Sunday, December 27, 2009

When is it too much?

It hasn't been a good past few days for actor Nicolas Cage. From all accounts, he's in very severe financial difficulties. He's suing his former business manager, while at the same time being sued by a former significant other, Christina Fulton, who is seeking $13 million. And the former business manager has countersued Cage, saying the star ignored advice to curb his excessive spending. Now, he's been hit with a $36.7 million lawsuit by a group called Red Curb Investments, which says Cage, who just this year is facing IRS tax liens approaching $7 million, failed to repay more than $5 million in loans and also failed to give notice of his tax woes. From the sound of all this, it's beginning to look as if Cage, despite earning millions and millions of dollars, is headed either toward bankruptcy or sharing a prison cell with Wesley Snipes. Which finally brings me to my point: While people who make huge sums of money are certainly entitled to spend it as they wish, isn't it a little bit sickening to watch them wallow in excess? This is not jealousy on my part. I'm not a wealthy person, but I enjoy my "regular life." I have no interest in mansions, yachts, private planes and classic sports cars. But everywhere we look, the various media are slobbering over the rich and famous, basically celebrating their lives of excess. I saw an ad last night for a TV show that glorifies lavish weddings. We're talking six-figure, maybe seven-figure, affairs. It would be disturbing to me to even watch something like that. It brings to mind the infamous case of Dennis Kozlowski, who looted Tyco International and was convicted and sent to prison. At his trial, Kozlowski's spending habits were laid out for the world to see. The pinnacle of this, or the low point, perhaps, was Kozlowski's spending of $2.1 million for his wife's 40th birthday party on a Mediterranean island. When people are fortunate enough to become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, shouldn't it be enough for them to life a very, very comfortable life - even sock away a few million to ensure the financial security of their children and grandchildren - and then do something more altruistic with their riches? Don't get me wrong. There are many people who do just that, but it seems as if there are a growing number who have embraced a culture of unbridled spending. It's not just "me, me, me." It's "look at me." It also has struck me this Christmas season more than any other - perhaps because of the terrible times so many people have gone through this year - that we are throwing money away (much to the delight of corporate America) on gifts that people don't need. I receive gifts that, while very nice, are not necessary for my daily life. And I'm sure I give people gifts that they could very well have done without. Well, I'm finally stepping off the Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-whatever merry-go-round. Next year, I'll be telling the people with whom I have typically exchanged gifts that I want nothing from them and that I will be taking money that I usually would have spent on gifts and giving it to worthy charities. Small children will be exempt from my new policy. Is anyone else having the same thoughts?

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Blogger Ellipses said...

As parents of a young child, my wife and I specifically implored our relatives to exercise restraint when buying gifts for our son. He's a year old. He has been playing with a plastic spatula from our kitchen and a wooden ring from some long-disassembled toy of some sort for months. He doesn't care, we don't have room, and everybody could use the money for something more worthwhile.

My wife and I are essentially reclusive hermits compared to other people in our peer group. One of the things that we have found most liberating about responsible adulthood is not the ability to eat frosting for breakfast, drink excessively before noon, or wear mix-matched socks to respectable venues... no, the thing we enjoy most is our ability to provide ourselves with whatever we want, within reason.

If I don't have it, it's because I don't want it. If I want it and don't have it, it's because I can't afford it. And if I can't afford to buy it for myself, then you certainly can't afford to buy it for me.

December 27, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

Brant, I agree. Less is more to me. More room, more time to go do and see instead of laboring over caring for the stuff.
I took a large tote of my children's toys and hid them on the back porch. They haven't missed them or even asked about them. My son (4 yrs) agonized over what he wanted for Christmas this year. Christmas eve he didn't want Christmas to come because he still didn't know what he wanted.
His favorite gift ended up being his pirate costume from Grandma. He and his sister spend the most time playing with play dough, doing crafts and pretend play. He doesn't need or want all the props that are available. He lets his imagination run wild. He is learning to read. Can count to 100, has learned how to add and subtract and yesterday figured out on his own that 4 x 4 = 16 by adding groups of ants from Ants in the Pants. He does 48+ piece puzzles on his own on the computer. I'm not bragging he's smart. I'm saying...less stuff means more time for social interaction and discussions about life and how things work.

The same excesses have been said about people who win big with the lottery. They have never had access to that kind of money and fail to understand that a million dollars in not that much money.

Ellipses, we have had the same experience with all seven(collectively) of our little ones. Kitchen stuff is fun, and boxes too. The children use my rolling pins and such to play with play dough, that I make in large quantities and put flavor in so it smells good. Cinnamon is my favorite but vanilla is good too.

December 27, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

But if they save it for their children, the government will hit them with the death tax - damn those rich people - when they die and take half before the kids ever see a dime.
Plus, aren't we taught to hate people who inherit their money rather than "earn" it.
Oh, I forget all the hogwash I'm told to believe. So confusing.

December 28, 2009 at 12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of lavishing your excess money on your kids at end of life, give it to those worthy charities who need it. Don't give the kids so much they lose their incentive to find their own way and who end up with tax problems due to your generosity.

To me the best part of the holidays is being together. I hate the stress of all the shopping and wrapping. I agree totally with you. And get this- one of the people in my circle complained because they received a gift of cash instead of some object that may or may not have suited them. Spoiled? I'd say!

December 28, 2009 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous thinking said...

Do I want to hear about Cage or Deweese?

I bet if that was G.W getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar we wouldn't hear the end of it.

You all dis-like the people who didn't earn his money.. well Deweese should be at the top!

December 28, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't felt like Christmas shopping for about 10 years. It's not that I hate giving, but it's just such a pain in the butt. Maybe it started 30 some years ago when my then-girlfriend complained abouyt everything I bought for her. It just seems so ... pointless. One day a year to heap gifts on someone. The thrill lasts 10 minutes. Then it's back to life as normal.

December 29, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I find gifts that I feel are perfect for the specific person who I am buying for. The gifts that are thoughtful are the ones that count. The gifts where I just throw down fifty to impress someone... not so much.

E, you are awesome. I hope I can remember to tell the family that next year.

December 29, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous turtle head said...

all these important things to write about and brant failed us all. he could have wrote about the major failure of the obama white house, deweese on the take and yet we get to hear about cage.

let me ask you a question, do you feel more safe in the last year than you did in the past 8 HAHAHA!

December 30, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I certainly don't feel any less safe now than I did for the previous eight years, or the 10 years before that, etc. There will always be people who want to do harm to others. Sometimes they succeed. You might recall that a fella named George W. Bush was in the White House when the worst terrorist attack in our history occurred.

December 30, 2009 at 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't any story be talked about on its own merits without dragging politics into it? OK, then ... Pity the poor failed bomber. He wanted to surprise his friends for Christmas by blowing people up and wound up not getting them anything.

December 30, 2009 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous x anonymous said...

Bush was in the White House when the worst terrorist attack in our history occurred.

Is 9-11 worse then Pearl Harbor? I don't think so.

It's a game. How much of your freedom are you willing to give up to feel safe? If we give up an oz of freedom, they win. My worst fear is our Federal Govt. I've lived all over the United States. I've seen it. I've thought to myself a billion times, "this sh$t wouldn't have happen 15 years ago" and i'm talking about our police going nuts on our own people. They trump up charges like disorderly conduct for a gag order. Instead of giving more powers to the man, I say wake up America, learn who is around you. Get to know the guy that lives next door to you. I know this doesn't apply to most of you.... but there is a lot of people who don't know the guy down the street. Learn what is going on around you.

The Patriot Act wasn't for the bad guys.... it was for you. Bad guys never follow the rules. See grandma get hooked up at the airport? Did you get your full body scan this year at the airport?

I want to know why we can't call this mess what it is. This is a holy crusade. Why are we Americans such big fat whimps? Why can't we call a spade a spade? I haven't seen the Catholic, or the Baptist trying to blow up the plane. Call it a HOLY WAR and lets unleash the full unharnessed wrath of the UNITED STATES MILITARY onto the bastards! NO MORE RULES, MR.PRESIDENT, LET MY BROTHERS IN ARMS DO THE JOB. Even if that means killing your uncle.

BTW Brant, I will be in Greene County tomorrow! I'll be there for a day or two. Maybe I will have enough time for that hot dog! Email me if you wish!

December 30, 2009 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Let's take the politics out of this and get back to the subject.

Several years ago, I was struggling financially. I asked my family to please refrain from giving me any gifts for any occasion as I wasn't going to be able to reciprocate. They didn't listen, and I accepted their gifts with a certain amount of guilt even though I knew that did it to be generous. I only say this because your plan might backfire on you, Brant. My situation went on for three years, and I finally was able to start reciprocating...and the cycle continues. I'd much rather buy my daughter a gift and donate the rest to a worthy charity.

January 5, 2010 at 8:55 AM  

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