My Few Minutes With Valerie Harper

Back in the summer of 2008 I had the opportunity to meet Valerie Harper. My book, So Why Have You Never Been Married, had come out and Reuters did a piece on it. As a result of my 15 minutes of fame, the local TV station in LA decided they needed me on their morning news program to talk about single men. I was on with Greg Behrendt, the author of the book He’s Just Not That Into You.

I was pretty excited (and nervous) as it was my first time on live TV, but I kept my cool and pretended it was no big thing. I was just taking it all in. So, about 20 minutes before my set they put me the green room. Guess what? There really are green rooms.

So, I march in, sit down and scan the room. There were about four other people already in the green room waiting for their set on the morning show. And I immediately recognize one of them as Valerie Harper. She is just as good-looking in real life as she is on TV. But I didn’t say a word. Partly because I’m not into fan worship, partly because I was nervous as hell and partly because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Only a minute of two passed before Valerie caught my eye, she leaned over, extended her hand to me and said, “Hi, I’m Valerie.”  I had to fight the urge to say “No shit!”

We chatted for a moment or two and I told her about my book on middle-aged men who had yet to marry. Then she introduced me to her husband who went on to say that he had a middle-aged son who would probably never marry. What could I do? I reached over and gave him a copy of my book. Idiot! I forgot to sign it.

So, now I tell anyone who will listen that Valerie Harper’s husband has a copy of my book. My tenuous link to stardom.

The takeaway for me is that this woman, who had already amassed a lifetime of fame, took a moment out of her life to say hello to someone who meant less than nothing to her. I would like to think she sensed my tension in that moment and just tried to put me at ease. I will always think fondly of that day and of my very brief encounter with Valerie Harper. As she fights her battle with cancer, I will remember her not just for the smiles she put on my face when she was on TV, but of the smile she put on my face as I was getting ready to go on TV.

Fight on Valerie.



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Wow! This is Trippy

I was directed to Amazon to read a book by Harry Browne called Fail Safe Investing. It is a book about how to protect yourself financially when you have no idea what the future holds, like today.

As is my usual practice, I read one or two of the reviews: a five star and a one star. In this case there were no one star reviews, so I just read the first five star review. I took a screenshot of it that you can see it (you may have to click on it to enlarge it).

Fail Safe InvestingThe reviewer is discussing Harry Browne’s point that a fail safe portfolio should contain gold. And then he utters something unbelievably prophetic: “So what if gold is in the dumps for a decade or two? When that disaster we can’t even conceive of wrecks the economy…”

Two things to note:

1] The price of gold the day of that review was $275.60. Today the price of gold is $1695, 97

2] It was posted 29 day before 9/11.

That’s trippy.


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The Box – Economics Explained in One Movie

It is not the government’s job to spur the economy, it is their job to get out of its way ~ Carl Weisman

[This post was inspired by the book, Economics Explained in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt]

In 2009, a movie came out called The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella. If you have not seen it, and not many people have, it is a pseudo science fiction movie, and very average. On the movie website IMDb, it received 5.6 stars out of 10 from about 46,000 users. When I saw the movie, it left me with two thoughts: that was a very average movie but, there is something subtly profound about it. I just did not know what at that moment.

The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward. A mysterious stranger delivers a box to a young married couple that promises to bestow upon them $1 million if they press a button on the box. However, pressing the button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world, someone they do not know.

Of course not too long into the movie, the character played by Cameron Diaz presses the button and soon after the mysterious stranger returns with a briefcase filled with $1 million. And in true Hollywood fashion, the movie culminates with another couple being offered the same deal and when the wife pushes the button on that box, the Cameron Diaz character dies.

Economics is such a complicated subject to grasp, people are always trying to find metaphors to explain certain aspects of it. It turns out that The Box is an exemplary metaphor.

Every economic transaction is really two transaction: the one you see—which usually affects you, and the one you do not see—the invisible one—the one that does not affect you. If you go down to your local Apple retailer and buy the latest iPad, the transaction you see is your handing money over to the cashier in exchange for the product. What you do not see is the person getting laid off at Google because you chose not to buy an Android-based tablet. And that is the story of The Box—the box with the million dollar button.

Whenever you get something in life you did not rightfully earn, for whatever reason, you are pushing the button. If you collect ninety-nine weeks of unemployment, you are pushing the button. If you receive union wages that are above the wage rate that the free market would ordinarily offer for your job, you are pushing the button. And when you live off food stamps or welfare or other unearned government assistance, you are pushing the button. Somewhere, out of sight, somebody else is “dying.”

But it is not just  individuals that push the button. Companies do it too. When a big corporation pays a lobbyist to make sure a beneficial tax loophole makes it into the tax code, it is pushing the button. And when farmers receive crop supports—or worse, get paid to not grow crops—they are pushing the button too.

Whether as an individual or part of a company, when you get something you did not earn you rarely think about the person you hurt. But when you are on the receiving end of the button, that is all you think about. The only question is, do you need to be on the receiving end of the button before you stop pushing it?

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