Saw a Werner Herzog documentary last night, How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck . . . did I mention how much I miss weed? It was great but if I was high it would have been revelatory. As it was, by the end I was wondering what the fuck he was on in the 1970s. The film lingered on the auctioneering competition beyond the point that a straight person could be expected to be interested in. I think that's the great thing about the sort of drugs I like . . . they lengthen my attention span.
Anyways, there are no great twists or surprises in it, so though I recommend you watch it I have no hesitation in telling you it's coverage of the 1976 World Auctioneering Championships, and that the winner was Steve Liptay, who came from Bowmanville, Ontario, and who now runs an auction house for cars on the east coast. A great many of my intimates in Canada were from Bowmanville or its surrounds, and it did my heart so much good to hear that accent again - your standard Canadian accent but with a bit extra. Being away from Canada so long, working with a collection of Brits, and living with a man from a country where the word 'groin' is polysyllabic has made me very fond of my own accent, and the Canadian accent generally. There's a softness and gentleness about it. Like a sober, unprovoked Irish person.
But back to the movie. I liked it a good deal but I'm pretty convinced if Herzog wasn't high whilst putting it together he had been holding his breath and twirling. I have a certain distrust of it because in the English version, the subtitles saying what the people are saying in English whilst Herzog dubs them over in German are visibly not very similar to what the people are saying. It makes them seem rather more empty-headed than is probably quite fair. I also think it's rather odd he chooses the language of auctioneering as the new and perhaps final language of capitalism when - you know - it's awfully fucking old, isn't it? It's the oldest language of capitalism. The first language of capitalism. I think I either missed his point here, or his point wasn't very good.
Speaking of, have you ever heard of a Dutch auction? Flower wholesalers use it because flowers are time sensitive, and no matter how fucking fast an auctioneer goes, he can't be as fast as a Dutch auction. I went to a flower wholesalers with Elvis a couple of years back and I couldn't believe it, it was like a roomful of Jeopardy! contestants hitting buzzers. The idea is to start buying at a high level and then wind the price down; as soon as you see a price for the lot you're willing to pay, you hit the buzzer. Fast! Superfast.
I don't know why all auctions don't use it. I would love if there was some comparative study I could look at to see which style of auctioning fetched the highest bids - Dutch or English. My instinctive guess is that as a norm Dutch auction prices would be higher, but that possibly average English auction prices would be higher because occasionally you'll get buyers wrapped up in a bidding war pushing prices beyond projected levels. It would be very hard to imagine fine art sold in a Dutch auction, for example. It's interesting. There's a different idea in these types of auctions about how markets and competition work, though they're both capitalist, both competitive. It's just the Dutch auction appears 100x more efficient - if you're willing to do without occasionally hitting prices outstripping any reasonable expectation of what the price should be.