Thursday, October 29, 2009

When celebrities rule the world.

Weeks after an Australian variety show made headlines around the world after a group of white performers donned blackface to perform as the Jackson brothers, Tyra Banks is making headlines herself for turning her latest "America's Next Top Model" candidates bi-racial for a photo shoot.
During Wednesday night's "ANTM" episode on The CW, Tyra took the remaining six young women of Cycle 13 to Hawaii, where she took pictures of the models after they were transformed into different races.
At some point, I stopped myself and wondered why I was reading that story and thinking that I was so much better off as a human that America's Next Top Model didn't matter to me either as a concept or a television show. It goes back to the American Idol philosophy that says we don't have a shortage of singers ... or models, so one wonders how a TV program is produced that manufactures either. Moreover, I think that donning blackface to perform as the Jackson Brothers qualifies as overkill.
But then, I took solace in the fact that celebrities are going to rule the world ...
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said he met privately with actor Sean Penn on Wednesday, and that the Oscar-winning celebrity may film a movie in Venezuela.
Chavez added that he discussed politics with Penn, who said he would soon see U.S. President Barack Obama. Chavez said he'd asked Penn to tell Obama he should take action to earn his Nobel Peace Prize, and should scrap a plan for the U.S. military to increase its presence at bases in Colombia.
Oh great. Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) is discussing politics with world leaders. How did that happen? Where is the United Nations while all this actor-mediated diplomacy is going on? Meanwhile, Madonna is making her own promises...
MPHANDULA, Malawi – Madonna has promised electricity to a village in Malawi, the impoverished southern African country where she runs a charity organization and from which she has adopted two children. Speaking in Mphandula, some 30 miles from Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, the singer said Thursday: "I know you work in darkness. I will bring you electricity."
Wow. Madonna has super-powers. I had no idea. How about bringing them the values of good taste? That would be an accomplishment. Electricity is just some wires strung together.
So, pity me while I ponder the vagaries of using too many plastic bags, excess product packaging and the proliferation of unskilled drivers on our roadways. It pales in comparison to what celebrities are doing while wandering around without adult supervision.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We're all Stooges.

I know there's a World Series going on, but in the interests of equal time, I'll present this thought-riddled essay on life and living. Have a seat.
My blogger buddy Howard posted this haiku the other day about our behavioral quirks and how our self-consciousness affects the way we behave:
beneath the facade
is a me so seldom seen;
peel back the layers
It got me to thinking about an old thought and something I struggle with when I'm forced to struggle with it.
When I'm talking to parents and they're talking about the behavior of their children I tell them that even though I have no children, I know that there are three types of personalities, and they're based on which one of the Three Stooges their children resemble, Moe, Larry or Curly. I tell them to evaluate which one their kid is and which ones their kids are friends with, because the similarities are important. I know it sounds stupid, but follow along:
Moe is the leader. He's the one that the other kids look to when it comes to moving toward a behavior or doing something when the alternative is doing nothing.
Curly is the clown. He's the one who entertains the other kids and makes them laugh and forget about their little day-to-day struggles. He's a good-natured slob who is harmless in the grand scheme, because part of his behavior is based on what Moe does. If he's not around Moe, he's probably doing something harmless.
Larry is the one who will do whatever Moe or Curly wants. He's the one you don't want your kids to be, because he'll bend with whatever issue Moe or Curly bring up. He's everybody's best friend and a danger to himself and others. If your kids are Larry's you should worry about whom they pal around with. If the Moe's are troublemakers, Larry will follow them, and that's a problem for everybody.
Your kid might be a Moe, which is great if he's an honor student and hangs around with other honor students. But if he's a bad kid, he's going to find Larry's who will participate.
Adults are the same way, but it's more subtle because we behave differently in different environments. I see people at work who behave entirely differently than they do when they're on their own time. That's dangerous too, because they feel pent-up at work and can't wait until they get out of the necktie and can "let loose." We call them weekend warriors, and they're a danger to themselves and others. They were probably Larry's as kids and transferred their Moe following to their workplace, where they blend in until Friday at 5:00pm.
Most of us are Larry's, I think. You would think that it would be split 33% each, but I think it's more like 10% Moe, 20% Curly and 70% Larry. Most of us sway with the breeze and behave in a way that we deem acceptable for our environment. It's acceptable and called "socializing" but the more I think about it, the more I think it may be socializing but it's also hypocritical. At the end of the day we retire to our solitude and think about our behavior and sometimes we wonder why we acted that way. Mostly, we attribute the behavior to our environs or our friends rather than what we really thought or felt, and that's where the hypocrisy comes in.
We're all chameleons to a degree, and we will adapt ourselves to our surroundings. It's the rare Moe who can find his true identity and behave consistently in various situations. I think those are the successful people in the workplace, since they don't have to alter their ideas to fit some structured environment. They are comfortable at work because they are being themselves. Those of us who feel confined by our surroundings are only comfortable in one place, and that place usually isn't the office or some retail job where we have to kiss somebody's ass for a paycheck.
So anyway, I was just thinking - maybe we should try to be a little more like Moe or Curly and be true to ourselves. If we're decent people to begin with, it shouldn't be difficult to translate that behavior to the workplace. The problem lies with making it work on a day-to-day basis where we are as happy with ourselves in public as we are in private.
That's the trick. So, with a bow to Howard, I present this haiku response:
make your life your own
and you'll be happy with you;
and they will be, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ten million years of evolution down the drain.

Grade schools in Oregon, public health officials in Georgia and nursery schools in Tennessee now teach kids to cough and sneeze in their elbows. The Lake County, Ill., Health Department recommends elbow coughing to help prevent the spread of whooping cough, or pertussis. The Montgomery County Health Department in Maryland endorses it; so does the Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition.
"They've been doing it since kindergarten; it's an automatic reflex for them," says Nessan, a teacher at Meridian Park public elementary school in the Shoreline section of Seattle.
Over the past decade or so, schools and day-care centers around the country have gradually adopted the technique as a way to ward off colds, flu, whooping cough and other easily transmitted bugs. It's been replacing the traditional cover-your-mouth-with-your-hands-or-a-tissue approach that has long been considered the polite and most sanitary technique.
You have to be careful though, to not touch anything with your elbow after coughing in it. Do not to put your elbow in your mouth, eyes or nose, and if your elbow touches a table or other hard surface, both it and the elbow must be scrubbed with a sanitary cleanser containing bleach and a damp cloth.
Then, the surface should be flame-treated to insure that all disease-causing germs are dead, and the remaining surface area should be placed into a shredding device so that the shards do not cause any spread of remaining bacteria.
After the surface is thoroughly shredded, the remaining shreds should be steamed and burned at a temperature not less than 300 degrees Fahrenheit for no less than twelve minutes. The resulting smoke should not be breathed, so you will need to wear protective gloves and a face mask. If you do accidentally breathe in the smoke, your lungs will have to be flushed with a mixture of propane, peroxide and alcohol for six minutes in a sterile environment.
Once the smoke dissipates into the atmosphere, nearby aircraft must be warned of its presence so they will not accidentally use the air in their cabin air systems.
If that happens, the plane will be shot down by the Air Force and the shredding process started again.
Just don't cough, OK?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another fall in Philadelphia.

Sunday was too nice a day to spend inside watching football or doing laundry, so I took out for our beautiful city, camera in tow, to try to find something interesting to liven up the black space - both here and inside. One of the good things about being single is that I can pick up and go someplace. It's really the only good thing, but I digress.
The entire time, that Hall & Oates song "Fall in Philadelphia" was running through my head, although all I could remember was the chorus [I'm gonna spend another fall in Philadelphia] and some odd lyrics here and there. When I got home and looked it up, I was a little (a lot) confused about what the song is about and didn't have the energy to analyze it, so I just posted some photos. As usual, I think you can click on them and view them full-screen, but I've lied about other things, too.
That's obviously Independence Hall, and one of these days I'm going to take the tour like thousands of foreigners who were out today on vacation. It's probably interesting, and since I enjoy history I think I'd enjoy it. It's just making that left turn to the entrance and bypassing the bars and restaurants in Old City that's the problem. I did manage to sit on a nearby bench and enjoy a $2 sandwich with enough bread left over to feed some little sparrows, so it wasn't a total loss. Animals are my friend when I have food. It's the people version of having money.

The same building - different view. As I was taking this shot one of the handsome carriage drivers was arguing with a security official over urinating on the street. I never figured out whether it was the horse or the driver they were talking about, and I didn't stick around long enough to find out.
This odd little juxtaposition occurs near the Convention Center on the way toward Liberty Place (the blue building). The older one is St. Peter's U.M. Church. I like the old/new contrast and it always catches my eye, only this time I was fortunate enough to have the camera around.
This is a statue on Chestnut Street called "The Signer." It attracts a lot of tourists who like to pose in front of it with their hand in the air. That's probably really funny when they get home.

This is the Carpenter House. I covered it from a different angle last year, but this time I liked the trees and the setting.

The streets in Old City are filled with historic homes and little alleys. This is one of them, off of Spruce Street. They always remind me of those scenes in "The Sixth Sense" where Bruce Willis is walking around. I know there's more history than that, but I'm a little strange. And if you asked me about my "dream house," it would be one of these row homes in the city.

This is the inside of the Market Street Terminal where some SEPTA trains arrive. There are people around, but the 8 second exposure bleeds them out. Behind me is a sports bar and to the left is the exit to the Reading Terminal Market where you can buy fresh foods and enjoy a nice lunch. I had a $2 sandwich from a cart on Market Street, so there's no accounting for tastes.

This is the rotunda (I guess that's what it's called) of Liberty Place - the blue building to the left in the photo above. There are shops and a food court. The other building (Liberty Place 2, to the right) is full of condominums, and it's where Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels has a little $30 million place.
Speaking of which, Wednesday is the beginning of the World Series, and as I sit here we still don't know whether it's the Angels or the Evil Empire. Time, as always, will tell. I'd like to have it wrapped up by Hallowe'en, but there's a snowball's chance of that.