And now, Felix Salmon (tracking Harper's, on the folks who come to Omaha for the shareholder meeting at Berkshire Hathaway:
“I did not get any indication through out the semester that my performance in class was less than adiquit,” he wrote. (Since when is a B “less than adiquit”?) True enough, he had followed me into my office one day after class to complain that he disliked the class, disliked Roth, disliked me personally. He had intended to sign up for a different seminar, he said, and regretted his mistake. He disapproved of my teaching style: I firmly directed the conversation rather than letting the students lead the way; I took class time to enunciate my own views and did not scruple to correct a student’s approximations and blunders.
For the rest of the semester he publicly acted out his dislike. He repeatedly yawned in class, loudly and dramatically, dropping his head to the seminar table with a thud, as if to say, “This is sooo boring.” He dismissed Roth’s ideas, after a careful exposition of them on my part, as “stupid.” He would not explain further, when pressed. He laughed aloud when I momentarily lost the thread of the discussion.
Most importantly, he seemed to think that his role as a student was, on slim literary qualifications, to agitate for the opinion that Philip Roth is not a great writer, with little or nothing worth saying. Even if he had had the critical talents commensurate to it, the undertaking would have been beside the question.
[The reader is strongly encouraged to go to Myers' site and read the rest of his detailed account, together with an extensive account of his teaching approach. He concludes:]
In short, [the student] rejected the premise, not only of Roth’s nine Zuckerman novels, but of narrative fiction as such. If he had enrolled in a history seminar with a similar attitude (“I don’t take no stock in dead people,” he might have grumbled), or if he had told his chemistry professor that he disapproved of classifying substances and developing techniques for their transformation into other substances, how would he have fared? Would a B have even been a generous grade?
Among the pilgrims are RJ Meurer Jr, a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley who storms into Buffett’s barber with his entourage, telling the Brazilian man getting a shave that “You got to get out. We got this barbershop booked.” Or there’s Matt Kelley, a Chicago public-school teacher, who failed at trading in and out of a single Berkshire B share at the same time as conspiring to lose $200,000 of his $150,000 net worth trading on margin; he eventually maxed out his credit card to continue to make leveraged bets.I suppose the general message here is obvious enough: the world is going to hell, these young whipper snappers, they don't know what life is all about, there were giants in my day. You can find a more measured response from me in the comments to Myers.
But Schwartz saves the worst for last, when he finds Talia Eisenberg, along with her father’s girlfriend, getting thrown out of an Omaha bar for being drunk. Talia is the daughter of Robert Eisenberg, who himself is the son of an early investor in Berkshire. With her unearned riches she has opened an art gallery on the Lower East Side; she also receives glowing press from NYC society blogs, complete with comments extolling “her generous heart”.
She’s not going to be happy about this:“Do you even know who we are?” Talia asked. She thrust her hand into her purse. Out came a grip of shareholder credentials.
“I don’t care,” said the manager. “You’re getting out of this restaurant. Now.”
The women strutted out to a black Mercedes-Benz. As Talia drove, she enumerated a few of her present frustrations. She hated the tacky nowhereness of Omaha. She hated the gawking shareholders who think they own it for a weekend. Most of all, she hated Gorat’s for unjustly ejecting her from the premises. “They thought I was a whore because I’m good-looking and rich!” she exclaimed. “What can I do?”
“They never see the likes of us around Omaha,” replied Tanya.
“We have more shares than all those fuckers,” Talia said…
“Where were you at the cocktail events?” Talia asked me. “We were there with all the ballers. The real deal. You didn’t go to Borsheim’s, did you? That’s where all the suckers go, with one baby B share. The big parties are up at the houses.”
This is what happens to the millions of dollars that Buffett earns for his earliest and most loyal investors: they end up fueling the very snobbery and condescension that Buffett himself could never abide.
Talia’s young, and she was drunk (and she was driving drunk, to boot), but maybe it’s only the young and drunk shareholders who will ever come out and say — to a journalist, no less — what most of the people “up at the houses” are thinking.