Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the season.

Longwood Gardens has its Christmas display up. I'm not that big a fan of Christmas, but flowers and trees are nice.
Tonight's TV news was filled with stories of people out shopping (at 10:15pm no less) picking out that perfect gift for the people on their list. That we have been roped into buying things for more than our immediate family and close friends is a social phenomenon aside from the Christmas mess. Co-workers, casual acquaintances and newspaper delivery people are among the people who find themselves included in our holiday spending.
At my office, people will be seen leaving on Christmas Eve with bags full of crap they've gotten from their co-workers. Women, mostly. Men couldn't be bothered, and I figure if more women thought like men the entire shopping season would be reduced to a gift for their spouse or lover and nothing more. That's probably why advertising is geared toward women.
You hear a lot of complaints from people around election time, because of the constant stream of campaign ads. It annoys people to have to sit through two months of political candidates sniping at each other but it's socially acceptable for retailers to yell at us relentlessly. I guess we have our priorities aligned correctly.
Those bags will be filled with candles, trinkets and junk that people wouldn't ordinarily buy for themselves. Those are the "great gift ideas" that the TV ads tell us we can find if we go to their store.
Gift cards are great. Not everyone wants to give them though. They say they are "lazy" and require no thought. I say, keep it simple. I'd rather have a $25 VISA gift card than some useless piece of crap you picked out because you "thought you would like it." What am I going to do with a giant Hershey's Kiss? Don't think too much. I can use the card to buy a useless piece of crap on my own.
I have my priorities lined up, too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What price art?

I see a lot of people selling stuff on the Internet. Of course, Ebay is loaded with them. It's the point of the thing, don't you know, so you'd figure. There are plenty of people with hobbies that are both enjoyable to them and also earn a profit for them if they can find people to buy their things.
At this time of year, you see a lot of home-made wreaths and ersatz Xmas trees. I'd guess they spend the other 11 months making the stuff. People sell homemade furniture, quilts, jewelry and candles.
I have no mechanical or woodworking capabilities, so my best hope is some form of art. Since I can't draw a straight line without an edge to lay my pencil on, I'm left to either this stuff or my photography. I can't imagine anyone willing to shell out fifteen bucks for 300 pages of this junk, but I could imagine someone who might want to look at a nice photo of Philadelphia hanging on their wall. I think that's how it would work.
Like a lot of things, desire and will are the controlling factors. Lacking one or the other, it just isn't going to happen. I have the desire to do it, but I don't have the will to charge people money to look at something that's just a snapshot with a nifty lens.
I've looked into digital infrared photography, where one takes an ordinary scene and takes a snapshot that absorbs only invisible infrared light. The effect is more like an abstract painting than a photograph, and the interesting thing that happens is that our eyes tell our brain that trees are white and water is black.
The caveat - there's always a caveat when technology is involved - is that in order for a camera to see infrared light, the image sensor has to be replaced, which costs $400. In addition to that, it renders an otherwise normal camera otherwise useless, so one would have to have a spare camera, unless you wanted to explain to people how Billy's birthday party photos looked so strange.
So, let's add money to desire and will, since they are a nice trio. When you factor in the $300 for a new camera, the $400 to convert the old one and the $185 for the lens I need to convert the camera and $85 for software, I'm into this artistic endeavor for about $1,000. The mind is willing, but the wallet is weak.
Perhaps if I laid out a thousand dollars for stuff I'd feel less willful of charging people for my photographs?
There's some motivation for ya.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nikki Sixx

I have been neglectful.
I could have been writing about how I found the coverage of Elizabeth Edwards' death a bit excessive. Aside from being the wife of a failed presidential candidate, what did she do with her life? Oh right -- she's the scorned wife of the failed presidential candidate who had cancer, and now finds that her death has a certain ironic-pity quality to it that the media eats for lunch.
I could have been writing about yet another hike in DRPA bridge tolls, but that's beating the proverbial dead horse, and is of limited interest to the hundreds of people who access this page from Korea and Japan.
I could have been writing about the Phillies' coup of signing scorned lefthander Cliff Lee to reprise his role of 2009. Fans are lauding the guy because he took less money to come to Philadelphia than stay in Texas or move to New York. As if people don't realize why you would take less money to live and play in Philadelphia instead of those two Hell holes.
I could have been writing about how my office space is being remodeled and I went to the Internet to find a Phillies mouse pad, flush with the glee of Lee. I found one on for $19.99. Decent enough, I thought, what with logo rights and such. Later, I found the exact same one on Amazon for $13.99 from an independent seller. That's right. My question: How could an independent seller sell the same mouse pad for six bucks less than the people who own the property? Answer: Because Major League baseball are a bunch of greedy crooks who buy the same mouse pad from a manufacturer for ... oh, maybe 3 dollars ... and mark it up another six bucks higher than a guy selling them as a merchant.
I could have written about the Blu-ray player I won in a raffle at work. It's nice, I guess, but I can't help but feel as though the quality of my life would not have changed if I had not won it, and that's a sad thing to say about a prize. There is a perceived difference in the quality of Blu-ray discs and regular DVDs. The sound is better, too, but I kept asking myself if I would have bought one of these things of my own volition. I didn't think I would. For the convenience of the picture quality, I am asked to contribute an extra $2 to my Netflix subscription every month if I want them to send me Blu-ray discs instead of DVDs. I do not. Moreover, the Blu-ray discs are more expensive than DVDs (if I decided to buy a movie) and there is a lot of extra junk that goes with it (like alleged Internet access) that serve to complicate the movie-viewing experience. Perhaps I've reached the tipping point in my tolerance of technology and its associated costs. Sometimes it seems that new technology is meant more for marketing than function. That sounds American to me.
But those things are all kind of boring, so I decided to skip it for a while. Together, they seem to have more substance than on their own - like most people - or that Jets strength and conditioning coach that tripped a player on the sidelines. What is he even doing on the sidelines to begin with, and why wasn't he fired on the spot? But I digress.
All too boring, so I named the post after today's Yahoo's top "Trending Now" web search topic. Maybe I'll pick up a few accidental readers? Now that would be exciting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That's a lot of shoveling, you betcha.

The roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed under the weight of about two feet of snow, cancelling the scheduled game between the Vikings and Giants. This video looks like it was produced by Pixar, but it's actual surveillance camera footage:

That's an awesome sight, and it's fortunate that it didn't happen during a game. Can you imagine the panic that would ensue? Maybe Pixar can put some people in the stands and show us what would have happened. The snow wouldn't hurt them, but several would have been killed by the mob trying to get out.
What's even more amazing is that it has happened quite a few times, leading me to wonder why they'd build a dome that they couldn't heat to keep the snow from building up? The roof looks like some kid flipped a wading pool over a refrigerator box and decided to call it a stadium. I bet you couldn't get the local building inspector to approve an inflatable roof for your house, but they can keep 60,000 people in a stadium covered with one.
They cancelled the game, of course. They claim they couldn't play with the roof like that. I suppose. Although, proponents of the game often call the players "warriors." What better test for a warrior than to play under life-threatening conditions? I guess they're just football players. Real warriors would have said, "Fuck the roof. Tee it up, ref." Players today are pussies.
Meanwhile, in Chicago the Bears and Patriots are playing in near-blizzard conditions, and nobody thought of moving or cancelling that game. It sure makes for interesting football.
The first thing I think about in situations like that is, "what if I had a ticket to the game?" I couldn't imagine being stupid enough to stand outside for 4 hours in those conditions watching something I could see at home on my television. But 60,000 or so did just that, and it makes me question the basic intelligence of the general public.
We have our standards, however. We'll camp out for a bargain on Black Friday and stand in inclement weather for our favorite sports teams. Which is odd because, if someone said they would give you 80 dollars to stand out in a blizzard for 4 hours, you might do it, but you'd be thinking about it two hours in. Fans pay that for a football ticket and stand there without regret.
Football requires that sort of determination. Other sports cancel events when weather conditions make it the least bit uncomfortable to play. I suppose that makes football more of a manly game? Either that or they're too stupid to come in out of the rain.
It's a shame to get all those people together and deny them one of their games. NASCAR events are postponed frequently, and I picture the phone calls to their jobs asking for another day off on Monday. The Vikings game was moved to Detroit, and I wonder how they're going to sell tickets? Suppose some crazy Vikings fan wanted to drive the 691 miles from Minneapolis to Detroit? I guess he'd get there and find his seat was taken.
And I'm sure you'll read at least one story about some Vikings fans who will make the trip. I don't understand that crowd either. I suppose their work schedules are flexible enough that they can decide less than 24 hours early, to take a day off work. Maybe the Monday NASCAR and football crowds should tell us which people in society aren't that important. If they can take a casual day off work on a Monday, what vital work are they doing?
And yet they go. They sacrifice sleep and their personal comfort to watch strangers play a game. Most of them wouldn't cancel a dentist's appointment to see their kid in the school play. We have strange priorities. Occasionally, someone floats the idea to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a legal holiday. That Sunday is seen as some sort of near-religious event that mandates people attend a party and gamble. So naturally, the day after that should be a legal day of rest.
Unless, of course, they postponed the game.