Saturday, December 21, 2013

(F)uck Dynasty.

Whenever someone complains about bad officiating in sports, I say that the problem with leagues expanding to more teams is that there is a need for more officials.  More officials means more bad ones and that means there will be more bad calls.  The same is true of television.
Back in the 1960s (where I come from) television was confined to three networks, PBS and a few UHF channels that you needed a special antenna to receive.  Now - there are hundreds of channels, all in need of programming in order to fill their 24-hour cycle.  From that was borne such things as so-called "reality" shows and programs that do nothing but follow people around for days at a time, editing their activities down to a half-hour and showing it on television.  From that, we have created television stars where otherwise would have been just regular people doing their jobs.  That is where the problems start.
People like the Kardashian's, those housewives and other such TV-created people find themselves in the limelight where they should really be in the background.  It is the expansion of television that has created so-called stars and forced us to pay attention to their viewpoint.  One could even say that the Internet has forced people like myself to find a forum where I would otherwise be ranting to a select group of people, instead of the World-Wide Web.  Go figure.
The latest sputum from one of these TV stars comes in the form of "Duck Dynasty," a previously harmless program about some hicks who have made a fortune out of manufacturing duck calls.  Sounds like a perfect TV platform, right?  Sure, if you are completely out of pawn shop owners, motorcycle makers, and over-sexed housewives to exploit.  Yeah.  To wit, comments from "Duck Dynasty" star (yeah) Phil Robertson went like this:
“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.  Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Apparently, the homosexuals were the only people offended by Mr. Robertson's comments.  Perhaps that is because adulterers, male prostitutes and greedy drunkards do not have a political action group?  Either that, or hate only manifests itself in the form of homosexual love.  I have no idea.
Since that wasn't enough, he continued:
“It seems to me, a vagina - as a man - would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” he said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking, ‘There’s more there! She’s got more to offer.’ I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Logical?  What's logical about eating pig's feet or goat testicles?  Were we put here to decide what is logical for each other?  People drive vehicles that are meant to be used in warfare.  They smoke cigarettes.  They consume massive quantities of food and alcohol.  Our tastes in music, movies and television vary so much that even programs like "Duck Dynasty" are viewed by 13 million people every week.  What is logical about any of that?
Were we put here to judge the habits of our fellow humans or were we put here to be who we were made to be?  If you believe in God - the God who made your body and made it in His image - can you be intolerant of how others behave?
The anger and outrage that has been directed at those comments leaves me wondering (a) why it is only directed at the homosexual side of the comment and (2) why the anger exists to begin with.

Leave the judgment to God, if that is where you place your faith.  Otherwise, leave people to live their own lives.  Vent your anger where it will do some good - like the obscene number of television programs and how much attention we pay to people who otherwise would be ranting to themselves.
Wouldn't that make the world a better place?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wanderer of the Underworld.

Photo by me. Others available on my Flickr page.

This isn't a music review site.  Mostly, it is a place where I gripe about stuff that gets on my nerves.  Occasionally, I will stumble onto something that makes me happy that I want to share with people.  Having been raised in the 1960s and schooled on music in the 1970s, I trust my instincts, and you should, too.  So, here goes.

Through an interesting chain of events, I became acquainted with a guitarist named Chris Baker.  He had been playing with some mutual friends in bands and jam sessions.  Through Chris, the magic of the Internet and its marketing appeal, I found Amenti Rover.

For an old music-head like myself, it's refreshing to hear young people (real young people, not young people who I consider young) who get ... really GET music, and what emotion, drive and spirit are about when it comes to what I consider music.  Not auto-tune junk or stage antics.  Real music.  Maybe I'm jaded? Or maybe I just know what good music is.  Yeah, that's it.

Chris was kind enough to send me the five tracks from their debut EP, which should be available soon.  For now, you can download the first track from their web site, or at the bandcamp site, here.  As for the others, they have my highest endorsement.  It's great music, played with passion, fun, and love.

"Jezebel" puts me to mind of some of Leslie West's Mountain and the passion that his band had, complete with drive of its main riff and the drops in the chords of the chorus.  Crank it up and disturb your neighbors.  Oh, and go to the site I linked you to and download it.

"Girls of the City" is a fun, blues-influenced rocker whose energy you can pick up from the beginning.  Josh and Lake's driving rhythm section carry another great riff, and Jarrett's vocals let us know how much fun a nice little rock song can be.

"Tired of It" is one of the highlights of their live shows.  The thing about most studio recordings is that they fail to convey the energy of the live performance.  In fact, if I were King of the World, most bands would have their debut CDs recorded at a live show, but I digress.  This song (and the others, in fact) prove that it is possible to convey the energy of a live performance to a studio. It is crisp, powerful and energetic.  All that stuff that's so important to me - and should be important to you, too.

"Changing Sun" is the real throwback tune for me.  It's reminiscent of a time when music was thoughtful.  Not only is it a fantastic song, but, true to its name, it is a changing Sun, with several time-signature and mood shifts, from a happy 6/8, slowing to a more 3/4 feel and finally to a quick 4/4.  It keeps the listener actively engaged - and I do love to be actively engaged.  There is a point (near the end) at which it could become a self-indulgent guitar solo, but they leave us with just enough to make us want to hear it live, where maybe it will realize that end ... just for a little while, at least. (C'mon, Chris)

"Satan Woman" is another highlight of their shows.  It starts off in your face, and doesn't let up.  This tune has all the big-production sound you'd hear from any (egad) mainstream rock tune, yet you don't lose the energy of the live performance.  Have I said how much I value that?

I'm not a professional music reviewer, and I have difficulty transferring my feelings for emotive music to the written word.  I don't have the flowery language that accompanies most reviews ... but, trust me on this  ... this is good.  Do I need to be more descriptive?
Seek-out good music and you will find happiness.  As good as these songs are, there are many others that they did not record that you should hear.

And you can hear them ...
January 3 at The Legendary Dobbs in Philadelphia
January 18 at Hebe Music in Mt. Holly, NJ

Amenti Rover
~ Wanderer of the underworld ~

Jarrett Mead - Voice
Chris Baker - Guitar
Lake Muir - Bass
Josh Merhar - Drums

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Too Much Technology

OK, so that is the commercial for the Galaxy watch-thingy.  The first thing that strikes me about it is that its predecessors are all fictional devices that had no place in actual life.  There is a reason for that.  We never had the technology.  Now that we do, that doesn't give us an excuse to have another device that interrupts our daily lives to inform us of something coming in from the outside.
Seriously, are people willing to pay for this junk?
The second thing is that I can't imagine why anyone would want a device on their wrist that tells them that something in their pocket needs attention.  Isn't that the ultimate in redundancy?  Why would anyone pay for a device that tells them something that they already paid for?  The answer, I guess, is that it's possible.  We can invent devices that tell us what we already know.
Something I would pay for is a device that re-routes my calls to a person on the other end who says, "Anthony is not interested in taking your call."  Where is that device?  Instead, we get things that further interrupt our day.  And, this is progress?
What's next?  A device planted in our ear to let us know that the device on our wrist is buzzing to alert us of something going on in our pocket?  Are our lives so devoid of distractions that we need another one?
Bravo to you, Samsung, for inventing a device to let me know what is going on in the device I already own - but I think if it started buzzing, my first inclination would be to flush it down the toilet.  Would my cellular device be able to track it on its way to the local sewage plant?
That, I would pay for.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tis the Season.

It's "The Holidays."  The time of year when we make excuses for our absence ("It's the holidays, and I'm so busy") It is the time of year when we are supposed to be kinder to our fellow man, "In the spirit of the holiday."  That's the idea.  When it's over, we can go back to being the despicable bastards that we are.  But for now, it's all "love one another" and "kindness" crapola. It's all too phony for me to believe.
The idea springs from The Bible - or we are led to believe.  There are conflicting ideas.  On the one hand, we are told it's a Christian celebration of our savior's birth.  On the other hand, we are told it's the season of Santa and his sack of toys, and that impossible idea that he brings toys to "all the good boys and girls of the world."  You can believe what you wish to believe.  The facts fly in the face of that...
When the Christ-child was born "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). This never could have occurred in Judaea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date.
And, that's how it begins.  If you are to believe that this is the season of His birth, then you must believe in the truth. The idea of Christmas being a Christian celebration of [anything] are fallacy in the highest degree.  There is a mixture of beliefs that can only be perpetrated by modern marketing.  Christmas trees, Christian masses, Santa Claus, the birth of Christ, parades, and gift-giving.  It's apples and oranges.  Whether or not you choose to face it is up to you.
The book "Answers to Questions," compiled by Frederick J. Haskins, says: "The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era."

You have fallen for marketing that is only as old as you. The idea of Christmas and its Pagan ideas goes way beyond what you have lived through. Do some research and find out how silly those beliefs are and how you have given-into the idea of guilt-associated gift-giving.  It's sad, really.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153- 155, I quote: "The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows."
Christmas has become a holiday of spending and marketing, propagated by retailers.  They market it as a time of guilt.  If you do not justify your love for others by purchasing the "perfect gift" for them, then you have failed.  It is the root of the season.  You can call it a Christian holiday or make it into some sort of societal celebration of goodness -  but it is really built around retail marketing and guilt.
The bigger problem is that "the season" has gotten to the point that it now extends beyond Thanksgiving, into October and has become a source of income for our giant retail machine.  What the retail machine has come to realize is that, if they can convince us to rear our children to believe in this nonsense, they can survive through another generation of guilt-associated gift-giving.  And so on, and so on - until we are so deep into it that we have forgotten where it came from.
I'm afraid that point has already passed.  You are too far gone.

Part One

"It's the holiday season" or "It's the holidays" go the pre-packaged responses to things posed to people between now and the end of the year.  I would call them excuses, but others see them as reasons that they cannot either process information or accomplish tasks - other than the requisite shopping.

We (you) burden ourselves with guilt-ridden gift-giving at Christmas.  The advertisements are filled with angst.  "Make this the perfect gift for the ones you care for."  "Tell them how much you love them with [fill-in the name of the item]."
We (you) are supposed to find the ideal item that will express your deepest emotions when you find it, wrap it with paper and place it under a symbol of Pagan seasonal worship at this, the holiest of holy seasons.

It's supposed to be a time of ... oh, I don't know, worship - gratitude - giving - you name it.  What it has become is a season of spending and financial sacrifice to prove that we love others.  Stores are open on Thanksgiving so that we can get a jump on those incredible "Door Buster" savings.  NOTE: I checked the stores on Saturday. Doors are intact.

Jewelry stores advertise rings and other such male-induced guilt-induced love spending.  Even auto-makers get in on the gimmick with so-called sales on cars.  I have yet to see a car with a giant bow on the roof on Christmas morning. I guess I don't live right.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rumors of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated.

It is both comforting and disconcerting to know that I got more responses from my previous post than the one on October 27, detailing the odd acts of humans.  But, such is life, I suppose.  Of all the things I have written on this page over the past 7-or-so-years, I would have thought that anus licking reference would have made the difference.  Au contraire.
The difference between me and regular people is that I will tell you when I'm not "fine."  Fine is a nice texture for hair and a really great idea for slicing cheese - but it stinks when people ask, "How are you?"

For one thing, they seldom want to know.  And for another thing, when you are honest with them, it throws them for a loop. (whatever that means)
I'm not sure what people are expecting to hear when they ask (I think I know) or the alternate, "How's it going?" to which I generally reply, "Oh, it's going."  (I have no idea what that means)
They smile and nod, like when they respond to a mental patient.  (Say what they want to hear - in their heads)
Recently, I was found sitting alone at lunch (a common practice) and a co-worker plopped down at the table next to mine.  When another co-worker approached, she implored her to sit with her so that "people wouldn't think I'm an asshole" for sitting alone at lunch.

The thought occurred:  Do people see me sitting alone at lunch and think I'm an asshole?  What a horrible idea, I thought.  After all, I'm there first, and others decide to sit with others - leaving me alone.  So, who is the asshole here?

Maybe I think too much?

Still alive, though.

(don't call the police)


Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's All Too Much.

It's difficult to know when the time is right.  When we are ready.  All of us think we have something waiting for us, something great on the horizon.  It's the lottery of life.  We believe.
If we were true to ourselves, we might know that this is (as they say) as good as it gets.  We have lived our life.  The struggle has reached its end.
There isn't anything greater than we have already known.  Nothing better than we have done.  Our best is behind us - whatever that is.  From now until the end, it's just playing out the string.
I have no children.  No legacy.  It's just me and my cat, and that's the best it will ever be.  I have over-stayed my welcome.  It's time to make a grand exit.
Now would be good.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wherefore art thou, Archie?

Occasionally, my mind drifts into thoughts that are not relevant.  Most of the time, those thoughts wind up here.  So, in keeping with that theme, here we go.

The old TV show "All in the Family" featured a dialogue between Archie and his son-in-law Mike over one of Mike's friends.  The dialogue drifted into Archie's ideas about England.  Without looking it up, here is my recanting of the dialogue:

ARCHIE:  This ain't England.  We threw England out of here a long time ago.  We want no more parts of England ... and for your information, England is a fag country.
MIKE: What?
ARCHIE:  Ain't they still picking handkerchiefs out of their sleeves?  The whole society is based on a kind of a fagdom.

There is no more relevance to bring to the discussion, other than the idea that the show was broadcast in
1971.  The part where my mind drifted came in when I started to think about whether dialogue like that, or even a show like "All in the Family" could be produced today.  With our penchant for political correctness and our desire to not [God forbid] offend anyone, no character in a television show could proclaim that any country was a "fag country" or "based on a kind of a fagdom" or even [God forbid] use the word fag.  I wondered if this is a step forward or a step backward.

While our standards on television have changed, to the extent that Al Roker is receiving a prostate exam on live television, gay couples are portrayed (although never seen in a physical relationship) and language has been loosened to the extent that we allow innuendo and language that otherwise would not have been allowed in 1971 ... certain words are not permitted to be used that were freely used in 1971.  It's an odd change of attitude that has occurred slowly.

If a character in a prime-time network television sitcom used the word fag or faggot in the sense that Archie used it, it would be front-page newspaper headlines, Twitter-trending, Internet comments ... the world would stop turning if [God forbid] someone used the word faggot on television.

What has changed so much since 1971?

Most of us who were alive in 1971 are still alive today.  However, we no longer use words the same way we used them then.  They used a lot of descriptive terms like kike, Polack, jungle-bunny and other such racially unacceptable epithets on that show.  It caused a bit of a stir back in the day, but all we had was TV and radio.

After the first season, a record album was released of the best moments of the show.  There was no YouTube, Twitter or even a VCR to document the thing, so we had to grasp onto what we had.  It required that we pay attention to television while it was being broadcast. That, in itself, is a foreign concept in a world where DVR time-shifting is commonplace.  Imagine having to be home at 8:30 on a Tuesday night, lest you miss the program altogether and have to wait until the summer rerun cycle to catch-up. Egad.

But I digress.  Network television was a legitimate entertainment medium.  There was no other choice.  You either watched one of the 3 networks (and PBS) or go to a movie.  Perhaps it is the advent of pay-cable and their free speech and nudity.  Making viewers pay for (so-called) bad language and nudity has made network television clean-up its act to the extent that programs like "All in the Family" would wind up on HBO if they were being produced now.  That doesn't change the content as much as it changes the audience.

People with access to pay cable can see programs about meth producers, foul-mouthed social misfits, and other such public oddities that would probably be relegated to film or viewer-supported PBS.  It's an oddity, since theoretically, the audience is the same.  Why can people say fuck on HBO but not on CBS?  Is it the commercial content that makes the difference?  Would the makers of Skippy peanut butter be offended if someone on "Two and a Half Men" said, "So, who did you fuck last night?"  Consumer groups would form an Internet-inspired blockade and boycott Skippy peanut butter.  Say the same thing on HBO and more people subscribe.  Go figure.

Perhaps it's the boundaries of marketing that make the difference?  Perhaps, if the makers of Old Spice sponsored a program like "Modern Family" where, instead of just having a gay couple living in a home together, the gay couple was actually seen kissing or fondling the way actual gay couples do, it would become more mainstream?  Perhaps, if products sponsored programs and did not care about the public backlash - which seems to be instigated by less than 10-percent of the actual public - perhaps we could see real-life dialogue and actions on television?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our new (old) governor and other things...

Chris Christie was re-elected yesterday.  He won with 64% of the vote.  The newspapers called it a "landslide."  I suppose that's true, in a political sense.  In a sociological sense, 36% of the voting public thinks someone else should be New Jersey's governor.  To me, that's more like a marginal victory, especially when you do the math...

Vote CountPercent
CHRIS CHRISTIE50,44964.03%
BARBARA BUONO26,93334.18%

Let's take a look at the turnout, for a look at the mathematics...

Registration & Turnout
193,820 Voters
Vote Count
Election Day Turnout
Mail-In Ballot Turnout
Provisional Turnout

So, if you apply mathematics, you figure that 58.5% of registered voters didn't vote.  It sounds to me like Barbara Buono got hosed.  She should have been able to get the 110,000 registered voters who sat at home to come out and push a button.  She might not have been able to make up some of the landslide margin.  At least then, we would be able to figure out whether or not New Jersey voters were really happy with Christie.

It's kind of disgusting, really, that in a state with the population of New Jersey, only 78,791 people (including write-in's) of the 193,820 registered voters could be bothered to vote for the guy who is going to run their state.  41.5%, mathematically. That's why, when people complain about the state government, the first question you have to ask them is, "Did you vote?"  You stand a 59% chance that they will say, "No."  That makes their complain invalid.

But that's our system.  We require people to pay taxes.  We require them to register their vehicles, obey the laws passed by our state legislature, and obey laws enforced by the court system whose judges are appointed by the people elected to public office --- but we do not require them to vote.

The obvious answer is that we do not want uninformed people to vote.  But, how uninformed does one have to be to vote on one of our two ballot questions?  One asked if we would approve hiking the state minimum wage.  The other asked if we should allocate a percentage of our state gambling income to veterans.  One does not have to be politically active to have an opinion on those things. [the answer to both is "yes," by the way]  The not so obvious answer is something else.

The government does not encourage participation.  An informed populace is not necessarily their best friend.  So, they flood us with sporting events, entertainment, and secular holidays to distract us from the real issues.  If we knew what was really going on, we'd be horrified, but we are more inclined to vote for "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" than we are for the guy who runs our state.  Go figure.

Those sorts of people are the government's best friends.  "Like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter - because that's what you want.

64% of 42% of registered voters think Chris Christie should be the governor.  Report that, and you'll only confuse people more than they are already confused.  Because they aren't paying attention.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Be Gay.

Who remembers "The Flintstones" theme song? [hand raised]....

When you're with the Flintstones,
You'll have a Yabba-dabba-doo time,
A dabba-doo time.
We'll have a gay, old time!

Well then, that was 1960.  A time when the word 'gay' meant happy.  If that show was produced today, the theme song wouldn't be exactly the same.  Words change their meanings over the years.  In the early part of the 20th century, making love to a woman merely meant wooing her.  Later, it would mean something completely different.
The melody of "Deck the Hall" is taken from "Nos Galan" ("New Year's Eve"), a traditional Welsh New Year's Eve carol published in 1794.
There are plenty of examples of the word meaning "carefree," until the mid-1970s.  Perhaps it had a secret double-meaning?  An unspoken, implied meaning that was only included in hip publications and books - with a sly wink toward the sky - where a scant percentage of the population knew exactly what the author intended?
Whatever - nowadays, the word has only one connotation, that of sexuality.  It's a shame that the meaning has transformed itself, but a bigger shame that corporate America feels it is necessary to replace the word so that our sensibilities will not be compromised, as they have with so many other things during the Holiday Season.
One wonders what Hallmark had to fear from selling a sweater with the phrase "gay apparel" on it.  One also wonders why they would choose that particular phrase to begin with.  Of all the P.C. Christmas-themed things they could have chosen, why bother to choose something that they would have to alter?  It's a curious decision.
Hallmark defended the change in lyrics.
"When the lyrics to 'Deck the Halls' were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800's, the word 'gay' meant festive or merry," according to a statement released Wednesday. "Today it has multiple meanings, which we thought could leave our intent open to misinterpretation."
So, why bother, then?  Pick something else. Leave us alone to be gay and celebrate Christmas, if that's what we want to do.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mystery of Life.

How can it cost less to mail me the ticket than it costs to print it at home or hold it at Will Call?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let's put that ugliness behind us.

Since you're still with me after Sunday's post, I'd have to say that there isn't anything else I could write that would offend you, so I'll just go after one of the more mundane topics rolling around my head.
Comcast (or Xfinity as they like to be known, for some reason) recently raised my cable bill $30. (Mine and everyone else's).  This immediately followed an incredible offer they extended to me to bundle-up my Internet with my television and telephone.  For the record (if there is one) I do not have a land line telephone, and I'm not particularly interested in having one, but their sales pitch included the phone, so it's part of the deal.
The rate increase negated the incredible deal, and more importantly, made me think more than twice about the luxury of paying for television.
It hearkened me back to the days when television was free.  Circa 1980, cable television invaded my neighborhood.  For the bargain price of $9.99 a month I could have access to 36 channels and something called Prism, which broadcast the Phillies, Flyers and Sixers - commercial-free.  Yes, that's right, commercial free.
As with the fable of the camel, once they got their nose under the tent, it wasn't long before the entire camel was in the tent, too.  Prism quickly became a commercial station.  The 36 channels turned into 1500 and something called hi-definition television took over our lives.  With the necessary cable packages and such, it now costs in the neighborhood of $140 a month to watch television.
That means that state-of-the-art television costs 14 times what it cost 30-some years ago. There aren't too many things (or any?) that cost 14 times what they cost in 1980.  Get back to me on that. (and no, it's not cigarettes, but they're close)
Between cable television and the $90 per month bill I get for my cellular telephone, I'm paying what could amount to a car payment for two things that I wasn't paying for not that long ago.  Oh sure, you youngsters in the audience don't know what I'm talking about, and you seem to take great glee in your attachment to your cellular device (Not really a telephone) and if you would probably pay even more than you already do to keep it.
For those of you scoring at home, that's over $2,700 for two convenience items.  With the proliferation of public Wi-Fi service, is my cellular device worth any more than a regular cell phone?  I could buy an iPad for about $600 and glom-off some free Internet somewhere, or better yet, use the Comcast Internet service that I'm already paying for.
It's more difficult to get around the cable television thing.  There's Hulu and Netflix, but those cost money too, and they don't have all the content you may want.  Apple TV is available, but between that and the other subscriptions you'd need to by-pass Comcast, I doubt that the savings would be enough to make it all worthwhile.  And I'd be willing to bet that there's a group of accountants at the Comcast Headquarters doing that math, too.
Face it, gang. They've got us by the balls.  Unless, of course, you have some and are willing to live without some of the things that we have been convinced (by ourselves, mostly) that we can't live without.
I'll get back to you on that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Things We Humans Do.

There's something on my mind, and since the title of this blog suggests that I let it out - here it goes.
If you're offended by sensitive topics, click here to be sent someplace where your needs can be better met.  Otherwise, read on.
I wander around the Internet.  It's what the Internet is for - wandering.  I stumble upon things that perhaps I shouldn't stumble upon, but so ... It's the reason we have fingers and free will.  One of the things I have stumbled upon in my travels is a web site devoted to homosexual men and their experiences with other men.
One of the interesting activities they indulge in is using their tongue on another man's anus.  I am as liberal as the next guy, but the practice of licking another man's ass isn't something that remotely interests me.
The problem I  have with it is that I do not associate it with the idea that men can be sexually attracted to other men.  I know the phenomenon exists, and I can actually appreciate it, but the idea that one can put ones tongue on someone else's anus is a practice that I find neither sexually provocative or peculiar to any sexual preference.
There it is, in all its glory - a man with his tongue on another man's ass.  The problem is that I would not do that to a woman, and as a heterosexual, I do not find the practice remotely stimulating sexually.  What I do find it is repulsive, and regardless of ones sexual preference, I'd guess that others would, too.
So, how is it that homosexual men could engage in this and find it sexually stimulating?  It's part of the homosexual experience that I am intensely curious about.
Perhaps I will meet someone with whom I can discuss this practice and find my answers.  Until then, I wonder why it is considered sexual, let alone desirable.  Lick their fingers, toes, ears or other outer body parts.  The anus?  Not really appealing.
So, there.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Facebook Politics ("The Facebook Thing" Part 3)

"Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I.
Insects don't have politics. They're very brutal. No compassion, no compromise."
 - Brundlefly "The Fly" (1986)
Facebook is a happy place.  I'm not sure if I have covered that.  If I haven't, then yes, it is a happy place.  We post things about our vacations, the foods we eat and the friends we 'hang with' along the way.   I don't know if people still do it - since I've ceased to receive Christmas cards - but there used to be this thing that circulated where family members wrote letters updating others on their activities throughout the year. It was greeted with the same anticipation as a dose of The Clap.  And the vacation slide shows. Those were great invitations to receive, too.  "Hey, come over and look at photos of all the places you didn't go."
Combine those two things, and you have The Facebook Experience.
That's the "happy place."  That's the place where people say, "Hey, here I am - and there you are - at home, reading about it."  The social cliques that form are interested.  The rest are either bored or click "LIKE" so that they won't have to comment.
Anything that violates the happy place space is viewed in a different light.  There are Facebook cliques.  Internet gatherings of actual friends who grouped together on Facebook.  Clubs, organizations or other such social groups who find a common thread.  That's where the politics comes in.  Not politics as in government and such, but politics as in viewpoints.  Without compassion or compromise.  Clinging to an ideal.
It's the reason your pet is so happy to see you when you get home. He has no politics. There is compassion for every stupid thing you did or comment you made.  He compromises because you bring him food.  It's the ultimate barter system.
In humans, it's our ultimate flaw.  That we cannot tolerate differences, either real or imagined.  When those differences manifest themselves in the written "Status Update" (or, as Facebook says, "What's on your mind?") it really does not want to know - and your "Facebook Friends" really do not want you to tell them.  Your politics become their intolerance.
"Lost my shape trying to act casual."
- David Byrne "Crosseyed and Painless"
You can lose who you are trying to be who others want you to be.  "Be happy," they say. "Facebook is a marketing tool," they say.  "Use it to market yourself."
"I asked him why he used cocaine.  He said, 'It enhances my personality.' 
I said, "What if you're an asshole?"
- Bill Cosby
Facebook cannot change who you are.  It cannot change the politics of others.  Either they accept you for who you are or they do not.  When the Facebook Friendships turned against me, I abandoned the source. 
On Facebook (as we discussed in Part 2) when the politics turn ugly, the unfriending begins.  Those of us who have had our share of rejection must abandon the source.  The source is not us. It is not our viewpoint, rather, it is the interpretation of the viewpoint and the reaction that matters.
For those of us who have been alive long enough to remember a world without text messaging, cell phones and the Internet, abandoning this source merely means going back to a time when the world was a more simple place.  Whether that is a good or bad thing is not the issue.  The issue is that we have allowed ourselves to be dragged into the world of social politics.  I have reacted to it.  In some way, it makes me question my own humanity, and it makes me wonder why I allowed myself to be dragged into it.
Why do I need to be "Liked?"  Or, more to the point, why does it matter that I am not liked?  Why is it necessary for me to have friends who I do not really interact with, and only see on the Internet?  I looked inward and I did not like what I saw.  Who cares what I ate for breakfast, where I spent the weekend or who I saw?  Why do I feel this emptiness when I have nothing to post?  Why is it necessary to post photos of the places I have been to show to people who are not there with me?
I like having control over my free will, and I feel as though it had been taken away from me.  Worse, the free will had been stripped away by people who I did not really know, yet found it necessary to unfriend me - when they were not really my friends to begin with.  It's all so confusing.
"Friends can help each other.
A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself - and especially to feel.
Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them.
That's what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he really is."
- Jim Morrison


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Facebook Thing (part 2)

Now that we have uncovered your deep-seeded need to be liked (or loved), let's now turn to your other need - to passive/aggressively face people on the Internet.  Oh - now.
The ease at which we confront each other on these posts and comments is of great sociological interest to me.  The distance and anonymity of the interaction leads to all sorts of interesting (and, dare I say, honest) commentary over what is proposed.  Here, one can be CrazyGuy99 and post a comment about what a jackass the poster is, and live to tell about it.  Chances are, the poster isn't aware of who CrazyGuy99 is, and even if he did know, the probability of retribution is minimized by the proximity of the commenter.  It's simple social math.
On the Facebook, however, the commenter is generally one of your (so-called) friends, and as such, their identity is known.  Even if your profile photo is that of a flower or a cat, your name is attached to the comment, so the poster knows whom they are offending.
Nevertheless, the distance of the Internet connection leads the commenter to all sorts of strange (and sometimes true) comments about what the poster said.  Political commentary, religious viewpoints and other sorts of personal viewpoints become fair game for commenter, via the distance of the Internet and its relative safety.
All of which leads to the passive/aggressive behavior of the offended party.  Their options are few:  (1) ignore the commenter [rare] (2) respond in kind, inciting some sort of Internet confrontation or (c) unfriend the commenter, thereby leaving him in the lurch as to their response.  Dead in the water, as it were.  This is the passive/aggressive response, and, I'm sad to say, the most popular response among the Facebook faithful.
Unfriending someone is a classic retort.  In chess, it would have a name like "The Zuckerberg Defense."  The Zuckerberg Defense is a move that has no response.  Once one is unfriended on Facebook, the responses are limited to the verbal, "Oh yeah, well, fuck you, too!" which goes largely unheralded, since the unfriender is no longer in Facebook reply-land.
One step further than the Zuckerberg Defense is the block.  That is a "dead to me" response, and has no possible response, verbal or otherwise.  The "dead to me" victim is virtually left in the woods to fend for themselves.  Their only possible retort is to (1) form a blockade among their other Facebook Friends or (b) Withdraw from Facebook altogether.
The Facebook Withdrawal is the ultimate retreat, from which there is no response.  Facebook Withdrawal has no response or retort.  You have proclaimed yourself dead to you, and as such, dead to the Facebook Community - or Family - as it were.
The Facebook Withdrawal leaves the withdrawler with two options (1) stay withdrawn, and therefore withdrawn from the "Facebook Community" in perpetuity - until something better comes along [see the MySpace Response] or (b) Come crawling back to Facebook in some mysterious manner by re-activating your Facebook page and thereby acknowledging to the "Facebook Community" that you have confessed your sins and are ready to be welcomed back into the "family."
Option b requires an admission of guilt so that the person who withdrew admits that they were somehow at fault and is asking their Facebook Family for tacit approval of their anger and subsequent remission.  Please let us back into your little world.
The problem with that is that the admission comes with it a certain sort of crawling back behavior that does not equate with the passive/aggressive behavior of the people who shunned him to begin with.
What we are left with is the idea that the world existed and friends were made prior to the invention of Facebook, and in that world, confrontations were handled face-to-face.  In our new texting, impersonal world of cellular communications and virtual friendships, the more viable option is to exclude people from your life who either make you think or react.
That, my virtual friends, is the harsh reality of virtual friendships.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Facebook Thing (part one)

If there was ever an Internet site created for this generation, it's Facebook.  Why, you ask?
Because it feeds into our desire to be noticed.  There are 310 million people in the United States and approximately 7.16 billion on the Earth, consisting of the World Wide Web.  It is difficult to stand out in such a crowd.  Unless, of course, you promote yourself and raise your hand to the Internet and say, "Hey, look at me!"  That's what Facebook is.
It was created as many things are:  Innocently.  As a method to keep track of new friends and track down old ones.  The more people logged-on, the better your chances.  You might be searching for a lost high school sweetheart or making new "friends" (Facebook friends, as differs from real friends) or just hanging around to see what pops up.
What pops up are posts from people who are screaming "Hey, look at this!  I just bought a new thing/took a vacation/ate dinner/hung-out with similar Facebook friends."
The odd thing is that we strive to be noticed.  That's where the innocence can turn into a form of passive-aggressive attention grabbing.  We show off our newest thing, forgetting that we have perhaps hundreds of friends who can neither afford nor contemplate having such a thing or caring that we can.  No matter, we're posting on Facebook and we are being noticed.
Many of those 310 million people take vacations.  In the recent past, their real friends were invited to their house when they got home to view slides or snapshots of their time away. This occasion was greeted with the same enthusiasm as a root canal.  We endured, because they are our friends, and soon, we will exact our revenge.
At Christmas, non-thinking friends and relatives used to send the Christmas update letter, detailing all of the things that their family did during the year.  They had to send this because you didn't care enough to call or keep in touch so that the update letter would be rendered unnecessary.  It was the early-20th Century version of Facebook. "Hey, look at me, I'm writing you a letter! Shut up and read it."
We tolerate (and even encourage) the Internet version of the vacation slide show and Christmas letter.  Why? Because it's on the Internet, and specifically Facebook, which we view as some sort of technological innovation.  What it is really, is an electronic version of those invasive vacation snaps and the Christmas update letter.  We love the technology.
So, the next time you are posting something, remember that it's just an updated version of what your distant relatives used to do.  The eye-roll came at no additional expense.
Truthfully, we don't really care that you bought a new car, had lunch at an expensive restaurant, managed to run 5 miles without stopping or returned from a vacation in a place whose name we cannot pronounce.  Nevertheless, we click "LIKE" because if we don't, you'll wonder why your friends (Facebook friends) didn't like what you did.
And, we all want to be liked.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jane! Stop this crazy thing!

Of all the fast-food-pretending-to-be-real-food restaurants, my favorite is Chili's.  Maybe it's because they can't seem to decide whether they're Tex/Mex or just a burger joint or it's those awesome Black Bean Burgers that I wind up eating with a knife and fork.  Either way, I enjoy participating in their identity crisis.
Now, they are welcoming us to the 21st Century with a new and (they say) exciting development.  The Touch-Screen.  Even though I loved it when Wawa instituted them several years ago, I'm not sure I want to go to a sit-down restaurant and talk to a computer.  It takes something away from the "Hi, I'm Brad and I'll be your server" experience.  Although, I don't understand why Brad cannot bring my order out.  Usually, it comes from whichever server happens to be standing by the kitchen when the plate goes out.  I suppose that's part of their policy.  But I digress.
At the Wawa, they would usually screw-up my sandwich order when I placed it with a human.  And since I generally abstain from human contact, having a touch-screen do my bidding is a welcomed addition to my life.  Not all technology is foist upon us for our own good.  Chili's motives seem rather sinister:
Restaurant-goers who dine at tables with the devices often spend more per check, because they tend to buy more desserts and coffee when the screen is present, said Krista Gibson, senior vice president of brand strategy for Chili's.
Pictures of desserts pop up on the screen midway through the main course, when people start to think about what they will eat next, Ms. Gibson said. Dessert sales increased almost 20% in tests, she said, and coffee sales also rose when featured in a similar way.
Chili's is also considering promoting alcoholic beverages during meals, Ms. Gibson said.
Oh boy!  Chili's motive isn't one of convenience, it's (surprise) profit.  Not only will we order more (so they say) but we'll enjoy it too.  Just when we were starting to embrace the idea of not getting fatter, along comes more incentive to eat.
Of all the technological advancements they could place in front of us, this is what they've come up with.  How about scales on the seats, so we'll know what we weigh when we enter and when we leave?  Or a breathalyzer to measure those "Signature Cocktails" they sold us, where the big signature is on the summons you get when you're pulled over. No, that would be ... um ... helping us.  And we can't have that.
So, under the guise of convenience, they place a touch-screen in front of us.  We'll exclaim, "Oooh, isn't this cool!" while we're ordering an appetizer we didn't plan on or that [click - click] Tiramisu that looks so good and is so ... easy to order.  Yummers!
There's an old saying: Once the camel has his nose under the tent, it isn't long before the whole camel is in there with you.

Tent, meet camel.  Enjoy your stay.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

You get what you pay for.

Forbes Magazine has published its annual list of the top-earning celebrities:

Simon Cowell  $95 million
Howard Stern $95 million
Glenn Beck  $90 million
Oprah Winfrey  $77 million
Dr. Phil McGraw  $73 million
Rush Limbaugh  $66 million
Donald Trump  $63 million
Ryan Seacrest  $61 million

What is the common thread?  None of them do anything to directly benefit society.  They are either telling us how to behave, whom we should like or expressing some opinion, as though we cannot form our own ideas.

You can debate the relative usefulness of each of these to society - or not.  It doesn't take a huge amount of evaluation to come to the conclusion that of the eight listed, none of them have any real day-to-day value to our lives, yet they earn salaries that most of us could live on for three lifetimes.  That is disconcerting.

The question to ask is "Why does society value these people so highly?"  After all, the average salary for a teacher in New Jersey is $48,362.  Teachers do not appear on television.  The average salary for a pediatrician in New Jersey is $156,000.  I get it, we don't put baby-doctors on television either.  All they do is diagnose and treat illnesses of children.  Where's the value in that, compared to having someone (Oprah) tell me which book I should read?

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.  And I didn't even mention professional athletes.

The Hopi call it koyaanisqatsi:  Life out of Balance.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What you can say, and what you cannot say.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper used "the N word" (nigger, OK) in a fit of rage at a concert about two months ago.  The video of the slur came out yesterday and the Internet and other forms of media area worked-up over his poor choice of words.

Opinion is divided as to his intent or the manner in which he spoke the word.  Some would say alcohol played a part and others would say that alcohol was a fuel in the fire.  Either way, he said it and that seems to be the problem.

For those of us old enough to have been alive long enough to remember a world without cell phone video or YouTube links, the  incident is amazing.  Let's say, in 1985, this incident would have either gone unreported or have been reported with "word of mouth" testimony that could have been refuted by the defendant.

The youth of today is totally wired-in with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other forms of instant media, where they can post video of whatever stupid thing they are doing that they assume we are interested in seeing. Most of us view these updates with stifled yawns, unless the person on the other end is some form of celebrity - which is where Riley Cooper comes in.

He is some form of celebrity, having been burdened with the position of playing for a professional football team.  Had it been any of us schmucks in the general public, that video would have gone into the Cloud or wherever videos of unnecessary things are stored.

The sad part (for us and Riley) is that his so-called social prominence mandates that we know about his social foibles.  Otherwise, he could have said he likes to have sex with chickens or he enjoys the company of sheep and we wouldn't bat an eye because it isn't of consequence for social media sites to exploit.

Even though we have had this technology for several years, there are still people who do not realize that almost everything they do is either recordable or being recorded.  Cross the street against a green light and try to get away with it.  Pay for something with Canadian quarters, and your face is on Yahoo News.  Feel fortunate that your indiscretions aren't valid for public consumption.  Only after celebrities embarrass themselves is the video available for mass consumption.  Otherwise, it isn't interesting to anyone.

Wake up, white people.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Price Glory?

I was listening to a local radio show this morning, and they were interviewing a guy who had just won (for what it's worth) a Smallest Penis Contest.  Logic (and good taste) would make someone wonder why a man would enter such a contest, but that didn't seem to be the focal point of the interview.

Among other things, the amount of money he won was in question. He won the princely sum of $200 for his efforts, along with a crown (of course) and a magnifying glass.

For the record (as if there is one) his unofficial measurement was two inches when flaccid, which I didn't consider a World Record-Setting number, but nevertheless ...

The thought occurred (which is dangerous, I know) that people seem more concerned with some form of fame than they do with their own personal image.  Modern television has become a showcase for embarrassing oneself, displays of scripted reality, and exposing our faults and foibles for entertainment purposes.

Witness programs like "Hoarders," which showcases people with mental illness who have allowed their homes to become repositories for everything they can lay their hands on.  There is "Intervention," in which addicts abuse their bodies and their families for our entertainment.  For an hour, these people are put on display - seemingly to make us feel better about ourselves.

MTV has a couple of programs that question my belief in human pride.  One, "16 and Pregnant" parades a pregnant teenager around, while her mother and boyfriend spar about the upbringing of the unfortunate child she is carrying.  There are others - usually having something to do with an under-aged girl battling some anti-social circumstance.  I suppose these programs are aimed at their target demographic and attempt to make responsible teenagers feel as good about themselves as "Hoarders" makes middle-aged Americans feel about themselves.  It's all about dysfunction.

My favorite (in a manner of speaking) is one called "My Strange Addiction," which spotlights people who do things like eat dryer lint, laundry detergent and collect their own sperm.  Yeah, really.

What do these people get out of exposing themselves in public?  Admittedly, the tiny penis guy is more of a social stigma than something to be concerned about.  But the "Hoarders" group and the pregnant teens are something of which I would guess people would say, "Um ... no, I don't think so"when approached to expose their problems on National television.

I do a lot of stupid things, and if a TV crew asked if they could follow me around and watch me do it, film it and show it on television they would have to offer me some form of Witness Protection Program for my efforts.  After all, I have to go to work on Monday, and the stares of my co-workers and their wonder at my disorders would last a lot longer than any four-figure amount of money that I could be given in exchange for the exposure.

But that's just me.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hi-yo, Silverware!

Lonely is as lonely does.
Lonely is an eyesore.

- Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) "Fish"

He's called The Lone Ranger, even though he has a faithful companion.  I'm not sure of the literary reference, but on its face it seems strange.  Those of us without companions in life have issues to confront that are foreign to many of you.  One is the experience of being The Lone Diner.

I don't get out much.  Either because of economics or social inertia.  Either way, the difficulty of dining alone settles in whenever I do venture out with the general public.  It is more difficult strategically than logistically.  After all, there is almost always a "table for one," and the only social awkwardness comes in when I take up a table otherwise meant for a group of four.  That's their cross to bear for being so damned popular, I suppose.

My recent trip to New York City reminded me of what goes into the experience of dining alone. I was seated at the customary table for two, out of the way of the view of most of the other diners. At least I was asked, "Will this be OK?" as though they know, in some form, it will not. If I had a tad bit more moxie I would respond, "No, I would prefer to be in the center of your dining room so that I can have the full experience." But I do not.  The Lone Diner can ill afford to be discourteous to the staff.

The strategic difficulty comes in the form of what to do with my stuff if I have to get up to use the rest room.  A certain level of trust in my fellow citizens comes in, but mainly, I don't trust them as far as I can fling my iPhone, SLR camera or keys.  As such, I generally wind up toting items to the rest room with me so that, at the very least, I know I will have them when I return.  Although (it must be said) taking a camera into a rest room carries with it a certain social awkwardness of its own.

When I returned, I found that my table had been cleared and wiped - leaving behind the moist residue of the restaurant towel and the cleaning solution that they wipe but do not dry.  So now, not only do I have to fetch another bread plate and knife/fork wrap, but I have to wait until the table dries or else be faced with the creepy wet table.  I sat with my hands in my lap.  It's all in a day's work for The Lone Diner.

The stigma of being The Lone Diner carries with it the server's anticipation that they will be automatically getting a smaller tip than they would normally get.  Nevertheless, I am taking up one of their stations, and I must be accommodated.

Without a newspaper, book, or magazine I am left to gaze around the room.  At the finer establishments, there are televisions on the wall.  With any amount of good fortune, the one nearest me is not placed directly behind another group of diners who may think that I am furtively staring at them.

As I look around, the only other Lone Diners I see are seated at the bar.  If the place is crowded, that is my first choice. I feel as though I am performing some sort of public service by not taking up a table that could otherwise be occupied by two or more people.  The Lone Diner has society in mind first and foremost.  You're welcome.

Invariably, when the server comes back to ask, "Is everything OK?" (which, it most certainly is not - but I remember that they are living in the moment) I have a mouth full of food.  Without conversation, there is nothing to do but eat and stare, so the odds of me chewing are pretty good.  I'm unsure of what I would complain about anyway.  "Could you turn the TV up?" would be a reasonable request.  I wonder if restaurants save money on televisions if they come without speakers?

As The Lone Diner departs, leaving behind his empty plate, stacked neatly with knife, fork and accoutrements, and his 20-percent gratuity, he is reminded that perhaps it is society's stigma on dining (and doing other things) alone that works on him and not his personal feelings toward it?

At work, The Lone Diner was confronted by a co-worker.  He approached me at my table (alone) and said, "Eating alone?  You look anti-social," and then went on to sit with others.  What the co-worker failed to realize was that The Lone Diner was the first one in the room, and it was the others who had bypassed him, not the other way around.

Lonely is as lonely does.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Are Here.

I'm thinking back to when I was a child
Way back fo when I was a tot.
When I was on embryo
A tiny speck. Just a dot.
When I was a Hershey bar
In my father's back pocket.

- Laurie Anderson "Smoke Rings"

The winner of "The Lucky Sperm Contest" was announced yesterday.  Princess Wigglesworth and Prince Valiant had a baby boy, and the world could breathe a sigh of relief as it apparently came out with ten fingers and toes and was of the proper race and pale skin color, in keeping with His Royal Highnessness.

It got me to thinking - as such nonsense often does - as to how we are selected to win (or lose) these genetic lotteries.  How does the Royal Sperm become the Royal Sperm?

I suspect that most of you haven't given much thought as to how you became who you are.  Either because it's pointless to consider or difficult to grasp.  Whatever, the notion is interesting to me.  Perhaps I am selling you short, and you have given thought to how you arrived here - reading this and/or clicking on a Facebook link in your pajamas, ruing the fate of your job, congratulating yourself on your accomplishment or generally happy or unhappy with how you turned out in life.

Most of it had nothing to do with what you have accomplished or what you did.  Much of it had to do with where your seed was planted.  Perhaps that is why you haven't given it much thought (if you haven't)?  Perhaps you do not wish to give up your fate to the whim of chance?  If you are frank with yourself, you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

It's a fair question.  How is it that some are born into royalty and others of us wind up as specks?  Thinking about it may spin your mind into a vortex similar to contemplating the infinite Universe - or it may place you into a perspective that could ... I don't know ... bring some solace to your life?

I don't have any answers, just a lot of questions.  You'll have to come up with the answers on your own.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Have a cup of coffee and settle in for a story...

The defendant wants to hide the truth because he's generally guilty. The defense attorney's job is to make sure the jury does not arrive at that truth.

Alan Dershowitz

This week, I had first-hand knowledge of that idea.  I served three days on a Petit Jury in a criminal case that could have just as easily been decided by a team of monkeys.  But, it's our system and I'm proud of it.

Even though I have been a registered voter for 37 years, this week was only the second time I have been selected to serve on a jury. Like many others, my immediate thought was, "How do I get out of this?"  However, my inner voice said, "If you were on trial, wouldn't you want someone like me on the jury?"  My answer was, "yes," and so I proceeded to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The selection process was interesting.  Approximately 75 of us gathered in the courtroom, and the judge randomly called numbers corresponding to our assigned positions.  One by one, my fellow selectees filled the 14 jury chairs.

The case was over bad checks.  The amount of $1,875 seemed insignificant enough to not warrant criminal case treatment, but there it was. We were given a questionnaire of some 25 items that we were asked to circle "yes" answers.  Prospective jurors were quickly dispensed once they were determined to have done business with the prosecuting bank.  Others seemed to have gathered that being associated with this bank would get them off jury duty, so they (in my opinion) made a point of being associated with that bank - to the end of being dismissed.  One prospective juror claimed to be ADHD and would have trouble concentrating on the trial.  He was not dismissed until he later admitted to believing a police officer's testimony over another.  His first attempt failed, but he ultimately achieved his goal of being eliminated.

After a few prospective jurors had been dismissed, my name was called.  I took my seat as Juror Number Six and answered the judge's questions:

What kind of work do you do?
I work for South Jersey Gas Company with our leak surveyors.
What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from Widener University.
What are your favorite TV shows? (yes, they asked us that)
"Parks and Recreation" and "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
Do you belong to any clubs or organizations?
Yes. I am a member at River Winds Community Center in West Deptford.
How do you get your news?
I read The Philadelphia Inquirer every day.
Would you believe the opinion of a police officer over another witness?
Did you circle "yes" to any of the questions?
Yes.  I circled yes to question 18.  (Question 18 was if I had been convicted of anything more than a minor traffic offense)  I have been convicted of a DUI in 2001.
Would that sway your opinion in this case?
No - I was guilty.
Do you think you would make a good juror?
Because I am open-minded and I think I would work well with my fellow jurors when we went into deliberation.
What is your opinion of the idea that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty?
We are entitled to face our accuser and have proof of those accusations presented before we are convicted.

OK - in fairness, I had heard that last question asked several times before and had formulated an answer - but it is nonetheless true.
I guessed they asked us our favorite TV shows because they wanted to know about or attitudes.  Many prospective jurors said their favorites were law-based shows, CSI and those who said they received their news from Fox News were also dismissed.

So, there I was - in Juror Seat 6.  As other prospective jurors were admitted and dismissed (either by the defense attorney or the State) I waited for my liberal viewpoint to be viewed as a detriment to the case and hear my number called as "Juror number six is thanked and dismissed," but I never heard it.  One who said he was a member of the NRA was dismissed and others who said that a police officer's opinion should be valued over others were - but there I sat.  And there I would sit, through several dismissals - seemingly for color, race or some other obscure reason that either attorney found to be relevant, or just for spite.  Eventually (after a few hours) we had assembled a 14-member jury of the defendant's peers.  Lucky for him, I guessed.

The state had their case that he had passed $2,475 worth of bad checks and the defendant had his case that was supposed to cast reasonable doubt in our minds.

The case (in brief) involved the defendant opening a checking account with 5 dollars (in August 2011) and subsequently cashing two checks in the amount of $2,475 two days later, one of which was drawn from an account of his with another financial institution, and subesquently withdrawing $100 and later, another $1,875.  Our job as jurors was to determine whether the defendant cashed those checks knowing that there was insufficient funds, after withdrawing the money within a 2-day period.  One of them was drawn from a Merrill Lynch account in his name.  I don't know about you, but I know how much money is in every one of my accounts (usually near zero) and I wouldn't try to cash a check for more than I knew was in the account.

In the jury's opinion, he took advantage of the bank's "float" period and deposited and withdrew money within the two-day float period knowing that there was insufficent funds in the account.  In a way, it's creative accounting, but in the legal sense, it's fraud.  He got high marks from me for being thoughful, at least.

The smoking gun was an agreement that he signed with the bank to repay the money in January 2013 (why it took so long was undisclosed).  As of today, only $100 was repaid to the bank.  The agreement was for $400 a month to be repaid until the balance was reconciled.  Who has $400 every month to repay?  There is no crime in being poor - but there is a crime in being dishonest.

Circumstantial, as well as direct evidence pointed to his guilt.

We had checks made out to him in his handwriting, signed by him and bank deposit slips and coordinated bank photos of his activities. In addition, a letter of inquiry to his address had been returned un-delivered and a call to his phone had gone un-answered. The bank had attempted to contact him on two separate occasions.  Only after it appeared that he would be facing criminal charges did he accept a repayment agreement.  That agreement was left unpaid after January 2013. Everything pointed to outright fraud and the defendant willingly cashing checks on bad accounts.  Oh - did I mention that both checks that were deposited were on closed accounts?  Yes.

And, who opens a checking account with five dollars?  Somebody who intends to use that account for something besides checking, I'd think. There were no other transactions other than the 2 checks deposited.  For the record, I was the only juror who found that to be odd behavior, but I digress.

The trial itself was an interesting experience.  For those of you who enjoy legal TV shows, I'd have to guess that there is a lot of stuff that is cut out.  This was not a high-profile case, and it was interrupted several times by objections, sidebars and motions.  The motions kept us in the jury deliberation room for the better part of a half day.  My guess is that the witnesses for the prosecution were being debated, and eventually disallowed, since the State did not present any material witnesses.

So, there it was.  The case before us.  The defense attorney (who I thought was a Court-appointed attorney due to her apparent inexperience) tried to cast the reasonable doubt specter over us, because that's all she had - and the State's attorney (who I also suspected to be a rookie due to the monetary amount) presented a flawed but yet air-tight case that left something to the imagination.  In the end, we were left with no other verdict to arrive at, given the evidence presented.

Guilty.  None of the members of the jury disagreed in a private vote.

I felt badly for the guy.  First, because I was one of 12 jurors (2 alternates) who had no reasonable doubt as to his guilt, and partly because I was partly responsible for him either being sent to jail or made to make restitution plus damages.  The case seemed, from a monetary standpoint, to be minor; but even though it was less than $2,000, banks have to protect their deposits, or else the whole system goes down the drain.

In the end, the system worked.  They assembled twelve people at random, screened-out the ones who did not want to be there (I wouldn't want them either) and wound up with jurors who were genuinely concerned with justice.  That's how it is supposed to work.
Regardless of the necessity of the attorney's motions or the delays involved, our relative inconvenience was minor compared to that of the defendant.  This was the most important thing going on in his life at this time, and we were entitled to treat it as such.  That fact should not be overlooked.  It is his time that we should consider - which is why I never think that "It could be worse" when I read about someone with some problem.  Their problems are their problems, and it is the focus of their life.  (Maybe that should have been my answer as to why I would make a good juror?)

We spent about an hour deliberating - mostly because we had nothing to deliberate, and partly because the case deserved some discussion.  In criminal cases, we are only allowed to consider "reasonable doubt," and the case did not allow us to consider that, as much as the defense attorney tried to place reasonable doubt in our minds.  Was the bank's witness credible?  Were the photos relevant? (they were not) Did the defendant know how much was in each account? (One was in his name, so yes) She objected and side barred every possible point that would point to the defendant's guilt. (Oh my God - the side bar's)  I'd guess that TV shows that depict legal proceedings eliminate the sidebars.  Some of them disrupt the flow of the argument - which I suppose is the point.  Others just dismiss us for a few hours until the "adults" can discuss the case without the children (jurors) present.

A matter of less than $2,000 that could have easily been settled out of court had now been settled by a jury.  Either because the defendant believed that a jury of his peers would find him not guilty or because the defendant did not have the ability to repay the money.  Either way, he is probably facing some jail time.  I have no way of knowing that, since we were dismissed before the judge passed sentence.

Somehow, I feel unfulfilled.