Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Airing of Grievances

"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."
The blog is green for Earth Day, which is either today, tomorrow or yesterday depending on when you are reading. That's about all I'm doing, since I don't have any lamps in the place where I can put in those squiggly bulbs. I'm already running low-flow shower heads and my car is a PZEV (Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle), so I think I'm maxed out.

There's a meteor shower on Sunday night. The Lyrid one. 18 per hour, they say. I'm not all that worked-up, unless one of them slips through and hits my car.

I know I shouldn't torture myself, but I was tuned into Fox News today, and they had some sort of round-table discussion of the media's coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, and whether or not the TV news got a little carried away. Surprise. The people on TV thought that the news coverage was fair and not at all overboard. Sure. That discussion followed Brian Williams' declaration that "the Virginia Tech campus will forever be known as the place where the biggest mass shooting in America's history took place." For now, yes. Until the next one, when some attention-starved jackass sets out to kill more than 32 people. Don't think it will happen? You're not paying attention.
The discussion was preceded by them showing a letter that some VT students had written as an open letter to the media, asking them to please get off the campus and allow them to heal. Then, they showed a picture of about a hundred big white trucks with the big satellite dishes. They probably don't get that many TV trucks on campus for football games.
My peaceful afternoon was disrupted by my new downstairs neighbor who decided to power wash the outside of his condo. It made so much noise, I thought a meteor crashed in the parking lot. Dude, it's a condo. We don't do outside stuff. That's what the massive condo fee is for. Jackass. It shaved another week off my cat's life, too, I think.
When I got home from the grocery store, I flipped on the TV and the NASCAR race on Fox. Some kid was singing the National Anthem, and he didn't fail to disappoint me with (1) his pace, which made it sound like a dirge rather than what it is - an old English drinking tune, and (2) the mispronunciation of per-o-liss, which sometimes comes in as par-a-liss. It's perilous. Peril. lous. As is typical, when he got to ...the land of the free ... (which was more like la-and and faree) the F-16 flyover occurred. As though fighter jets equals freedom. I'm a little sick of that, too.
I bought a new key chain. I know. It has a little bottle opener, which comes in handy if I'm driving around and the beer isn't one of those twist-off ones. Be prepared.
That's what the NASCAR commentators were saying about Kevin Harvick. The race started late, and goes into the night-time hours. He was wearing a clear face shield on his helmet instead of the tinted one he usually uses. The guys in the booth made it sound like he discovered Plutonium when they said that he discussed it with his crew, and they decided that the sun was going down, and he should be prepared. Gets late. Sun go down. Got it.
Rocket science meets NASCAR. I bet they'll be looking for the meteors on Sunday night.
Here's a hint for them: Look up and take off your sunglasses.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Premium Remsen Low Rise Slim Straight

Believe it or not, I take this blogging thing seriously. It's almost like a job to me. Most days, I get a little stressed because I realize it's getting late and I have nothing to say. Generally, something odd happens that gets me excited about writing. Other times, I get blind-sided by something and I can't help but run to the log-in and throw it up there. That happened today.
I get e-mail from Abercrombie & Fitch because I bought a t-shirt from them 5 years ago. I don't regularly shop there because I find that American Eagle Outfitters, Eddie Bauer or Land's End offer better value and sometimes, better quality products.
They sent me a catalog link today, and I started browsing around. I need jeans, so I was naturally attracted to the ones pictured above. Wouldn't you be?
Fashion-wise, I guess the idea is that you are purposely wearing something that looks like it should be thrown away, which makes distressed jeans and an iPod a perfect match. Usually, they cost about 40 bucks and you should feel comfortable in them because you figure you can't mess them up.
These things, however, take distressed to a whole new level.

Three hundred and ninety-eight dollars.
"Constructed by the best craftsmen" it says. I understand. You wouldn't want unskilled labor working on your one-of-a-kind destroyed pants. "No two pairs are the same". Could you tell if they were?
"Made from the highest-quality cotton". Sure. I wouldn't want you using low-quality cotton on pants like this. "Unique intricacies" and "individually hand numbered". Anybody have any numbering suggestions?
People who buy these things should be investigated by the FBI and made to donate at least 10% of the purchase price to charity.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The iPod Shuffle

Here’s the latest in the area of planned obsolescence, and I’ll bet you didn’t know this when you bought your fancy new iPod. Get ready to throw it in the trash, and remember to back-up your files:

"These days, the champion of audio obsolescence is Apple," writes Giles Slade in the March/April issue of Mother Jones. The iPod is the poster child for products that are designed to be disposable. Apple limits the lifespan of iPod batteries and constantly introduces new products - an alarming fact considering that iPods are crammed with lead, mercury and other toxic materials that can end up in landfills and contaminate groundwater. Apple is hardly alone in generating toxic waste. For example, Microsoft's new memory-hogging Vista operating system will effectively render many existing PCs obsolete.

On April 9, 2007 it was announced that Apple had sold its one-hundred millionth iPod, making it the biggest selling digital music player of all time.
100,000,000 of those little bastards, all designed to be disposable. That's great. Is anybody besides me feeling used? By the way, I think it's interesting that they sell leather and Body Glove cases for those things that may actually last longer than the player itself. What is the case protecting?

And I'll bet all those "accessories" that they sell to go with the iPod - the docking speakers, the car adapters - all will last a lifetime, so you'll be stuck with all that extra junk while the iPod is dead. Then, you'll say, "Gee, I have the other stuff, I guess I'd better buy another iPod."

I guess it isn’t surprising that Apple and Microsoft have us by the shorties, and we are a willing participant in their little end-game that they call Keep Buying Stuff. We love to buy stuff and they love selling it to us, so it’s a match made in disposable Heaven. It works on the corporate level, too, because companies are under constant pressure to increase their earnings. Why bother to make a product that will last ten years when they can make something that has to be replaced every two years? You don't have to be a Wharton School grad to know that.

I see those iPods strapped to the arms of happy listeners all over the place, and I wonder how many of them know that the battery re-charge train will soon come to a halt? I hope they don’t throw it in the trash can, but I have a feeling that's where they are going to wind up ... eventually.

Long ago, I wrote about our throw-away society and how things seem to be made to be discarded. It’s a shame that we have such sophisticated technology, yet we allow these things that we work so hard to accumulate to be thrown away without a second thought. Not only does it make for bad landfill material, but it works in a subversive way at something that is irreversible.

Even though I have no children of my own (that I know of), I think about the influence that we adults are having on kids with the various silly and wasteful habits that we perform as though they were second nature, and I think it sets a bad example.

In light of recent events, I'm wishing that guns had batteries that went bad. Then, we could throw them out and replace them with something more useful.
There's something I wouldn't mind seeing in a landfill.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Phase Two

The media swarm has descended on Blacksburg, Virginia. I can only imagine the phone calls to Couric, Gibson and Williams on Monday afternoon, telling them to pack (if they aren't already) and head out to Virginia. Once the national parasites checked in, it was only a matter of time (minutes) until the locals had their reservations.
Philadelphia's local news had at least two reporters from each station on the scene. Multiply that by 4 (local news here) times all the markets with local news (Umteen) and it must be a media nightmare for the locals. I don't see the value in sending a local news face to do a report on the scene. Does Action News' Dann Cuellar bring any value to the report that we couldn't get from the local ABC outlet in Virginia - who may actually know something about the town and its people? It strikes me as an invasion, and a little exploitative - but that's modern journalism for ya.
In my perfect world, as mayor of Blacksburg, it would be "Get the f*** out of my town!"

It was at this point that I was going to go on a rant about how the networks put up their own themes, replete with accompanying music - and placed their anchors in front of those Hokie stone buildings for the full dramatic effect ...
But then, I figured ... who gives a f**k? None of it matters, in the long run. They do this with every tragic story. They never camp out in front of a Mega-Millions Lottery winner's house and descend on them with reporters. It only happens when they can use the word TRAGEDY or MASSACRE in the title and build on the drama that has already unfolded. It's all part of what they all must learn at whatever school of "journalism" they attend. Probably led by some guest speaker who tells them how to pack and which eyebrow to raise when the "troubled loner" is uncovered.
By the way, that kid gives "loners" a bad name.
So, what I decided to do in response is post another picture of something that makes me happy and allow the media circus to finish its third ring. I have made my point and figure that the world will continue to spin regardless, so here is something that makes me smile and allows me to move on to Phase Three - The Entertainment of the Masses...
So, screw you if you don't agree with my opinion of how ridiculous guns are. I exhausted myself at our lunch table at work today, and I only wish I had a putter to clench between my teeth to combat the nonsense that was being spewed by my fellow workers who think that "target practice" requires a 9mm gun or that "sport" equals killing animals.
The big argument (discussion) that ensued concerned what the table considered their "loss of personal freedom" if the guns were taken away. I didn't consider it a loss of freedom, since I wasn't the least bit concerned with losing something that I didn't want to begin with.
Combine that with the fact that they still could not come up with something positive that guns did - I issued a similar challenge to the table that I issued to my readers - and you can imagine my disgust, and delight that I had finished eating prior to the beginning of the discussion (argument). Nevertheless, it was stimulating, although, since it happened a little after noon, I had nothing to do but return to work.
What I really wanted was a stiff martini and a nap.
UPDATE: The media circus entererd its third ring when I saw, as I was buying my morning newspaper, that one local news outlet was doing their morning report in Blacksburg. I repeat, I really don't see the point, other than exploitation, in which they seem to specialize.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's enough already with the guns.

This story broke during the day on Monday. Briefly:
Two shooting incidents on the Virginia Tech campus today have left 33 dead. Thirty-one, including the gunman, died at Norris Hall; two died at West Ambler Johnston Hall. Fifteen other victims from Norris are being treated at area hospitals.
The VT campus is beautiful. I was there about 12 years ago on my way home from Tennessee. The buildings are beautiful grey stone that they call Hokie Stone, which is a variety of limestone that they have been using since 1901. It is quite striking against the green Virginia landscape. Until today, it was the most memorable thing about the school.
When I got home from work, I switched on the TV, and up came the BBC News, which is on one of the cable outlets here. The reporter seemed incredulous that such a thing could happen. As a journalist, I could tell that he was challenged, both by Great Britain's attitude toward handguns and his own. He was professional enough to allow it to be a mere distraction, but I could tell he found the whole thing senseless and completely "American", when he started talking about how "many Americans see it as their Constitutional right to bear arms", or something like that. I was starting to seethe and my blood pressure was a little above normal, so I am not sure I was hearing him correctly.
At that point, the story cut to a video clip of Charlton Heston, celebrity spokesman for the National Rifle Association, telling an assembled crowd of like-minded gun nuts that they could take his gun "from my cold, dead hand" as he thrust a rifle in the air.
All I could think was "deal".
Then, just like Sunday's post about Governor Corzine being "lucky" in his accident, up steps an idiot with a comment to bring everything into an illogical perspective:

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

As usual, the White House has it ass backwards. Laws cannot be followed, which is precisely why we cannot continue to allow guns to be in the hands of citizens.
I wondered to myself about the logic of such an act and such a statement, and I continue to be at a loss. One thought continues to come to the front of my mind, blocking out all others.
The thought is that I cannot find anything that guns do that is positive. They kill people, animals and generally destroy anything that wanders into their path. Nothing positive comes from destruction. Not war, not death, not destruction. Nothing. People who like guns tell me that we have a right to bear them, own them and use them.
All that guns do is undo everything that people do, and I cannot think of anything that is "right" about that.
We all have that moment where we decide, like Popeye, that "I've had all I can stand, and I can't stands no more!" That's where he grabs the can of spinach and squeezes hard, his biceps and forearms grow and he gets an assed-up attitude about whatever is going wrong in his life and sets about to change it by pummeling Bluto. It's the same as that Network moment when Howard Beale shouts out the window, "I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
That moment came for me today with guns. It's about time, really. I don't want to hear about the powerful gun lobby or all the money they throw at politics to keep things the way they are. I don't want to hear their nonsense about how people kill people, not guns. I don't want to hear about guns as a hobby or guns for hunting for food. Buy a dead animal and eat it the way the rest of us do. It isn't "sport" to kill a deer with a telescopic sight - it's murder - just like it is with people.
I want this country to do the right thing and not the politically right thing. Just once.
Now, I challenge my readers to tell me one thing ... one thing that guns do that is positive. Just one. Not ten or five ... Or even three. Just one. One positive fucking thing. This post will be up for a long time, and I will be here a while, too, so I will wait as long as it takes for someone - anyone - to tell me something that guns do that benefits society.
Take all the time you need.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Instant Fame for Shilpa Shetty

I had no idea who Shilpa Shetty was until Richard Gere performed this unthinkable act on her on Sunday.
NEW DELHI - Angry crowds in several Indian cities burned effigies Richard Gere on Monday after he swept a popular Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty into his arms and kissed her several times during an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi. Pictures were splashed across Monday's front pages in India — a country where sex and public displays of affection are largely taboo. In Mumbai, members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena beat burning effigies of Gere with sticks and set fire to glamorous shots of Shetty.

It sounds more like a Shilpa Shetty awareness event. And I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to get effigy materials. In some places, the effigy thing seems to be second nature. Just like hugging is here. Shilpa Shetty is a cool name, though. Kind of rolls off the tongue.

I suppose Gere is supposed to know better? Gere is a well-known Buddhist and an active supporter of the Dalai Lama. He has also been a persistent advocate for better human rights in Tibet; he was a co-founder of the Tibet House and served on the Board of Directors for the International Campaign for Tibet. He also campaigns for ecological causes and AIDS awareness, and has expressed his concern for AIDS problems in India. Because he strongly supports the Tibetan Independence Movement, he is permanently banned from entering China.
But, in the end, he's a Philadelphian, proving that you can take the boy out of Philly, but you can't take the Philly out of the boy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Buckle up for safety.

(CBS3/AP) GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Gov. Jon S. Corzine was apparently riding without a seat belt, in violation of state law, when he was critically injured in the crash of his official vehicle, a spokesman said Friday. A state trooper was at the wheel and the governor was sitting as usual in the front passenger seat when the SUV slammed into a guard rail Thursday night, authorities said. Corzine broke a leg, his breastbone, 12 ribs and a vertebra. When asked why the trooper who was driving would not have asked Corzine to put on his seat belt, Shea said the governor was "not always amenable to suggestion."
So, he's a cranky old guy who intimidated a State Trooper into allowing him to ride without his seat belt. Not only is that bad policy, but it is bad police work. If it were you or I in that vehicle, you can be damned sure that the trooper would tell us to wear our seat belt. Either that, or out of fear we would buckle it ourselves. I'm going to try that amenable to suggestion defense the next time one of them pulls me over. How do you think that will work for me?
"Given the severity of this accident, probably no one should have been seriously injured if they were wearing seat belts," said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "But when your body is thrown around, there are lots of things that you can hit that hurt you."
Without a seat belt to restrain him, Corzine likely was thrown violently about the interior of the vehicle. His broken ribs and sternum suggest he was thrown into the dashboard, said Steven C. Batterman, a forensic engineering consultant and professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Medicine.
There is also a question as to how fast the vehicle was traveling when the crash occurred. The speed limit on that road is 65mph. If my morning commute on the Atlantic City Expressway is any indication, they were probably traveling around 90. Routinely, state police vehicles run down the left lane, scattering cars trying to pass and generally going nowhere fast.
I always wonder why it is necessary for them to go so fast. The answer I give myself is, "Because they can," which is a stupid answer, because they can also go 65 like the rest of us. They can wear seat belts, too, like the rest of us. "Because he is the governor" is another stupid answer. He would probably agree, but he's in the hospital now with a breathing tube, and the seat belt violation will cost him $46.
That sounds like a bargain.
Then comes the stupid comment that always seems to come in these types of situations. To wit:
"Based on the pictures I've seen of the crash, I think he was lucky," said Steven Ross, head of the Cooper University Hospital trauma unit in Camden.
Lucky? Based on the pictures I've seen (and posted) I'd say he's horribly unfortunate. Luck is a by-product of a simple mind, and I have no place for it in anything I think or feel. Frankly, I'm a little surprized that a physician would make such a silly remark. But, they're human, aren't they? I hope he doesn't lean too heavily on luck if he ever operates on me.
Generally, when some unfortunate victim meets a horrible circumstance, some jackass tells the world that he was "lucky" that he wasn't killed or maimed in a more horrible way than he already was. If they truly believe in luck, then the other vehicle would have missed them altogether and they would be sitting at home reading the newspaper instead of lying in a hospital bed with a breathing tube and metal rods in their body.