The Genius of Weird Al Yankovic

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For those who haven't been disconnected from the world over the last couple of weeks, "Weird" Al Yankovic has been busy promoting his new album Mandatory Fun. It's an ingenious promotional campaign where he put out new videos every day for over over a week.

Personally, the last thing I remember from him is Amish Paradise. That was nearly twenty years ago and it has been thirty years from his heyday in the 1980s. Everything is cyclical and Weird Al is showing that he still has some cheese on his fastball (to evoke my favorite Eckersleyism... hopefully the "weird" and you can see why he's been successful.

I've been racking my brain for hours trying to come up with anyone who has done it better. I can't think of anyone who has one of these:

Weird Al being weird - via The Atlantic

This has got me thinking about the value of being an expert versus being good in a lot of little things. I find it very difficult to focus on one or two things. I know this may not surprise anyone given my previous cheese tangent, but sometimes I feel like I have a little ADD, switching from one thing to the next. I think I see more value in getting somewhat proficient in a new skill than trying to squeeze the last ounce of perfection in a current skill such as blogging.

I've often wondered about how this translates to my blogging in general. Regular readers know that I usually don't take time to find an image and put it into article. In fact, and I hate to admit it, but I don't proofread many of articles. While it's easy to just say it's "Lazy being lazy", it's really because I've got a lot of other things going on. These other "things" often contribute to the very thing that I think get people to read my articles. For example, looking for investment properties is not quick or easy. However, having been there and done it, I can confirm it is a lot of work... but it also can deliver a large amount of "relatively" passive income.

To bring this back to Weird Al, I wonder if he's continually practicing his music to play better polka. My hunch is that he isn't. I'm sure he's continually trying to write better parodies and honing his craft there. I'd love to ask if he's trying to squeeze the last ounce of comedic genius out of his brain or if he's learning new skills because that's of interest to him. My hunch there is that it is the former.

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Posted on July 23, 2014.

Kanye’s $120 T-Shirt vs. One Direction’s $2 Million Champagne

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In the past week or so a couple of stories of celebrities and money caught my eye. I don't usually write about celebrities (much less pseudo-celebrities who didn't do anything for their fame), but every now and again it is worth taking a look for a little perspective.

The first story is about One Direction's Liam Payne buying a $2 million bottle of champagne for his friend. Who hasn't splurged a couple of million a good friend, right? The news story cited that he took home around 7.5 million (converting from pounds to dollars) last year. It seems like that was a gift of around 25% of his earnings, which is pretty sizable for anyone. Even worse, it's not an asset as they drank it. Not since Montgomery Brewster mailed an extremely rare stamp has so much money been blown so quickly.

The other story that caught the attention was that Kayne West is selling plain white T-shirts for $120. If you are looking to get in on that, tough luck, they are already sold out.

When I first heard these stories, I had an idea to write an article asking the readers "Which is worse?" Now I see the stories as two very different things. Liam Payne's decision seems to be a wreckless waste of his own money while Kanye seems to be simply maximizing his business potential and taking advantage of his fans (in my opinion).

As for the people themselves, I recently learned that One Direction is not same band as One Republic, and not at all related to the New Directions on the TV show Glee. I also don't know much about Kanye other than his famous rant during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at an awards show.

Here's what I do know. Macklemore needs to do a follow-up to Thrift Shop. The $50 Gucci T-shirt he raps about "getting tricked by a business" is a bargain compared to Kanye's $120 t-shirts.

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Celebrities, News

Posted on July 24, 2013.

Justin Bieber Wants Teens to Bill Their Parents? It’s Not SpendSmart.

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My boy is less than 4 months old, but if he was a different gender and maybe 13-14 years old, I'd be very concerned. There are no shortage of reasons that would make me want to Rapunzel her until she's at least 28. (Yes, I'm talking about you Sexy Baby documentary.) Perhaps it would be wise to get into the tower building business.

And then there is Justin Bieber. He might actually be more popular than Jesus especially with that teenage female demographic.

Combine that popularity with a prepaid debit card with tons of fees and parents have a potential problem. Yes, Justin Bieber is going to offer his own "SpentSmart" prepaid card through My wife jokes that she's going to tell Little Man to go to or when he gets older. She's not really joking though as "Bill My Parents" is just not going to fly here.

The card appears to be anything but "SpendSmart." Here's a list of the fees (rounding up the nickels):

  • $3.95 monthly fee to have the card... which is around $50 a year. If you are loading $1000 on the card, and I think that's extremely generous to give a kid that's a ~5% annual fee
  • Loading charges of ~$3 from a credit or debit card and $0.75 from a checking or savings account. This discourages loading the card often with money, but that's exactly what you'd want to do with a teen so that they don't have access to $1000 at one time.
  • Lost card replacement fee of ~$8. I don't know if I was a typical teenager, but I lost things fairly often, so I could see this adding up.
  • ATM charge of $1.50 to withdra the money, and 50 cents for a balance inquiry. So the card costs me money to carry with the annual fee, money to see how much I have there (at least at ATMs) and money to access the money (at ATMs). I'm sure this doesn't cover the fees of the company that owns the ATM itself, so that's a double hit.
  • An inactivity fee of $3 if the card isn't used for 90 days. So even if I'm paying to carry the card, if I don't use it, there's a fee.

If you were going to get this card for your teenager and put $1000 total throughout the year in small regular increments, I could see it adding up to about $75 in fees or about 7.5%. If that sounds terrible, you've got a keen ear.

In's defense they seem to build some good technology into the card that could actually help parents keep track of their child's spending. Also, let's be honest, Justin Bieber's branding isn't going to come cheap either.

I didn't like Suze Orman’s pre-paid debit card. Few liked the Kardasian Kard with fees so high it was canceled due to consumer backlash. Even though some view the Beiber card as a "middle of the road" option for the pre-paid industry (see Lauren Saunders quote on the 3rd page of this Washington Post article), I don't like it any better.

I don't like the intentional mixing of emotion (Bieber) with high fees. I won't even a get a Red Sox credit card, because their rewards are simply not competitive with other credit cards.

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Banking, Celebrities

Posted on January 7, 2013.

Spending a Million in a Weekend… or When Crazy Calls you Crazy

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I was reading Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback yesterday and a little bit of personal finance slipped it way into what is the best weekly football read there is. Due to the summer off-season, the NFL slows down a little and Peter King took a vacation. Writing in his place was the Indianapolis Colts' recent high draft pick from Stanford, Coby Fleener.

It is a very well-written article and in it Fleener goes into detail about the orientation the NFL has for rookies. What really caught my eye was that they got Adam "Pacman" Jones and Terrell Owens to talk on a stage to the rookies. This was a shining example of getting a pair to show players what not to do.

"Pacman" was the first defensive player taken in the 2005 draft and showed remarkable talent in two things, playing football and occupying the backseat of police cars. Repeated incidents, including a shooting, lead to numerous suspensions. When he got back on the playing field karma seems to have caught up with him in the form a couple of neck injuries that ended a season and slowed him down in another. He still seems to be playing football, which was a surprise to me. He's certainly not a factor that opposing teams prepare anymore.

Terrell Owens is a little more well known. He had a very productive career, but one in which he had been traded or simply released many times because of disagreements with ownership. Many people witnessing his antics have concluded that's bipolar.

With this background knowledge in mind, Adam "Pacman" Jones was telling rookies about the things that he regrets in his time in the NFL. Fleeney didn't report on how many hours the talk went on, but at one point "Pacman" Jones "regretfully recounted spending $1 million in one weekend" and Terrell Owens turned to him and said, "Man, you crazy!"

For the first time in my life, I've heard what a crazy person thinks is beyond crazy. On the flip-side of things, I can't imagine what "Pacman" Jones' life was like. He estimated that 90 percent of his childhood friends in Atlanta are now either dead or in jail. I wish I could have connected with him and said, "Hey, here's a chance to use that money to save some of those friends." I'm betting that a few people tried to tell him that along the way, but he might not have listened. After all, it's his money, and if he wants to go to the strip clubs and make it rain money, that's his business. However, in just a few years he's talking to the rookies telling them about how much he regrets spending that money.

Unlike many of my articles, I don't have any practical advice here for the average reader. Unless your rich uncle Brewster puts you in the situation to spend millions, you and I will probably never see that. However, if you do find that situation, I suggest you put the money to good use. At the very least, set aside a few dollars for star NBA players who can't afford lenses for their glasses. Also, please get Katy Perry some Ambien.

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Celebrities, News

Posted on July 3, 2012.

Celebrities and Money: Sarah Michelle Gellar

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Today I thought I'd unveil a new series focused on celebrities and their money. It's not going to be a regular series - I'll only post when I find relevant articles. If you have a link to a celebrity and money, feel free to contact me.

The first feature comes from an unlikely source (at least for the Lazy Man)... Self magazine. My wife has subscribed to the magazine for the past couple of years. While doing a little re-organization of the junk that I'm too lazy to clean, I came across the October 2007 issue. It features Sarah Michelle Gellar on the cover. As an obsessed fan of the Buffy the Vampire series, I was curious what she's up to nowadays. I lost track of her career when she started doing Scooby Doo and The Grudge.

Well it seems like Scooby Doo, The Grudge, and some cartoon voices were the big career things. The article focused more on her life outside of work. This is what people want to read anyway. While some magazines make headlines out of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, Self took Sarah (I've watched enough Buffy to pretend I'm on a first name basis with her) and her relatively boring life.

Here are the money related from the magazine:

  • Her transportation - For the first season of Buffy, it was a Chrysler LeBaron... "You hear about people... get their first pilot and get the Porsches..., but I just couldn't do that." Now she just uses a bike to get around New York City, "It's bright pink, with the bell and streamers... it has Hello Kitty tires." You can't beat the frugality, but the image just made me throw up in my mouth a little.
  • Upbringing - "I was raised by a single mom. Finances were tight." She took up acting at age 4 in an attempt to make a little extra money for private school. She notes, "100 commercials still doesn't cover a private school education."
  • Frugality - While she has birthday parties on two separate coasts (I suppose it's tough to have half your friends in NYC and half in LA), she saves money just like us. "I take my reusable bag to Whole Foods, so I get a discount. I go to Bloomingdale's on double-rewards days. I always print my dry cleaning coupons before I go." I guess all of us can't afford to shop at Whole Paycheck, but other than that, you have to commend her.
  • Charity - She chooses to support CARE whose main mission is to fight global poverty. The only way Sarah would do the interview is if she got to promote the charity which, of course, Self had no problems with.

One can never be sure if all the things said of stars are true. However, I believe there's some truth to every story. I'm inclined to believe that Britney and Lindsay have "some issues", while, in general, Sarah is a money-smart star.

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Posted on February 14, 2008.

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