Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ebay Abuse

News Item:
It was a last-minute project for Linda Bargas and her children in Pueblo. Bargas bought one of the last Easter egg dye kits at the store.
Bargas said, "We were getting ready to go to the Easter Vigil. I had egg all over me. Just dyed the egg, and it was dripping. And the kids were like, we're going to be late, we're going to be late, so I took the egg and I blew on it. And when I blew on it, I see the image. Oh my gosh kids, look what happened."
What appeared on that egg eight years ago to Bargas and all of her friends and family is the image of the face of Jesus Christ. Bargas stopped short of calling it a miracle, "I think it just happened, and it's something beautiful to look at."
The egg is still hard-boiled, and it doesn't carry any odor. Bargas plans to sell it on eBay. "It's lasted in my house for eight years. Will I miss it? Probably a little bit. But it's time for it to go."
I've had it with this "Jesus/Virgin Mary in the [insert thing]" nonsense. The worst part is, that slices of toast and screwed-up Easter eggs are put on sale, and presumably, people are bidding. I'm skeptical.
So far, the bids are at $14,999, but everyone who has bid on it has a "0" Ebay feedback score, and one has changed their member name. So, I decided to send a challenging e-mail to the seller, glaeser2006:
Pretty cool. You've managed to scam the media and get some of your friends to bid up the price hoping that one genuine bidder will fall for your nonsense. Good luck to your project. How do you know what Jesus looks like? I think your egg looks like Jay Leno.
The response I got answered none of my questions:
Please understand that this is being sold as a piece of art and in no way presented as a religious miracle, nor to capitalize in Jesus name or image. As a piece of art, the eye is in the beholder.
We will see, in 6 days whether any real person has ponied up the money for this so-called piece of art. It's a piece, all right.
And, glaeser2006, if that is your real name, the eye may be in the beholder, as you claim, and the egg may carry no odor, as the news story said - but this surely stinks.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Ticket Racket

Recently, I was required to do something that I would rather not do. I had to deal with Ticketmaster. The Dave Matthews Band is going on their summer tour, and it's time to deal with the devil, which means Ticketmaster, which isn't Hell, but you can see it from there.
While I promised myself that this blog would not be a personal diary of my life, the Ticketmaster experience is enough of a worldly pain in the ass that I cannot imagine anyone having anything nice to say about it. Yet, we continue to deal with it, Pearl Jam notwithstanding.
It's because the ticket machine has become a monster. Legal scalpers on the web, phone scams and schemes of all sorts are used to bag precious tickets. So my pain is probably your pain, and I suspect that if you have anything nice to say about getting tickets to a show, it's because you were able to get them. Otherwise, you dealt with busy signals and "server busy" messages.
And speaking of servers, what's with that ridiculous word jumble we have to type to get to the ticket search window? Words I've never heard of - and I've heard of a lot of words. Words like decamp, towned and thionyl. Yes, that's right, thionyl. And don't make a mistake typing it, or you're relegated back to the dreaded "Event Screen."
Let's use them in a sentence: "Today, our group attempted to decamp, but the bus was towned at a stop sign when it ran out of thionyl." If my english professor was dead he'd be turning over in his grave.
The thing that bugs me the most about the ticket racket is, of course, the price. I realize it's a long time ago, but in 1975 when I started going to shows, tickets were $5.50. I saw Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Black Sabbath and The Kinks - all first-rate headliners - at The Spectrum in Philadelphia for less than six dollars. I will see The Dave Matthews Band, also a first-rate headliner, at the Tweeter Center in Camden for $60, or roughly ten times the cost of a show 30 years ago.
Does anything else cost ten times as much now as it did 30 years ago? I don't think so, and if you, dear readers, can think of anything, post a comment, but I am at a loss.
Oddly, the shows are not ten times better, or even that much different than they were in 1975. They're the same length, the stage is the same size, the lighting is a little better (but not ten times better) and the sound systems have not improved much. So, where am I to assume that the extra $55 is going?
Almost $10 of it is going to Ticketmaster (which was Ticketron in 1975), and I think the service charge back then was fifty cents. For the record, the tickets still look the same. We had to go to a local record store and stand in line for hours. Now, we sit at the computer and they mail them to us ... for $10. Or, if we print them ourselves, they charge us another $2.50. Is there something wrong here?
But we pay it, don't we? We fall all over ourselves to pay $250 to see aged Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones, so why should Ticketmaster change if we are not willing to?

Our taxing duty

Fear is a great motivator. We use it against children to keep them in line. Bill collectors use it against us so that we'll keep making payments, and our doctor uses it so that we will stop our death-defying lifestyle.
However, I do not believe that our government should use it to get us to pay our taxes. It works, but just because something works doesn't necessarily make it morally right.
Your taxes are due on Monday. I say "yours" because I've already filed mine, and if you haven't filed yours, it's either because you procrastinated too long, you owe a lot of money or you just plain don't understand the tax code. But the basic reason you're going to pay is because you're afraid not to. You've already had money deducted from your paycheck every week, but it may not be enough. If it's too much, chances are you've already filed, but if you owe, you live in fear until the check clears.
One thing I know for certain is that on the Monday 11 o'clock news, the lead story will be herds of frightened taxpayers standing in line at the post office, waiting so that they'll get their returns postmarked before midnight. How pathetic.
This isn't one of those deals where you can turn up the volume on the car radio and make the squeaking noise go away. The government is relentless, and if you don't file, they will hunt you down and make your life a living Hell - if it isn't already. If it is, we could say they're "piling on."
However, I do wonder why the system has to be so intricate. I took a taxation course in college, and the textbook was thick, heavy and complex. Why? Because there are more loopholes, dodges and caveats than any other activity. It's easier to fill out a mortgage application than it is to complete your taxes - and at least with the mortgage, you have a nice home when you're finished. When you fill out your tax forms, you feel drained, abused and worried that you may have made a mistake.
I don't think that the government should have to use fear to get people to do something. And we certainly shouldn't have to go to a professional to file our taxes. Any paperwork that needs a paid professional is too complicated. The average American worker should be able to fill out a tax form and send it in without perspiring. Our lives are hard enough without having our government making it harder.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Money Than Brains

News Item:
London's most expensive sandwich, nick-named 'The MacDonald Sandwich', is seen at Selfridges in London April 10, 2006. The sandwich, which is on sale for 85 pounds ($148), contains ingredients of Wagyu beef, fresh lobe foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, brie de meaux, rocket, red pepper and mustard confit and English plum tomatoes.
Someone in England is willing to pay 148 US dollars for a sandwich with ingredients that I can't even pronounce. I'm afraid we've lost our way, folks. When I think about all the things that $148 will buy, a sandwich comes at the end, with maybe the last eight dollars - probably less, but it sure doesn't eat up the whole wad. Hmmmm ... I haven't used the phrase "eat up the whole wad" in a while. But I digress.
I have to admit that I don't know what lobe foie gras is, but I'm not ashamed. Yesterday, for lunch, I had a veggie wrap, and I could name every vegatable in it, including the tomato wrap and the pepper jack cheese. I'd feel like a real schmuck if I paid more than $6 for it, and it might even have tasted better than that ridiculous garbage-pile-between-two-slices-of-bread. Something tells me that if I gave this "MacDonald" thing to one of my homeless friends in Philadelphia, he'd give it back, because they don't care a whit about Wagyu beef either. There's something charming about that. The 3 dollar sandwich from Burger King means more to them than this pretentious pile, because it satisfies their basic need - hunger.
I guess (to get deeply philosophical on your ass) that the appeal of the MacDonald sandwich lies in the attitude that encourages people to buy Hummers, huge homes and expensive wine. They buy them because they can. Otherwise, the cheaper car still gets you to work, the smaller home still holds your stuff and the cheaper wine still gets you drunk. They buy the expensive stuff because it makes them feel like they're better than me, but I know better.
It doesn't impress me, because I know that the person in the big home, driving his expensive car to buy the fancy wine could still be an asshole.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another Missed Opportunity

When I post a high score on the Yahtzee game on my Sony cell phone, it tells me "You Played Like a Real Pro!" Geez, I didn't even know there were professional cell phone Yahtzee leagues.
But, if I need to use steroids to compete, then I guess I'll have to pass. Yahtzee, I'm guessing, is best played either stoned or drunk. In that case, count me in.
Conversely, when I post a low score (because, I assume, I am not drunk enough) it tells me that "you need to practice some more." I interpret that to mean that I need to use more Southern Comfort and less cranberry juice.
Practice makes perfect.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

The Money Grab

On Tuesday, we are being subjected to yet another money grab by the entertainment industry.
The re-packaged versions of the Beatles albums that were originally released in the United States are being re-released on CD. That's right.
Never mind that the albums have already been released, albeit in their British forms - that is to say, their intended forms - and I suspect that anyone who wants them has already bought them.
But the good folks at Capitol Records have seen fit to suck some more money out of erstwhile Beatles fans with another set of CDs. Capitol ripped us off back in the 60s when they re-packaged the original Beatles albums for sale in the U.S. Old habits die hard, and this one has more lives than Freddy Kruger. Here we go again!
But wait! these are DIGITALLY REMASTERED - LIMITED EDITION - PRESENTED IN MONO & STEREO. Mono? What year is this? Do I want to regress back to the glorious days of mono? I have a CD player in my car, an MP3 player and a portable CD player, and they're giving me mono! Wow, what more could I want?
And, as we now know, several of these tracks ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME ON CD! Woo-hoo, $55.98 for "In the Tyrol", one of the incidential instrumental tracks from the Help soundtrack. Who wants to be the first in line for that gem?
My only hope in all this artist-raping-the-public scam is that Michael Jackson no longer owns the rights to the songs. What percentage of the profits from the sales of this junk is going to his pedophile amusement park?
Finance it if you want, but as for me, if I want mono, I'll listen to my old LPs. And if the kids want mono, they can go to Jacko's ranch.