Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Get your moon out of my house!

From your career path to your amorous adventures to just life in general, Astrology.com takes a good, long look at what the stars have in store for you this year! Click on your Sun sign to get started with your 2010 Yearly Overview, and then check out the stellar insights into Your Career in 2010 and Your Romantic Life in 2010.
Woo hoo!
It's nearly 2010, and at least one yearly horoscope is doing the look-ahead to see what's in store for people who were born during some Sun cycle or moon phase or whatever nonsense horoscopes are based on. They are based on something, right?
I find it fascinating that the date my parents copulated could have such an influence on who I am, and even more fascinating that some people swear by this junk.
Curiously, with this being the 21st century, people still rely on this to the point that newspapers run horoscopes every day, and I suspect that if they stopped doing it, they'd receive angry letters from people who would otherwise have no clue as to how to carry on with their lives. Perhaps horoscopes aren't so much predicting the future as they are dictating behavior, which would make them more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than an actual fortune. As for me:
If you find yourself looking for love, much of the year will bring newfound attention. Mars in your House of Love Received will bring surprising attention from both new players and those who may have not expressed an interest before. If you are seeking a mate, this is good news. If you already have one, this could be good news or it could just be awkward.
Wow - how perceptive ... and vague. My house really isn't big enough for Mars, so I guess I'm going to have to find a bigger place. Pluto maybe, but Mars? Not so much. And don't even ask me where my "House of Love Received" is. I know where the House of Love Rejected is. And aren't "new players" and "those who may not have expressed an interest" the same people?
As far as actual cash on hand, although it isn't likely there will be any windfalls or lottery wins, there will be a distinct sense of improvement developing gradually over time. June through August will show some distinct improvements.
Damn, no lottery wins. How interesting that the date I was born would dictate the likelihood of winning a ten million-to-one game of chance. I'm screwed.
There are a lot of superstitions and odd belief systems at work, and I would have thought that people would have given up on horoscopes a long time ago. There is never anything really negative, like "watch out, because you're getting too fat" or "check your cholesterol because your House of Pancakes is over Uranus."
They are always vague predictions of things that could happen to anyone regardless of when you were born. But people must be reading them because other people keep writing them.
Libra's are skeptical.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Because I know you love it when I rant...

I really should take notes. Things pop into my head during the day and I think, 'i need to write about that' only to find that my head hasn't the data capacity that I would like, and out it goes as easily as it came in.
I was thinking about all the pomp surrounding the Tiger Woods scandal and how his sponsors dropped him to the point that he decided to take an 'extended leave of absence' from golf. I was thinking, how many of the executives in the companies that dropped him as a sponsor were out doing the same types of things that got Tiger dropped? Plenty, I'm guessing, and if their wives found out they'd be dropped as quickly as Tiger. But, it's a one-way street and since Tiger is their meal ticket, he's out on his ass.
I was reading an article on the Internet that some states are considering putting referendums (referendii?) on the ballot to legalize marijuana, and I remembered that I once wrote that when states run out of ways to generate revenue, ideas that were once considered outrageous suddenly become good ideas - unless, of course, you consider (as I do) that legalizing marijuana is a good idea. It would certainly cut down on my drinking. C'mon, while we're young.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that tough economic times across the country have lawmakers looking at everything, and may lead even more states to eventually consider the potential tax value of pot.
This was a good essay. When I had functioning brain cells.
Back to the marijuana debate:
"There's no upside to it in any manner other than for those people who want to smoke pot," said Travis Kuykendall, head of the West Texas High Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area office in El Paso, Texas. "There's nothing for society in it, there's nothing good for the country in it, there's nothing for the good of the economy in it."
Can you name about a thousand laws that are created that have no economic good or value to society? Me too, which is why Travis' (something) argument is specious. He's probably stoned. Nothing good for the country? How about the billions of dollars we waste on the so-called War Against Drugs?
Couldn't we spend that money on a rocket to Mars, bringing WiFi to the masses, inventing a truly wrinkle-proof fabric, getting rid of the penny, eliminating service charges from concert tickets, paving some streets, keeping newspapers alive, finding a fifth pizza cheese, getting Sarah Palin a job at Wal-Mart, building a rail line between Gloucester County and Philadelphia (instead of just studying it), reducing cable TV rates, getting rid of the nine-tenths of a cent price on gasoline, eliminating plastic shopping bags or (God forbid) going toward public health care?
Priorities, gang.
Any of those things are a bigger benefit to society than hovering helicopters over pot fields in Florida.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Can you play Chopsticks with a knife and fork?

That's what 24 hours of rain does to 24 inches of snow. Compare and contrast. Nature is goofy. She's ruined the last 2 weekends - one with snow and one with rain. That leaves locusts and famine. Wake me when it's over.

I had an nice dinner at the local Chinese buffet on Christmas. A woman at the next table asked for chopsticks. I'm fascinated by the people who ask for chopsticks. The restaurant has plenty of forks and knives (and they're courteous enough to place them on your table) but they insist on wooden sticks. I think they're showing off for their friends, since I can't think of a practical answer as to why an American would choose to eat with two sticks instead of a utensil with stabbing capabilities and another that cuts.
I'm also a little puzzled by the food. They offer pizza and French fries as part of the buffet. Who goes to a Chinese restaurant and eats pizza? Maybe Chinese people? Besides, the pizza isn't very good. It's probably as good as Chinese food would be at Pizza Hut.
I'd guess that, if I went to China I wouldn't be served the same stuff that the Chinese restaurants serve here. I think it's gooped-up with sweet sauces and spices to make it palatable for us Americans.
I wonder too, why the shape of the chicken dishes always looks different. The chicken for the sweet and sour chicken is long and narrow, while the General's chicken is kind of round and lumpy and the chicken and broccoli chicken is flat. Is it all chicken?
The place I went to was charging dinner prices all day, and made the announcement as I walked in. They also wished me a "Merry Christmas," which I found odd. Charging dinner prices all day struck me as taking advantage of the limited choices available, as though I had options. What was I going to do, walk out? I got even by over-eating. That'll teach them! What should I have said? "I refuse to pay $12 for a meal that should cost $9." They know it's not going to happen, since my other Christmas dining choices included Dunkin' Donuts and Wawa.
Neither of those places has very good Wonton soup.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's almost over.

Charlie Brown: [Charlie Brown and Linus stop at a wall on their trip to the pond for ice skating]
I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus.
Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.
How are we supposed to feel? I had the TV news on tonight. On Christmas Eve, it's always the same 3 stories:
1) Christmas Eve mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul,
2) NORAD supposedly following "Jolly Ole' Saint Nick" on his trek around the world and,
3) Last-minute holiday shoppers being kicked out of local malls because it's 6 o'clock and they should have thought about this stuff a month ago.
The same old, same old. The other underlying theme of the local news is that "Christians everywhere are celebrating Christmas" as though Christians are the only people decorating trees and exchanging gifts on Friday. That's a load of crap. Mostly because to the media, the group of "Christians" represents anyone who doesn't fall into the Jew, Muslim or "other" category on the form they fill out somewhere. But to those of us with brains, "Christians" celebrate the Pagan holiday of Christmas because of either religious or societal peer pressure. They feel the need to give something in order to either get something or not feel guilty about getting something. It's the world's biggest pyramid scheme. And you know that heathens around the country will be tearing open gifts on Friday morning regardless of their religious upbringing.
Every year it's the same thing, and I imagine news directors at TV stations around the country penciling-in the standard reporter-based crap:
REPORTER: I'm standing outside [name the] mall and I've been talking to shoppers all day asking them why they've braved the crowds to do their last-minute shopping.
SHOPPER: I just have a few things to pick up, so I set the alarm clock for 4:00am and got out early today. Now, I'm done.
SHOPPER2: We just have a few more gifts to pick up, and we've been so busy that we figured that today was our last chance. (Nice thinking, since it's Christmas Eve and all)
SHOPPER3: I'm just looking for the perfect gift for my wife. (What a lucky girl!)
REPORTER: So, if you're coming to [name the] mall, you have 35 minutes to get here and find that last-minute gift before they close the doors and make you stay when your sorry-ass will be locked in until Saturday. Now, it's back to the newsroom where we're following the journey of Santa and his reindeer on their logistically impossible job of delivering toys to people around the world. Where is he now, Jim?
JIM: Our NORAD trackers have him in Pakistan right now, which oddly enough, is a Muslim country, so we figure he'll make quick work of them and get onto the business of delivering toys to those Christian boys and girls in places where they speak English and worship gods with less than 6 arms.
'Tis the season. Meanwhile, it's the same old crap every year. This year I did the best I could to distance myself from the odd tradition of gift exchange. I look around and wonder what it is we're doing and I can't figure out an answer other than peer pressure and guilt.
My boss gave me a beach towel, and I can't tell you the last time I went to the beach. The supervisor of my department gave me a $25 gift card for the Longhorn Steakhouse. I went to their web site and found that the nearest location would cost me about ten dollars to get to, so I figure the gift card would be a break-even. I suppose I'll find a homeless person in Philly to give it to. That should shake things up at the Columbus Avenue location!
It's a strange thing, the gift exchange. Children feel entitled and adults feel obligated. I'd like to think that we can randomly give things to people without the attention of a holiday, but the country is under the control of advertising and retail, so that's my nirvana I suppose.
It puts a lot of social pressure on people and they pretend to enjoy it, but I think if we decided to cancel Christmas, large numbers of people would breathe easier, lead less stressful lives and live without the ensuing debt that the holidays bring to some.
I suppose my viewpoint is slanted because Christmas is for kids and couples, and my world contains neither. But the problem is that if I choose to ignore the day (and I have) it is difficult if not impossible to ignore the social ramifications of the day.
Maybe if I were Jewish or a Hindu? Or happy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

They are out of ideas.

HARRISBURG, PA - Gov. Rendell yesterday upped the ante in his bid to balance the state budget, saying that without a table-games bill he would have to close the State Museum of Pennsylvania and some state parks in addition to laying off at least 1,000 more government employees.
Rendell last week said layoffs of 1,000 more state workers were "imminent" if no gambling bill was on his desk by January 8.
The bill - the final unresolved part of the state budget the governor signed in October after a 101-day impasse - would bring in $250 million in license fees and taxes that Rendell said is necessary to keep the government running.
When government runs out of ways to find revenue they invariably turn to gambling. Something that was so abhorrent when times were good now suddenly becomes a panacea. Strange how desperation works, eh?
So now the governor has held the threat of closing valuable state resources over the heads of the citizens if he doesn't get his gambling money. Interestingly, he probably has no use for either the state parks or the State Museum, so it's no skin off his nose. The people affected will be school-aged children and people who like to hang out outdoors for free, and I suspect he figures that groups interested in keeping those places open will pressure their state legislators to cave in to the governor's strong-arm tactics and pass a bill that they would otherwise oppose.
Something is either a good idea or a bad idea, and no amount of monetary gain will make it necessary, unless of course the government uses it as a pawn in their quest for money. That's why I figure the next two public sources of funds will be drugs and prostitution.
States that have already instituted lotteries, casino gambling or high taxes (New Jersey) have apparently run out of ideas for ways to raise funds. God forbid they cut their own salaries or some other state-funded perc they've become accustomed to. They have reached a limit in leaning on the populace for tax money, so one would figure the last resort would be something they wouldn't otherwise approve - legalized marijuana or legalized prostitution.
After all, Nevada has dealt with prostitution for decades, and along with their gambling mecca, they seem to be doing quite well for themselves. Once the casinos are up and running and the state is still in an economic shortfall (inevitable) the next previously social stigma to bring in funds will suddenly become acceptable to the legislators who would have opposed it in better economic times.
I can only hope that when it happens I am young enough to enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tis the season.

The snow is as high as an elephant's eye. Well, maybe. I've never really seen how high and elephant's eye is, so the hyperbole will have to do. Actually, it's about two feet, which is barely higher than my cat's eye.
As times of the year go, I hate this one. The days are short, and in order to get anywhere, one needs to add 25% to whatever time frame one thought would suffice. That's because hoards of shoppers are clogging the roads fetching their nearly last-minute gift items from the local shopping malls. Our fragile infrastructure wasn't made for this nonsense.
Tonight, for instance. The little town of Deptford was chock full of Urban Assault Vehicles (generally with one person inside) making a bee-line for the mall. My usual 40-minute ride home took more like an hour, partly because of the traffic and partly because I forgot what day it was. The snow-induced lost weekend manifested itself in a big rush to the stores on Monday night, lest little Timmy or his siblings be left without the latest Wii game or some piece of crap that will be tossed aside 3 days before the warranty runs out.
Have I mentioned how much I hate this time of year?
My theory on all this is that it's the one time of year when everybody - regardless of skill - has to be out in public. That means men wandering aimlessly in the mall, driving around not knowing where they're going and kids who would be better suited in front of the TV or surfing Internet porn, but are instead out causing trouble with their car or their lack of focus, making life difficult for those of us either trying to get home or out buying a roll of toilet paper.
This year, for the first time ever, I have not set foot in a shopping center, mall or other form of retail commerce since Thanksgiving. It's been personally satisfying, if not stress-relieving.
Life gets back to nearly normal on December 26, and I for one, can't wait. Now, all we have to do is get rid of this damned snow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I used to like snow.

Once I started driving my love affair with snow ended. It's nice to look at and it used to be fun to play in, but when it becomes work, that's where I stop enjoying it. Add to it the fact that it screwed with an entire weekend and it's on my short list of things I could do nicely without.
It took over an hour to dig my car out of it's snow tomb this morning, after nearly 2 feet of snow (23.4 inches officially) fell Saturday and Saturday night. The silent killer.
The good thing about condo living is that the sidewalks were cleaned early by a team of shovelers and snow blowers. They were out at 4:00am waking the neighbors and cleaning our stairways. The downside is that we don't have a garage, so the plow runs through the parking area and builds a nice wall of snow around us.
It's kind of powdery and light, but there's still 2 feet of it, so the weight isn't much consolation. I dug a path wide enough to get my car out and parked it in one of the cleared-out vacant spaces. I'm hoping that they come through with another plow tomorrow while we're at work. The hardest part will be figuring out where to put it all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's here!

This might be as far as I venture out today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No two snow forecasts are alike.

Tonight: Mostly cloudy with snow showers developing after midnight. Chance of snow 60%.
Saturday: Windy with snow of varying intensity. The snow is more likely to accumulate during the afternoon. High around 30F. Snow accumulating 2 to 4 inches.
Saturday night: Windy with snow, heavy at times. Low 23F. 5 to 8 inches of snow expected.
Sunday: Mostly cloudy with snow showers around in the morning. High 34F. Chance of snow 70%.
We have been through this before. The Storm of the Century is headed for us and we should run, panicking in the streets for the fate that awaits us. Uh-huh.
It was March 1, 2009 the last time they told us to be afraid of the snow. A foot, they said. Some of us rushed out to buy a shovel which, I'm happy to say, still sits in my storage area as shiny and new as the day I brought it home (April 30, 2009), and they tell us that I may finally get to use it. Uh-huh. It's coming.
Thousands of people have already rushed out to their local shopping malls in anticipation of being snowed-in for (thankfully) the last shopping weekend of the Christmas season. I know, because I had to endure their traffic on my way home from work tonight. I can still proudly proclaim that I haven't stepped into a shopping center, mall or department store since Thanksgiving, and with any good fortune, I will not do so until at least December 26.
I've charged my camera battery with the idea of posting some photos of the great storm we are expecting here. It's slated to start after midnight and continue until around 6:00am Sunday. I have enough cat food to see me through and a few movies and DVR'd content to make it through the 36 hours. What really frosts me is that it's going to ruin a perfectly good weekend and clear out just in time to go back to work on Monday.
I know, we're big pussies when it comes to snow. We panic and rush out to buy bread, milk and eggs as though we couldn't get through a day without French Toast. We embrace the concept and even revel in it to the point that the local news will lead with the story, even though it hasn't happened yet. On Saturday, they'll dispatch several reporters to places around the area telling us how treacherous it is and how we should "stay home unless we absolutely have to go out" as though we would wander aimlessly without purpose if it weren't for their warnings. It's a public service.
Undoubtedly, one of the local stations will have nailed the snow forecast - unless of course, we don't get any - which is another possibility, and they'll use it for three months in their promotional advertising. OK, so you told us it would snow.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Too good to be true.

Yesterday I posted a rather brief and cryptic analysis of the death of Oral Roberts, self-proclaimed healer via God who died from ... some disease. For his trouble he collected millions of dollars from people who believed him because - well, we want to believe I suppose.
It's the same reason we want to believe in Santa Claus, or more accurately, why parents want their children to believe. They say it's childlike wonderment or some junk, but it's really our parents perpetuating a myth on our young minds that has its roots in a belief in some healing power or that we are somehow not just amorphous blobs of protoplasm wandering aimlessly - which of course, we are. And we're too young and naive to realize that not only do good kids get stuff at Christmas, but the kid who beat us up in the playground and the one who cheated on his math test got stuff too. Nicer stuff than we got, too. Maybe Santa isn't as diligent as we were led to ... um ... believe? Another fine life lesson.
We like to think that we have some influence over things, hence superstition and other such nonsense designed to relegate responsibility to something that has nothing to do with our actions. We like blaming things on other things, and if we can use luck we're a happy bunch. If we are bad at something we're unlucky, but if someone else is good at something they're lucky - especially if we don't like them very much.
Likewise, we like to think that we're more important than we are, which is why we invented Twitter, Facebook and - egad - blogs to give us a voice in the wilderness and, in Twitter's case, followers who leap and bound on our every Tweet as though what we thought had some mystical importance. Mostly, it's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
So people like Oral Roberts and Santa Claus exist in our minds and we give over to them some other-worldly gift and think that they can either heal our wounds or make us happy by giving us junk.
Even though our common sense (or what's left of it) tells us that we're all alone here, wandering aimlessly, we cling to these things to the point that when others tell us that we're clinging to a thread we are offended and condemn them to Hell or a lump of coal.
Religion is a perfect vehicle because the only people who know for sure are dead and the Santa Claus bit is acceptable because we know that when we have children we'll get to pull the same crap on them, so there's a little revenge in the deal.
And the only thing we like better than relegating responsibility is exacting revenge for the people we blame for stuff.
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Evangelist heal thyself.

TULSA, Okla. – Oral Roberts, who helped pioneer TV evangelism in the 1950s and used the power of the new medium — and his message of God's healing power — to build a multimillion-dollar ministry and a university that bears his name, died Tuesday. He was 91.
Roberts died of complications from pneumonia in Newport Beach, Calif., according to his spokesman, A. Larry Ross. The evangelist was hospitalized after a fall on Saturday.
Hmmm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another TV train wreck.

For weeks I've been reading and hearing about a new show on MTV called Jersey Shore that I was told is guaranteed to be offensive to Italian-Americans to the point that it has been protested and at least one advertiser (Domino's Pizza) has pulled its ads from the show. That meant I had to see it.
I swallowed hard and watched not one, but two episodes of this show.
The premise is that the producers have taken 8 kids from the New York area and put them together in a beach house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey - hence the name. Then, as is the formula, a camera crew follows them around filming their antics.
I don't understand what is offensive about it, since the kids portray themselves as "Guido's" and "Guidettes." They are perpetuating the stereotype because they are the stereotype. At first, I thought that the people protesting the show had a point, but now I'm not so sure. If someone goes on TV and calls themself "fat" should we protest because it's offensive to overweight people? I lost track of the number of times they used the word "Guido" to describe themselves. They know what they are, and they're proud of it - one would think.
It isn't as though it was a scripted show (although it might be) and some writer is making it up - these people actually exist, so if Domino's wants to pull their advertising, or some Italian-American groups want to file a protest, they should be protesting the characters, not the show. Those people would be acting like that regardless of whether they're on TV or not.
As for the show, it's reprehensible on many levels, but oddly interesting. They think they're so cool and beautiful (to the point that one of the girls actually calls herself "hot") and I can't help but wonder what their parents are thinking now that the show is on the air.
One of my favorite moments came when one of the girls (Hoopi or Snookie - something) called her dad and told him that she was leaving after 2 days because she felt like an outcast, which I'd guess is her most redeeming quality. Dad, in his fatherly wisdom encourages her to stick it out and not be a "quitter," as if to say, "It's OK, soon you'll be making friends and having promiscuous sex like the rest of them. Be patient." Naturally, she stayed.
I'm watching their antics in the nightclub and in the house and I'm thinking, "I wonder if they realize that this is going to be on television?" They're wonderfully uninhibited, and seem to revel in themselves. Anyone outside their ethnic circle doesn't exist and they profess to only be attracted to other Guido's and Guidettes to the point that they'll actually tell you to get lost if you dare to approach them.
Oddly, with 8 characters on the show you'd figure that I could find at least one to like and root for, but alas, I cannot. It's disconcerting. They're all either full of themselves, users and/or the kind of people you'd like to run over with a lawnmower.
Of course, nobody outside their social circle would want anything to do with them - unless you just wanted to score a quick BJ or hang with one of them for a few hours and go home. It's really a closed society, and part of me felt sorry for them being so naive of the rest of the world and the fact that their behavior is socially abhorrent.
The fact that they don't care what we think is probably why they're on TV in the first place, and I found it to be a mild stroke of genius that the producers found them and put them together in a house. It's yet another example of odd behavior being foist upon us, and we're supposed to be shocked that such people exist and are willing to be exploited, even if they don't think they are being exploited - which might be the crux of the program, if it indeed has a crux.
I actually might watch it again. It's sort of like going on a safari to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Then you go back to your office cubicle and resume your life. Meanwhile, the animals are galavanting around, oblivious to you and your mundane (by their standards) lifestyle. Watching the show is probably the only way I'd get to see people like that interacting in the wild.
And it's not nearly as offensive as the show they promoted during it ad nauseum - Teen Mom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The thought occurs ...

... the most bacteria-infested place on earth is the handle of those hand sanitizers. Thousands of people with dirty fingers are pushing that plunger.
... that, and those pneumatic-tube money carriers at the drive-in bank. Think of the fingers on those things. Ick.
... when the story about the ambulance carrying someone out of Tiger Woods' house surfaced on Tuesday morning, how many of you thought it was either Tiger or his wife, having been bludgeoned by a golf club?
... when it turned out to be his mother-in-law, how did you feel about that? Some things are impossible to live down.
President Obama proposed a new program Tuesday that would reimburse homeowners for energy-efficient appliances and insulation, part of a broader plan to stimulate the economy.
The administration didn't provide immediate details, but said it would work with Congress on crafting legislation. Steve Nadel, director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, who's helping write the bill, said a homeowner could receive up to $12,000 in rebates.
How about those of us who just finished replacing every appliance in our home? Where's my rebate? If I had chosen to deal with that balky dishwasher or refrigerator a few more years I could have cashed-in on this money, but I wanted a stress-free life.
It's the same as when you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, and three months later they're offering a big prize for "new subscribers." How about us "old subscribers?" Nada.
... I'm waiting for a "Cash for Celibates" where people who don't bring needless children into the world are rewarded by not having to pay taxes for three years. There's a program I could support. More parking spaces for you.
... how many more Viagra and Cialis ads are we supposed to endure while putting up with the sex scandal news stories? Either you want us roaming the earth with woodies or not. Make up your mind.
... Gentle Giant. Most under appreciated band of the 1970s ... or ever.
... Danica Patrick has signed-on to race in the NASCAR circuit. Either she'll fail or succeed, and none of it will have anything to do with the fact that she's a woman.
... does anybody care about the "White House dinner crashers?" I'll be in D.C. on Friday. Should I try to have lunch with the Obama's?
... one of my condo neighbors was recently found face-down after a tryst with a hooker. Makes me wonder, how long would I lie here before someone found me? Until the place started stinking, I'd guess. I could only be so lucky to have it happen after a tryst with a hooker. My fortune - it would happen a la Elvis on the toilet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is this "Christmas" you speak of?

Sometimes we do what we're told whether or not we have given it much thought or considered the alternatives. Christmas is one of those times.
Holidays in general get me to thinking, and as regular readers know, getting me to thinking is both dangerous and purposeful.
Since we were children, we've been indoctrinated with the so-called Spirit of Christmas and all that it entails, including massive debt, some guilt and an overwhelming feeling of obligation. Merry Christmas.
But we go along to get along, and if we eschew the tradition (a.k.a. obligations) of the holiday we are committing social suicide and risk being a cast out in our social circle, such as it is. Peer pressure is a huge part of most holidays, and none more than Christmas. It's the reason I can't fault drug addicts and compulsive gamblers for falling in with the wrong crowd. We've fallen in with the wrong crowd too, only our crowd is called Society and we rationalize it because the mob mentality has made it right.
We do a lot of things without thinking, including several that are against the law, because "everybody does it" and if we do it too, we're not considered oddballs, merely social. That's a problem.
How many of our parents used the familiar quote, "If Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it too?" when asking us if our reasoning for doing something based on the popular choice was right.
So, why as adults do we suddenly claim immunity from doing what everybody else does and stop thinking for ourselves?
We feel obligated, and if we don't get something for somebody who might also buy us a gift we feel guilt. It's the world's biggest Pyramid Scheme.
Admittedly, it's too late to change mankind's behavior, and the retailers know that. They've started earlier every year, selling us on "that special gift for that special someone" while ignoring the fact that there may be other times when we have given gifts to special people in our lives, but now is the time when everybody does it - so you should too.
It's an awful lesson to teach.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Art as sport.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. I'm a little slow, so you'll have to bear with me.
Television has turned music into competition. No kidding. It started with the nonsense known as American Idol, transformed into such other nonsense as Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance and the grammatically incorrect America's Got Talent.
I was innocently watching Sunday night's football game when I saw NBC promoting a program called The Sing Off (no jokes please) where I assume singers face-off in a competitive talent competition that is probably to be decided by viewer votes (via telephone for money) with a two-hour premiere next week.
It is hosted by Nick Lachey (we're supposed to know who he is) and judged by Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Nicole Schwerzinger. Go ahead and Google them, because I'm pretty sure you only know Ben Folds because his name is on a group that he fronts.
The web site asks us who do you think will win (also grammatically incorrect) and we are left with 8 choices, eight of whom we have never heard of - presumably until we see the show in 8 days. I'd be curious as to whom is leading the vote totals with a week left to view the program? Hmm ... can anybody say pre-determined?
I voted for Beelezbubs (because it sounds like the producer) and when I clicked SUBMIT, I found that 34% had voted for Maxx Factor, 22% for Face and 32% for Voices of Lee. But how can that be, when the program has not aired? I wondered quietly to myself.
Beelzebubs got a scant 4% of the vote, which came (one figures) from his family and friends.
If you can read this and know who any of these people are, you're either lying or directly involved with the show, and have probably voted a few hundred times.
My problem comes in having television as a competition in so-called artistic endeavors. What happened to The Sculpt Off or The Paint Off? Why is it confined to singing? I'd guess it's because the rabble (i.e. TV viewers) are not sophisticated enough to carry off a program devoted to sculpting or painting. That's why we are given shows about baking cakes, home redecorating and singing. We all have an opinion on that.
Meanwhile, television has become a competitive field for music and other arts that would be best left to public opinion outside of TV. We did quite well when musicians were popularized by things like record sales and public appearances. We don't need TV shows to foist music on us. I guess I'm old fashioned. Or maybe I'd prefer to wait until I've actually heard someone sing, dance or bake a cake to determine whether or not I think they've got talent.
Whom do I think will win? NBC, that's whom.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Some water-cooler conversation, provided you can find a water cooler.

Now, finally we can put a number to it. 701,000.
Female solo artists account for eight of the top 10 albums on The Billboard 200. Susan Boyle leads the pack as "I Dreamed A Dream" debuts at #1 with sales of 701,000.
701,000 official nitwits in the world. Now that we know that, we can get on with our lives. This is why we'll never do away with these so-called "talent" shows where celebrities are foist upon us. It's a pandemic worse than Swine Flu. It's worse because the only cure is death. I dreamed a dream ... that people actually had to have worked for their art instead of just showing up on a television show and being force-fed to the public. I can dream.
MONTPELIER, Vt. – Richard Phillips, the ship captain toasted as a hero after he was taken captive by Somali pirates, ignored repeated warnings last spring to keep his freighter at least 600 miles off the African coast because of the heightened risk of attack, some members of his crew now allege.
Well, you can hardly blame the captain. Who's going to believe you when you tell the captain to look out for pirates? C'mon - what year is this?
Viewers of "The Today Show" Wednesday morning were treated to an unexpected interview and announcement by actress Meredith Baxter, who is best known for her role as mom Elyse Keaton on the beloved '80s sitcom "Family Ties." Baxter's interview with Matt Lauer started off a bit awkwardly, but finally the soft-spoken actress revealed her announcement: She is a lesbian. The thrice-married Baxter, who has five adult children, went on to explain that she's been living openly with her partner Nancy for years.
Well then, that's a relief! I was afraid we'd never know the truth about her. Now I can get some sleep. So, here's a question: Why is this an interesting news story and the junk about Tiger Woods is considered tabloid trash? It's suddenly mainstream media fodder to admit you're a homosexual but it's prying into ones personal business to talk about extra-marital affairs. That makes good nonsense. Suppose Tiger was having an affair with another man and he "came out?" Would that be on "The Today Show" too, or do you have to be a has-been 80s TV actress to get on? Just asking.
Starting this Saturday (December 5) at 8:00am, Walmart will be offering a $50 gift card with every Wii purchase, bringing the effective price of the console down to just $149.99 - and that's easily the best deal on a Wii ever seen.
And what will you spend the fifty bucks on? Wii games, that's what. Making the effective price $200. And I bet you have to wait 2 months to get the gift card - after you've clipped out the bar code and filled out five forms. What a deal! Whatever happened to cash? I wonder how popular the sale would be if the gift card was for $49.99 instead of $50? Can we stop it already with the 99 cents?
And while we're at it (or you're at it, more accurately) can we pass some legislation banning the nine-tenths at the end of the gasoline price? Try asking for a gallon and see what kind of change you get. Where's that nine-tenth's coin? It's back there with the further sixpence and shilling in the graveyard of lost world currency.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Life in the modern world is a bitch.

There's an online poll going on at CBS3 (one of the local news TV stations) asking if the recent Tiger Woods scandal has made you change your opinion of him. I answered "no." The reason I said no is because I never liked him to begin with. It's difficult for a scandal to alter ones opinion when the offender is seen as kind of a punk.
Since my only impression of him is what I see on the golf course, what I see is a petulant child who seems to be spoiled by success and whines and moans whenever things don't go his way, throws clubs when he misses shots and berates journalists and fans if they dare to make noise while he's playing. He's a gentleman as long as he's winning, but he's what we humans call a "sore loser," and those types of people like things to go their way all the time.
Now, he's apologetic - as we humans tend to be - because he got caught doing something he's been doing for a long time. Presumably, had he not been caught his dalliances would have continued merrily onward because, we know, he's not sorry because he was wrong, he's sorry because he got caught.
That isn't just about Tiger. It's about every person on the planet who gets caught doing something wrong and issues an apology. Usually it starts with the phrase "if I offended anyone, I apologise" as though the people who weren't offended don't deserve an apology because the guy ran a couple of stop signs at three times the legal blood alcohol limit. Only if you're offended - then, I'm terribly sorry.
Most times their lawyer draws up the apology and the punk reads it. We know this because words like pejorative and circumstantial couldn't be spelled and probably have to be rehearsed in the bathroom mirror, but there they are. The sentence structure is straight out of Stanford Law School.
I don't know if it's a good trait of mine or not, but generally I can tell a skunk almost immediately, just as I can tell a good person. First impressions aren't always fair, but life isn't fair either. In fact, here's a little tip to help you get out of jury duty, if you're so inclined.
When the lawyer starts asking you questions, you tell him, "I can tell if a guy is guilty just by looking at him!" That should just about do it for your jury service. Next!
Another little tip: Cell phone cameras are everywhere. They're so small now, they look like iPod mini's, but they pack a wallop. Before you know it your little keg stand is all over YouTube and you'll look like a jackass for telling your wife [slash] girlfriend that you were at a lodge meeting [sorry for the Flintstones reference].
Be careful out there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do as I say, not as I do.

I'm a bad American. President Obama is speaking on TV tonight, and I'm sitting here wondering which of my DVR programs I'm going to watch to fill the hour. I figure whatever he says I'll read in the newspaper tomorrow. So, maybe I'm not such a bad American after all, it's just a matter of time management.
I'm not big on foreign affairs and the Middle East. I've never been. I'd make a lousy Jew, because I pretty much ignore the region. I figure, they've been fighting for five thousand years and they'll be fighting for five thousand more. I don't know of another culture that is as combative. Everything they do over there - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran et al - is designed to bring their hatred of somebody to the front. It isn't the way I conduct my life and I don't understand why a culture would want to propagate that sort of thing.
Since I was a kid (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) I've been hearing about tensions between the Jews and the Arabs or some other group. We've been contributing to the war efforts of one or the other of them for decades and where has it gotten us? Three-dollar a gallon gasoline and a lot of dead young men and women, that's where.
One thing I ask myself: Why would a God who supposedly cares about life and humanity place the one most valuable asset (oil) under the most disruptive area on the earth? If he had put a giant oil field in Australia we would probably be paying a dollar a gallon for gasoline.
It causes me to lose faith in ... faith.
The president is going on TV tonight to tell us that he is sending 30,000 more people to Afghanistan to fight some war or other, and simultaneously tell us that he has a 19-month withdrawal plan. That's nice. How would I feel if I were a kid going over there knowing that the guy who sent me wants me to come home in a year and a half? I'd feel like a driver with 11 points on his record - Don't get into trouble. Is that really the best plan? The guys at Fox News are going to piss their pants over this one.
Meanwhile, I'm checking my DVR recordings. "Heroes" is on.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Cult of Personality.

The Tiger Woods story is a microcosm of how we view and treat celebrities and how they treat us. I'll spare you the sordid details, since you've probably already read or heard enough to write your own blog. Suffice it to say the whole story smells and one wonders about the golf club damage to his vehicle and the cuts on his face to the point that we ... um ... wonder.
What I'm getting out of the story (after days of agonizing analysis) is a lesson in celebrity treatment and what the public wants from them, which is usually more than they're willing to give.
Celebrities want the limelight, the money and fame but when it comes to sharing the intimate details of their social life, they draw a thick line. Unless you're Madonna-esq, in which case you write a book detailing your sexual escapades.
But if you drive an Escalade and play golf for a living, you tend to be a lot more close mouthed about your dalliances and the goings-on of your family life. But the celebrity in you makes it acceptable or even necessary for those of us in the [quote] real world [unquote] to pry into your life because - well - we think you owe us the sordid details. We want to hear about your troubles because maybe it will make you look a little more like us and maybe we like it when you drop a rung or two on the ladder because, as Don Henley once sang, "We love dirty laundry."
On the other hand...
You don't want to tell us because your personal life is your business, and if you don't want to talk to the police or hold a press conference describing how your vehicle turned into a wreck, that's your business and none of ours. You are a private citizen and if you don't want to talk you don't have to. You don't owe us anything but your efforts on the golf course, stage or TV screen and if we don't like it, well ... we can ... um ... lump it.
You see, celebrities are just like us; only they have a larger audience. Our world consists of our family, friends and co-workers. The difference is that our dalliances can cost us our jobs, while celebrities' escapades make them more interesting somehow. If I carried a gun onto an airplane and got caught I'd probably lose my job. If Charles Barkley does it he's a quirky goofball who flaunts the rules for his own benefit and his life goes merrily onward. Not that Charles would do that ... I'm just saying.
If I ran into a few stationary objects in my neighborhood at 2:25am and refused to speak to police, I'd guess that I'd have some questions to answer, but if I didn't want to tell anybody they wouldn't know. And no, I wouldn't blog about it.
The difference between me and Tiger (outside of a 100 handicap) is that when he does it, it's newsworthy because ... well, he's Tiger Woods - the Muhammad Ali of our generation. Maybe he understands that or maybe he doesn't. Either way, we think he owes us an explanation, but all he owes us is 4 rounds of golf every week.
The bigger issue is the Internet, The National Enquirer and 24/7 talk radio and media outlets. Maybe Bobby Jones drove into a lake once or Arnold Palmer cussed-out a kid? We might never know because either the media wasn't around, nobody had a cell phone camera or there just wasn't enough interest. The presence of modern technology (including the recording of 911 calls) makes it impossible to lead a normal life - even if you're a normal person. Ask Michael Phelps about that one.
When we stop treating celebrities like Gods and remember that they are fallible humans like the rest of us - albeit with a larger audience - we'll be better off.
Leave him alone and let him play golf. You don't really care if his wife beat him with a golf club. Do you?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I don't follow instructions.

It was a strange weekend. I lost 2 pounds. That in itself speaks for what a strange person I am. Where most people eat like ponies and spend three days regretting their gluttony, I ate the usual amount and took a container of leftovers home. I'm funny that way.
I was also able to go three days without speaking to anyone. That in itself speaks for what a strange person I am. It's partly because nobody speaks to me and partly because I have nobody to speak to. If the cat could talk I'd be a happier person, but he makes an odd whining noise that I haven't yet been able to interpret.
I'll go to work tomorrow and people will ask about my Thanksgiving. When I say that mom roasted a chicken, they will reply, "A chicken?" As though I committed a crime against nature by eating something besides turkey on Thanksgiving.
Even though, every big family Thanksgiving dinner I ever attended (many years ago) consisted of people complaining about (a) the time it took to cook the turkey (b) the quality of the turkey and/or (c) wondering why they cooked so much food. It's repeated behavior in ninety percent of the households in America. We are a species that is slow to learn.
I was supposed to go out on Friday and spend money on doorbuster sales and join the crowds of shoppers frolicking in the mire. I didn't do that, either. Afterward, I was supposed to spend the rest of the day regretting the money I spent and vowing not to do it again. It's a holiday tradition - for some.
So now, it's back to normal (or as close as I get) and the next 25 days or so of planning for a holiday that I could just as well sleep through. Christmas is for kids and couples and I have neither, but I'll spend the next month enduring holiday music and promotional advertising for things that I have little interest in.
It's like a 30-day fraternity prank.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Making the difficult choices.

One of the great things about modern society is that we can choose to ignore great parts of it and still get along well in the world. Such will be the case on Friday, the day the humans call Black Friday.
If we are to believe the advertising, several stores will be left without doors, as they will have been busted by low prices and great deals on stuff we didn't know we needed.
Where stores used to open at 9:00am or even as early as 6:00am, they now are opening as early as 4:00am on Friday morning so that ravenous consumers can snatch the latest gimmicky product being advertised at "unbelievable prices."
You'll see the lines forming late Thursday night. There will be shoppers in tents, sleeping bags and lawn chairs hoping to be one of the few who pick up that incredible $100 TV [limit 10 per store - no rain checks]. The TV reporters will interview them and they'll talk about what piece of junk they hope to rush in and grab before the 200 people in front of them in line rush in and grab it.
It's a tradition as deep and rich as the holiday itself, and at times, it seems to be the reason for the holiday - and I'm sure it's the reason Thanksgiving was never moved to Monday like all the other holidays. After all, what's the difference between President's Day, Columbus Day and Thanksgiving? They were once all proclaimed to fall on a specified day, and only a select few were moved to Monday to accommodate working people, so that we'd have the sacred "Three-day weekend." You can bet your ass that the retail lobby or some other such organized group kept Thanksgiving on Thursday so they would have the long weekend of shopping.
And while you're asking yourself questions, ask yourself this one. Almost all of the stores that you'll see on the TV news also have Internet portals where consumers can and do shop. So why then, is it necessary to coerce consumers to queue-up on Friday morning to get their deeply discounted prices? It's because the junk they're standing in line for is severely limited, and the stores are figuring that after waiting twelve hours for a $100 computer and finding none, the consumer will stay long enough to spend the hundred bucks on something else. In some circles it's called bait and switch.
Here in America, we call it a holiday weekend.
The reason I choose to ignore it is because I hate to feel as though I'm being used - unless it's sexually - by anything bigger and smarter than me, and I feel as though going out on Friday to shop is leaning into a punch. Besides, there will be 29 other days of "incredible door-busting savings" if one chooses to spend their money on Christmas gifts.
As for me, I'll sleep-in and watch the TV news.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I hate to even bring it up...

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Even before Adam Lambert's show-stopping performance at the 2009 American Music Awards was edited for the west coast feed of the awards show, the singer told Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson that he felt censoring his performance would be wrong.
"You know honestly, if I offended some people ... it's apples and oranges. I'm not an artist that does things for every single person," Adam told Access' Shaun backstage following his racy performance of "For Your Entertainment," where he kissed male keyboardist Tommy Ratliff, who is straight.
It's great that a guy who has been in show business for fifteen minutes suddenly has a point of view. This is the problem with shows like "American Idol" who foist music on us - it creates controversy where none existed and makes a star out of someone whose biggest previous accomplishment was winning the Air Band competition at Mesa Verde Middle School. Really.
Besides, the guy didn't even win "American Idol." He finished second. Can you imagine the train wreck that won? I can't wait to see what iconic music comes out of that.
It's also not much of a surprise that something so banal and sanitary as the American Music Awards (and their rich tradition that is only slightly older than Lambert himself) would censor his performance. This is the same awards show that gave the "favorite male artist" award to Michael Jackson and the "favorite album" award to Number Ones, a collection of decades-old material that he re-released in anticipation of the tour he couldn't stay off drugs long enough to start.
Death truly is the greatest salesman.
It's such an irrelevant event that I'm going to stop writing about it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some things are too easy.

The cat sleeps peacefully at the foot of the fire. Some things in life are too sublime to mention. The logs cost five bucks but the pleasure is immeasurable.
Maybe he doesn't know that. Maybe he doesn't know that I make a special trip to the PetSmart to get him the 71-cent food pouches when I could just as easily get the generic 50-cent stuff from the supermarket. He cares when he eats it, I suppose, but doesn't appreciate the sacrifice.
If only people were so easy to please.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who is paying for this?

LOS ANGELES – California is investigating several companies suspected of bilking churches nationwide of hundreds of thousands of dollars through fraudulent computer leasing schemes, authorities said Friday.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown said as many as 30 Southern California churches may have been defrauded, with the same companies suspected of bilking other churches in as many as 10 other states. The companies offered churches free computer kiosks that could serve as electronic message boards and generate advertising revenue, Brown said.
"Instead, churches were left with leases as high as $45,000 per year for what amounted to little more than desktop computers and printers housed in podium-sized wooden boxes," the Attorney General's office said in a statement.
I'm fascinated by this story for a few reasons:
First, a criminal (or criminals) figured out how to defraud perhaps the most trusting group of people on the planet - religious folk. They see the good in everyone and forget that sometimes evil not only exists, but triumphs over good. Their naïvety works against them.
Secondly, that churches need advertising revenue, or advertising at all. That seems to be a wild idea, to say the least. I would think the product should sell itself.
But the most interesting part of the deal is that they ran to the state for protection. The state to which they pay no taxes on their property. The state to which they are supposed to be separate from - or at least that's what it says in our Constitution, unless I've read it wrong.
I think it's fascinating whenever church or religious organizations get involved in politics and elections, also. They profess to be able to tell us whom to vote for, yet accept none of the responsibility for helping us pay for the goods and services the government provides.
I say, let them fight their own battles. When they run to the state for help, the state should recite the doctrine set forth by the country that so willingly aids their existence.
Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Noun, adjective or verb?

I'm confused over the title of Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue." I don't know if she means rogue as a noun, adjective or verb. She's so mysterious!
rogue NOUN:
An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.

ADJECTIVE:
Vicious and solitary. Used of an animal, especially an elephant.
Large, destructive, and anomalous or unpredictable: a rogue wave; a rogue tornado.
Operating outside normal or desirable controls.
VERB: rogued , rogu·ing , rogues VERB: tr.
To defraud.
To remove (diseased or abnormal specimens) from a group of plants of the same variety.

VERB: intr.
To remove diseased or abnormal plants.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Keeping our eye on the ball.

WASHINGTON (AFP) News photos of President Barack Obama bowing to Japan's emperor have incensed critics here, who said the US leader should stand tall when representing America overseas.
Obama on Monday was in China, having wrapped up the Japan leg of his Asia trip two days earlier. But Washington's punditocracy was still weighing whether or not the US president had disgraced his country two days earlier by having taken a deep bow at the waist while meeting Japan's Emperor Akihito.
Of course, the political media is divided. Conservatives are saying that the bow is a sign of subservience, and that President Obama is showing weakness by bowing at the hand of another world leader.
That's precisely the type of jingoistic thinking that gets us into trouble around the world. Conservatives are looking for trouble and will scream at the first sign of something they don't understand. Technically:
Bows are the traditional greeting in East Asia, particularly in Korea and Japan. However, bowing is not reserved only for greetings. Bowing is a gesture of respect. Different bows are used for apologies and gratitude, to express different emotions, humility, sincerity, remorse or deference, and in various traditional arts and religious ceremonies.
There are a few words that some people aren't familiar with, so I'll repeat them: Respect, sincerity and gratitude. Look them up.
What's interesting is that the people who are screaming are known conservatives and the rest of us ... well, don't particularly care because it doesn't mean anything except "hello," because not everyone in the world shakes hands and says, "How are ya!"
"I don't know why President Obama thought that was appropriate. Maybe he thought it would play well in Japan. But it's not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one," said conservative pundit William Kristol.
You're right Bill - you don't know. Gosh, maybe Obama thought it would play well in Japan because ... anyone? ... he was in ... anyone ... Japan!
Some conservative critics juxtaposed the image of Obama with one of former US vice president Dick Cheney, who greeted the emperor in 2007 with a firm handshake but no bow.
"I'll bet if you look at pictures of world leaders over 20 years meeting the emperor in Japan, they don't bow," Kristol said.
Well, that's because Dick Cheney is a jackass and probably didn't bow because he's too pompous and full of himself to be polite. After all, he's the guy who told Senator Patrick Leahy to "fuck himself," so what did they expect? Emperor Akihito is lucky that Cheney didn't shoot him in the face. And, maybe Mr. Kristol could provide some photographs, because I don't trust his opinion.
Can we, just for a few minutes, get over this partisan sniping that people like Fox News eat with a big spoon? It might make for great TV, but it's divisive; and we don't need more division. Conservative - Liberal -- how about American? Could that work for a little while? We're up to our asses in crap and you nitwits are arguing about a greeting in Japan. Seriously. I'm really tired of the fighting.
Besides, would you rather have a president who bows in respect or one who kisses Saudi princes? They're both greetings, after all, right? Here are a couple of photos for you, Mr. Kristol:
Another conservative voice, Bill Bennett, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program: "It's ugly. I don't want to see it. We don't defer to emperors. We don't defer to kings or emperors. The president of the United States - this coupled with so many apologies from the United States - is just another thing," said Bennett.
Hmm ... I guess deference is something we reserve for certain presidents and certain religious folk.
Ugly is as ugly does, Mr. President.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cats

Cats will be cats, and cats will be cruel,
Cats can be callous, and cats can be cool,
Cats will be cats, remember these words:
Cats will be cats and cats eat birds.
"Facts About Cats" - Timbuk 3

I guess there are worse things in life than devoting ones life to a cat. After all, they can't provide for themselves and they can't look after themselves - other than the occasional tongue cleaning or scratching post maintenance.
Like those personal ads that proclaim "Likes dancing." Name me 3 guys who would dance if it weren't for women dancing. Can't do it. I also "like fine dining." Big deal, who doesn't? Run an ad that says "Likes mediocre dining" and see what kind of responses you get.
I don't think we know what we want, which is why the divorce rate is so high. Otherwise, we'd hook up for life like our miserable parents did. Of course, the job market wasn't as high for mom as it is for new-mom, so that says a lot - but still...
There are a lot of worse things to do with our lives than to make life comfortable for a shelter cat, and I guess I'm doing that for the second time in my life, which is more than I can say for the women I've met along the way.
He sleeps at my feet, follows me around and generally pays attention to me; so I guess it's the least I can do to make him comfortable. I'm not asking for a woman to do those things for me, but two out of three wouldn't be bad.
I'm broken, and if having a cat to care for fixes me some, than I'm all for it. Otherwise, I'll have to go about life caring for myself, and that's a short-term investment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So, do we call it "Black Thursday" now?

Wednesday was one of those oddball mid-week holidays that not everyone gets. While I appreciate the reason, I wonder why Veteran's Day needs to remain November 11, and isn't subjected to the American 3-day weekend treatment that other holidays endure. It's the same reason that Election Day should be on a Saturday, to allow as many people as possible to vote. Some traditions are way too engrained in our national habits and need to be changed, while others ...
A year after an unruly crowd trampled a worker to death at a Wal-Mart store, the nation’s retailers are preparing for another Black Friday, the blockbuster shopping day after Thanksgiving. Last year, frenzied shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., trampled Jdimytai Damour, a temporary store worker who died soon afterward. To prevent any repeat, Wal-Mart has sharply changed how it intends to manage the crowds. That new plan, developed by experts who have wrangled throngs at events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics, will affect how customers approach and enter the stores, shop, check out and exit.
The most significant change at Wal-Mart is that the majority of its discount stores (as opposed to its Supercenters) will open Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m. and stay open through Friday evening. Last year, those stores closed Thanksgiving evening and reopened early Friday morning. By keeping the stores open for 24 hours, Wal-Mart is hoping for a steady flow of shoppers instead of mammoth crowds swelling outside its stores in the wee hours of Friday.
So, the answer to crowd control is having the stores open on a holiday. Nice. I'm wondering how the hordes of Christmas shoppers are going to work-in a visit to Wal-Mart with their holiday feast.
"Gee, I'd like to stick around for some mince meat pie, but there's a $99 GPS on sale at Wal-Mart, and I want to get there before the white trash scoops them up."
Happy Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, the people in the service industry get crapped on once again. Like it wasn't bad enough that they had to work long hours during the holidays for minimum wage, now they have to be there on Thanksgiving so Bubba can get his cheap laptop. Why? Because shoppers trampled someone to death last year in their rush to get a $25 DVD player.
"We are committed to looking for ways to make our stores even safer for our customers and associates this holiday season,” said David Tovar, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, adding that the retailer was “confident our customers can look forward to a safe and enjoyable shopping experience at Wal-Mart.”
It's most of your customers who should be committed. It's a sad commentary on the state of our society when a retail spokesman has to talk about making their stores "safer for our customers." The Christmas shopping thing has gotten way out of hand, and instead of discontinuing the ridiculous Black Friday price-drop, they decided to leave the stores open on a holiday. That makes good nonsense.
The best solution would have been to stop making such a big deal out of Black Friday and conduct business as usual. If they want to put their junk on sale, it can be done just as easily on December 4 as it can on November 27 or any other day in the sacred Christmas shopping season.
But God forbid they give up their precious discount day. Rather than punish people for being giant asses, they enable the behavior by ... anyone? ... opening the stores on the holiday! That will fix it.
Sometimes I don't understand you humans.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A tale of woe.

I used to love music. I went to a lot of shows and bought a lot of records. Yes, records. Now, not so much.
In those days - we're talking about the mid 70's to early 80's - music was adventurous, exciting and interesting. I think it's because none of us knew what money was or how to make it.
Bands like Gentle Giant, Focus, Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Emerson, Lake and Palmer played big houses and sold lots of records. Enough, at least, to keep them in business and earn money for their record companies. It was enough to be artistically interesting, sell-out a venue like the 3,600 seat Tower Theater and sell some records; even though their music didn't get played on mainstream radio stations. In fact, the idea that their music wasn't played on mainstream radio was a badge of honor.
We would peruse local record stores in search of the next interesting band. We'd trace their family trees to see who left which band and where they landed. Bill Bruford left Yes to join King Crimson. Buy the next Crimson record. Peter Banks left Yes to form Flash. Check out Flash. Keith Emerson was quoted in the latest issue of Circus magazine saying that Genesis was his favorite band. Buy a few Genesis albums and find out why. That's how we heard stuff like "Lark's Tongues in Aspic," "Small Beginnings" and "Supper's Ready," the 22-minute epic that for some reason I can recite the lyrics to. Probably because I've listened to it so many times it's etched in my brain like musical Mount Rushmore.
All of those people are either in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or settled nicely into retirement. The days of experimental rock music are gone. They're gone because experimental rock music doesn't earn any money. All it does is make musicians happy, and that's not profitable.
Now, we manufacture stars on television. We group them into marketable icons and parade them in front of an audience who presumably votes on their favorites. The most marketable ones are thrust upon us like the flu, and we're powerless to resist. It's music disguised as a big marketing machine. If Keith Emerson was dead he'd be rolling over in his grave.
As for me, I've chosen to ignore the big marketing machines, as I did when I was young. It's a consistent behavior that I am proud to say I've grown into as an older adult. Some things need to stay with you. There are a handful of bands like Umphrey's McGee, Gov't Mule and The Derek Trucks Band that sell their wares on the road playing for tiny houses in front of devoted fans with little or no radio play, but the sense of adventure is gone. Maybe I don't have the energy for it or maybe it no longer exists. Either way, music ain't what it used to be - which is something I can say for a lot of things.
For one thing, we don't have record stores any more. What few big-time music chains still exist are selling the television stars and radio exposed artists because they can't afford to stock CDs that might sell a piddly ten thousand copies. It's all about the bottom line.
That's the sad part. Music has become a corporate venture. No longer can people like Kate Bush, Peter Hammill or Focus get a recording contract, and if you can't get a deal you probably can't afford to continue. So, bands are left to market their own music, and that requires a lot more work on the part of the listener and even more on the part of the artist. They're fighting against a huge machine that starts with television.
Like a lot of things, it isn't going to be what it was, and people like me are left with the memories of picking through records looking for the next interesting thing. Something to stimulate me and make me think - two qualities that seem to be sadly lacking in the world of corporate music. It's a shame that an entire generation of music-loving people will be denied the simple pleasure of finding a gem among the rubble, because the musical family tree now consists of the audition for the television show, followed by the marketing campaign that produces the album that is thrust on us by the machine that produced the television show.
That isn't art. It's just marketing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Not much to say today

So, we'll just look at a cat half asleep on my sofa.

Friday, November 6, 2009

An athletic supporter.

I'm intrigued by those surveys and opinion polls that determine "The City with the Most Beautiful People" or "The Smartest Towns in the U.S." Mostly because I find it hard to believe that there are more beautiful people in Pasadena, California than in Des Moines, Iowa. Either they're not looking hard enough or they have an odd definition of beauty.
Those sorts of surveys try to link people with the city they live in. It's a nice idea, but it strikes me as hogwash. Like the idea of "Southern Hospitality" or "Midwestern Charm." If you come to Philadelphia and are treated well, you're supposed to be surprised. Sports fans have an identity too, whether we like it or not.
The Phillies lost the World Series Wednesday night. Being a Phillies fan, I'm supposed to be devastated. I'm not, but that's because I treat sports as entertainment. Like a movie or a TV show, I find that I can distance myself from the proceedings because I'm not directly involved. If the game entertains me, I'm happy.
Fans from Philadelphia are supposedly hostile, tough and passionate. That's true of a lot of cities in the northeast. We have a reputation for boorish behavior that tends to indict us all for the actions of a few, and that's ... well, it's probably true, but still...
We are identified with the teams we affiliate ourselves with. That's an odd notion, since our birthplace or residence makes us a fan of a team more than anything else. Subsequently, when the team we like wins, we become winners. When they lose, we're losers. You could earn $100,000 and drive a Porsche; if the Phillies lose, you're a loser too.
Now, we're subjected to ridicule from Yankees fans because "their team" beat "our team" in the World Series. One co-worker recently declared that "all is right with the world again" because the Yankees had won.
To go along with that notion, fans often use the term "we" when they're talking about the team, as though they were involved somehow. Other than paying for a ticket or watching the game on TV, they had nothing to do with it. Yet they still proclaim, "We won!" I guess it gives them some sense of self-worth that they can't get from their family, job or hobby. It's kind of sad that some people place such a high value on something that they have no control over.
When the Eagles lose, there's a region-wide gnashing of teeth and loss of sleep over a football game. Sometimes the fans take the loss harder than the players. That's odd. It's all fun and games until you start to take it personally, then it's more like a psychosis. I wonder if they make a drug to treat a loss of erection brought on by football?
So here I am, loser Phillies fan, about to take a year's worth of abuse from Yankees fans for something that somebody else did. Well screw 'em. I'm not changing my profile photo and I'm not giving up my season tickets.
Besides, whether the Phillies won or lost, I still have to get up at 5:30, schlep to work, pay my bills and find a reason to do it all over again the next day. I think that's harder than beating the Yankees.