Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday in Philadelphia.

Saturday was particularly nice around here, weather wise. I had to hang at home and wait to have my dryer vents cleaned, which is not a sexual reference. They cleaned my dryer vents. Afterward, I grabbed the camera and took off for the big city. I was there from noon until 8 at night. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit.
That's the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House at 239 Arch Street, where legend has it, she sewed our first American flag. It is a matter of dispute that she indeed sewed the first flag and that she lived in this house. We never let the facts get in the way of a good story around here.

We have these charming things called cobblestone streets in Philadelphia. They're charming if you aren't riding a bicycle or walking barefoot. These lead you to the Carpenter House.

This is the courtyard behind the Rohm and Haas building that I showed you at night last week. That's it on the left. A short jog down the brick path leads you to ...

... a scupture called "Milkweed Pod" by Clark B. Fitz-Gerald (1965).

There's an Old Navy store on Market Street. Like children and animals, I'm attracted to bright lights.

This is the top end of a restaurant on Chestnut Street near Second. I liked the pattern of the green shades.

We're looking west down Market Street from the courtyard of City Hall at dusk. I was out for a while.

We have this strange piece of art on the other side of 15th Street called The Clothespin, by Claes Oldenburg. It's supposed to be a visual pun that mimicks the shape of City Hall. Get it? It was installed in 1976, just in time for our Bicentennial celebration, and at the time it was roundly hated by most of the city. I think, as the years have gone by we've warmed to it because we're good at adapting to odd situations. Now, it's our Clothespin. I've always liked it.

Another odd landmark is the Kimmel Center, which I showed you from the outside last week. This is the inside, about an hour before the Philadelphia Orchestra played Holst's The Planets. The orchestra plays in that big brown box. The rap on the place is that the sound isn't all that good, and it's inconsistent depending on where you sit. The inside is shaped like a cello and I can't figure out why they're so surprised that the sound is bad. The sound comes out of a cello, not in. I would guess that it sounds great if you had a seat on the glass roof.

It's also a little hard to get around in there, since one side is separated from the other, so if you walk up the wrong set of stairs you have to go all the way back down to the concourse and go up the other flight. The same thing happens on the inside. The two sides of the orchestra seating level are not conjoined, so if you make a mistake and go in the wrong door, you have to go out and back in again.

The concourse itself is kind of cold. The floors are hard and you can't do anything except mingle and say "excuse me" a lot becasue there is no pre-determined traffic pattern. People just kind of meander around bumping into one another until the bell rings and the concert starts.

Other than that, it's a great place.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Life's perspective and its after-effects.

One of my friends came into work today (not the same sick friend from yesterday) wondering what that song was that he heard on the radio... "Why don't you take a good look at yourself and describe what you see, and baby, baby, baby, do you like it?" Immediately, I didn't know, although I knew it was a Led Zeppelin song, and I knew that they usually didn't sing the titles of their songs. OK, so I admit I had to look it up - Misty Mountain Hop, but I knew it was from "Led Zeppelin IV", which some among us refer to as "Zofo".
For instance ...
We come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
How soft your fields so green, Can whisper tales of gore, Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your overlords.
Immigrant Song. Sure. you knew that.
Zeppelin is one of those bands that those of us old enough to know, can refer to at times as classic music, even though, at the time we didn't think of it that way. We (me) were more into Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Focus or (God forbid) Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, and thought that those bands defined the era when in fact, the ones we ignored did. Funny.
Music magazines of the era liked to encourage competitions. Yes versus ELP, Black Sabbath versus Deep Purple ... when in fact, all of them were equally relevant, but in our tiny marketing-enhanced heads we were influenced by the magazines. Why, I don't know. I suppose you have to be 50 to understand.
I just finished making a CD for my young friend to acquaint him with Led Zeppelin and their music. The CD is made from the perspective of a 50-year old who, at the time would have dismissed it as trite and trendy, and would instead have directed him to other more so-called intellectual music. Now, the intellectual music is largely forgotten and the trendy stuff is what we refer to as classic. Go figure.
Perspective is a great thing. It allows us to realize what we once viewed as common that is now viewed as historic. Who'd-a-thunk that Focus and ELP would be thrown away relics of a bygone era. They were so good. Just ask me and I'll tell you.
Does that mean that crap like Clay Aiken and Bo Bice will one day be viewed as classic rock?
Shoot me now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Short Attention Span Theater.

I'm exhausted. News events of the past week have left me with little to do but churn out 600-word essays on the current state of American social habits and their effects on the general public. I'm reminded of an exchange in the movie "Broadcast News":
Paul Moore: It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.
Jane Craig: No. It's awful.
Stop me if you've heard this:
A co-worker reported for work on Monday with a voice that sounded like radio static, insisted that he was "fine" and continued about his day. Tuesday, he came back and attended a seminar with 12 other employees and took a half-day sick. On Wednesday, he finally called in sick and went to his doctor, who told him that he had an "infectious bacteria" in his throat and that his doctor told him that it wasn't contagious, so he could return to work. We know this because he came back to work on Thursday, presumably to finish infecting the rest of us in the re-circulated air and enclosed environment of the modern office. At lunch, I placed a newspaper on the table space next to me so that he would sit at the opposite end, thus leaving my food to the exposed air.
I'm not a doctor (no kidding) but whenever I hear the words infectious and bacteria in the same sentence, not separated by a modifier like minor or benign, I figure that the infectious part is the priority, and if it wasn't contagious, how did he get it to begin with? Plus, the guy spent the day coughing and sneezing, and I have to figure something was spewing out, and if it's bacteria, I really don't want to deal with it - infectious or not.
NOTE TO EMPLOYEES: The world and the company will not stop producing if you decide to take a couple of days off. Give the rest of us healthy people a break, stay home and confine your illness to your loved ones, one of which has pledged to love and care for you "in sickness and in health". The rest of us aren't all that interested.
I watched the DVD of "No Country for Old Men" last night, and it was just as good the second time as it was the first time. This time, I got to enjoy the dialogue and the great writing and acting that went into a film that richly deserved the Oscar for Best Picture. The tension of the unknown was gone, but I was left to examine the characters a bit more and enjoy the easy way that Tommy Lee Jones carried off his role as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and even Woody Harrelson, who does a nice turn as a guy who knows more than he ever tells us about Anton Chigurh. As for me, I loved the ending.
Ed Tom Bell: [talking to Ellis] I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come into my life somehow, and he didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him I would have the same opinion of me that he does.
I've had two thousand page hits over Kelly Zimmerman and counting. It doesn't let up. People come here looking for pictures or info about the Academy, her or her biker convention. It's amazing to me that there's so much interest in it, and virtually none for Elliot Spitzer or his shenanigans. As I said before, I only hope they stop to read and realize that it's pure nonsense and merely the TV and newspaper media making something out of nothing.
I haven't filed my income taxes yet. I remember when I started working and got those stupid thouand dollar refunds, I couldn't wait to file and counted the days until the "refund" check arrived. Since then, I've gotten smarter (hence the quote above) and now wait until April to file. I never have to pay, but I'm really not all that interested in the process at all, and if it weren't for the prospect of going to prison or paying a hefty fine, I'd just as soon not bother.
I just discovered that national media nitwit Ann Coulter has checked in on the Elliot Spitzer affair, calling it Whoreable Behavior. I'll bet she spent a day coming up with that one. I can't read it, but you can.
Gold is $1,000 an ounce. Really. I never figured out the allure of the precious metals thing. It's supposed to be a hedge against inflation, and now that our economy is in a recession, it's probably driving the price of something that is at least real and not paper, like stocks.
Gold, which has soared to record levels in the past year, hit a new milestone Thursday, rising to $1,000 an ounce for the first time in futures trading - a boon for investors, but a deterrent to consumers shopping for jewelry.
Like a lot of things, it's a boon to people who buy the commodity but a detriment to people who want to buy things that are made from that commodity - like gasoline and oil, that is also at record levels. Meanwhile, people who drive cars or like nice jewelry are screwed. Sound familiar? I've always thought it was odd that the two most precious metals are named after their colors. Gold and silver. So, a seller can say something is "gold", which would be true because its color is also gold, so it doesn't have to be real gold. Likewise for silver.
I really don't know what to do with my money, other than spend it on cable TV, utility bills, gasoline or food, which seems to take up most of the money, leaving me no real decision other than to think about when the next paycheck is coming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You might think I'm strange, but I know I am.

Wonder no more, America. Photos of Elliot Spitzer's high-priced prostitute Kristen have been posted on The Smoking Gun.
MARCH 12 - Meet "Kristen," the high-priced hooker who trysted with Eliot "Client-9" Spitzer last month at that Washington, D.C. hotel. The 22-year-old prostitute's real name is Ashley Alexandra Dupre (though she was born Ashley Youmans), according to a New York Times report. On the following pages you'll find an assortment of photos that the young prostitute previously uploaded to a music web site and her MySpace page, which describes Kristen/Ashley as an aspiring musician who left home at 17 and has been in New York City since 2004.
The story says Spitzer spent $4,300 on her, which ironically violates the Mann Act, an archaic statute that, though rarely invoked, has Spitzer pinned because it forbids "transportation of a person across state lines for purposes of prostitution." "It's an undeniable Mann Act violation," says Judd Burstein, an attorney whose history with Spitzer dates back to their facing off on opposite sides of the 1992 Gambino "mob tax" case.
What it clearly does not violate is the man act, which says that men will do just about anything for sex. However, it says here that $4,300 is a ridiculous sum of money to pay for sex with anyone regardless of celebrity status, looks, blackmail information or physical prowess. I'm funny that way, but I think of $4,300 as something that has high value and disappears rather quickly, while my desire for sex re-appears as quickly as my appetite. Spending that much money for something that will not provide a lasting sense of satisfaction is my idea of throwing money away. Sadly, I realize I am in the minority.
It says a lot about a lot of things. It says that people with money (theirs or the state's) have lost touch with reality. It also says that some women realize that there is a disconnect between men's sexual desire and their common sense and are more than willing to take advantage of it. Think about it. $4,300 means more to the woman than the man spending it. That means it has value, and the fact that the man is willing to dump it on an hour of fun says that he has lost touch with reality.
"Oh, man, I'd do her for twice that!" some men would say, in a half-assed attempt at sounding both manly and ridiculous. Whether it's your money or not, spending that much on a recurring appetite is something worth having a long think over. For the record, I don't spend a lot of money for food, either. Expensive restaurants are for suckers.
When you consider the fact that the repercussions of Elliot's actions have a far greater impact than the short-term effects of the act itself, one cannot logically argue the point.
I suppose I'm an idiot, but the act itself has value, and placing that large a dollar amount on it cheapens it somehow. Odd, I know, but the higher the monetary sum the less emotional value it has. I'd place a much higher value on catching someone's eye in a darkened room, chatting for a few minutes and falling into each other's arms without regard for where we are or who we are than I would if the woman asked me for five-grand for the privilege.
In the instance of a real emotional investment I'd be both flattered and excited. If she asked me for money, I'd feel as though I was nothing more than a way for her to make another car payment.
Where's the fun in that?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Client number 9 ... number 9 ... number 9 ... number 9 ...

We use sex to sell almost everything here in America. Video games, movies, music and food, among other things. We even use sex to sell things to allow us to have more sex and (so-called) better sex, which they tell us is longer-lasting sex, which may not be all it's cracked up to be, if you know what I mean.
We have pills designed to give us boners that last 36 hours, pills that make our boners bigger (so they say) and they're advertised on the TV when children and politicians are watching. After a while, it starts to get ingrained in our heads and we start to think that erectile dysfunction is a real disease and that if we're not out boning everything that moves into our field of vision that there's something wrong with us.
The trouble with that idea is that not every woman in America is all that anxious to bone us. So, we're left to pay for the privilege, and there is no shortage of women who are willing to accept money for the wanker. However, lots of guys are either physically repulsive, unable to attract the women who they desire or unwilling to accept the fact that society has sold them a bill of goods that is beyond their reach. That's where the conflict starts.
Where it becomes fascinating to me is when the very sex we tell people they need is used against them. Generally, it involves prostitutes and/or a romp with a person of the same sex - which is also sex, even though we don't sell that.
When someone is caught with a prostitute, it's seen as a heinous crime against society - especially if they're married. If they're single, they're merely sexual deviates who need counseling and should resign from whatever job they hold and hang their heads in shame because they wanted the sex. Married people are immoral if they act out their sexual desires, and if they pay for it, they have a lot of explaining to do.
When the sex involves money it's doubly intriguing. When it involves stolen or misappropriated money, it's a public issue. In case you've been living under a rock or a deep snowbank during the week, New York governor Elliot Spitzer has been accused of spending thousands of dollars on prostitutes over an extended period of time, and was caught on a federal wiretap. The dollars used to belong to the State of New York and came from its taxpayers. Now, they belong to prostitutes which, they tell us, is a bad thing.
That's interesting to me because whenever government spends money on things that are either over-priced or generally useless, we get assed-up about it and tell them that they shouldn't do it anymore. The Bush Administration has spent billions on things like that, and even thinks enough of it to give them catchy names like No Child Left Behind and The Clear Skies Initiative and The Iraq War. A fortune pissed away.
Elliot, on the other hand, used the money to get a government-subsidized blow job, which may or may not have been a better use of the funds than The Iraq War and certainly better than No Child Left Behind. So, maybe we're being a little hard on [there ya go] Elliot. Maybe that money was being used in the best manner possible. After all, it's tough being governor of New York. It's a big state and a guy needs a break now and then. I'd bet, if you asked every resident of the state to donate a dollar to the "Get Elliot a Nobber Fund", they could raise millions. You might even be able to get matching funds from the Feds if you could prove it made more sense than spending it on the war.
On Monday, when the scandal broke, prosecutors said in court papers that Spitzer had been caught on a wiretap spending $4,300 with the Emperors Club VIP call-girl service, with some of the money going toward a night with a prostitute named Kristen, and the rest to be used as credit toward future trysts. The papers also suggested that Spitzer had done this before.
There's Elliot and his wife. Their expressions speak volumes. Elliot has that speechless look that guys get when they're caught doing something that they know if they continue talking about, they're only going to make matters worse. His wife appears to be heavily sedated. I've seen several photos and she looks like that in just about every one. I can't say I blame her.
Politicians drag the wives out when things get tough. It shows the "family" angle, and we love the family here in America - almost as much as the sex. Jim McGreevey dragged his equally sedated wife (nee Beard) out with him to announce that he was a "Gay American" [flag salute], and bathroom stall creep Senator Larry Craig dragged his wife along to assure us that his behavior was misinterpreted because after all, he was a Christian man who usually sticks his foot into the other person's stall and knocks in code when he's taking a dump. All guys do.
Elliot's just another horny guy doing what we keep telling him to do. Go out and get yourself some. His big mistake was (a) using State money and (b) getting caught. Now, we'll hear a lot of heartfelt apologies which would never have come if he had not been caught. When people apologize after they're caught and tell us that they regret their actions, what they're really telling us is that they regret being stupid enough to get caught. Otherwise, the behavior would have continued until the money ran out.
Now, I guess, he's going to have to give up his cushy job as Governor of New York, because he let the little head do the thinking. That's kind of dumb.
But, you know, he's a guy doing what society wants guys to do. That's probably a simple explanation, but sometimes the simple explanations are the right ones.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Internet and all its warts.

By the latest unofficial count, the page hits over the Kelly Zimmerman story is up over 700. That's about as many as I had when I wrote about Alycia Lane, or when Jane Fonda used the C-word, which was more ado about nothing. Here's a little piece from the latest story:
Some Trentonians said they don't understand what the uproar is all about. "No, I don't think it's a big deal, not at all," said George Brewington, of Trenton. "That's just a woman in a bathing suit."
Right you are, George. I'd be willing to bet that most Trentonians don't understand what all the uproar is about. You guys need to do more legwork. The only one who does understand is The Trentonian that calls itself a newspaper.
People love the scandal, even if they have to make it up. I think it makes people feel better about themselves if they can find perceived fault with others. They make fun of their weight, hair loss or some other genetic malady in a vein effort to make themselves look bigger. What it does in actuality is make them look smaller.
Meanwhile, I'm getting page hits from places like Edison, NJ; Long Beach, CA; Jacksonville, FLA; Plano, TX; San Jose, CA; Englewood, CO; Little Rock, AK; Wexford, PA ... the list goes on. I can only hope that once they landed here that they read what I wrote. That's the hard part - the reading. That's the part that takes time and understanding, two things sorely lacking in most of these cases.
It's the reason TV shows like Insider, Access Hollywood and Extra are popular and rags like The National Enquirer and The Trentonian sell so well and the reason why people like Harry Hairston and L.A. Parker have a job.
It's also part of the reason that the Internet is a big deal. Instantly, (or almost instantly) you can type in a search and find whatever you're looking for. We're spoiled by technology. In the good old days, we had to go to the public library and (if we were lucky) photocopy newspapers that had week-old articles, vaguely covering the subject we were researching.
Now, we can type in a person's name, a plus sign and words like nude, bikini or hairy arms (yes, I get those too, God knows how) and up pops ... something. A mouse click and we're off, so to speak. We take the good with the bad.
Odd news stories used to be confined to their locales. They would run their cycle - front page, sidebar and back page - until they disappeared as quickly as they came, and rightfully so. The problem with the Internet is that the stories have legs, arms and a tail. People from Little Rock Arkansas can find them even if they don't know exactly what they're looking for. Somebody at work said that she heard something from her boyfriend about a story that he saw on a web site that had a girl in a bathing suit. One Google search later and it's a National phenomenon. I can tell that they don't know what they're looking for because most of them don't know how to spell Alycia.
Kelly is having a difficult time now because enough people don't read this blog or listen to what George Brewington says. In the good old days, people could flee the scene and start a new life in Plano, Texas or Little Rock, Arkansas; where, fortunately for them, they don't read The Trentonian or watch NBC10.
Now, it's the stuff of TV shows and the Internet and it spreads like a virus. Why? Because we're starved for things that make us feel better about the things that we do in our spare time that don't make it to the newspaper. I'm not sure if I'm part of the problem or part of the solution. People come here looking for scandal and when they don't find it, I figure they wander someplace else until they do. click - click - click. At least George and I are paying attention.
It's a shame because there's a lot of interesting stuff on the web. When I write about politics, sports or life in general I get the normal 25 to 50 page views. I know when I write about some alleged scandal, the page hits skyrocket. I just wish I was getting paid for it sometimes. Just wait until you see what happens when I post an essay about Elliot Spitzer. Hoo-boy!
Because nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public. For me, every day it gets harder to underestimate it.

Is a picture always worth a thousand words?

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) smiles during a campaign rally in St. Clairsville, Ohio February 27, 2008.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The lion was a little late.

We didn't get the record snowfalls that people in Ohio got this weekend. We got the rain and wind. Rain yesterday and wind today. Parts of our region are under water today and most of them are without power - literally and figuratively - since I take these sorts of days as a testament to the fact that, as far as nature is concerned, we're unwelcomed visitors. Winds blow trees into homes and cars, snow piles up on the streets and rain floods basements. "Screw you, I'm Nature, damnit. Get out of my house!"
It's so easy for nature to make our lives miserable, since we're so deep into the comforts that any disruption is a huge inconvenience. In the early part of the 20th century, a storm might knock out power for days and they dealt with it. Now, if the cable is out for an hour, we're in a state of panic. For instance, I was set for another trip into the city for a daytime photo safari, but was informed by the nice PATCO rep that the train was screwed up because of the storms. Trees and poles were spewed on the tracks.
"You'll have to get off at Ferry Avenue, take a shuttle to Broadway in Camden and get back on the train ... and you might have to do the same thing on the way home," he told me. Umm ... no thanks. I can wait until next weekend. It was nice of PATCO to have someone at the station to warn us, because I would have been mildly irritated at having to transfer twice.
I know what you're saying, "just drive to Philly." No. Not this guy. Driving is for pussies.

So, my weekend photo challenge from my Ohio friend Kimmyk will have to resort to some archival works. She challenged me to take a provocative photo of a sign ...
not just a regular sign anthony.
oh no.
it's gotta be visually appealing or not.
just not a stop sign.
So, here's my entry. This was taken many years ago on a trip to a place called Port Elizabeth, which is on the Delaware Bay in Cumberland County, New Jersey. I scanned my original black and white photo. I think it is both visually appealing and not ...
Here's a detailed view of the sign, for the visually challenged...
I'm thinking that it might not be that difficult to find a "Whoopie Goldberg look-alike" in Port Elizabeth, but that's just a guess based on local knowledge.
I'm looking forward to Kimmy's submission ... after she digs her way out of her house.