Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Chasm Widens

Feed The Machine

I found myself paying for something with cash the other day. This was odd because I realized at the time I seldom do this anymore. I had accidentally pushed the 'cash back' option on a previous purchase and the self check-out machine spit out a $20 bill to me. At my next stop, I thought I might as well use the money and actually got change back, which again was a first in the last 3 months. When you use debit, you never get change back. It felt funny in my pocket.

This is the way it starts. The slow transformation into a different society. The telephone did it back in the 1890s as did the electric light, the transistor and scores of other inventions. They have changed the way we think and the way we interact.

This was also brought home with the response I give to the homeless when they ask me for spare change. "I only use debit.", I respond. I don't have cash or change on me anymore. Hence, the chasm widens between the haves and the have nots. Those that can't ride the wave, drown in the ocean.

More and more, hard currency is becoming the economic engine of the poor and disenfranchised. Those that can't afford the bank account, or those that can't accept change get left further and further behind. Is this a good thing? Can't say at this point, but it is changing things.

The last footnote that I observed in this pending revolution? The picture above of the new parking meters in downtown Phoenix. They accept Debit Cards and Credit Cards. Which is probably not a good thing, since this cash strapped state / city will probably be increasing the parking fee to $5 a hour. It is sort of hard to carry around that much change in your pocket.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Shameless Plug

In Praise of AppleTV

While my contempt for mainstream media is well documented in my past blog entries, I sort of experienced the straw that broke the camel's back with the initial airing of "Momma's Boy" this week on broadcast television. Coming right on the heels of the final "The Biggest Loser" and foreshadowing the coming of "Bromance", I leaped from my couch and ran out the front door screaming while jabbing knitting needles into my eyes.

Well, not exactly, but that is what I felt like doing. I have often stated that I feel that mainstream media is 'dumbing down' the American populace and I believe that these shows vindicate that prediction.

But, I am happy to say that I have found salvation. Brothers and Sisters, I give you AppleTV. The little DVR from Apple computer that sits on top of our HDTV.

I originally bought one of these units on a whim, because I thought it would be a 'cool' little toy to add to the Apple Wireless network in our home. In retrospect, it may have been the best entertainment investment I have ever made.

The wife and I don't watch a lot of broadcast television anymore. The simple reason is that most of it just isn't worth watching. But with AppleTV we have a whole new world of options....all commercial free.

Besides having complete access to the iTunes store on line (through our Wifi network), it can also play video from DVDs that I have ripped on my iMac G4 (most of which I get from free from the Public Library). I have just finished ripping the wide screen version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Marlon Brando, all in HD format and it cost me 'nada'....not a dime.

If you want to watch television on this little wonder, you can, with no commercials, in HDTV. Only you will have to pay for it. While it might sound stupid to pay for something you can watch for free off the airwaves, bear in mind that most of the shows are in HD, none have commercials and you can download entire seasons of shows onto the unit and watch them at your leisure. The wife and I are on Season #3 of the Sopranos, we will be through the entire series by sometime in February. That is six seasons of the Sopranos, uncut, HD when ever we want.....sweet. (for about the same price as the DVD boxed set that just came out, and it isn't in HD)

If that weren't enough, we also get free access to Video Podcasts (NBC nightly news each night without commercials), access to my entire iPhoto collection and access to my online Flickr account along with all my Flickr contacts. Which means I can view my Flickr photos in a slide show AND any of my contacts photos in a slide show....again, all in HD.

But wait, theres more, I also have access to YouTube through the AppleTV unit, which lets me browse and search anything on Youtube with the AppleTV remote.

They keep hammering into our heads that Digital TV is coming in February, but I am not really that concerned. Thanks to AppleTV I have become my own network and I schedule my own programming. It is all in HDTV and there are no commercials. Better still, there is no Real World, Paris Hilton's BFF, Bachelorette, Biggest Loser, Bromance or Momma's Boy.

Thank you Steve Jobs.....from the bottom of my heart. You kept me from shoving knitting needles into my eyes.

(click the title to go to the AppleTV website, do it, you know you want to)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Digging Ditches

Predicting The Future Isn't Easy

The ways of the world are changing and it gets harder to see these changes the older we get. As humans, we tend to strive or security and comfort when in fact, nature is the exact opposite. We need to constantly remind ourselves that nothing is static and the future is never guaranteed.

When I was a young lad, my father always made sure to reinforce the ethic of hard work and planning for my future. His view of the world and success were based in the great depression and the Second World War. His career path ended up being an officer in the U.S. Military. In his eyes, hard work and a good, competent employer were the keys to security and happiness in your old age. For his generation, this all made perfect sense.

I will never forget one of the lessons that my father taught me while sitting around the dinner table one night. It went something like this:

"You need to study hard and get good grades in school. You can't get a good job with a big company if you are a slacker. If you get good grades and work hard, you can get a job with Boeing or ATT or General Motors, work there for 25 years and then retire with a nice pension. Otherwise you will end up being a 'ditch digger' or a 'garbage man'."

As a young child of 10, I nodded my head in agreement. Sounded like good advice and what the heck, this was my father. The man could do no wrong in my eyes.

My father could not have foreseen the economic collapse of the early 21 Century. Countries that win World Wars don't fall apart 50 years later. The Boeing Corporation that made the bombers that he flew in WWII is half it's former self and struggling to compete with France's Airbus. The ATT he referred to was the 'old' ATT (at the time the ONLY telephone company) before it was broken up, and recently resurrected as the new ATT. And General Motors....we won't even go there. By the time you read this, they might not even exist anymore.

And those jobs I was supposed to avoid at all costs?:

Ditch diggers now sit in air conditioned backhoes and make upwards of $30 an hour. Those garbage men? Their hands never touch the garbage can as they sit in trucks and control pneumatic arms that process the trash. The are usually unionized and have better benefits and stability than I could ever imagine.

Predicting the future is never easy. Life has taught me that you have to be able to roll with the economic punches and to never trust your employer. Regardless of what they say, they NEVER have your best interests at heart. As a fellow blogger mentioned, we are all our most precious resource. We shouldn't trust others to use us on their behalf. We need to manage ourselves and be ready for any eventuality.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Next Big Step

Asking Questions

My wife and I were cleaning out the back yard last Sunday. I was working in the garage (the never ending project) and she was cleaning off the back porch.

As we took turns taking stuff to the dumpster in the alley and asking where various things went or what they were it became apparent that my wife was in a bit of a funk. We all get this way. My theory is, we are all bi-polar to some degree, some of us need medication for it and the rest of us just deal with it until we start to rebound.

So I asked my wife what was on her mind and why she was so 'down'. She didn't want to talk about it. This is an ongoing problem with the Mrs. She bottles things up and doesn't 'work' things through. So I did what "Mr Sympathy" should do and I started 'tickling her' and making fun of her to try and get her loosened up.

She finally confessed that she was in a rut because she had been thinking. Why does she work so hard at her job while most of her co-workers have no interest in doing a good job or striving to make things better?

I almost fell over on the pavement when she said this.....and then I started laughing. I confessed to my wife that I was very proud of her.

My wife has finally 'caught up' to the rest of us and realized that giving 110% only means that your employer is going to to give you 120% of the work. I believe that my wife was sort of struggling through an epiphany of some sort regarding the order of human society and just how many of us are slackers and nair-do-wells that take up space and collect a paycheck.

I knew I married the right person when I said the 'I Do' thing. She just keeps re-affirming that I made the right decision more and more each day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Meet Mr. Sympathy

The difference between Boys and Girls

We have two dogs. One is about a year and a half old [Bacchus, the good looking one in the background] and the other is all of 6 months [Max, in the foreground]. They each weigh about 40 to 50lbs. They love to play and chase each other around the back yard, which is a hoot to watch. Only problem is, when they are really going after one another they don't always watch 'where' they are going. This translates into 100lbs of dog going about 30mph. My wife found out just how dangerous this can be last weekend.

She was standing in our rear driveway and took her eyes off the dogs. Without warning, the 100lb dog missile slammed into the back of her legs and sent her flying backwards. She did a one and a half gainer into the concrete, with the back of her head hitting the ground first, followed by most of her shoulder blades and back.

She let out a scream and went limp on the pavement while the dogs circled her, trying to lick her face.

I came running out of the house to see what was wrong, and this is where my exceptional husband skills came into play.

I stood over her and asked her what happened.

"I fell, the dogs hit me!" (in a very painful voice, half crying)

"Can you get up?"

"NO!, I can't move! (more crying and grimacing)

"Can you move your fingers and toes?"

"I don't know!....it HURTS so much!" (more tears coming down the cheeks)

"If you can't get up in 3 minutes, I am calling an Ambulance"

"No you're Not....arrrggghhhh!" (more grimacing)

After about 5 minutes I was able to help her up and she survived with no permanent injury. She was stiff as a board for about 3 days and in a lot of pain. After consuming a whole bottle of Tylenol she healed enough to confide in me that she was not impressed with my empathy skills while she was laying on the ground. Her expectation was that I should get down on the ground with her and hug her and tell her everything was going to be all right.

Unfortunately, this is not how men think. My wife's mishap and injury were a problem to be solved, not an excuse for an emotional outburst. My first concern was for spinal injury and ascertaining if she just had accute pain or permanent severe injury, and if so, to get her professional treatment as soon as possible. In that respect, I wasn't going to try and touch or move her until I was sure that her spinal cord wasn't damanged

Obviously my wife thought otherwise. Her opinion, is that in cases of spinal injury and head trauma....hugs are best. '

So my new nick name is "Mr. Sympathy". I can live with that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

When Coincidence, Isn't

Somedays It Seems Like This

If you have read enough of this blog you probably know that I am a bit frustrated with some of the people that I have to interact with on a daily basis. My expectations of others may be a bit too high and maybe I should think about lowering them. Or, there is always the conspiracy theory.

I was pondering this in my favorite pondering place the other day, the men's bathroom stall. I get a lot of good blogging ideas in that little room. On one recent visit, my brain started analyzing some things that have been bugging me and I came up with some interesting 'what if scenarios'.

Many of the things that drive me nuts are not one-off occurrences. They are repetitive, they happen more than once, often times involving the same people, over and over. There comes a point where what initially looks like random stupidity starts to form a pattern. Where there are patterns there is predictability and organization.

Which leads me to the concern that we are really dumbing down over time and that we just don't perceive it because it is so slow and gradual.

Back in the 1950s there was a classic science fiction film called "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". This films underlying premise was based on the concept of the communist conspiracy that was overshadowing everything during the Cold War. The film has since been remade several times, most recently with Nicole Kidman, but nothing can really beat the original.

The premise behind the film was that as we slept, alien life forms were duplicating people into mindless zombies, that looked the same as the day before, but were emotionless and hollow. Sometimes, I have the feeling I am in a real life version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers".

If we all wake up tomorrow to find that our spouse / significant other has forgotten how to operate the car. Would we wonder if it is early Alzheimers or is someone putting something in the water to make us more stupid? Rarely does cultural change happen overnight. Most of the time it is gradual from generation to generation. However, the people born into today's media generation don't tend to see things this way and have a hard time understanding the concept of gradual change. Be it change for the good or change for the worse.

If a terrorist really wanted to 'defeat' us over time, they wouldn't be blowing things up. They would be finding slow, undetectable ways of dumbing us down with chemicals or media saturation. Or worse yet, we could be doing this to ourselves and not even know it. We don't know yet if using 'Splenda' or 'Equal' in our coffee might shrink our brains over generations.

Some of the recent patterns that really make me wonder about all this are:

The issues with my job (here are a few examples); "Example-1", "Example-2", "Example-3", "Example-4"

Auto Bailouts....doesn't anyone remember that we bailed out Chrysler once already about 20 years ago, and now they are back looking for more loan guarantees?

Bank Failures.....I can understand one or two.....but almost every large financial institution in the country is going down the tubes and none of the CEOs saw this coming? [Enron, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual...the list is endless]

Sex Scandals w/Politicians: Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, John Kennedy, Quami Kilpatrick....absolute power corrupts absolutely, but don't you think these guys would learn? .... not if they are using enough 'Splenda' they won't.

If a person has 6 auto accidents in 6 years, is it the car, the other drivers on the road or the owner who can't pay attention? As the driver you are choosing to accept the risk knowing that the competency of other drivers might not be that great based on the number of accidents in your area. However, when we do get into an accident (at least here), you are encouraged to assume it is someone else's fault and sue them (cha ching).

Your assumption of the risk has no bearing on your probability of getting injured. Therefore, the premise of interacting with other people that you know to be stupid means a win-fall for you? This is akin to doing jump rope in a minefield and then suing the land owner for your missing foot, even though the mine field is clearly posted. Are we really dumbing down this much?

I am starting to get worried....I am going to dig a bomb shelter for when the mindless zombies come looking for me in mass. At times, it seems like they already are. I can stock it full of food, LaserDiscs, Playboys and ..... lots of 'Splenda'.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Going Legit....

I never thought that when I started writing this blog that it would actually start to pay for itself. That was never my intent, but I must be doing something right, because that is what folks are starting to do.

I got an e-mail a few months ago from a publishing company called Turner Publishing. They indicated that they were willing to send me a copy of one of their latest books for free if I would review it in my blog. I sort of wondered if this was legit, but I figured I had nothing to loose, so I wrote back to the company and said sure, send me the book. Sure enough, 5 days later it showed up in the mail, and it is a 'nice book'. Hard cover on glossy paper. So without further delay, here is my review of "Historic Photographs Of Phoenix" published by Turner Publishing.

I liked this book because it deals with subjects that interest me, so in that regard I am a bit biased. I live in Phoenix, Arizona and I love photography so this is a match made in heaven. Add to the mix, the fact that Phoenix is a pretty 'young' city that does not have a lot of history or culture and a book of old pictures from the city's past makes for some interesting reading.

While the book covers a good portion of the history of Phoenix, it does seem a bit limited in its scope. There are segments of the history of this city that are left out or only slightly touched upon. Most of the photography deals with the history of Phoenix from 1890 through the early 1950s. During this time period, Phoenix was still a relatively small town. It grew considerably during the Second World War, and then really took off in the late 1950s and 1960. It is now the 5th largest metropolitan city in the United States. That is a lot of growth in a very short period of time. This book covers little of the time period from 1960 through 1980, when most of that growth took place.

The other thing I discovered that limits it's scope is the fact that all of the pictures are from public archives. The Phoenix Public Library and the Arizona Historical Society to be exact. Which means they are in the public domain. All the author did was go to these two sources, pay the copyright fees, do limited research and publish the results. There does not appear to be a lot of digging through the past to come up with images that are rare or out of the ordinary. The author simply packaged what was available to the public in a nice neat format.

Still, this is an entertaining book for most Phoenicians that have moved here in the last 10 years and don't know about how and why this city came to exist. Up until the Second World War, this was a very backward town. While New York and San Francisco were thriving in the 1920 and 1930, we still had dirt covered streets and swam in irrigation canals to beat the 110 degree heat. It was still the wild west up until 1941.

The book touches on some of the darker issues in Phoenix's past, but only slightly. The issues of race relations between Caucasians, Hispanics and African-Americans is barely mentioned, but was a big issue between the 1940s and 1960s. Prior to 1940, Hispanics played a major role in the development of the town. With the onset of WWII, the tightening of borders and the expanding military industrial complexes that sprang up around the growing city, the Caucasian influence became predominant and most ethnicities were marginalized until attitudes started to change in the 80s and 90s. The issue of race is still a hot button issue here regarding illegal immigration.

This would be a good gift for anyone in Phoenix that wants to know more about the city. If you want to know the real secrets of this town, you will have to dig a little bit deeper, but this book scratches the surface pretty well.

Historic Photos of Phoenix
Text and Captions by Eduardo Obregon Pagan
Published by Turner Publishing Company, Copyright: 2007

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Essential Cinema - 41

Snow Falling On Cedars

Ethan Hawke ... Ishmael Chambers
Youki Kudoh ... Hatsue Miyamoto
Reeve Carney ... Young Ishmael Chambers
Anne Suzuki ... Young Hatsue Imada
Rick Yune ... Kazuo Miyamoto
Max von Sydow ... Nels Gudmundsson (as Max Von Sydow)
James Rebhorn ... Alvin Hooks
James Cromwell ... Judge Fielding
Richard Jenkins ... Sheriff Art Moran

Scott Hicks

David Guterson (novel)
Ronald Bass (screenplay) (as Ron Bass) and
Scott Hicks (screenplay)

Robert Richardson

A murder trial in a remote Pacific Northwest island stirs memories of lost love and exposes the towns ethnic bias towards it's hard working immigrant neighbors.

Learning to let go of past loves and the struggle between doing the right thing as opposed to trying to recapture our youth.

I came across this film on DVD while I was at the local public library. I had heard of it but did not know much about it. I took it home and it sat on my DVD player until the day before it was due to be returned. We fired up the DVD that evening and my wife and I watched it all the way through. We were both pretty impressed.

The first thing that astounds you about this film is the cinematography. Having dabbled in film making myself, I know how hard it was to get many of the shots you see in this film. This film was nominated for an Oscar for it cinematography for good reason, it is absolutely beautiful to watch.

The other thing that impressed me so much about this film was the period look. The set designers worked overtime on this film to get the look of the late 1940s Pacific Northwest just right. Having lived in Oregon and Washington this film made me long for the cold, wet winters, the cedar and pine trees and the crashing of the ocean against rocky shores.

Many of my fellow bloggers write film reviews and give their opinions on the current state of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Most of these reviews center around the current phase of fantasy and escapist films that the Southern California special effects factories churn out on a quarterly basis. Most are slick, some are will written (even though they are based on comic books), but most leave me empty. That isn't the case with this work. Snow Falling On Cedars deals with the emotions of life spanning years, wars, loves and moral struggles in a small, idyllic, remote community.

The film deals with issues all of us will face at some point in our lives which is why it is so moving to watch. The viewer can relate to what is going on with the characters and come to the understanding that we all share something of the human experience. There are few cons with this film. The acting by the cast is competent if not exceptional. Max Von Sydow's closing arguments in the murder trial may be one of the best I have ever seen on film. I highly recommend this film.

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry for this film. The listing of all the LaserDiscs that I have reviewed on IMDB can be found here.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Work With Me Here, Folks

The Alternate View Awaits You

I guess some of you didn't get the memo, or some of you are just lazy, or some of you are just so blown away by my awesome ability that going here makes you feel inferior, but I have not been getting as much traffic on my alternate blog. You really owe it to yourself to check out "The Alternate View" so you can see just how wonderful and depressing my life can be all at the same time.

I mean seriously, look what you are missing. Stuff like this:

and this:


and this:

or maybe this:


and who can forget this!

OK, you might want to forget that last one, but hey, sometimes life isn't pretty!

Only two brave soles have signed up to follow this blog, so show me some love folks!

And while I am on the subject, I could use a few more subscribers on this blog as well. I mean really, Slyde and Earl are kicking my ass in this department and you KNOW my blog is better than theirs! (at least in quality, maybe not quantity).

So check me out and sign up....consider it my really cheap Christmas present.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm Out Of Touch

Bake Me Some Cookies Instead

I have gotten this e-mail a few times over the past several days from well meaning friends. It indicates that a lot of the gift cards that you may have recevied in the past, or may get in the near future may be worthless unless they are used quickly.

It goes on to give a list of the stores that are either going out of business or curtailing their market presence in the coming months.

As I scanned down through the list I was rather apathetic. Call me strange (in a good way), but I don't know what most of these stores even sell and I have not visited any of them in the past 5 years (with the exception of Home Depot, I live there on the weekends).

I suppose that shop-a-holics may be in for a bit of belt tightening in the coming economic downturn, but based on this list, I will barely notice it.


For all you gift card lovers, be sure not to buy any at the following stores. Many are reducing the number of stores or are going out of business completely. Most often, gift cards are not honored once the company has declared bankruptcy.

Stores that informed the Security Exchange of closing plans between October 2008 and January 2009.

Circuit City stores

Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine's to close 150 store nationwide

Eddie Bauer to close 27 stores and more after January

Cache will close all stores

Talbots closing down all stores

J. Jill closing all stores

GAP closing 85 stores

Footlocker closing 140 stores, more to close after January

Wickes Furniture closing down

Levitz closing down remaining stores

Bombay closing remaining stores

Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January.

Whitehall closing all stores

Piercing Pagoda closing all stores

Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.

Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ (New Brunswick)

Macys to close 9 stores after January

Linens and Things closing all stores

Movie Galley Closing all stores

Pacific Sunware closing stores

Pep Boys Closing 33 stores

Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores

JC Penney closing a number of stores after January

Ethan Allen closing down 12 stores.

Wilson Leather closing down all stores

Sharper Image closing down all stores

K B Toys closing 356 stores

Loews to close down some stores

Dillard's to close some stores.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dope Deals 2.0

vaGR@ ? Piles at hand

I don't get a lot of spam anymore. I get most of my e-mail through G-Mail and they have a pretty good spam filter that learns based on what you mark as spam.

Today I went into the Spam folder to clear it out and browsed through it to make sure that something hadn't been accidently placed there. Nothing was, but I was amazed at the tenacity of online spamers to try and beat the filters. Listed below are some of the subject lines for these messaged (cleaned up a bit).

I find it hard to beleive that there is really that big a market for Viagra and Cialis in this country. Having talked to numerous women over the years, I know there are a lot of middle aged and older men that place a very high importance on their sexual performance. If you see a 65 year old man in polyester pants, a comb-over and a shinny 1992 Corvette, there is a good chance there is Viagra in his pocket as well. But come on guys, move on. Take up stamp collecting or go back to school. There are other things in this world besides chasing tail.

For those that just have to please their spouse, you really can't go to your doctor and get a perscription? There is enough of a market to keep all these spammers in business?

And I really want to earn the $4,000 for the online survey so I can buy lots and lots of those TagHeuer and Rolex knockoffs.

(be advised that the spelling and punctutation is as I found it)

I would trust these guys to sell me drugs....wouldn't you?

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Love Karma

Porcupine Collector

I got to see a funny thing on my walk to work yesterday. I left for the gym at around 5am and it was still pitch black outside.

As I walked through our sleeping neighborhood, I passed a house that had recently been rented by the owners who were out of town on extended family business. The new renter has a huge dooley pickup truck and a smaller tow truck that he parks on the street. I knew from previous walks by his house that his line of work is a Repo-Man. His tow truck say "Allstate Recovery Systems" on the drivers door. Not the kind of name you would give to a local auto mechanic.

So as I passed the rental property in the early morning twilight, there was the tow truck and attached to it's hitch, with its rear wheels off the ground, was a brand new $70,000 Porsche Carrera. The Repo-Man had probably been stalking it for days.

If you need an indicator of how bad the economy is getting, there is an investment banker or real estate agent in Scottsdale, Arizona that is probably missing his 'ride' because of the plunging stock market.

The old joke about Porsche's is; "Whats the difference between a porcupine and a Porsche? Porcupines have their pricks on the outside. There is evidently one prick in Arizona that couldn't make his $600 a month car payment, who is now riding the bus.

(In all fairness, I own an exotic sports car as well, but mine is paid for. People that live within their means are usually not pricks.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Flood Gates

Better grab a paddle

I haven't been writing a lot recently. Been pretty busy. We have a new dog that has been demanding a lot of our attention. After doing a lot of renovation on the house cash is pretty tight, Halloween came and went and there are still half finished projects to finish up around the homestead, not to mention some work on my other blog, "The Alternate View".

However, behind the scenes, a lot has been going through my mind. These thoughts have mostly been about things that have been bugging me, which is sort of a constant theme in my brain. I have several blogs in the pipeline that are getting ready to launch but something always comes up.

Then something sort of dawned on me today while standing at the bus stop. I whipped out my little notepad and started to 'link' a bunch of the thought streams. By the time I exited the bus an idea had congealed on the paper.

First and foremost, even though this blog is entitled "Hypocrisy", it has been taking a rather negative tone of late as I continue to battle with the incompetency dragon that is constantly nipping at my heels. So I am going to change the tone of the blog and steer away from the obvious things that have been driving me nuts and move in a broader more positive direction. But before I go, I am giving it one last send-up.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I try and keep these things short. Nothing is more tedious than reading through a really long blog. By definition they are supposed to be short, not mini-novels. I experimented with the trilogy concept before in my blog "The Great Puzzle". In that blog, I took a complex and profound subject and broke it up into 3 installments. If any of you read through all three of them, you know my view on religion, the universe, the afterlife and the meaning of it all. Like I said, heady stuff to try and fit into one blog.

I will be doing the same thing with my last 'ranting' post. It will be in three parts and entitled the "The Perception Trilogy". The first installment won't be posted for another week or so.

After The Perception Trilogy, the only ranting blog entries will probably be in the "Dip-Shit" series. The rest of the blog entries on Hypocrisy will be warm and fuzzy....or maybe not....depends how many folks piss me off in the interum.

Stay Tuned.....

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).

.....no 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.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Are You Worth?

You Probably Owe Me!

I am not talking about the dollars stuffed into you mattress or the value of your house. I am referring to you as a person. This is something that has evolved with me over the years. Your value is like your credit score. If it isn't up to a certain amount, I don't want to know you.

This whole concept will take a little background to explain. Most of you probably know me as the charming, witty, satirical, patient and drop dead good looking stud that writes this blog. But what most of you don't realize, is that I have not always been this way.

Back in the days of my youth....way back, I was a pretty introverted shy person. In grade school I was the class clown and always wanted people to like me. This personality followed me all the way up to my college days, when I slowly started to learn something. The people that I wanted to like me and be friends with really weren't as cool or trustworthy as I thought.

I had been raised and taught that if someone was successful in this world it was due to natural selection. If you were a good athlete or owned a large business or were fabulously wealthy, you had to be smarter than me. It was only logical that stupid, ignorant, dumb-asses couldn't end up directing General Motors or driving around in Ferrari's. That just wouldn't make sense.

Boy, was I wrong. Idiocy and stupidity is spread equally throughout the entire population. There are stupid dumpster divers and there are stupid CEOs (Cheif Executive Officers). The only real difference is that the stupid dumpster divers can't screw up the lives of thousands of people the way a stupid CEO can.

As this nightmare of reality slowly set in over the years, I developed a system of 'grading' people based on their abilities. I leaned to ignore how they looked and their personality, and looked deeper into their abilities to deal with their world and solve problems. I strove to find out if they were proactive and attacked problems or if they were passive and complained. As I learned and interacted with more and more people, little dollars signs began to float above their heads like 'thought balloons'. (Not real thought balloons mind you, imaginary thought balloons.)

These dollar figures floating above their heads represented my 'cost' as a result of interacting with these people. If you have a positive dollar amount floating above your head, you are an asset to me and the rest of society. You help others understand and contribute to the general knowledge and problem solving of this world.

If you have a negative dollar sign floating above your head, you are a 'life thief'. Someone that steals other people's time and wastes their energies so that you can deal with your problems.

Every time I meet someone I don't know, the dollar amount floating over their head is zero. Based on their actions or in-actions over time, it starts to go up or down. Sadly, I have to report that the majority of people I have met in this world have a negative balance. Some of them have HUGE negative balances.

These are the people that can't figure things out on their own and constantly seek the help / input from others to make it through their day-to-day existence. They perceive every 'want and desire' as a 'need' that others must fill for them. Every time I have to interact with these people, in my office, on the street, over the phone, their little 'dollar sign thought balloon' starts counting downward like a pinball machine adding up a score in reverse.

As I stand on the threshold of 52 years of age, there are several people that have passed through my life that have given me thousands of dollars in life experience. But the rest of the planet owes me about $57,299,201,198.72. (That is fifty seven billion, two hundred ninety nine million, two hundred one thousand, one hundred ninety eight dollars and seventy two cents!) And for some reason, I don't think they are going to pay up!

My one real goal in this life is to invent a pair of special glasses that would allow others to see everyone's monitary thought balloons. They would help us all avoid a lot of pitfalls in life.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I Don't Do Warm & Fuzzy Very Well Anymore

We all have friends that instead of writing deep, satirical or witty thoughts on blogs simply forward on 'cute' things that they get via e-mail. I suspect that these folks have a lot of insecurities. Getting and receiving these little trinkets of cute animals and animated gifs makes them feel better. Sort of like electronic valium.

Since I like to consider myself more of a creator and interpreter of things instead of someone that just references someone else ideas, these types of spam e-mail don't go over very well with me. Especially the farfetched stories of hope, redemption or political backstabbing that can easily be debunked on Snopes.com.

So when a good friend of mine sent me the following reminiscing narrative about the 1950s (complete with cute pictures of 57 Chevy's and Howdy Doodie) I had had enough. Attached is a truncated version of the 'spam' and my response.

I guess I am just not Mr. Warm and Fuzzy anymore.


It took five minutes for the TV warm up?

Nearly everyone's Mom was at home when the kids got home from school?

When a quarter was a decent allowance?

You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped, without asking, all for free, every time? And you didn't pay for air? And, you got trading stamps to boot?

Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box?

They threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed. . . and they did?

When a '57 Chevy was everyone's dream car... to cruise, peel out, lay rubber, or watch submarine races - - and teens went steady?

No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked?

Stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger?

Sharing this today because it ended with a double dog dare to pass it on. To remember what a double dog dare is, read on. And remember that the perfect age is somewhere between old enough to know better and too young to care.


(My Response)

I think I must see this or similar chain e-mail about 4 or 5 times a year, dreaming of the good-ole days and memories of youth and simplicity. It appears that this is a reaction to our general notion of how much things 'suck' these days and how our lives really aren't any better, and in fact have gotten progressively worse. So I want to give a bit of a counterpoint here.

While I have fond memories of my youth, the reality is that we are all lucky to have survived it. Lest we forget, these were some of the realities of life back in the 1950s and 1960s:


Cancer was a death sentence. If you got the big "C", you were pretty much written off. There were no radical mastectomies or radiation treatments. Once you got it, you went home, closed the shutters and waited to die.

An abortion marked you for life or was done with a coat hanger. There was no second chance or societal acceptance. You were usually sent away for 9 months, so that nature could take its course, and when you returned the next school year, everyone whispered behind your back. Gotta love that peer pressure.

One word: DDT - there was little to no government over site regarding chemicals or their manufacture and use.

Segregation - the 50s where great, as long as you were Caucasian and reasonably well off. If you were black, Hispanic or Asian, all you could aspire to was landscaper or man servant and when you got old you lived off your children.

No Air Conditioning / especially in your cars - you froze in the winter and sweat buckets in the summer. There was no climate control, even in your 57 Chevy. Ever try and sleep in a bed with the temperature at 90 degrees with 60% humidity. Owww, yeah, I want to do that again!

It took 2 weeks to communicate with someone on the other side of the world and traveling took weeks to prepare and execute. Now you have a cell phone, global transport and e-mail. Think about doing without them for a week and see how much you like it.

The threat of MAD. For those that don't remember this, MAD = Mutually Assured Destruction. The concept that every man woman and child in the US had over 5,000 TONS! of TNT aimed at us every day and night for almost 20 years. Yeah, that felt good.

The McCarthy Hearings - Absolute power corrupts without over-site. Back then you could be blacklisted and expelled or even put to death for your political beliefs. Those gay protesters in New York today would have been rounded up, put on a boat and sunk in the middle of New York Harbor back in 1950s.

Atmospheric Nuclear Testing - Nothing like the orange glow of nuclear tainted dust in the sunset just north of Las Vegas to give you that deep down warm feeling.....from radioactive fallout hitting your skin as it drifted toward Kansas.

Thalidomide - Side effects, what side effects? This drug (given to calm expectant mothers) caused more birth defects than any known medication in history. They hadn't quite perfected that Hippocratic Oath thing about 'Doing No Harm'.

Let’s not forget everyone's favorite contagious disease: Polio.....before Salk and Sabin put their heads together, every child rolled the dice when they went to school....and possibly came home crippled.

No Air Bags or Seat belts - if you got into an accident going over 40, you died. Pretty simple. The insides of cars had no padding, lots of glass and metal and no seat belts or airbags. Knock your head into a glass plate at 40 mph and see how it feels. There wasn't any OnStar to call for help when you rolled your Hudson either.

The Draft - Didn't matter if you were a straight A student or not. If Uncle Sam needed you, you went, and got killed if necessary.

If you were handicapped or in a wheelchair you were considered 'different' and usually shuffled off to an 'institution' where folks like you were out of sight from us 'normal' folks.

No Miranda Rights / Fleeing Felon Rule - If you got arrested for anything....you had no rights between the time the police put the cuffs on you and your arraignment before the judge. If you got out of line, a black eye was the least of your worries. If you ran from the police after 'allegedly committing a felony' the police had the right to shoot you, no questions asked.

These are the obvious things that spring to mind but I am sure I can think of others. It isn't so much that the world was such a better place back then, it is that we have 'chosen' to live a life that we are not happy with today. We can choose differently, but peer / media pressure sort of persuade us not to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Your Own Private Waterloo

The World Is Yours For The Taking

As mentioned in a previous blog about my current addictions, I play a game. Calling it a game might be a bit of misnomer. It is more of an epic simulation. The type of struggle that all men dream of, but few will ever get to experience in this day and age.

Do Your Duty

This simulation is called "Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition". It is a simplified war game that can be played against the computer or against other human players, either via a network or via e-mail. Calling it simplified may be a bit miss-leading. Considering that there are about 30 types of units, terrain factors, weather factors, supply/economic factors as well as some engineering involved. Keeping track of everything can be a pretty daunting task.

The Struggle For The Straits

Simulations such as this teach you how things work in a strategic sense. Finding ways to produce, transport, confront and triumph over an enemy that is far away and entrenched is not an easy task. Alexander found this out, Caesar learned this, as did Hitler, Eisenhower and Mao. It is a bit of a lost art, except for the few that have the patience and the time to learn it.

That is where Empire Deluxe comes in. It recreates all of these factors. The only thing left out are the politics, and even that factors in, in the form of treaties and agreements between the players.

Oil Fields and Infrastructure

Which brings me to the current game. We are in turn 332 at last count. The game has been ongoing for about a year and a half. We started out with four players, but one of them didn't fare too well and he was annihilated. That leaves three of us and by the looks of things, we will be playing this game well into turn 500. The turns are completed, and then e-mailed, round-robin to each player. Given about one turn every 3 days for each of us during the average week, that would put the game well into 2010at the current rate of combat.

Modern combat of this type teaches you some interesting facts about warfare. When you have oceans....sea power is key to assault and supply. Air-power is critical to sustain any assualt and counter attack. Suprise attacks are best when possible, and nuclear weapons have their limitations. These are things that bring the nightly news report on foreign policy into clearer focus. Although the advantages of airborne assault over a narrow strait have little value when watching American Idol.

The Fog Of War

The Opening graphic is the current game map from my point of view. This isn't visible outside the game application, so I created a graphic mosaic to show the scope of the entire conflict. Clicking on the graphic will take you to a larger resolution image that is 2000 pixels across. If you really want to 'see' the entire war in detail, you can try and view the full size map of the entire conflict in its original size (7000 pixels across), but be warned, it is a 9 megabyte file. The detail and complexity are astounding.

If anyone is intersting in learning this game or finding out more about it, drop me an e-mail at lotus07@gmail.com.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Day Dreaming

Initial Shape Study

I had a productive weekend. Got a lot of stuff done in the garage, did a lot of landscaping, got some shopping out of the way. It was 3 days of bliss. Which is why coming back to my office this Monday is pretty depressing.

Basic Design Refined - Mirrored Skin

Working in State Government is like running a marthon in led sneakers. After a while, you just learn to shuffle. After so much shuffling, your mind tends to wonder to flights of fancy and the way things could be.

Final Texture Study

In the days before I took to writing everything down. I used to doodle. Not doodle with pencil and pen, but with computer animation models and raytracing software. If fascinated me a lot until I hit a bit of a brick wall when it came to complex structure design and textures.

Final Design and Detailing

There are still a lot of my old renderings on my computer at the office. Someday I might get back to it. When time permits. That is to say when I retire. These pictures are of a dream I had once. A dream of being severed from the led sneakers that drag me down and sailing amoung the stars in my own space yacht. When I dream, I dream big and in detail.

Final Rendering

It is images such as these that make me realize that I can discover so much more when I am freed from the rigid organizational structure of my job and set free to pursue my dreams. I suppose that most of life is a test to see if you can figure out what you realy want to do. It seems that life is full of TESTS.

These Raytrace renderings were modeled using Moray 3.5 and rendered with POV-Raytracer. Clicking on the pictures will take you to the full size renderings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Current Addictions

I rarely do these

I have been tagged to do a 'Meme'. A meme is a list of questions that are sent to you by someone else in the blogsphere that you are supposed to answer, and then 'tag' other readers to answer them as well. From my time on MySpace, I grew to hate these things, since adolescents like nothing more than to pepper everyone they can with questions.

My temperament has cooled since those days and since 'Caz' has shown extreme intelligence by commenting on my blog, I figure I owe her. Besides, she just got burglarized and I feel bad for her.

So without further delay, here it is:

Now... the rules:
*Post at least five current addictions (with some details please)
*Mention the person who started this game of tag (Being Brazen) and also the person who just tagged you (in my case, Caz).
*Type your post with the heading "Current addictions"
*Tag at least two people and pass on the above rules.

Nintendo 64 / GameCube:

This sort of comes and goes, but I have always been a Nintendo man. Their games have always tweaked my interest more, ever since Super Mario. I am currently engrossed in "Medal of Honor: Rising Sun", where I am kicking some serious butt in the Pacific during WWII. I turned my wife onto the "New Tetris" on our Nintendo 64 (which is really awesome on an HDTV) and now she is totally addicted to that game. We go head to head on it and the games are similar to a World Wrestling Federation brawl. She is pretty competitive.


I have over 250 of them. Being something of a cinema snob, there are a lot of films on Laserdisc that you just can't get anywhere else. Just try finding a good copy of Fellini's "La Strada" on VHS or DVD. While they haven't been manufactured for over 10 years, there is still a hard core group of folks devoted to them. You can check out my collection on the Internet LaserDisc Catalog Site.

Empire Deluxe:

This is a computer game that goes way, way back to the days of DOS and floppy Disk. It was so simple and well thought out that it developed a loyal following of war gamers. It has since morphed and been acquired by various folks until it landed in the hands of Killer Bee Software, who currently markets the EDEE Edition (Empire Deluxe Enhanced Edition). I am currently involved in a War with two other players in this game that has been going on for almost a year and half. We are at turn 320+ and still going strong. The turns are sent around via e-mail, played, saved and then forwarded. Currently each game turn takes about 30 minutes to complete. I can't go into all the details, but if anyone is interested in finding their inner Napoleon, let me know and I will fill you in. You will either love this game or find it somewhat odd. Slyde and Earl should play this just so they can bomb and nuke one another. The website for the game is here.


This goes way back as well, to my days in college. I am not talking digital here. I am talking 35mm and up. 120mm and 4X5 inch negatives taken with older view cameras such as Speed Graphics and Hasselblads. There is something about manipulating film in the dark and the smell of the chemicals as well as having an intimate control over the image that makes this much better than point and click. Besides, there is a thrill when you punch the shutter release and realize that for better or worse, you just blew $2 on an image. Check my Flickr page for proof.

The Garage:

The never ending project. I suppose I have this vision that it will be the ultimate creative zone where I will do woodworking, vehicle maintenance, dark room and storage library. I am almost there, but little things keep getting thrown into the mix that keep taking me off course. Wait till I retire. Then I will disappear into the garage and not be seen from again in this millennium.

As for who I would tag (and I loath to do so) I will be tapping those folks that I think might be the most likely to actually respond. But if they don't, I totally understand. So go for it girls, show me the love......

Cocaine Princess
I'd Rather Be Blogging

That is it, no more memes until the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Documentaries

(Update: I have been off line recently due to a 'Perfect Storm' of events around our home, jobs, family, etc. Hopefully things will be back on track in the near future. In the meantime, show me the 'love' by signing up as one of my Opinionated Readers on the right side tool bar by pressing the "Follow This Blog" link. So far Earl is the only one with enough guts to do it. Way to go Earl!

Now that the initial shock of Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has worn off I would like to comment on something that has been on the back burner of my blog list.

Hopefully, by the time someone stumbles across this blog in a few years they will ask the question, "Who was Sarah Palin". My nightmare scenario is that they will say, "Oh, you mean the President?".

Enough has already been written about her and I am sure there will be more. I don't intend to expand on that debate. As I have commented to others, I am just content to watch the new Reality Show called Presidential Politics and see who gets voted out of the Oval Office next. I see it as entertainment more than anything else. It has gotten too bizarre to be taken seriously. This may sound a bit harsh, but if you really want to know my views on it, check out the blog I wrote about 2 years ago called "Don't Vote".

The issue that Sarah Palin's candidacy brought up is that there are folks that DO think she is an excellent candidate. Most of my friends don't like her and believe that she is a bunt in the baseball game of politics meant to shake things up. However, there is also a large amount of the population that believe she is a God-Send and are now 'eager' to vote for John McCain. I got to see a great example of these folks on television the other night.

I have repeatedly lamented the state of the American Media (radio, television, print, Internet) and the way it manipulates us and skews our views. Regardless of the slant that ABC or CNN give Sarah Palin, they are giving her a bunch of air time. The thought of simply ignoring her as a one-off freak of politics never enters their mind. Viewers are like hungry puppies, they gather around any food dish you put in front of them.

In my disgust with the media, I have turned away from it to try and find other sources of information that might give me a balanced view, a different view. I want to turn over the rock of American Society and see what is crawling around underneath. Most media outlets don't want you to see what is under their.

One of the sources I have turned to is the Documentary Film Maker. The person that creates informational media outside the corporate umbrella and therefore is free to explore issues without fear of retribution. You won't find most of these film in wide circulation. They play at art house cinemas which are few and far between and on a few cable channels if you buy the premium package. I find them on the Internet and download them to my iMac, then transfer them to my AppleTV (a small DVR hooked up to our HDTV). I would gladly pay to see most of these, if they ever came to this state for viewing, but they don't, for good reason.

Major players in the media markets (political parties, mega-corporation, religious sects) don't want you to see these films. They peel back the veneer of society that main-stream media has created and show a world of manipulation and power that most of us are not supposed to know about.

A listing of a few of the more entertaining ones can be found below:

Zietgiest: Question everything you have been taught, with a bit of paranoia thrown in. Excellent propaganda. The "Triumph of the Will" of our time. Download it for free and watch it here.

Who Killed The Electric Car: Long before $4 a gallon gas, Detroit built the ideal commuter vehicle. Everyone loved it, except for big oil, so they killed it. Thanks Exxon/Mobil.

Bush's Brain: The story of Karl Rove and the making of the President ("W"). Talk about a puppet-master!

Jesus Camp: Making warriors for God in the upper mid-west. Nothing like teaching 9 year olds to speak in tongues and showing them what an aborted fetus looks like. These are the folks that will be voting for Sarah Palin in mass.

Lake of Fire: The extreme Evangelical Right-Wing and the issue of abortion in the Midwest. Residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles will think that mindless space zombies populate North and South Dakota after watching this.

Holes In Heaven: Ever hear of H.A.A.R.P.? Probably not, the government doesn't want you to. The old saying was "It isn't nice to fool with Mother Nature". Governments never got this message and they are fooling around big time.

The Fog of War: The memoirs of Robert McNamara and the horror of the Military Industrial Complex, recounted by the man that lead it for almost 8 years.

There are others, but the list goes on and on. After watching these films, I am amazed that nothing even remotely close to them appears on broadcast or cable television. The fact that 99.8% of the population will tune in to "Two and a Half Men" and "America's Got Talent" and only .02% of the population even know that these documentaries exist is one of the saddest thing I have had to come to grips with. We are all headed toward a mass grave with a Twinkie in one hand and a Remote Control in the other, and we are smiling all the way.