Patrick Byrne: Why did you found Overstock.com?

Patrick Byrne: Interesting. Well there’s two ways to explain it, and the part that’s the most interesting is I knew a guy when I was in high school – a guy named Charlie, a good fellow, Chaluca – and whatever you wanted . . . He was part of sort of the Greek mob I would say that runs a lot of things in the D.C. area. And whatever you wanted, he’d say, “Yeah, yeah. I know a guy in a warehouse. I’ll get it for you real cheap. I know a guy. I’ve got a cousin in the factory,” or something like that. We all wondered if it was hot or something. Well it just turns out that Chaluca knew people, and he did know . . . And it turns out that at the fringes of retail, there’s this world of folks that folks like you and I normally never meet. They’re called “joppers”, and they tend to be “bada-bing, bada-boom, knows-a-guy-that-knows-a-guy” kind of fellows. And I learned about that world originally through him. And then as the idea for Overstock was let’s just . . . For the consumers who don’t have a friend like Charlie, we’ll be a company of Charlies. We’ll be out there wheeling and dealing trying to find these special opportunities, bringing them into a warehouse in Salt Lake, putting them up online. So we’re . . . we’re for the consumer who doesn’t have his own Charlie. They just need to know us. That was sort of . . . That was one way to explain it. I did find that interesting. I didn’t think I was . . . I thought I’d be doing it for about six months until I found someone to replace myself, but that . . . It’s like the God . . . Al Pacino in Godfather III. “Every time I start to get out they suck you back in!”

Recorded on: 10/29/07

 

The origins of overstock.com.

Yann Martel: ‘Transgression is central to art’

Is it acceptable to write a story from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you?

Videos
  • Man Booker Prize-winning writer Yann Martel, a Canadian man, has written from the perspectives of a man with AIDS, a body-switching woman, an Indian boy, and 20th-century Portuguese widowers.
  • Is it acceptable to write from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you? Martel believes these transgressions put empathetic imagination into practice, allowing your mind to go where your body cannot.
  • In Martel's case, it's the recipe for great art—books that have been loved and read by millions. "[W]e are who we are in relation to others," says Martel. "But the key thing is the empathetic imagination, and the empathetic imagination is the great traveler. And travelers necessarily cross borders. And not only do they have to but it's a thrill to do so. It's a thrill encountering the other."
Keep reading Show less

'The West' is, in fact, the world's biggest gated community

A review of the global "wall" that divides rich from poor.

Image: TD Architects
Strange Maps
  • Trump's border wall is only one puzzle piece of a global picture.
  • Similar anxieties are raising similar border defenses elsewhere.
  • This map shows how, as a result, "the West" is in fact one large gated community.
Keep reading Show less

Why Nikola Tesla was obsessed with the Egyptian pyramids

The inventor Nikola Tesla's esoteric beliefs included unusual theories about the Egyptian pyramids.

Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia
Surprising Science
  • Nikola Tesla had numerous unusual obsessions.
  • One of his beliefs was that the Great Pyramids of Egypt were giant transmitters of energy.
  • He built Tesla Towers according to laws inspired by studying the Pyramids.
Keep reading Show less