Category Archive 'Money'

14 May 2018

Potential Next Coen Brothers Movie

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Luke “Milky” Moore

Esquire has a real life story out of Oz that could have been written by O. Henry.

The greatest adventures happen when you least expect them. And on July 15, 2010, Luke “Milky” Moore never thought one of the greatest in recent memory was about to start for him. …

Though he grew up comfortably—his father, Brett, was a bank executive, and his mother, Annette, a child-care supervisor—he’d been employed since thirteen, bagging groceries, mowing lawns, selling insurance. He was a bright student, but he opted to forgo college for work. “I always thought I’d be a millionaire one day,” he says in his thick Australian accent. While his mates were out drunkenly hunting wild boar, Milky was investing in hedge funds, and at nineteen he bought his own home, for himself and his high school sweetheart, Megan.

But then, in the fall of 2008, the life he’d worked so hard to achieve took a series of tragic turns. It started with the stock-market crash, which depleted his $50,000 life savings. With Goulburn’s economy in turmoil, he lost his job as a forklift driver. A few months later, he was driving in the early-morning darkness to paint happy birthday on a boulder near town to surprise Megan when he fell asleep at the wheel of his white Mitsubishi pickup—and drifted right into the path of an 18-wheeler, which plowed over his truck.

He awoke hanging out his shattered window covered in purple and black paint—but, miraculously, alive. “It was incredible that he survived,” recalls his father. Milky had a broken collarbone, arm, and ribs, and a ruptured spleen—but the scars ran deeper. He fell into a crippling depression, barely able to drag himself from bed or hold on to the job his father had helped him get as a teller at his bank. Adding to the pressure, his mother was suffering from a debilitating degenerative back disease, sometimes unable to get out of bed herself—leaving Milky to care for his year-old brother, Noah. It wasn’t long before his relationship with Megan ended under the strain, and Milky assumed the blame. By mid-2010, he was broke, alone, unemployed, and on the brink of foreclosure.

And that’s just when life suddenly gave him the equivalent of a royal flush on the pokies. It happened on July 15, the day his biweekly mortgage payment was due. With no money in the bank, Milky was bracing himself for the beginning of the end. But then something strange happened. The automatic debit—500 Australian dollars—went from his savings account at his bank, St. George, into his mortgage account. Two weeks later, it happened again. When he checked his balance, he could see that he had racked up the corresponding debt, and interest, under his name. Once he hit the limit, he assumed, the overdrafts would surely stop.

But they didn’t. Fortnight after fortnight, his mortgage got paid. Thinking this crazy, he put in a request for $5,000 to be transferred to his mortgage account. A couple days later, he called his bank to check on the transfer—figuring, at worst, he had reached his limit. “Did that go through?” he asked the teller, who told him casually, “Yes, that’s all paid.” A few days after that, on a lark, he called St. George and asked the bank to transfer $50,000 to his mortgage account. “I was literally thinking that I’ll just wing it and see if it works,” he recalls. And sure enough, it did. The $50,000 deficit was charged on his savings account, but the bank didn’t seem to notice, or, if it did, it didn’t care. It was like getting a free, unlimited loan. “I probably had a bit of a smile on my face then,” he says. “Not smiling because I was thinking I was scamming the bank, but smiling because I was like, ‘This is my fresh start.’”

By the time he sold his home a year later, he’d paid down his mortgage so much from the overdrafts that he cleared $150,000 (US$115,000).

Though he’d been quiet about this so far, he finally confided in a friend. “What do you reckon I do?” Milky asked him. What do you do, in other words, when you’re single, twenty-four, and just got a pile of free money from the bank? No-brainer, his friend replied. “Let’s party!”

Milky was going to Paradise. …

Milky’s rock-star lifestyle became routine. Sleep late, hit the gym, buy memorabilia online, slap the pokies, cocktails at the strip joint, then dancing all night in the clubs. On the nights he didn’t pick up, he sought the ready alternative: the many legal brothels in town. “Especially with girls,” he says bashfully, “you’ve got to make the most of every opportunity, because you might turn around and that’ll be gone.” One week, he threw down $40,000 and rented out an entire brothel to himself for four days. And so it was that, one day in November 2012, he barely registered what happened when he went to pay for repairs on his Alfa Romeo. He was standing there in the car shop, hungover and bronzed, when he saw a message he’d never seen before come up on the credit-card machine. “Call bank security,” it read.

Milky blinked a few times, trying to digest the moment he’d feared for the past two years. Fuck, he thought. Well, that’s done. He went back to his apartment in a daze. How could this just end? There was no old life. There was only this one, and the hole he had dug for himself. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He grabbed as many stacks of cash as he could find around his penthouse, drove to the airport, and booked the next flight to Phuket.

RTWT for the happy ending.

09 May 2018

Russell Chatham: “I’m not a Businessman. If Any Money Crosses my Path, It is Gone Faster than Butter in an Oven.”

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Steve Bodio linked this two-year-old Charles Schultz interview with the great Sporting author/painter Russell Chatham. Chatham has interesting things to say about money, art, and fly fishing.

[Money:]

Charles: You mention Monet in your “Advice for a Young Artist.” Most of his life he was miserably poor.

Russell: When I started painting as a kid, you have to remember there was no T.V., there were no diversions. Down on the ranch, we didn’t even have a radio. I just loved painting, and never thought of it as a profession. When I began to think, “This is what I am going to do,” I had to grit my teeth and accept that I was going to be dirt poor my whole life. “If that is not okay with you, you better not do this.”

Charles: This idea that if you want to have integrity you have to prepare to be poor is lost, more so somehow as the economy declines. Arthur Miller said the Great Depression made everyone more voracious. The less there was, the more bitter the contest for it.

Russell: No, they’re not prepared to be poor. And, quite frankly, it was an absolute fluke in my case. I’m not a businessman. If any money crosses my path, it is gone faster than butter in an oven. I have no savings, no retirement. I have whatever’s in my wallet. To a lot of people that would be frightening. …

[Art:]

Charles: Tell me about Robert Hughes. He is sometimes regarded as an opponent of contemporary art, but he really wasn’t.

Russell: He was contemptuous of phonies. You know anyone can do anything they want, as long as they believe in it. That’s the key. Insincerity is the ultimate sin. The problem is the contemporary art world lends itself so much to insincerity.

Charles: Fairfield Porter writing for Art News back in the ’40s and ’50s made a point about art requiring two elements: that it communicate and that the artist have a moral commitment. I think back to what you said: “They have to believe it.”

Russell: It’s your own personal code of ethics—your honesty with yourself. You don’t confront that very much in the mainstream art world/media complex. They don’t talk about that, especially about any artist who has been pumped up to the point that they are being sold for millions at auction, an auction that is supposed to reflect the value of that work of art. But at that point they aren’t interested in a critical assessment of artistic merit. Where there are hundreds of works by an artist, perhaps living or more probably dead, which are worth half a million dollars or more, there isn’t going to be a critical discussion. There is too much money involved.

Charles: Hughes said this created a “blinding effect” that prevented one from seeing the object because of its monetary value.

Russell: That’s a good way to put it. People are so impressed by money, the price of things, that they are blinded. Somebody wrote a check for that?! I saw something, oh, 15 to 20 years ago in Chicago, when they used to have a big show at the Navy Pier. Artists came from all over the world. I used to go to Michigan to hunt with Jim Harrison, but I always stopped in Chicago for this show. Well, for a couple of reasons: the Art Institute, and Midwesterners. You can’t sit down in a bar there for more than 30 seconds before one of these guys is talking to you and asking who you are. They are curious people, and there is great food and music. But the Navy Pier show would have plenty of good things, and some not so good. A mix.

Anyway, I’m walking down this hallway and this guy has got his booth. He’s got a gallery in Chicago I think, and he’s got this painting, maybe five or six feet square. It was just this completely nondescript abstraction, and not a known artist—not that I know everybody—but not a famous artist at all. There was a woman standing there, and the guy who had the booth is explaining why this was a great painting. I thought, “I gotta hear this.”

I pretend to be looking at something else, while he goes on and on and on. And I am thinking, “You gotta hand it to this guy: this bullshit is really pretty convincing.” He is talking about its museum-quality status, and it is the dumbest painting I’ve ever seen. Well pretty soon, this lady is putting down her purse, taking out her checkbook, and she is writing a check. Oh my god! So they complete the transaction, and go off and sit down together at his desk. And I went up to the painting and looked at the sticker: $600,000.00. Boy, he had the gift, I tell ya.

Charles: Haha!

Russell: You could buy a Winslow Homer for less than that! …

[Fly Fishing:]

Charles: I have a friend in upstate New York who is a painter and a fisherman. When I asked him about you years ago, he immediately said that you were the first to write about fly fishing with libido. Not, “Oh nature is so beautiful, how peaceful I feel,” but a hard-partying bunch of guys fishing.

Russell: It is funny. There is a whole fly fishing world and a lot of people write about it. But it is a pretty dipshit thing when you take it apart. There are aspects to it that are nice, but it can really get touchy feely. You know, “Oh, I just like to be out there all day and listen to the birds and smell the roses in the air.” Fuck that! I’m out there to catch fish. If I’m gonna go bird watching, I’ll take my binoculars and go bird watching. I’m not gonna go fishing. When I’m fishing my mind is on one thing and one thing only, and that is where my fly is.

Charles: This same friend hated a film from the early ’90s, not on its merits necessarily, but that it caused a phenomenon. Every banker in New York City put a “Trout Bum” sticker on the back of his Lexus, drove north and invaded all of his streams.

Russell: It changed the face of fly fishing. It was called “A River Runs Through It.” It was based on a very good book by a guy called Norman McLean, who was from Montana. The movie was filmed in Livingston while I was there. It created a fly-fishing hysteria. Suddenly, this thing that was pretty personal—nobody went fly-fishing unless you were crazy—now, as you said, every stockbroker was a fly fisherman. It crowded things up pretty good. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. These people really don’t understand fishing. They aren’t naturals who started when they were 8 years old. They haven’t been crazed and insane about it their whole life.

On the Madison River, where I normally didn’t fish, didn’t need to, I drove over one day and couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw, on a stretch of maybe 20 miles, a thousand parked cars. The guys were fishing as close as from me to you, five, six feet apart. Not only that, but most of them had hired guides. So there are two guys—the guy and his guide! And the guide has a boat, which bounces down through the rocks, and then they stop and fish. That’s not fishing. Nobody’s catching anything, or when they do, it is tiny. Do they actually think this is fishing? Fishing is a solitary activity. It is a big deal. This ain’t it.

Charles: What about environmentalism? We accept industry and empire as given, and then weep over trivia.

Russell: They’re not environmentalists—they’re assholes. You could blame that criminal destruction of the oyster farm on this “environmentalism.” A lot of these people live in cities, and drive out to the country once in a while. They don’t know what is going on here. They look at nature out of the car window as they are driving by it. That’s just another form of watching T.V.

All this talk about the restoration of creeks and rivers, restoration of salmon: it is never going to happen. For example, the wine industry dried up the Russian River. Are we going to reverse the wine industry? They have too much money and are too big. The wells have dropped the whole water table. When you do that in a valley, you drop the water table up at elevation, too, which causes your tributary streams to dry up. And that is the end of your steelhead and salmon.

They had this problem on the Eel River. The dope growers dried up the whole river. Nobody could believe it. It is an “illegal” activity, but nobody is doing anything about it. There is no enforcement. Of course, they were also focused on how “bad” marijuana is. Nobody ever O.D.’ed on it.

RTWT

17 Feb 2013

Elite Universities and Money

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The Berkeley College Dining Hall at Yale

The Yale Daily News recently did a feature exploring what life is like for meritocratic recruits from financially disadvantaged backgrounds at Yale.

MacBooks. Dooney & Bourke bags. MoMA and the Met. These were the things that [she didn’t have, that Shanaz Chowdhery ’13] says, set her apart.

It didn’t take long for [her] to notice that people were different at Yale. “There was all this cultural capital that people seemed to have,” she says.

Where she was from, no one read The New Yorker on Sundays.

The differences weren’t just cultural, either: Chowdhery recalls her shock at seeing girls walking around campus with $100 handbags.

After she noticed that so many students here used Macs, she says, she looked up the price and couldn’t believe her eyes. Her classmates were lounging on Old Campus with $2,000 laptops.

Chowdhery’s father put her generic Windows laptop on a credit card. She believes he was paying it off her entire freshman year.

Even after being admitted, many students from lower-income backgrounds feel socially aloof from their wealthier classmates.

For Leonard Thomas ’14, feelings of difference and isolation were the largest obstacles to overcome as he transitioned from life in Detroit to being a student at Yale. “I felt poor here,” he says. “I didn’t necessarily feel poor in Detroit because I wasn’t the extreme case.

“I’m an extreme case of poverty here.”

David Truong ’14 still remembers what it was like to move into his freshman dorm. As he watched a suitemate buy a TV stand, a TV and an Xbox without hesitation, he cringed while paying for clothes hangers and plastic storage bins for his room. That first weekend when everyone was getting to know each other, Truong struggled with suite discussions about splitting the cost of a couch. The expectation that everyone would be contributing to the cost of furnishing the suite, while he thought it fair, was an adjustment.

That expectation of spending does not disappear after move-in weekend. Jennifer Friedmann ’13 says that Yale has a “culture around money.” “You were expected to be able to go out to dinner,” she said. “If I had a coffee date with someone, it was expected that everyone was buying coffee and that it wasn’t a financial burden for anyone.” But Friedmann did not want the fact that she was on financial aid to interfere with her ability to socialize with anyone on campus, regardless of socio-economic background. By shopping at thrift stores, she says she found it more feasible to “be a social person on this campus without making people feel weird about me being on financial aid.”

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I can remember friends of mine doing the thrift shop thing, and sometimes finding some really excellent Harris Tweed sport coats at derisory prices, back during the Cretaceous Period, when I was at Yale.

I grew up in an economically-depressed mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania and got a full scholarship to Yale, so I’m personally quite well acquainted with the kind of experiences described in the Yalie Dailey’s feature.

I was well-insulated from social insecurity by personal arrogance and family pride, but financially I was a total idiot. I had never previously had a checkbook, and the Yale Coop presented you on arrival as a freshman with a credit card (and access to a store full of books and records).

My approach to poverty at Yale was to join in happily with the revels of my more-affluent classmates and perhaps even to cut a bit more of a dash than some of those. Like Mr. Micawber, I assumed all that financial stuff would work itself out somehow or other. However, the dour Puritan prep school regime extended onward into college life in those days, and fiscally-irresponsible black sheep like myself faced unlimited possible forms of vengeance at the hands of their residential college deans.

Inevitably, I found myself, before long, out of Yale, back in Pennsylvania in disgrace, and now classified 1-A by Richard Nixon’s draft board.

When I returned to Yale, several years later, I accidentally became involved in operating a successful film society, which happily provided me with the kind of income I needed to survive.

The Yale Daily News, I think, is basically correct in noting that naive and immature adolescents from extremely provincial backgrounds, however talented, are going to run into some real adaptation issues if they decide to accept the gold-engraved invitation to jump into the great big pond of elite university education, and not everyone will adapt.

I was one of six meritocratic Yale admissions accepted into a special Early Concentration in Philosophy program. Of our six oh-so-gifted young men, four got kicked out of Yale. Two of the four were eventually re-admitted. The other two never came back, and have never been heard from by the rest of us again. There has always been a pretty high casualty rate in the meritocracy.

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And, speaking of finances and Ivy League schools, Brown, it seems, is now charging $57,232 plus a bunch of add-on fees. Whew!

But, hey! Sex change operations and nudity workshops come with that.

Hat tip to the Barrister.


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