Friday, April 11, 2008

I see the tree, but I don't see the connection.

WILMINGTON, North Carolina - Traffic was backed up and police were called to control the crowd after a Wilmington gas station accidentally set the pump price at 35 cents a gallon. The Wilmington Star-News reported Friday that hundreds of drivers flooded a BP station for the cheap gas after the price dropped around 9 a.m. Thursday. Station employee Shane Weller said the price for premium gasoline was supposed to be $3.35 a gallon. He complained that customers paid the cheaper price all day without saying a word.
It was all the extra traffic that led station employees to the mistake around 6 p.m. They found it after calling their district manager, looking for permission to changing the price as a way of stemming the flow of customers.
That's the ancillary effect of the cellular telephone. In the late 1970s, when gasoline was an obscene 65 cents a gallon, and there was rationing and people complained, there was no way to find out about a dumbass gas station attendant undercharging motorists. Now, however, dumbass behavior is a phone call away.
MOTORIST: Hey, Llewellyn ... there's thirty-five cent gasoline in Wilmington!
LLEWELLYN: Get the fuck out!
MOTORIST (Llewellyn's cousin by marriage): No kidding. Some dumbass is charging thirty-five cents for gas. 'Member that Shane from high school? The stupid ass that couldn't get that shop-class lamp to work? Well, he's got the price all fucked up. Get-chur-ass on over here a-right-quick-like.
LLEWELLYN: OK. First, I gotta find a baby sitter for little Llewellyn junior and somebody to get this Goddammed dog offa me. Save me a space!
ROME (Reuters) - She had no desire to be just another smiling face in Italian politics. So when porn star Milly D'Abbraccio designed her campaign posters, it was obvious she was going to show off her bottom. Targeting her male fan base, the veteran of Italy's adult entertainment industry has plastered images of her derriere all around the Eternal City in a bid to win a seat in Rome's city hall. If elected, D'Abbraccio wants to create a red light area with strip clubs, erotic discos and sex shops called "Love City" just kilometers away from the Vatican. "It would be something cute, clean -- nothing to do with prostitution," said the actress whose films include "The Kiss of the Cobra" and "Paolina Borghese, Imperial Nymphomaniac."
It occurs to me that the term "star" is a bit over-used these days. First, we're stuck with the "Dancing With the Stars", where the "stars" have to be Googled to find out what they're famous for - if anything. Then, it's the cliche porn star moniker that really doesn't mean anything.
If one is a "star", then one should be accepted by mainstream America. We're told that pornography is a billion(plus) dollar a year business, yet your best friends will never admit to watching it. It's the social equivalent of Asian massage. The business would not exist if it didn't have customers, yet nobody admits to using it. So, what is it? These businesses aren't charity organizations, so someone must be using them.
Maybe Milly really is a star. I don't know, because I'll never get anyone to admit to knowing who she is or admitting to watching her films. That's a shame, because everyone knows who Meryl Streep is, even if you don't like her. Pornography is the last vestige of private behavior, and since the advent of home video, nobody has to admit to watching it. We never see them in public and the rental stores have those louvered doors so that we won't know who's in there.
That's the way we like it. We freely admit to being sexual creatures and sell drugs to enhance it, but when it comes down to it, we'll never admit to being aroused by anything like pornography. We won't call our friends and tell them about some hot new sex video we saw as quickly as we would about 35-cent gasoline, even though both of them might excite us, albeit in different ways.
We might get a little chubby over the cheap gas and the hot pussy, but only one elicits a phone call and a big line to get more.
What's wrong with us?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Random thoughts for a short attention span.

The Office is back and everything is right with the world. For those of you who don't watch, you're missing out. But that's OK, I've been hearing that I'm missing American Idol and I don't give a crap. Tonight's episode was one of the best ever. It bears re-watching, which I will do on
The latest Barack Obama ad, which aired during The Office (buzz kill) tells us: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America." That's a nice sentiment, but it's completely erroneous. Anyone who pays attention knows differently. Can he honestly tell us that Utah is the same as New York City? That Alabama is the same as Minnesota? He's kidding, right? If he thinks that message is going to carry him to the White House, he's got another think coming. The term "United States" is a geographic distinction, and in no way relates to the politics that each state represents. I think Barack knows that (at least I hope he does) but he tells us differently because he hopes it will help his cause. Stop trying to fool us into thinking you can change the world and let us elect you because you're the best option we have.
NBC is advertising the Miss USA pageant as - not a beauty contest - but a YouTube video, featuring contestants falling down and answering questions the way a drunk would. I suppose, once the luster of a girl in a one-piece bathing suit wears off, they'll grab for anything they can. Maybe ... just maybe ... it's time to stop the beauty contest nonsense once and for all?
The Masters golf tournament is taking place this weekend in interstate exit Augusta, Georgia. I've gained a measure of respect for the organizers. The first two rounds are being telecast on ESPN. One condition of ESPN gaining the rights was that frogmouth Chris Berman not be part of it. He's the braying voice of the NFL, but the upright citizens of golf refused to have his nickname-spouting nonsense be a part of The Masters. Good for them, I say. Somebody finally had the gumption to stand up to big-time TV and demand form over substance.
I really want this lens. Convince me otherwise.
Every time I turn around I'm reading another story about some conflict over the Olympic torch. The world is big on symbolism, and the torch represents ... something. People who want to tie-in sports and politics have their emotions misplaced. Let the athletes compete and figure out some other way to express your displeasure with whatever is going on in China.
I finally got my copy of "There Will Be Blood" today. It's a two-disc set that contains a lot of "making of" stuff and some historic film of the early oil pioneers. I'm looking forward to spending a rainy Saturday with it. Seriously, if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and visit your local rental joint and pick it up. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for best actor and it also won for best cinematography. Award-winning acting and film making is a great combination.
If there is a God, he is a vengeful one. After a beautiful sunny working day on Thursday, we are looking at a rainy Friday-Saturday-Sunday.
Have a mango.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Charity begins ... on TV.

I'm feeling overly cynical today. Go figure. It's a short trip from my general cynical mode to the "overly" mode, so you'll forgive me if I seem a bit put off. First, it was Major League baseball and their unusual rules, combined with the magic of cable TV to start me off for the night.
I returned at 7:15 from a pleasurable bike ride to flip on the start of the Phillies-Mets game that I was told was on ESPN2 - in Hi-Definition - for which I pay a premium. But the game wasn't on ESPN2. Instead, it was on Regular-Def Comcast channel 8 in a fuzzy square screen that, if I wanted, I would have kept my old TV. I'm guessing that Major League Baseball or Comcast (equally spawns of Satan) have some rule involving the broadcast of a game in a local city, which means we here in the greater Philadelphia area have to slum-it with the fuzzy TV picture while the rest of the country gets the Hi-Def. That makes good nonsense.
Meanwhile, I'm paying for the Hi-Definition programming and a channel is blacked-out. Will I get a pro-rated refund? I'm holding my breath.
Part of my discontent resulted from the late delivery of my pre-ordered 2-disc DVD of "There Will Be Blood" which is languishing somewhere between Amazon's warehouse and my house. Wherefore art thou, DVD? It's Thursday soon and you said you sent it on Monday.
Disinterested in the pending fuzzy baseball game, I began pushing the channel buttons. Still, even though the writers' strike is long over, we are infested with these so-called "reality" shows. Tonight was Wife Swap and Supernanny sandwiched between a multi-hour special called Idol Gives Back, which I thought was going to involve the hours of people's lives that have been lost viewing the show, but instead involved something about a charity.
I wondered what the charity was, so I watched long enough to find out it was poverty. Really. The show was full of celebrities touring run-down areas of the country (seemingly in awe that people actually live like that) and we're supposed to believe that the show is doing something about it. Forgive me, but I didn't stay tuned long enough to find out how American Idol is going to solve the poverty problem in America. Call me cynical, but I'm thinking it's a big stage show with celebrities (including presidential candidates) parading on prime-time TV to show us that they're concerned.
Over the past few weeks, when I (in a weak moment) tune into Action News on our local ABC affiliate, I find my TV infested with a promo (disguised as news) for something called Oprah's Big Give, which is supposed to involve "regular people" doing random acts of kindness in the name of the Holy Oprah.
I'm guessing that people would murder small animals or have sex with a chicken if Oprah said they should do it. We've already seen how influential her Book Club is, and sometimes the books she recommends aren't all that accurate, but I'll skip that. Oprah's Big Give looks to me like another way for Oprah to manipulate her audience and show us all how much of a Svengali she is when it comes to her sheep-like TV audience. Could we call it Oprah's Big Take? Oprah is worth a thousand billion dollars. She could wander the Earth doing random acts of kindness herself for the rest of her life and still have hundreds of billions of dollars left. That she asks her witless audience to do her work for her is both manipulative and lazy. There, I said it.
Here it is, April 9. The TV writers have been back to work for over for a month. Still, I have no new Heroes shows and I'm stuck wandering the TV looking for programs that don't have "contestants" or celebrities pretending to care about us and our problems.
Tomorrow, The Office finally returns, following another new My Name is Earl episode. "There Will Be Blood" will undoubtedly arrive on Thursday, but it will sit because two great programs featuring actors and a script will be airing. If they're up to form, I'll laugh a lot.
Finally, TV will give something back that means something to people.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

12 Angry Drunks.

MEXICO CITY — The Absolut vodka company apologized over the weekend for an ad campaign depicting the southwestern United States as part of Mexico amid angry calls for a boycott by U.S. consumers. But the ads, which ran only in Mexico and have since ended, were less than ideal for Americans embroiled in an emotional debate over illegal immigration from their southern neighbor.
More than a dozen calls to boycott Absolut were posted on, a website operated by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. The ads sparked heated comment on a half-dozen other Internet sites and blogs.
Really, a dozen calls? Out of 310 million Americans? What a furor must have developed at Absolut headquarters, which, according to the map is somewhere in Venezuela.
ABSOLUT: Hey, remember that ad with the big Mexico thing?
AD GUY: Barely. I think it was just for the Mexicans.
ABSOLUT: I know, but guess what? We had 12 people complain about it.
AD GUY: Wow. That doubles our projected exposure.
ABSOLUT: I know. Hey ...
AD GUY: What?
ABSOLUT: Ever heard of Michelle Malkin?
AD GUY: Not until just now.
Isn't it fascinating to see the types of things that upset people in our so-called progressive society? In the mid-20th century, you could go to a restaurant and see signs that said NEGROES MAY BUY HERE or WHITE-ONLY WATER FOUNTAIN or WHITE-ONLY RESTROOM. Those types of signs offended millions of people, yet they continued for decades. Today, in our U2/Bono/enlightened/World-view society an unknown conservative columnist and not even a busload of (supposedly) angry protesters has influenced a large distiller of spirts to pull an ad that isn't even run in the country that protested.
Can somebody explain this to me?
Naturally the company, fearing that the angry bloggers will influence at least 12 other people, has decided to do the politically correct thing and back peddle...
"In no way was it meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues," Absolut said in a statement left on its consumer inquiry phone line.
So what does it do, exactly? Other than piss off a handful of people, I mean. I'll tell you one positive thing it did. It seems to have eliminated Texas entirely, so there ya go. My statement would have gone something like...
"Fuck you if you can't take a joke. This was an advertisement for vodka, dumbass. If you want to do something with your anger, protest real things that are happening to real people and not some made-up ad that is intended to attract attention to itself. Stop calling us."
Meanwhile, the company issued a non-apology apology...
"As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market, and for that we apologize."
In other words, people are different, and we are sorry.
Now have a drink and shut up.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Keep the baby, faith.

WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has stopped telling a story of a pregnant woman's medical tragedy after an Ohio hospital challenged its accuracy last weekend. But recent accounts of the episode have omitted key details that suggest there was more truth in the essence of Clinton's tale than her critics, and even her presidential campaign, have acknowledged.
Since early March, the New York senator has often told campaign audiences a heartbreaking story of a young Ohio woman who began having problems with her pregnancy. She said the woman was twice turned away by a local hospital because she had no health insurance and could not pay a $100 minimum charge
I'm not going to bore you with the story. If you really want to read it, click the link above. Otherwise, it's worth skipping in lieu of your personal time. Suffice it to say that Hillary re-told a story that she got second-hand. Those of us in the real world call that a bullshit story. At election time, politicians like to trot-out so-called "real world" stories about people just like you and me who are being screwed-over by some establishment icon like a hospital, oil company or big business. Generally, they're harvested from hearsay and about as accurate as the rumor that generated it. When you involve a woman, an unborn child and an un-caring health care system, you have the political equivalent of gold.
It probably broke Hillary's heart to have to stop telling the story even more than it broke the hearts of the people hearing it. Truth however, being what it is, demands it. Politics, being what it is, demands telling it. It's the age-old push and pull. The winner is the side that will gain her the most votes.
It represents the extent to which people will go to get a vote or spin their cause. For the record, Hillary isn't any different than any other politician. If they believe they can drum up sympathy over a commoner who is being screwed over by corporate America, they'll sell it, and a lot of the time, we'll buy it.
However, don't forget that corporate America is the primary factor that will get them elected to begin with.
It's a win-win. Unless you include us in the equation.
Here's an idea for a fascinating real-life tale of woe. Millions of Americans are out of work, cannot pay their mortgage, don't have health insurance and are as closeasthis to living on the street. Meanwhile, if they're lucky enough to be working, their bosses are raking in the dough, giving themselves hefty pay increases and raping their companies for every dollar that isn't attached to someone's wallet.
The distance between the wage-earner and his boss is wider than ever and growing at an exponential rate. The people with the real problems are screaming at the people who don't understand why they're screaming.
The best part of the tale is that you don't need to make up a name of a victim or a protagonist. They're everywhere and we all know one.
But you'll never hear that story and try as they might, the people we elect will tell us that they'll help us, but in the end, they cannot. I've been listening to their promises for decades and it just keeps getting worse. It's a financial one-way street.
Has anybody ever torn down a parking lot to put up a tree?

The Phuket Bucket.

Models present creations of Top & Bottoms by Phuket Mermaids during Bangkok International Fashion Week March 23, 2008.
Alright, so I wasn't going to post the photo - until I realized the name of the Mermaids was ... go ahead, try and pronounce it. I don't think I could make up Phuket Mermaids and Bangkok out of the blue. It's serendipity.
Meanwhile, it's more than 24 hours since my marathon weekend drunk-fest and I think I'm just now starting to catch up on the brain cells that are bouncing around inside my head.
I'm tempted to go back to that little bar on Chestnut Street where the Bachlorette parties were, but I fear that serendipity, being what it is, is impossible to re-create. Those of us who try are destined to fail. Perhaps it's best left to memory?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Did you miss me?

Now I know how Keith Richards feels every day of his life. Since it only happens once a year or so, I suppose I'll recover. I have no idea how Keith survives. I think he's some kind of superhero. My friend's Bachelor Party Marathon went off fairly well, considering. Like many things, I was happy to participate but also glad that it's over.
In spite of weather forecasts that consisted only of the word "rain", we made it through a rain-free weekend in New York and Philadelphia. Honestly, is anyone held accountable for the accuracy of weather forecasts? If they were to be believed, we would have shit-canned the whole thing. They told us there was an eighty percent chance of rain from Friday night through Sunday morning. Nary a drop. Considering that it's the first weekend in April in the Northeast, we couldn't have asked for better weather.
I got to see Yankee Stadium again. I was there about 12 years ago, but since they're tearing it down after this season, I took the opportunity to miss most of the inconsequential regular-season baseball game and walk around the place taking it in.
It was also my first ride in the New York subway. Hard to believe. Everything you've heard about [something] being like Grand Central Station is true. The place is an organized madhouse. Thousands of people purposely wandering around and amazingly getting where they need to go. It's a long ride from the city to the Bronx, especially when we had to stand for all of it. I tried to figure out when you had to get to the train in order to get a seat. I figured that the people sitting down have been there for days, riding back and forth, afraid to give up their seat.
The Stadium is kind of a dump, but it's historic, so the dump factor is minimized. Fenway Park is a dump too, but there isn't the history somehow. After the game, it was back to the train and more wandering, trying to find a place with a big enough table to accomodate 11 people and our beer. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 3:15. A long day of driving, standing around and drinking. At 9:00, it was up and at 'em for my drive home and their drive to their hotel in Philadelphia.
The City Tavern is a great place. Amazingly, I had never been there before, and because of this little event, I've now been there twice in a month. After the meal, we found a nice little bar on Chestnut Street that was hosting at least one Bachelorette Party. One of the parties found our little party, and I remember this girl having a deck of cards with different drinks on them and little odd things to do. I remember carrying her around on my back for a while and ordering a shot called a Fuzzy Nipple. Naturally, the one I got along with turned out to be the pending bride. Screwed again.
After that, they insisted on going to a strip club called Delilah's Den, a short cab ride away. At one point, a bunch of women came parading down a flight of stairs, looking like the opening of Deal or No Deal, except there were no suitcases, the girls were topless and the Deal was that the girls got to keep the money. More debauchery ensued. I think it was 4:30 when Saturday evening (Sunday morning) came to a close.
It's nearly 9pm on Sunday and I'm just starting to regain consciousness. In hindsight, the Saturday follow-up party in Philly was probably a little too much. Most of us were beat by midnight, and several of his friends bailed, leaving only 5 of us at the end.
As you no doubt can tell, I've left out several interesting details. Dying with a secret is a life goal of mine.