Gold fever
A man in California has gone so gold-crazy that, according to an AP story at USA Today, he dug a 60-foot-deep hole in his yard before the fire department showed up and shut him down.

His "gold detector" kept telling him he was getting closer, though what he was more likely approaching was a deadly collapse than the mother lode.

Now, I can't say whether or not this man's gold fever has anything to do with the overhyped gold market. But I will note that anyone who's absorbing the media attention to this age-old commodity could be forgiven for grabbing a shovel and a handful of bling, rather than a few shares of Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) or BarrickGold (NYSE:ABX).

I'm beginning to see an interesting uptick in the number of infomercials and direct-mail gold come-ons I'm getting at home. Not surprisingly, they're laced with suspect valuations and predictions of a fivefold appreciation in the near future. The target demographic of my particular hustlers is revealed by their frequent bizarre, right-wing political rants and a heaping helping of religious pandering.

Finally, they've got the usual garbage about a yellow, metallic non-currency providing the ultimate "inflation protection" -- with no mention of that recent 23% haircut, of course. When patriotism, Hellfire, and brimstone are part of the sales pitch for a volatile commodity, how long until the real apocalypse hits?

Poster children for bad lending
Here's one the mainstream financial press mostly seems to have missed: In addition to raising interest rates, the Fed seems to be reining in lenders by stumping for greater scrutiny of home equity lending. (There's a nice discussion of it here, at

The Fed's move makes perfect sense, since sketchy credit goes hand-in-hand with bubblicious lending. Among the key potential problems that concern the Fed, No. 2 is "Limited or no documentation of a borrower's assets, employment, and income."

A tale like this makes you wonder whether home equity loans are just the tip of the iceberg. One woman with less than a buck in her bank account recently used a couple of forged checks and a fake letter -- said to come from Wachovia (NYSE:WB) -- to stroll away with the keys to a house worth more than $300,000.

Fraud is fraud, of course, but I can't be the only one who thinks that when someone with a buck in the bank can lie her way into a $300,000 home, the credit out there might be a bit too easy.

As the ARMs begin to readjust and the promised bubble equity that many buyers were counting on proves illusory, we're just beginning to see how marginal lending will all hash out. Twitches in this market will not only come to haunt subprime superstars like H&R Block (NYSE:HRB), but could also put the clamps on growth at banks across the board, from Citigroup (NYSE:C) to Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM).

What's in your bank's wallet? Shareholders had better hope it's higher-quality IOUs.

Final sign of the apocalypse: Screech's impending foreclosure
You might forgive a bank for being fooled by a couple of forged checks, but you'd think lenders would be on safe footing handing out bills to a star of Dustin Diamond's quality. Never heard of him? Does this ring a bell? Yeah, the nerd from Saved by the Bell.

Sadly for Screech's bankers, over-the-hill teen stars may not be the exemplary credit risks they would expect. According to this AP story, Screech has resorted to hawking T-shirts over the Internet to raise the $250,000 he needs to save his house from foreclosure.

When a minor celebrity from a C-list show is overleveraged on a suburban Milwaukee two-story, you have to start wondering just how many crummy loans are out there -- and how long before they bring the apocalypse down on us all.

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Seth Jayson wonders why Screech doesn't just book himself on a third-rate reality show. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.