Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sorry to interrupt your holiday shopping...

HARPER WOODS, Mich. – Police say two men have been critically injured in shootings inside a suburban Detroit shopping mall. The mall has been closed as police search for whoever fired the shots. Harper Woods deputy police chief Jim Burke tells The Associated Press the shootings happened around 6 p.m. when a group of teenagers fired on a rival group at Eastland Mall east of Detroit.

Burke says the men were taken to St. John's Hospital in Detroit, and both were expected to survive. He says an 18-year-old was shot in the chest, and an employee at a clothing store was shot in leg. He says there had apparently been a long-running dispute between the two rival groups.

I don't have a detailed list, but I can tell you that there have been a lot of shootings at shopping malls over the years. There was the the Tacoma Mall and Hudson Valley Mall shootings in 2005, the Oak View Mall shooting in 2006, the Westroads Mall murder/suicide and the Trolley Square Mall shootings in 2007, the Lane Bryant shooting in 2008 and the Sello Mall shooting in 2009 to name seven.

The point is that there have been at least eight shootings at shopping malls in the past 5 years, and I have yet to see the same sort of security in place that we have had in airports and some schools since 2001.

We are nutty about airports because of what happened on September 11, 2001; but some of it was inherited from prior days. I suppose the reason we scrutinize more heavily at airports is because we're 50,000 feet above the ground. It's hard to run away from something that happens in a moving aircraft. I was on an Amtrak train lately, and before I boarded I had emptied my pockets and readied myself for the full-body search or at least an X-Ray device. Nothing. Just get on a train full of people with a huge suitcase.

Even though there are probably 50 times more people in a typical busy shopping mall than an airplane, we like the odds of being one in a big crowd, so we just let anybody in. And, what's the worst a train bomb could do? Two or three cars de-railed and some injuries. That's not worth inconveniencing the public.

How long will it be before we have to pass through Mall Security to get to our favorite clothing store? I wonder why we have yet to be asked to do that. Perhaps it's because we value the shopping experience more than the traveling experience? Maybe retailers fear that shoppers will not visit their stores if they have to go through a security device?

I guess we'd rather die than be inconvenienced.

Friday, November 26, 2010

When the going gets tough ...

A complete lack of enthusiasm for contributing anything meaningful to my life has led me here.
Do you think cross-dressers and transvestites wear a tampon once a month? They seem to want all the fun things about being a woman (like looking pretty and teasing stupid men) but none of the bad things. That realization has caused me to lose respect for them.
We had a parade in the city yesterday. I'm surprised that we still have parades, and I'm especially intrigued about their purpose and why people seem to enjoy them so much. It's a series of non-sequitors interspersed with music. A float with two celebrities followed by a marching band followed by a float with flowers and cartoon characters followed by kids dancing ... And people stand in the cold to watch.
I think we have them because we have always had them. If the idea of a parade was broached today as a new concept, it would be rejected because they produce no profits. It's all about advertising and filling TV time on a holiday when people aren't watching television. If they could figure out a way to close off the streets and charge people to watch, it would happen.

When they tell us that the air quality is "unacceptable," what are we supposed to do? Is there someone in charge of making the air acceptable so that we can breathe? I don't think they're notifying anyone.

There are a couple of stories in the news about sports commentators getting choked up on the air. Once concerned a report on the late Chris Henry and the other involved Matt Millen on Thursday's NFL game broadcast. The point is that two people almost coming to tears on television are news stories. Why? People laugh on television every day, and there isn't enough space in the newspaper to report them all. Why are two people almost crying news stories?
That's sad.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For the love of something

We love our holidays. We're into a big one now, and even bigger ones to follow. This one, we are told, is all about giving thanks for something and realizing how fortunate we are to live when we do - or to live at all. Nice and schmaltzy, as the holidays were intended.
But, we don't just like a holiday. We like a holiday with something substantial attached to it. I'm not talking about remembering war veterans, giving thanks or celebrating America. I'm talking about big sales at a store, eating and drinking.
The eating thing is attached to this one, to the point that we wish people a "Happy Turkey Day" instead of using the more traditional Thanksgiving name. When I go back to work on Monday I'll be asked what I had for dinner on Thursday. When I say I had chicken, I'll get that quizzical look and the "What, no turkey?" question, which implies that I violated some sacred holiday tradition. In fact, the tradition is the holiday, and we have chosen to decorate it with food. A family-oriented feast that involves eating until we almost burst and sleeping the evening away in a food-induced coma.
It's not the only holiday that has a different and preferred association than the original. Consider:
New Year's Day - a bogus holiday that is only associated with New Year's Eve to the point that it glorifies drinking and celebrating the start of a new calendar. Why do we have the first day of the year off work?
Valentine's Day - glorified by jewelery retailers as a day to prove your love with an expensive gift. Otherwise, you just don't care about her.
Easter - bunnies and candy are the preferred retail meaning of the holiday which is supposed to signify the crucifixion of a religious icon.
Memorial Day - unofficial start of summer and a day to fill your backyard pool, travel to the shore and barbecue some chicken and burgers. Curiously, the actual first day of summer goes by almost unnoticed.
July 4 - not as much to do with the signing of our Independence declaration as it does with fireworks and more barbecuing.
Labor Day - unofficial end of summer and a big day for end-of-summer sales. Mostly it's spent in traffic on a highway rather than recognizing the contribution of labor. Curiously, the actual day that summer ends (September 22) goes by almost unnoticed.
Columbus Day - isn't observed for the fictitious "discovering" of America as much as it is recognized as a great day to buy sheets, towels and pillowcases.
Christmas - The mother of all holidays. Jews are virtually ignored as the last two months of the year are turned into an onslaught of Christmas holiday marketing that is designed to separate us from as much of our money as possible. If you don't spend a ton of money on gifts, you don't really love people very much.
The retailers have figured out a way to tie each holiday into some sort of marketing campaign, and people are more than happy to oblige. To the point that they will sleep in their cars on Thanksgiving evening in order to be one of the first in line on Black Friday so they can score a $200 laptop computer.
I have an accounting degree from Widener University, so I know why it's called Black Friday. It should be called Green Friday for the money it brings in, or Dumbass Friday for the people who try to work off the excess food by shopping all day Friday. There are more gimmicks than customers and stores open earlier each year, with one trying to best the other by opening an hour earlier (or 6 hours earlier) than their competitors. You are called a "smart shopper" if you stop in and take advantage of the tremendous deals. They tell us that we can save money by spending. That's a marketing ploy for people with poor math skills.
I am thankful that I have learned to ignore it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Consume at your own risk.

I usually ignore those "Caution: DO NOT EAT" packets that come in products that are impossible to eat. That's easy. I'm not going to eat something that comes out of a packet of air fresheners, but to ignore one that comes packed in actual food is a bit more difficult.
This Caution: DO NOT EAT packet came in a package of Harry & David Dark Chocolate Butter Pecan Moose Munch, which by the way, contained way more Munch than Moose, and precious few pecans. We need more Moose and pecans, please.
Anyway, there it was as I opened the package and dispensed it in a bowl.
But avoid it I did. The stores, however, are more difficult to ignore. Salespeople stand outside the store and entice those of us with few resistance skills with samples of their munchable snack foods. I think it's one of those places where you think you're eating something wholesome, when in fact, it is candy. I don't think we would want to know the calorie and fat content of this stuff, and to serve that purpose, I ignored the caloric data on the package. I think I saw 190 calories per serving and 12 servings per bag. In my sugary snack-induced coma, my mathematical skills were compromised.
The store has hardwood floors (which translate to "natural, good for you foods") and friendly, well-informed staff people who are happy to indulge our "can I try that" shopping with actually giving us something to try. Smart retailers know that giving consumers a taste of something for free is a great way to entice us to buy it. Dumb consumers buy stuff.
Try the chocolate/peanut butter balls.
So, I got through half a bag of dark chocolate Moose thingys without consuming the drying agent. What is interesting about the thing (if there is anything interesting) is that its trade name is Pillow Pak with the accompanying message: CONTAINS A HARMLESS ABSORBENT FOR HUMIDITY AND ODOR. That inspires two questions:
  1. If it is called a Pillow Pak, should the admonishment also include "Please do not use as a bed pillow" or "Do Not Sleep On?"
  2. If the contents are "harmless," why does it say "Do not eat?" If the contents are indeed harmless, then I should be able to eat them. What else does harmless mean?
There must be some harm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If they sell it, we will come.

They say Rome wasn't built in a day. They could also say that Philadelphia's Spectrum wasn't torn down in a day - or month - or a year.
In the longest-scheduled demolition in modern architecture, it is rumored that The Spectrum will finally succumb to the wrecking ball Tuesday at noon. By then, I suspect that everything inside the building (including the parts of the building itself) will have been sold - or at least they would try to sell it.
It was closed on October 31, 2009. Since then, several schemes have been hatched by the owners to systematically both sell everything that wasn't nailed down and rid the public of some more of their money. I'm not sure if their shameless sales say more about corporate greed or the public's willingness to spend their money on crap. Maybe both. A match made in heaven.
They have been marketing Spectrum seats for at least a year. You can buy a pair for your - living room? I suppose die-hard's are putting them in their man caves. I hope, at least the Spectrum sent the seats out to have the fabric dry cleaned before they were sold. Considering the number of asses (both literal and figurative) that have sat in those seats, I'd guess they smell like old fabric and stale beer.
Then, they started selling what they told us was water from the Spectrum ice in plastic drink coasters. I suppose the idea was to put the coaster in the freezer to help keep your drink cold while it was sitting on the coaster. I also suppose that it was yet another way to squeeze another buck out of a willing public.
On November 6, they had yet another public yard sale, offering an "all you can carry" sale for $25. Anything you could cart out in one trip could be had for 25 bucks.
At this point, I'd be interested in seeing what the inside of the place looks like. The clever (and profitable, no doubt) marketing gimmick minimized the amount of demolition, which no doubt decreased the price of trashing the place. So, not only do they make a buck off the crap in the building, but they save in the end. That's why they're businessmen and we just read and complain about it.
The latest money grab involves buying a souvenir brick from the demolition for $39.95 plus shipping. That's right. What do you suppose it costs to mail a brick? It has to be close to the selling price. Mail a brick to somebody and let me know what it cost.
We're told that the wrecking ball will start swinging at noon on Tuesday. Not to be outdone, they plan on a little party while the ball swings. Dollar hot dogs and soda in a last attempt to squeeze the sponge as dry as possible. Ironically, the site will be turned into a huge sports bar, and I can only hope it gets built in less time than it took to tear down the old place.
But first, they'll need to suck the remaining air out of the building and sell it in containers for $29.95. Spectrum air. Blow up your kids' balloons with the same air that the bottle flew through that hit Steven Tyler on stage during an Aerosmith show in 1978.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Three photos and some junk.

Nothing spectacular. Just another autumn Saturday in Philadelphia. That's a look down the big spiral staircase at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, looking down toward the pendulum. Next is nearby Logan Circle, with City Hall in the background, to the right. The last one is inside the lobby at the Franklin Institute, looking at the statue of Ben and the shiny floor.
The Four Loko experiment was kind of a fizzle. It doesn't taste very good, and it left me feeling more buzzed than drunk. I was supposed to experience a big letdown, as the sugar and caffeine wore off, but it just faded out. They can go ahead and take the stuff off the shelves, if it will make them happy. There isn't anything that would make me want to go out and buy a case of the stuff so I'd have a stash. Just as well. There is a big Eagles game on tonight, and I didn't want to sleep through it.
I'm not sure I'm human.
At the Institute, there was an electricity display where we were to put our hands on metal sensors, and the static electricity from our bodies was supposed to make a variety of things happen. Me - nothing.
So, a bunch of kids were hospitalized for drinking Four Loko, and now the FDA wants to take it off the shelves because it's supposed to be dangerous. I think you could be hospitalized for eating too many Big Mac's too, so what's the difference between that and drinking too much alcohol? Maybe the lesson here is that people think that more of something is better? As they say, it ain't necessarily so. It sounds like another story blown out of proportion by a few incidents. Another classic over-reaction.
If we didn't over-react, we probably wouldn't accomplish much.