Welcome to 1982!

Okay! It’s now 4 AM, and I’ve just finished the homework assignment that’s due today/was due today. It took me this long to finish because I’m all keyed up about a new “Star Wars” movie, which I’ve already seen twice but have made plans to see a third time.

It’s a bit distressing that the thing that’s true on January 20, 2016 was also true during the weeks that “Return of the Jedi” was in theaters. It makes one wonder if one has actually made any damn progress on the road to maturity.

We will leave that question to your after-class discussion groups. Unlike when I was a high school freshman (or eighth grade? Look, it’s 4 AM and I can’t be arsed to look it up), I actually enjoyed my homework and stayed up so late because I completely lost track of time.

I’m taking an illustration class. Danielle Corsetto is one of my fave webcomics artists (“Girls With Slingshots”: read it) and she recently started teaching a class at a nearby college. She got the brainwave to simultaneously teach an online version of that same class to her Patreon supporters. I upped my existing pledge the moment I heard about the class.

I’ve been a fan of her work ever since I encountered it at her table in Artists’ Alley at some Penn Plaza comicon, God-knows how long ago. I can only tell you that it was back when seeing Stormtroopers at a con was something of an exciting novelty. I’ve also been wanting to take a class like this for quite some time. I’ve been a lifelong doodler, but an undisciplined one. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil really got my blood pumping again…chiefly because it removes the frustrating parts of drawing that has nothing to do with my own lack of ability. It’s easy to undo that last horrible mistake you made (which also means you can loosen up and experiment more), and you’re not constantly shelling out bucks for new tools and supplies that you can’t figure out how to use properly.

The first lesson ended with a homework assignment: choose three artists that you like, and reproduce the same photographic image in the style of each of them.

I chose a photo I shot at PAX East last year: a portrait of a cosplayer in a huge, way-cool wig.

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And here are the three drawings I did.

The Drawings

Drawing 1, in the style of Colleen Coover:

Assignment 1 Colleen Coover Published

I chose Colleen because I admire how simple, clean, and effective her style is. She’s a master of her tools. The particular challenge of trying to draw in her style is figuring out how to throw away every single line that isn’t totally necessary.

What on earth would she have done with those curls? There have been characters with curly hair, but not like this. I imagine that she would have drawn this woman’s hair using even fewer lines than I did, and would nonetheless have made it clear that she had a huge pompom of curly hair on her head and wasn’t just wearing some sort of Turkish-style hat.

I added the smile lines at the last minute because it looks a little naked without them. But I know that Coover would have conveyed them without drawing them. I also love how she colors things. Her “Bandette” pages appear to be flat watercolors, with bold, confident ink lines locking everything together, and then the most judicious touches of ink wash to add depth and shading. Again, she would have pulled all of this off with way fewer strokes.

I had an issue of “Bandette” (one of my favorite-est comics) open in front of me as I drew. I knew that if I were truly going to copy her style, I’d have to choose a limited palette of bold colors. I was pleased to notice that I happened to choose red, white, and blue…the French tricolor. Quite appropos, as the stories are all set in Paris. Let’s say that this woman is a character in a “Bandette” story, as a member of the Ministry of Culture or a docent of one of the national art galleries.

It was a valuable lesson in economy. One little stub of a line, bent just so, delivers a hell of a lot of punch.

Drawing 2, in the style of Tom Beland:

Assignment 1 Tom Beland Published

Oh, boy, what a failure. This one took me the least time to draw and it was the hardest one.

Beland first came to my attention via his autobiographical comic “True Story, Swear to God,” which told the story of how he and a broadcaster from Puerto Rico had a love at first sight thing happen to them while they were both covering an event at Disneyworld for their respective news outlets. It’s a magnificent story and I was instantly in awe of his line. The way he gets the pen to flare and fan and then contract at exactly the right moment…his drawings are immensely lively.

I drew this one in Graphic, a vector drawing program, because I thought it would do the best job of simulating his linework.  But of course, it takes years and years just to figure out how to hold a pen properly. Like Colleen Coover, Tom Beland draws with a lovely economy. So at first, I was thinking “Yay! The face is just a half a dozen strokes, and I won’t need to color it!” Soon enough, I realized that drawing in this style is like neurosurgery. Your line either starts and ends in exactly the right places and curves and flares right on cue, or it’s no good at all. The drawing process was like line nope line nope line nope line nope but okay, let’s use that as a placeholder and move on…line nope line nope…

There’s also the question of how Beland would have handled that hair. I think he’d have used piles of curlicues but jeez, who knows.

Drawing 3, in the Fauvist style of Henri Matisse:

Assignment 1 Mattise published

I haven’t read any of Matisse’s comics, so I can’t pretend that I’m a huge fan of his stuff or anything. I just wanted to do one in oils. I’m smart enough, and honest enough about my limitations, to choose a style where the aforementioned “no more lines than necessary and each line in its place” wasn’t a dealbreaker.

This is the one I enjoyed drawing the most. There’s such freedom in trying to do a painting in this style. I can’t pretend to have gained any practical insights into Matisse’s technique, but it’s joyful to not have to worry about matching a skintone exactly, and to choose a color combination simply because you think it’d be interesting. Sure, I happily concede that the results aren’t…brilliant. Who cares? This image is the result of an hour or two of play, play play…just trying things that occurred to me and (for the most part) trying to integrate, improve, or hide mistakes instead of just tapping the Undo button on my painting app.

And a funny thing happened as I continued to work on it: I began to subconsciously grasp the rules of the game. “That shape needs to be outlined,” I determined, and mixed a purpleish-blue. But when I got to the other side: “No, now that side needs to be more of a reddish-brown.” I’d like to do this one again. I feel like I could find a more direct route to this style now.

Part of the class assignment involves answering a set of four questions, and I’ve done that inside these descriptions. I haven’t answered #4: “What elements of your experience would you like to apply to future projects?” Well, whenever I got stuck, it was super-helpful to think “So how did (artist) solve this same problem?” And salvation lies at the other end of a quick Google Image Search.

Primarily, I’m going to try to maintain a sense of play. If someone pins a badge on me reading “Andy Ihnatko, Competent Artist,” it’ll only come at the end of a lot of more years and a lot of more hours of drawing. The good news is that there’s no reason why it can’t be fun.

I would also like to get started on next week’s homework five or six days before it’s due, instead of putting it off and then doing it the night before. Yeah. That’d be sweet.

The iPad Pro

Miz Coover will be discussing all kinds of traditional tools and techniques along the way, but the lessons will work with any medium. Natcherly, I intend to use my iPad Pro and Pencil as my sole tools (after asking her if she thought I’d be missing out on any of the point behind the lessons).

IPad Pro Splitview Art web

The iPad Pro continues to be a magnificent art tool. At least for folks at my skill level. This was my workspace for all three images. Split View let me keep an eye on my reference while remaining free to let my creativity wander.

I did have to think about how I was going to go about this. The Procreate app can import a photo as a background layer, and then it’s quick work to pencil some detailed layout lines over it. I’ve had a lot of fun drawing from reference this way but I instinctively believe that I wouldn’t get the most out of this class if I used a shortcut instead of training my eye to see properly and my drawing hand to (goddamn it) draw what I’m thinking, not what I’m telling it to draw.

Here’s another question: if it’s trivial for me to Undo a line or even the whole previous 20 minutes of work, am I really working as hard as someone drawing on paper, who has to be far more deliberate?

Yeah. It’s a dumb question. I’m an idiot for even admitting that it had occurred to me. Sure, it’s easier. So is buying paint ready-made instead of grinding your own pigments. So is buying paint in pre-mixed colors instead of mixing it yourself. So is applying it with a brush instead of an extremely pissed-off groundhog. Creativity has always been about the personal process and the results. If anyone disagrees with you on this point, you can go spit in their hat, and then sell the hat to the Tate Modern.

I’m also not worried about never learning the intricacies of the steel pen nib. I’ve got a few sheets of art board somewhere around here that represent the time I spent trying to learn how to use one, many years ago. I kind of started to get the hang of it after a few weeks, but I was spending all of my time serving this instrument instead of drawing things. My iPad Pro and Pencil allows me to fast-forward right to the act of creating.

And it’s not as though these digital tools don’t demand that I develop new skills. But good Lord, they’re way more forgiving.

It’s yet another opportunity for me to say that my iPad Pro was some of the best money I ever spent. I’m getting lots of paying work done with it, I’m having a lot of fun with it in my off-time, and it’s making it easy for me to push myself to learn new skills. There’s definitely a little Oprah in this thing.

There’s one last thing to mention about this class, and this post. I was a little bit timid about posting these images here. It’s the easiest way for me to “hand in my homework” so that Miz Corsetto and the rest of the class can see it. Alas, everyone else can see it, and obviously this is the work of a student.

I could have just published it inside a static page, away from the main blog. I quickly realized, though, that this was unnecessary, and just a case of my ego getting in the way of my common sense. I’m okay with people seeing this stuff. I realize that it isn’t anywhere on the “terrific” spectrum. And if people look at these (and future) drawings and think “…yeesh” or post “…yeesh” it doesn’t matter.

Yup, I’m reliving my teenage years, all right. It’s now about 6:30 and I might be able to get two or three hours of sleep before I need to be sitting at a desk pretending to be alert and competent. Yes, this week’s Ihnatko Almanac podcast should be, um, an interesting one.

But I’m also tapping into the power of being a kid. It’s not just about being tried as a juvenile. You also have an innate understanding that nobody even expects you to be good at anything, so there’s absolutely nothing holding you back from trying everything. Pride and dignity are only hypothetical concepts at this point in life. Great! Because they’re baggage.

I should carry this lesson forward in my life. As an artist, I have no reputation to damage. So I might as well try everything, and share what I’ve done. We should all be just as brave in all aspects of our lives…particularly the stuff that we think other people think we’re good at.

What to Do When You’ve Won Powerball

You’ve compared the numbers on your multistate lottery ticket to the ones on your TV screen and they all match. You’ve also thoroughly checked your immediate environment for concealed phones, GoPro cameras, or other evidence that a friend or coworker was OK with the idea of trading away your dignity for 8,900 YouTube views.

It’s real; you’ve won 1.5 billion dollars. Now what do you do?

Your first question is “Should I pee myself, or crap my pants?” Do both, just to be safe. Once word gets out that you have $1.5 billion, you’re going to be set upon by mooching friends and distant relatives. Some of these might be put off by one form of effluvia, but not the other, and there’s no way to tell ahead of time.

Next, you’re going to want to think about receiving the lump sum payment versus the annuity. There’s no one clear answer. The annuity offers a greater payout and a lesser total tax burden, while the lump sum has advantages if you’re capable of putting together and maintaining a longterm investment plan on your own.

If you’re undecided, consider the advantages of each option that are specific to your lifestyle.

Lump Sum: You’ll have enough on hand to stage a mid-air collision between seven or eight brand-new robot-piloted Boeing 777s, not just two. When you fill your new pond with money, you don’t have to worry about the embarrassment and inevitable ribbing that ensues when your college chums’ Jetskis churn up some twenties and fifties among the bundles of hundreds at the surface. People with a net worth in the mere eight figures can walk around pantsless without risk of arrest, but actual billionaires can ditch the underwear as well. “Hamilton” tickets are a realistic get.

Annuity: your friends and relatives will accept that there’s no point in having you killed until thirty years after you’ve won. The annuity is also a good idea if you’re an immortal and keep having to “die” and come back as your own “son” or “daughter.” Any unused money at the end of the year can be burned for heat, as well as to spite the street urchins freezing just outside your window. The envy and irrational hatred dished out against you by everyone in your community is likely to arrive in smaller, more manageable installments over time. It’s also likely that your winnings will still out there waiting for you after you serve your nine-year prison sentence for that thing you did when you falsely believed that having a mere tens of millions of dollars meant you could buy your way out of anything.

Either way, it’s wise to take the $930,000,000 lump-sum or $50,000,000 first installment in the form of loose change. Potential thieves will be intimidated by the thought of rolling all of those coins for a bank deposit or hauling them to a Coinstar machine and feeding them in a handful at a time.

Don’t be stupid and try to double your winnings shooting craps at a casino. The house advantage is much lower at the blackjack tables.

All of these financial considerations will work themselves out over time. You’ll be intimidated at first, but you’ll eventually understand the subtleties of large-scale transactions and dealmaking. For instance, when NASA rejects your astronaut application because you never even made it to 11th grade and you scrawled “I can never pee if I know that Canadians are nearby” on the form, that’s just negotiation code for “honey, it’s going to cost you.”

Do share your windfall with friends and family. But don’t make commitments until you’ve carefully considered the nature of your relationships and how these people would react to a windfall. If you leave a relative a million dollars in your will, that means you won’t be around to gloat when they’ve blown it all inside of twenty months and all they’re left with is an upper body filled with impulsive, regrettable tattoos and three giraffes with no means of support. However, you will get to dangle that carrot just out of their grasp and keep jerking them around for anywhere from five to fifty years.

By the same token, don’t assume that your new circle of super-rich friends are any different from your old ones. Be on guard with Oprah. It’ll be light and cheerful conversation around her bumper pool table all evening and then she’s definitely going to try to sell you a Weight Watchers membership. Also, don’t trust the odometer reading on any old car that Jay Leno tries to sell you.

Above all: don’t let the money change who you are. Promise yourself that the only difference between Middle Class You and Obscenely Wealthy You is going to be that you’ll be chasing down and running over neighborhood squirrels in a much fancier car.

Yes, you can be a billionaire and still be a selfish, arrogant bastard with no regard for the feelings or needs of others. Network with people at political fundraisers for guidance. 

Bowie

I wanted to post something about David Bowie. This isn’t for you…this is for me.

I didn’t post anything last night because my very first impulse, after my involuntary “Aw, goddammit,” was to start listening to lots and lots of Bowie music. I actually hit YouTube before I hit iTunes; it’s so hard to separate the music I love with the showmanship that always blew me away (and vice-versa).

I Tweeted out links as I watched. And whaddya know: my Twitter timeline was filling up with links exactly like mine. This is the form of self-care that hundreds of Bowie fans independently chose. We didn’t run to our blogs to write some kind of a think piece, we didn’t create memes…we didn’t even come up with a hashtag. We sought solace in Bowie’s artistry, and of course that’s what we did: as lifelong fans, we knew we’d find it there.

This is the first video I played (and I know I came back to it over and over again, until I finally went to bed at 6 AM). It’s from the 1992 Freddy Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium and it’s a recurring and perennial personal source of pure, mainline joy:

Honestly. If there were a nation where Annie Lennox and David Bowie were queen and king, I would have renounced my US citizenship immediately. I wouldn’t even have asked where this country is or if there were any jobs there. Don’t you want to live in a country either or both of those faces are on all of the money and stamps?

I love this video for what it is — two humans creating art at a level that no human will ever exceed — and also for what it says about David Bowie. In 1992, Bowie’s breakout album was twenty years in the past. Here, he wasn’t being trotted out as a nostalgia act, to perform one of his Beloved Hits. Okay, well, sure, fair point: “Under Pressure” was one of his 1981 hits (duetting with Sir Fredrin Mercury, of course). He’s onstage with Annie Lennox at the start of her remarkable, and still forceful, solo career and from the performances, it’s impossible to tell who’s hungrier to make good.

I associate David Bowie with a kind of “delightful restlessness.” In 1992, he had many classic anthems and number one hits behind him, but an amazing career ahead of him. If you listened to “Aladdin Sane” for the first time in 1982, it would offer as few clues about the tone and shape of 2002’s “Heathen” as a 1996 Motorola StarTAC would about Instagram.

David Bowie features in one of my earliest complete memories. It’s 1979, and my parents have brought us kids to my mom’s sister’s house on a Saturday night. The grownups are in the living room, enjoying grownup interaction, talking and smoking late into the night. They’re having a great time, partly due to the fact their two sets of kids have been shooed away to play in the basement and other parts of the house.

I’m in the room of one of my cousins and a few of us are watching “Saturday Night Live,” which for a kid at any point in the Seventies was akin to sneaking a cigarette. I don’t think anyone born after 1980 can really grasp that. The grownups, with their laughter and cigarettes, had let their guard down. “Saturday Night Live” was still in its first (possibly edgiest) cast and it was as far away from the family-friendly “Carol Burnett Show” as anyone at that time could imagine. I loved that show, too, but SNL was the kind of comedy where if you uttered one of its catchphrases inside the house, your parents would ask you where you had even heard that.

I say “first complete memory” because I can recall almost every detail of it and around it. The night is burned into my memory because I saw something I had never, ever seen before:

The Man Who Sold the World – David Bowie (Saturday Night Live) from Supernova on Vimeo.

A man in a plastic tuxedo. Two men…in dresses. And one of them appeared to be from outer space. He certainly sang as though he did.

The video is amazing (but holy mother of god, what terrible shot choices the live director made!!! To this day, I can’t watch it without shouting “**** the keyboard player! STAY ON BOWIE AND THE BACKUP SINGERS, YOU IDIOT!!!”).

I was at the perfect age to be exposed to something like that. I was still far enough from adulthood that “strange” always equals “interesting and worthy of further investigation.” Grownups think they know enough about the world that they frequently react to something new by thinking “oh…it’s one of…those” — with “those” being something you don’t know anything about, but might have been taught to have some sort of opinion about regardless.

No, Young Andy thought that these three men were very, very interesting.

It must have been a few more years before I started building my own taste in music. As a Snotty Teen™, I gravitated towards “music that nobody else in school thinks is popular,” a policy that I can’t 100% defend but which nonetheless paid huge dividends. It wasn’t long before I rediscovered the man in the plastic tuxedo, as well as the man from outer space behind him who, in the interval had acquired a plastic tuxedo of his own (Klaus Nomi), who went on to a distinctive, and sadly short, recording career before dying in 1983).

Discovering Bowie in the 1980s was like discovering the Discworld or Cadfael mysteries late in the game. There’s just so much material out there, and in the space of one school semester, you can binge on a story that originally played out over well more than a decade. How the hell did Bowie’s original fans manage to wait a whole year between “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy Stardust”?!

I listened to Bowie in all of his personae before I caught up to him in his 1980s mainstream pop phenomenon persona.

Bowie was an important influence. I didn’t adopt a Ziggy Stardust or Thin White Duke persona (I never had the right bone structure to pull off either look). His effect on me was more powerful and subtle. When I discovered David Bowie, it was like thick curtains on a huge window were being pulled apart and a set of tall, double doors had swung open: it was the beginning of my understanding of just how much bigger the world was than my room, my house, my school, my town. And that isn’t even meant as a dig against the Boston suburb I grew up in. His work urged and challenged me to open my mind, revealed to me that the things I can’t imagine are by no means unimaginable…and that elsewhere, people were expressing themselves in radically different ways and pursuing beauty across vectors and paths of which I was totally unaware.

As I got a little older, he became a celebration and an endorsement of oddity. It’s okay to be weird; indeed, there were places where people appreciated David Bowie’s David Bowie-ness, which implied that there were places where Andy Ihnatko’s Andy Ihnatko-ness would be at least noddingly-tolerated, no matter how I choosed to express it.

And as I got much older, I saw him as an aspirational example. Predictability and repetition are career enhancers if you’re selling coffee or delivering packages. If you’re in a creative field, it’s death for your artistic self and it also means that you’re breaking a promise to your audience. Predictability and repetition are passion-killers. With every practically every new Bowie record, I could see the sweat on his brow as he tried to dance on uneven ground with unsure footing. And pulling it off brilliantly. I might have thought that a certain track (or, to be honest, a whole album) wasn’t very good. But I could never believe that it wasn’t exactly an album that he hadn’t invested himself in. And that’s why I remained a lifelong fan.

If I claimed that I apply these lessons to everything I do, it’d be self-flattery and an act of fraud. But I try to claw hard for the next yard of creative earth, as Bowie seemed to. And based on the personal stories I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere, he had that kind of influence on lots of people. 

I’m not sorry that he seemed to spend the past decade laying low. If anything, it pleased me to imagine David Bowie, in his 60s, enjoying his life and his wife and his family. He owed me nothing. And yet each new album, or video, or appearance was a joy.

Mommm…” I’d message a friend, with a link to a new video. “David Bowie’s bein’ weirrrrrd againnnn…”

But of course, I meant it affectionately. Bowie never stopped being “weird,” which is to say that he never stopped engaging me, forcing me to stop, and savor, and think. He never seemed to care about giving me what I want. He always seemed determined to give me what I wanted next.

Bowie Jump Interactive poster  cwob

This concert poster (for a multimedia CD-ROM…hey, remember those?) has been hanging in my office for over twenty years now. Yes, I stole it. Stole the hell out of it. I saw some of these tacked up outside of the Moscone Center during Macworld Expo 1994 and I just pulled it down and strolled off with it and didn’t give it a second thought.

“I bet Ion intended for people to take these,” I thought. And when I’d worked its thick staples free from the wall, I didn’t stick around, in case someone with the company or event security was trotting up to correct my supposition.

I don’t always take home the posters and prints I’m given at conferences and conventions. I keep even fewer. Only one will be on my wall for as long as I live in places with walls.

This poster sits at the intersection of two of my most important childhood influences: Apple, and David Bowie. I can’t even use the iPhone I bought three years ago but I expect I’ll be listening to “Hunky Dory” and “Station to Station” in their entirety until the day I die.

One more thing about David Bowie: he was nice enough have been born a baritone. I’m forced to enjoy Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” from a respectful distance. But David Bowie invites me to sing “Fantastic Voyage” along with him. That’s very generous, I think, particularly when you considering how often I’m singing along while I’m naked and showering.

Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

Yup! Powerball will be at 1.3 billion dollars by Wednesday’s drawing. At least 1.3 billion dollars. I’ve always thought of the two contrary truths of big lotteries like this one:

  1. The fact that it’s a nationwide lottery with an insane, even unprecedented level of frenzied participation, and yet it still can take months and months for even a single person to pick the right numbers, proves how impossible the odds are;
  2. And yet, well…someone does eventually win.

But if you could win any one lottery, would you really choose to win $1.3 billion?

That’s definitely a dollar amount where winning would become terrifying. If you were to win a lesser amount that was life-changing, but still well below what even a dope you or me could squander away, you could choose to remain anonymous and make it stick. The only people who’d know would be your closest friends. And only the observant ones. “Hmm. Andy never used to order guac on his burrito. That’s, like, a $2.50 upcharge” would be the first loose thread that would unravel my thick cloak of lies.

But if you were the lone (it’s possible) winner of a $1.3 billion jackpot? Oh, ****. You’d need to go straight into hiding before anyone identified you. And the media would be working very very hard to identify you. So: close all of the curtains, lock every door and window, leave your car in the driveway, and check into a hotel in a different city. And take public transportation, in case an Uber driver might fink you out.

I’m feeling a little stressed out just thinking about it. My losing ticket from Saturday’s drawing is in my wallet. It’s a piece of paper a few inches on a side. Imagine that it’s worth $1.4 billion. Is there any article of value that’s worth that much per gram? I’m betting “no,” unless a lock of Jesus Christ’s hair is ever found and verified. How the hell do you transport it safely to that place where men and women in suits turn it into a pile of electrons in a secure database that tells every computer in the world that Mr. Ihnatko is allowed to have whatever he wants, the instant he wants it, and served off the back of any human being he wishes to use as a living piece of furniture?

And until that transaction, yeesh. Stay invisible. Let those hundreds of Coen Brothers-style losers, idiots, and genuine tough guys hack apart your front door with an axe and tear the place apart, because obviously you would have left the winning ticket, unsigned, on your kitchen table. Throw away the hat and the coat you wore when you bought it, because until the prize has been officially claimed, every man or woman wearing a Boston Bruins cap and a leather jacket like the one in the jittery security video that your local gas station happily sold to TMZ is going to get tackled in the street by the aforementioned group of people.

It is a legitimately interesting question. What’s the smartest way to claim the prize? The safest thing would be to race to lottery headquarters and claim the money while you’re still a step ahead of rabid packs of press and ne’er-do-wells. Fine, but then isn’t your name part of the public record? Isn’t it better to form a new LLC and use it as the official claimant?

Good plan! But who’s going to help you do that, and do you understand the paperwork you’re signing? Are you sure that you didn’t initial something that gives your lawyer the power to buy you out of your own company for half a pack of Mike and Ikes?

Oy!

Of course, the troubles don’t end once you’ve claimed the money. Having that much money is like being Superman. You have the power to save anybody. But if you try to save everybody, well, that’s impossible, and will probably shorten your own life. It’s easy to say no to the fan group who wants $7.4 million dollars to fund a new season of “Heroes” (which you never liked in the first place). But what do you say to the parent who needs $180,000 for life-saving surgery for their kid?

I also imagine that it’d be a good idea to maintain a “decoy” house in addition to your actual home. You’d stock it with mid-priced furniture and electronics, and replenish it every time it gets broken into. Meanwhile, your actual home is hidden behind three shell corporations. Plus a couple of moats with interesting creatures swimming around in it (thanks to the Weyland-Yutani-style genetic engineering lab you’re underwriting).

Nonetheless, I think all of the hassles would be worth it, if winning I can (a) pay off all of my nieces and nephews’ student loans, and (b) own a private aircraft hangar with a 1:1 scale replica of the Millennium Falcon in it.

Also? It’d be fun to be Superman. Rather, it’d be fun to be Clark Kent and nobody knows you’re Superman. We’re sometimes saddled with terrible secrets (“Your cat didn’t run away. She got caught in a raccoon trap I set in my backyard. There was already a raccoon in it. They obviously didn’t get along…”). Wouldn’t it be fun to keep a terrific secret? The kind of secret that only gets blown at the reading of your will, when your cousin shows up expecting that you maybe left her your grandmother’s bible but then she walk out of there with that plus a five-cabin catamaran? 

So, sure, I’m going to buy another ticket for Wednesday’s drawing. I joked on Twitter that the $1.3 billion jackpot was my one lifetime opportunity to truly say “There’s a nonzero chance that I will some day have more money than Oprah.” Then someone pointed out that (according to Forbes) the woman has a net worth of about $3.1 billion.

Okay…more money than Jerry Seinfeld?

There we go. $820,000,000. That’s still enough for “Hamilton” tickets.

I don’t approve of state-run gambling. I hate the fact that so much of it is designed specifically to exploit a certain percentage of people whose brains happen to be wired up badly and can be tricked into an infinite loop of electronic betting. I double-hate that governments become dependent on gambling revenues to fund education, instead of using that contribution as a bonus on top of a sensible operational budget that schools will get regardless. It means that we can’t give kids a public education unless we allow casinos to do pretty much whatever they like, and we keep tuning state lottery games to get better and better at lulling players into a fugue state.

Okay, rant over. I don’t gamble, personally, because God has made His/Her/Its feelings quite clear to me about that. The first time I gambled, it was at a Las Vegas night during my freshman year of college. I lost four dollars on four plays in a blink of an eye. Just: one, two, three, four…done. I recall a crystal-clear awareness that I had given this person four dollars, I had received nothing in return, not even entertainment…and I now felt like an idiot.

Years later, I was speaking at a conference center that was part of a casino. I wandered into the blackjack room. On a whim, I think I played one hand, on a five dollar chip. The dealer dealt himself a blackjack. Just like that. I don’t think I got the chance to say “Hit” or “Stay” even once.

“Thy will be done,” I thought, and I kept my second $5 chip as a souvenir.

Despite all of that, I have a rule: when a multi-state lottery jackpot can credibly be expressed as a fraction of a billion dollars…sure, I’m in for a $2 ticket. I’m getting something of value: the fun of knowing that there’s an astronomically far-fetched, but nonzero, chance of having a life-altering amount of money by this time next week.

Guac on every burrito, going to a drive-in screening of the original Star Wars trilogy in a working X-34 landspeeder…it sounds pretty sweet all around, despite the hassles of nonstop home breakins, lawsuits from con artists, and kidnap/ransoms.