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Spent another day doing absolutely nothing.

This is probably Not Good since starting this evening, I’m embarking upon ten – count ‘em! – days of intense socialization with (one assumes) limited opportunities for revenue generation or imagination mining.

And yet, and yet, and yet…

Absolutely nothing seems to be what I like to do.

Other people like to drink, take drugs, and party; climb Mt. Everest; sail yachts; watch PornHub; have orgies; eat German sausages; cook Italian food etc etc.

I like to do nothing.

Why not indulge myself?

###

In the afternoon, I did venture out in the oh-so-oppressive heat – 92 degrees, dew point 74 – to do some light shopping at Ocean State Job Lot. Ocean State is a bottom feeder in the liquidator food chain.

The setup of the store physically nauseates me – crude shelves, fluorescent lighting, no attempt at display – and yet I find myself really fascinated with the place: This is where brands go to die. It’s artificially created demand’s graveyard.

This is where Nabisco unloads all those Watermelon Oreos and Banana Split Oreos that nobody in their right mind would ever buy at a supermarket.

Wiffle ball set, anyone? Ocean State’s got like a billion of them.

Discontinued olive oils doctored with chlorophyll? Right this way.

I particularly like the counter of anti-aging skin serums, which since they’re the same ones being sold for $80-plus at various mall anchor client department stores, one must assume are years past their expiration dates so all those carcinogenic chemicals have had a chance to ripen and burst into bloom:

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Sometimes, it's true, you can find rare and wondrous things. Where else outside an ethnic grocery store (where you would certainly be overcharged) would you find six separate flavors of dried seaweed?

But in general, what you are looking at is the retail equivalent of cholesterol plaque.

##

Why the hell is there so much surplus inventory? Be-caw-w-w-se… we have an economy that owes the illusion of its robustness to the production of crud.

This would seem to indicate that inefficiencies exist at some very basic level of the capitalist economic model, no? It’s a particularly interesting question in light of the fact that bricks and mortar retail is under siege right now. Customers much prefer to buy their useless retail items online, which adds yet another layer of inefficiencies (distribution and transportation costs) to the model.

Really, it’s an unsustainable model.

Artificially created demand a/k/a marketing is a great way to persuade people to buy things they don’t want and can’t afford, but as the cost of things that people actually need to survive like housing, energy, and food continues to spiral and the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to grow, ya gotta think at some point, in the not so distant future, this business model implodes.

I could write all day about this one.

But I’ve got to drag my sorry ass out on the trails before the temps hit 90.
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Somewhat more chipper today than I have been the past few days, though I still wouldn’t call myself Ms. Happy Song & Dance.

• Yesterday was absolutely paradisiacal here in the quaint and scenic Hudson Valley, and I spent a pleasant afternoon tromping around the Vanderbilt estate, playing Pokemon Go. Slugmas are spawning!

• I did some desultory paying work, a kind of essay on the Pareto Principle. Somebody should really write an essay on the significance of pea plants to modern science: First Mendel, then Pareto. And who knows? There may be others.

• In the evening, I had a long conversation with B. Asperger-y cousin Doug is pregnant – or rather his wife is. With twins. Doug is 55; the wife is 48. Twins makes me think that they used the family trust fund for IVF.

I can’t imagine anyone in his or her right mind wanting to have children after the age of, say, 45. I mean, I had a kid at 43, but it was a happy accident. And, though in retrospect it seems difficult to believe, I actually didn’t know I was pregnant with RTT until halfway through the pregnancy.

Existence is better than nonexistence, I suppose (though I’m open to arguments on that one) but I worry that RTT got the bad end of that deal. In my 40s, I didn’t have the type of energy you need to be a really proactive parent.

• RTT himself checked in briefly to tell me that with his new learners permit, he is now the Designated Driver of Choice for all his frat buddies.

• I listened to a Freakonomics podcast on the economics of spite. I love it when economics is applied to human emotions!

In the course of the podcast, someone explained the origins of the phrase to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Evidently, in the 9th century, a Saxon abbess named Ebba – later canonized – heard that Vikings were closing in to plunder her convent and rape its inhabitants. Rape was bad because Christ evidently is very picky about His brides and prefers virgins. And even if it’s not your fault that you’re not a virgin, you’re still – not a virgin.

Ebba hit upon a novel solution to impending sexual assault: She decided to mutilate herself in a way that was so horrible that even Vikings would be put off the pussy trail.

Ouch!

The other nuns thought this was a great idea. They did it, too!

The Vikings didn’t think this was such a great idea. They set fire to the convent – with Ebba and the ladies in it.

The 9th Century sounds like it was a long time ago, and, of course, it was a long time ago. But it was approximately the same chronological distance from the birth of Christ as we are from the 9th Century today.

• In the evening, I started rewatching Orphan Black. If you’re gonna write dystopian fantasy, Orphan Black is a fine thing to immerse yourself in.
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This is Times Square – maybe 20 years before the time I’m writing about:

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A very steampunk Times Square. I’m enchanted by the warrens of weird little storefronts, vaudeville theaters, and hotels.

In fact, the Times Building had not yet been constructed, so this place is still Longacre Square.

In 1904, there were only 8,000 cars in America. The average American lifespan was 47 years of age. Mississippi had more inhabitants than California. There was no income tax. There was no canned beer. Opium derivatives were sold openly in drugstores, advertised thusly: Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.

Times Square had changed a great deal by the time Henry and June were hanging out there. I’ve been searching for pix from the 1920s, but there seem to be remarkably few of them.

###

There’s no way Bernie Sanders will carry New York, so he’s out of the electoral equation as of 10 days from now.

His economic message continues to resonate most deeply for me.

True, that Daily News interview was quite ghastly. His understanding of the legal aspects of banking is undoubtedly flawed, but then he’s not a lawyer. (Many of us see that as a good thing.) I suspect he’s exhausted. I suspect he never expected to make it as far as he has.

Multiple learned pundits are now picking apart Sanders’ contention that reinstating the Glass-Steagall provisions of FDR’s 1933 Banking Act would reform the banking system. I disagree. I don't think economies of scale work in any service industry.

Glass-Steagall essentially segregated banks into two categories. Banks could either deal with small customers, taking deposits, lending mortgage money, making small business loans, or they could deal with the more speculative aspects of high finance, buying and selling stocks, bonds, and loans, and overseeing corporate merges. They couldn't do both. Reinstituting Glass-Seagall would lead to the breakup of the big banks because it would force banks (once again) to specialize.

Banks have a very basic function in a capitalist economy. They take in money, and then they loan it out again. Once the money is loaned out it, is returned to a bank, which can then loan it out again: This increases the amount of money in the economy. This combination of greed, ingenuity, and willpower is what creates wealth.

Financial tools like credit default swaps, on the other hand, generate currency from currency without wealth ever entering the picture. There are endless problems with financial tools and pretty much no upside whatsoever for the working class.

Hillary Clinton proposes to monitor excesses through regulation, which would apply to the entire financial sector. So, I suppose the choice between Sanders and Clinton is a choice between a mechanism that changes the ecology or a set of rules that police the ecology.

###

Would Glass-Steagall have prevented the rise of the credit default swap market that catalyzed the 2008 economic collapse?

Honestly?

I have no idea.

Glass-Steagall did exert pressure toward greater transparency in financial markets -- always a good thing -- but speculative investors were finding ways around that. I guess in the final analysis, I like Sanders better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to reigning in Wall Street because I just don't see Hillary Clinton pulling a Thomas Beckett on that one, and she is so deeply, deeply enmeshed in that culture.

###

One of the very interesting things that's happening now is that wealth creation appears to be entirely based on Chinese labor. Here in the States, we're rapidly encroaching upon an era where wealth/money/whatever you want to call it is being uncoupled from the traditional Marxist function of labor. So, really, here, it's an increasingly imaginary concept – in the sense that wealth exists through some sort of social consensus but it's not tied into a physical reality. In that sense, Bernie Sanders is kinda like Julian the Apostate.

There is truly massive, epic labor in China, though. I mean, c’mon! They built an entire magnetic bullet train system in five years.

###

Yesterday was my last day doing taxes in Staatsburg. I like Staatsburg: It has a strong sense of The Weirdness. Anything could happen in Staatsburg. It’s like a portal to an alternate reality that’s just waiting for the right spell to open it.

My last client of the day was a very distinguished gentleman in his early 70s who’d been drinking a lot – or so his complexion and the frayed collar of his expensive tailored Oxford shirt suggested.

He was a very recent widower, filing a joint return: His wife had died on December 17.

“She was the one who managed this kind of stuff,” he told me.

Coming in was obviously quite painful for him. He sat there reading a dog-eared copy of a Zane Grey Western while I pored through his documents. Ohhhhh! Lots and lots of income – over $200K! On which he owed a huge amount of taxes, but wait a minute – in 2014, they had itemized

“Do you have your property tax statements?” I asked.

“No,” he said. My question seemingly had irritated him. “Am I supposed to have my property tax statements?”

“Well, uh, yes,” I said.

Stare down.

“Well, what do you want me to do?” he snapped.

Well, I want you to sign over all your assets to me in an irrevocable trust! I thought.

Instead, I kept poring through his 2014 tax returns. Prepared by HR Block! They’d done okay by him, too. Put him in the black by a couple of hundred dollars. But how? Ah! There it was. He had a business! A business that consistently lost money!

Now, I am perfectly capable of preparing a Schedule C that shows losses, but as a member of the volunteer tax brigade, I am enjoined from doing so – probably because returns with Schedule C losses are audited at a much higher rate, and unlike HR Block, we don’t indemnify the people for whom we do returns.

“I’m afraid I can’t finish your return,” I said. “Turns out that it’s out of scope. But, here. I’m going to make you a list of every single document you have to bring in to your tax preparer –“

“Can’t I just file for an extension?” he snapped.

“Well, you can,” I said. “But you’d need to file that extension with a $12,000 check. So, I think it would be in your best interests to get your taxes finished before the filing date.”

So then I spent half an hour making a list that any 11-year-old of average intelligence could understand of all the types of documentation he needed to hunt down and bring in. ‘Cause you know – I’m a living saint.

I did not expect to get thanked, and I wasn’t.

###

The woman before him was just as annoying. A Mafia princess type, now entering her late 40s, which alas! signifies the end of her reign. Though her red talons looked to have been worked on by God’s own manicurist, I was pretty sure her DD breasts owed their buoyancy to some human plastic surgeon’s ingenuity.

She was another one who hadn’t brought in half her documents.

“Why do you have to tell them I got unemployment?” she wheedled. “Can’t you just tell them I didn’t get unemployment?”

Well, I could, I thought, if you'd just kept your mouth shut about the unemployment. And what is that shade of lipstick you're wearing? Kardashian Labia Pink?

“That would be unethical, wouldn’t it?” I replied instead with my perkiest smile. “I’ll make you an appointment to come to Hyde Park on Tuesday. I’ll come in early, and we’ll get this finished up! But you’ll need to bring me your 1099-G.”

“How do I get that?” she moaned.

So then I spent half an hour walking her through the process of going online and downloading her 1099-G.

“Why don’t you just do it for me?” she coaxed.

And that would have been easy enough to do, except I didn’t like her; she incited all my incipient SBP (Serious Bitch Potential): There was no fucking way I was going to do anything to make her life easier. Her life had been easy enough.

Chances are she won’t show on Tuesday. Which means she’ll miss out on a $1,000 tax refund.
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I’m watching The Real Housewives of Miami, the most Fellini-like of The Real Housewife franchises ‘cause I’m just a ‘ho for reality TV.

It is just the most bizarre thing evah. Doesn’t get very high ratings, so my fantasy of millions of Americans eating bread bought by food stamps and watching the famewhore circus is not particularly apt. Still. I can’t help thinking programming like The Real Housewives represents the true decline of the United States.

I also think whoever thought up The Real Housewives franchise must have been a fan of the Sims. That opening shot of the Housewives posing together holding golden apples (obscure cultural reference – The Judgement of Paris – alert!) – is straight out of the Sims.

Dawns on me that one other sea change I’ve lived through – far less pervasive than the ubiquity of computers, the Internet and smartphones, true – is the cultural acceptance of plastic surgery.

I’m an old hippie so cosmetic surgery has always seemed… wrong to me. In the same way that tattoos and body piercings seem wrong to me. (Okay. Well. Not pierced ears.) Intellectually, I’m fine with them. It’s your body – do what you want with it.

And, of course, from an economic point of view, the whole stylist and beauty industry is just another service industry designed to take up the slack left by the disappearance of a manufacturing job base.

I always wonder how hypocritical I’m being here, too. I mean – if I had the $$$, would I do cosmetic surgery? I’d be lying if I said the loss of my looks didn’t bother me. I was so beautiful for so long. But if I had a facelift, I wouldn’t look like a 35 year old woman again. I’d look like a 62 year old woman who'd had a facelift.

Thing is, you can always tell if you know how to look. Facelifts give your countenance that scleroderma look; boob jobs always build up scar tissue so that your cleavage is unnaturally wide.

Of course, you can always not look. But alas! that's never an option for me.

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