Category Archives: Culture

Why Steve Jobs’ Death Hit Home

Since Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, there has been an outpouring of articles, memorials, tweets, status updates, blog posts, etc, on the man’s life and his impact on the world. I wanted to wait until I had time to write a meaningful post on the entire situation instead of a gut reaction. Although I never met Jobs, I think the reason that his death hit us all so hard is that outside of celebrities, he’s the closest to a living god that we’ve had in our secularized society.

For someone who seems immoral, dying at 56 is a fast blow to the face of reality. I look at my father, also suffering with cancer, also in his last years of life, and see the world moving faster than I want it to. All of our days keep ending, the world keeps spinning, and we’re all just specks of energy that take our first breath and last breath in a pinprick moment compared to eternity.

No matter who much money or fame you accumulate throughout your life, eventually it will end. Today, tomorrow, a year from now, 50 years from now — as Jobs’ put it so eloquently in his speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve — how could you forget his face and spirit? Despite being one of the meanest managers, he knew what he had to do to get HIS job done, and done well. A lot of us aspire to be like him in business, to be relentless, to not settle for ok, to revolutionize the industry through a perfect melding of science and artful design. Not only did he change the world with Apple, he also changed the world by building Pixar into the most successful animated film business of today.

I remember back in college when I rolled my eyes at Apple — what a hipster company — and today I own an iPod, iPhone, a macbook air, and covet my boyfriend’s iPad. I’m iObsessed. How Steve Jobs, in his last few years of life, turned the company from a computer company focused on designers to the world’s most valuable company that sells extraordinary new products that change all of our daily lives is the result of pure genius. Granted, he had an incredible team working for him that came up with many of these ideas and details, but it’s clear he had a pretty big say in which of the ideas were going to be seen to fruition, and how to market those ideas.

The whole college dropout story is enviable (Jobs, Zuckerberg, et al) and reminds us that genius and passion can’t be taught. In fact, traditional, formulaic teaching might actually hold us back from making the larger changes in the world. It reminds me that perhaps business school isn’t the ideal option for growth in my career, and that working in a fast-growing company is actually the place to learn the best lessons day in and day out.

The night before I found out about Jobs’ passing, I watched the episode of Mad Men when Marilyn Monroe died and all the secretaries were crying, because they all aspired to be her. She was their hero. I felt the same way about Jobs. He was my hero. He was unafraid to think different. His inspiring quotes live on. If you haven’t yet seen his speech to the Stanford graduating class of 2005 (which you probably have because everyone and their mother has posted it), I leave you with the transcript and video from this speech. Let’s all remember life is short, and no amount of money can change that fact, so live each day like it might be your last. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.” — Steve Jobs, 2005

America: “The No Vacation Nation”

If you’re an American, chances are you haven’t taken a real vacation in a while. Even those who can afford a nice vacation based on their salary alone wouldn’t have the time to get away due to work commitments. Unlike in Europe, where weeks of vacation are required, Americans get somewhere between 0 to 3 weeks of vacation, and are the first to be laid off if they think of actually taking their vacation and leaving town without a cellphone and wifi-enabled laptop. That’s just the price of being American.

Every day that I leave work well into the evening after the sun has set, that old adage whether you should live to work or work to live plays in my head. Seeing my father, who is turning 60 and dying of cancer, trying to squeeze all of his “vacation” into his last few years of life, with a body riddled with illness and unable to support the trips, also makes me think — what on earth is the value of life if you can’t actually live it?

There is a trap of American culture where you’re trained from a very young age that you should want stuff (and told you suck if you don’t have lots of stuff) and then you work and work to acquire said stuff until you realize you’ve spent your entire life acquiring stuff and not living it.

At least working for startups, I have an expectation of myself that I will dedicate my life to one project for anywhere from 2 to 4 years. Generally speaking, after this time either there will be some form of success or failure of the project, and I’ll be able to take time off before moving on to the next challenge. It at least guarantees me extended vacation (albeit likely while I’m on unemployment and worried about my next steps,) but that’s better than being stuck in a large corporation where your entire life is about retaining your position by proving you are the hardest worker and most dedicated to the company (ie your life doesn’t matter, you live for the company.)

Beyond vacation, I’m starting to question my values regarding money. Right now, if I never have kids I’d be completely satisfied living in a small apartment for the rest of my life. I’d be happy driving older used cars. I don’t even need to buy a ton of new clothes. I just am tired of accumulating stuff. If I have kids, I’m sure all that will change. I’ll want a “good life” for my kids, and thus I’d be stuck seeking out jobs with long term stability (ie no breaks until I’m more than half way to dead.)

So lately I’ve been thinking maybe I shouldn’t have kids. Not having kids gives me the freedom I need to take time off every once in a while, and to perhaps not make the highest possible salary in exchange for an enjoyable life. Selfish, yes, but having kids is selfish too. At least without kids, I have a shot at retiring early, and enjoying life (by traveling, not by buying stuff) before it’s gone.

 

 

 

Will I Be Rich Because I’m Jewish?

Google News “Spotlight” popped up a NY Times article today that asked in it’s title: “Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?

According to the article, the most affluent of the major religions, including secularism, is Reform Judaism. What’s more, 67% of Reform Jewish households made more than $75k per year. Hindus and Conservative Jews take the #2 and 3 spots.

On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. The share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more.

While I’m not sure religious belief has anything to do with the income discrepancy between religions, it’s clearly due to the values placed in each culture (because let’s face it, in America, for many of us, religions is our culture — even if we’re not religious.)

In other families – perhaps other non Jewish families – money wasn’t the considered the most important definition of success. I couldn’t choose not to go to college, nor could I choose to be satisfied in a lower-wage position when I knew the only thing stopping me from upward mobility would be myself, and myself being a coward. But, given I was able to go to college and graduate with no debt, the bravery had a cushion behind it at all times.

The article points out that “the differences are also self-reinforcing. People who make more money can send their children to better schools, exacerbating the many advantages they have over poorer children. Round and round, the cycle goes. It won’t solve itself.”

Personal Finance Should Be Taught in High School

President Obama, watching over years of personal finance deterioration due to Americans largely not understanding how to manage their finances, has declared April Financial Literacy Month.

Americans’ ability to build a secure future for themselves and their families requires the navigation of an increasingly complex financial system.  As we recover from the worst economic crisis in generations, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about the consequences of our financial decisions.  During National Financial Literacy Month, we recommit to improving financial literacy and ensuring all Americans have access to trustworthy financial services and products. — President Obama

It’s all well and good that Obama has declared April Financial Literacy Month, but that isn’t going to go a long way in educating teens and 20 somethings about how to mange their money. Thank goodness for the Internet, and personal finance bloggers. While news articles on retirement investing are generally targeted at 40-60 somethings, the news content on the web teaching about personal finance to those of us in our 20s in slim. Without the personal finance blogs I found in my early 20s, I would have never opened up a Roth IRA, a separate investing account, or bothered to explore my investment options outside of CDs. Retirement hadn’t even crossed my mind. Continue reading

Taxing the Rich, Class Warfare, and the Quest To Be in the Top 1%

With $3,000 extra after my recurring bills are taken care of per month, I know I have a chance, albeit a tiny one, to ride the tailwind of the rich to my own wealth. As I dream of prosperity, I also acknowledge the class war that is brewing throughout the world, and in America.

The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

For the white collar workers of the world, and even those with mid-level government jobs like teaching at the nation’s public schools, wealth — as in ascent to the top 1% — is not even fathomable. The only goal regarding finances is to be able to pay the mortgage and children’s doctor bills.

Then there are those in my bucket… the 20 somethings with a dream of one day being in that top 1%, knowing it’s unlikely, but in the least working in an industry where odds are better than playing the lottery in becoming a millionaire, in the least. Continue reading

On TV: Extreme Couponing = Extreme Ridiculous

Did I ever mention my extreme hatred of coupons? Sure, if I happen to have/find a coupon for something I was already planning to buy, I’ll use it, but too many people waste countless hours on couponing. This sad addiction is the subject of TLC’s latest “why people are sad” series called Extreme Couponing.

This video speaks for itself. The man and women in the video took a day off of work to use coupons that they paid $70 for(!) when they could have been earning income for the day’s work and not buying as much crap. 150 Butterfingers — who needs 150 Butterfingers? Obviously these folks have a big problem with poor eating habits, and the coupon situation just helps them be unhealthy. In any case, after this preview, I honestly can’t bare to watch any more of this show  (it makes me want to punch my monitor) but I’d love to hear from you if you saw any of the episodes… does it get any better? Does anyone do couponing right?

Fortune Mag Asks “Are Unpaid Jobs the New Normal?”

It may not be legal, but for the millions of Americans unemployed today, working for “free” in hopes of paid work in the future may be better than sitting at home and waiting for the phone to ring. The whole concept of minimum wage doesn’t apply when a college graduate is worth a job that deserves to be paid higher than minimum wage but, instead, isn’t paying a penny.

Kelly Fallis, who has used 50 unpaid workers at her small company, probably shouldn’t be admitting to her illegal slave labor practices in Fortune magazine

“People who work for free are far hungrier than anybody who has a salary, so they’re going to outperform, they’re going to try to please, they’re going to be creative,” says Kelly Fallis, chief executive of Remote Stylist, a Toronto and New York-based startup that provides Web-based interior design services. “From a cost savings perspective, to get something off the ground, it’s huge. Especially if you’re a small business.”

The fact of the matter is there lies a fine line between “internship” and “taking advantage of someone,” and some days I’m not convinced that line exists. I’ve long questioned the concept of the “unpaid internship” in college, as not only is the work unpaid, but it requires college credit that you actually have to pay for (seems twisted, doesn’t it?) But this isn’t an article about college internships, it’s about adults who have graduated and can’t find work accepting unpaid “work” to keep themselves busy. Continue reading

Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.

Dislike your Job? You’re Not Alone: American Job Satisfaction at Record Low

Think Americans who have jobs in this economy are thrilled just due to getting paid? Think again. According to a new survey by the Conference Board, only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work. That’s the lowest level in 22 years of the survey being run.

The cause of the mass unhappiness isn’t clear, and while the recession certainly factors in (I’d bet salary freezes and Plexiglas ceilings aren’t helping matters) worker dissatisfaction has been on the rise for more than two decades, according to the report.

Again, this leads back to my question of — what makes us happy? The rise of unhappiness in work seems to match the rise of television being controlled by the five largest media corporations, and advertising becoming a prominent part of our lives. With all of the negative messages we receive every day about how we’re not good enough, it seems no level of work — or money — can make us truly happy.

The study notes that workers claim their unhappiness stems from issues such as boring jobs, incomes that haven’t kept up with inflation, and the soaring cost of health insurance.

“If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity,” reports the AP. umer Research Center.

Workers under 25 expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction. Roughly 64 percent of workers under 25 say they were unhappy in their jobs. The recession has been especially hard on young workers, who face fewer opportunities now and lower wages, some analysts say.

Conference Board officials and outside economists suggested that weak wage growth helps explain why workers’ unhappiness has been rising for more than 20 years. After growing in the 1980s and 1990s, average household incomes adjusted for inflation have been shrinking since 2000.

Some other key findings of the survey:

• Forty-three percent of workers feel secure in their jobs. In 2008, 47 percent said they feel secure in their jobs, while 59 percent felt that way in 1987.

• Fifty-six percent say they like their co-workers, slightly less than the 57 percent who said so last year but down from 68 percent in 1987.

• Fifty-six percent say they are satisfied with their commute to work even as commute times have grown longer over the years. That compares with 54 percent in 2008 and 63 percent in 1987.

• Fifty-one percent say their are satisfied with their boss. That’s down from 55 percent in 2008 and around 60 percent two decades ago.

Millionaires, Boobs, Big Houses, and Reality TV

Forget the talent portion, these days reality TV stars can make a career out of being – themselves, without any talent besides perky tits, an itty-bitty waistline, and the ability to convince an television audience that they’re a money-hungry dumb slut. But hey, they’re making way more money than I am and probably having a lot more fun doing it, so who am I to judge?

In our culture, we reward people for being as superficial as possible. The latest news from the world of Reality TV is that Megan Hauserman, the big-breasted bombshell of Beauty & the Geek, Rock of Love 2, Charm School, and I Love Money is starring in her own gold-digging reality series.

In case you’re a millionaire who wants to broadcast your quest for a trophy wife on TV (instead of just hiring a high-priced call girl like a good, normal millionaire), Megan, the accounting major from Florida, wants you. That is, she wants your money. And you. As much as any star on a reality TV dating show could actually want another person who needs reality TV to set them up.

She announced the casting search on her MySpace page earlier this month… are you “Looking for the ultimate TROPHY WIFE?” Not only would your prize come complete with a life’s worth of obnoxious and bank-account draining spending habits, you’ll also win, uh, the right to one hellova pre-nup if you decide to actually seal the deal.

Granted, I’m guilty for watching these TV shows. I can’t get enough of gold diggers and the wealthy, and their drama. It makes me somehow be able to accept and take pride in my middle class status. It also makes me terribly jealous of women who are hot enough to qualify for a television show where they are offered on a silver platter as a Trophy Wife.

Another show all about money, from a bit more normal perspective, is Bravo’s “Real Housewives of…” I’ve caught a few episodes of their various series – Orange County, New York, and Atlanta… and I must say, I’m more jealous of these women than I am of Ms. Trophy Wife Hauserman. Then again, most of them were that hot when they were in their 20s and 30s (most are still that hot, just in the 40+ year old sense… I don’t think you can be a Trophy Wife once you hit a certain age, then you’re just a wife.)

Still, these women are… real people. Their psychology is a bit different than that of say, a normal working person with no means of reaching the upper echelons of society, and they expect a bit more out of their shopping sprees… but even with all that money, they’re still real people. I watched an episode recently where two couples went to Sonoma’s wine country and felt awkward in a ritzy restaurant that served a bagillion mini courses and offered a snobs dream menu. It’s fun to watch the rich feel silly being what rich is supposed to be.

Another reality TV series I couldn’t help but watch lately is Paris Hilton’s: My New BFF. The series ended a few weeks back, but I remember the episodes clearly. And in the end, I still don’t understand what the contestents were competing for, and how this supposed friendship would work. It makes for riviting TV (on the reality TV show spectrum, on MTV) for sure, but why compete to be a best friend? Friendships, like relationships, are supposed to be equal. You can’t compete for a best friend and then expect a relationship to be normal. Paris bought her BFF contestents expensive gifts throughout the competition — they shared lavish days at the spa, gold-plated $1000 sundaes in NY, and shopping sprees where Paris announced “it’s on me, whatever you want.” I doubt that’s how the “friendship” would work once the show concluded.

If anything, the show was interesting because what Paris was really looking for was a business partner. With Nicole Richie out of the picture, who would be her assistant (I mean, partner) in crime? She needs someone who looks cute, takes a good photo, and can help her continue to brand… herself. The show didn’t mention any sort of pay this best friend would be getting, but how would her new bestie afford to be Paris’ friend without some compensation? The show should have really been called Paris Hilton’s: My New VP

I do applaud MTV for their series Exiled, where they take super spoiled teens (who appeared on My Super Sweet Sixteen) and send them to third world countries, where they’re forced to spend a week living in the shoes of people with far less than them. They have to do things even I wouldn’t do – like build houses with cow poop. Ew. It’s a good show in teaching these young, spoiled children about the rest of the world before they’re too old and spoiled to care.