fire, and uses the internet to counter the WGA's ugly smear campaign.


via pmarca

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
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Combined Value of Leading Credit Sources

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 02:30 PM

Today's chart-porn is this depiction of the tightening credit cycle from a front page NYT article.  The chart itself was too salacious for the front page, and had to be buried deeper into the paper . . .



chart courtesy of NYT


As Lenders Tighten Flow of Credit, Growth at Risk
NYT, November 29, 2007

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No Conspiracy Theory -- Just Data

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 11:53 AM

One of the things people do not understand is a basic truth about the BLS, BEA, Commerce Department, and other government data sources. I get constant emails warning me of the dark cabals manipulating the official releases.

While I have been critical over the years of the models and methodologies employed, I do not believe this is any grand conspiracy.

Sure, the headlines are often misleadingly spun, but the data is all there for whoever wants to peruse it. Indeed, if you strap on your green visor, you can find all of the data releases for Inflation, Unemployment, GDP, New Home Sales, Durable Goods, etc. The non-seasonally adjusted non hedonics, no substitutions data is all right there. You need only bring a critical eye and a dollop of skepticism, and you can usually deduce the real meaning beneath the spin.   

In fact, the Truth is actually much worse than any conspiracy: Its as if the government is saying:

"Conspiracy theory? Ha! We don't need to bother fabricating anything -- we dump ALL of the data to the web each month, and that site gets less traffic than a dog's blog in Kuala Lumpur.

We just think you couch potatoes are too lazy, too dumb, too easily distracted by other nonsense to really look at the actual data. Heavy lifting? Actual thinking? Working to figure out what is really going on? Don't make us laugh!"

And you know what? They'd be right.

Even most conspiracy theories are just a lazy approach to the data . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (1)
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GDP=4.9% (also, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn)

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 09:40 AM

Gdp_q3_2007_2 Here's the WSJ lede on GDP:

"The U.S. economy soared last summer, growing at a rate much stronger than earlier estimated, but the earnings of companies were flat, the government reported Thursday.

Gross domestic product rose at a 4.9% annual rate July through September, the fastest quarterly pace since 7.5% in third-quarter 2003, the Commerce Department said.

The new, 4.9% estimate for third-quarter 2007 GDP reflected a revision up from a previously reported 3.9% increase. Higher inventories and exports were behind the government's revision to GDP, a measure of all goods and services produced in the economy."

Bloomberg added:

"The world's largest economy grew at an annual rate of 4.9 percent, the most in four years, according to revised data today from the Commerce Department in Washington. The pace is a percentage point stronger than estimated last month and follows a 3.8 percent rate in the second quarter." (emphasis added)

This 4.9% number is one of the more "fanciful" government releases you will see in your lifetime, (outside of the state run media that exist only within totalitarian dictatorships).

Did this past quarter feel like the strongest growth quarter in 4 years?

Let's begin with what we know about Q3 prices: They saw significant increases -- yet the price index deflator was a 9 year record low of 0.9%. Rex Nutting observed: "Because of the way in the price index is constructed, it likely understates real-world inflation, and thus overstates real growth."

Residential fixed investment, the GDP component that includes spending on housing, plunged by 19.7% in the third quarter (but Investments in structures increased 14.3%).

Profits for the 3rd quarter flipped negative, dropping 8.5%.

We have seen consumer spending falter, with the  crucial opening salvo of the holiday weekend down 3.5%. That's no surprise, given that second-quarter wages were revised lower by $44.8 billion. As a result, real disposable incomes fell 0.8% in the second quarter, instead of rising 0.6% as the Commerce Department had previously reported.


Question: How can Q3 GDP be 4.9% with corporate earnings, housing and retail sales so awful? Forget Goldilocks, this fairy tale sounds more like Cinderella . . .


Chart courtesy of Barron's



U.S. Department of Commerce, November 29, 2007 8:30 a.m.

Economy Grew 4.9% in 3rd Quarter, Up From Previous Estimate of 3.9%
WSJ, November 29, 2007 9:38 a.m.

U.S. Economy Expanded at 4.9% Rate in Third Quarter
Courtney Schlisserman
Bloomberg, Nov. 29 2007

U.S. GDP revised up to 4.9% for third quarter
Corporate profits fall even excluding subprime write-downs
Rex Nutting
MarketWatch, 9:14 AM ET Nov 29, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)
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