All the News That Discomfits to Print
The Week in Review -- September 11, 1998
by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

The thought occurs to me that many readers may be turning to these Notes in the hope that I may be able to make some sense of this past week's crazy ride in the stock market. Let's put that notion to rest as quickly as possible. There is absolutely no point in asking Gilligan to do what only the Professor can. The First Mate (and the Skipper, too) will do their very best, but if any Thurston Howells out there are seeking solace, or at least some insight, they would do much better to turn to the words of Fool Louis Corrigan (TMF Seymor). His comments in Thursday's Fool Plate Special are, bar none, the sanest I have seen in this insane week.

And what did I do this past week? Well, aside from worrying that I might be mentioned in the Starr Report, I spent a lot of time loitering at the local newsstand. It's a very scary place these days. One headline after another hearkens toward Doom.

Time magazine's cover, for example, shows a crowd of irrationally exuberant investors marching off the edge of a stock chart like lemmings off a cliff. "Is the Boom Over?" Time asks, perhaps unconsciously recalling another famous Time cover, which asked, "Is God Dead?" Meanwhile, further down the rack, Esquire asks its own ominous question: "What Did You Do After the Crash, Daddy?" This cover shows a man's head in pieces like a smashed piggy bank. Inside we are taunted by a whole array of imminent disasters from the catastrophic failure of capitalism to the dawn of the next Ice Age. Next we note the cover of The Economist, which opts for a more subtle approach: It shows Planet Earth liquefying into a puddle like a scoop of blue ice cream on a hot sidewalk. Global meltdown -- get it?

Even The Weekly World News gets into the act. This is the supermarket tabloid famous for its composite photographs of Presidents greeting UFO aliens on the White House lawn. Its cover declares that the evil Millennium Bug will mean the end of civilization as we know it (and the screaming CAPS are all theirs): "ALL BANKS WILL FAIL! FOOD SUPPLIES WILL BE DEPLETED! THE STOCK MARKET WILL CRASH! DOMINO EFFECT WILL CAUSE WORLDWIDE DEPRESSION!"

It looks pretty grim, doesn't it? If the End really is coming, if the end of history really is at hand, would there be any hyperbole left to the Fourth Estate? How would they go about explaining our actual demise, after they've used up all the adjectives reporting the events of the past seven days? Who rings the bell that lets magazine editors across the planet know when to move in unison? Who lets them know it's open season on fear?

It is perhaps not fair to toss all of these magazines into the same pile, and I do not mean to suggest that we surrender all our concerns for the future. It's just that somehow it seems the case for panic is being overstated, with little notice given to anyone who might have a more sanguine outlook for the future. (Is anybody optimistic these days? Are they trapped somewhere in a journalism-proof booth?)
Oddly enough, and against all reason, I find myself looking forward to the years ahead. I expect that five years from now -- and ten years from now, and fifty years from now -- my heart will still be beating. The sun will still be rising every morning, and when I pass the newsstand on the corner, I will still be seeing magazines with scary headlines on their covers. So call me a Fool.

I expect there will still be a Motley Fool Community fifty years hence as well, and that it will be far vaster even than it is today. Please do tell me you've registered as a card-carrying Fool. The benefits are many, but the most important is that registration lets you join in the endless conversation on our message boards. It is phenomenal the way many of these conversations have grown, and among the most phenomenal of these is the Living Below Your Means board.

The Fools contributing to that discussion range from students to educators, from artists to engineers, but they all share a passion for thrift. Tony Miller (TMF 2Aruba) has cherry-picked a sampling of money-saving suggestions from that board. Read it, and consider it an invitation to join in the pleasures of that board.

It's fun to watch great material bubble up from the Community. A good example is Thursday's Post of the Day , penned by Fool George Runkle (TMF Runkle). George offers us a checklist of things to remember while buying a home. (And you thought The Motley Fool was only about stocks? For shame! Check out our primo Fool resources on How to Buy a Home! )

You might also want to check out Thursday's Fool on the Hill commentary from Alex Schay (TMF Nexus6). In this piece, Alex looks at Globalstar Telecommunications Ltd. (Nasdaq: GSTRF), a company that fared worse than most this week after watching much of its hopes literally crash and burn, thanks to the failure of a Ukrainian rocket. Also, don't forget to examine this week's Dueling Fools feature, where Fools Louis Corrigan and Bill Barker (TMF Max) debate the pros and cons of shorting stocks.

Take care, and I'll see you next week, Fools. That is, if there is a next week.

Fool on!



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