Saturday, August 25, 2007

on buying lotto tickets

since i decided i wanted to do this project, i started looking for places to buy lotto tickets. it can be surprisingly difficult finding a place to buy. or sometimes, you're in a place, like the HEB down the street, and in order to buy a ticket, you have to go to a separate queue from the checkout, where they have the western union and prepaid cell phones.

the lottery is by design laden with class problems. in many places, it is the only form of sanctioned gambling, because it funds the state. here in texas, there are billboards touting that the texas lotteries have supplied $8 billion to texas schools. but the problem is that it is really another way to drain the poor and working class. i see it as similar to tobacco tax, where government basically punishes people for something socially unacceptable or wrong about them--being addicted to a government subsidized substance and being poor or in need of money.

i bought a ticket yesterday on the way home from work. the place i went to is on the east side, where the student apartments converge with black and latino communities that are slowly being pushed out of the city. they didn't have a lottery sign out front, but the mosaic of signs hocking generic cigarette prices by the carton, phone cards, snuff, and western union services made me strongly suspect i would be able to find lotto tix.

being a friday, the moment i stepped in the store, there was a long line by the check cashing counter. everyone in line was chicano, no doubt many of them day laborers working for nearby construction, landscaping, and cleaning companies. covering the store's street sign read a huge handpainted banner declaring, "cambio 1%." remembering that the liquor store where i once worked charged 7% in goods for check cashing, it was no wonder this store was so popular. as i took in all the signs, i noticed the tell-tale case of scratch-off roles next to the register, and just as i was about to ask the clerk whether they sold mega million tickets, he handed the man before me at the counter three sheets of mega millions numbers saying, "good luck."

the clerk was a well-dressed south asian man. he took the scan-tron form in my hand, put it through the lotto machine and gave me a ticket. as i handed him my dollar, i asked for my form back, and he defensively told me that since it had been folded, he figured i didn't need it anymore and tore it up. ah well.

but this is a scene that happens everywhere. stores run by immigrants, acting as places for other immigrants and people of color to provide much-needed resources. but these resources are also flawed and wrought with the manipulative signs of late capitalism: to get your paycheck, you need to give up 1% of it; to have a crack at being rich, you have to pay money that is really more like throwing it away; to support your family, you need to give up another percentage to use western union; to talk to them, you have to buy a phone card.

the only people who regularly use these stores are working class, immigrants, and the desperately poor. i suppose every once in a while an artist like me trying to play the lotto goes in, but then again, i'm now in manual labor, with co-workers who cash their checks at similar places every friday. i'm a part of this culture, now, yet in the position of observer.

i can't help but dwell on the injustice while also feeling a twinge of class guilt when i buy these tickets. i'm amazed that exploring my dreams through imagined riches also bring me back to a certain reality and adjusted perspective.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

my first ticket: alas!

here is my first ticket.

there were no matches with the winning number. there was no winning ticket, so the jackpot has gone up to over 200 million. later on today, i'll be buying another ticket for tomorrow's draw.

incidentally, this is not my first lotto ticket ever, however. that would be three plays i did in december while visiting my partner's family. my mother in-law, a very successful surgeon, saw that the jackpot was high and said, "maybe we should play!" so i volunteered to get her a ticket. she gave me some money and told me to buy some for myself.

it was a good excuse for me to actually buy one, since i so often joked about it. so i went into a liquor store while my father in-law walked around looking at wine. of course, the form is stupidly simple, thus paradoxically confusing. i filled it out totally wrong, so the nice korean man had to tell me how to do it right. i chose one number and requested two quick draws. that yielded nothing, too.

i remember joking with my partner about how even though i saw her parents as wealthy, they wanted to play the lotto. just goes to show that we're always wanting more money, even when we have a lot. i wonder if i win this jackpot whether i will still want more...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the method of "starving artist: the lotto plan"

i decided to begin the piece this week, tuesday, to be exact.

even though the idea was in my head since april to do this, it wasn't until the last few weeks that i've heard myself actually thinking about "the lotto plan."

then, once i decided i would actually do this piece (as most artists i know, i have a long list of pieces that are stuck in my head and never actually executed), i set out a method.

first, i researched the types of lotteries in texas. i went to the website and looked at everything from mega millions to scratch-offs. each game had its merits. i toyed with many possibilities. mega millions had the biggest jackpot. scratch-offs would have better odds and more colorful pieces to use for my physical documentation of the piece. texas lotto felt more "local." and texas two-step kept beckoning me everytime i would pass the billboard going home from softball.

i ultimately decided to play mega milions because it was more in the vein of how i envision "the lotto plan."

firstly, when i fantasize about being rich, i do it in an obscene manner. none of this semi-tasteful upper-middle class shit. no, i want to visit a new country every week. rent a villa in tuscany and fly me and my family out on a private jet. i want to donate several years worth of operating budgets to multiple non-profits. i want to endow a chairship, send multiple people through college/art school/med school, buy a 67 mustang for myself and an early model datsun z for my partner and outfit them to be fueled by bio diesel. i want to wear bespoke shoes and suits while tromping the grounds of my scottish castle. i want to sponsor solar panel programs for low-income, first-time homeowners, only, of course, after slapping panels on every property i own. these things cannot be done with a mere 500 grand (which, after taxes and paying off my loans and debts, would be more like 100k). no, if i'm going to win, i'll need the bucu bucks, at least 10 million to start. secondly, this piece is less about actually winning than it is the ritual of buying the tickets, waiting and hoping. it's about examining my own struggle for financial security whilst trying to remain artistically authentic. it's about seeing exactly how far my imagination can go if the sky is the limit, and then somehow reaching for those dreams with what i have in front of me. it's about that cheesey metaphor between the whims of the arts establishment and the near impossibility of the lottery draw.

after deciding on mega millions, i had to choose numbers. when i was doing my initial research, i carefully copied down a list of numbers that had thus far yielded the most picks (the website breaks down and publishes this information). but again, i realized that somehow this needed to be a very personal set of numbers. i did various types of brainstorming for numbers. i played with birthdays of myself and those in my family, birth months and years. i figured out my numerology number. i added every number in my birthday together, i multiplied the number of people in my family times other dates. i came up with a set of numbers. i then eliminated any figures with the number 4 in it (4 is a very unlucky number in japan, as it is a homonym with "death"). then, with a dash of chances processes and intuition, i came up with this set of numbers:
2=my numerology number
7=the birthday month of both my partner and my father, and the day of my brother's birthday
11=my birthday month
29=my current age
37=the year my mother was born
8 (megaball)=my mother and my brother's birth month

and so now you know my game! wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

starving artist: the lotto plan

when i became a "full-time" artist seven months ago, i only had a vague plan: i would support myself by spending my savings for a while, apply for grants and fellowships, and take freelance jobs here and there to make ends meet.

i auditioned for stuff. i submitted my work to film festivals and exhibitions. i applied for every grant, award, and residency i could find. and then i started receiving the inevitable: rejection after rejection.

around mid-april, the string of rejections lead to a deep neurosis about my financial stability.
my money was disappearing quick, and very little i did would replenish it. i sold some things. i put ads on my website. i opened a cafepress store. but my neuroses lead to me spending more time thinking about money rather than being creative. what use was it for me to quit my job if i wasn't going to make things?

at the advice of my therapist, i took a part-time job sanding in a woodshop. i enjoy it a lot; i use my hands and have to trust my senses with every piece of wood that hits my workbench. working with wood is an engrossing craft, even meditative.

but as much as i enjoy woodworking, i know that it is not my calling. and even though i took it to earn some money, i'm making less than half of what i did working at UT.

so even though i am not nearly as neurotic as i was about four months ago, money is often on the mind.

when i am this strapped for cash, i find myself budgeting on what i call "the lotto plan." i think a lot of us do it--think about all the things we would do with more money than we can even imagine. my plans (which i will probably explore here over time) often involve: paying off my student loans and credit card debt; donating money to various social justice and arts organizations that need it, commissioning art from my artist friends; paying for my partner to go on leave; flying a whole bunch of friends and family to austin for a huge party; buying group healthcare for all these uninsured dykes i know; traveling to a different place every month...

"the lotto plan" has been very active in my mind. i find myself telling folks, "when i win the lotto..." i'll buy you a horse, i'll get us a pool, i'll buy that table saw off you, i'll own a biodiesel truck.

it's exciting to think about the possibilities, even if you are faced with the impossibility of numbers. in my mind, getting a sizeable grant or competitive residency feels just as hard, if not harder, than winning the lotto. i remember a professor from college telling me about how competitions were decided on what a judge ate for breakfast.

all these factors have lead me to a perform conceptual piece i will carry out for the next year called, "starving artist." here is the score"
  • i will buy one mega millions lotto ticket for every drawing (tuesday and friday)
  • i will use numbers that are personally significant
  • i will use only one set of numbers throughout the year
  • i will collect the stubs and mount them on a medium as an archive/visual aspect of the piece
  • in the event that i win something, i will claim the prize and retain a copy of the stub to be added to the piece
and so, the journey begins.