Advice, Economics, Explaining the Strange Behavior, music

Sara Bareilles, Katy Perry, and Selling Out.

Today, I want to eat everything in the world, but only if it is a carb.  I think I could eat a whole basket of bagels without feeling a morsel of regret.  Maybe a twinge of it, but only because I would realize the whole basket was gone, and I wanted more.

Normally, I’m not much of a bread person, but today I want to find a giant bread mountain and just start gnawing my way through it. 

What else is new?

My boy turns 8 this weekend.  I have no idea where the time has gone.  I have no idea where the summer has gone.  He starts school again in two weeks, and all those good intentions I had of doing flashcards and times tables?  Listen, my road to hell is extremely well paved.  It is the yellow brick road of roads to hell.

Katy Perry may have ripped off two different artists in writing and creating a video for her new song Roar.  First of all, I cannot get the song out of my head, and I don’t really mind.  I kind of like it.  I caught myself humming it earlier.  I listened to the Sara Bareilles “version” last night and it is stunningly similar.  Stunningly to the point of Perry’s really being a cover version with new lyrics.  And that’s the difference mass market appeal makes.

You sing your song, and no1curr.  Elvis Presley sings your song, and it’s an overnight sensation.  Bareilles is too serious a musician to ever dress like a smurf and date Russell Brand.  This is why Katy Perry will always have better market appeal.  That and the fact that Bareilles is indistinguishable from Anne Ramsay, whereas Perry is indistinguishable from Zoe Deschanel.  You are now asking yourself, “Who is Anne Ramsay?”  Exactly*.

If you’re an artist like Bareilles, you have a choice to make:  Always be a solid, reputable, decent selling indie artist, or just write songs for Katy Perry and become a multi-millionaire without ever having to tour the country on a stale smelling coach again.  I am lazy, so I would just write songs for Perry and feel moderately annoyed that I wasn’t getting the fame/recognition for them.  Then, I would go dive into my swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills, and do the backstroke until I felt better.  That should take about as long as it would for me to remember I had a swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills.

I have no concerns about being a sell out.  I would love to be a sell out.  Corporate America, call me!  I will totally sell you that little song I made up for Thor.  He won’t mind.  Or, he might mind for about as long as it takes for him to remember that he has a swimming pool filled with legos.

*Anne Ramsay played Helen Hunt’s older sister on Mad About You.





Economics, economy, School

Bulls, Bears, and Toilet Paper Bits

I know it isn’t going to win me any fans to admit that I am really clueless about the stock market, but I am.  It’s one of those things that I know just enough about to be able to smile and nod with some confidence, but not enough about which to carry on any conversation beyond, “Wow…I can’t believe what a hit [insert the name of whichever company NPR reported taking a dive in the market] took today.”

I determined that I would learn about it.  And then, I found myself fixating on the shape of the font Wikipedia uses, and how much I like their logo, and not at all on what I was reading.  Try again tomorrow.  Or, if any of you care to enlighten me further than the following, please do!  I’m all eyes.

As I understand it (and I understand it only because David Bowie sold stock in David Bowie and I really wanted some–rock stars, driving my self-propelled educational interests since 1982), companies that are publicly traded allow investors to buy shares in their company.  It’s a bit like if a landowner had 4,000 acres and decided to sell parcels of land to ghost owners.  The Ghost Owners would profit based on the production of all 4,000 acres, regardless of which parcel of land they owned.  Worth would be determined by how many parcels of land you had purchased, based on the percentage of land made available by the Land Owner. 

Worth would also be determined by perceived value.  If no one wanted your land parcels, they wouldn’t be worth much, and you would have to offer them at a much reduced selling price to entice buyers.  If everyone wanted a piece of your action, you could charge out the wazzoo.

Perception would be determined by past and projected performance, and on speculation as to whether or not the land had staying power.  If the Land Owner hasn’t rotated crops in 4 years, one might speculate soil depletion and devalue the price of the land parcel, thus devaluing the shares.  If the Land Owner has taken exceptional care of his land, and has just invested in improvements that will increase his ability for output next year (even though the improvements cost some money) one might speculate a boom and value for the shares would remain stable or increase.

If too many people wanted out of their shares at once, the Land Owner could face financial doom–that’s his backing to run the company.  Shares are sort of a loan from the public, and the health of the stock has a lot to do with the health of full finances.

I have no idea the difference between Bull and Bear markets.  I don’t like getting animals involved.  I feel sorry for them.  Like what Republicans have done to Elephants–poor things!  But, I think Bull markets are good, and Bears are bad.  Yes, confirms this.  I will remember this as:  When the market is good, take the bull by the horns.  When the market is bad…well, some days the bear gets you.  Or I will remember the toilet paper commercials with the baby bear, who frequently has bits of toilet paper stuck to his bum…bears are nasty.  Who came up with that?  That’s gross.  Ooh!  Or, I will think of the Snuggle Fabric Softener bear.  When the market goes south, you need snuggles.

Yeah.  So this is what it looks like when Lib Arts majors show an interest in the stock market.  Please feel free to fill in gaps, correct misunderstandings, or just agree with me that it is nasty to suggest that people who use Angel Soft go around with bits of toilet paper stuck to their backsides.

Counting Blessings, Economics, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Friends of Mine, Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane, OWS, Politics

Let Them Eat Cake

I really do think about how fortunate I am frequently.  My grandparents grew up with so little it is mind boggling.  They grew up in rural Alabama and Florida at the height of the Great Depression, in areas untouched by Restoration, having to give up educations in order to make livings.  My Granddaddy never learned to read.  How those men and women managed to carve out lives for themselves that included being home and car amazes me.

My parents grew up with a little more than their parents had, but my mother can remember wearing clothes made out of feed sacks, and they grew or hunted for much of what went on the table.  The children in her family also worked very hard before and after school to add to the minimal income of a soldier’s salary.  I don’t think there was anything my grandparents were prouder of, than my uncle’s achievements at the Citadel.  His education was (rightly) a crowning glory to them.

I grew up with exponentially more than either of my parents had.  We were decidedly middle class, but since I was an Only and had grandparents who were generous with me, there was enough of a disposable income that I had things in my childhood that many other kids my age didn’t see until they were teens.  During our leaner years, I never knew there was any lack.  We used layaway, which I just thought was exciting.  My mom made a game of finding the least expensive items possible, and when I was old enough to care about labels and designers, we would go on a veritable safari through the Fashion district warehouses to find either what I wanted, or something so close to it it didn’t matter, and we NEVER paid anything close to retail.

But, we also never had to make a choice between milk and a winter coat.

I do a lot of my shopping for Thor at Ross and WalMart (shh, Lisha, you didn’t read that) where I can keep him pretty well set for 3-4 months at a time for under $75, including shoes.  Now and then, we’ll shop Target, whose prices are higher.  Shorts at WalMart?  $3–$5 a pair.  Shorts at Target?  $7–$12.  Same goes for the clothes of the adults in our family.  I find the best I can, for the least amount of money.  And no one has ever accused any of us of looking cheap.  I defy you to tell me Thor ever looks anything other than well put together.  Point of maternal pride there.

We had a space of time when it was to our financial benefit to buy Brand X products at the grocery store, but I have never had to make a choice between milk and a winter coat for my child.

I was walking home from Thor’s school today, shivering in my layers, and passed a little boy of about eight, wearing nylon track pants that were two years too short, a tshirt and a light hoodie.  There was a good three inches of space between the hem of the pants and the top of his ankle socks.  He was huddled into himself, eyes on the ground.

I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “How did his mother let him out of the house like that?! Those pants come nowhere near fitting!”  My second thought was, “Shame on you.  He might not have a mother, and that might be the best he has.”  My third thought was, “Or his mother got tired of waging the clothing war every morning and told him to just dress himself-wear whatever he wanted-freeze to death if that would finally make him happy.”  I hope it was the latter.

I’m glad I carried it through, though, because it tells me I am not completely out of touch.  It tells me that I remember that there are parents out there, who after paying the rent and the utilities, have to sit down and look at what is left over and make HARD decisions about whether to buy food or diapers.  I remember that there are people working three jobs just to be able to buy both.  I remember that there are people whose children will never be quite warm enough, quite full enough, or have quite enough of their parents’ attention, because those parents are working so hard to provide the minimum.

There is a disconnect between the unspoken caste system in this country, and it sounds something like this:  They have no bread?  Let them eat cake.

In the modern vernacular it would sound like this:  They can’t afford disposable diapers?  Let them use cloth.

And it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Cloth is an ecologically sound choice–doing something great for the baby’s bottom, the earth, and your purse all at the same time?  Awesome!  But you know those parents who are having a hard time affording diapers?  I’m betting they don’t have washing machines, or the money to plunk down on diaper services, and have you ever tried to find a daycare center that would allow you to pack cloth nappies for your baby?  Good luck, Marie.  Ain’t happening at LaVerne’s Kids ‘n Play, which is probably about what these parents can afford.

The truth is that some people will work all their lives, and work hard, and because of circumstances beyond their control (national economy, industry booms and busts, slight shifts in policy, misconduct in high places) will never do better than watering down the milk to make it last longer.

The truth is that there are some mothers whose husbands have been laid off, who are now expressing breast milk for the whole family because that’s all there is–I knew that mother.  Well, the one I knew was married to a guy who got laid off and never went back.  She fed me pancakes made with breast milk before telling me the truth of their situation, and then I cried all the way home.  My tears did her a fat lot of good, but I didn’t have anything else to give her.  Except diapers–and when I gave her the diapers, she told me how she had been making those last longer.  And that was another drive home in tears.

She was able to find benefits, though, and she has worked her keister off to get an education while working from home, caring for three kids as a single mother.  And she has carved out a life like my grandparents did.  She is a vital part of the American Dream.

We have to remember that for every lazybones trying to grift and bilk, there is an honest citizen just trying to get by.  And those people are too busy to get in front of the cameras and tell you the problem.  They don’t have time to complain.  Think about that:  A life so hard that complaint is a luxury.

To me, the OWS movement has been about remembering those people.  And I am thankful to everything holy that our family has the means to do a little something now and then, and that I am married to a man who always says yes when I want to give, and that I have a little boy who is already thinking about sharing with those who have less.

And that I never have to think about it when I need to go buy some milk.  Which I need to do today.