Everybody wants a box of chocolates, 24

20 03 2018

Too much money makes people weird.

I am not at all opposed to weird—I got a whole series on “weird wonder”—but man, the weirdness that comes out of wealth often ranges from the pitiful(ly out of touch with the rest of the human world) to the just plain creepy.

I’m not quite sure where to put this:

The audacious real estate project – branded Powder Mountain – is becoming a mecca for altruistically minded members of the global elite. “The goal will always remain the same,” says Elliott Bisnow, Rosenthal’s business partner: “To be a beacon of inspiration and a light in the world.”

A mountain retreat for the psychographically correct billionaire as beacon. Huh.

The beautiful surroundings and unique blend of people, Rosenthal believes, will create the “exponential opportunities of the future”. “I have this whole rap with Gertrude Stein, Katharine Graham, De’ Medici, Bauhaus. There’s this rich history of groups coming together, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, right?” he says. “I think that’s what’s happening here.”

Again: huh.

It’s not just rich folks on a mountain, though; it’s also rich folks thinking something like this is a good idea:

Further Future, a gathering in the Nevada desert attended by the ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, which has been described as “Burning Man for the 1%”, promises a culture of “mindful optimism, wonder and exploration”. . . .

Oh, god. Burn it all.

Anyway, back to Powder Mountain (which, really, that’s the best name you could come up with? Powder fucking Mountain? Christ, I think there’s some 75′ snowhill in south-central Wisconsin called Powder Mountain): of course, it would be gauche actually to discuss MONEYMONEYMONEY at a place like this:

Rosenthal had told me I would be immersed in a community of “polymaths” and “savants”, but they would be a humble bunch. “If people are really like ‘oooh’, showing off, showing you pictures of their supercars or some shit at the dinner table? Probably not a cultural fit at Summit,” he says. . . . .

Like others, I had been quietly schooled in the unwritten social rules. Asking someone what they do is considered a faux pas (the socially acceptable alternative is “What is your passion?”). Business cards, I was warned, should not be exchanged in a brazen way.

So, okay to exchange those cards, just not “brazenly”.

Oh, and I don’t need to mention the talks take place in a yurt-ish structure, do I?

For years the team worked remotely in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, New York, Miami and Barcelona. They would combine work with snowboarding in Montana and surfing in Nicaragua. But by late 2011, the friends were approaching 30 and starting to travel less. They were living and working out of a mansion in Malibu and, Rosenthal recalls, hosting “amazing dinners that became pretty culturally significant in LA at that time”.

I. . . what?

I [journalist Paul Lewis] steer the conversation to the subject of how utterly detached from the real world elites seem to have become. “Elitism, the way I would define it, is obtainable,” he replies. “All that stands between you and being elite is your own investment in yourself.”

I invest myself in sleep: I am a sleep-elite! And cheese! I am a cheese-elite!

Oh my god, I hadn’t read all the way through, and just stumbled on this (after Lewis had pressed him about hard work not always leading to wealth):

“What are you doing to create the utility for yourself? Are you introducing people so they can collaborate?” he says. Struggling Americans, he adds, might want to “host a dinner. Invite 10 strangers. See what happens.”

Rosenthal presses on with his thesis, telling me there are just not enough people in the world who will “excessively commit their lives to something. Journalism, cheese, automobiles, whatever. Rocket ships – perfect example. Everyone wants to work at SpaceX, no one wants to go to engineering school.” [emphasis added]

“Everyone wants to eat cheese but no one wants to milk the cow!” I am an aphorism-elite! Pay me monies to talk at your rich people!

There is, of course, more of this, because there’s always more of this. I mean, these people are so ridiculous that I almost feel a little bad pointing out how ridiculous they are.

When I hitch a ride in Chawla’s SUV, he tells me how he came to invest in Powder Mountain. He had just been on a disappointing trip to Verbier, a resort in the Swiss Alps where the food was “not that progressive”. Utah, he says, made for a refreshing change. “I bumped into 30 of my friends. I didn’t have to do anything. The food was amazing,” he says. “There was a moment when they served coconut water.” Coconut water was the very thing he’d been craving in Switzerland. At that moment, he thought to himself, “These guys just get me.” He adds: “I thought, you know what, I’d love to support this project.”

But then I remember they’re all billionaires with their snoots so far up their own asses they sneeze into their large intestines—

He tells me he’s “still evolving”. He’s been meditating, reading, learning about ecology and sustainable farming. If Bisnow is committed to altruism, why is the Summit Institute, the not-for-profit wing of his empire, so minuscule, with an annual budget that is a fraction of what it cost to build his house?

“We’ve just been so busy with so many things, we thought there’s no rush,” he replies. “Why not just slowly ramp it up?”

—and I think, Fuck ’em.

Advertisements




High anxiety

18 09 2016

Anxiety sucks.

It’s been a bad week. I mismanaged something which I thought had under control and, having chewed through my tuchus, has now commenced on my spinal cord.

It’s about money, jesus, it’s about money (which I can’t even discuss because, jesus, it’s about money and being bad with money in a capitalist economy is shameful), and while I should be able to right this all in the short-term I’m worried about the medium-term and can. not. about the long-term.

Fucking hell.

I shouldn’t be anxious: as I said, by next Thursday the immediate problem should be resolved. But in between now—well, actually, starting last week—and next Thursday I am walking around with a live wire jammed into my sternum.

And in between last week and next week I will continue to berate my errors, consider the hash made of my career, gnaw over concerns re: a) my long-term financial insecurity, b) general underachievement, and c) the fact that I’ve trashed my life. When I die I will die alone and within a short time after that I will be forgotten.

Not that I’m spiraling or anything.

So, yeah: anxiety sucks.





Everybody knows the fight was fixed, 20

5 10 2015

I’m not generally a fan of violence nor specifically a fan of assault.

However.

I cannot dredge up even the smallest bit of concern at the sight of an Air France executive chased over a fence by workers:

Kenzo Tribouillard , AFP/Getty

These workers are fighting for their jobs. They’re literally doing to the executives what the executives would—metaphorically—do to them.

I have no illusions that labor violence in the US would not be met by even greater police violence, nor that the citizenry would support the workers. Whatever our paeans to ‘plain-spoken hard-working salt-of-the-earth heartland’ types, what we Americans really respect is money.

If you have to work to get it, okay, fine, but if you’re out there doing what someone else can do (cheaper), shut up and get back to work.

There’s an incident recalled in Adam Gopnik’s essay “Trouble at the Tower” in which a tourist (British? American?) was prevented (roughly?) from getting off at the wrong platform by the elevator operator. She complained, he was fired, the rest of the tower workers went on strike until he was restored to his position.

Naturally, sympathy in France gathered quickly around the wronged operator and his striking friends, while sympathy in the Anglo-American side gathered around the roughed-up lady. . . [S]he was just trying to have a good time, we think. But he was only doing his job, they think.

Gopnik elaborates upon and, honestly, overplays the disjuncture between the customer/producer mentalities (just as I overplay the respect for money/work disjuncture), but I think he does get at something about cultural defaults: the French sympathy tends toward the worker, while the American does not.

In France, the storming of the offices of the jobs-cutting executives (or the blockade of roads by tractors) is not a horror, but a tactic. In the US, workers respond to cut jobs by reapplying for the same position at a lower wage.

And if corporations kill workers? Oh, well.

(Is it worth noting that the one of the few corporate executives who’s going to jail for killing people is doing so for killing customers, not workers? I think so, yes.)

There are plenty of us (in both countries) who would set the switch differently, but we’re straining against custom. What they (we) take as right we (they) can scarcely imagine here.

So to see what is possible—that fighting back is possible—well, if I’m not exactly thrilled by the assault, there is a certain grim satisfaction in that man’s ripped shirt.





Now eleven million later, I was sitting at the bar

3 06 2015

Many years ago, when my friend T. and I were both broke (she no longer is, I’m, well, I ain’t at her level), we’d fantasize about how we’d support ourselves in old age:

“Let’s rob banks, and if we don’t get caught—helloooo Costa Rica. And if we do, then it’s at least three hots and a cot.”

That’s if the lottery didn’t work out for us.

Well, it seems some seniors have beaten us to it:

Elderly Crime Rates Increase - Bloomberg Business'e

Never was much of a golf fan.





If you don’t want to pay some more

18 03 2015

So. I made considerably more money this year than last—which is good, sure, that’s good.

But: this means that instead of getting a state tax refund, I’ll be paying. Which is not good.

Yeah, yeah, I choose to live in a high-tax locale, and I generally support redistribution blah blah, but I’m not going to let a little political hypocrisy get in the way of some personal complainin’.

Anyway, since I owe NY money, I’ll wait to file that return: it’s almost the same amount that I’m getting back from the feds, so right around the time that money comes in, it’ll be time to pay out. BASTARDS!!!

I do have one question, however: if I made so much more money, WHY AM I SO BROKE? Where did all that money go?

Damn.





Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

12 03 2015

My back is killing me.

Now, the initial reason has to do with introducing a new lift in my weight routine—my form was fine, but the initial weight was too heavy, hence the strain—but the strain is exacerbated by the fact that my current desk chair is. . . no longer adequate.

It’s been more-or-less fine for years, but over the years it’s moved more toward the “less” side of the spectrum. Because I’m working my second job from home, I’m spending a LOT of time in the chair, and thus have a lot of time to reflect on its inadequacies. And while I don’t expect a chair to fix my exercise mistakes, I also don’t want it to magnify the effects of those mistakes.

So: search for a chair. Search search search. Read the reviews read the reviews read the reviews, consider the features, select, delete, et cetera.

So: I’ve found what seems to be a decent chair. I like that the arms are padded (current chair? no) and flip back, I like (I think) the syncro-tilt, and I like the price.

The problem? There’s only one review. Positive, but still: one.

I’ve search for more reviews, but no luck. The price isn’t outrageous—130 bucks or so—but this is out of “what-the-hell” territory. There were a couple of other chairs I looked closely at, and the reviews were helpful in deciding to eliminate them: the negative/meh reviews were over twenty percent and a fair number of them were quite recent and about the same problem, while the in-depth 4- and 5-star reviews were all older. That there are negative reviews doesn’t bother me, but if out of 300-400 reviews a solid 25 percent are negative, well, I think I’ll look at something else.

(I bought a small vacuum cleaner recently, and in trying to figure out which of two to buy, that the negative reviews were recent and pointed toward the same problems with one machine pushed me toward the other. Which works fine, in case you’re wondering.)

Anyway, the specs on this chair seem decent, but then, so did those on the chairs I ultimately eliminated.  *Sigh*

I have to admit that were I to have the cash, I’d buy a Herman Miller. Not necessarily the Aeron chair—I’ve never sat in one, and you betta believe that before I plunk down a thousand bucks I’m plunking my ass in that chair—but this Eames lounge chair, and precisely because I have sat in it.

Sister, it is worth every penny.

When I was in grad school I took a course in human rights, which meant that, in doing research for my papers, I had to trudge from the Social Science tower over to one of the upper floors of the law library, where the human rights collection was located. It was there that I discovered this amazing chair, tucked in a windowed niche—and it was to there I returned, long after the class had finished, to sit and read and, on more than one occasion, doze.

(Sometimes it wouldn’t be there, and I’d find it had been dragged somewhere else on the floor. I clearly wasn’t the only person who liked that chair.)

I became a little obsessed, so much so that I finally flipped the chair over and ripped the fraying product manufacturer tag off. Then I went on a hunt through furniture store after furniture store—this was pre-internet—until a woman at a place in north Minneapolis said “oh, that’s a Herman Miller. There’s a store in [Edina? Hopkins? one of the nearby suburbs].” I then got on my bike (no car) and rode out to that store, frayed product tag in hand, and began the process of ordering myself a Herman Miller.

That was, oh, over twenty years ago, so it was nowhere near $1800 bucks, and that I’d buy it directly from this store  would mean I could probably get the cheapest version for less than 500 bucks. (I remember the person who worked with me as professional, helpful, and a bit bemused at the sight of this broke-ass grad student trying to figure out how to afford a freakin’ Eames chair.)

I didn’t buy the chair: incredibly, that I didn’t want the cheapest chair was kept me from following through on the purchase. No, I decided, I’d get a Herman Miller when I could [afford to] get exactly what I wanted.

I still have the product brochure, by the way, though the tag seems to have gone missing.

So, huh. Is there a point to this story? No, no point, other than, perhaps to point out (ha!) that I am willing to lay out crazy money for chair I know is comfortable.

But if I don’t know? Then 130 bucks seems a lot.





Everbody knows that the captain lied, 16

19 01 2015

This seems like a singularly bad idea.

I mean, sure, the airlines are more than willing to screw over the lumpenproletariat mashed like potatoes into the cheap seats, but how will they deal with the haute bourgeoisie up front who number too few to gain priority over other flying buses?

And will they do these on an absolute or relative basis? Total number of first class seats sold or percentage of First-to-last class? Total dollar amounts spent on first class?

Or maybe this could be the greatest selling point (from the airlines’ point of view) for first-class seats since the invention of first-class seats: pay more to increase your odds of landing before the fuel runs out!

Now that’s service.