Friday, April 27, 2007

An interview meme from youyou

Blogger buddy Sparky Duck, over at Philly Transplant ran this interview meme post a few days ago. It sounded like fun, so I asked him to send me 5 questions. As it is, I’m a little burned out over that American Idol rant on Friday. Those things take a lot out of me, so this was a welcome change of pace. It won’t get nearly the number of page hits I got with the AI material, but it’s a lot more user-friendly, and probably more reader-friendly, too.
So, here we go. Five questions and five answers.

1. The President comes to you and offers you any job within his administration, besides his. You feel a certain sense of duty to your country, so you accept. What job do you take and why?
I would want a job where I could do some good and have an impact, which immediately leaves out Press Secretary and most of those patronage jobs. Vice President is an interesting title, since there is considerable upside when it comes to future employment, but I don't think it carries enough weight to do anything worthwhile.
As far as actual “jobs” are concerned, I think I would ask to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency. There, I could work toward preserving and protecting our National Parks, which I believe are under siege and in need of attention. It won’t be long before urban sprawl is encroaching on most of them, and it will take somebody committed to the parks to keep them the way they were intended. I would also like to see us embrace wind and solar power, which I think are the answer. It seems to me that we have these two huge sources of energy that are always here and never run out - sun and wind. Let's put our best and brightest people to work on this issue and make it happen.

2. Would you rather...
a) Try to block Warren Sapp
b) Have a televised golf match against Paula Creamer
c) Try to hit a Roger Clemens fast ball
d) Play goalie against a Wayne Gretzky penalty shot.
The key word in the Creamer option is “against.” I wouldn’t want to play against her, because she would kick my ass. Had you asked “with,” the choice would be easy. In addition, I would not want it to be on the TV, since I’d probably be humiliated. I’m into the quality, alone time, so a nice stroll on the golf course would be a cool day out with good company, but I wouldn't want it to be a competition.
I would want to do something that I could train for and would make me feel good once I did it. So, I would choose the Clemens challenge. I could spend some time getting my timing down, and be thrilled no end to hit a ball solidly. Just make him promise not to throw me a breaking pitch or anything near my head.

3. You have been selected to plan one of those Live Aid/Woodstock type concerts. What 5 bands would you break your neck to get to appear?
If I really wanted to bring people in and raise awareness of some worldwide situation, I would have to get a headliner that would bring people in from all over the world, with the added benefit of being a one-of-a-kind show. You need to create demand. With that in mind, my headliner would be KATE BUSH. She almost never does shows, and she has fans all over the world. Then, I’d get FIONA APPLE, JOHN FOGERTY, KT TUNSTALL, and for my opening act, I would try to get GENTLE GIANT to get back together for one big show. I’d love to hear them again. I know most people don’t know much about those artists, but I think once we were done we would raise some money for something good. Maybe National Park preservation or the environment. I think it would be one Hell of a great show.

4. I give you a spell that allows you to change one thing in your life after the age of 18. Would you use it and what would you use it for? Why or why not?
Easy one. A spell to make me save my money instead of spending it on junk that I would only accumulate. Junk like baseball cards, magazines, books I never read and other items of clutter. The spell would make me a saver rather than a spender – stocks and mutual funds - and I would be using that money now, 31 years later, contemplating my early retirement from this life of drudgery. If I knew then what I knew now.

5. How much wood would a woodchuck chop if a woodchuck could chop wood?
Your average woodchuck is a dedicated worker and could probably chop huge quantities. However, as head of the EPA, I would strongly discourage it.

Now, the extension of the offer:
If anyone else wants to play along, leave a comment saying, “Interview me.” I will respond by asking you five questions of my choosing. You will update your weblog with the answers to the questions, include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

It’s in that vein.

American Idol pats itself on the back while keeping their hands in their pockets

Most of my regular readers know the contempt with which I hold American Idol and its participants. If you don't, you can do a simple "blog search" and find out. Take all the time you need.
Earlier this week, they did something that they called Idol Gives Back, which conjures up several jokes which you can make up on your own, or if you'd like, you can e-mail me and I will send to you. Either way, it was a sham of a fraud, which follows in line with the rest of the show.
LOS ANGELES - An American Idol charity special filled with wrenching pictures of impoverished children and celebrity appeals raised more than $600 million, Fox said Thursday
A total of $5 million was pledged by Fox parent company News Corp., which gave 10 cents for each of the first 50 million votes received for contestants on Tuesday's show. More than 70 million votes were cast, a record for the show, Fox said.
Oh, Fox, you generous bastards. Or not. What about the money from the other 20 million votes? Check their pockets. Most of the $60 million came from celebrities and corporations, not the show itself.

Once I heard about this and saw the self-aggrandizing advertisements, I figured that the numbers probably wouldn't add up. The ad I saw on Sunday proclaimed it "a night to remember", which was interesting since no one had seen it yet. It struck me as a pompous bit of self-promotion for a franchise that has returned a fraction of what it has taken in - or nothing, if you ask me. Creating artificial celebrities does nothing to benefit society, and this charity event that they staged was as phony as the show itself.

And, what a shocker ... no one was eliminated, which means that all the votes were for naught, since they get to milk this nonsense for another week of prime-time advertising revenue.

Tuesday night's special episode was pre-taped, not live, as Access Hollywood revealed. It started off phony and lost ground as it went.

Let's examine the numbers, shall we? We shall. This appeared on Advertising Age's web site on September 26, 2006:

For the third year in a row, the American Idol Tuesday night show is commanding the highest advertising rates for a television show, according to Advertising Age. The rate for a 30-second spot on the show is between $500,000 and $700,000.

This bit of perspective comes from Reality Blurred, not me. I love the headline:

American Idol gives back $5 million of its $2.5 billion.

But $5 million? Let’s be honest: It’s a generous donation, but is not that much relative to how much cash the show is pulling in. Fortune estimated that each Tuesday performance show makes an average of $16.39 million in advertising, and each results episode pulls $14.19 million. So, that’s $30.58 million per week. Even if those averages are generous or overestimate the actual revenue (since many ads are from show sponsors such as Ford and Cingular), $5 million is nice but not exactly bank-breaking - especially considering that the entire Idol franchise is worth more than $2.5 billion.
Back-breaking would be a nice start. They prefer to pat themselves on the back rather than break it. The donations made to charity were as hollow as the show itself, which doesn't surprise me, really. Am I disappointed? It's a Fox franchise, remember.

What they "gave back" amounted pocket change relative to what the show and its franchise is worth.
What they gave back isn't even a third of their ad revenue from one show. Meanwhile, they are in their sixth season of stealing money from viewers, phone voters, advertisers and the general public.
Giving back valuable network TV air-time would be worth more than the $5 million.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Future of Entertainment

LONDON (Reuters) - A large English cheddar cheese has become a star of the Internet, attracting more than 1 million viewers to sit and stare at it as it slowly ripens.
Click here to make it 1 million and one.
Go ahead.
You know you want to.

In response to the haiku about The Who

Back in the 60s (where I come from), music magazines and radio stations created competitions between bands. The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons [I never figured that one out], Black Sabbath vs. Deep Purple, ELP vs. Yes and The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones. You were either in one camp or the other. For someone as competitive and opinionated as I, those were sometimes life-altering choices.
My mistake as a youngster was allowing the media (radio and magazines) to make me choose. Perhaps that is why I rebel against media now? As I look back on those issues, I found that I would have loved Deep Purple, but I was a Black Sabbath guy, and Deep Purple was the enemy. Luckily, I was early on The Beatles' bandwagon, so The Four Seasons never stood a chance. Thank you, media. Do I sound hypocritical?
I found ELP and Yes around the same time, too. I remember seeing a Circus magazine article that proclaimed "Keith Emerson's Favorite Cup of Blood - Genesis". So, being a huge ELP fan, I wanted to be with Keith, and luckily for me, I found Genesis, too; around the time that Foxtrot came out.
When Sparky asked, in the comments section whether I was a Stones or Who guy, all that stuff came rushing back. I was always a Who guy and a Beatles guy. In those days, The Rolling Stones were the hard-core rock of which drug addicts and destitute losers were made, while The Beatles were the rebellious, 'your hair's too long' answer to your parents (who probably liked them, but were too afraid to tell us) - which is where The Monkees came in - but I digress.
I remember sitting in front of the old RCA TV in February of 1964, watching The Beatles on the old Ed Sullivan Show. Later, many a Sunday night was spent there, chasing away the adults while the boys churned out real live music, mop tops waving in the artificial wind. The Rolling Stones were on too, but I would probably see them as an aside to something after Topo Gigo or Alan King. In the final analysis, I was a little too "nice" a kid to be a Stones fan.
As I grew older (and some would say, wiser) I found that I didn't care much for the Stones' music. It was, and still is, a little too raw for me. I like my music more polished and sophisticated. Enter Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and the 1970s. Those were the days.
As we know, The Rolling Stones have out-lived most carbon-based music and several cockroaches. However, I still cannot find a taste for them, and after a couple hundred visits to concert venues in the Northeast, The Rolling Stones have evaded me. I never gave it a second thought.
Some good friends have paid several hundred dollars to see The Stones on one of their many "farewell" tours, but I remain committed to non-committal. I wish I had gone to that Poconos show in 1974, where Deep Purple headlined, or that big JFK Stadium show where The Who had one of their last hurrahs, but, as Popeye said, "I am what I am." I was well into ELP, Focus, Yes and King Crimson by then.
One final haiku:
Rock crushes scissors,
like The Beatles crush The Stones.
I have no regrets.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A haiku about The Who

Roger Daltrey sings.

Pete Townsend plays the guitar.

The other two died.


Nothing all that shocking, really.

WASHINGTON - The brother of Army Ranger Pat Tillman accused the Pentagon and the Bush administration yesterday of deliberately concealing the circumstances of the former football star's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan in an effort to avoid embarrassment.

In some ways, this qualifies as a front-page story, which it was today. In other ways, it does not.
First, it’s human nature to lie to avoid embarrassment. Second, look who we’re talking about here. These people would lie about a mixed-up lunch order if it made them look good. It makes me wonder how many other times something like this has happened to soldiers who do not have the high-profile exposure of a former NFL player. I’m guessing “lots”.
If you think that every family of every soldier who is killed over there gets the straight story from our government, you’ve got another think coming.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The appearance of objects with reference to relative position

Occasionally, I like to offer up a little perspective on life. Actually, I try to do it every day. Sometimes though, the angle is so direct that it is impossible to miss. This story was buried in today’s Inquirer for a good reason. It is obscure, and only affects a few people, yet the perspective it offers is outstanding. Here is the story:

NEWARK, N.J. - The State Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Garden State Parkway must reinstate a toll taker who was fired after shooting paintballs at a van during a road rage incident on the highway. An arbitrator had ruled that Jason Glassey should be reinstated after an 11-month unpaid suspension, but the highway operator had persuaded an appellate court to uphold the firing.

I only include the story so you will know some background. It isn’t all that important to know that a toll taker was involved in a road rage incident and was fired. What is important is what was included way down in the 9th paragraph of the story:

Glassy was working at the Cape May toll plaza, making $44,452 a year, when the incident happened in November 2003. Glassey, who was 31 at the time, was still in his uniform and admitted that he fired at least four shots at a van when he got stuck behind the slower-moving vehicle in the left lane, authorities said. He struck the front windshield and passenger window.

If you discovered the perspective, then bravo to you. Otherwise, go back and re-read the first sentence and tell me what stands out. What should stand out is that a toll-taker on the Garden State Parkway earned $44,452 in 2003.

He earned $44,452 a year for doing this [I am turning my left palm upward] saying “thank you” [sometimes] and occasionally making change, which involves subtraction. That was his salary in 2003, remember. Three years worth of cost-of-living increases would put his salary at something close to $48,600 today.

The median expected salary for an elementary school teacher in the United States today is $47,897. That is $700 less than a guy who does this [I am turning my left palm upward]. Teachers are responsible for educating and looking after your children. Toll takers make change.

Median, by the way, means that there are an equal number of people who earn more than that as there are those who earn less, so in some instances; a toll taker on the Garden State Parkway earns substantially more than an elementary school teacher in the United States.

That is your perspective for today.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nice try, Jim

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Army Sargent complained in a rare opinion article that the U.S. flag flew at half-staff last week at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan for those killed at Virginia Tech, but the same honor is not given to fallen U.S. troops here and in Iraq. "I find it ironic that the flags were flown at half-staff for the young men and women who were killed at VT, yet it is never lowered for the death of a U.S. service member," Sgt. Jim Wilt wrote.
That answer is pretty simple, really. Sad, but simple. I think Sgt. Wilt knows the answer, he just wants the government to acknowledge it. Nice try, Jim.
The government - your government - would rather not acknowledge the war dead because ... well ... they are war dead. When some nut-job shoots up a school, those kinds of things are known as "tragedies" or a "massacre". War, on the other hand, is a military (Government) operation, where the dead are sent by the government on a volunteer basis (for now). While they are massacres on a large scale, the government would prefer that we not put too much empasis on war dead. We prefer to call them troops, not people; and casualties, not killed. It's all in the name, which is why we call it Operation Iraqi Freedom. A troop is a person and a casualty is a dead person.

He wrote that the death of a U.S. service member is just as violent as those at the university last week, but it lacks the "shock factor of the Virginia massacre."
There ya go! See, he did know the answer. How long do you think it will be before he is Corporal Wilt?
Shock factor is not only the reason that something like that gets the attention it gets, it is the reason people do things like that. What is worse is that we are increasingly not shocked by things like that.
If the war had the shock value of the VT killings, then the network news would be broadcasting from Iraq on a regular basis, and the president would want the caskets of the war dead to be photographed, and the names of the troops to be released.

Almost everything that gets the attention of the media is based on some sort of shock value or odd bit of circumstance that draws attention to something. Don Imus, random acts of violence and other such nonsense makes headlines. Welcome to America.
If you really want to see some flags at half-staff, come to Philadelphia...

PHILADELPHIA - A bloody, bullet-filled weekend left 11 people dead across the city, where drugs and disrespect have trumped brotherly love and the murder rate is on pace to be the highest in a decade. Philadelphia has seen more than one killing a day this year, totaling 127 as of Monday afternoon. Most of Philadelphia's killings are by gunfire, most involve young black men and most are the result of arguments, often over drugs but sometimes over trivial insults or perceived slights.
The answer that the city has come up with: 80 extra police officers in southwest Philly. Meanwhile, they are planning new casinos in the city and we have a mayor's election coming up.
The TV is full of ads for a slew of nitwits who think they can run the city. Why anyone would want that job is beyond me.
Those new casinos will really spruce up the joint, too.
I can hardly wait.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Feats of Strength

I saw a little of Rich Little at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night on the CSpan. I say "a little" not to be coy, but because impressionists creep me out. They seem so excited about being able to "do" someones voice, then they go about making up junk that the person is supposed to say. Little was "doing" Andy Rooney [one of my writing heroes] and he starts by telling us that he will "do" Andy, [creepy] and then goes into the "Ever notice" junk and telling jokes like "I wonder, if you wanted to grow seedless watermelon, what would you plant?"
The president laughed, because he didn't know either.
So that Sangina guy is off American Idol? I saw some clips of him on another show and it sounds like he was lucky to get as far as he did. I suppose there's a record deal coming. Meanwhile, the show is advertising something they are calling American Idol Gives Back. Great. They have made about 18 trillion dollars and they are hyping up the fact that they're donating the phone-vote money to charity. They should be giving back the millions of hours of personal time they have stolen from viewers.
Then, there's the ghastly audio of Alec Baldwin (one of the world's five luckiest men) screaming at his 12 year-old daughter because she didn't have her cell phone turned on. He called her a "rude, thoughtless little pig", which may or may not be true. Regardless, it is probably disconcerting to hear your father say it out loud.
I think we're a little slow to adapt to changing technology. The cell phone is a convenience that I don't think we fully understand, yet we take it for granted. To get so upset because a kid didn't turn on an appliance - one that didn't exist when the parent was a child - is a bit odd. How did we keep in touch with our estranged children before we had cell phones?
BEAUFORT, S.C. - A Navy Blue Angel jet crashed during an air show Saturday, plunging into a neighborhood of small homes and trailers and killing the pilot. Air shows seem to me to be as useless as power boat racing and decaffeinated coffee. What's the point? The risk/reward scenario is way out of whack. Besides, I think there are a fair number of people who go to those things expecting to see a crash, and if they don't see one, they leave disappointed. If I ever have a job where people are pissed because I didn't die, I think I would have to find another line of work.

Which brings us to our quote of the day. A high school in Fresno, California is allowing a transgender student to run for Prom King. Cinthia Covarrubias who, while biologically female, makes people think she is a man by dressing as one. Here are the words of wisdom:
"I like lesbians, but they shouldn't be allowed to run for King," said senior Erich Logan, 18, as he stood outside the stately high school building.
I like lesbians, too.
"Screws fall out all the time. The world's an imperfect place."
- John Bender