Friday, July 31, 2009

I hate being right all the time.

Regular readers (if I have any) know that in the past I've railed against the bane of television, American Idol. Sadly, it is very popular and has led to a bunch of copycat programs too numerous to mention.
I have been cynical of the show and its format, saying things such as this:
I think you're seeing the show for what it is: A manipulative, ridiculous excuse for a talent show that has for years, adjusted its audience in such a way as to present what they feel are people worthy of recording contracts. Otherwise, how could you possibly explain the idea of whittling down a few hundred thousand contestants to six without knowing the outcome beforehand?
Alas, one former contestant, a Junot Joyner, has come out and said words to that effect. I don't know anything about him other than he is a former contestant and subsequent loser. In addition to being a self-proclaimed "troublemaker" he accuses the show of rigging the outcome.
In an online chat, he described the show's contract as a "slavetract", and alleged that his actions got Idol producers so annoyed that they called him a "troublemaker", and led executive producer Ken Warwick to tell him that he's "not going to ruin my show"."I definitely believed that affected my time on the show," he added. "They didn't like the fact that I wouldn't sign 'just anything' and that other contestants were coming [to] asking me questions.
So I think they ousted me the first chance they could get ... how did I not get picked for the Wild Card show when I received comments from the 'judges' that were better than most of the contestants who were picked?"He also thought he didn't get into the Top 13 because he refused to let the producers play with his I'm-from-the-hood back story. "They wanted me to put that out to the world and expose my personal business for ratings," he said. "I wouldn't do it."
He also alleged that Kris Allen's victory on the show was fixed. While he clarified that he admires his talent and he deserves the win, he says the outcome was manipulated.
"The producers know who they want and they slant it to reflect that," Junot said. "They fix it in a way that makes you surprised but it's still manipulated."
"[American Idol] is a reality show with writers!" he added. "We're all actors. All these shows have writers that guide public opinion."
Originally, I saw the story on Yahoo's front page on Thursday. I neglected to bookmark it, figuring that I could go back to it when I got home. For some strange reason (raising an eyebrow) the story miraculously disappeared, and it wasn't until today that I found a similar story from another source, a web site called Why would Yahoo pull the story?
Regardless of any media manipulation by the gang at Fox and the AI producers, who would stand to lose their self-made fortunes if the story were ever investigated, I would only pose this question:
When have you ever seen actual numbers for the vote totals?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another thing we are powerless to resist.

I don't like insurance. House, car, life - whatever - no time for it. I'm convinced that the reason auto body repairs are so expensive is because of insurance, health care is so expensive because of insurance, and burial costs are so expensive because of insurance. Without insurance, dare I say, we'd lead much more productive and richer lives.
Yesterday, the renewal notice came for my homeowner's insurance. It's not a big deal, since the condo association carries the bulk of it. All I insure is from the fire wall inward. When I got to the part about declaring a deductible I started to think - and you know how dangerous that can be.
My current deductible is $500. If I increase it to $750 I can save $7 a year in premiums. Increase it to $1,000 and I save $11. Increase it to $1,500 and save $15. You get the point. Take a second and see if you can figure out my thought pattern.
I'll wait. Here is a lovely photo of some hot-air balloons while you think ...

Here's the thought pattern. If I increased the deductible to $1,000, it's another 500 dollars out of my pocket if something inside goes bad. Wouldn't you think that the premium savings would be significantly more, like say - oh -closer to $500? After all, I'm putting out an extra 500 bucks and I'm only going to save $11 in premium costs. That's the insurance racket, and the reason I don't care for it.
Am I missing something?
I didn't think so.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Completely unrelated items

I can understand women who "collect" shoes. Closets full of them, even though they are limited to two feet. I've never been much of a shoe person. I own a pair of dress shoes, two pair of work shoes and a pair of sneakers for the gym.
If I had the unlimited income of say, a lottery winner, I'd have a drawer full of sunglasses. Oakley's, specifically. Even though I'm limited to two eyes, I enjoy the fashion statement. What I don't enjoy is the dollar statement, which is why I'm limited to two - one for each eye. Cheap sunglasses are just that, and I'm convinced they do more harm than good.
I keep hearing about the economic crisis, and I'm feeling it as much as anyone, but a quick tour of the Oakley web site finds something called the Pit Boss, selling for a cool $595. Sure, you say, 6 bills for sunglasses - but they're sold out, which tells me that at least a few Oakley customers have so little respect for six hundred dollars that they'd spend it on one pair of sunglasses when it could be equally spent on five.
For lovers of the haiku, I've had another posted on the haikubreakup site. My specialty, I suppose - writing about sorrow and longing. Everybody needs a hobby.
PARIS (AFP) – Biomedical researchers on Wednesday said they could explain why we swing our arms when we walk, a practice that has long piqued scientific curiosity. Swinging one's arms comes at a cost. We need muscles to do it, and we need to provide energy in the form of food for those muscles. So what's the advantage? Little or none, some experts have said, contending that arm-swinging, like our appendix, is an evolutionary relic from when we used to go about on all fours.
The advantage is that we look stupid if we walk and don't move our arms. Don't they watch Seinfeld? Stupid French.
Sam: Elaine, am I crazy? I just get the feeling that Dugan and the others are making fun of me all the time.
Elaine: Well, You might wanna think about ... maybe, eh ... moving your arms a little when you walk.
Sam: My arms?
Elaine: You know, sort of swing them, so you're not lurching around like a caveman.
Sam: I'm a caveman?
Elaine: No no no no ... it's just ...
Sam: Everybody told me what a catty shrew you are. You're horrible!
Cat fight!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sit down, relax - have a cream soda.

The local media is kicking our ass.
David Sale Jr. was brutally beaten and subsequently killed after a brawl with some hooligans at McFadden's at Citizen's Bank Ballpark on Saturday. There were three front page stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. One on the front page, another on the front of the South Jersey section by Karen Heller and a third on the front of the sports page by Phil Sheridan. The only one with any actual facts was the one on the front page. Read them if you want, but suffice it to say, Sheridan and Heller missed the point entirely by blaming Phillies fans.
Briefly, the three assailants had rap sheets as long as their arms, and killed a guy who was involved in a bachelor party, over a spilled beer. The part where we're getting our asses kicked is the part where it supposedly involved Phillies fans. Phillies fans are the least of the people involved in this. To wit, the assailants:
Those charged in Saturday’s fatal beating of David Sale Jr. outside Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park are:
Charles Bowers, 35, of the 6100 block of Bustleton Avenue, Oxford Circle.
Status: charged with murder and criminal conspiracy engaging in murder. Preliminary hearing set for August 5.
Background: The Frankford High School graduate has worked for a moving company. His current employment is unknown. He served five months of a six- to 23-month prison term for simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime in the Sept. 26, 1993, stabbing of a man during a late night party in Fishtown.
Jim P. Grove, 45, of the 800 block of East Almond Street, Kensington.
Status: charged with murder and criminal conspiracy engaging in murder. Preliminary hearing is set for August 5.
Background: unknown. He has one 1983 arrest for “persistent disorderly conduct.” A 1974 arrest for reckless endangerment and harassment were both withdrawn.
Francis Kirchner, 28, of the 1200 block of East Palmer Street, Fishtown.
Status: turned himself in to authorities late Monday afternoon. He is expected to face the same charges as Grove and Bowers.
Background: The high school graduate works as a milk deliverer for a Bucks County dairy. He is serving four years’ probation, with mandatory anger-management counseling, on a guilty plea to simple assault and reckless endangerment in the July 22, 2006, group beating of a man outside Moe’s Tavern in Fishtown.
They sound like your average, run of the mill Phillies fans, don't they? Anger-management counseling, simple assault and reckless endangerment. Just like you and me. Hard to believe they'd pummel another man until he died. Jesus Phil and Karen, get a grip.
The incident at McFadden's has about as much to do with Phillies fans as ice cream has to do with the summer. They exist together, but aren't responsible for each other.
Somebody thought it would be a good idea to physically link a bar with the ballpark. The Phillies cut off beer sales at the 7th inning, but you can go downstairs, watch the game on TV at McFadden's and drink until 2:00am.
Citizen's Bank Ballpark has become a gathering place as much as it has a place to watch baseball. Large numbers of people wander around, seemingly oblivious of the game at hand. It's a baseball party. It has little to do with the team's success and more to do with the success of the place itself. They built it for that purpose, and it has been hugely successful.
David Sale wasn't killed by Phillies fans. He was killed by a few guys with rap sheets who only coincidentally ran into him at the ballpark. Thugs are everywhere, waiting for someone to dump over their warm pilsner. Those sorts of things happen everywhere, and if it had happened in Fishtown, it would have been a page 10 story. As it was, it happened at a Phillies game, so it's front page on three sections today.
It shouldn't be a bigger story merely because it happened around a sporting event. It had nothing to do with sports and everything to do with nitwits who can't handle 12 or 14 beers. The trouble for us (Phillies fans and Philadelphians in general) is that we get lumped-in with asshats like that.
But, it's bigger news if they involve the Phillies, and it's a bigger lawsuit too. But that's another story for another day. If it had happened in Fishtown (home of the hooligans) it would have been a minor issue, buried between the sports and weather on the 11 o'clock news. As it was, it's a big deal because they can say "Phillies" a hundred times and link it in with their fans because the bar is architecturally connected to the ballpark.
It's like that "Bruno" movie. People go and they're offended. Then, they're angry that the movie offended them. What did they expect? Gone With the Wind?
Bars, ballparks and hot Saturday afternoon's are rife with problems. They serve beer on the charter bus on the way to the game, beer at the ballpark and beer at the bar next to the place; then we're surprised that people get shitfaced and start brawling.
It isn't like the TV commercials where guys are happy and laughing. Real drunks are not ready for commercial television. Get ready for the shotgun "wrongful death" lawsuits, naming everybody from the bus driver to the bartenders at McFadden's.
The wrongful part is that we expect to live through some of these experiences.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Is she really gone?

When I get a stomach virus, I wind up on the toilet several times a night. It awakens me from my sleep, and each time I get up to agonizingly go to the bathroom I hope it's the last time. But there is usually one more salvo, and when I think that my body is empty, I am awakened once again and all I can muster is some lingering stomach pain and another twenty minutes of lost sleep.
That's the way I view Sarah Palin. The lingering sickness that keeps coming back, and each time I hope this is the last time.
She left the Alaska governor's seat on Sunday, presumably for good, but didn't let the event pass without firing off a few salvos at those of us sitting on the toilet waiting for the pain to stop.
“So, how about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit making things up,” she said with an insistent voice, prompting loud applause and cheers from a mostly sympathetic audience gathered at a park in Fairbanks.
What did we make up, I wonder? The troubled teen pregnancy? The gun-toting self-proclaimed hunter? The inexperienced public servant, chosen for office by virtue of her looks? And why invoke the names of soldiers? Shouldn't simple truth be enough? How about, "In honor of the animals you shoot from helicopters, you stop talking?"
Warning of “anti-hunting, anti-Second Amendment circuses from Hollywood,” Palin said advocacy groups “use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets.”
She offered such individuals this message: “By the way, Hollywood needs to know: We eat, therefore we hunt.”
I think Hollywood does plenty for gunplay and blowing things up. Forgive them for not making more films showing the excitement of sitting in a deer stand with urine sprayed on your pants. There's more gunfire in movies and television than in the woods of Alaska, I'm guessing.
“It is because I love Alaska this much, sir, that I feel that it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session in one’s last year in office,” Palin explained, reprising some of the rationale she laid out in announcing her decision to resign earlier this month.
Sir? Whom is she talking to? I suppose, if you follow her line of thinking, every politician in the final year of office should resign, because it's just politics-as-usual.
“It appears that she really doesn’t have a plan,” said Michael Carey, the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News and a public affairs commentator. “This is in keeping with her ad hoc approach to life.”
As for what her tenure has meant to this remote and still-new state – just celebrating its 50th anniversary of statehood this year – Carey said: “I think her big legacy is the incredible celebrity she became.
That's pretty much what the Cult of Palin was about, wasn't it? The celebrity she became and the way she was promoted - the MILF Governor of Alaska. All form and no substance. Next, I suppose we'll be treated to the autobiography and/or a TV movie (starring guess who?) and some more sound bites whenever Republicans gather to wax philosophic on the grand mysteries of life and shooting things.
Seriously, Sarah - if you're planning a comeback, stay in shape and don't let your looks go. That's all you have going for you.
As for now, the door is closing on your ass and I'm running out of toilet paper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where does the money go?

I swear, if I see another one of these articles about "Money you waste on stuff" I'm going to drive to the author's home and smack him in the back of the head. Here's the latest one, from Kiplinger's which, if you read it, you probably don't care about how much money you waste, because you have enough to not care about how much money you waste. If you can follow their advice, you probably earn enough money to ignore it altogether.
These are among their concerns:
Letting your money wallow in a checking account, when it could be making big bucks in a high-interest savings account. Sure. My paycheck is wasting away in that checking account, until the creditors call and wonder where it is.
Paying up-front fees for mutual funds. Uh-huh. I have so many mutual funds, I'm picking the scraps out of my ass.
Here's one: Dust off your library card and check out books, music and movies for free (or dirt-cheap). Sure. I'm dying to see "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and go to work tomorrow and chat-up my co-workers, who just saw "G-Force" or "Orphan." I'm interesting - and irrelevant. Which world are they living in?
Paying too much taxes on investments. Right. I'd care about that if I had any investments that were making enough money that I had to worry about taxes.
Owning an extra car. Extra? I can't tell you the number of times I've looked in my 8-car garage and thought, "Fuck - I have to get rid of these 7 useless vehicles." I own two bicycles. No bike insurance.
The one that killed me was where they said "Being complacent about insurance," and that "it pays to evaluate your insurance needs." I've evaluated mine, and I've determined that insurance is a giant money pit. My ex took out a policy and named her sister as the beneficiary (while we were married). My feeling about life insurance is that, after I'm dead, I won't give a fuck how you pay for my disposal or where I wind up. Throw me in the dumpster. That saves everybody a lot of money. Put that on the list.
Then, they started in on the "Paying Uncle Sam an Interest-free loan" where you get a big refund on your taxes. Here's some news: You're going to pay Uncle Sam interest on a tax bill you can't pay, so maybe paying him (it) to take money every week is a decent enough deal to not worry about it. Consider whether you'd like a $1,500 overpayment in April or a $1,500 bill. You'll pay interest on the unpaid portion, but get the $1,500 back in a check. You make the call. The tax laws are so complicated that, if you can figure out your year-end bill a year ahead of time, you qualify for a Nobel Prize. There's another item for the list: Fix the tax laws.
Some of them were actually useful, like the one that wondered about your "unhealthy habits."
I was behind a guy in the liquor store (stop - that's a necessity) yesterday, and he asked for a pack of cigarettes. "Seven ninety-five," came back the response from the clerk. Eight bucks to smoke? Jeebus, this stuff has to be harder to shake than crack. If I was on an eight-buck a day habit that didn't get me stoned, drunk or laid; I'd have to take a look at the finances.
Mostly, those articles agonize over stuff like eating out and spending money on going to movies when you could be watching them at home. After I read them, I figure that the best way to save money is to bunker-up at home, stop the newspaper delivery, switch to rabbit ears and eat all your food from government subsidized programs. Then, you'll have enough money to pay your property taxes, car insurance, auto loan, utility bills and all of the things that really eat-up your money, for which, like the prison colony at French Guiana, there is no escape.
Lastly, they wondered "Are you taking full advantage of your subscriptions (such as Netflix, TiVo or magazines)?" You mean, like Kiplinger's? No.
The things they tell us to stop doing are "pleasure" items, and the sort of things that make paying the property taxes and utility bills worthwhile, as though we're supposed to be happy eating out of plastic containers and living like squirrels.
News flash: LIFE IS FUCKING EXPENSIVE. Read about it. For free.