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Regime Permanence | Paul Krugman’s Postscript

Dear All,

Please see Paul Krugman’s postscript to my article REGIME PERMANENCE.

Asher Edelman

 

The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics

Republicans are an authoritarian regime in waiting

by Paul Krugman

October 9, 2018

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Many people are worried, rightly, about what the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh means for America in the long term. He’s a naked partisan who clearly lied under oath about many aspects of his personal history; that’s as important as, and related to, the question of what he did to Christine Blasey Ford, a question that remains unresolved because the supposed investigation was such a transparent sham. Putting such a man on the Supreme Court has, at a stroke, destroyed the court’s moral authority for the foreseeable future.

But such long-term worries should be a secondary concern right now. The more immediate threat comes from what we saw on the Republican side during and after the hearing: not just contempt for the truth, but also a rush to demonize any and all criticism. In particular, the readiness with which senior Republicans embraced crazy conspiracy theories about the opposition to Kavanaugh is a deeply scary warning about what might happen to America, not in the long run, but just a few weeks from now.

About that conspiracy theorizing: It began in the first moments of Kavanaugh’s testimony, when he attributed his problems to “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” motivated by people seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” This was a completely false, hysterical accusation, and making it should in itself have disqualified Kavanaugh for the court.

But Donald Trump quickly made it much worse, attributing protests against Kavanaugh to George Soros and declaring, falsely (and with no evidence), that the protesters were being paid.

And here’s the thing: Major figures in the G.O.P. quickly backed Trump up. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate committee that heard Blasey and Kavanaugh, insisted that the protesters were indeed employed by Soros. Senator John Cornyn declared, “We will not be bullied by the screams of paid protesters.” No, the protesters aren’t being paid to protest, let alone by George Soros. But to be a good Republican, you now have to pretend they are.

What’s going on here? At one level, this isn’t new. Conspiracy theorizing has been a part of American politics from the beginning. Richard Hofstadter published his famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” back in 1964 and cited examples running back to the 18th century. Segregationists fighting civil rights routinely blamed “outside agitators” — especially northern Jews — for African-American protests.

But the significance of conspiracy theorizing depends on who does it.

When people on the political fringe blame shadowy forces — often, as it happens, sinister Jewish financiers — for their frustrations, you can write it off as delusional. When people who hold most of the levers of power do the same thing, their fantasizing isn’t a delusion, it’s a tool: a way to delegitimize opposition, to create excuses not just for disregarding but for punishing anyone who dares to criticize their actions.

That’s why conspiracy theories have been central to the ideology of so many authoritarian regimes, from Mussolini’s Italy to Erdogan’s Turkey. It’s why the governments of Hungary and Poland, former democracies that have become de facto one-party states, love to accuse outsiders in general and Soros in particular of stirring up opposition to their rule. Because, of course, there can’t be legitimate complaints about their actions and policies.

And now senior figures in the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of the federal government — if you had any questions about whether the Supreme Court was a partisan institution, they should be gone now — are sounding just like the white nationalists in Hungary and Poland. What does this mean?

The answer, I submit, is that the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting.

Trump himself clearly has the same instincts as the foreign dictators he so openly admires. He demands that public officials be loyal to him personally, not to the American people. He threatens political opponents with retribution — two years after the last election, he’s still leading chants of “Lock her up.” He attacks the news media as enemies of the people.

Add in the investigations closing in on Trump’s many scandals, from tax cheating to self-dealing in office to possible collusion with Russia, all of which give him every incentive to shut down freedom of the press and independence of law enforcement. Does anyone doubt that Trump would like to go full authoritarian, given the chance?

And who’s going to stop him? The senators parroting conspiracy theories about Soros-paid protesters? The newly rigged Supreme Court? What we’ve learned in the past few weeks is that there is no gap between Trump and his party, nobody who will say stop in the name of American values.

But as I said, the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting, not yet one in practice. What’s it waiting for?

Well, think of what Trump and his party might do if they retain both houses of Congress in the coming election. If you aren’t terrified of where we might be in the very near future, you aren’t paying attention.

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REGIME PERMANENCE

 

 

Dear All,

We all know and have an opinion of how and why Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate for the Supreme Court Justice – old news – old ideas.

Some of you who follow the socio-political–economic aspects of my writings have commented that my work has thinned out, less and less of it. Yes indeed, it has. The news media has carried most of the stories and analysis that I would have written. Since the Trump election the news media has left few stones unturned, whether pro or counter the new regime. Only occasionally I find a vacuum around an activity or an idea about the activity. I write now to fill this hole as to the significance and I believe, the strategy of the Herculean effort and successful conclusion for the sponsors of Judge Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh was swept into place to fulfill the real objective of President Trump and the Republican party – absolute control of the bodies governing the country, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial.  As of today the Trump regime has fulfilled that role. There is surely a strategic plan in place to maintain the total imbalance of power among the governing bodies through the coming election and in perpetuity.

How? More ways than I can count but a few occur to me as I look back and presently at autocratic regimes and the strategies used to arrive at an institutionalized  position of total power. All share one or many of the possibilities embedded in the loss of checks and balances in America today. We are now without the normal checks and balances embedded in the constitution and system of government enshrined by the Founding Fathers.  The first and obviously strategic goal, for the Trump regime will be to make sure that stranglehold remains solid over the balance of his first term – THEN??

 

HOW to accomplish his goal:

 

The first and most frequently used technique is to create a true or false emergency – a threat to our country – during the pre election weeks. A declaration of war, without a balance of power, easy fodder for a sitting President, one thinks in fear of all the targets that can be chosen to war against, most likely Iran with Saudi and Israeli support comes to mind, though there are a myriad of possibilities which include Turkey, a further commitment to killings in Yemen, altercations with China a rather limitless list of enemies whose programs conflict with those of the reigning regime. Elections are usually won by the incumbents during periods of a threat of or actual realization of war.

Second in the red states, even some blue states, voters can be turned away at the polls or their votes disqualified for a myriad of  dubious reasons. It would be for the courts – ultimately the Supreme Court to decide the legality of these turn downs.  The lower courts and appellate courts have been well stacked and taken over by the conservative “right.” The Supreme Court – court of last resort – will certainly be amenable, as it has to date, for the “right” to capture election success by any means.

Third, the big guns – the huge money – will be focused by any and all means on winning the House and Senate. There will be no holds barred (legality no longer an issue) in funding the boys of red – not many women running on red tickets. Character assassination, false stories and threats – all of the dirty tricks that money can buy will surface quickly.

There are fourth through fifteenth but the first three suffice for my point. Why – control of the three branches of government, now in the extreme, can lead to control of the government and its processes permanently – clearly the objective of the current regime and its advocates.

The Americans’ risk is to give up “The American Dream” all of what we have known as the possibilities of a good and fair life, family values, the open roads for success and the rest will be closed down other than for the few who are in and/or accept the “New American World,” one of unfairness and proscribed inequality.

The end of a fair society, woman’s rights, voting rights, social security, Medicare, healthcare, minimum wage, environmental protections, monopoly protection, prosecution for corruption, tax fraud etc for friends of the regime, free trade, an independent federal reserve, minority rights, gay rights, education. The list goes on; these are a small sampling of what the new regime hopes to put into effect. Red rule, red power in place.  Taking the legislatures again can keep the reactionaries permanently in place. This is the story of Brett Kavanaugh’s placement in the Supreme Court, not a trivial matter – world changing power play.

 

Asher Edelman

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Headlines, Real and Imagined | Avenue Magazine Column

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by Asher Edelman

Some actual Labor Day headlines

BOND MARKET BIG NAMES BATTERED BY DEEPENING ARGENTINA TURMOIL

TURKEY BRACED FOR MARKET TURMOIL AS INFLATION RISES

TURKEY’S WOES COULD BE JUST THE START AS RECORD GLOBAL DEBT BILLS COME DUE

Trump’s Canadian Rant Threatens New Nafta Deal

CLOCK TICKS ON ITALY’S RACE TO RAISE EURO 63 BILLION IN NEW DEBT AS ROME REELS FROM SELL-OFF

North Sea Assets Worth Billions Up For Sale As Majors Scale Back

HNA STRAINS CHINA P2P FEARS

Though they were missing from the Labor Day news, I predict the following headlines will be coming soon:

TRUMP TAX LAW BITES HIGH-END ART MARKET

No Buyers At The Top: Russians, Chinese, Turks, Canadians, Brazilians, Venezuelans, Filipinos Withdraw From U.S.-Based Art Transactions. Middle Eastern Sheiks, Their G-650S Rerouted To Newfoundland, Miss The Bidding

New Leonardo Conclusively Proven To Be A “Studio” Painting

HOUSE OF CARDS GALLERY COLLAPSES UNDER STRAIN OF DEBT LOAD. COLLECTORS AND ARTISTS SEARCH FOR THEIR ART. OR, AT LEAST, THEIR MONEY

ANDY WARHOL CABAL SLIPS UP AND ACTUALLY BUYS SOME WORKS. NOW THEY HAVE TO PAY.

ART FRAUD AT TOP OF THE MARKET: PRIVATE DEALERS DEAL IN FAKES, FAKE PROVENANCES, FAKE TITLES, DISCOURAGE COLLECTORS

Auction Houses Bitten By Frivolous Guarantees. No Third-Party Players Come To The Table

QATAR LEAVES THE ART MARKET TO ABU DHABI AND THE SAUDIS AGAIN. BUT SAUDI AND ABU DHABI BIDDING STRATEGY FOR NEW $200 MILLION PAINTING—NO BIDS AND BUY AFTER THE AUCTION—SUCCEEDS. AUCTION FAILS. WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY? 

So, here we are. Some of these headlines are imminent. The rest are more likely than not to come in one form or another—not to mention myriad others, as yet unimagined but equally distressing. Time to pack up our checkbooks and sit on the sidelines? Yes, at least for the moment. Some of the greatest, most wonderful, most thoughtful art of all time should soon be yours at 20 percent to 40 percent less than the prices today. All it takes is a bit of patience. Use the time to study, look and learn that art is more than just an asset class.

Opportunities come along from time to time. Some call it luck—others know it’s timing. The time to prepare to build or build upon an existing collection is now. Put your money in the bank—however, be careful which one. Take a deep breath. Sit tight, suppress the urge to splurge, and within a year or two you’ll be prepared to start buying again. If your walls are empty, borrow or lease art. Inventories are overwhelming and costly to carry. Art will look better on your walls than in a storage bin. Work from many of the sought-after artists of today who will survive and rebound can be on your walls while you wait (or maybe even bought at a discount now from those who see the coming crisis clearly).

The point? Art is not only an asset class. It is a remarkable enlightener of beauty and expression; therein lies its value. Look at it, not your bottom line, for a while. You’ll be glad you did.

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Asher Edelman Predicts The Future Of The Art Market | ArtTactic Podcast

Dear Friends,
I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Green on this weeks episode of the ArtTactic Podcast about art finance and my thoughts on the future of the Art Market. Please click the link to listen.
Asher Edelman
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In this week’s episode of the ArtTactic Podcast, Asher Edelman, founding member and CEO of Artemus, an art financing and leasing company, joins us to catch-up on the latest activities in the art financing space as well as discuss the current state of the art market. First, Asher reveals the increased lending activity at Artemus and speculates why he believes the art world is more receptive to art financing than it was previously. With the art market starting up again with art fairs, auctions and gallery shows after the annual summer hiatus, Asher tells us why he’s concerned about the short-term future of the art market, in large part due to non-Western collectors potentially leaving the marketplace. Also, Asher reveals why he’s tracking the number of 3rd party guarantors who are winning artworks at auction.
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A Man Named Ammann | Avenue Magazine Column

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by Asher Edelman

August 11, 2018

At one time a collector in need of a large sum of money sold Thomas Ammann, the Zurich-based art dealer, a substantial portfolio of art works: a Picasso, multiple Klines, Mirós, Rauschenbergs, and Twomblys and a particularly special Jasper Johns.

A year later at dinner with Thomas, this then-well-known collector asked him how he had fared with the purchases. Had he sold them? Had he made a nice profit? Was he happy? 

“Wonderfully,” Thomas replied, and thanked the collector for the opportunity. 

“What did you do with the Johns?” the collector then asked. Johns had dramatically increased in value that year. 

“I saved it for you as I knew how much you loved the painting,” Thomas replied. 

The collector, again cash rich and now, happy as could be, responded. “Okay, whatever the price, thank you, and I’ll buy it back.” 

Said Ammann, “My money cost me 6 percent. The painting will be delivered back to you tomorrow. Please pay me my cost plus 6%.” And with that, he gave away close to a million dollars out of friendship.

I was the collector. 

A good soul, Thomas. Early this summer, leafing through the catalog of Ammann’s Zurich Gallery’s 1987 exhibit of selected works from my collection, I was struck by the contrast between how art was dealt with then and what art dealers have to be today. Thomas epitomized knowledge, taste, elegant manners and thoughtfulness; today’s bar is set not much higher than the street peddler. 

We forget our friends too quickly. 

Ammann, en route to becoming the most revered dealer of impressionist, modern and contemporary art in history, passed away in 1993 at the age of 43. He’d had a brief but brilliant career. At the tender age of 18, it began with the contemporary art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. Eight years later, Thomas struck out on his own with the backing of the Schmidheiny fortune. Shortly, he became the dealer to the most important collections in the world, from Niarchos to Lauder, buying and selling works from Van Gogh through Warhol. A master of his trade with taste and a brilliant eye, his talent for dealing was unsurpassed in the 20th century. 

Thomas was a practical chap. No warehouse visits for his clients. Until he bought his New York apartment he had the good sense to show art for sale at Andy Warhol’s house, my apartment and the homes of other, more important collectors. After all, why not surround the presentation of beautiful objects with other beautiful objects. 

Art dealers often bemoan the paucity of important works for sale. Not Thomas. Dealers and collectors vied for his attention. For collectors like Ernst Beyeler, dealers like Mary Boone, and artists, living and dead, from Picasso to Ross Bleckner, Thomas was the chosen purveyor of all that was excellent, the go-to dealer of his time.

One night in the eighties Thomas, my then wife and a group of party folks visited La Escuelita, a Latin American drag nightclub south of Times Square. At about three in the morning, we dropped Thomas off at his hotel. Eleven the next morning, I got a call. 

Thomas, who never discussed his love life with his friends, was on the phone: “When I left you I was restless and went to Boy Bar”—a Lower East Side pickup joint popular on the gay scene. “I think I have met the love of my life, a Greek boy studying in the U.S.,” he said. His name was George Kontouris and he and Thomas were together until Thomas’ death in 1993. George died shortly after that. 

Like their love affair, Thomas Ammann’s life was too short and too little is said, too little remembered of my friend. 

Part of that’s because he was so intensely private. He had a social façade—he was ubiquitous, always with the right people—but the fact of the matter is none of them really knew him. His preferences have, I fear, damaged his legacy. 

Outwardly lacking passion, but inwardly, quite the opposite, he valued beauty and gentility along with the profit motive. We could use more of his kind today.

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Bubbles and Tulips 2018 Follow Up

 

Dear Friends,
On December 26th, 2017 I sent you a cautionary tale for the New Year, rating markets by Tulips (Dutch ones). The more the Tulip count the greater probability of disaster.

December 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

A cautionary tale for 2018. Sorry! We are in a world of “fake markets” built on “fake news” and “fake expectations.”

BitcoinBITCOIN

December 26, 2017 – As those of you who have tried know you cannot efficiently spend Bitcoins. There is no protection against theft, fraud or other forms of destruction of one’s investment. Money laundering, not a favorite of government agencies, runs rampant as there are no reporting or other requirements. One would guess rogue nations, arms dealers, hackers and all types of fraudsters make use of the system. We rate the Bitcoin 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Bitcoin price $6,355. I have changed my rating for Bitcoin 🌷🌷🌷

As it had already declined more than 50% in the New Year. Not a buy sign, but one of cautionary bearishness.

real esateNEW YORK REAL ESTATE

December 26, 2017 – Though statistics indicate a slight decline in prices from the high point in the market, anecdotal observation tells us the prices of middle to high priced categories of residential real estate have declined by as much as 20% prior to the recent tax bill. Now with interest and state taxes virtually non deductible the interest in owning multimillion dollar town houses, condominiums and coops is substantially reduced. Loans on private housing, after ranging as high as 80% of appraised value are quietly going underwater while Wall Street bonuses (bond traders at zero for 2017) shrink and disappear. Foreigners show less and less interest in buying in New York (U.S.A) for a myriad of reasons starting with privacy. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – The decline in the New York real estate continues reinforced by the resistance of foreigners, bond traders, bankers et al to purchase New York real estate. Non deductibility of state and city taxes and limitations on interest deductions are not pluses. 80% loan to value in many instances is a killer. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

Car

CONSUMER GOODS

December 26, 2017 – The new tax plan will reduce disposable income available to the poor, middle and upper middle classes – especially homeowners in highly taxed states. It will deprive eight million poor children of medical care. Eventually it will affect social security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, all benefits that are now available to the lower income through the upper middle class income levels. In the initial stages of the tax plan incomes from $50,000 to $200,000 will be reduced according to the housing, interest and state tax situation of the families. These families, though low on the wealth scale, account for 95% of wages earned in the United States. This broad category of earners spends 100% or close to 100% of all income received. Though Trump/Munchin/Cohen statistics contemplate a 2.9% growth in 2018 consumer spending, more analytical, less political estimates contemplate little or no growth with an increase in inflation and interest rates not a great consumer product scenario. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Add to the mix the Trump tariffs and those reciprocal to his tariffs, the cut off of major portions of world trade and we need to move to five Tulips. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

SteelMANUFACTURED GOODS

December 26, 2017 – The U.S. is likely to be cut back on exports and on the imports of inexpensive raw materials – 2018 will be the start of serious isolation from world trade. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – The new tariff war and the break down of world trade (insulation) brings me to a five Tulips rating. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

stock exchange.jpgSTOCK MARKET

December 26, 2017 – Supported through the Trump first year by government intervention, “The Plunge Protection Plan”, the market will continue to depend on government intervention. Underlying economic and financial fundamentals are unlikely to feed the bull. Should Pence replace Trump the market ego trip and government support are likely to stop. 🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – As Trumps popularity declines and a new House of Representatives sits with the continued threat of impeachment it is likely the Plunge Protection plan (entirely controlled by the Executive (President) will be used less and less to prop up the stock market. I am moving to five Tulips. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

BOND

BOND MARKET

December 26, 2017 – Not a chance 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Same call. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

gettyimages-664515504

SAUDI ARAMCO IPO

December 26, 2017 – The highest risk low return vehicle offered in years. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

July 11, 2018 – Seems to have faded into the desert. 🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

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ART MARKET

December 26, 2017 – Fake Renoir favored by our lustful leader. Over the last couple of years the top of the market has been frothy while the rest has been lackluster. How will coming transparency, regulation and taxation affect the prices and liquidity of art? More about that in a forthcoming column which will be published regularly in an exciting magazine beginning in March.

July 11, 2018 – See my Avenue Magazine column of the past month. (LINK)

 

For your bubble exposure in 2018 drink Champagne, stay liquid, avoid all other bubbles.

 

Sincerely,

Asher Edelman

 

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A Toast To Moss | Avenue Magazine Column

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STATE OF THE ART column

by Asher Edelman

In his new book Please Do Not Touch (and Other Things You Could Not Do at Moss the Design Store that Changed Design), its namesake and co-owner Murray Moss quotes the Czech architect and designer Bořek Šípek: “The only real justification for the designer to create another chair is if he treats it like a work of art and uses it to express or interrupt the culture of the moment.”

A similar notion started Murray’s successful quest to merge “design” into “art” at MOSS, the design store. It was 1990. The rest is history.

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MOSS literally rubbed shoulders with Art and the Art Audience. Murray opened his “gallery” in SoHo between Metro Pictures and Pace. Their clients would see his “Art” in the windows of MOSS. It was the design store that changed design and how it was labeled. Ever since, great design has ceased to be a stepchild: it’s become great art.

Murray and his partner, Franklin Getchell, have been my close friends for almost 40 years. All I have to say about this extraordinary book and these wonderful “boys” (yes, still boys) is highly colored by that reality. Sadly, there is, within, a chapter about me. I think it is best you skip that chapter. Those pages are grossly exaggerated fiction, not worthy of the authors. So high is that chapter’s unreality that I have commissioned them to write my obituary with the same fictional license. In summary, DO NOT READ the chapter.

Most of you know about MOSS, the design theater, though nominally a store, a university of taste, a fantasy land always in action, serving up tasty morsels for grown-ups. I need not tell you more about MOSS, nor about Murray and Franklin, nor is this a book review. Rather, it’s a small collection of vignettes, and there are infinitely more to be discovered reading Please Do Not Touch.

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MOSS, the acknowledged premium curated design store of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, lighted upon a novel idea: a wedding registry—complete with a proper registrar to tend to the couples. Murray, who had no interest in decanters, was persuaded by the registrar to stock decanters for the lovebirds’ needs. And MOSS became a “decanter center.” Sadly, it seemed a habit of newlyweds to return most of the decanters and most everything else they registered for, too. So the boys invented a new registry model: automatic prereturns of all “registry account” orders and a credit to the bride and groom. The happy couple was informed of the purchase, the purchaser, the credit to the account, and the nature of the “prereturned” gift. Our lovebirds could then choose at leisure items they really liked rather than the ones they registered for. A thank-you note for the original gifts could be sent and MOSS did not have to carry returned inventory, as it never filled any registry orders. This is one of a number of brilliant business decisions made by Murray and Franklin, which resulted in its all-registry business vaporating instantly.

All design stores are focused on weddings—seriously a moment of excess spending for the lovebirds’ nests. MOSS followed in the footsteps of wedding providers with some quite advanced products. A first-rate seller, Gay Marriage Finger Puppets, consisting of two brides, two grooms and a minister, became a most sought-after accessory. Speaking of weddings—another conflict—I am to officiate at the wedding of these two special people. They have refused my offer of a Latin ceremony and insist on English—no costumes either.

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Which does not mean they lack a sense of humor. Did you know the MOSS logo was derived from the Oscar Mayer hot dog logo?

Then, there’s the absurdity inspired by the opening of MOSS in 2006 in Los Angeles. “I don’t know exactly what form of English they’re speaking out there,” Franklin writes, “but it sure isn’t the same as mine. Dude, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with one-syllable words…there are some terrific one-syllable words and some great one-syllable word sentences. Fries with that? Can you spot me? And, of course, Have a nice day.” Or, as Franklin also says, “Life in L.A. Like death, only shorter.”

Please Do Not Touch is full of similar fun and absurdities—a double self-inflicted spoof—but, most of all, it’s the story of Murray and Franklin, my friends, and their design store that changed the face of design.