Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fire in turn two.

Being a shut-in allows me to monitor the TV and check in on what is going on while the rest of you are going out.
Over on TNT, they're showing a NASCAR race in Florida. The people in charge have figured a creative way to run commercials while the race is going on. Meanwhile, the ad and the junk at the bottom of the screen take up one-fifth of the screen space. I have no idea what this must look like to someone without a hi-def TV, but it can't be pretty. They call it "Wide-open coverage." I call it a shameless method for working commercials into content while not showing enough of either. Am I supposed to be watching the race or the ad? Neither one is emphasised.
JUNEAU, Alaska – Outgoing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Saturday laid the groundwork to take on a larger, national role after leaving state government, citing a "higher calling" with the aim of uniting the country along conservative lines.
In a statement posted on Palin's Facebook account, she suggested that she had bigger plans and a national agenda she planned to push after she resigns at the end of the month.
"I am now looking ahead and how we can advance this country together with our values of less government intervention, greater energy Independence, stronger national security, and much-needed fiscal restraint," she said. Palin also cast herself as a victim and blasted the media, calling the response to her announcement "predictable" and out of touch.
"How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country," the statement said. "And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."
Her Facebook account. Uh-huh. That's where America breeds its new leaders - the same web site where your twelve-year old posts cell phone pictures of herself. She's a "victim." Sure. What does that make the rest of us? Beneficiaries? I don't think so. It's not about country and never has been. Having Palin take on a "larger national role" are among the things that keep me up at night.
I have to get out more.

Oh Sarah, where art thou?

It's hard to get a break. Even when something good happens, it draws so much attention that the goodness is outweighed by the attention.
Yesterday, MILFish governor Sarah Palin declared that she was going to resign as governor of Alaska effective July 26. That must have made the 40 people in Alaska very happy. Seals now have a reason to clap.
To me, Sarah represents everything that is wrong with American politics and American society in general: All form, no substance. If she was 4 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds with the same qualifications, there's no way John McCain would have picked her to be his running mate in 2008. But he needed a hottie to balance-out the white-haired old guy, and whom better?
She's more of a GILF (Governor I'd Like to...) than a MILF. Personally, I would put her in the middle 50 percent of women of that age as far as looks go. I could make a list of at least 20 women I know personally that are hotter in every way than she. Line her up with other governors, however, and she stands out. That's the nature of politics and America. Happy 4th of July.
The sad part is that she won't go away. Dan Quayle went away. Michael Dukakis went away. Geraldine Ferraro went away. Even when Sarah goes away, she makes headlines. We can't get a break.
She mumbled something about being able to accomplish more outside the governorship than inside. I don't know. Maybe she'll get her own TV show. Or her own network. SPTV. Fifty bucks a month. You'll pay for it.
Whatever - I'm sure we'll keep hearing about every fart and little comment she makes as though she was some Statesman (sorry, Statesperson) or something, right up until 2012. Remember that great bit of monologue from the film "Broadcast News" from the Albert Brooks character, Aaron Altman and you'll know what I'm talking about:
What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing. He will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance ... Just a tiny bit.
That's Sarah. You betcha.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vendo: The God of Snacks

Here's the thing about vending machines. We have made great advancements in technology across the board: Cellular telephones, hi-definition TV, microwave ovens and cars that run on batteries. Meanwhile, the best way we can think of to dispense snacks is a machine with those spiraling mechanisms. At best, they're hit or miss. At worst, they'll make you buy two of something in order to get one of something.
They're stress-inducing. I call it a Vendosecond: The length of time between seeing the snack get to the edge and having it actually fall to the bottom. We're never sure if it's going to make it. Frequently, the machine at work is half-filled with snacks hanging perilously, waiting for someone with another dollar to get in on the two-for-one sale after a frustrated potential consumer walked away snackless.
I rode my bike the 6 miles to River Winds (out local fitness facility) tonight. Afterward, I needed a beverage to refill my bottle for the ride home. The machine upstairs sells Powerade for $1.25. Red is my favorite flavor (honestly, blindfolded I couldn't tell red from blue) and I put two dollars in the machine and was served one red Powerade and sixty cents change. I was shortchanged by 15 cents, and Powerless to do anything about it. The vending machine offers no appeals process.
I took my lumps and wandered downstairs where the snacks are. I'll have a bag of peanuts. I figure elephants like them, and if they're good enough for elephants, they're good enough for me. Look at what great shape they're in, so they must be good for you.
The peanuts are 90 cents. I put a dollar in the machine, was vended my bag (in a Vendosecond) and out came 25 cents change.
I broke even from two different machines. Those are the kinds of things I win at. Stuff that is pointless, and only valuable in that it keeps this writing project going another day. Otherwise, I couldn't care less about the 15 cents, although the sheer coincidence and happenstance of it all was quite amusing. It was at that point that I figured that the machines must be communicating via some wireless system at a frequency that humans cannot hear.
I suspect that the lottery machines have it in for me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The second of July.

Around here - Pitman specifically - the holiday makes people do odd things. Starting on Tuesday, the locals began propping chairs up along Main Street in preparation for the annual July 4 parade. It happens every year, and I suspect that jumping in line or removing a chair and replacing it with another are acts of war in the neighborhood.

The chairs are a local fixture for the rest of the week, and extend for a couple of miles along the road from Mantua to Glassboro. I've never been to the Pitman 4th of July parade, mostly because I eschew parades, and partly because I don't live in Pitman, but I can't imagine how it could be such a thrill that it would encourage people to place lawn chairs on the road five days prior to the event. Is there nudity or free beer? Nope. It's Pitman.

Whatever it is, it must be horrible to have to stand and watch the parade. At first glance, it seems lazy, but when you consider the effort that is made to ensure a spot, it's ambitious - in a strange way.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No memorial? Whatever will we do?

LOS ANGELES – A plan to bury Michael Jackson at his sprawling Neverland ranch fizzled Wednesday, leaving details about his funeral undecided as another mystery was solved: His newly unveiled will says his mother should raise his children, or failing her, Diana Ross.
The changing funeral circumstances thwarted many Jackson fans who had descended on the estate in the rolling hills near Santa Barbara with the hope of attending a public viewing.
"We're terribly disappointed," said Ida Barron, 44, who arrived with her husband Paul Barron, 56, intending to spend several days in a tent.
They're terribly disappointed. More disappointed that there is no memorial service than in his death, one presumes. One wonders (or at least I do) what those two would be doing today if Michael hadn't died. Wandering the streets aimlessly? Where do they get the time off work? Do they tell their boss, "Hey ... um ... I need a few days off."
"To go to the Neverland ranch and pitch a tent." Seemingly not the first time that's happened, if we are to believe the court documents.
On the TV news tonight I saw several hundred (thousand?) people lining up to sign some sort of large greeting card, supposedly proclaiming their sympathy. To whom? The card or the spiritual nothingness of whatever religion they subscribe to. Or themselves, which is the more logical answer if we can assign logic to any of this crap.
I've written about death before, (at least twice) and our fascination with the ceremony surrounding it. When it's family it's a different story. When it's a celebrity, I figure that the people in mourning would have already erected some sort of shrine in their garage while the guy was alive, so what's the point of traveling to California to make a spectacle of yourself for someone who is dead?
"We were going to listen to music and watch Michael Jackson DVDs and party all night long, not just to have fun, but in memory of Michael Jackson," Paul Barron said. "Now we're going to have to just go home."
Where they will listen to music and watch Michael Jackson DVDs and party all night long. Home. What a shame. I'm sure they left somebody to feed the goats and water the vines.
You betcha.

Not good enough the second time.

I'm old enough to have been through five incarnations of music. Vinyl, cassette, 8-track, CD and now mp3. Along the way, I've had to endure the endless (almost) remastering and remixing of stuff that I bought and listened to when I was ten years old.
Part of the problem is that the stuff was good when I was ten, but somehow it did not age well enough to be left alone (much like Michael Jackson) and had to be altered in some way as to make it "marketable" to the masses who probably didn't hear it in its original form.
While cruising Amazon's web site for some new music (I pre-ordered Son Volt's new CD) I came across this list of remastered Beatles CDs which most of, I'm happy to say, I didn't buy when they were first issued as CDs about 20 years ago. That's nice because now, I see that the third generation wasn't good enough, and now they have had to be remastered (by who?) and re-issued AGAIN on CD, for sale to a gullible American music-buying public. Meanwhile, the mp3 files have yet to be officially released for those of us who prefer that medium.
When I see things like this, I'm taken back to my youth, and the issues that arose over the faulty vinyl records and the diamond needles we used to play them on a spinning top called a turntable. The troubles were many, but the pleasures (we thought) outweighed the trouble. Surface noise, skipping, dust and other problems infested our lives while we tried to enjoy the music of The Beatles, ELP, Yes and other musicians who took the trouble to record things in sound-proof rooms while we listened in faulty environments akin to indoor echo chambers. Mostly, the remastered stuff doesn't sound like the original, and to me, it ruins the original experience instead of enhancing it, which I thought was what remastering should do. I don't want to hear your "this is what it should have sounded like." I want to hear what it sounded like.
I can only imagine what that music would have been like if we had CDs when I was 15 years old. Focus would have sounded like a symphony, ELP would have been mind-altering and Gentle Giant would have been even more awesome than that needle on fabric.
So, they keep fiddling with stuff and remastering things that were already masterful. It strikes me as messing with perfection.
But it's all about the money, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Read this backward.

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Supreme Court ruling in favor of white New Haven firefighters who said they were victims of reverse discrimination will probably leave employers confused, civil rights advocates and labor attorneys say.
I don’t know about the employers, but it’s leaving me confused. I’ve seen the term reverse discrimination several times and I’m never sure what it means, except that it sounds ridiculous.
The dictionary defines discrimination as “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.”
If that’s the case (and it is) then what is “reverse discrimination?” Why is the term discrimination confined to people of color and “reverse” when it happens to white people? If something is discriminatory, it doesn’t matter whom the action is against.
By definition, reverse discrimination means you are treating people fairly, and wouldn’t that be nice?
I think if we could
reverse discrimination
the world would be great.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Death is the best pitchman.

It turned out that pitchman Billy Mays (some job description, eh?) died from hypertensive heart disease, and not a blow to the head as originally assumed. You can bet that there was a collective sigh of relief over at US Airways. Oh yes. It's a lot easier to sue some company for being hit on the head by a carry-on bag during a landing than it is to sue a company over a lifetime of bad eating habits. I wonder if anyone has ever been killed by being hit on the head by a carton of cigarettes? There's a lawsuit for you.
Death, as well as being a cure for disease, is good for sales.
Eight of the top ten downloaded tracks and 7 of the top ten downloaded albums on Rhapsody (Real Player's music service) are Michael Jackson recordings.
As though his death suddenly reminded people, "You know, I don't own any of his songs. It's about time I owned all of his songs." Strange behavior.
Now that Michael's dead,
I can find a good excuse
to say I liked him.

We're an odd bunch.

I bet Billy's selling a ton of that OxiClean stuff, too.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Post mortem.

We're a forgiving bunch - sometimes.
It depends, of course, on our level of affection for what the offending person did and how much we're willing to absorb on a personal level to subsidize the nonsense they created in their personal lives.
We now hate Barry Bonds because we didn't much care for him to begin with. Most of us knew he was an obnoxious jackass and once the steroid allegations rolled out, we had vindication for our original feelings, and we let the hatred fly.
Sometimes we don't know what sort of a jackass someone was in life until they die. Then, the books and magazine articles start coming and we change our opinion from one of unconditional love to one of massive doubt. We still might like their work, but while we're involved in it we're thinking, "Man, that guy was a fucking weirdo."
I think we always knew that about Michael Jackson, but the thing that surprises me about the outpouring of love I'm seeing after his death is that the allegations weren't just oddities, they were downright criminal and perverse actions. Sleeping with boys and making large monetary settlements to parents whose children were (allegedly) molested by the "King of Pop."
As for me, I never was that big a fan of his work either. To me, it was more form than substance, but I come from an era of music where classically trained musicians made music and the form was the music. With him, it seemed all about the dancing and the show. In some cases, without the accompanying video or concert, the music was average. To me, that lessens the impact. The music should stand on its own. The fact that he was a clinically strange human merely vindicated my viewpoint. But my opinion seems to be in the minority these days.
I guess we liked his work so much that it didn't matter what kind of odd life he led. It's just lucky for him that he never got caught abusing animals.