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Mental accounting

A dollar is dollar is a dollar -- until you think about it for a moment. This article by James Surowiecki, from an otherwise disappointing Forbes package about money as concept, details some of the ways we weight money differently according to how we come by it and the various ways it acquires taint -- a process he calls "mental accounting." Money we earn through a paycheck is different, say, then money we earn selling our old junk on eBay. We're more willing to spend the latter on impulsive and capricious things, where as we tend to preserve the paycheck for mortgage payments and necessary sundries. To hard-core economists, this is a species of irrational thinking that creates waste and missed opportunities, but it nicely illustrates the fetishism of money that Marx credits with distorting our view of the true nature of social relations. Money is never a transparent instrument, instead it's a blank slate that we are forever writing our ambitions and our hopes and our fears on, allowing it to transmogrify and take the shape of those things in their most concentrated abstract form. It's conceptual malleability allows it to reify the most nebulous and intangible things. Money remains potentiality, but a different potentiality depending on context -- the potential for leisure when it's inhereited and set aside as cash, the potential for medical disaster when it takes the form of an HSA. It seems like one of the most concrete ways to undermine the ideology and fetishism associated with money is to resist sentimentalizing it and regard it as sheer quantity at all times; in other words, to think like a hyperrational economist whenever possible. But Surowiecki sees mental accounting as an irrational way we protect ourselves from even more irrational behavior. We build hierarchies of spending and then budget across that hierarchy according to a whimsical, emotionally freighted process. Would a robotically rational process intent on maximizing utility be superior? It seems more likely that the flexibility of expression involved in mental accounting allows one to conceptualize goals that are more important to individuals than making the most money possible. It may be the more we freight money with sentimental significance, the more we undermine the logical underpinnings of capitalism that otherwise straiten our motives.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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