Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Not Always Pretty Inside My Head

I woke up from a dream where a video producer was yelling at me because he didn't like the way I was shooting an interview with the reunited Brady Bunch.

And you folks wonder why I don't write more often.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One of my favorite rants

...from author Michael Chrichton:

"You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity.

"Let me tell you about our planet. Earth is four-and-a-half-billion-years-old. There's been life on it for nearly that long, 3.8 billion years. Bacteria first; later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea, on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals, the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals, each one enduring millions on millions of years, great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away -- all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval. Mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away, cometary impacts, volcano eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving, an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years.

"Earth has survived everything in its time. It will certainly survive us. If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the earth was sizzling hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere: under the soil, frozen in Arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again.

"It might take a few billion years for life to regain its present variety. Of course, it would be very different from what it is now, but the earth would survive our folly, only we would not. If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears the earth, so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It's powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out.

"Do you think this is the first time that's happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison, a corrosive glass, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as a waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on earth. Those plants were polluting the environment, exhaling a lethal gas. Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless, life on earth took care of itself.

"In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn't have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can't imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven't got the humility to try. We've been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we're gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us."


So rest easy, you arrogant bastards. "Destroy the Planet"? You couldn't do it if you tried.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let's Be Perfectly Clear

If you're going to spend your life immersed in misery, open to only bad news, shutting the door every time something positive comes along, convinced that your fellow humans are miserable creatures bent only on harming you, and if you believe that the downfall of our social and economic structure is not only a potential event, but inevitable, then you are shutting yourself off from all that is beautiful, positive and possible in this world. I pity you. Cynicism breeds cynicism, paranoia and anger. That's no way to live your life.

Take that for what it's worth.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. DJ

Anyone who's known me long enough has heard my rants about wedding DJs who play the same hackneyed old songs over and over again. You know the playlist: Celebration. Old Time Rock and Roll. We Are Family. Brick House. The Chicken Dance/Polka. The Electric Slide. Baby Got Back. Sweet Caroline, for crying out loud. Blah, blah, blah.

But here's the thing. I've come to believe that these songs are essential to the wedding experience. Now before you go hitting me upside the head and asking me if I've lost my damn mind, allow me to explain.

A couple weekends ago, I worked a wedding that was nothing short of remarkable. There was more food at the reception than I've ever seen, the decorations were superb, the food was excellent, and the people were happy. The couple had hired a team of DJs, who came with an elaborate setup that included two big-screen TVs, four (count 'em, FOUR) DJs, a light show, video cameras, and a still photographer who snapped candids that were played on the TVs throughout the night (alternating with footage from videos, random video effects, and even live video from the floor). Sounds like a recipe for fun, right?

Well, kind of. The DJs did an admirable job; in fact, I commented at the time that it was like going to a really cool club, with all the attendant atmosphere and music.

But ultimately, that was the problem. It was like going to a club. Something I can do any weekend night. It wasn't like going to a wedding. Oh, sure...the dance floor was full, the musical transitions were seamless, and everyone had a good time. But when the night was over, I realized they had done none of the traditional dances. And when the DJ started to pack up for the night, the crowd insisted they play One. More. Song.

Guess what they asked for?

"The Cha-Cha slide".

Yep. Even the alcohol-infused guests had figured it out. This was a WEDDING, dammit, and they wanted to dance to those old wedding chestnuts. The DJ pulled out some other unknown song for the encore, once again showing that while "Daddy may know best", it's also possible to completely misread a crowd.

I'd hire these guys in an instant for a private party. But for a wedding? Never. The next time I find myself complaining about hearing "YMCA" for the umpteenth time at a wedding reception, I'm going to do my level best to remember this one. It may have been trendy...but it wasn't good.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Good Guy/Bad Guy

I received an e-mail from an old friend today (no, seriously...he's old. As in 90+ years old) regarding Senator Edward Kennedy. The e-mail was filled with the usual screed about what a jerk Kennedy is...a liar, a cheat, probably a murderer, a misogynist, and a general all-around cad.

Whatever.

No, I'm serious. Whatever. I'm was no fan of Kennedy's personal life. I tend to agree that a lot of what was written in that letter was true. The Kennedys were a bunch of spoiled little rich kids that benefited from the Holy Trinity of good luck: They were rich, they were white, they were born into a family of influence in America. It doesn't get much better than that (unless you also happen to be male, in which case you can only fail if you're caught naked on the street getting a blowjob from a $2 hooker while you shoot an illegal immigrant in the head with an assault rifle and choke a dog. Even then, don't be so sure).

So why do I say, "whatever"? Because none of that mattered to Kennedy's constituents, who kept sending him to the Senate over and over and over. He might have been a cad, but he was also an effective Senator who authored or was a signatory to nearly every major piece of civil rights legislation during his tenure. He may have been a colossal jerk, but he forged partnerships across political lines in a way that simply doesn't happen any more. He may have been a drunken fool, but he was a political genius who confounded his enemies, leaving them with nothing but personal attacks to make their point in fundraising letters.

I don't hold Senator Kennedy up on some pedestal. I think that he was a product of his upbringing and his era. He was a child of privilege, and he used that status to push a political agenda that I believe he truly and sincerely felt was the right direction for his constituents and his country. He was relentless in that goal. Love him or hate him, you have to respect that.

And if you don't? Then you ought to look in the mirror, or take a hard look at your own political heroes (the wealthy child of privilege GW Bush comes to mind) and ask yourself if you've looked beyond their flaws simply because you happen to agree with them politically.

Chances are you have. Let's let Ted rest in peace. God will sort it all out in the end.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Genius

I wanted to write about the death of Les Paul, but others (including some readers of this blog) wrote much more eloquently than I about his passing.

Still, it infuriates me that words like "genius" are floated around in relation to a minor talent like Michael Jackson and true genius—like that of Les Paul—gets nary a mention in the popular press. The day after Les Paul died, "Entertainment Tonight" devoted more than half their show to discussing the disposition of Michael Jackson's body.

Let's be clear as a bell, shall we? Michael Jackson was talented, but he was not a genius. He had great people working for him (including Quincy Jones, who probably qualifies), some great promoters, and an adoring public that doesn't realize they're being manipulated like puppets on a string (whoever insisted that MTV refer to him as the "King of Pop" should get a freaking marketing medal of some kind). He was a great vocalist, a good dancer, and a smart marketer. He was also a walking freakshow, and he doesn't pass my "princess test" (i.e., would I leave my daughter alone in a room with him?).

Les Paul, on the other hand, truly qualified as a genius. Again, let's be perfectly clear: Modern music as we know it would not exist if it weren't for Les Paul. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

Can you say the same for MJ?

Aside from the guitar that bears his name, Les Paul pioneered multi-track recording. That seems so obvious today, but at the time, his technique was a revelation. Can you name two more important contributions to modern music than multitracking and the electric guitar?

And aside from that, he was a master guitar player, pioneering modern jazz techniques, swing, country/western and improvised soloing...the list goes on and on. And in 2005, at the age of 90, he became the oldest living individual to have a record debut on the Billboard Hot 200. The man was relevant long after his contemporaries were forgotten. He was no flash in the pan. Les Paul was a genius.

A friend of mine is a local musician of some note, and he told me a story recently about playing on stage with Les Paul. As he told it, he was with a friend at a table in a small club where Les Paul was playing, and the friend got rather drunk and obnoxious. He started hollering out at the stage, "Hey, you should let my buddy John sit in with you! He can play!". John tried to quiet him down, but the friend kept it up. So Les and the band invited John onstage. Expecting the worst, John meekly approached, picked up a guitar, and after agreeing on a song they both knew, he began to play with the master.

As John tells the story, it took him a minute or so to catch on to Les' groove, but soon they were jamming like old friends. He stuck around for a couple more songs, and was invited backstage after the gig.

"I was worried that I wasn't good enough for him," John told me. "I said that to one of the band members, and they told me that this kind of thing happens all the time. People want to play with Les, and sometimes he brings them up as a challenge. Believe me, if you weren't good, he would have kicked you off right away."

John tells me he had a wonderful conversation with Les Paul. They discussed vintage gear, how they modified certain amplifiers to get a certain sound, and chatted about music in general. John told me that even at Les' advanced age, he was a gracious and kind host.

Clearly, Les Paul was a class act. That's more than I can say for most celebrities these days. At the risk of sounding like an out of touch curmudgeon, there's nothing about Michael Jackson that inspires me to want to emulate him in any way, shape or form. On the other hand, I'd be blessed to have a life like Les Paul. Talented, respected by his peers, gracious in his elder years, and dying a peaceful death surrounded by loving family and friends. Who could want more?

Rest in peace, Paul. There will never be another one like you.



edit
: You can't make this stuff up. After I published this post, look at the graphic that came up:




Monday, July 20, 2009

Amazing New Discovery

Last night, absent any books on my nightstand, I picked up something called a "magazine".

Amazing. It holds collections of stories in something called "print" on "pages" of "paper". It requires no battery, no scrolling, no mouse clicks, and it's totally portable! I read many fascinating stories until, unable to hold my eyes open any longer, I drifted off to pleasant sleep.

I must further investigate this new technology.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thoughts on Theology

Why should I bother to repeat what's been written before, and written better than I ever could?

From Robert Short, theologian and author of "The Gospel According to Peanuts" (the entire sermon is here):

I've had the privilege and pleasure of knowing Charles Schulz very closely now for a long time. And I know for a fact that the one type of "Christianity" that Schulz has absolutely no use for is the so-called "Christianity" that's finally based on fear and wrath and judgment and hell and belief in a punishment in some future existence. And on this point at least, I couldn't agree with Schulz more. From a theological point of view this is why his entire life's work is set within the context of humor. "Humor," Schulz says, "is a proof of faith, proof that everything is going to be all right with God, nevertheless those who find no humor in faith are probably those who find the church a refuge for their own black way of looking at life." There is punishment for sin, but sin carries its own punishment with it—right here and now, inside us, right here and now. But for Charles Schulz and for me as well, the very last word that God has for all of us is yes, and not no.
Amen.

(Those of you inclined towards hellfire and brimstone, and a punishing, angry, vengeful God may now commence to call me whatever you will, pity me, or pray for me. I guarantee I'm right and you're wrong...and my guarantee is as good as yours. Frankly, my God is bigger than your limited God who has no choice but condemn people who walked with him their entire lives but stumbled towards the end. Or as the author says, "
Anything less would make Christ only a second rate savior of some of the people, and God only a cruel, sadistic God who knowingly creates his own children for their own damnation. So don't be afraid, little flock, and don't forget to laugh.")


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WWJD

Since He's not here to ask, and the decision was left in our hands, what would YOU do?

A nine-year old girl is raped by her father. Giving birth to the baby would rip her body apart.

A woman will die unless her pregnancy is terminated. The fetus will never survive outside the womb.

Fanatics, ask yourself this question: Why do you care about people before they're born more than you do AFTER they're born? Are you willing to let young women—along with their unborn children—die for an idea?

Let me be as clear as possible: I abhor abortion. I find it disturbing and morally repugnant that so many are performed because having a child would be an inconvenience to one or more people*. I believe it's the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility. Having said that, when someone is raped, when they are a victim of incest, when their life is in danger, or when it's simply medically necessary, the moral waters are just as crystal clear. Sometimes, abortion is necessary. Plain and simple.

Late-term abortions are not done out of convenience. And contrary to the nutbags on the Political Right that insist they are never done to save the life of the mother, they are performed only in cases of extreme medical need.**

But then again, I don't expect that group to ever "get it". They're about dogma and feelings, not fact, science, medical need, or any rational sort of discernment. God forbid (and yes, I mean that literally and in the metaphysical sense) that they ever get their way.


* Having said that, I've also never been a scared young woman with no support system and a violent home life.

** (This is where someone will point out an exception. Yes, there are exceptions. But how many times do you need to be right for me to be wrong? How many young women have to suffer needlessly? How many lives need to be torn apart?)

edit: From an excellent article by Carol Joffee:
"In simplest terms, many of those who came to George Tiller's clinic for late second or third trimester abortions were women (and their partners) who were carrying much wanted pregnancies that had gone horribly wrong. These were women in many cases who had already set up cribs and had baby showers. Some of these women had fetuses with heartbreaking anomalies, that were discovered only later in pregnancy, such as anencephaly, a lethal birth defect in which most of the brain and parts of the skull are missing. Other women had themselves become very ill in the course of a pregnancy, such as the onset of cancer, which demanded a course of chemotherapy. Tiller, himself a practicing Christian, had set aside a space in his clinic-- a Quiet Room-- for grieving parents, who could if they wished, be counseled by a chaplain on staff, and participate in a baptism or other blessings for the lost pregnancy."
That's what Jesus would do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Do religious conservatives share blame in Tiller's death?"

...no.

But those who engage in this sort of behavior should be labeled for what they are: Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists.

They do not represent the overwhelmingly vast majority of Christians, and it's time that the larger faith community separated themselves from these monsters.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tell Me A Story

Per Übermilf:
For those unfamiliar, here's a recap:

"Here's what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don't know how realistic it is, but that's what I'm aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours." -Splotches

There always has to be a start of a story, so here it is...


The ground crunched beneath my feet. Besides my noisy footsteps, I heard only the sound of the gentle crackling fire behind me. Its faint orange light lazily revealed my immediate surroundings. Beyond the glow, there was total blackness. I whistled. I took the small rock I had been carrying and whipped it away from me, expecting a thud, crack or plop -- but a soft yelp of a cry answered. (Splotchy)

"Crap! I forgot all about Monster," I realized. "I must be drunker than I thought," I spoke aloud to no one in particular, though an owl answered my drunken slur. Ever since my neighbors have been giving me grief for the way Monster chases their cats and poops in their lawn, I haven't felt comfortable staying in my house. I'm pretty sure my landlady is thinking about evicting me, so I've decided to lay low for a while.

To the surprise of no one... (Freida Bee)
------

Übermilf's contribution:

...but myself, Monster has become increasingly unstable and unpredictable. I thought I could keep him under control, that through love and perseverance and the training techniques I learned at the institute I could introduce him into human society after just a bit of effort.

I was wrong, of course. We were all wrong.

Our colossal blunder began as most colossal blunders begin -- with the best of intentions. We wanted to end disease and human suffering. Our experiments in genetics, fueled by the endless possibilities we foresaw once the human genome was mapped, led us down a garden path of scientific achievement and biological conquest. We imagined only positive outcomes, and ignored the negative possibilities to our peril.

That's how we -- I -- wound up with a drooling, hirsute, gruesome Monster living under my porch.

Of course, it didn't start out badly. At first, Monster...

-----------


...was a cute, cuddly little bundle of joy. We welcomed her (did I say "he" earlier? We've never been able to accurately determine a gender) into the world with open arms. Delivered by a bovine host who gave her life so that Monster could live, we never suspected that this fuzzy bouncing little bundle of love could ever do anyone harm. I should have known. We all should have known. The signs were there from the start.

First, there was the strange disappearance of Mr. Cuddles.

Mr. Cuddles was our cat, a 10-year-old Persian with a foul face and an equally foul disposition. He gained his ironic moniker after destroying the kitty bed we bought for him in a catnip-fueled burst of frightening energy. We enjoy dichotomy like that around here.

But I digress. Mr. Cuddles went missing about a week after the arrival of Monster. At first we thought he was baiting our jealous nature by hiding out somewhere in the laundry room under the copious piles of dirty shirts and jeans that always seemed to be stacking up. It wasn't until we found a tuft of hair attached to a sharpened claw under Monster's pillow that we got suspicious.

It was all downhill after that.

Odd little things started to happen. Fish would disappear from the tank. Shoelaces would be tied to the wrong shoes. All the Compact Flourescent lamps in the house were replaced overnight with 100-watt energy-burners. And oddest of all, the Cap'n Crunch would be missing its Crunchberries. That's when we realized that...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Can You Say?

Every now and then a story comes along that is so sickening, I truly wonder what's happening to the human race.

Witness:
Terrified residents at a Corpus Christi, Texas state school for the mentally disabled were forced to be part of a brutal "fight club" operated by night shift employees, who made videos of the sessions with their cell phones, the newly released videos show.

On the videos employees can be seen and heard laughing and prodding the residents to fight. One resident is seen on the video trying to run away from his attacker and a large group of employees and residents tracking him through the halls. When cornered, he wails and moans and tells the employees, "I will behave."

The videos were discovered by police in March when one of the school employees left his phone at a hospital and it was turned over to police. In an effort to find its owner, officers saw the disturbing videos.
I've said it before and I'll scream it from the rooftops until people listen: The continued dehumanization of people with mental disabilities has to stop NOW. It starts with the end of the use of words like "retard" and "retarded" as pejoratives. This is where it leads, people.

Throughout history, people with mental disabilities have been targets for the worst kind of abuse. The church saw them as demon-possessed or not worthy of approaching God's altar (although the application of science and reason has caused them to re-interpret "God's never-changing word" to soften their stance somewhat)*. Hitler's only written order for human extermination was for the "mentally defective" (although he also signed an order permitting doctors to exercise their discretion to exterminate the terminally ill). And kids today throw around words like "retard" and "retarded" like they mean nothing.

Think it doesn't matter? Think again. Does anyone believe this kind of garbage represents an isolated incident? It doesn't. It's time to change attitudes NOW, people. When you pick on someone with a mental disability, you are attacking a person who would never attack you back. They are the very definition of innocence. If you use those words, if you hold those attitudes,if you stand by and let an entire group of people be denigrated simply because by accident of nature or circumstance they happen to have a lower IQ than you, then you are among the lowest form of life on this planet.

There is no punishment in this world or the next strong enough to provide justice for such heinous acts as the ones performed by the people in the story above. But these attitudes start when you "jokingly" refer to something or someone as "retarded". There is simply no excuse.



* The application of science and reason has forced the church to reinterpret "God's never-changing word", and they've softened their stance somewhat.
To be fair, the church has also been blamed for statements and acts that never happened, most notably Martin Luther, who has often been wrongly blamed for the Holocaust, when the blame belongs to Hitler and his willing executioners. Still, anyone who denies that there has been an evolution of church doctrine as it relates to people with disabilities is fooling him/herself. Hence my contention that God's "unchanging" word is anything but.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Roll On The Floor Fun

Many thanks to the person that sent this on to me. You know who you are. :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

As Bill Cosby Would Say, "Riiiiiight..."

One year for Christmas, I got a copy of "Charlotte's Web" and a pad of light blue 3-hole punched paper. I proceeded to copy the first chapter of "Charlotte's Web" on the paper. Thus began a long love affair with words (or for the cynical, plagiarism) that continues to this day.

I've wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I had other childhood career aspirations, including veterinarian, fireman, teacher...but the writing thing just stuck. Eventually, I learned that being a writer isn't something you become. It's something you ARE.

Today, I own a photo/video studio, and I create images for a living. I love what I do. I love my clients. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to start with a blank photographic canvas and create something memorable that people will enjoy for the rest of their lives. I will do this until I can no longer press a shutter with arthritic fingers or view the image through a lens with failing eyesight. Even then, I'll probably find a way.

What I've given up to follow this passion is my desire to write. Lately, the itch has come back. I was able to find a couple outlets and was published for the first time in years, even if it was just in the local paper. But now, with the newspaper downsizing and production being taken out of town, that outlet is gone. Opportunities are few and far between in a small town and frankly, I haven't had (or taken) the time to investigate new markets.

But I keep writing anyway. Because as Billy Crystal intoned in the otherwise horrible "Throw Mama From The Train", a writer writes. Always.

A couple weeks ago, I misplaced my glasses. Once necessary only to keep horrific eyestrain headaches at bay, they've become essential for close reading. Briefly, my love affair with the printed word suffered while I was unable to read the small print in the books I love so much. It friggin' sucks to get old. Last night, I found the elusive spectacles (they were behind the couch the whole time! That's where EVERYTHING hides!), and I took a deep dive back in my books the way a starving person attacks a plate of hamburgers.

I loves me some words, folks. I realize more and more that I have a lot to say, a lot I want to share, and a lot to contribute. The pictures pay the bills, and in a way they communicate in ways words never can. But I miss the written word, and I think it's time to rekindle that love affair.

Anyway. That's what's on my mind. Hope y'all are doing well. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

So Bristol Palin's babydaddy is going on Tyra to discuss...well, who knows what. But I'm sure we can guess.

And Sarah Baraccuda is angry:

" 'Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship,' says the statement from the Palin family rep."

I'm sure the stunning irony of that statement is lost on Caribou Barbie.

Apparently it's OK to parade the loving young couple out at the Republican National Convention in a quest for the Vice-Presidency (aka "fame, attention, and fortune"), but when your prop no longer serves his purpose, you can throw him to the curb.

Nice.

Ultimately, though, Levi should be glad he got away while he did. Some people have more nuts in their family tree than others, believe me.

It Should Be No Mystery

Anyone wondering where I got my admiration for Catherine Zeta-Jones need look no further:


Duh.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I Know It's Bad Out There

Yes. It's bad out there. Times are tough.

But it ain't that bad everywhere. I've been saying for a while now that some companies are using the rough economy as an excuse to purge workers. People thought I was nuts.

I'm not. I finally have at least a small measure of vindication:

"If a deepening recession weighs down and threatens businesses, some of those businesses are undoubtedly also making convenient use of the times to do things they might have wanted to do, but were unable to do in better conditions.

"In some cases, under the guise of "recession" pressure, they may be waging a secret war against their own workers, using even the most innocuous transgressions of workplace rules as the trigger for firings -- and so, of course, putting the fear of God into those who remain. In this way, company payrolls are not only being reduced by mass layoffs, but workers are being squeezed for ever greater productivity in return for lower wages, worse hours and fewer benefits. The weapon of choice is the specter of unemployment, a kind of death by a thousand (or a million) cuts.

"Companies stand to gain a lot these days from such small-scale but decisive actions. After all, they reap a double benefit. Not only do they pare down the size of their payroll, often without needing ... to consent to unemployment compensation, but they also contribute to a climate of intensifying fear. Workers who remain on the job are now not only on edge about layoffs or scaled-back hours, but also know that a late return from a bathroom or lunch break might mean being shown the door, becoming another member of the legions of unemployed -- now at 12.5 million and rising fast."

They point out Walmart as a prime example of a company that's doing well, but cutting jobs regardless:

"In fact, the world's largest retailer is one of the few American corporations doing well in dark times. While retail sales slid almost everywhere, the company's same-store sales went up 5.1 percent in February (when compared with February 2008 sales). Yet, in that same month, it announced a move to "realign its corporate structure and reduce costs." It cut 700 to 800 jobs at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club home offices, in effect acting no differently than any of the companies being battered by the deepening recession."
Fucking bastards.

I guess it was bound to happen. When unemployment hovers around 4%, that really IS the closest thing you can get to full employment. Companies don't have this kind of leverage when the labor pool is limited, and competition for employees is tough. But to lay people off when your sales are up and you're doing well? That's immoral. Sorry, but it's true.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free As A Bird

In addition to my regular day job, I also dabble in more personal creative pursuits, and recently decided to take the plunge and submit an original photo-illustration for consideration in an upcoming gallery exhibit in Corning, NY.

The other day, I received notification that my work, titled "Free as a Bird" was selected for inclusion in the show.

This is a first for me, and I couldn't me more thrilled. The exhibit opens Thursday, April 2; more information is available at the website for the ARTS Council of the Southern Tier.

I know it's a small gallery in a small town, and I'm only a small part of the show...but the validation of my work is great to have. I'm just tickled pink over this.

Anyway. If you're in the area, stop on by. :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh Boy

"Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood..."
- The Animals

I'm probably going to make someone angry with this one, but it needs to be said. So hang on.

I received the following e-mail from my daughter's middle school today:

This is a message for the parents and guardians of *** Middle School girls. All girls are invited to attend Girls Night Out! Wellness Fair this Thursday, March 26th from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at *** Middle School. SIS stands for Sisters in Success, which is a program aimed at middle school girls in the *** School District. The goal is to empower young women to believe in themselves and to build healthy relationships with peers, family, and strong women in the community. Thursday we will have several local women who will be providing opportunities for our girls to learn about yoga, self defense, nutrition, skin care with Mary Kay cosmetics, organic cooking, and more!

All girls are welcome to attend and may sign up with their school counselor or Mrs. ***. Each girl is encouraged to bring a special adult female with them or we can pair them up with one of the female adults from *** who will attend. Girls need to sign up by Wednesday morning.

On the surface, this seems fairly innocuous (despite the weird emphasis on "cosmetics" and "organic cooking"). But it got me wondering: why don't I ever see anything like this for the boys in the school?

It seems to be a trend. President Obama recently established the "Council on Women and Girls", and stated the following: "So now it's up to us to ... ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements — and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers never dreamed of," Obama said. "That's the purpose of this council; those are the priorities of my presidency."

Again, good goals, all. But will someone please tell me how our daughters and granddaughters currently have "limits on their dreams"? It seems to me that there has been no better time in history to be a girl in America. I'm serious. I know I'm sure to catch some flack for this, but the world is wide open to my daughters in a way that it never has been, and in a very real way, they're better off than my son.

Because our schools are, by in large, failing our boys.

To wit—the following article from Richard Whitmire, President of the National Education Writers Association:

Hardly a month goes by without another major foundation or education advocacy group reminding us of the peril our country faces if we don't send more students to college. The International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that the United States is slipping fast in international rankings. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, we rank no better than 10th in higher education attainment. Most striking among the measures is the "survival rate," the measurement of enrolled students who actually earn diplomas. Our students rank at the bottom of the developed world.

Visit the Web sites of the prominent foundations -- Gates, Lumina, Broad -- and you will see the same message that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate leaders such as Intel's Craig Barrett have been warning about for years: We need to broaden the college pipeline, and do it quickly. The latest study pointing out our educational weaknesses – and offering solutions – arrived earlier this month from the respected MDRC, which offered the Obama administration a 15-point plan for turning things around.

Interestingly, however, there's something all these groups studiously avoid talking about. These U.S. education numbers look bad primarily because the schools are failing boys. For the most part, those awful high school graduation numbers are driven by boys, not girls (32 percent of boys drop out, compared to 25 percent of girls). And the lackluster college graduation rates are due primarily to men floundering in college (men earn about 42 percent of four-year degrees). Given that men are far more likely to major in math and science – a special worry for the technical industries -- the chamber should be particularly concerned about men falling behind.

But the gender angle never gets mentioned.
Consider it mentioned here...for all the good it's going to do. Believe me, I have nothing against empowering girls and women. I want all our kids to succeed, male and female. All I'm saying is that our boys are falling behind, and it's a tragedy that they're not being given more (or, dare I say it, equal) attention. It's not an either/or situation. We can do both.


Related: "Bring The Boys Along"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It ain't braggin' if you can do it...but please stop bragging.

Over on another social networking site I frequent, someone is constantly updating the world as to his incredible achievements in the gym. We hear how healthy he feels, how much weight he's losing. It works its way into every. Single. Post.

And in conversation, he's quick to point out how great he feels, how he's as toned as he was when he was in the military, and how he considers this a competitive edge in his business (no, seriously...he's openly speculating how less-than-perfectly-fit people can possibly perform their job as well as he can). Oh, and by the way, he'll say, you should try it!

Give me a break.

I've often said there's nothing worse than a "reformed" person. People that lose weight, quit smoking, find religion, buy a Macintosh*, or become vegetarians are among the most annoying people on earth, because they just won't stop talking about how AWESOME! their particular decision is, and how everyone else is just missing out. For crying out loud, I've watched people get enthusiastic over having performed a colon cleanse.

No one is denying him his happiness. And I'm always happy for people when they improve themselves or their condition in life. Who wouldn't be? There's just something that reeks of utter insecurity when all a person can talk about is how wonderful their personal decisions are, and how YOUR life would only be better if YOU were more like THEM.

Here's the thing. I'm happy for my newly-fit acquaintance. Good for him. But quit sneering from your mountaintop, dude. The higher they are, the longer they have to fall, and I'll take silent joy in watching your inevitable tumble down the hill. That's just the way I roll.

* Guilty as charged. Having said that, the only thing worse than the computer platform wars is watching a Nikon-vs-Canon debate. Those people are insane. Especially the Nikon owners ;-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Malaise

The town I live in is, like many Northeastern cities, struggling. Much of downtown resembles an abandoned war zone, although there are pockets of prosperity, and a lot going on. Sometimes, it's just hard to see it.

I attended an entrepreneurs group meeting this morning, and I know that, while things are rough right now, this town has a lot going for it, including a very low cost of doing business, good roads and accessibility to the Interstate system, cheap real estate, and a local government that will bend over backwards to attract people and businesses.

Still, it's easy to just give up and go somewhere where there's a lot of foot traffic, excitement and "buzz". 20 miles up the road, there's a town smaller than this one with a thriving business district, hardly any empty storefronts, and a supportive community that includes specialty shops, art galleries, cafes...all the things that make a downtown a true destination. I could easily double or triple my business by relocating. Granted, it would be much more expensive to do business there, but I'd almost assuredly do very well.

But I don't. I'm not a quitter. And I still believe in my adopted hometown. It's easy for me to look out my Main Street window and get demoralized. But I keep trudging along, because I still have hope. Some days, that's enough. Here's to better days ahead.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yikes

Had a bit of a scare last night as my youngest had to be admitted to the Hospital for anemia and a rapid heartbeat. Thanks to all who sent their concern. I'll keep you posted, but right now, she's in very good spirits and in good hands. Hopefully she'll be home soon.

Again...THANK YOU.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Make New Friends

Want to meet new and interesting people?

Get a new phone number. Any number will do. You'll be inundated with calls from creditors looking for the person who used to have your number.

Lots of fun. And when they keep calling, you can have even more fun messing with their minds.

Hours of entertainment. Trust me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yeah. What He Said.

Sylvester, J.J. (1814 - 1897)

"So long as a man remains a gregarious and sociable being, he cannot cut himself off from the gratification of the instinct of imparting what he is learning, of propagating through others the ideas and impressions seething in his own brain, without stunting and atrophying his moral nature and drying up the surest sources of his future intellectual replenishment."

Thoughts on the Arts

I posted this elsewhere, but it's worth repeating.

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In a recent editorial regarding the recently-passed stimulus package, our local newspaper intoned thusly:

"One version of the bill had about $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts to help cultural institutions. ... Shouldn't that act be about putting back to work the 2.6 million people that the Labor Department says lost their jobs last year? With so many other appropriations in this bill, it's hard to tell.

"For New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians, the $6.5 billion those states are estimated to receive needs to be spent so that people can go back to work or at least keep their jobs."

I don't like to wade into politics here, but I'm going to make an exception. I don't have a problem with discussing the distribution of government (i.e., "our") money and the appropriateness of various types of spending, particularly as it relates to something as large and important as the proposed stimulus package. What I do have a problem with is the perception that spending on "The Arts" is akin to throwing money down a bottomless pit, or that it somehow only benefits the elite .

An Op-Ed piece in the Indianapolis Star spewed this nonsense: "True to form, Congress has loaded the [bill] with hundreds of billions in wasteful spending. The bill includes ... $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. None of these proposals would create jobs or boost our economy. They're just old-fashioned waste"

Predictably, the National Review chimed in as well: "The National Endowment for the Arts, for example, is in line for $50 million, increasing its total budget by a third. The unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts."

I own and operate a small business that makes a substantial portion of my income from this very kind of so-called "wasteful spending". I've produced a DVD and taken photographs that were part of a museum exhibit, I've videotaped interviews that document important parts of our county's history, and I've been hired by government agencies and artists alike to document other arts-related projects from parades to poetry readings.

The Arts are an important part of a vibrant community. My town just spent $17 million on a substantial renovation to a historic Center for the Performing Arts. That money went to contractors, painters, artists, and resulted in a premier theater, one of the finest of its kind in the region or, for that matter, the state. I'm there regularly to videotape performances and shows...all of which pump much-needed money into the local economy.

It's not about "the unemployed attending sitar concerts". That kind of derisive attitude reflects the worst kind of class warfare and arrogance. A culture is largely defined by its ties to its artist community. From cave paintings to Roman Grafitti to Shakespeare's Globe Theater to modern-day Broadway, the arts are an important and integral part of any thriving community.

Again, we can and should have a debate about where we spend precious taxpayer dollars. But let there be no doubt about it: Spending on the arts is not wasted spending. I can honestly say that my business would not exist if it weren't for continued interest in the arts, and I'm grateful that some at least recognize its importance in the larger economy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New

Welcome to the new blog. I have no plans (at this point) to continue blogging over at the original "Liner Notes". I really feel like I gave too much of myself away on that blog, although I'll maintain the archives for a while. If you're here, it's because you're either really clever, or I asked you to come on over; for the time being, I'd ask you to not link publicly to this blog (although I am publishing an RSS feed, so go ahead and follow me that way if you like). I'd like to retain a modicum of anonymity for a while.

I can't and won't promise that this blog will be any better than the last one, but we'll see where it leads. Who knows...I may give up the whole thing.

Anyway. Welcome.