All About the Benjamins

The book is thicker than a Bible that has the original Greek, the translation, and commentary all packed into one.  It’s called the Great Deformation and I’m not going to read it.  It was in the library at work and it seemed like the kind of reading you might want to do if you are writing about the end of the world.  Except that it isn’t.  Surely no point takes 712 ages to make.

Besides.  I’m about full up of outrage.

From what I did read, the book is complaining about the divorce from the gold standard, corporate bailouts via TARP, printing money, the Fed…Basically, what we have isn’t pure capitalism (duh) and this is outrageous.  Nothing is real and it is the end of the world.

Which has the ring of truth to it, but fails to take the argument to its full and logical conclusion: money is a social construct.  Value is a social construct.  If we had all agreed that a tree was an acceptable denomination and a real standard of what a man was worth, Donald Trump would be telling us he owned more trees than any other mofo on the planet.

We’re in a play that isn’t a play, fighting on stage with no audience, using weapons that draw blood from people who don’t get back up when assaulted, fighting over bright pink monopoly cash.  It only means what we say it means.  We’ve all agreed that these things are real: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, Benjamins…  but they are only real because we say they are real.

Not that I know what to replace it with.  We all know I love my house and I’d have something to say to anyone who tried to take it from me.  But I got that house because my mom traded time at work for symbols of value, which she traded for different symbols of value, which turned into more symbols of value in the stock market.  And then she died and those symbols came to me through no merit of my own.  Without ever touching anything, I signed a couple of papers and those arbitrary symbols turned into a house, which I, in turn, trade my time for new symbols which get turned over to the bank for the privilege of the various and assorted things that go wrong when you own a house from 1955.

I love my house.  I really do.  I’m sorry for talking bad about it.  It ought to be proud that it’s still standing 70 years later.

Anyway, it’s absurd.  As is only getting worked up about one aspect of a ridiculous system without getting worked up about the whole.  As is getting worked up at all.

So what do you do?  One of the maddening things about media is that they pile on all of this anxiety–both sides are guilty of this–without providing anything to do about it, which tends to foment impotent rage.  Impotent rage eventually finds an outlet and that’s never good (see Fox News, white supremacists, comment sections, etc).  There’s no need for it…  Take the liberty of laughing.  The emperor has no clothes, but he’s the emperor…  Dethroning one emperor only brings on another.  The far-sighted ones go for benevolence.  I mean, no one is going to overthrow Queen Elizabeth for being malevolent.  Maybe for being too expensive, but not for being a murderous tyrant.  The Royals might lose their jobs at some point, but not their heads.

There are times when revolt is required.  A successful coup against Hitler would have been nice.  But here in the US?  Meh.  (I’d be less meh were we to have a President Trump… viva la revolucion?)

The system is bogus, but it is only vaguely relevant.  What matters?  Love.  Family, lovers, friends.  Making someone smile.  Touch.  Community.  Kindness.  A bogus system doesn’t keep you from showing up.  From trying.  It doesn’t stop you refusing anything predicated on the suffering of another.  It doesn’t keep you from making your corner of the world better/kinder/more welcoming.  Money is only a stand in for time, and you don’t need a Benjamin to add value to the world with your time.

How it Went

By all reports, it went well.  I spent the two days before the book release party wandering my neighborhood and muttering out my speech.  Notecards don’t work so well for me, perhaps because if you write out every word beforehand, you lose fluidity when you’re standing up in front of everyone.  Instead, I muttered the general outline of what I wanted to stay until I had something more or less memorized and practiced.  I’m telling you, the neighbors thought I was crazy.

My publicist had us uber-prepared, so there was no last-minute panic when it came time to set up.  People came, which was a relief.  I don’t know which is more scary: no one coming, or more than you planned on coming.  Neither happened, so kudos again to Isoke for having everything under control.

I haven’t gotten the pictures to download as of yet, but this was the backdrop for the event, thanks to  I’ll post some pictures after I get the password to download them.


We’ve all heard the saying “time is money,” right?  It’s a Benjamin Franklin statement that gets bandied about but deserves further consideration.  After all, what if it is true?

Think about the overall growth in wealth we’ve experienced as a society.  Go back to the industrial revolution.  Every one of the inventions that shifted the production of necessary goods from the hands of crofters and farmers to the factory liberated a chunk of time from that process.  Dresses stopped taking three people a month to make and started taking one person a week to make.  (I’m making these numbers up.  The time decreased, I have no idea what the reality-based stats are.)

Every invention, every bit of progress involves liberating time.  Vacuum cleaners: the end result was time.  Computers and automation: time.  Cars: time.  Airplanes: time.

When you go to work, you’re trading time for money, but time is the real currency.  We are all given hours, no matter the circumstances of our births.  In fact, it might be the one resource distributed more or less equally…  Okay, the flaw in that argument is the health risks associated with poverty, the increased violence experienced in the African American community, preventable diseases in third world countries, etc.  It isn’t a perfect argument, just a perspective to consider…When one generation passes down an inheritance, what they’re really sending forward is time.

It is an idiosyncratic currency, to be fair.  But maybe dollars also mean different things to different people.  Anyway, it is just something to think about.

Writing Tools: Freemind

I envy linear people.  It must be so easy to store and catalog information, making retrieval easier.  I am not linear.  I am a cluster.  As I think about plots and people, it is more like a pinball machine than an orderly progression of ifs, thens, and therefores.  Which is fine, but how do you hold on to every cluster of thought for use later when there is nothing linear happening up there?

Freemind.  Mind-mapping software.  It’s free.  Avail yourself immediately, my non-linear friends.

The entire TCR world is mapped out in there.  Willow’s birthday, parents, which of the loose factions she is affiliated with, the history of the New Republic of America…  Ven, Ianthe, their associations and histories.  Plus ongoing themes, ideas I want to explore.  Reference points, continuity hooks, random thoughts.  And no end to the hierarchies, subcategories, or configurations…

I use it for everything.  To help think about personal situations in a somewhat systematic way.  To monitor goals.  Whatever.  It is an infinitely flexible way to think on (virtual) paper.  I would be drowning in snippets and notes without it.  It is the secret to my sanity…  Well, that and a great deal of talking to myself.

Countdown: T-7

At least that sounds right.  A week until the book release party.

  • Nervous? Check.
  • Dress?  Check
  • Shoes?  Check
  • Still debating lipstick choice?  Check
  • Worried the music won’t be cool enough?  Check
  • Hyperventilating?  Check.
  • Best publicist in the world on top of all the details?  Check.

I guess I’d better calm down, then.

The Matrix

Katherine Otto is a relatively new addition to the blog.  We have had a comments discussion over on about entrope, and it has turned into something deserving its own post.

Trust in the institutions of American life are in the crapper.  My faith in the “system” is at an all time low.  You can go to Ms. Otto’s blog for her take on, for example, the tangled beast that is housing finance.  She and I seem to share an inability to distill it all out to a single subject per post.  Instead, I tend to bounce between interrelated points of wtf that seem related to me but perhaps not to anyone else.  There is a reason I’ve enjoyed going back and forth with her.

Anyway, let’s start with Congress being a cesspool of special interest money.  Wall street characters belong in Dante’s Inferno.  People claiming Christianity sell snake oil to old ladies in order to buy their second Benz.  The weather is going nuts.

I’m scared/horrified/angry too.  And when I try to think through all of the forces aligned against “normal” people…  people with jobs living paycheck to paycheck, hoping the roof doesn’t go or the lump isn’t cancer because we’re just barely holding it together and hoping for just a little more cushion in the bank account…  Hell, the beginning of a cushion would be nice.  And while we’re not even close to the 1%, we aren’t at the bottom of that continuum either.  It only gets scarier as the resources erode.

So what do you do? And what kind of life is there when you are consumed by the sense of helplessness?  I feel that helpless rage too, but that also feels like one more incursion, one more shackle in a system that is stacked against “us.”  A market that is stacked against “us.”  Laws that are written for anyone but “we the people.”  Aren’t we easier to manage when we are afraid and helpless/hopeless?  Who benefits most from the system?  Who benefits the most from a population that survives on a daily diet of anxiety?  Not you and me, that’s for sure.

News is paid for by advertisements.  Advertisements are purchased by companies seeking to sell you shit.  You buy the shit, advertisers pay the news.  Whatever tenor of news sells the most shit is the tenor of news you are going to see.  And guess what?  Scary news sells the most shit.  No one is going to go buy a new distracting gadget to feel better after a National Geographic special on unlikely animal friends.  You buy that distracting item because everything is horrible and you might as well distract yourself while you still can.  Honestly, I think the most revolutionary thing you can do is to refuse the fear that is being used against us.

Again: what do you do?  I think, I hope, you focus on the stuff that isn’t a commodity and can’t be exploited by those systems we most mistrust.  Joy in simple things.  Connecting to other people.  Volunteer with the elderly, or the homeless, or tutoring underprivileged kids.  Find a pet.  Take up a hobby.  Knit baby hats for the ICU.  Garden.  Watch the sunset.  Look for reasons to be grateful.  Do those things that don’t require someone else’s permission to make your little corner of the world a better place.

And refuse.  Refuse the fear and anxiety.  Refuse the value system that puts money above everything else.  Love with baked goods or time spent instead of plastic crap.  Hang out with your family without agenda.  Play board games.  Dance.  Sing in the shower.  And when you see an opportunity to function outside the system, take it.

I’m not saying let’s be all Pollyanna about this.  I’m saying don’t let them have your joy.