Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random Thoughts

Film At 11pm

Maybe this whole 'reality' thing is just a dream.

I got up early this morning. Couldn't sleep much because we have a new dog. Like many of our pets he was abandoned in our neighborhood as a puppy. He is an American Bulldog we have named Maximus (Max for short). He is all of 4 months old and we just had him neutered. So he kept us awake all last night as the anesthesia wore off.

As I sat in the early morning twilight watching the morning news I started to question the sanity of the world I inhabit. Let me give you a few of the examples:

News Story #1: A study has shown that in these tough economic times, many viewers don't know which bills to pay first. Many opt to pay their cable and cellphone bills before paying their mortgage or power bills, because these are the services that they feel they cannot live without. Bad Idea, always make sure to pay your Mortgage, Power and Car Payments before you pay for your Credit Cards and Cable / Cellphone. That way you won't loose your house and car.

.....excuse me? You really have to tell people this? They can't make the leap of logic that if they don't pay the power and mortgage, they won't have a home to plug the cellphone into and watch TV?

News Story #2: Dangerous Soccer (Futbol) Fields....the news story you, and your children, can't afford to miss, tonight at 10pm. The story being, that many soccer goals on playing fields are NOT anchored down and if your children climb on them they could tip over and injure the child(ren). kidding? I always thought this was natural selection. Nature weeds out the youth that aren't smart enough to make it in their environment. Do they still have 'Monkey Bars' and 'Teeter-Tooters' on playgrounds? Do they have any idea how dangerous those devices are as well? What ever happened to this concept of supervision and teaching your children responsibility. Why don't we just cover children in bubble-wrap and make them wear a helmet when they leave the house. It a dangerous world after all and lord forbid if they get hurt.

News Story #3: They arrested the man that rear ended a police cruiser, killing the police officer inside last Saturday. This comes as no big shock to folks living here but here are the facts about the man accused of the murder. He is Hispanic. He has 3 warrants out for his arrests. He has been arrested before for driving under the influence (for which one of his prior warrants was issued) and he is an illegal alien that has been deported back to Mexico FOUR times. It appears that he did not have a lot of trouble getting back into the United States after each deportation.

.....for those of you that might wonder what the big deal is about illegal immigration, this sort of sums it up. We caught and released this illegal alien three times, deported him each time before he went to court and he still managed to get back into the country and kill a police officer in a drunken stupor. Seems like the 'system' (if you can call it that) really isn't working to well.

Finally, I left the house at 6:30am to take my walk to the office. As I was walking across the Bridge of Sorrow I noticed that the freeway traffic headed westbound underneath me was at a stand-still. Thousands of cars were backed up to the horizon. As I walked over them I could hear the sound of helicopters swooping in from all directions.

There are four major television stations in the Phoenix Metro area. Each of them has a news helicopter. There are so many of them that two of them actually collided last year while covering a story. Whenever there is a relatively gruesome accident (usually involving a rolled over vehicle, a fire, or a dead body laying on the pavement), the 'News Vultures' swoop in and hover over the scene like condors searching for dead meat.

I don't know what the cause of the traffic backup was, but as I left the bridge, the four copters had all taken up position over the accident and the cameras were rolling. I could hear them all the way to my office as they hovered over the destruction.

When I was a child, I had no idea that this is what I would get to see everyday as an adult. Many mornings of late, I wish I had never grown up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Price Is Right

Come On Down!

I have some dear friends. I have known them for a long time. They are a bit 'odd', but aren't we all in some way? They recently moved way out into the suburbs. They 'upgraded' and bought a new house on the fringe of the Phoenix-Metro area. It is one of those Mc-Mansions, 5,000 square feet, two stories, beige and looks like every other house in the neighborhood. In retrospect, they paid way to much for it and are now probably upside down on their mortgage like so many folks in these troubled economic times.

The reason they got the bigger house wasn't for better schools or more room for their kids or a better neighborhood. The primary reason was that they needed more room for all their 'stuff'. They don't have any children and only a grandmother lives with them. They are collectors and they tend to horde a lot of the stuff they buy. And they buy a LOT of stuff. So much so, that they have Garage Sales once or twice a year just to keep the house from bursting at the seams. They are the perfect picture of the economic engine that drives our economy. Material wealth = Personal Happiness. We don't see each other much since they moved out into the fringe of the 'burbs'.

Several years ago, they asked me if I could digitize a VHS video tape they had which they wanted preserved. It was getting worn out from continuous playing and they wanted to keep the memories alive. It was that important to them. Since I have the equipment and know-how to do this sort of thing I agreed.

What is on the video tape?, a wedding?, a first birthday?, the last pictures of their parents?, nope...none of those things. It is a video tape of the husbands crowning achievement in life. His stint on the television game show, "The Price Is Right". I burned this video tape to DVD back in 2001 and gave them several copies.

They called me again last week requesting that I make some more copies of the video tape. It seems that of the two copies I left them (one for showing, and one for safe-keeping), the showing one had worn out (they had played it that much) and the one for safe-keeping.....well, it has been lost in all the clutter of their house and they don't know where it is. So they dropped off the video tape and requested that I spend another 13 hours burning it down to DVD for them 'again'.

Watching a 15 year old television game show (over and over as I was editing out the commercials and creating DVD menus) is an interesting experience. We all looked much younger back then, dressed differently and had different mannerisms. But what really sort of grabbed me was the attitude of the studio audience / contestants as they babbled and laughed and jumped up and down at the possibility of winning a new Microwave or a new car. The sense of gimmie-gimmie-gimmie was overwhelming. These were adults acting like children let loose in a 'Toy-R-Us' with their parents credit card.

I suppose I might have been like this once. But not anymore. I realize now, that all that 'stuff' was really worthless. Most, if not all of it now resides in a landfill somewhere, or stuffed into the back room of a house somewhere. Mementos of a by-gone victory with Bob Barker and his game show beauties in attendance. My sense of memory and value have changed quite a bit over the years. The things that took hard work and perseverance to accomplish are what I want to recall. The things I struggled for that taught me important lessons. Guessing the right price of a refrigerator back in 1995 just doesn't cut it for me.

But such is not the case with my friends. It appears that they want to re-live this moment in their lives, over and over. Sometimes I wonder if they are 'stuck' in their lives. Reliving past good times instead of creating new ones. I think a lot of people are stuck in that same loop.

One final note about the video. I cut out all the commercials in the final DVD, and lumped them as a final chapter after the game show. Looking at a 20 minute block of commercials from 20 years ago is pretty sobering. One thing that was noticeably absent from daytime commercials back in the 1990 are advertisements for personal injury attorneys. There weren't any. Also missing are any advertisements for prescription medication. The only drugs advertised were antacids for upset stomachs and aspirin. All over the counter stuff. And food, a lot of advertisements for food and bathroom cleaners. Watch daytime television these days in any major metropolitan city and you won't see any of these types of advertisements.

Clicking the graphic at the top of the blog will take you to the condensed clip of Vern on "The Price Is Right". If you want to see Vern redeem himself and go on to win it all, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Commute In Peace

I have written a lot of blogs about death over the years, here, here and here. Not death per-sae, but the way we deal with it and perceive it.

It seemed that when the final door closed and we saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel, the goal was to leave behind something to mark your place in history. A pyramid, a tomb, a head stone, or a large university building with your name on it. Things that would denote your status during your time on this rock. Those days seem to be long gone.

A stroll through any cemetery indicates that ornate headstones are quickly giving way to simple markers. The markers are just for the folks that actually want to be buried. Most folks now opt for the cremation route and if they are lucky they get a place on the mantle or get shot into space. They leave little behind to be remembered by.

Which is why some of the customs that have sprung up in the American Southwest where I live seem somewhat whimsical and puzzling to me. I have the assumption that some of these 'markers' have to do with the Hispanic Culture that is pervasive here, but I am not sure. I am curious to know if any of my readers see these sorts of memorials in your neck of the woods.

I don't know if this is common in other parts of the country or whether we just have more traffic deaths per capita here in Arizona. However, it appears to be customary for friends and relatives of the deceased to erect a small memorial on the location of the death. This usually means a small cross and some plastic flowers by the side of the road. There are A LOT of these in Arizona. On some stretches of rural highway there is usually one every mile or so. Talk about highways of death?

The other oddity within the Hispanic Community is the rear window decal. These decals proclaim 'In Loving Memory [Someone's Name] 19XX to 20XX". Since Hispanics here seem to view their automobiles as a form of self expression and status, putting a loved one's name on their vehicle is a form of high honor. Sort of like a mobile tombstone that gets more exposure.

My only question is, when the car is wrecked, and eventually scraped, is this eulogy transferred to another vehicle or just relegated to the scrape heap with the rest of the car? If so, then their memory is only lasting for the next 5 years or 50,000 miles, which ever comes first.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Negative Campaigning

The Truth Is Irrelevant!

I won't be doing a lot of political blogging leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election. I have pretty much already stated my concerns about the American Political System and why it does not work.

In keeping with the title of this blog, I can't imagine a more apt title to the American Political Debate than Hypocrisy. The myriad number of attack adds last night on Dancing With The Stars was incredible. We record the show and watch it afterward just so we can fast forward through all the commericals.

One of the reasons I no longer vote is the unwillingness of the candidates to tell the truth. In a never ending effort to try and get people to vote for them, the candidates will only tell the electorate what they 'want' to hear. They won't tell them what they 'need' to hear. As if telling us the truth will make us all run away, hide under a rock and not vote for them. This basically tells me that the candidates think I am stupid.

The candidate that I would vote for is the candidate that would answer the following question honestly, just once.

"I have a question for you [insert candidate name here], if you are elected, what will you try and do to correct [insert problem / concern here] and how will your decisions affect me in a negative way. In other words, what is it going to cost me to correct the mistakes of our past leaders?".

You will never get a response to this question, because elections are always about the better, brighter future, not the bleaker harder future.

We have the concept in this nation that if we have screwed up in the past, there is no pain and suffering to correct the problem for future generations. We will just put a band-aid on it and make it all better.

The Wall Street Credit Scandal, Higher Gas Prices, Illegal Immigration, are all problems that any educated person could have seen coming. I saw it and I only have a B.S. degree in Business. The coming years are going to be hard and they are going to cost the citizens of this nation dearly. My only frustration, is that when things finally do start to rebound, we won't have learned anything from our mistakes and the whole cyclical process will just start over again.

I am pretty sure that on the eve of the election, I am going to hike up a local mountain and just ponder the future while trying and find ways to rise to the challenges it will bring with it, regardless of who is elected.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Alternate View

Look Over My Shoulder

I have often wondered why some folks have more than one blog. I am one of those people that like to keep things neat and organized. Scattering thoughts across cyberspace in multiple places doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Times change however and so do our abilities and the ways we see and use technology. So I am opening up another blog. It will be vastly different from this one. It is called The Alternate View and will be nothing but content from my cell phone. Where ever I go, you can tag along with me.

After reading enough works by other bloggers, I have learned that I have to constantly make an effort to see the beauty in my world. Art is all around us, but it is something that you have to critically look for in order to be able to see it. With that concept in mind, I have decided to use my cell phone as a paintbrush.

The posts to this blog will be simple and direct. Hypocrisy will soldier on as before, unchanged. I just felt that it was time to branch out a bit more. The format and graphics on The Alternate View are still being worked out and may go through a bit more tweaking over the next 30 days or so but the content and focus will remain the same. I hope it distracts you for about 10 seconds each day.