The Strangest Book of All

“The figs are falling from the trees; they are good and sweet; and, as they fall, their red skin bursts. I am a north wind to ripe figs.”

ImageFriedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” is a bizarre book, valuable to me not so much for its strange, radical philosophy as for its blastingly creative writing and its profound, vivid imagery.

What is the book about? Not much, as it turns out, of anything. It’s a series of monologues, or “prose poems”, I might suggest, by Nietzsche’s passionately creative alter-ego Zarathustra. The imagery is incredible: Nietzsche navigates metaphors of “heaven above me, pure and deep, you abyss of light!” and “that early hour when the pail rattles at the well and the horses whinny warmly through gray lanes”…

The “message”, meanwhile, is strange. The book seems to advocate a (figurative) ascent into the mountains, “where the air is raw and strong”. Nietzsche demands the abandonment of human companionship altogether, in exchange for a mind which — like that of Nietzsche himself and his character Zarathustra — supports only coursing visions of the incredible and perfect. “One once said God when one looked upon distant seas; but now I have taught you to say: overman.”

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In Bitcoin We Trust

The “Semper Augustus,” Tulip Mania’s most expensive bulb

Virtual currency Bitcoin has been on a wild ride lately, rising in price from around $50/BTC early March to $260/BTC mid-April, before crashing back down to earth just days later.

This clearly constitutes a speculative bubble, similar to the Dutch “Tulip Mania” of the 1600s.  Tulips became a popular flower among the Dutch aristocracy, which caused a steady rise in prices, which led to increased interest from speculators, many of them French. Traders met in taverns to buy and sell tulip futures, paying just a 2.5% “wine fee” to trade.  At the peak of the bubble, a sale of 40 bulbs fetched 100,000 florins; by comparison, a skilled laborer might make 150 florins per year!  The Dutch traded their possessions, too:  a man offered 12 acres of land for a single rare bulb.  Another man gave away literally all his things: huge sums of wheat, rye, butter, cheese, beer, wine, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, and the list goes on, again for just a single bulb! The value peaked before the end of the year, and then fell to one hundred thousandth of its value overnight, before any of the bulb contracts even shipped!  Many citizens were made rich; many others were up one tulip bulb or one contract, but down a house, a life’s possessions, or a fortune.

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