You-all celebrate your anniversaries with candy and flowers and jewelry if you like — when you’ve been stuck inside by parenthood as long as I have, plain old dinner and a movie suits me fine. The dinner: Higher-end Italian; I had the veal. The movie: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. You are commanded to see it.
I love a well-made documentary, and this is one of them. It’s almost madly entertaining, at the same time it reminds you how things like this happen — how people look the other way, ignore their guts, get out their rose-colored glasses and then, oops, it’s too late.
You know, I’m stupid about high-level business; past the shopkeeper level of accounting, I don’t understand. But it’s disturbing to learn the SEC doesn’t necessarily understand either, which is the only possible explanation for how Enron was able to practice its so-called “mark-to-market” accounting, which was the foundation for the whole fraud. The movie reminds us, however, that there was no one reason. Neither greed alone, nor deception alone, nor wishful thinking alone, nor a million others can explain how Enron came to be, and collapsed in such a spectacular cloud of cash.
Of course, all of those reasons are why the movie is such a gas to watch. It’s all there — the business-press blowjobbery, the corporate-culture team-building exercises, the get-with-the-program jettisoning of anyone who dared to ask the simple question: Just how does this company make money, anyway?
Answer: The old-fashioned way. They stole it. Aided and abetted by Wall Street, their own employees and a culture that said anything is permissible in the pursuit of profit, that is.
It’s been hard to stop thinking about this movie, because it was the first exciting journalism I’ve experienced in a while. Yes, I said exciting. Somewhere along the line we forgot the news can be not only informative but entertaining.
And that, friends, was the highlight of the weekend. Sometimes, in a marriage, no news is good news.
Oh no, wait — I did upgrade to Tiger today. Bombard me with widget suggestions.