You know how very often you are asked what you’d do with a million dollars?
Well (no, I am not about to say “I won a million dollars!”. I wish I could say that!). No, what happened was today on Amazon.com’s forums I noticed someone asked a question I’ve never been asked:
(Totally different.) So, here’s how I replied:
A billion? Would I have to be a health insurance executive, or could I still be a human being?
Naturally I’d set my friends up so that working would be an option, not a necessity. And my immediate family of course.
I’d fund an album or two by my favorite indie artists (who usually sell shares to raise money when they want to record).
I’d buy a few artworks by my favorite contemporary (still alive) painter — or at least, copies. I don’t think I’d get pretentious about only having originals. Maybe one or two originals if there were no copies available.
I’d get a small house someplace funky like Seattle. Location would be more important to me than a large house. I’ve never understood people who get a large house in the middle of nowhere. A small house in the middle of somewhere is more interesting.
I’d buy some shares of google.
I’d buy a Prius.
A computer for music only, and nice speakers to match. Ideally the computer would play music from the moment I walked into the house, if I asked it to. Hard drives for lossless storage.
Find out if solar panels ever got perfected, and if so, try to make my house energy efficient to compensate for that music computer.
Buy more underwear.
Fund full-cast audio play productions of novels by Robert A. Heinlein, if I can find the right troupe to do that (and if the owners of his estate agree). His works are criminally neglected in that domain (though some individual-narrator versions exist, he needs the BBC Full Cast Audio Play treatment).
Make a coffee table book collecting all the cover art ever used for the works of Robert A. Heinlein. It would be a rights nightmare, but it could be done. It would show off how different eras had radically different styles. My work would involve tracking down every old paperback around the world. Via ebay. I wouldn’t actually go around the world, myself.
Visit France. Where Highlander (the tv series) was filmed!
Update: I’ll expand this as I think of more.
Sure, there’s some trivial things not worth mentioning, like a couple cameras I’d buy, and a larger flat screen tv. Those things are expected. Shoes. But I’m trying to think beyond the obvious here.
I’d have half a thought to be available as a sperm donor, not anonymous, and only to women who I’d like to donate to. But this could only happen on the chance that I could get a lawyer to write an intractable contract that would not allow anyone to go after half my wealth. But since no such contract could ever be written, I would sadly not be able to have children around the world. It would have been nice, to know that my line was continuing. (You may feel this way too once you reach 40.) I’ve seen people do this, or something like this, purely for ego (families that have a dozen children, without regard for how selfish it is to have more than one child). I’d be doing it for eccentricity. But why would women choose me? Hm. I don’t know. How could I make it so their family would get some wealth, without making it a situation in which the child is being used to get money? I guess there’d only be a slim chance of ever knowing what is in the mom-to-be’s heart. It would be nearly impossible. So I guess that idea wouldn’t go beyond half-a-thought. Anyway, it’s the sort of half-thought-out desire that would be trumped by having a family of my own, I’m sure.
As far as charity goes, I’m more interested in helping people who are already artists to continue doing what they are doing. Art improves the world, even when it is at a level as seemingly trivial as a tv show (where one would not expect to find true creativity, but where it sometimes occurs despite the odds). So my first instinct was not to fund charities, but rather to, as I listed above, produce audio play versions of books, for example. Improve the world that way. Improve people’s surroundings. Even if their immediate surroundings may be desperate, the larger environment can be made better through art. Indirect? Yes. But not ineffectual.
But there is an expectation to give to a charity, the kind that fulfills an immediate need of the desperate. I don’t know enough about such charities. (I wonder if there’s a charity that helps students from poor families buy books? Not school books, but book books.)
Medical research is a similar area, an area which one would like to see improved, perhaps improved radically, but which one cannot by themselves truly change. Medical research should really be funded by taxes, with a high priority and consistency I might add, since finding the cures to diseases is more important than, say, going to war. Consistency via taxes is important so that long term efforts can be made. The problem is always that if you were to give a billion dollars to a research lab today, it might not matter because the solution they are looking for might require a tool or a perspective that has yet to exist. It pains me to know that a donation cannot find a cure, and that people will die, and suffer, until our country commits itself to putting a portion of everyone’s tax dollar towards research, for decades, perhaps a couple hundred years, until everything is understood and treatments are made evident.
So, on a lighter note, what else?
To be continued.
If I were to get political, I’d want to see what opposition exists to banning high-fructose corn syrup, and I’m weak enough to say that if there was strong opposition — the kind that would result in getting run off the road into a ditch — I would not be able to help stop high-fructose corn syrup. But I’d like to, since many people believe that the huge rise in obesity and diabetes correlates directly to the introduction of this cheap food substitute. The correlation is strong enough for me to believe it is the cause. Corn, no matter how many commercials you may have seen growing up in which a sweet, sincere-looking native american says “our people call it maize” and smiles, is not meant to be injected into every food as it is today.
If I were to get political in terms of party politics, of course I’d give to races selectively. There’s limits on such donations so this wouldn’t be a big deal.
If I had a billion dollars, could I date Winona Ryder? How about Uma – I hear she’s short one billionaire now? Ok probably not. I’m too old to learn the ropes of the LA scene. So I’d have to stick with people from my own sphere. Which is fine, in fact.
I’d probably throw away a lot of my clothes and get Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis and Geoffrey Beane replacements for much of it. Yes, I am vain. I’ve always like CK’s pants, and PE and GB shirts fit me perfectly. I wouldn’t jump up to real designer labels (the labels you don’t find in stores that are open to the public). These labels are good enough for me. I’d only dress up to that level because it would be nice to have sets of clothes rather than a random assortment of clothes, you know? It would be nice to have, for example, a Perry Ellis button down shirt in 6 different colors, rather than 6 shirts by 6 different labels that each fit a bit differently and which I don’t all like. A long coat for warmth.
I would not buy movies on BluRay. I learned my lesson with DVD. It makes sense to own tv series on BluRay (or DVD). It rarely makes sense to buy a movie, unless it is an absolute favorite. The rest, you can rent.
I’d get my mom a Kindle. I was very sorry that I could not get her one this year for Christmas. I feel like a failure, financially, professionally, that I am 41 and could not get my mom something as simple as that. She likes the Kindle after having seen it in person.
Oh, I’d get an iPhone and a data plan. I currently do not have either, and believe the prices for a data plan are outrageous. But that would not matter anymore, and I could live futuristicly.
UPDATE: 20100219: I’d get shirts! I’ve recently thrown away (donated) many of my shirts that I don’t feel fit me well. So if I had a billion dollars, I’d get a bunch of Perry Ellis “Modern Fit” shirts — which for most of mankind is impossible because they cost like $50 each, and how can anyone justify spending a hundred dollars on 2 measly shirts? I’d get 8 of them, in different shades.