Time

1. They’re making no more of it. Doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, we all abide by the same clock.

2. Stimulation. That’s what we all want with our time. We want to be excited, we want to be titillated. We want the jones love gives us, the high of infatuation, the satisfaction of sex. Know that everything you create, that you want the time of others for, has to compete with love and sex.

3. Love. Is primarily between two people. But you can love an object or a concept, it’s all about the passion. How do we ignite this passion in others? Some try to second-guess, try to deliver what people want, and there’s satisfaction in that, but what we look for most is the unknown, the unexpected, that gets us high the same way we do when we meet new people.

4. Love is frequently at first sight, but not always. So, in order for love to grow you have to be in someone’s field of vision and/or experience on a regular basis. How do you achieve this? Well, if you like someone in school you find out their schedule and show up in the cafeteria at the same time. If you like them at work, you volunteer for the same projects, and you hang out in groups that include them when the day is done. If you’re purveying nothing necessary, neither food nor water, if you’re in the creative field, it’s a matter of being in the line of vision on a regular basis, which is why celebrities employ scorched earth publicity campaigns. But these are oftentimes brief, and we know that love is long. And we know that he who throws themselves in front of us is rarely desirable.

5. Used to be stimulation was scarce, now it’s plentiful. The information society gives us every book, movie and film at our fingertips, we’re overwhelmed, we’re constantly looking for trusted guides, filters who tell us what to partake of. The currency in this world is credibility, but credibility requires its own curation, which is anathema to those self-promoting online. So we’re overwhelmed with noise, causing us to tune out and retreat to that which has stimulated us in the past.

6. Yields to frustration. With so much to do and so little time that which is not instantly intuitive is cast aside and denigrated. We don’t want frustration on our way to usability. Interface designers are king. It doesn’t matter what it can do if we can’t access it.

7. We don’t want to feel alone on the time space continuum. So, if we can bond with you, we’ve got unlimited time for you. Whether it be lovers, friends or artists. We want to feel attached, we want to feel connected. Which is why you’re better off being yourself, with all your rough edges, than blanding yourself down for public consumption. Because it’s our rough edges that make us lovable, that hook us. That’s right, we live in a Velcro world, we’re all loops looking for hooks.

8. Instant gratification has superseded the long hard slog. It’s hard to practice your instrument alone in your bedroom because this leaves you disconnected from others. It’s easier to social network and connect, for the hit of dopamine.

9. Passion and excitement are contagious. You don’t have to implore us to partake, to follow you, all you have to do is be your bubbly self, testifying about your great life, we all want some of that, if we believe you believe, we’re gonna check it out. And this is the opposite of the phony society we live in, where everything’s fake. Some people have some time for fake, but the truth is honesty rules in today’s world. Which is why the government and network television are losing their grip upon society.

10. Going deep increases pleasure. The more time we spend with something the more time we want to spend with it. There’s a satisfaction in mastery.

Suze Orman

She reminds me of my father.

I never watched her CNBC show, I really had no idea who she was, but Felice kept turning her on at 6 every Saturday and I’ve become hooked. Because she’s the voice of reason in an unreasonable world.

I like to think I know everything. But I was stunned last week when Suze came down on variable annuities. I have no children, I’ve got no debt, I’m not in the market for one of these financial products, but I thought they were a reasonable thing, turns out they’re not. And that’s what keeps me watching Suze, the way she counters conventional wisdom.

My father used to have a rap. Actually, we’d call it the “Morris Lefsetz Philosophy.” We’d hear it on long car drives, after a good meal, my dad would kick back and smile and tell us how we didn’t have a fancy house, we didn’t drive the latest cars, but our house was paid for, we could go on vacation, we could eat out, we had each other.

That’s right, when I was in junior high, everybody decamped for a better neighborhood. The split level we lived in shook when someone shut the front door. But to get my dad to sell that house and take on debt would be akin to asking him to cut off his left arm. He told us he could sleep at night. Now I understand.

My relationships have been riddled with financial issues. Not only how the money is spent, but how much of it there is. We all have different values, and I’ll admit it’s hard to accept those of others, but when it comes to blowing money I’m intolerant, and when you’ve got two people struggling it adds tension and it breaks you up, I know from experience.

I also know that the fantasy of loading up credit cards to pursue your dreams is just that, a fantasy. Sure, some people break through and get rich and pay the debt off, but most don’t. My experience has turned me into a depression baby just like my dad, I live on a cash only basis, I don’t believe in borrowing, because belief that life will get better is oftentimes just that, a belief, and beliefs are often wrong.

But my dad was not fake like Suze. Actually, I don’t think Suze’s like the show at all. She makes nice, talks about her life, when the truth is she’s probably tough as nails, like my dad. Who loved bestowing gifts and picking up the tab, but would tolerate no dishonesty, no b.s.

He also didn’t care what people thought of him. He kept on telling everybody he was a poor immigrant boy, when the truth is he was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but when his dad died the family was broke, he had to take care of his mom.

But my dad fought his way out. And insisted we do so too. Come home with bad grades and not only would you be grounded, your life was in jeopardy. It was all about education, preparing yourself for the future.

As a result, I’m prepared pretty well.

But most people are not.

The biggest crime you see in Los Angeles is “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Leasing a fancy car and moving into a desirable neighborhood because everybody else is. Suze says you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, that those who smile outside might be fighting and unable to sleep inside.

And not only must you live within your means, you must have an emergency fund, of eight months. And with so many of my baby boomer brethren out of work with their unemployment benefits having run out, eight months is not much. But people call Suze every week eager to spend.

Which America wants you to do.

And once you open your eyes to this it’s frightening. There was a story in last week’s “New York Times” delineating the different responsibilities of those selling products at the bank as opposed to certified financial planners. The latter have a fiduciary duty, the former do not. And I know the difference in responsibility, having gone to law school, but I did not know the difference between a bank’s investment brokers and licensed certified financial planners.

If only Suze were taught in school. If only everybody in America was forced to listen to her words. Sure, America runs on consumer spending, but if you want to get ahead you’ve got to manage your money wisely, you’ve got to plan, you’ve got to be realistic.

And the show is good television because it’s absent the tropes of the networks. The people call in weeping about bad decisions and after describing their problems a sponsor does not swoop in and make them whole. No, Suze dispenses truth and then they’re left to their own devices. Suze just told a cashless couple to sell their house after the husband ran up credit card debt the wife was unaware of. They balked, they cannot do it, their image can’t take the hit. But is image what it’s really about?

And then there are the people who want to buy frivolous items when they’ve still got credit card debt, at inflated interest rates. The government is never gonna crack down hard enough, the financial industry keeps legislators alive, you’ve got to help yourself.

But what makes Suze’s show so riveting is the no b.s. truthful advice that we all want to hear that we never get. It’s kind of like Simon Cowell on “American Idol.” The acts all want to be successful, their hearts are in it, the other judges are encouraging, but Simon says no way.

Ain’t that America, where it’s illegal to piss on your hopes and dreams. But the truth is life is tough. And the way you succeed is through knowledge, that you gain from authorized, approved sources, which are often pooh-poohed by the hoi polloi the same way the ignorant educated refuse to get their kids vaccinated because it makes them feel less powerful, less in control if someone else has the answers, if someone else knows more.

But someone else always knows more than you. And someone else is always looking to take advantage of you. Yup, go try to buy a car, the salesman will have you leasing something you can’t afford that you’re unsure of the price of because you don’t want to be seen driving a Toyota that’s paid for.

Kind of like the auto I drive. It gets terrible gas mileage, certainly for its size. But it’s paid for. It makes no sense to trade it in. Just like it makes no sense to lease a hybrid that doesn’t return its premium for six years.

But you want it.

But we all cannot have what we want.

My father told me this.

“Before the Advice, Check out the Adviser”

The Suze Orman Show

You’re On Your Own

You either know how to research or you don’t, you either know how to find the answers or you don’t.

My iPhone arrived. And despite a seamless backup from the cloud, in this case iCloud, I’ve got questions and the only place to find answers is online.

That’s why I stay with a Mac, never mind an iPhone. Because if I’ve got a problem, someone else does too, and I can go online and delve into what they’re saying.

Once upon a time computers were like cars, in their infancy that is. At the turn of the last century, car owners were hobbyists, who could lift the hood and fix their automobiles themselves. As were those utilizing computers in the eighties. This is how many learned how to think, how to analyze, how to solve problems. You’d be sitting there flummoxed, trying this or that, working towards a solution. Oftentimes having to go for a walk or to sleep to uncover an answer.

But that does not mean I give up, that I can tear myself away from my devices when I hit a roadblock.

Like last night. Yearning to get on the stationary bike, I went to hook up my Bluetooth headphones to my new iPhone 6 and they were not discoverable. In the sixties, you’d bring your problem to the shop, where some old guy with wisdom or some young guy who was brusque, but competent, would take your device from you and when you returned a week later it would work, it would be fixed. Today not only do these people not exist, almost no one exists, you’re on your own, baby.

Which is why the baby boomers missed out on the Napster revolution.

You mean I’ve got to download a program and…

That’s why the iPod and the iTunes Store burgeoned, because it solved the problem of the oldsters, who suddenly testified to the greatness of digital music when the truth is their progeny got there four years before and were excited about iPods, but had no intention of paying for music. Which the oldsters couldn’t understand! The CD was so easy! As were the iPod and iTunes Store!

But digital music was easy to the youngster from the get-go. The generation that grew up on videogames without manuals knew that you had to walk into the wilderness alone and figure it out. Baby boomers are still loath to figure it out.

Which is why youngsters always embrace new social media platforms first. Because not only do they hear about them, they figure out how to use them. Oldsters need to be shown. And in today’s world if you need to be shown, you’re one step behind.

Now cars have improved dramatically in my lifetime. I cannot remember the last time someone canceled because of car trouble.

And OS X eliminated the crash.

But every time you get a new iPhone you have to re-enter your passwords, something doesn’t work, you have to hit Google, you have to enter the netherworld of Apple Communities.

And, once again, this is why you should buy an iPhone, because everyone else does. Sure, Android dominates, but in a million different flavors, to the point when you have a problem you’re screwed. And if you disagree with this, you’re probably a power user who can figure it all out for yourself anyway, so this does not apply.

And the truth is I hate wasting time setting up new devices. The glitches and the roadblocks.

But it keeps my mind sharp. And ready for this new world and its coming changes.

So denigrate the younger generation all you want. Tell them they’re coddled and need to be respected as individuals. But the truth is they’ve earned this status! They’ve been individuals in the digital sphere nearly from birth. They’ve had to figure things out for themselves. They know that no one is going to help you in this world, and if you don’t help yourself you’re going to be left behind.

Devices will get smarter, the transition process will become smoother. But the truth is we’ve got a double digital divide. Those without devices and those who have them but don’t know how to use them.

Sure, a new handset is a status item. But it also gains you membership into modern society. They keep upgrading and adding features, ones the kids will start using right away and the oldsters will grudgingly accept and ultimately testify about a few years later.

The Democrats beat the Republicans in 2012 because they understood the internet, they realized data was king.

In what ways are you being beaten because you too are behind the curve?

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

An eight year old girl in war-torn Chechnya? Really?

It’s a girl’s book. I’ve never heard any guy talk about it. When it comes to the domestic sagas of overseas personages the females eat them up and the males don’t even start. Which is why I had no intention of reading Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.”

It started with Marc’s wife, he put her on the phone in a bar near midnight on the east coast and we started talking books. I told Abbie to read “We Are Not Ourselves” and she couldn’t stop raving about “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” did I know it?

It rang a distant bell. Didn’t Daniel Glass send me a copy? Gift-giver extraordinaire, Mr. Glass frequently sends hardcovers from the local store in his Washington, Connecticut weekend homeplace, the Hickory Stick Bookshop. And when I went back to my kitchen table, there it was, ready for my consumption.

But I had to finish Hampton Sides’s “In The Kingdom of Ice” first.

Mr. Sides’s book got a great write-up in the “Wall Street Journal,” and I bought it on my Kindle before my plane took off and wireless access ended and I started it and it was bone dry, but sometimes exciting. It’s akin to “The Devil in the White City,” have you read that? I won’t spoil the story, but let’s just say it’s centered around the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893. You marvel while you read, how advanced it was back then.

And the same thing in “Kingdom of Ice.” It’s a true story, so when you read about the shenanigans of the owner of the New York “Herald” you can’t help but Google the details, to see if they’re really true.

And “Kingdom of Ice” is about a search for a Northwest Passage, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, but I had to get through a third of the book just to have the voyage begin, and it wasn’t that the book was boring, but it didn’t call out to me, I needed fiction.

That’s right, the guys read non-fiction. Mostly business books. Sometimes biographies. They want information they can use. Whereas I’ve learned story is king, and fiction takes you away and illuminates life in a way that non-fiction never can.

Like “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.”

It’s not the easiest read. It’s the kind of book you have to read a few sentences past where you are to understand what’s going on, and I hate that. I read super-comprehensively, I want to know what everything means, I want to miss no details, and therefore I was frustrated at first.

And the story…

Turns out the girl is not the focus, but the war is. A war most Americans, including myself, know nearly nothing about.

What happens when you’re caught in the crossfire, victimized by circumstances, when everything you believe in no longer matters. Never mind your possessions, but how about electricity, and morality, and…

Everything is up for grabs.

But we all remain human and we all soldier on in the face of adversity.

Sonja basks in her self-satisfaction.

Akhmed lives for art but medicine is his profession. This is the conundrum facing so many in today’s society, do you do what’s expected of you or what you feel inside. And forget getting rich following your heart’s desire, no one’s getting rich in Chechnya, and the young girl has never seen a fat person, they don’t exist.

And I’m not going to recite the plot, not that “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” can be ruined. I’m just saying you’re going to go down the rabbit hole, and halfway through the book will start calling out to you, you will want to sacrifice your everyday life to read it. And when it ends, you’ll be at loose ends.

That’s what I hate most, when a good book ends. Then what? Sure, there are a zillion tomes, but few pull at the heartstrings, few excite you, few are of the same quality.

Not that “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is the best book I’ve ever read. Once again, that’s “Anna Karenina” (depends on the translation!), and Tolstoy is referenced throughout, but “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is not in Leo’s league, but it’s not that far off. On an absolute scale, if “Anna Karenina” is an A, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is a B. And that’s pretty damn good, because on an absolute scale “Unbroken” is a C- and so much of what’s popular today fails completely.

Not that “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is unpopular. But to get me to read it a constellation of factors had to align. I had to have a gifted copy lying around the house, it had to be referenced by someone as passionate about a great read as I am. And one of the reasons I gave “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” a chance is because Abbie hates so much. I hate those who love everything, they grant no perspective, their opinion is worthless, but when someone critical says they love something, I check it out.

And you should check “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” out. Because if you’re alive, if you can pull yourself away from your smartphone, if you know the vagaries of love, the hardship of struggle, if you question the meaning of life, if you wrestle with your sense of duty, your eyes will bug out as the rest of the world fades away and you end up with a new understanding of those who are not privileged to live in the United States and a desire to journey to their homeland to feel alive.

“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”