Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mournful Rumblings

Lately, I've been taking my video camera with me when I go out. A lot of times, I end up trying to force something to appear interesting.

But sometimes I see SOMETHING worth capturing.

If I'd been a little bolder, I would have truly hung from those bars by my legs. But I couldn't swing it.

From Atlantic Ave to Grand St, the D train offers 10 uninterrupted minutes of train time. I recommend the 4AM slot for maximizing your mournful solitude.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Perfect Amount

Forbes says there are a lot of billionaires out there in the world. 946 to be exact. Those are only the ones they could pin down. There might be a few others skating along the top edge of 9 digits who haven't yet stepped their billionaire game up.

Some of these billionaires are multi-billionaires. That is to say they got to 1 billion dollars in assets and were like, what the heck, let's get another billion together and then see if we can't improve on that. Let's see if we can keep up a state of infinite growth.

I'm sure that making money becomes addictive. Most companies exist to make yearly progress. There are very few commercial entities that tell their shareholders they're going to be taking the year off, standing pat and just enjoy the gains they've made to date. No matter how successful a company is, it can be more successful. So the billionaires profiting off these companies live their lives along similar principles and benefit off the march to infinite progress. It is the rare billionaire CEO or chairman who says, nah, go ahead and split my salary and stock with the employees. I'm good. I am saturated with money. We've been successful enough.

When we were playing the lottery last week, a co-worker asked me if I wanted to be rich. Was that a goal of mine?

I replied: "No way. I wouldn't like to be rich as an ultimate goal in and of itself but I wouldn't mind having the freedom to make movies whenever I want. I don't need a mansion," I said.

Then I added, "Just a nice, roomy house upstate. With a studio. Oh, and I would like to own an apartment in the city. In Brooklyn. Doesn't have to be Manhattan. I'd like a pool at my upstate house. And I'd like a nice car. Not a great car. But a solid, dependable, kind of cool car. Make it a hybrid."

It occurred to me that I had started to sound like I wanted to be rich. If I let my mind continue unchecked, I probably could have come up with more stuff that I didn't have to have but I certainly wouldn't mind (jacuzzi, garage in the city, personal trainer, spaceship, etc)

But shouldn't there be a perfect amount for everyone? A line that when you cross signifies you've got as much money as you'll ever need. Aren't most of these 946 billionaires just continuing to accumulate money because it's a habit of theirs? What does a person with 12 billion dollars gain by becoming the proud owner of 27 billion dollars?

I think there could be a service out there that establishes your perfect amount. It indexes your likelihood of having generations after you who need support, how much work you have done to date, how much work you'd like to be doing, your final goals in life and produces a REALISTIC but by no means modest perfect amount. This would be an amount that if you reach it in assets, you would be able to stop and just enjoy your total saturation. I'm not sure what happens then but I think somehow this would help.

Everyone's perfect amount would be different. And a lot of us will never reach our perfect amount. For instance, after doing no real hypothetical calculations, I believe my perfect amount is 4.2 million dollars. I will have achieved total satisfaction when I have 4.2 million dollars in the bank. Right now, I am several million dollars away from my perfect amount.

Anything beyond your perfect amount is just greed and starts to actually work against your happiness. I know those 946 billionaires all seem happy. But they are not.

If anyone would like to avoid this confusion and see their perfect amount tabulated, I and the machine I am going to invent in the future and then bring back to the past will be available for consultation shortly.

Update - To Bill Gates: Your perfect amount is 11.5 million dollars. Please isolate this amount and redistribute your remaining fortune to the rest of the world. You will more immediately achieve the sense of peace your unconscious mind is seeking.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Last week, I chipped in with several of my co-workers to buy lottery tickets for the mega millions jackpot. We each gave five dollars in the hopes of the six of us procuring the winning number and splitting north of 250 million dollars before taxes. Guess what happened.

We won.

Three Dollars. And that was only on one of the days we bought tickets. We actually each spent five dollars on three separate days as the jackpot stayed in the multiple hundreds of millions all week long. In other words, it seemed worth it to risk 15 dollars and worth it to even recycle the three dollars we'd won into one final ticket this past Friday. I haven't checked the numbers over the weekend or heard from my co-workers but I like to think one of them would have called me if we were about to claim our massive prize.

It wasn't just us. A lot of people in my office bought lottery tickets this week. In groups. Solo. Bunches of tickets at once or just one lucky ticket bought on a hunch. The record-breaking potential lottery winnings galvanized the population and inspired people like myself who don't normally get in on the lottery to give it a whirl. Considering how much fun it was as a group to buy these tickets, I certainly don't question the impulse - no matter how improbable our odds were.

But why don't we do it more often? If 300 million gets us psyched to blow five dollars, how come 40 million doesn't get us down to the grocery store on the regular? Or even two million. I'd be cool with two million dollars. Even paid out over 26 years, I wouldn't kick two million out of bed.

The feeling at work was that 300 million made the experience finally worth it. 40 million? Nah. That's chump change. Put five bucks against an eight-digit prize? You're just throwing money away. Get me deep into nine digits? Maybe we can work something out. The more fantastic the possible outcome, the more seriously people took it. In my group, there was even a hesitation regarding the second ticket purchase when another person wanted to add her five bucks to our buying power. "But then if we win, we'll have to split the jackpot even further..." somebody grumbled. I didn't agree with the sentiment but I admired how realistic our chances had become and how considerate we were being of the outcome.

Another person in our group made the point that if there was ever a time to energize some good karma by sharing our experience, this was it. Excluding possible team members angers the gambling gods. And there were HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars at stake! We had to tread lightly. Just imagine if the person we excluded ended up hitting the jackpot on her own. We'd feel pretty darn foolish watching her collect our HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS. If it were a more pedestrian amount, say 40 million, excluding her would be no big deal. But with the kind of money at hand last week, it was better we could all lose together.