Bitcoin, “Parallax Bucks!”, Sudden Unintended Acceleration
It occurred to me recently that the reason I wasn’t rich beyond my wildest dreams was that I had failed thus far to invent, develop and market my own currency. Some things just seem so obvious at times. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before, although I tried not to be too hard on myself. Caught in life’s daily whipsaw it is easy to lose sight of the glaring fact that if money is running low, now is the perfect time to start making your own.
I got the idea when I heard about this mysterious fellow named Satoshi Nakamoto who had invented and developed a virtual currency known as “Bitcoin.” Apparently it exists, yet it doesn’t. It is there, yet it is not. It is worth billions yet you can’t buy a cup of coffee with it. It is unregulated, unsupported by any country, wildly speculative, and anonymous. There is no tasty chocolate center as far as I can tell. Like carbon monoxide It is clear, odorless, useful in a way, useless in another, deadly in a way, harmless in another, and just kind of belched from the tailpipe of the big financial machine. Which explains why, when reporters caught up with Satoshi Nakamoto, or at least someone named Satoshi Nakamoto a few weeks ago in Temple City, California, the reputed creator of this computerized monetary exchange phenomenon, estimated to be worth billions, was a rumpled, disheveled hobo who lived with his mother. He couldn’t afford a decent pair of glasses, even. They kept slipping off his face as he vaulted over the fence into his backyard to dodge the sea of reporters clamoring to interview him while his mother kept the press at bay with a broom at the foot of the driveway, sweeping at the knee, foot and crotch of anyone who tried to get on her property. Eyewitness accounts suggest it was an old broom, too. Worn and spindly. Not the type of broom a billionaire would employ is what I’m getting at. Some members of the press corps began to suspect they had located the wrong Nakamoto. Others believed it a clever ruse by a wily billionaire. Good luck, fella.
This Mr. Satoshi Nakamoto, or another like him, is onto something. Like the currency he invented the man himself seems hard to pin down. This hasn’t stopped billionaire investors and hedge fund companies from trying to corner the market on the stuff. The virtual currency is being pumped up like a pimply steroid freak. Even when an exchange called Mt. Gox suddenly announced it had lost something in the neighborhood of five hundred million dollars worth of bitcoin–whoosh, gone, what bitcoin, who bitcoin–the market seemed to take it in stride. Mt. Gox claimed to have lost it in between the cushions of its couch, which is usually where most of my coins end up. I don’t know what people expected from something named Mt. Gox? Mt. Gox sounds like some kind of evil land mass that sits in the middle of a bog, bellowing smoke and consuming children and livestock until an anime superhero dives in on the back of some tentacled monster and destroys it. (Or however evil land masses are beaten these days.)
Mt. Gox aside, I didn’t want to let a few slip-ups destroy the whole blueprint. It sounded like it had promise. I decided to invent my own money and call it “Parallax Bucks!” (The quotation marks are my version of curb appeal and I threw in the exclamation point just to give it a little more advertising gusto.) It would be touted as a form of currency that “cool” people trade in. A sexy form of barter in which a person who invested had as much money as they needed for bragging as long as they didn’t specifically use it for anything, unless someone selling something was dumb enough to take it, then by all means, spend spend spend. Much like the Viennese Tulip Craze of the seventeenth century, in which a tulip bulb could be used to purchase an entire city block of Vienna, “Parallax Bucks!” could take off in a similar manner with the right marketing. Get the right people involved. Show how prestigious and valuable this worthless idea was.
Parallax–(noun) An apparent change in the direction of an object, caused by a change in observational position that provides a new line of sight.
Hell, I thought, the term money should be replaced entirely with parallax. But that idea was for a later date. For now I concentrated on building up some interest. I considered making a proper marketing video, or calling Jordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street” to make a cameo appearance. The man who these days tries to get people to sell his pens back to him on speaking tours might be a good spokesperson, except that I felt I needed a fresh confidence man, someone with no real prison experience. I called up a friend of mine in New York who works in the money game.
“I need a hundred million dollars,” I said. “I’m starting my own currency.”
“Forget it,” he said. “You still owe me for all the scotch you drank last time you came up for a visit.”
“What if I told you that the currency is called “Parallax Bucks!”?”
“What if I told you that there are quotation marks surrounding the phrase with an exclamation point on the end?”
“Hmm,” he said. “Give me a few hours and I’ll call you back.”
While waiting for news of my billion dollar idea, I surveyed my “Kingdom of Shabby.” Cobwebs in the corners of the room gave my place that historic feel. My dog jumped up from a hole in the floor with what looked like a femur in her mouth. A homeless man was sitting in my washing machine, pouring detergent on himself while trying to adjust the water temperature. I sat back with the satisfied air of a railroad baron. I picked up the newspaper and started to read about the Toyota car recall and about an issue known as Sudden Unintended Acceleration. It sounded scary. It had something to do with sticky gas pedals that caused the car to take off like a bat out of hell and not even sticky brakes would help. Little did I know that I was about to fall victim to this very same phenomenon. The phone rang.
“Congratulations, you’re a billionaire,” my friend said. “Don’t get too excited. Any second and you could be flat broke.”
That meant there wasn’t a moment to lose. I did what all level-headed billionaires do when they inherit the world in a few short hours. Go buy stuff. Satisfied with all the hard work I had put in, I went down to the local posh boutique emporium and began to accumulate things I desperately needed. I bought a new suit and then, because I could, I decided to buy a newer one. And this was when the sticky gas pedal became stuck, and I experienced the terrifying ordeal known as Sudden Unintended Acceleration. I walked into the store.
“Hello,” she said, a bright salesgirl in an outfit of such exhausting lines, patterns and colors that it had to be top of the line fashion or the manic choices of a demented patient from an insane asylum.
“You have to try on these shoes. These shoes make the right people stop and say, this is a man who knows his footwear.”
“I’m not sure they are right for me,” I said. “To me those are the type of shoes that make people stop and say, oh you poor clueless bastard. The type of shoes that have diapers for accessories.”
“May I ask what you do?” she said, cutting right to it.
“I own a new trading currency called “Parallax Bucks!”. It is trading on the Nikkei for $35 a firkin, or about $70 a kilderkin.”
“How fabulous, and I don’t just say that to everyone. These shoes would be darling on you. Made from the hide of a rare beast, cousin of the Vicuna. Actually the species is now extinct. In fact, these shoes were made from the last surviving animal. And this suit to go with it. You could throw this suit into the sun and it will remain intact and wrinkle-free. Ha, ha. This is theoretical of course. Look at this tie. Red like the generative organ it is meant to represent. You know what, I think I love you.”
I was struck with a kind of tonic immobility, the defense phenomenon a weaker creature employs to play dead in front of a predator. The rest of the people in the store scattered. “Did you just say you love me? Because of the way you think I might look in this suit?”
“I insist you move in with me. Tonight.”
“I’ve got pub plans that I’d rather not break. Darts and pool, you know.”
“We can celebrate our newfound happiness in Napa. I know a place where we can get married. As the sun sets. Vows bonded by heavenly vistas.”
“Aha. And your name, once more? I didn’t catch it the first time.”
She began to mope. “I feel like we’ve been growing apart. You don’t respect me anymore. It’s always you, you, you. What about my feelings? Bastard. Selfish bum. My mother was right about you. Dad too. He told me he was going to cut your puny little throat for what you did when we were in the Hamptons. Considering I was pregnant and all, and you just left me in that hotel room while you got drunk with those hooligans, jumped on the ferry to Sag Harbor and tried to break into John Steinbeck’s house. I should’ve let you rot in that jail. He’s a Nobel winner. You’re a hack. I hate you. I love you. Where are you going?”
“I think I might continue with my shopping, but thanks for all your help.”
“I want a divorce!” she screamed.
“Cheerio!” I said. That was a close one. Toyota will hear from me. More Alembics to come.