Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who are these people?

I'm still trying to figure out the deal with the Kardashian's. They're all over the Internet and TV, and yet I don't know what they have ever done to entertain us other than being on television. What a sorry state of affairs where all you have to do is get on TV to stay on TV.

I'm hearing a lot of stuff about WikiLeaks. It's a web site, I presume, but I've never been on it and I don't know what they offer, other than news stories. It's the Kardashian of web sites. From what I can figure out, they tell us things that the government doesn't want us to know. If we're taking a vote, I vote YES.

Dane Cook's half-brother and sister-in-law were ordered to repay $12 million they had embezzled from him while his half-brother was his business manager. What I find amazing is that Dane Cook has made so much money doing his crap comedy act that somebody could steal $12 million from him. To me, comics like Cook represent the current lousy state of entertainment in America. A recent article on Yahoo about the "10 Obsessions of 2010" revealed quite a list:

Mostly, it's a list of junk, bad television and crap celebrities. The public's fascination with that sort of stuff hasn't changed in 100 years and isn't likely to change in the next hundred. The thing is, we're supposed to be smarter and more cultured than our parents and their parents before them, but we aren't. We walk around like we have some kind of grip on things, but we're just as stupid (if not more so) than the people we replaced. We have a lot of sophisticated junk, cable TV and fancy telephones, but we're still the same dopey schmucks our horse-riding, rotary-dial ancestors were.

What makes us think we're so smart and why are we fascinated by this crap?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beautiful downtown Newark, New Jersey.

I have just returned from a short business trip to Newark, New Jersey. If you know anything about Newark, you'll know how happy I am to have returned. This is the view out my hotel window, which explains why I got such a good rate on the room.
Part of the trip included a visit to New York City and a performance of Cosi fan tutti at Lincoln Center. I didn't take my camera to New York, since you've probably seen countless photos of the city, and why would I bore you with that? You're much less likely to have seen photos of downtown Newark at night, so here are a few that I worked up for your entertainment.
Downtown Newark at night. After a brief rain, the streets took on an eerie glow that was second only to the eerie glow of the people on the streets. I'm not sure where I was, but I know you'll recognize the name on that big building in the background. I think they sell insurance.

I think sometimes people have low standards. This is a stairway up to a tattoo parlor. I know that because they wisely placed the words "TATTOOS" and "PIERCING" (meaning multiple tattoos but only one piercing?) on the stairway to let people know that it is a stairway to a tattoo parlor and not the stairway to a haunted house or a boarding house.
It's funny how particular we are with using hand sanitizers and issuing warnings about washing our hands every fifteen minutes, yet we will go to a place like this to allow a stranger to pierce our skin with a needle filled with ink. We're a strange bunch.

Serendipity is a great tool in photography. This is a mistake, since I inadvertently moved the camera before the exposure was complete. I could have told you I did it on purpose, but I'm an honest guy.

This is the outside of the Seton Hall School of Law, or some such thing, near the hotel I stayed in. Interesting how creeps like lawyers come out of such a nice building.

I was fascinated by this railroad bridge that runs into the Newark Penn Station. Once again, serendipity produced this sepia tone, so I didn't have to do anything except crop it a little and post it. Too honest? Maybe.

I had never been to an opera before. Luckily for me, the Lincoln Center seats have translation screens, so we can read the English version of Italian operas. Cosi fan Tutti is called a comic opera, and it's almost 4 hours long. I don't think Mozart understood one of the principal aspects of comedy - keep it short. After a huge meal at Cafe Fiorello, a 4-hour opera went down like a musical sleeping pill. To the extent that a guy in our row was heard to snore at least 4 times during the first act and 7 times during the second act. If you're that tired, just go home.

And for the record (if there is one) Guglielmo and Ferrando should have dumped those two crazy bitches and fought over Despina.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Occam's Checking Account.

Occam's Razor is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae (translating to the law of parsimony, law of economy or law of succinctness). The principle is popularly summarized as "the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one".
I do almost all my banking on the Internet. Aside from a stray institution that "needs" a paper billing statement returned to them, I write almost no checks.
Like everything else, there is good and bad to that. Most of the bad lies in the future, with the potential for Internet fraud. The good lies in the present.
One thing that is particularly frustrating - until you stop and think about it - is the transfer of money from one account to another.
When I pay a bill from my checking account, it takes between 2 and 5 days for the payment to reach the payee. That makes it necessary to do some actual financial planning, or else the bills will be late. It frustrated me until I figured out a viable alternative.
I now pay most of my bills on the company or credit card web site. The first of every month I sit down and go through all the sites of the various people I owe money to. If I put in a payment for the 4th, it will be paid on the 4th, even if the 4th is tomorrow. I wondered how that could work so much more easily than going through my bank, until I figured out the simple answer.
The people who want the money want to take it quicker than the people giving it up. I'd guess that banks make a grand amount of money during that "float period," between the time I submit the payment and it gets sent from my account. If the payees can get the money in less than 24 hours, why can't the banks pay bills in the same amount of time? Unless, of course, the bank gets paid to make us wait.
It was so simple, after all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why are they called Smartphones when intelligence isn't a requirement for using one?

A haiku over on Howard's page started me thinking. I'm not sure what makes me think, but generally reading something of his starts me on an internal dialogue that I sometimes take external. A brief exchange in his comments section lit the fuse. The haiku goes:
thank you for the things
none of us will ever need
that draw us in like sheep
(reprinted without permission)
The object, of course, hinges on the annual Christmas shopping frenzy that retailers call Black Friday. I've written about it enough to qualify me as a nuisance, and one more essay isn't going to help anybody.
During our comment/dialogue, (which you can read by clicking here) Howard posed the question: I wonder how stunted our entire society would be if we suddenly had to do without cell phones or our online infrastructure for a few days, or a few hours?
That brought to mind the great sacrifice (the word "sacrifice" was used in the press release) of several celebrities who are going without Twitter and Facebook for a whole day! I'm sure our troops in the Mideast and men and women serving prison sentences could learn from the sacrifice being made by those brave celebrities.
I often feel trapped by devices, and willingly have been led into the world of cell phones and netbooks. In fact, I'm writing this on my netbook. The common refrain from people on the other end of the cell phone usually goes, "Where were you? You didn't answer your phone." Since I do not have a land line, my cell phone is my only phone, and people expect it to be attached to my hip 24/7, when in fact, it's on silent mode 16/6. The initial convenience brought about by the cell phone has turned to a nuisance as people expect me to be constantly available. I wasn't constantly available before I had a cell phone, so there is no reason to expect I will be constantly available now.
The Internet has grown from technology to necessity, which is both good and bad. Conveniences like banking, e-mail and shopping are fraught with the potential for identity theft and e-mail scams. The mind boggles at the number of ways Internet schemers have come up with to try to separate us from our money. What they don't realize is that we are doing a good enough job on our own without any external aid.
All of those conveniences, which include cable television, are costing people an extra $250 a month that we feel is a fair value for the nuisance of technology. It's the girlfriend whose smoking hot body and free sex don't balance with the gigantic pain in the ass that she is. We put up with 6 hours of pain for 1 hour of pleasure.
I can't help but wonder how all of this stuff has made us happier. Maybe that's because it really hasn't? It's the world's largest peer pressure group. Do without a cell phone, Internet service and/or cable and you'll get that quizzical look like when you make a high-pitched whistling sound in front of a dog. The head cocks and they wonder "why not?"
But we're in. We're in to the point that Wi-Fi service is available at fast food places, cell phones are so pervasive that they have made laws and almost nothing worthwhile is on regular network television. You are lost in the world without those things. Monday Night Football is on cable now, your friends want to text message you and somebody just sent you an e-mail. No technology? No life.
OK, maybe that's a little harsh. But if you're reading this, it means you're into the Internet/computer deal, and I'd bet that you have a cell phone as well. Add in that the government made cable the standard a year ago and viola, dependence and bills. I think it's at least part of the reason regular wage earners are chest-deep in debt. There are a lot more bills than we used to have, and our incomes haven't kept up with the rate of innovation. And you know, we have to have this stuff.
Think about it the next time your cell phone reception blacks out, your Internet connection is slow or your cable goes out. Whatever will you do?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Just when you think society has sunk as low as it can, somebody figures out a way to dig the hole a little deeper. E! has developed a television program called "Bridalplasty" (that's right) where new brides compete for (among other things) a wish list of plastic surgery. I suppose there is no shortage of people who feel lousy about themselves to the point that they would go on television to tell friends, family and strangers about it, and television is always there for them. The "winner" gets to change the way she looks right before her big day. I suppose, at that point she's stuck with the groom and his flaws while he gets the "hot wife" he's pining for.
I have no idea (nor do I want to know) what the "challenges" are. I can imagine. Perhaps a "biggest nose" competition where the girls try out various odors and the first one to recognize the smell wins. Or "smallest boobs," where the winner is the girl who can squeeze into that Kids' Size top. The smallest score wins, just like golf. And I'd assume that an IQ test would yield similar results.
So who is the real winner here? It sure as hell isn't good taste. I suppose a variation on the old joke works here: I wouldn't marry any woman who would go on television to compete for plastic surgery. Check you local listings.
I have an idea for a new show. A television program where viewers get to do make-over's on stupid television shows. We get to eliminate hosts, stupid concepts and stupid participants in an effort to win our ultimate TV viewing experience. I compete every week. It's called a channel-changer.
I win.