Thursday, March 31, 2011

1464 Indie Group

I was reading a news article the other day. And it got me thinking. Maybe the anti-immigrant types are barking up the wrong tree. They think the problems with America are because workers on the low end of the economic tree are taking all the jobs.
Maybe they should set their sights a little higher.
The article was written for by one Halah Tourylai and it involved the nefarious insider trading schemes of a fellow by the name of Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lanka born billionaire, and owner of a massively profitable hedge fund.
Ol' Raj was apparently getting insider tips from CEOs and using them to profit other traders and himself. A nice little ring-around-the-everything's-rosy scheme to profit the inner circle on good old economic crater-inducing Wall Street.
Raj got some of his info from a former exec at Goldman Sachs named Rajat Gupta. Raj and Rajat eventually had the feds smelling a R(aj)at. So, I guess operating on the unconsciously racist assumption that "it takes one to know one" the feds assigned US Attorney Preet Bahara to the case.
Funny, when I researched and typed all these names into my browser, all of a sudden I got ads from companies in New Delhi and Mumbai. Darn that predictive software.
In any event, anti-immigrants take note. The poor folks working at low-paying domestic labor jobs aren't the ones who blew up our economy. And if you really want a conspiracy theory, you might check the fact that India's economy is going gangbusters.
Of course, it could just be the final result of our kids bad math scores. They can't compete on Wall Street either.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1463 Snails and Spice

It's funny how we get centered around our own orientations. Recently, as I was putting on one of the numerous identification badges I wear to be identified at those various organizations, I remarked on how many hats I wear in various organizations.
I said, "I'm glad I have these nametags for the various hats I wear. It beats the heck out of actually getting hat hair wearing different hats. At least there's no "nametag hair."
The long-haired woman I was talking to disagreed. Hair does in fact get impacted by nametags, if it's long enough. Tangled in pins or magnets and left to a split-ended ratty result.
Another male/female different orientation on the world. Is this how sexism starts? It probably starts much earlier. Remember that nursery test, "What are little girls made of?" and "What are little boys made of?"
And the sexist answers. Girls were, "sugar and spice and everything nice." Boys were, "sticks and snails and puppy dog tails."
Seems like girls got the better of that one. Sugar? Spice? Everything nice? They're metaphorically sugar sweet, and spicy interesting and heck, forget about metaphor, let's just come right out and make the value judgment, "nice."
Boys? Hmm...
There's this stick, see? Dumb as a post. And then there's this icky gastropod. Who hasn't enjoyed the riveting snail-like characteristics of guys in social settings? And if that's not praise enough, let's invoke a graphic and gory image. Imagine someone cruel enough to chop off a puppy dog tail and incorporate it into his being. Oh yeah, when I think of a boy, I think of a bloody disembodied puppy dog tail wriggling like a recently-decapitated chicken.
Well hey. Girls may be spicy and nice, but that sugar thing can also cause tooth decay.
Neener neener
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1462 Vege-Kosher

Recently I was researching a piece and looked up the name Zuckerberg on the internet. I meant to type in Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook guy, but instead typed in Jeff Zuckerberg. Perhaps because my subconscious confused the "zucker" with the name of Jeff Zucker of Hollywood renown.
Here's the interesting thing. There were a lot of entries for Mark Zuckerberg under Jeff Zuckerberg. Even the images summary that Google has had "images of Jeff Zuckerberg" that included images of Mark. The internet, great tool that it is, unconsciously recorded a ton of hits of the same error I made.
There are millions of us. The "Jeff-is-really-Mark" club. I don't feel so alone. Facebook brings the faceless together. And, bummer, Mark's like the most famous guy in the 500 million strong world of social networking and people still get his name wrong.
Such is the dilemma of many a person with a semi-Jewish name. I notice those things more since I've explored my own Jewish heritage. Still, I'm only a sixteenth Jewish, so I'm not sure it even counts.
Especially when it comes to dietary things. Because for the most part I'm a vegetarian too. Except when I eat meat. So when people ask me if I have any dietary preferences on planes or at events, can I say I'm a Kosher Vegetarian?
I'll eat vegetables but they have to be properly killed first. I can't eat coconuts boiled in their own milk. Or a misspelled yam. Hey. If you can substitute Jeff for Mark, you can sure misspell a Y with an H.
I just like the notion of a Kosher vegetarian. Whole Grain Hebrew Buns. And Kosher Tofu Hot Dogs. East and West and low carbon footprint too.
Thanks to the Macrobiotic Jew.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

1461 Scout Snacks

I was at a breakfast the other day for the Boy Scouts. “Be Prepared,” they used to say, and the breakfast proved them out. It was a well-run affair, and best of all it got done not just on time, but a little early. I’m all about thrifty and brave and such like, but give me punctual any day of the week.
During the breakfast, the subject of food came up, and the keynote food that other scout organization purveys—cookies. It was generally agreed this was an instance where the Boy Scouts were perhaps not prepared enough.
The Girl Scout Cookie sales and distribution network is a great fundraising machine unlike anything the Boy Scouts have been able to carve out. It’s too bad. Because boys eat cookies too. And there’s been many a campfire culinary experimentation that has yielded quite edible results. Hot dog on a stick perhaps. And its refinement, the hot dog marshmallow s’more.
So I think it’s high time the Boy Scouts launched a cookie initiative. Or at least some sort of door-to-door snack purveyance. And naturally they’d be more boy-oriented.
Forget your sissy macaroons.
What is a macaroon anyway? Wasn’t Gilligan macarooned on a desert island? Or was that a dessert island?
Here are some possible suggestions for Boy Scout Treats. How about Bacon-Wrapped Donuts? Or you could do something like a French Toast stick but with a Twinkie-like filling of maple syrup and bacon bits. Yum. Or donut holes made with beer batter? Or bear claws? Talk about man-food.
When people asked what the foods are made of, the boys can say sticks and snails and puppy dog tails.
And puppy dog tails could actually be the name for a cinnamon roll. I’m totally prepared for that.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

1460 Sniffy

Dogs are amazing. And as more and more information comes out about their incredible sense of smell, we can really see how great it was they first became our companions.
Sure they have annoying habits with those sniffers. Sticking their noses where it’s not so polite in mixed company. Poking their proboscis in one another’s backsides.
But hey, dogs will be dogs. That same snout can sniff out bombs and illegal contraband of all sorts. From marijuana to illegal iguanas, a smuggler knows to avoid the nose of a trained canine snooper.
Well, be prepared to enjoy another great trait. Turns out medical researchers in Japan are reporting that a trained dog sniffing human stool can detect colorectal cancer about as well as a colonoscopy.
Totally tubular, dude. Man’s best friend and then some. They already can detect some types of diseases from smelling sweat and urine. Now they can be used as a tool for your stool.
And now we can totally incentivize the lines at the airport. Forget about full body scanners. Have a line of dog detectors. You put up with some invasive body sniffing and they’ll not just check you for explosives, they’ll work in a colorectal scan at the same time.
I know lots of guys who would put up with just about anything to avoid a colonoscopy. If you could have a snoop-doggy-dogscopy instead, you’d get some serious business.
No more violent laxatives, no more tube snaking up your nether regions, no more post-colonoscopy communal gas-passing concert room.
Just hiring a dog to do what he does with his fellow dogs and you anyhow. Sniffing backside.
“Here Sniffy. Here boy. What’s that? Timmy’s in the well? And he’s got polyps?”
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1459 Warning Reflections

I’ve reflected recently on some of the absurdities we find in modern culture. Like the way The Hershey’s Company had made a registered trademark out of the background color on a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup package.
It’s too easy to blame the lawyers. Often the people who file suit in the first place are at fault. So caught up in their own ego-inflating Narcissistic lives they can do no wrong, and want to blame everybody else for their problems.
Sometimes you see one of those lawyer-avoidance warning disclaimers and you gotta wonder. I recently bought a hand mirror. And on the back of it I found (in both French and English of course) this cautionary statement: “Caution! Mirror surface is constructed of glass and should be handled with extreme care. This item is NOT intended for children.”
Really? Have we reached the point where we have to warn people about mirrors being made of glass? What next, have warning labels on each and every piece of dishware in the house? “Caution: this bowl made of crockery. Not intended for clumsy children or those who confuse the bowl with the food in it. Do NOT break over little brother’s head.” or “Caution: this is a spoon. Do NOT swallow.”
Maybe we’ll have to put warning signs on our household windows as well. “Caution: Windows are made of glass. Do not attempt to walk through.”
Or other household implements. “Caution: Scissors, do NOT run with. One’s eye may sustain extreme puncturing.”
I’m just glad it isn’t ancient Greece. The mirror warning could have been worse. “Caution: Image in mirror may be captivating. Avoid giving to Narcissus.”
Or maybe the mirror should have said, “Caution: Before you file suit, look here, to see who is really at fault.”
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1458 Orange You Sad

The purpose of these commentaries has always been to discuss the excesses of modern culture. Particularly how we seem to go from the practical to the absurd on our road of life.
Take the whole idea of copyrighting and registered trademarks. Good in it’s simplest state. If you have a new idea or product and it becomes enormously popular you should be able to profit from it without a bunch of copycats leaching off your time and efforts.
But how far does that go? You can’t say your bar is having a Superbowl party? Mark Zuckerberg copyrights the word Face?
So imagine my dismay the other day when I was looking at the packaging on a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and saw the following phrase: “Orange background color is a registered trademark.”
Really? The federal copyright office allowed The Hershey Company to trademark a color?
As I have seen that color in the background of numerous items, I’m hoping the Reese’s Police won’t be visiting my office anytime soon.
Or visiting Home Depot. In certain lights, their aprons look amazingly like peanut butter cup packages. Are they number 142 on the orange-red color wheel, or number 143? Will the lawyer’s investigators have a portable tint-o-scope that indisputably determines what is what, and raises a hue and cry?
What if one batch of packages gets mixed in with a bad batch of ink? If salmonella can creep into the peanut supply, what’s to keep some fungus from distorting die?
A friend pointed out that maybe it’s just the use of that orange color in conjunction with the use of the term “cup” or “peanut butter.” Or “Reese.”
If so, we’d better hope at the next Oscars some designer doesn’t put a burnt orange gown on Reese Witherspoon.
America, ya gotta love it.

1457 ReRecruiting

Got this interesting thing in the direct mail wad in my mailbox the other day. You know the wad. It’s sort of jumbled together with loose-leaf fast-food ads, newspaper tabs, and the occasional 3-by-5 card promising more than can be delivered.
Well they did deliver the promise anyhow. To my mailbox.
They appeared to be recruiting me. By the waydoes that mean I was once cruited?
The recruitment in question that caught my eye was this 3-by-5 card that looked like a diploma. It had a printed embroidered border, something that looked like a seal, and a big word on it that said “DIPLOMA”.
Accent on the Dip, I thought.
Because really. A 3-by-5 diploma? Not very impressive.
“Well it was a small school. And I didn’t learn much. So they gave me this peewee diploma.”
My second thought was, Dude, if you’re going to advertise, spend the money. Don’t make yourself into a laughingstock right out of the box. If you are going to represent something like a prestigious diploma, which you can earn at your prestigious institute, at some point in the presentation look prestigious.
The Diploma card was from the Stratford Career Institute. Possibly of Avon lane. Next to their name it said, like I hope it wouldn’t on the real diploma they issue, “Save up to 35% Today.” Yep. A tiny diploma with the suggestion you paid less than full price for it.
Look good on the old wall.
The back of the card had a list of the numerous careers for which they offered diplomas. 61 to be exact. Like going to a restaurant with 61 items on the menu. You wonder, do they do any of them well?
I guess it’s all a matter of degree...
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1456 Faux Urethra

Great medical news coming down the pike. And it’s both a wonder at the amazing abilities of scientific endeavor and a lesson in humility. The first full functioning human body part grown in the lab is now ready for an operation to put it into operation. A true medical miracle.
But keep you expectations humble, because the new faux body part is none other than the urethra. Yep, the urethra, defined in the dictionary as “the canal through which urine is discharged in most mammals and which also serves as the male genital duct.”
As they said in the eighties, “Totally tubular dude.”
Well I guess you got to start somewhere. I have no doubt the other engineered body parts will be flowing from this point on. A stream of innovations pouring out of the labs. We’ll be awash in artificial organs. And all starting with the lowly urethra.
It wasn’t easy. It took some very delicate experimenting and finding just the right sequence of steps to make it happen. And there’s no truth to the rumor that the originator of the technique, when he finally discovered it, shouted, “Urethra! I’ve found it.”
Also no truth to the rumor that Sesame Street, searching for role models, once considered a puppet of a soul singing female physician. And her name was Urethra.
The urethra, while humble, is an extremely essential part of the body. Free urine flow is a blessing we take for granted. And not just because it improves penmanship in the snow.
Anyone with a malfunctioning Urethra can tell you this new discovery is a real relief. Now when they go for possible treatment the doctor may intone, “In the old days I wouldn’t be able to help much. But now I can say, ‘urine luck...’”
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

1455 Burm Deal

You know how sometimes you see stuff and your mind instantly jumps to some sort of slightly inappropriate remark or observation? Mine does that more than I care to admit.
I think that’s part of the socialization process, where we suppress our natural tendencies to belch, pass gas, and scratch ourselves where the baseball players do. We do so with things we say as well.
Most of the time.
So, warning, watch what you say. Just because a person drives a Subaru does not necessarily mean they should be on the left end of the political spectrum. True, of all the bumper decorations I’ve seen on Subarus, I’ve yet to see an NRA sticker, but it could happen.
My hope? That one day I see a Subaru with stickers on it from both the NRA and NPR.
Speaking of passing gas in public, I saw, and otherwise sensed, this old guy at an event the other day. Whether through loss of social control, or possibly just sphincter control, you see a lot for vapor sharing amongst the elder.
And I wanted to ask this guy where he’d found a rib cage belt. Ever notice how when you get older your pants get further and further from your ankles and closer and closer to your armpits?
And finally, the other day I was talking to a friend about the CIA agent that was kidnapped a while back and may have been found in Southeast Asia.
We speculated he may be a slave in Burma. And they’ll use him for media attention. And, naturally, it was one stop from there to imagined roadside signs.
When you need some media traction
There’s one way to get some action
Burma Slave.
Seemed appropriate somehow…
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1454 Four Horses

Not long ago federal regulators decided it was time to interfere with free enterprise, and banned a certain caffeine and alcohol blend known as Four Loco. Why the feds decided they had to intervene in the lifestyle of any individual demented enough to buy a product that promised it would make you loco and/or crazy four times over is beyond me.
Oh yeah. It killed people.
For those harsh enough to invoke in rebuttal the possible society-improving effects of Darwin, consider that at the very least, wide-awake drunks are still drunks and have the power to kill the rest of us, so Four Loco was a clear and present threat to society.
So what did they do with all the Four Loco? Pour it out? Nope. There’s the environmental hazard too, so they disposed of it responsibly. They recycled it.
The company that took it not only recycled the aluminum cans it came in, but found a great use for the Four Loco itself.
Car fuel.
Yep, it’s not that great a chemical leap from alcohol to ethanol and ethanol makes great fuel. One only hopes they took out the caffeine. We wouldn’t want your car to get a little hyper.
Bad enough the crowded freeway leads to road rage of the drivers. The last thing we want is a caffeine-fueled short-tempered car. Your Testarossa becoming just plain Testy. Worse, you’d hate to see cars at red lights being, um, fidgety.
Then there’s the whole complicated subject of a caffeine crash. Wake up and smell the Four Loco, I think we got grounds for some serious lawsuits down the pike.
So, is the new Four Loco-enhanced ethanol going to add an extra crazy four horsepower to your rig?
Hmm...Where have I heard the term four horses before?
Something about an apocalypse...
America, ya gotta love it.

1453 Pieces of Bliss

Sometimes words contain their own poetry, or their own irony. There’s a business person who has the last name Bliss. As my last name is Farmer, I can certainly empathize with this person. From playground to water fountain, your name is bound to be bandied about in lame attempts at humor.
Jerry Farmer, outstanding in his field.
So when you have problems with folks wrongly parking in your lot it’s tough to find a solution. The sign, “Bliss Only, Violators will be Prosecuted,” just sounds odd. Prosecution for anything is not my idea of bliss.
A state office out in Tumwater has a similar problem. They have a warehouse with a section where I guess you pick up what you ordered. Their sign says, “Fulfillment, Door 232.” Wow. And most people spend their whole lives looking for fulfillment. Who would have thought it was in a warehouse.
Words are also good when they make up cool sayings. Like this one on the unfulfilling joys of parenting. “Parenting is an endless exercise in replacing failed previous strategies.”
In a totally unrelated off-the-rails digression, I was at a restaurant the other day and ordered a spinach dish. And I did so just so I could say I had a Spanish Spinach Enchilada.
With the proliferation of digital, lots of specialty networks are emerging. Home channels, nature channels, the sports network, the Oprah Network. So what if a bunch of zany DJs worked on the Funeral Home Network? Would you call them the Mourning Crew? That one’s not gonna be as funny as a spoken joke.
And finally, I find myself getting ever clumsier with age. But maybe there’s hope. My older friends tell me small motor skills are the first to go. Fortunately, I drive a mid-size sedan...
Talk about bliss...
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1452 Oiled

Back when it happened, I said there was an overlooked trigger to our economic cratering. The summer before it all hit the fan, gasoline prices went out of sight. Back then, most Americans were treating their budget like their job. But instead of rising to their level of incompetency they were rising to their level of insolvency.
Living as they did, one step beyond their means, the trigger of soaring gas prices put them over the edge. Mortgages defaulted, bankers panicked, good-bye real estate bubble and hello economic disaster.
Thanks oil companies.
But it makes you wonder. Last year oil was gushing out of an exploded well in the Gulf. A kajillion gallons of crude being wasted in the ocean, entering the life cycles of who knows how many organisms.
30-weight shrimp anyone?
Not only that, BP faced the prospect of paying incredibly massive fines for their malfeasance. And what happened to gas prices at the pump? They barely went up a nickel.
But throw in a couple of Mideast democracy movements and suddenly we’re bent over, in dismay, at the pump. Does this mean oil companies hate democracy? Or that they were more scared of angering us by raising prices while they were actually covering our local beaches with it, and figure we’re too dumb to notice no oil supplies have been seriously disturbed in the far off Middle East.
Or are they just amoral opportunists? Exxon earned more than $9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, a 53% increase over 2009.
That’s before gas prices went up.
Maybe that’s why Ben Bernanke said he didn’t expect oil prices to hamper the recovery. I suppose not, if any of us had 401Ks left, and if any of those contained Exxon stock.
At least their recovery is doing well.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

1451 Mr. Flea

Fleas have been much in the news lately. From their genome, to leaping, to a guy dying of bubonic plague, fleas have scientists itching with curiosity.
By the way, disease control folks are now recommending you don’t sleep with your dog. The equation is simple. Fleas get bubonic plague, fleas get on dogs, dogs get on humans, fleas get on humans, humans get plague.
And I thought you just shouldn’t sleep with rats.
You see, fleas know how to get around. Scientists have recently determined that fleas use their legs like catapults—building up a mass of potential and then firing perfectly. One microsecond delay on one leg or another and the flea could totally shoot off in the wrong direction. It’s that coordination that intrigues scientists most. If they can figure out how it’s done they may be able to build robots who could leap over rough terrain.
And maybe, when we go to other planets, they could jump on 10-story alien dogs…
Like that superhero called The Flea. He shouldn’t have been a joke. The average flea can jump 38 times its body length. That means a 5-foot man would be able to jump 190 feet.
Watch out restless leg syndrome.
And here’s the kicker. We humans have about 23,000 genes in our genome, more jeans than Gloria Vanderbilt had in her closet. The lowly water flea? 31,000, more than any other organism. Scientists think that partially explains why they can shift their shape in response to predators and threats.
Shape-shifting too?
Sounds like we should be the ones feeling threatened. With 8,000 more genes, the ability to leap 38 times their length and the capacity to spread bubonic plague and live to tell the tale, there’s only one word that comes to mind.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

1450 Foliage Force

I suppose it’s kind of a “turn about is fair play” thing. For years, we have been using animals to sniff out dangerous plants and plant stuff like marijuana and heroin.
Now they’ve found a way for plants to sniff out dangerous animals. As in human terrorists.
Here’s the story. According to a Colorado State University scientist, plants can’t run and hide, so they are very good at using chemical messengers to do things, like turn white instead of green. So good, in fact, that the scientists have genetically engineered them to do just that in the presence of TNT.
The chemical odors in TNT trigger those plants to rapidly respond, change their structure and drain chlorophyll from their leaves, thus leaving them whiter in the presence of the explosive.
Researcher June Medford says the stretch of DNA code they worked with could be used with just about any plant and a whole range of explosives. Apparently, the government is interested.
I’ve heard of industrial plants, but this is ridiculous. Security Plants? The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security have spent millions on the project, hoping to deploy a “foliage force”.
Great...Terminator, meet Germinator.
I worry about turning this genetic engineering loose on the world. Everything brings about its opposite. One day we’ll have security trees, the next we’ll have criminal trees.
Firs in Stir, Penal Pines, Deciduous Delinquents, Jailed Junipers, Conifer Crooks under Hemlock and key.
But I guess we won’t have to worry for a while. The researchers say deployment is at least three years off. For one thing, they have to tweak the timing. Currently, once an engineered plant detects the odor of TNT, it takes three hours to change color.
You thought lines at the airport were long now...
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1449 Re-Quoted

It’s not often I encounter a bunch of quotes that I love all at once, but I did so the other day when I was reading a magazine called The Week. They have a little section in it called Wit and Wisdom, and in that section they feature quotable quotes from non-quotidian quotable quoticians.
Since “The Week” is a summary of the news from various news outlets, the quotes they publish were themselves quoted by other publications. And since I am now re-quoting them as well, you can consider these quotes cubed.
If I didn’t re-quote them, and yet still loved them, you could say I had an experience in un-re-quoted love...
First, from A.A. Milne, and quoted in the Buffalo News, then The Week, and now here. “The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority, the first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”
I think you will all think that’s pretty clever.
And here’s another. The original statement came from Isaac Singer, and he was quoted in the Village Voice, The Week, and now here. The quote?
“We have to believe in free will. We have no choice.”
And finally, in what is also the justification for this piece of near plagiarization, which it is not actually, since I took great pains to attribute appropriately, this quote of Andre’ Gide quoted in the Milwaukee Courier, and The Week, and now here.
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
I’m thinking I had no choice but to follow his suggestion.
You can quote me on that.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

1448 Sexth Senseless

If it ever seems like there’s been a lot of sex scandals in the last 20 years involving politicians, you’re darn right. Hard to keep track isn’t it? Seems way back there was this guy named Gary Hart, and Clinton, of course, and Spitzer.
Then recently there was shirtless, and clueless, Chris Lee. And that Midwest anti-gay guy with the boyfriend at the airport. And the other professed aggressive anti-gay guy with the coincidentally aggressive bathroom stance.
After awhile they all seem to merge together into an orgy of inappropriateness. Politician and philanderer like two sides of the same coin. As if that was the one question they all missed in the vocabulary tests: “What good action helps charity? Philanthropy or philandering?”
Well, you’ll be happy to know someone has actually been keeping track. And that they have a statistical turn of mind. Answering that eternal question: “What do baseball stat keepers do in the off season?”
The results are in. Turns out that in the last 20 years there have been a total of 61 sex scandals. At this point Republicans lead the peccadillian pack. 34 since 1990. Democrats have 27, so they’re pulling their share.
Of the scandal categories in resignation Jeopardy, The R’s have had more incidents involving prostitutes and/or underage boys, and featured more politicians standing up for “family values”.
Democrats had scandals more likely to involve female staffing, sexual harassment, and underage girls. No statistic on cigar use.
It’s frightening to note the underage category, of either gender, cuts across the aisle. Not the sort of bi-partisanship you expect when you send your 17-year-old off to be a page.
But then what would you expect? How does the saying go— absolute power corrupts absolutely?
I think we need some corruptess interruptus.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

1447 Me News

There’s this old philosophy mind exercise known as solipsism. The only thing that’s real is you. You imagine the whole world is all a figment of your imagination. Everything in it is under your control. Maybe not your total conscious control, some of it’s involuntary like the pumping of your heart and the filtering of your liver, but your control nonetheless.
Bobby and Kris and Cousin Sue are just people you made up in your giant dream world. Or people I made up. And I’m not sure why I’m bothering to tell you about it since you are me after all.
I’m afraid technology is heading us in that direction more all the time. What with computerized devices being trained to predict your whims based on your past behavior, and ads popping up next to your email based on stuff you sent out before, and your Google search engine auto-completing your search requests before you even finish them, we are getting more and more tightly wrapped in a cocoon of our own making.
An insulating and isolating cocoon.
And now it’s happening with how we get our news too. The new Google news page and other aggregators are customizable. Their displayed headlines can be tweaked based on what we’ve read about before. Now we can just read what we want.
But what we want, Google thinks, is what we wanted before. That means with each new wave of preference selecting we go down a narrower and narrower road. Which means we’ll become more and more polarized in our opinions.
That’s bad. New things can be scary. But if you spend all your time looking in the mirror, you’ll never appreciate the diversity of beauty around you.
Or around me.
Oh heck. Why am I talking to myself like this? I know better.
America, ya gotta love it.

Monday, March 07, 2011

1446 All A-Jackian

Got a big circular in the mail the other day. They call them circulars because that’s the file they’re immediately headed for. Except this one. I saved it for awhile because it had pretty pictures.
Of Burgers.
I love the pictures of burgers the big fast food companies put out. They never, ever, look like the real thing you get when you order one. Ah, the photographic arts. Who would have thought a picture that looks like hyperrealism could represent something that when you unwrap it looks like abstract expressionism. A big shapeless blob of meat, bun, and Jackson Pollackian cheese-smeared condiments.
This picture was for the new Jack-In-The–Box product, the “All-American Jack.” The All-American Jack is supposed to be a classic concoction made up of two burger patties, three slices of cheese, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, condiments and a sesame seed bun.
Excuse me, sesame as in “Open Sesame,” the classic line from, um, Arabian Nights?
Oh yeah, that Ali Baba guy. He and Yankee Doodle made a mean macaroni-festooned falafel.
Dig a little deeper into the ingredients of the All-American Jack and similar revelations await. The burger, of course, named after the Hamburger, from Hamburg Germany. The sesame on the bun, as I mentioned, of Arabic origin, or at least reputation.
The condiments? Let’s see. Mayonnaise. Uh oh. How did a French sauce get stuck on an American burger? They never stick with us for anything. And the ketchup, of course, originated in India.
And then there’s the cheese. Two of the slices of cheese are actual American Cheese. But the other slice? Swiss. Makes ya wanna yodel for joy.
At least it’s melted. That’s the one truly American thing about this burger. Everything’s mushed together.
It’s like a melting pot...on a bun.
America, ya gotta love it.

Friday, March 04, 2011

1445 Narcisso-Tweet

I commented recently about a pseudo celebrity who keeps herself in the media’s clouded eye by tweeting and facebooking ever-outrageous pronouncements. If you had any doubts about her motives for self-aggrandizement, look no further than her recent attempt to copyright her name.
I, for one, refuse to use her name, as it just gets her one more hit in the blogosphere, and one more hit of fleeting fame. But what’s interesting about her technique is she has grasped the amazing utility of social media.
You are in charge of your own narcissistic news releases.
In the old days, news releases from organizations or seekers of self-induced fame were cumbersome printed or faxed affairs. They involve the “who what when where” formula real news agencies preferred, and if they were obviously too self-serving, were roundly ignored by the receiving news entity.
There was, frankly, a vetting process. No longer. If you have proven sufficiently controversial or outlandish in the past, and therefore sold newspapers, or enabled that new measure of success—online hits to virtual newspapers—your newest tweeted drivel will be published virtually vett free.
So that’s why they purvey that pointless pontificating, you say. Too true. The media pander to the crazy celebrity. Or it’s own need for online pimping. Getting hits, or tricks, means success.
Which comes back to us. We as a people do the hitting. We’re the Johns. If we’re scanning news headlines and open up articles involving the rabid personality poodles, it’s our fault for perpetuating the self-promotional prostitutes.
So think before you click. If you are really tired of certain whack jobs, don’t even hover your mouse over a headline about them.
My mom had good advice about such folk., long before Twitter.
Ignore them and they’ll go away.
America, ya gotta love it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

1444 Consequenched

I don’t know how many times I said that to my kids as they were growing up. How many times their failure to plan led to bad outcomes. How many times I had to remind myself they were kids after all, and lacking in that key element of maturity that helps them foresee the results of their actions. That element, in fact, that defines maturity¾ the ability to see it before you step in it.
I guess that’s what makes congressman Chris Lee’s recent peccadillo so disheartening. I’m sure you remember the story. A congressman answered an ad for a date on Craigslist. He used his own name, and sent the woman a picture of himself. Not wearing a shirt. A pretty cheesy picture at that, taken of his reflection in a bathroom mirror, with his smartphone also visible in the picture.
Misplaced morals and bad composition.
Funny, he was able to plan all of that, and execute it, and yet not see the next obvious outcome. Discovery and ruin.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, he was married. And had made some pretty strong statements about the sanctity of that particular institution.
The louder they are the harder they fall.
That’s what’s so scary though. This guy is a congressman. He’s a leader. Presumably, he’s going to be using logic in shaping our laws. He’s supposed to see the consequences of those laws. He supposed to use extrapolation, and cause and effect, and all those higher order thinking things.
But no. He uses Craigslist, and his own name, and a picture, and the incredibly public World Wide Web.
To his credit, when found out, he immediate resigned. So. Did his conscience finally get his illogical lust consequenched?
Or was he scared shirtless.
America, ya gotta love it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

1443 Con Text

The text has caught on in a population that has scorned the written word for a reason. Control.
Before the text we’d been slowly deserting the written word. People were sending fewer and fewer letters. Books were hitting lower literary common denominators and verbal WASL scores showed essays were written rotten. Even with spellcheck, Grammarcheck, and instant copy-and-paste editing, people were just plain writing less.
Then came the text. And people started communicating more by writing. Sure the writing was terrible and littered with hashmarks and emoticons but at least people were doing it.
And people were glad to strain their thumbs doing it. Why? Because it allowed them to control the conversation. A phone call means you have to face the possibility of an extended conversation. Think about if you were to call a friend and tell him or her the content of your average text. You’d be thought terse, abrupt, and rude.
A phone call also forces people to drop what they’re doing to talk to you. And with caller ID they may not want to. You know that a text will get to them. And they can choose to answer or not, and neither of you hurts the other’s feelings by saying I can’t talk now, or whatever.
50% of emails are misunderstood. Short cryptic texts can’t be much better. But that’s balanced by the fact that a text lets you control not only the “duration” of the conversation, but what you say. If it’s potentially painful, you don’t have to be put in the position of thinking on your feet and saying the wrong thing.
You can con people. By controlling the context.
And bonus, when your fingers do the talking, you avoid putting your foot in your mouth.
America, ya gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

1442 i-Derivative

Our technology is stunting our experience of the new. And worse, it’s making life dull.
Now new is relative, to be sure. When Apple comes out with a new iPad it’s a big i-deal. But when the future of technology is in predicting your needs, based on what your preferences are as exhibited in the past, your whole life becomes derivative, and ever more i-solated.
The new technology featured in “future forums” predicts your new “i-devices” will assist you in wonderful ways. Say you get a hole in your pants. Your device will tell where you can find a brand like your old pants, compare the price, send you to the best GPS-located purveyor, reserve your size for you, and have it ready for you to come in and point your phone at the cash register to pay for it.
Incredibly convenient, right? Wrong. It’s the search for a replacement that takes you to new places, allows you to expose yourself to new stores, new merchandise, and who knows what else.
Like going through the dictionary to find a word and finding six others in the process, or looking up the exact word online and seeing only it. The one widens and enriches your experience. The other answers a narrow old dead-ended question.
If technolgoy makes sure all you do is predicted based on a constricted reading of what you did before, doesn’t your life just become an ever-tightening spiral of its own derivatives?
Old folks in nursing homes die quicker when they don’t get new stimulation. I suppose they could spend their whole time looking at pictures of their past. But they live longer if they reach out and strike up a conversation with a new person.
The familiar can be comforting, but don’t you think there’s a reason you don’t marry your sister?
I do.
America, ya gotta love it.