Saturday, February 7, 2009

This blog post is brought to you by another advancement in technology.

Sometimes I wonder how we existed as a race prior to the invention of some modern conveniences.
Life must have been such a horribly contrived inconvenience without a telephone in our pocket. How did we manage to survive before we had a microwave oven to cook meals in minutes? How did we ever meet anyone before the Internet served its purpose and matched people based on their preferences in life? Click on "slim, loves to travel and doesn't smoke" and you'll find your perfect mate. What a concept, yet people still fight, argue and separate. How is that possible with such highly advanced mating techniques?
The recent allegations over Alex Rodriguez and his steroid abuse make me think about whether or not athletes were so much better before they took drugs? My immediate response is "no, they are not." So, why do they use drugs? The technology is available, so they use it, but pro sports struggles to catch up to legislate against something that may or may not be producing better performers.
Are weather forecasts better now than they were in the 1960s? We just experienced one of the bigger snowstorms of the past few years and every one of the local TV weather forecasts missed it, so much so that one of them went on the next night and apologized for his inaccuracy. They all have some form of futuristic Doppeler gizmo and an advanced computer modeling system, yet still none of them knew we were headed for a six inch snowfall. The next day, all of them were able to explain why they were wrong, but none of them knew enough to forecast it. If I were making out next year's budget, I'd ask what the point was in spending so much money over something that didn't offer any results.
Is music any better now than it was before digital sampling and CDs? Every time I spend $90 for a concert ticket, I stop and think that I used to spend $6 and it is essentially the same experience. A big stage, big speakers and a hall full of people. Not everything costs 15 times more now than it did in 1979, but concert tickets do. Are we getting our money's worth or are they taking advantage of us?
Every new piece of technology challenges the people who make laws to legislate and control it. We can't drive and talk on our cell phones. Cable television has to include safeguards over content. Children have to be controlled on the Internet. Now, I'm seeing stories about kids texting sex-talk and sending naked photos of themselves to each other on their cell phones. The technology is moving faster than our ability to control it.
All of it is designed to somehow make our lives better, but does it really? Are we essentially happier now than we were twenty years ago? I don't think I am, and I come from the time of pinball machines, six-channel television and instruments with dials. We carry more personal debt than any generation before us, and much of it is due to cable television, cell phones and other such conveniences that we didn't pay for 20 years ago.
I think that mostly, what technology does for us is open up ways for us to be abused and otherwise complicate our lives, which include more and costlier ways to exist.
Is that an improvement?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Some things are just too funny.

This Michael Phelps flap makes me giggle. Really. Out loud giggling. Why? Because it demonstrates so much about what is wrong and silly about American sports and celebrity.
Swimming is a sport that, three weeks before the Olympics 90 percent of Americans barely knew existed and 99 percent of them couldn't name 2 professional swimmers. So, here comes the big TV event and the network hypes up this goofy looking kid from Baltimore and he starts winning races - against a bunch of other people that none of us knew existed.
He broke Spitz's gold medal record and he's so popular that his mom is being interviewed by Bob Costas, after getting more TV face time than Oprah.
When he comes home, he's glorified with parades and invitations to talk shows. We honor him more than we honor war veterans and life-saving airline pilots.
By the way, how many product endorsement offers has Chesley Sullenburger received since he saved the lives of those people in US Airways Flight 1549? Zero, I think.
Anyway, the media hype machine is in full thrust, and Phelps' agents are telling us how much money he is going to make on product endorsements and appearances - because he can swim faster than anyone else. That, in itself is hilarious. That Kellogg's and Rosetta Stone want to pay him millions of dollars to appear in their advertisements is beyond comprehensible to me.
Later, the kid whom we thrust into the public spotlight goes to a frat party and hits a bong, and we flip. "My God, what will the children think?" What the children should be thinking is how stupid mom and dad look for glorifying an athlete to that extent, while regular people who work their asses off at jobs don't make in a year what this goofball makes in two days.
So, Kellogg's rescinded their lucrative endorsement deal and Phelps was suspended for 3 months. Big deal. That's like suspending a high school teacher from June to August. Phelps isn't going to work again until 2012. Three months' suspension is a token fine.
Now we (society) are forced to examine the way we treat people - or at least we should be. He "disappointed" us, so we took away his toys and smacked his wrists.
The part that makes me giggle the most is that we are the ones who placed him on such a high platform. When he acted like a human, we told him that he was wrong. We treated him differently when all along, he was just the same as us. We won't tolerate that.
The real fault lies in the treatment, not with the acts of the individual. That's the lesson we should be teaching children.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Night for day.

I used to be able to write these at work. I'd jot some junk down in Microsoft Word and at lunch time, I'd paste it into the blog. Now, they've this Websense deal that keeps us from viewing photos, listening to streaming audio, personal web sites (like this one) and junk like YouTube and Facebook. Once in a while, it goes nutty and we can't even get into our personal e-mail. That's where most of us draw the line. I'll stay off Facebook, but if I can't read the latest appeal from the Emir of Saudi Arabia asking me to safeguard his personal fortune, I'm going to start complaining.
Of course, I can still write them, but I can't post them until I get home. That cuts into my free time.
It took 26 years, but the FBI has finally rounded up "Tylenol Man." For those of you too young to remember, pill bottles weren't always nearly impossible to open. In fact, they were amazingly easy to open until 1982, when some jackass poisoned Tylenol that killed 7 people in a three-day span in September of 1982.
BOSTON – James W. Lewis has a habit of getting into trouble. And a knack for getting out of it, too. He was charged with killing and dismembering a man in Kansas City, Mo., in 1978, but the case was thrown out. He was jailed on rape charges decades later in Massachusetts, but went free when the victim refused to testify.
And while authorities in Chicago have long suspected Lewis was responsible for the deadly 1982 Tylenol poisonings, the only thing they ever pinned on him was an extortion attempt against the maker of the pain reliever. No one was ever charged in the seven cyanide deaths
The FBI has now found new evidence linking Lewis to the crime, proving that there is no statute of limitations. I'm more angry with him over making pill bottles so hard to open. Seven deaths seems like a small price to pay for the layers of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, twist-opening caps and tamper-proof boxes that pills have been infested with since the poisoning.
If his poisoned pills never killed anyone, I'd like to see him serve time for making us spend ten minutes opening a container. The fucking bastard should get the chair.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Random snow-capped thoughts on things and stuff.

If you've come here looking for more photos of the grand snowstorm, I'm sorry to disappoint you. My morning commute is almost 100% on State highways, so pulling over for a nice photo-op is a life-risking proposition. The trees were snow-covered like the ones I posted last night and earlier today, so the glorious photos will have to wait until a weekend snowstorm.
By the time I got through my morning meeting and headed out to lunch, the warmer temperatures had melted most of the scenery and the trees were back to normal. Temperatures this weekend will be in the 50s (that's right) so it will be more late winter stuff around here soon.
Meanwhile, President Obama has decided that there shall be a salary cap on executives who apply for government bailout money. The same executives that he earlier declared were "shameful" and "the height of irresponsibility." So, what makes him think that these irresponsible executives will be held to the salary when it comes time for their paychecks? If they are indeed irresponsible, don't you think they'll find a way around the salary cap? If pro football teams can do it, the CEO of Countrywide sure as Hell can.
One of the best things I've done for myself lately is investing in original art. Before you think, "Gee, you must be a CEO," you should realize that there is a lot of beautiful original art that can be bought for a reasonable price. One such artist sells her wares on Etsy. Visit Lori Mirabelli's Etsy page and take a look at the beautiful paintings she has for sale. I have bought two of them and they have brightened my home beyond description. Good taste and good work have no monetary value assigned to them. If you purchase one of Lori's paintings and hang it in your home, people will think you have grand style and exquisite taste. And, you single guys out there (me) can finally say, "Come up and see my artwork" and have something to show instead of those lame posters and seashore caricatures. There is a certain modern[slash]50s era moodiness to her work that I find appealing. Kind of like me.
Don't question my tastes - they are beyond reproach.

From the relative comfort of my living room...

Partly because it's snowing and partly because I'm afraid to go outside (pussy), here are some more back deck photos in case I die in this mess during my morning commute, you'll have something to remember me by...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day for night.

Day for night. I think it's the name of a Truffaut film. It's what filmmakers call shooting at night and making it look like daytime. To see it, check out the scene in "American Beauty" when Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is interviewing for a job at Mister Smiley's. It was shot at night, but they blew lights through the windows to make it look like the afternoon. That's why you come here, for fascinating tidbits of info like that. You're welcome.
Mr. Smiley's Manager: I don't think you'd fit in here.
Lester Burnham: I have fast food experience.
Mr. Smiley's Manager: Yeah, like twenty years ago!
Lester Burnham: Well, I'm sure there have been amazing technological advances in the industry, but surely you must have some sort of training program. It seems unfair to presume I won't be able to learn.
I don't know - maybe it's night for day? Whatever, it's snowing and I don't like it.
Anyway, this is the view outside my window at 9:00pm, as the first snow of the season falls on our heads and automobiles. The trouble is, I have to go to work tomorrow, which means I'll have to get up an hour earlier than usual to scrape my car and limp the 30 miles to work behind all the SUVs doing 20mph.
Meanwhile, there’s still a minor buzz over the nonsense surrounding swimmer Michael Phelps and his choice of party favors. Inquirer columnist John “Gonzo” Gonzalez made a salient point today, saying that when it comes to celebrities, ”the only thing we love more than building someone up is tearing them down.”
As though we want to say, "See, he's just like me." They're not, of course. They are gifted with, among other things, time and money and friends with cell phones that take very nice photos.
More than anything, celebrities have to think about their actions because invariably someone will be recording it. It's a long way between "I heard Phelps was doing bong hits at a party" and "Here's a photo of Phelps doing bong hits at a party." There’s nothing we like more than some juicy gossip substantiated by photographic proof.
I think he's just another dopey kid who can swim really fast.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What was that, a football game?

Sorry to say I missed some of it. I fell asleep during the third quarter, before the heroics (or so I hear) and since I admitted as much at work today, I was greeted witht the blank stares of people who otherwise didn't care about the game until it got good.
It was in all the papers though, so I heard as much as I needed to hear.
As for Bruce, he was OK. He's losing his voice - the by-product of 30 years of screaming like a maniac. The lyric adjustment to "Glory Days" from speedball to Hail Mary was a questionable, I thought. I know, it's a football game and it's a song about baseball. We get it. It made me cringe. Actually, speedball made me cringe when I first heard it, as did the accompanying video where he tries to throw. Nobody calls it a speedball, unless you're hanging out with Richard Pryor. Stick to music, Bruce.
The commercials were forgettable. I've seen enough talking babies. Let's move on.
The one most people thought was good - the Mrs. Potatohead thing - was equally forgettable. I don't remember what the ad was for, and isn't that the point?
Al Michaels had his best days calling the American Olympic hockey team ("Do you believe in miracles?") which some say was scripted due to tape-delay. Otherwise, his work on Sunday was lackluster. National television does no justice in critical sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Series. The announcers aren't allowed to have a rooting interest, so their excitement is muffled by non-partisanship. On Harrison's 100-yard interception runback, he may as well had been carrying groceries to his car as far as Michaels was concerned. The second thing he said (after the interception) was the falling penalty flag. After that, he took a few pregnant seconds to announce the touchdown, which was later reviewed in that anti-climactic sense that the NFL has adopted. Millions watching on TV and the hundreds of Steeler fans in the stadium sat in silent anticipation. Michaels hedged his bets in the best interest of television.
As for me, I fell asleep and woke up just in time for The Office, which was the primary reason I was keeping track of the game to begin with. It agonizingly started at 10:40EST after the post-ejaculate commercials and round-up of paid analysts. "What did you think, Frank?"
"Pretty good game."
Wake me when it's over, which is exactly what happened.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Much better than all of those regular Sunday's

Do they still call today "Super Sunday?" That's so '80s, like when Up With People did the Super Bowl half time show - or before there even was a half time show. Super Bowl II (that's a 2) had the Grambling State University marching band at half time. That's ridiculous, having a marching band at a football game. Who ever heard of that? Football games are for Bono, Springsteen and tearing clothing.
Like many of you, I am far less interested in this game than I am usually. Let's face it, if you aren't in an office pool or have money bet on the game, you probably don't care very much. No more interested than in a regular season game between the Cardinals and ... well, anybody. It's a TV show more than a football game at this stage. I'm always curious as to what the other networks are programming, and it usually isn't much.
CBS has repeats of Cold Case, The Unit and The Mentalist, ABC is running 2 (or is it II?) repeats of something called Wipeout Bowl I: Cheerleaders vs. Couch Potatoes. Fox is running repeats of all their Sunday shows, including Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, which I'm guessing nobody watches regardless of what's on opposite it. In a bold move, at 7:00 pm (or is it VIIpm?) CBS is running a new program, chronicling Barack Obama's rise to the White House. True alternate programming. What's the over-under for a rating number? 1?
Bruce Springsteen is performing at half time. I respect Bruce, but I've never been that big a fan. Whenever I ask someone, "How was the show?" when he performs around here, the response I get is "He played for 4 hours!" OK, so how was the show? Abba can play for 4 hours, but I'm not going to see them either. Ever since the Janet Jackson fiasco, the organizers have opted for safer entertainment choices. I'll be checking in to see if the instruments are plugged in and they're really singing. I'd bet they are, but you never know.
As for me, I'll have to pay scant attention to the game, since afterward, NBC is airing a new episode of The Office. New. I'm not sure that's any smarter than airing repeats opposite the game. If people are out at a party, are they going to stay tuned for an hour comedy after the game?
I'll be watching, but I'm not going anyplace, and nobody ever gauged the popularity of anything based on what I think.