“He was a UCLA baseball star, a WWII hero, and was involved in the prosecution of both Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson… American icon and member of Easy Company Lynn “Buck” Compton has parachuted into heaven. Currahee, Buck!”— Richard Speight Jr. (via oneluckycharmz)
But part of the American post-World War II economic miracle was that most people didn’t have to choose between a high-stakes-lottery job or a lousy dead-end one. Steelworkers, midlevel corporate executives, shopkeepers and plumbers were all able to make a decent amount from the start of their careers with steady, but never spectacular, raises throughout. These two tiers actually supported each other. Strivers were able to dream bigger because they had a solid Plan B. New York City and Los Angeles are buoyed by teachers, store owners, arts administrators and others who came to town to make it big in film or music or publishing, eventually gave up on that dream and ended up doing fine in another field.
Now, many economists fear that the comfortable Plan B jobs are disappearing. Technology and cheaper goods from overseas have replaced many of the not-especially-creative professions. A tax accountant loses clients to TurboTax; many graphic designers have been replaced by Photoshop; and the small shopkeeper by Home Depot, Walmart or Duane Reade. Though a lottery economy is valuable to various industries, the thought of an entire lottery-based economy, in which a few people win big while the rest are forced to toil in an uncertain and not terribly remunerative dead-end labor pool, is unfair and politically scary. If large numbers of people believe they have no shot at a better life in the future, they will work less hard and generate fewer new ideas and businesses. The economy, as a whole, will be poorer.
It’s not clear what today’s eager 23-year-old will do in 5 or 10 years when she decides that acting (or that accounting partnership) isn’t going to work out after all. The best advice may be to accept that economic success in America will come as much from the labor lottery as from hard work and tenacity. The Oscars make clear that there is only so much room at the top. In a lottery-based economy, you need some luck, too; now, perhaps, more than ever. People should be prepared to enter a few different lotteries, because the new Plan B is just going to be another long shot in a different field. The role model of our time should be an actress who was never nominated for an Oscar. Hedy Lamarr did well enough on the screen but, just in case, she spent her free time developing something called frequency-hopping spread-spectrum. It’s a wireless-communication technique still in use in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Not bad for a fallback.
From Concert for Bangla Desh. This is probably my favorite live performance ever recorded. I love hearing the opening chords being played while George is getting himself oriented right, and then he actually plays them loud and proud, and you can feel this wave of exuberance and excitement wash over the whole crowd, and they throw it back up to George, who takes it all in and plays, and everyone goes silent. It’s beautiful, and it’s exactly why George always has been, and always will be, my favorite Beatle.