Friday, September 30, 2011

Credit Rating = 0


We Are Doomed

Times are bad and most folks that I talk to don’t seem to think that it will be getting any better any time soon. Maybe not even in this generation. They may be right.

I believe that the reason for this is that the American culture no longer seems to be proactive in the long term and that somewhere along the way we became reactionary in the short term. We want instant gratification and wealth, without the long term commitment. Financial institutions are not planning or investing in the long haul. They don’t want to invest, because they have lost their shirts in the past when presidents and CEOs made really bad decisions that almost put them out of business.

Let me give you a little personal example:

We are doing some remodeling in our house and are paying a contractor to do it. It is an ongoing process that has taken about three months. As is usual, the cost of the estimate keeps going up and we are a bit over budget.

So I went down to the Credit Union where I bank and asked them to if I could increase my line of credit limit from $1,000 to $5,000 to help cover some of the cost.

Before I go any further, I need to give you a little background here.

My credit score is over 780, which is in the top 5th of all credit scores. Our combined household credit card debt is about $2,000, with a max credit limit of around $25,000. Unlike most, we are not upside down on our mortgage and have about half of the mortgage paid off since we put a huge amount down on our house.

My wife and I have been steadily employed for over 10 years. I have been at the same employer for the past 20 years. I have never declared bankruptcy or not paid a debt. My wife declared bankruptcy once, over 10 years ago before we were married. I already have a $1,000 line of credit that I owe nothing on, and have had it for over 5 years. When I have used it, it was paid off with a direct deposit from my employer. Of the three vehicles we own, only one has an outstanding loan balance, the other two we own outright.

Based on this financial background, the credit union denied my request to increase my line of credit by $4,000.

However, they DID tell me that I was eligible for a ‘pre-approved’ auto loan to the tune of $30,000, if I wanted to buy a new car!

Now, I might not be a financial wiz, but this is just F’ed-up.

If banks and credit unions are not willing to take risk (and a good risk at that) to get the economy moving again, but are willing to fork over $30,000 for a car I don’t need, only because they believe that the loan would be secure, because they can always repossess the car, means that there are serious problems with our financial institutions and cultural norms.

I don’t ‘need’ this extra $4,000 in credit. I have other ways I can pay for the contractor. But if I can’t get this sort of credit based on my financial history, then who can? I am assuming no one. Hence, we have a stagnant economy that won’t be moving anytime soon.

The wife and I have a very large piggy bank at home that we put all our loose change in. I suggest that you ALL get one. It might be your most secure investment in the future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cardio Media - 1


Destination Gobi - Movie

Exercise Machine - Treadmill

Distance Traveled - 3.5 miles

Calories Burned while watching - Approx. 500

A guy movie from the 1950s. This was an odd film that I downloaded from the internet. A rather strange tale of a bunch of navy sailors stationed at a weather station in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia during WWII. Supposedly based on a 'true' story about 300 saddles that were ordered by the sailors to befriend Mongolian horsemen. The film is Saturday Matinee fair, with all men, doing manly things and eventually escaping back to the U.S. Fleet with the help of Mongols. I was surprised to find out that it was directed by Robert Wise, one of my all time favorite directors, although I would not rank this high on my list of his best films.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essential Cinema – 51



Directed by - Sidney Lumet

Writing credits - Paddy Chayefsky

Fred C. Caruso .... producer
Howard Gottfried .... producer

Original Music - Elliot Lawrence

Cinematography by - Owen Roizman

Faye Dunaway ... Diana Christensen
William Holden ... Max Schumacher
Peter Finch ... Howard Beale
Robert Duvall ... Frank Hackett
Wesley Addy ... Nelson Chaney
Ned Beatty ... Arthur Jensen

A major television network beset by low ratings and declining revenues seeks new and questionable methods to increase their audience share and boost profits.

As we age, things go crazy. While this is a dated film, released in 1976, it is still scary just how accurate and relevant it remains today. It shows the decline of the media into a pandering boredom killer that manipulates the masses in the name of global greed.

Since my distain for the media has been growing larger and larger over the past several years, culminating with my wife and I pulling the plug on cable television recently, I thought it would be a good idea to dust this copy of ‘Network’ off from my LaserDisc collection and watch it one more time. It has been years since I have seen it, but the last viewing left a pretty strong impression on me.

The concept of the film is still dead on. While it is very dated, shot in a world where there was no cable television, no internet, no cell phones and large gas guzzling cars, the message it deliveries is strangely more relevant today than it was back when it was made.

The film has several levels and plot lines, but most come back to center on the concept of those in power and how they use it for good or how they abuse it for their own gain. In the end the film asks the question, should we be human or should we be humanoids that just go through the motions and be happy with what television gives us.

The relationship between William Holden’s ‘Max Schumacher’ and Faye Dunaway’s ‘Diana Christensen’ is amazing to watch. They are both very good actors that get the most out of every scene and word of dialog, and back in the day Ms. Dunaway was a real looker.

But the best part of the film is without a doubt Peter Finch’s insane news anchor Howard Beale. His lunatic rants about society and the ‘Bull Shit’ of the networks still rings as true today as they did four decades ago. They still make me want to stand up and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”

There are some cons about the film. Its dated look makes it a bit harder to relate to today. The world has changed and it now seems odd to watch high powered executives reaching for rotary dial phones to make important calls, when cell phones and computers are now the norm. The film slowly fizzles at the end, and the final scenes sort of leave you wondering and disappointed, but then again, where could it go? The concept of planning corporate murder for dollars isn’t impossible, but seemed somewhat contrived in this film. It either has to end with a bang or a whimper. They chose bang, in the literal sense of the word.

I will add, that the scene between Peter Finch and Ned Beatty, where the Communications Corporation of America (CCA) CEO explains the ways of the world and how Howard Beale is meddling in things he cannot understand in the darkened corporate board room, is probably one of the best lessons in world politics and economics that has been put on film. It should be worth college credit.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Life - Post Connectivity


It has been about a week since my wife and I pulled the plug on the broadband wifi network that I had set up in our home. It was nice and all, but just not worth the cost for what it was providing to us.

In the wake of our ‘unconnected’ home, we have returned to the YMCA to try and get back to that healthy lifestyle that we always talk about, but seldom actually get around to doing.

One of the things that being a stud-like tech-geek offers me is the ability to find ways to use things that many other folks seem to overlook. For instance, the treadmills and exercise cycles at the YMCA are pretty much state of the art. So much so, that they actually have iPod connectors and USB connections on them to be able to program them and play media through.

I have never seen any other YMCA members utilize these options on the equipment, so I had to figure them out for myself. I am not the type of user that gets on one of these things for 5 minutes and the hops off thinking …..owwww, feel that burn. I am more of a long term cardio exerciser and what better way to spend my time ‘buffing up’ than by watching a movie or listening to an audio book while I spend upward of 1.5 hours on one of these machines.

So for your reading enjoyment, I am going to let you guys tag along on my workout / media journeys and give you a sampling of what I am listening to and watching while I excersize. This will be sort of like a continuation of my Essential Cinema blog series, but with a few added little twists. They will be short and sweet, without a lot details. Look for the first installment in a few days.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Droid Dump - Sept 2011


My smartphone is starting to fill up with pictures again, so it is time to dump them into storage and archive them for posterity in case I accidently drop my phone off a bridge or something.

These are not great pictures, and most will make no sense. Some of them I took and some of them were sent to me by others. Some are artistic and some are crap. I make no distinction or guarantees about their quality or content. But if you want to see what my daily life entails in pictures, have a look.

Click the blog title or click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pulling The Plug


After a lot of contemplation and watching way too many episodes of ‘Hoarders’, ‘American Pickers’, ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘The Bachelor’, the wife and I have come to a conclusion…… This just isn’t worth it.

So we are pulling the plug and telling Cox Cable to shove it. No more television, no more phone service, no more broadband internet connection.

It isn’t like we can’t afford it. It is just that it isn’t worth it. The whole bundle is over $150 a month, and I am sorry folks. I don’t feel like paying to watch The Bachelorette AND be advertised to for 1/3 of the show. It is a lose / lose proposition.

The world is changing and everything is going mobile regardless. The internet and entertainment is going to be accessed through mobile devices that connect via 4G and public wireless in the future, so my own personal WiFi that I have in our home really isn’t all that necessary.

Besides, I get T1 Broadband at my office, WiFi for free at the YMCA, at the library, at Starbucks, at McDonald’s, pretty much everywhere. I would rather spend some quality time at home with my wife actually getting stuff done, than staring at the talking heads on the local news.

(Besides, there is my extensive LaserDisc collection that is going to take us about 10 years to get through.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

I won't be going to Burning Man this year. To many other irons in the fire and projects to complete. But deep down, I am going to miss being there. I have come to love that place and truely feel at home there. Next year, definately next year though

Alone In The Sand Box

(First Published December 23, 2009)

That Warm Feeling

This goes way back, to my earliest childhood memories. I assume that everyone has origins like this, and they must vary quite a bit. They are one of those core values / feelings / memories that follow us all through life and create the foundation of who we are. They are more like memories and feelings that keep resurfacing, they are a constant throughout our entire life.

For me, it was being lost in the fog. Not so much being lost, but alone. This isn't a scary feeling like some sort of phobia or nightmare. It is more of a dreamlike state. A waking dream where all your senses come into play and everything is a mystery to be discovered.

Every time I have come across these situations in real life, I am thrown back to that constant feeling from the first time I experienced it.

The first time was probably during a blizzard in North Dakota around 1962. It was nighttime and you couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of you. I was all bundled up and walking back to my house in the dark. But I was so disoriented, I had to walk up to each house to see if I recognized the door, and then stumble to the next one, and the next, before finally finding my home. I knew it was there somewhere, and when I found it, there would be warm blankets and coco waiting for me.

Fast forward four years and we had just moved to southern California. It was in the spring, and there was still a bite in the air. I saw ocean fog for the first time that spring, as it drifted through the groves of Eucalyptus trees behind our house. As I walked through the forest, the aroma of the trees mixed with the coolness of the fog. Eventually the morning mist was countered by the warm rays of sunlight struggling to pierce the canopy of the trees and chase the fog away. It was surreal.

A decade later in College, my friends and I rented a beach house on the Oregon Coast for a weekend. One morning after a heavy night of college partying, we awoke to a dense fog bank hanging over the coast. I walked down to the beach and headed toward the surf. I could hear the crashing waves all around me like a roaring freight train, but the sand was still dry and I couldn't see more than 10 feet in any direction. After walking almost a half mile toward the ocean, it sounded as though a wave would materialize out of the mist and swallow me. I slowly retraced my footsteps in the sand back to the beach house.

I left college in 1982 and moved to Arizona. On my road trip from college student to adulthood, I stopped in the Redwood Forest of northern California to sleep in my car before heading toward San Francisco the next morning. During the night there was no moon and low laying clouds moved in through the trees to block out what little starlight there was. I awoke in the middle of the night to experience total and complete darkness for the first time in my life. That lonely night in the middle of nowhere, the forest enveloped me. (A more detailed account of this night can be found in my blog entitled Deep Woods.)

It has been a while since then and these images have become fewer and farther between but their memory has not diminished in my mind. They are those periods of wonder and reflection when you have to question the world around you and also question who you are.

The last one was in September 2009. I was at Burning Man in northern Nevada. Burning Man takes place on a huge dry lake bed 70 miles from the nearest town. When the wind picks up (which is often) it creates huge dust storms that the participants have to weather. It sounds worse than it is. The dust is like a fine powder and is hypo-allergenic, there are no spores or pollen in it. So everyone always has a handkerchief and goggles at the ready to ride out the 5 to 30 minutes of zero visibility.

I was caught in one of these storms as I roamed the far reaches of the playa, thousands of feet from any structure. The dust engulfed me and I put my bandanna over my face and lowered my goggles to wait it out. As I knelt down on the ground, ghostly images of fellow Burners came and went on the fringes of my sight. Riding bicycles, walking, laughing, dressed in bizarre costumes. They drifted in and out of my world in another waking dream, and then the dust dissipated and the world was normal again.

I sometimes feel that this is what my life is really all about. In our day to day lives, we are just waiting for something to happen. But once in a while, we get a glimpse of what it is like to pass to the other side.