Friday, October 29, 2010

Broke and Beautiful Person of the Day: Jorge Munoz

CNN today featured a man who finds more wealth in giving than in lining his pocket:

Jorge Munoz is a bus driver in New York City who started feeding the hungry in Queens five years ago, using food that would otherwise have been thrown away. And that's how he discovered a secret -- the power of sharing.

"People are telling me, 'Jorge, you have no money, you do all this and get nothing back.' And I say I have a checking account full of smiles."

Read the full story at CNN.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meaning of Economics

Alternet today featured an interview with Mark Boyle, a former economist who just published a book about his year living without money and who plans to use his royalties to start a money free community.

"I think it's wrong to think of economics as money," Boyle said. "The actual word itself actually revolves around meeting one's needs. Money is one way of meeting our needs, but it's only one way. I think I couldn't do what I do today without studying economics, because you need to understand the system first—how it currently works—in order to change it."

Yes, You Too Can Be A Millionaire by Age 25

"You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes? First.. get a million dollars. Now..."-Steve Martin

Kiplinger's today has an article with the title "How to Be a Millionaire by Age 25."  Sounds good, although I'm a little late.

Here is the problem I have with this kind of article.  It assumes that by following the example of someone whose magical mix of the right idea at the right time with the right set of circumstances will bring you the same result. We tell the stories of 25-year-old millionaires not because they are commonplace, but because they are rare.  Yet in the telling, we make it sound as though there is a simple formula to follow in their footsteps.  You may learn something from their stories that you can apply to your life, but in a complicated world you will face many different challenges that will determine your likelihood of striking it rich, having just enough, or having your business fold.

You can read all about Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook invention, but does that mean that you too will find yourself with just the right idea at the right moment with the right set of skills to implement it, the right amount of buy in, not to mention the blind luck factor?

As Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, wrote, “One of my students, who wasn’t more than 22, noted during a class presentation that ‘there are lots of people our age who are CEOs of their own companies.’  He probably read a profile or two of one of these rare beasts in a magazine and, fueled by the ‘you can be anything’ mythos, decided that this was commonplace.”

And why wouldn't he if the headline itself told him outright that he could do it too?

In 1999, college freshmen predicted they would be earning, on average, $75,000 a year by the time they were 30. This was at a time when the average salary of a 30 year old was $27,000.

This cheerful generation ran up its credit cards in anticipation of their inflated salary expectations, bless their hearts. In 2008, 84% of college undergrads had at least one credit card. The average balance of undergraduate credit cards was $3,173 and the average senior now graduates with $4,100 in debt.

The self-esteem generation’s expectations are so sky high that, in Twenge’s words, “we will probably get less of what we want than any previous generation.”

It occurs to me that financial success is the most likely area to receive this kind of aspirational treatment.  We don't, as a rule, print a biography of the President of the United States detailing his climb to the top with the headline "How You Can Be the President of the United States."  We do not see lots of articles on Oprah Winfrey and how she became one of the wealthiest and most powerful broadcasters with the headline, "How You Can Found a Media Empire by Age 40."  We don't see lots of stories about Oscar winners with the headline: "How You Can win the Oscar" or sport stars with the headline, "How You Can Win an Olympic Gold Medal."

These are pinnacles of success, human beings do reach them, and they have interesting stories of how they got there, and yet we are not constantly asked to imagine that we can easily do the same by following a few simple steps.

I'm interested to know what you think-- because I don't have the answer myself-- why do we treat business success and financial wealth in a different way than other kinds of success?  Does it, in some way, diminish the achievement of the 25-year-old millionaire to imply that anybody with an idea and a garage can reach the same level of success?

Glen Beck on the Broke Bandwagon

So Glen Beck has a new book out called "Broke."

It is apparently full of "chalkboard-style teachable moments."

I bet his "broke" book is somewhat less positive than mine.

Might be funnier.

Do you think Beck will get richer with "Broke"?

Maybe I need to get a chalkboard.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Greed as a Lack of Selfishness??

An interesting article in Psychology Today turns the concept of "greed" on its head by arguing that it stems from too little selfishness. What do you think?

Greed is about never being satisfied with what one has, always wanting and expecting more. It is an insatiable hunger. A profound form of gluttony. Where does greed breed? Paradoxically, greed really arises from too little inner selfishness. That's right. Greed grows from ignorance (unconsciousness) of one's self...

Selfishness that centers around, attunes to, acknowledges and honors the needs of the self is what is required. Not the selfish, neurotic, childish demands of the ego. That would still be mundane greed or narcissism. But the needs of what C.G. Jung termed the Self: the complete person, the whole enchilada, of which ego is only part. The Self represents both the center and totality of the personality. Honoring the Self is not simple. It requires persistence, patience, humility, courage and commitment. But this long-term investment in one's Self can provide a powerful antidote to greed, gluttony, avarice and addiction.

*Photo courtesy

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Great Pumpkin as Anti-Consumer Propaganda

The blog Postconsumers has gotten into the holiday spirit with a review of the Halloween children's classic It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.   Here is their take from the article How Linus Van Pelt Found the Satisfaction of Enough.

... we realized that it’s also a statement about how little Linus Van Pelt and his security blanket find the satisfaction of enough among a sea of consumerism...

Is there any message that could be more apt to the postconsumer movement? Sure, at the end of the night, Linus hasn’t seen the great pumpkin, but he’s made a choice. What’s that choice? That simply collecting things (or in this case huge bags of candy) won’t lead to true satisfaction or happiness. He chooses instead to find another activity that may eventually lead him to happiness. In this instance, it doesn’t pan out exactly as he hoped, but at least he recognized that it wasn’t “more, more, more” that would make him happy. And we like to believe that, some day, Linus Van Pelt really would find his great pumpkin!

Style is Back in Style: High Fashion on a Low Budget

"I believe in shopping on a budget. I know firsthand from working with people that more fashion mistakes happen when people have an unlimited amount of money. They just pick things up willy-nilly, versus someone who's on a budget and thinking, 'Will this work in my wardrobe?'"-Tim Gunn 

Sure that Coach or Prada purse is appealing.  It may not look any better than the one you got at the Salvation Army, but it does scream out “Look, I’m Rich.”

Would it help you to know that a lot of those luxury clothing brands are made in the same Chinese and Cambodian factories as your Wal-Mart duds?  It used to be that those high ticket items were lovingly crafted by hand, but that is simply not so any more.  You can get the same luxury results by buying the stuff at discount prices and shouting “Look, I’m Rich” verbally.

Marc Jacobs, creative director of Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company, defines luxury this way: “For me, luxury is about pleasing yourself, not dressing for other people.” 

Who is more likely to dress with little regard for trends than a broke person?    Now is the time to develop a quirky fashion sense.  Unique is chic.  Aren’t  you just a little too cool to dress up in cookie-cutter mass produced fashions anyway?  The Goodwill Store has its half-price sale on Wednesday.  Go for it.

Psychology Today agrees with me.  In the article "The Style Imperative" published in September, they wrote:

There is a vast gap between fashion and style. Fashion is about clothes and their relationship to the moment. Style is about you and your relationship to yourself. Fashion is in the clothes. Style is in the wearer. The distinction could not be more revealing.  Despite the proliferation of fashion, style has been out of style for decades. As the economy expanded, America embarked on a collective shopping spree. In place of style we have honored Merchandise. Clothes. Style, on the other hand, doesn't demand a credit card. It prospers on courage and creativity...Lastly, style is one part fashion. It's possible to have lots of clothes and not an ounce of style. But it's also possible to have very few clothes and lots of style.
 There are some brilliantly creative folks out there demonstrating style without flashing their Platinum Master Cards around.  I previously featured Marissa, the blogger behind New Dress A Day.  She shows her clever conversions of cheap thrift store cast-offs into wearable new designs, a review of the book Junky Styling: A Manual for Thrift Shop Clothes Remixers, and The Uniform Project, in which a woman wore the same black dress for a year but changed its appearance with accessories.

Turns out that using your creativity rather than your pocketbook makes you happier.  Another Psychology Today article interviewed Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and author of The High Price of Materialism.

"Buying stuff doesn't seem to make even materialistic people happy," Kasser says. A materialistic lifestyle is associated with an inadequate sense of security, competence, relatedness, and autonomy, he's found. In addition to perpetual feelings of ennui, the materialist runs the risk of burgeoning into a full-blown shopaholic, a person so obsessed with buying that they fall into debt and suffer dire personal consequences. A recent Stanford University study found that about 5.5 percent of men and 6 percent of women fit the criteria.

Here are three sites aimed at the frugal fashionista that have "broke" right in their names.  Broke and Beautiful, Flat Broke and Fabulous and Broke Livin.

And for more inspiration check out Lookbook, a collaborative showcase of the best in global street fashion.  People upload their own pictures of their style choices.  Many of the looks are made up of homemade and vintage pieces, like this ensemble by Lady B, made entirely of thrift store finds.

I'd like to hear about more resources for budget style that relies more on brain power than shopping.  Post suggestions in the comments.

*Image of Ariel Grimm issued under a Creative Commons Share Alike license

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take Some Time to Do the Things You Never Have Ooh Ooh

A couple of weeks ago, I posed a question about ways to avoid one of the main pitfalls of the broke life: retreating from social activity.  It is such a central question that I dealt with it in the first chapter of my book.

So you have to be proactive and do the inviting.  Come up with cheery free stuff to do and you suggest the activity.  Have a potluck.  Plan a scavenger hunt. Go mushroom hunting in the woods and cook up your crop.  If you do it early and often, your friends will think of you as a creative person who suggests out of the ordinary activities, and they’ll actually feel positively about you.

Social activities do not have to be extravagant; they just need to be done together.  Philip Simmons author of Learning to Fall gets nostalgic when he’s around garbage.  “When I was spending summers [in New Hampshire] as a child, about the only time I got to spend with my father was while we were working together on something, and so I have fond memories of our trips to the dump.  The work was tedious and smelly, and I don’t suppose we talked a whole lot, but it was good simply to be in my father’s presence…”

 For some reason, my millions of readers did not jump in with their amazing ideas and suggestions.  So I will add one here.  Join a choir.

As I noted in The Elvis Impersonation Kit: "For inexpensive musical instruction, try auditioning for your church choir and practice, practice, practice.  Elvis Presley got his start this way.  He sang in the choir at the First Assembly of God Church in Tupelo, MS, and it was here that he gave his first public performances as a singer.  In fact, his earliest musical influences may have been the pastors who played guitar along with church services."

Minnesota Public Radio concurs.  Their article "Singing in a Choir is Good for You" reports on the findings of a new study by Chorus America:

Americans like to think of themselves as folks involved in their communities, who give back and are good sports about it. A new study out by Chorus America shows that these attributes are particularly pronounced in American choral singers.

Choral singers are more likely to vote, give money to philanthropies, and also to volunteer; they're the kind of people you want on your team. These civic-minded, socially adept folks are in enormous numbers in the U.S. Some 32.5 million adults sing in 270,000 choruses.

What draws people to singing -- beyond the sheer artistic experience and communal expression -- is partly the accessibility of singing. There are few economic or educational barriers. And a singer need not possess the level of skill of an instrumentalist to still feel like a contributor to the creation of art.

What a singer gets in return is an intangible mix of pride and joy. But this particular study has found that singers in choruses also develop positive attributes that can be measured. 
Greater civic involvement, discipline, teamwork, increased social skills, volunteerism, philanthropy, and support of other art forms are some of the very tangible qualities that increase when a person sings in a chorus.
I mean, don't these guys look like they're having fun?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's Your Favorite Toy?

Designed for kids, but relevant to grown ups.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I was taken with a review of Steve Job's commencement speech with the above title on the blog The Friendly Anarchist.

The thing is, old-fashioned rationalism and playing it safe is still cutting edge when it comes to making decisions. Intuition is neither taught nor listened to, even if people like Jobs talk about it. Many of the Stanford graduates can certainly relate to this: Law School instead of Art School, MBA instead of NGO, McKinsey instead of building a start-up in your garage. That’s where the money is, just look at the numbers! Keep in mind the statistics! Make a career, dominate, never look back! It’s only “rational”! Thoughts like this not only govern the economic and political spheres, but also our personal lives. “Stay hungry, stay foolish” is replaced by “Better safe than sorry” – not just for the graduates Jobs spoke to, but for most of us...

Stay hungry, stay foolish? It certainly doesn’t look like it! We can see all the motivational speeches in the world and still live life below our human potential. We can turn these presentations into just another commodity to consume...

If we compare our opportunities – being literate, having access to a computer, living in a hopefully stable democracy (or living voluntarily abroad) – to those of billions of other people in the world, I think we should do a little more than that. In some sense, we have an obligation to do it, because we are part of the priviledged few. An obligation to change, because we can change...

We can consciously accept the limitations of our actions, the possibility of failure, and still listen to our hearts, listen to our intuition, and do the shit that has to be done. Stay foolish, even if this means leaving rhetorics aside, and staying hungry from time to time. Even if it means to risk being sorry rather than safe.

 Read more at The Friendly Anarchist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frugal Tip for Ladies: Stay Away from Stores at "That Time of the Month"

Gold will buy ’most anything b... Digital ID: 1255653. New York Public Library

It appears, according to an article in Miller-McClune, that the likelihood a woman will engage in a bit of over the top impulse spending depends a lot on the rhythms of her monthly "visitor."

The researchers, who are with the University of Hertfordshire, conducted a study of 443 women between the ages of 18 and 50, who were recruited through “an editorial piece in a popular monthly women’s magazine.” After providing information on the length of their menstrual cycle and their last menses, the women filled out a survey regarding their buying habits over the previous week.

Specifically, they rated on a 1-to-5 scale (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) such statements as “In the last seven days, my spending has been out of control,” and “I have bought something I am unlikely to wear or use.”

These reports were matched with where they were on their cycle during the week in question. (Forty-eight percent were premenstrual, 34 percent were menstrual or post-menstrual and 18 percent were mid-cycle).

“Spending was less controlled, more impulsive and more excessive for women … the further on they were in their cycle,” the researchers report. Strikingly, almost two-thirds of the premenstrual women reported they had bought something on impulse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Does it Mean to be "Poor?"

One of the main reasons I wrote Broke is Beautiful was to talk about the things that really bother a person suffering financial reverses. Most of the articles and news features on dealing with a tough economy talk about money. But it is not really the lack of money that keeps people awake at night.

I came across an interesting article in a Christian social justice blog called The Just Life that supports this premise. Even though politicians measure poverty in terms of money, the actual poor describe their situation in terms of power and social status:

A survey conducted in Niger in 2002 by the Office of the Prime Minister asked the poor of that country to describe poverty. Their answers provided the following:

* Dependence was mentioned by 40 percent of the respondents, with some noting that a poor person always had to “seek out others” or to “work for somebody else.”

* Marginalization was noted by 37 percent, who defined a poor person as one who was “alone,” had “no support,” did “not feel involved in anything,” or was “never consulted.”

* Scarcity was included in the poverty definitions of 36 percent, who used statements such as having “nothing to eat,” a “lack of means to meet clothing and financial needs,” a “lack of food, livestock and money,” and “having nothing to sell.”

* Restrictions on rights and freedoms were associated with poverty by 26 percent of the respondents, who stated that “a poor person is someone who does not have the right to speak out” or “someone who will never win a case or litigation against someone else.”

* Incapacity was mentioned in connection with poverty by 21 percent, including the incapacity to make decision, to feed or clothe oneself, or to act on one’s own initiative.

Only 36 percent of the poor in this survey described poverty in terms of material lack [scarcity]. Here, the poor described the experience of poverty primarily in terms of suffering relationships and lack of belonging, dignity and freedom. Similar descriptions were found in a major World Bank study published in 2000, Voices of the poor: Can anyone hear us?

The poor describe poverty in terms of suffering relationships. Relationships are central to a person’s belonging, identity, affirmation and other socio-emotional needs.

(See also my post from two days ago on the social aspects of being broke.)

The Vow of Wealth

Jean-Francois Noubel has given me kind permission to post his "Vow of Wealth" here. "I made the choice to live in the gift economy," he writes. "I have nothing to sell but everything to share. I see myself as a tree offering its best fruits. If fruits are good then people will enjoy them and will provide care for the tree. This is an ecology of relationship built on mutual offering rather than dependency and fear. This creates abundance and joy.

By taking the Vow of Wealth,

I decide to welcome and embrace all the Wealth that is given to us, be it in material or immaterial form.

I welcome Wealth as what brings us closer to what is True, Good and Beautiful.

I welcome Wealth as life giving life, and life evolving life, for the great alliance between matter and light.

I commit to build meaningful, generative agreements that lead to harmonious and joyful relationships with my human brothers and sisters and with other living beings.

I commit to offer others what they need for the fulfillment of their life.

I commit to welcome what others offer me for the fulfillment of my life.

I commit to be naked and vulnerable, and to welcome my incompleteness, so I can open myself to receiving from others.

I commit to welcome others’ nakedness and vulnerability, and to welcome their incompleteness. There I find the joy of proposing my gifts.

I will not support whatever keeps living beings separated from Wealth.

I will not support ideologies and acts that degrade abundance into artificial scarcity, for that triggers greed and war.

But rather than fighting against these ideologies and acts, I will tap into the infinite creativity that is given to us at birth. I will be an artist, I will co-create with my fellow brothers and sisters, and new paths will be revealed. The future will not come from my reaction, future will come from my creation. Future is pure art, it springs up from my presence to the present.

I will invent and master every tool, technology and practice that allow the strict application of this Vow, in the context of our epoch and culture.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Consumerism vs. Creativity

The premise of Broke is Beautiful is that the cash strapped life is the creative life. Further support for this concept comes from the blog 99% which has an article Is Consumerism Killing Our Creativity. The article argues that we're using up our creative impulses in the pursuit of bargains and stuff.

The consumerist search capitalizes on the same “seeking” part of the brain that fuels the creative rush. Of course, while consumerism can serve as an addictive substitute for the stimulation of creative activity, it offers nowhere near the same reward in the long term.

...No external thing can prompt creativity, and there’s no substitute for just getting down to doing the work. In fact, it’s been proven that hardship – being deprived of things – stimulates creativity more than being well-off. A recent Newsweek article on America's declining creativity reported:

“Highly creative adults frequently grew up with hardship. Hardship by itself doesn’t lead to creativity, but it does force kids to become more flexible—and flexibility helps with creativity.”

For more on the subject of creation and consumerism, see my article from last week: Is Art What You Do or What You Consume.

Question of the Day: Social Aspects of Being Broke

Studies show that people who feel financially strapped are much less socially engaged than those who feel more secure. Adjusting for income and education, the most financially stressed attend two-thirds fewer meetings of clubs and organizations than the least economically anxious. The broke not only go to movies and stuff that costs money less frequently but they also spend less time on things that don’t cost a cent like having friends over, going to visit friends, attending church, volunteering and participating in politics. The only thing financial stress seems to make us do more of is watch TV. Such social isolation can easily lead to clinical depression, which further isolates, and makes it harder to engage in the kind of productive, creative thought that can lead to novel solutions to your problems.

Have you had this situation? A friend says "Can I take you to lunch?" "Take you" implies he's paying, but you're not sure, and you have $3.23 in your bank account. Rather than risk an embarrassing conversation or an even more embarrassing moment when the separate check is placed in front of you, you find an excuse not to go.

Your neighbor has invited you over for dinner two times. You'd like to invite the neighbor to your place, but you only have ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese. The next time the friend invites you, sensing the growing disparity in the feeding-to-fed ratio you make up an excuse not to go.

Or this one-- you've been asked to be part of a committee at your church. The idea of "giving back" appeals to you tremendously, but on the day the first meeting is scheduled your gas tank is on fumes and you don't think you can make it to the church and to work the next day, so you don't go and don't join the committee.

I'm interested to hear your strategies for avoiding social isolation when broke. Post in the comments.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Look at You and I do not Feel So Broke

I love We Feel Fine. If you are not familiar with it, it is a site that scans the internet-- mostly personal blogs-- and pulls out "I feel" and "I am feeling" statements. The feelings float around as colored balls, click on one, and experience a random emotion from a person somewhere in the world. (Try it and you'll understand what I am talking about.)

Some of the thoughts are combined with images, and here is one I discovered this evening:

Modest Needs: Help Getting Through Those Rough Patches

I have just learned of the organization Modest Needs. Their mission:

Modest Needs makes Self-Sufficiency Grants by remitting payment to a creditor for an expense on behalf of an otherwise self-sufficient individual or family for a relatively small, emergency expense which the individual or family could not have anticipated or prepared for.

In making a Self-Sufficiency Grant, our goal is to prevent an otherwise self-sufficient individual or family from entering the cycle of poverty as a result of the financial burden posed by a relatively small emergency expense.

For example, we might make a Self-Sufficiency Grant to cover the cost of an emergency auto repair that must be made if an individual is to continue working.

If an unexpected expense might derail your budget for months or years, Modest Needs might be just the resource you need.

They also have an excellent list of other emergency resources on their web page.

Tiny House Living

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Feel Sexy When You're Broke

So I came across an article today on Ehow called "How to Feel Sexy When You're Broke."

Tip number two was "Skip the Starbucks and eat more mangoes. A healthy diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables and Omega 3s will boost your energy and increase alertness."

This suggestion made me wonder: Why do all of the people who write articles on saving money assume "broke" people are sitting around sipping Starbucks?

Seriously! If I had a dime for every article on saving money, supposedly addressed to "broke" people, that mentioned skipping Starbucks I could afford to go to Starbucks!

Do they really think America is cash strapped because we're all sitting around with our Venti lattes saying, "I wonder where my money is going?"

Clearly the people who write articles on being "frugal" have a different "level of broke" than I have.

Anyway, if you're in the Los Angeles area and you want to feel sexy when you're broke, check out for suggestions on fun, romantic things to do with a partner that cost little or nothing. If you know of any other great "cheap date" resources, please send your suggestions, but don't say to "lay off the Starbucks" or I may have to deck you!

Defining A Meaningful Sense of Prosperity

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hold Hands and Stick Together

Robert Fulghum, in his book, Everything I Need to know I learned in Kindergarten, famously pointed out the first thing we learned as children:

"Hold hands and stick together."

Have you heard of "common security clubs?" Here's how Yes! Magazine describes them:

Common security clubs are typically founded by people concerned about their economic security. These small groups of 10-25 adults are consciously breaking down the isolation and fear triggered by the 2008 economic meltdown. Clubs have strengthened communities and enabled participants to learn together, engage in mutual aid, and take social action.

Read Yes's article.

You Are Not Your Financial Situation


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Is Art What You Do, or What You Consume?

For most of human history artistic production consisted of telling stories or dancing or singing songs within a community, around the fire, at church gatherings. Anyone who wished to participate could, and stories evolved in the telling, music gained verses as it moved from community to community. Tales took on a collective richness and who they "belonged to" and exactly who had "created" them was fluid and a bit vague.

As I wrote in Broke is Beautiful:
These days we’ve become accustomed to the idea that entertainment is something you consume, not something you make. We buy records, we rent DVDs and generally leave imagination to the professionals. Much of modern life, in fact, seems to be a rebellion against daydreaming. We listen radio on the way to and from work; we switch on the TV the minute we get home. There are now even screens to entertain us in restaurants and at the gas pump, as if we would become so bored in the five minutes it takes to pump gas that we would just give up and go home. They should know that’s never going to happen. That’s what iPods are for.

How are we ever to find a moment for quality daydreaming with the CNN airport network and the CNN grocery store check-out line network and CNN monitors at the post office? Recent surveys show that children everywhere now spend up to 80 percent of their free time outside of school watching television. Not surprisingly kids who are heavy TV viewers are less imaginative than children who watch only one hour a day. We no longer value our own fantasies; we pay other people to show us theirs.

I came across another example of this in a fascinating article in The New Republic, Ellen Handler Spitz reviews a new collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales called "The Grimm Reader." She points out that the movement from stories as oral tradition to written form made them static.

Fairy tales were originally recited aloud, and that format gave the listeners considerable power. They were able to exercise a direct and partially controlling effect on each recounting. If attention waned, stories were modified. They could be spiced, embellished, or curtailed. But contemporary American adults rarely tell fairy tales to children anymore. We read, slavishly adhering to a text. Such reliance denotes a diminished narrative inventiveness among us, even a dereliction in regards to the sacred task of passing on our cultural heritage.

We have internalized the idea that art is a product created by talented professionals, and forgotten about the community tradition in art so thoroughly that we think of Internet media that allow broad amateur participation and two way and collective communication as new and novel.