Maxed out 

After the meltdown, on a gossamer thread

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Masters of the universe, indeed.

The current paradigm of cosmic creation and destruction posits that the universe has been forever expanding since the Big Bang, some billions — 5,000 to True Believers — of years ago. It will continue to expand until, well, it starts to shrink, at which point no one is really sure what happens but everyone agrees whatever it is will definitely not be good for our health.

The end of the universe for the masters of the universe — those frothy, greed-is-good Wall Street acolytes of Gordon Gecko — has come a tad earlier than its cosmic doppelganger… and it is demonstrably not good for their health. Masters of the universe is the name Tom Wolfe gave to the moneyboys of Wall Street in his Bonfire of the Vanities , where he so aptly painted a picture of lives ruled by infinite greed, deep pools of hubris and so much personal wealth that money ceased to have any real meaning, it just became a surrogate of success, a marker to keep score with.

After the total meltdown and, in some cases, disappearing act of venerable Wall Street firms, and the concomitant implosion of the rest of the U.S. financial system, working on the Street is going to have about the same cachet as going to work in your father’s insurance brokerage. If there’s a bright side to this maybe it’s that some of those “best and brightest” minds will decide there’s more future in science than finance and start pursuing more tangible goals than fat, personal portfolios.

These are exciting times, boys and girls. If you’ve ever felt as though your life was not your own to control, if you’ve felt a bit like one of those spiders floating on their own gossamer thread wherever the wind takes them, now’s the time to say, “See, I told you so.” Whether you live south of the border or in the Great White North or in Timbuktu, the sad and predictable denouement taking place from sea to shining sea in the U.S. is carrying you, like that floating spider, to… wherever. No one knows for certain; we’re traveling in terra incognita .

With eyes firmly fixed on the light blanket of snow atop Whistler and Blackcomb and the interminable anticipation of another ski season rapidly approaching, we can be forgiven for not paying much attention to what’s happening in the U.S. After all, the last decade has played out like a cheesy Greek tragedy down there with inept bunglers stumbling from one mismanaged crisis to the next. Why should this one be any different or merit any more attention than we’ve paid to the last dozen? As long as we keep our heads down, work hard, live within our means, why shouldn’t whatever’s hit the fan just travel right over our heads?

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