When recently asked by a fellow member of the mid-life crisis club if I had a problem with my kids blasting out rap music, I indicated that for me, listening to rap music was up there with leisure pursuits such as "snorting wasabi" or participating in a contest to determine "how long young can you tolerate 2 ferrets in your board shorts" - fair to say I'm not a huge fan.
Although, I do recognise that rap culture has contributed to society in the form of mind numbingly monotonous dirges, the acceptability of public displays of crotch grabbing, an inability to stand still whilst speaking and a recognition of the importance of turning your left hand into a dummy water pistol if you wish to emphasise a point to your conversational interlocutor.
There are however a couple of lessons we can learn from these 21st century minstrels:
- they spotted the investment potential of gold ahead of the curve and
- they realised that to appeal to the youth of the day you need a stupid nickname e.g. Ice T, 50 cent, Biz Markie, Bryan 'Birdman' Williams.
Now I don't for one minute expect we will have materials science lecturers attempting to recruit more students by donning the tags, "Fred 'Phase Diagrams' Frenkel and Chuck 'The Tribometer' Charles, but it would be an interesting student engagement approach.
What is "materially" interesting about the rapping fraternity is that the recent recession has apparently led to many of them selling off their hard earned gold chains and grillz.
Maybe the kings of street trash talking are ahead of the game again? Gold has recently shot through US$1,100 an ounce and perhaps it's peaked? Or is it that rappers are also feeling the sharp grip of the recession and realising the value of their assets at an opportune moment? I suspect it's the latter.
Several forecasters indicate gold could be heading up through US$2000 an ounce. The last time I wrote about gold in this column, April 2003, I commented on the record price of US$389 an ounce.
Now we're big fans of the achievements of the World Gold Council in expanding the industrial uses of gold, but the primary price driver currently appears to be non-US governments who view gold as a relatively safe investment in comparison to what has been to date the world's reserve currency, namely the US Dollar.
Although the "Gold Standard" was described by John Maynard Keynes even in 1924 as a "Barbarous Relic", there is abroad an increasing mistrust of paper based currencies and the shiny metal is definitely back in vogue with the government of India recently purchasing 200 tonnes, equivalent to 8% of world annual mine production.
The gold price situation is also compounded by the laws of supply and demand as we may also have surpassed "Peak Gold" production.
But every supply problem has a solution. In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the then head of the colony of New South Wales, overcame a currency shortage by purchasing Spanish silver dollars and punching out the middle to create two coins, thereby doubling the amount of coins in circulation.
The "Holey Dollar" as it became known, is now the logo of one of the world's leading merchant banks, the Macquarie Group.
It would appear it has always been in the bloodline of Merchant Banks to come up with innovative forms of financial engineering to overcome currency shortages!
"If you aint got that bling, just punch that coin in……."
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