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James Sogi

4/30/05
Market of Fools

4/30/2005
Market of Fools, by Jim Sogi

In The Big Con, Maurer talks about the mark, susceptible or predisposed by nature or circumstance to being deceived or of having his own dishonesty or greed get the best of him, and from whom the grifter makes his living. The keys to success require a "keen sense of observation" and a "vast understanding of human nature." He talks about the constant search for for new techniques. His sources speak of willpower as the most important asset and the delicate sense of timing necessary for a successful operation.

Doubtless, speculation lacks the opprobrium of the con or turf betting [Editor's note: except in command economies like the Former Soviet Union, where the Webmistress caused faces to blanch on a recent trip by disclosing co-authoriship of "Practical Speculation"]. Nor is dishonesty necessary at all in speculation Yet the same keen sense of observation, willpower, and understanding of human nature that are required for success in other professions is needed for successful speculation. That translates into the market as searching and waiting to spot all the different types of marks that are as sure to come as night follows day.

Waiting for the frenzied crowd of sellers tripping over themselves to sell their prized stocks for the cheapest price they can with no buyers in sight. It's seen in those bars that trip over themselves falling down the stairs, bids vaporizing faster than sea foam in a stiff breeze. Then the same thing happens an hour later or the next day. A whole new crowd comes rushing through, tripping over themselves to go back up the same stairs, paying any price to buy the same stocks that the last group dumped on the ground like garbage, but the sellers are all played.

Did you ever see the cartoon in "The New Yorker" of the businessman in a suit and the old tie-dye hippie passing each other on the street and each thinking the same thing to themselves as they eyed each other out of the corners of their eyes, "To think I used to dress like that!" I know those people rushing to sell, rushing to buy. To think, I used to do that too. Have you ever sat in the subway station watching the crowds move in and out in droves, all intent? Have you swam in the ocean watching fish flit back and forth in panic before being shot by the spear? Have you watched Koyaanisqatsi?

The speculator is constantly searching for new ways to locate the marks in new situations that change from year to year to experiment and find what works, what doesn't; what works now that didn't work before; what worked before, but doesn't now.

This last week many rushed for the door. Yet like clockwork, for ten days, the following day a whole new crowd rushed in piling back up those same stairs. Up and down, up and down. Day after day. Which brings the Beatle song, "Fool on the Hill," to mind:

Day after day, alone on the hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still.
But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool.
And he never gives an answer .....

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down.
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning around

(How many notice the earth spinning, the sun and stars moving across the sky, the wind blowing, the shifts of the tides as the spinning of the earth?)

James Sogi is a philosopher, Juris Doctor, surfer, trader, investor, musician, black belt, sailor, semi-centenarian. He lives on the mountain in Kona, Hawaii, with his family