Economics Question

I remember as a kid when I first opened a savings account. I think it was First Federal[1], at the branch in the mall (correct me, mom, if I’m wrong). I was really surprised that just by giving some money to the bank I’d get more money back over time. It didn’t really make sense to me, but I accepted it as just another one of the thousands of concepts we’re introduced to as children that we don’t have the time or tools to question. So I’d like to revisit this, in light of recent economic events:

Where does the added value come from on a savings account or a certificate of deposit? How can a bank guarantee any rate of return[2]? Is it simply assumed that the bank’s business will grow enough over time that the value gets produced? Is that always a realistic assumption; is there not risk involved here? Are banks essentially shell games where Peter deposits money to pay for the interest on Paul’s CD?

Somebody help me out here. I was never good with numbers.

1.) I also wondered why banks and churches were so intent on being “first” – “First Federal Bank,” “First National Bank,” “First Baptist Church”…meanwhile you never hear of “First Pizza” or “First Burger Joint.” I’m still kind of mystified by this, actually. It must have something to do with seriousness. You can put some personality into Little Caesar’s pizza, but don’t go naming your bank or church “Luigi’s Famous.” Interesting historical turnabout: “Caesar” is now head of a small pizza empire while his former Christian prisoners now dominate much of Western civilization and pretty much founded the American way of life.

2.) And don’t say the FDIC. That’s not what I mean.

Stray Observations

  • Having a job on the 19th floor with several miles of visibility has allowed me for the first time in my life to be acutely aware of each day’s sunset, and how it occurs slightly later each day than the one previous. I should also mention that I’ve now been working at this job longer than last year’s stint in advertising. So far, so good.
  • I think I feel like a New Yorker now, or at least more so than at any point in the last year (and yes, it has been more than a year now), as I recently told myself I needed to “run up to 52nd” to get some shirts at H&M. That I consider this task a simple errand indicates a sizeable shift in my thinking. Manhattan has now become casually traversable. Nevertheless, I’m still not yet convinced that I belong here or want to stay long-term.
  • Not until John McCain said “the fundamentals of the American economy are strong” did I begin to wonder whether that was ever in question. Now I know that it may well be. More and more I hear people referring to the American Experiment as something with the potential for failure.
  • I’ve bought my tickets for SXSW in Austin! Tara now lives on the east end, which is great because I’ve always wanted to explore that area. While she’s at work I’ll most likely bike around and take pictures. This actually excites me just as much as seeing bands play. Oh, and the Texas Guitar Show is in Austin this year, same weekend. And the Austin Record Convention. That should all be enough to distract me from turning 33.

Cruel Fate and Terrible Irony

Last week, Johann Hari wrote an article in the UK’s The Independent defending free speech for everyone living under oppressive religions. As a result, central Calcutta was brought to a standstill with riots by fervent Muslims, death threats sent to the author and newspaper staff, and the arrest of an editor who published the article.

Visiting the original article, I couldn’t help but note the sad irony of the banner ad above the article. Looks like Hari is another unintentional victim of contextual advertising.


Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

For the last few years, I haven’t really WANTED anything. Throughout my teens and 20’s there was always something I was thinking about, saving up for, or berating myself for having recklessly purchased[1], but that’s tapered off in recent years. Maybe it’s maturity, or maybe it’s just that I have most of of the objects I’ve ever wanted. There are still a few guitars that I would go bonkers over, but they’re so rare that I’ll likely never come across them.

Lately I find myself wanting a particular guitar that I know I shouldn’t buy. It has nothing to set it apart from my other guitars save its coloring and scarcity. For the last year, it has been one of the only things I punch into eBay and actively search for with the potential intent to buy.

I think part of this psychosis is that I haven’t really particpated in active coveting for so long that I miss the process. I miss wanting things. It’s a terrible thing to say, really. I’ve never been a very good consumer of shiny things – it took me years to replace my crusty $50 TV and the stereo I’d had since high school, and my car is as utilitarian as it gets. But guitars are my single material vice[2]. I have so many of them that I tend to give them away, or at least loan them out indefinitely.

So after a year of half-heartedly looking out for a particular guitar[3], an gloriously tacky blue and pink Ibanez PGM100, I’ve discovered that Ibanez is reissuing it for its 20th anniversary. Clearly they did this just for me, so really, I have to buy it, right? The catch: it’s $2,000. That would be more than I’ve ever spent on a guitar. I’ve never felt like any guitar is worth that much.

I know I shouldn’t. I have too many guitars and this one is essentially identical to the one I already have, but for the paint job and limited edition status. It might be a collector’s item, but that trips me up because several of my guitars are collector’s items.

I’m going to be responsible. I’m going to be mature. I’m going to resist.

But that won’t stop the gnawing of the Gollum-like creature now living inside me. Maybe I can trade one of my other guitars in…

1.) These things tend, almost exclusively, to be guitars. This should surprise absolutely no one.

2.) No, music does not count.

3.) A guitar I once owned; I purchased it for $400 in Springfield back in 1998, but traded it in 2000 for not one but TWO other Ibanez PGM guitars.

Disorganized Post #327

Reading New York Magazine‘s cover article on Demetri Martin, this passage struck me:

“He’s that kind of person who’s always standing a little bit outside, with an awkwardness that’s born out of self-knowledge and a truly analytical point of view. People like that tend to be snobs, but a few gentle souls have the ability to be both self-analytical and really nice. Most analytical types are above it all. Demetri’s more to the side of it all.”

I hope people think the same thing about me, because that’s who I feel like. He and I also share an enjoyment of anagrams.

“there’s a part in If I where Martin talks about how, when he looks at signs on the street, the letters seem to rearrange themselves before his eyes, Mobil transforming magically into Limbo. He’s learned to believe that “there’s a parallel world right in front of us that’s revealed with a small shift in perspective.”

More new things I’ve written at OK Communicator:
Debbie Does America
It Came from Netflix: Emperor of the North

OK Things

Here are some recent entries I’ve posted over at OK Communicator for your enjoyment and others’:

It’s Getting Better All the Time
Man on Wire
The Decline of Western Culture

You might want to bookmark/RSS that site if you haven’t already. I’m still not sure how it is that I decide to post in one place or the other. There are more chatty strangers over there willing to argue with me, so there’s a certain appeal to that.

Also, check out Flickr for a video I took of Caroline’s baby kitties.