Friday, July 20, 2007


The Importance of Gold

Valerie Conners, World's Best Bathrooms, 1. Lam Sai Wing's Golden Bathroom:
No expense was spared when jeweler Lam Sai Wing created a golden bathroom in his Hong Kong jewelry store. Spending over $4 million on 24K gold amenities, Lam has created a wash closet with over-the-top opulence.

After his jeweler's business achieved extraordinary financial success and having been inspired by Vladimir Lenin's aspirations to give golden toilets to the masses, Lam decided to take the plunge and build the bathroom.

Not a single bathroom nook or cranny lacks the shiny ore. Golden sinks, toilet paper dispensers, tissue boxes, tiles, a chandelier and mirror frames fill the room, but aren't for just any average visitor to see … customers are granted access only after spending at least $200 in the store.

Such an extravagant washroom isn't without its rules: Shoes are not allowed inside, for fear of tracking out gold on their soles. Before leaving the sumptuous loo, take a look toward the heavens; Lam had the golden ceiling encrusted with rubies, emeralds, pearls and sapphires.

The quotation from Lenin comes from his essay on The Importance Of Gold Now And After The Complete Victory Of Socialism, Pravda 251 (Nov. 6-7, 1921), tr. David Skvirsky and George Hanna:
When we are victorious on a world scale I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories in the streets of some of the largest cities of the world. This would be the most "just" and most educational way of utilising gold for the benefit of these generations which have not forgotten how, for the sake of gold, ten million men were killed and thirty million maimed in the "great war for freedom", the war of 1914-18, the war that was waged to decide the great question of which peace was the worst, that of Brest or that of Versailles; and how, for the sake of this same gold, they certainly intend to kill twenty million men and to maim sixty million in a war, say, in 1925, or 1928, between, say, Japan and the U.S.A., or between Britain and the U.S.A., or something like that.
But I wonder if Lam Sai Wing might have been inspired not by the words of Lenin but by the example of Bassus (Martial 1.37):
You capture your bowels' load in unfortunate gold, Bassus, nor does it shame you. You drink from glass. Therefore it costs you more to defecate.

Ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro,
  Basse, bibis vitro: carius ergo cacas.
See also Thomas More, Utopia II (tr. G.C. Richards, rev. Edward Surtz):
While they eat and drink from earthenware and glassware of fine workmanship but of little value, from gold and silver they make chamber pots and all the humblest vessels for use everywhere, not only in the common halls but in private homes also. Moreover, they employ the same metals to make the chains and solid fetters which they put on their slaves. Finally, as for those who bear the stigma of disgrace on account of some crime, they have gold ornaments hanging from their ears, gold rings encircling their fingers, gold chains thrown around their necks, and, as a last touch, a gold crown binding their temples. Thus by every means in their power they make gold and silver a mark of ill fame. In this way, too, it happens that, while all other nations bear the loss of these metals with as great grief as if they were losing their very vitals, if circumstances in Utopia ever required the removal of all gold and silver, no one would feel that he were losing as much as a penny.

nam cum in fictilibus e terra vitroque elegantissimis quidem illis, sed vilibus tamen edant bibantque. ex auro, atque argento non in communibus aulis modo, sed in privatis etiam domibus, matellas passim, ac sordidissima quaeque vasa conficiunt. ad haec catenas et crassas compedes, quibus cohercent servos; iisdem ex metallis operantur. postremo quoscumque aliquod crimen infames facit, ab horum auribus anuli dependent aurei, digitos aurum cingit, aurea torques ambit collum, et caput denique auro vincitur. ita omnibus curant modis, uti apud se aurum argentumque in ignominia sint, atque hoc pacto fit, ut haec metalla, quae ceterae gentes non minus fere dolenter ac viscera sua distrahi patiuntur, apud Utopienses, si semel omnia res postularet efferri, nemo sibi iacturam unius fecisse assis videretur.

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