Riding the Internet’s bull market

Money. Oh lordy, do we love money. Is there anything it can’t do? It can buy us beautiful things. It can make us feel big and important. Money can’t buy you love, but who needs love when you have a walk-in humidor? In this exciting capitalist society, money is the key to eternal happiness, to everlasting life. With money, we transcend the shackles of mere mortality. We rise above humanity to the status of gods.

So how the hell do you get it? Being a liberal arts major, I am left without a clue as to how to earn this magnificent green paper.

Oh yes, I have learned many tricks in my college years. But the last time I checked, nobody was paying the big money to people who could eat an entire bag of pork rinds in one sitting (although I pray each night that someday this will be a viable career path). I have also learned how to write a 15-page paper in approximately 36 hours (research included). But for the life of me, I still am lost as to how to actually convert these “skills” into a paying job.

And that is where the stock market comes in. The stock market seems to be the way to get rich quick. It’s more expensive than the state lottery, but requires less effort than actually learning something that would help you “earn” money. I will be the first to admit that, to a normal human being (i.e. someone not in business school), the stock market makes absolutely no sense.

After a hard day learning about quilting and jazz (oh, those liberal arts!), I return home to watch the evening news. Suddenly, I am bombarded with a language that sounds like Swahili through the drive-thru microphone at Wendy’s. “The `Nasdaq’ was `up’ in active trading today, while `bond’ `futures’ were `off’ in moderate trading.” Yup. They sure were. Thanks for the info!

Thankfully, the local news soon returns to stories that are more my speed – “Up next: Local seniors stage their production of `Cats’ at the community theater.”

But those numbers and terms keep jumping around in my cranium:

“Nasdaq.”

“Bond futures.”

“Up.”

What does it all mean?

Well, February was the month I decided to end my ignorance about this great American institution. Or at least try to. I chose to take part in an Internet stock market game. You start out with a hundred grand of fake money and sink it into whatever you damn well please. You buy and trade real stocks and they perform just as the real ones do. The only thing fake is the money.

On Feb. 1, when the game started, I knew absolutely nothing about stocks. So I decided to invest my $100,000 in the three things that made this country great. The three things that, for generations, have meant prosperity and wealth for millions. The three investments that American financiers have turned to in their darkest hour. Those three items? Oh, you know what they are. It’s as simple as cigars, pinball machines and pay-per-view porn TV.

My money went to the producers of Swisher Sweet cigars (available for 89? at any local drugstore), Midway Entertainment (makers of the same high quality pinball machines used at local arcades and roadhouses) and the “Spice Channel” (“Adult films for those too ashamed to get them at the video store”).

On Feb. 2, I logged onto my account to see that, wonder of wonders, I had “earned” nearly $1,000 in play money. I must say, I was pretty excited. While I had been sleeping, eating and learning about the Renaissance, I had made a nice little profit. Hey a $1,000 – that’s a lot of cigars and pay-per-view flicks.

I thought I was “da bomb” of Wall Street. I picked up The Washington Post, read the business section and blew the rest of my dough on “hyped-up,” “ultra-hot,” Internet stocks. Got rid of my “slow gainers” (stogies, games and porno) and plopped down thousands on crap like Yahoo.com, Amazon.com and several other “can’t miss” stocks. I was gonna laugh all the way to the virtual bank.

So here it is, March 1. The Internet stock competition for February is over. And I am a poor man. I lost something like 20,000 play-dollars over the course of a mere 28 days. The Internet stocks went south, and I was left holding the bag. Not that I would have made a fortune on cheap cigars; those original stocks didn’t end up doing so hot either. But I suppose I learned a few things about the ways of the financial world.

Yes. Uhhhh . hmmm. Yeah. I learned that . money . is . uhhhh . yeah. Yup. OK, I learned nothing whatsoever. Except that it’s probably more reliable to keep my money in a pillow case in my closet.

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