The Week in Review -- April 1, 1999

The Markets

  3/26 Close 4/1 Close Change %Change
DJIA 9,822.24 9,832.51 +10.27 +0.10
S&P 500 1,282.80 1,293.72 +10.92 +0.85
Nasdaq 2,419.32 2,493.37 +74.05 +3.06

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In Observance of April First
by Jerry Thomas (tmfcheeze@aol.com)

Greetings, Fools.

April the first, or All Fool's Day, is commonly regarded as an occasion for pranks, merriment, and mayhem. That may well be good enough for you, but I take my April Fool's Day seriously. My April First is spent in quiet contemplation of the higher essence of Foolishness, and you don't that get from pouring salt in the sugar bowl or dropping water balloons out of frat house windows. The strict rules of observance I have adopted require that I remove myself from the world, seek a place of abject solitude (a meeting of the Telemarketer Appreciation Society, say), and think. I sit for hours in a severe yogic posture, an intense expression on my face, chanting the word meringue over and over again while whole galaxies of Folly whirl through my mind. Then I lie down with an aspirin and a cold compress. Don't let anyone kid you. Being eccentric is hard work.

The reward I get is pretty much bupkis except that when I'm done, others greet me with that "Behold! Moses has returned from the mountain!" look. Plus, it gives me a certain credibility when I recommend in these Notes that you read our Foolish features, like Monday's Fool on the Hill commentary from Alex Schay (TMF Nexus6), called "Oracles and Auctioneers." You know, it is ironic that people call us silly, with our belled caps and our Motley antics, because in truth we are pitiful amateurs when it comes to nonsense and prattle. All you have to do is tune in to your average television financial guru, and you'll see how the real purveyors of balderdash operate. Alex's piece will expose some of their methods for you.

Perhaps this is the epiphany I was meant to have this April Fool's Day -- that we, who claim to be Fools, are outdone at every turn by the ridiculous behavior of the people we mean to lampoon. Imagine this world of Wise guys scrambling over themselves to excel each other -- at mediocrity! To strive valiantly, seriously, meaningfully, to be tops in a universe where falling below average gives you license to rule the roost. The world I speak of is the mutual fund industry, and Carter Newbold's Fribble this week on the strange behavior of the inhabitants of this realm makes my weird meditations seem like stone cold sanity. Lord knows I try to be outrageous, if only to put on a show for the people, but I am simply outdone by the behavior described in Carter's Fribble. I am a hopeless failure. Maybe it is my own fault for even trying.

In an insane world, it is impossible to lose your marbles on purpose.

So I go looking for a little sanity. What better place than Yi-Hsin Chang's latest update on the Y2K crisis? Or, shall we call it, non-crisis? We are all awaiting that last day of December 1999 as if it were some grand cultural odometer ready to turn over at the end of our 100,000-mile warranty. I guess we're supposed to reach that number with all the zeroes in it and Bam! The engine that drives the universe will drop from the chassis in umpteen-thousand pieces. Yi-Hsin's ongoing analysis of the situation will soothe your nerves, so if you can spare a moment from stockpiling provisions in your Y2K bomb shelter, do take the time to read it.

Speaking of meaningless zeroes, there's Dale Wettlaufer. No, I don't mean Dale, I mean the piece he wrote about the Dow's crossing the much-vaunted 10,000-point threshold. I'm almost sorry that the index closed above 10,000 for the first time on Monday, because it was so much fun watching the national media work itself into hysterics over something so pointless. As the index approached the Big 10K on a previous day, television crews eagerly set up their cameras on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange, only to have their hopes dashed when a meaningless last-minute fluctuation in stock prices left them without a headline. Chase the wind, CNBC, and you're bound to catch a handful of air.

So David, Tom, should we pack it in? Can we really be taken seriously as Fools? Or is the problem that, as Fools, we can't be serious enough? There is so much nonsense in the world, not even a dedicated Fool can keep up. Perhaps, as a way to settle my nerves, I'll participate in this week's Polling All Fools, asking what it is we should do about mean ol' Microsoft. Or I'll read some more Fribbles. Or have some more meringue.

Nothing like a good meringue on the first day of April. Mmm, boy, that's tasty.

Until next week,
Fool on!

Cheeze

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