Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Painfully cute vintage novelty print fabric promises to bring you good luck. It's a talisman, gosh darn it. Make a dress to wear to the race track, or if you’re being indicted by a grand jury. Though in the later case, you might just want to line a pinstriped suit with these sweet little elephants, clovers and horse shoes. Or confine it to a cravat or scarf. You don’t want the jury to think you’re arrogant or desperate.

Don’t all consumer goods basically promise to have magical qualities?

I started this blog to change my relationship to objects. Instead of buying things I’d merely collect photos, post them, write about them and release them for others to buy. In unchaining myself, does this make me an enabler for other compulsive shoppers?

This article in the New York Times magazine is about Kate Bingaman-Burt who documented all of her purchases for 28 months (I had thought of doing that, ah well, scooped again!). She runs a website called Obsessive Consumption. She even draws cute pictures of her credit card statements. (Don’t worry, she omits her address and account number.) And people buy them. Oh, the circularity.

I applaud her inquiry, but there’s something at the heart of it that bothers me. The activist in me wants some resolution and escape from consumerism. But I’m probably being too simplistic. Maybe drawing your credit card statement and focusing on all its details is a form of meditation. Maybe the act of really looking at the way you spend money is radical enough.

Somehow I got chatting with a 63 year old lady on the subway. We talked about debt, retirement, and being a single woman. She recommended Suze Orman for getting your financial life in order. Serendipitously that evening the trashpicker guys on my corner were selling one of Ms. Orman’s videos for $1. I took it home and watched Ms. Orman in front of an audience of paying customers who asked questions: Should I invest in real estate? etc. I knew they were paying customers because they didn’t have the taut glossiness and capped teeth of actors. These were regular folks.

Ms. Orman kinda free associated about money and debt. She recited a koan that seemed bizarre to me. She said that some people value the things that money can buy rather than money itself. She said that as if it were a bad thing. I was baffled.

She also takes an example of a vacation, and calculates how much it really costs you. That is, she includes the interest that you pay on the credit card purchase of airline tickets and whatnot, and adds to that the lost income of what your money could feasibly be doing for you as an investment. She is correct that things do really cost more than you think they do, especially if you charge them and pay interest. But for crying out loud, not going to Italy because you want to rack up interest and returns on your investments—Feh.

Black Friday is coming up, goslings. Be careful out there.


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