Monday, March 30, 2009

Did They Actually Say That on TV???

Oh, my gosh...DON'T LOOK, ETHEL!!!

It's been a while since I've watched Network TV on any kind of regular basis...I have to admit I'm a big fan of "CSI: Miami", although Horatio Caine's character involves him speaking in a low, scratchy monotone All Of The Time; you know, like the characters in the old 'Dragnet' TV show might employ. All hell breaks loose in the Miami Crime Lab, and Horatio is all So Very Serious: "We'll get through this. It looks like someone's taking a Bite Out Our Crime Lab...well, We're Biting Back...". So, I am watching not only the old CSI: Miami shows on A&E, I'm also watching Monday Nights when the newest shows air on the CBS Television Network. To make sure I don't forget to tune in at 10PM Monday night, I switch over to CBS earlier so I won't forget to Go To CBS later. I don't watch the two sitcoms before "CSI: Miami", and even though I don't watch those shows, "Two and a half men" and "Rules of Engagement", I am amazed by them just the same. By my own conservative estimate, 85% of the dialogue during the Monday Nite 9pm-10pm hour on CBS refers to sex happening now, or sex that is going to happen, sex that just happened, or sex that happened long, long ago. The other 15% of that hour is, of course, taken up by commercials. Blahhh...
It doesn't matter if it's gay sex, straight sex, or sex with the teacher, sexual fantasies, sexual innuendo or blatantly obvious sexual chatter; during that hour (9PM to 10PM), you'll get more than your share of TV sex, even if you're not paying attention to the shows, like I wasn't. And these are situation COMEDIES? They're not even FUNNY! And still, the Network drapes it all in Canned Laughter, which is the network's way of saying, "hey, you're supposed to laugh now, even if you don't want to." I've seen my share of TV shows that dealt with sex, but at least the sexual stuff was done in a classier way, with plot twists, complications, and those shows at least appreciated the intellect of the viewer by not immersing the script in the gutter. In contrast, it's almost as if every line of (at least) these two TV shows has to be draped in sex, directed toward sex, loaded with sex, or immersed in sex. And, if the writer can sneak in the name of an actual body part, so much the better these days (?). Look, I'm no prude, but I don't go for the Lowest Common Denominator either. Have you noticed this trend in the sitcoms you watch? I haven't watched sitcoms on a regular basis for several years now. And, my, How things have changed.

I'm giving up Coffee, at least for a while. So far, it's been Five Days since I indulged in the mighty Essence of the Coffee Bean. I feel like I've been getting really 'jittery' lately after concentrated coffee drinking. Of course, that also involves Soft Drinks, and all I can say is, I'm gonna miss my Pepsi; it's a buddy that's been with me a long time, and I love the stuff. So when I need my carbonation-fix, I guess it's gonna be Root Beer, or Cream Soda, both of which have no caffeine. (Be sure and read the labels for a brand without Caffeine!) Since I won't drink diet pop, they're not "less filling", har-harrrr. So what do you think I read in the newspaper today, of all days? The day I realized I hadn't had caffeine in 5 days, so today I Made My Decision to quit caffeine. An article spouted the headline, "A Cup of Joe Can Be Good For You", and went on to say that people who drank coffee were less prone to get all sorts of mean, nasty, ugly things. It specifically said that if people Smoked and Drank, Caffeine would lower their percentage of coming down with certain maladies, which was something I wasn't prepared for. And, I'm shocked.

So should I now go back to caffeine? And, should I start smoking, so that the caffeine will block all the stuff I'd get if I only consumed caffeine but didn't smoke? No, I'm standing my ground. No caffeine for a while. And no cigarettes, either. Not only am I Highly Opposed to them, even if I was inclined to smoke, but Cigarettes Ain't Cheap These Days, which oughta be incentive enough to force Millions, if not Billions, of people to quit. Even the Generic-cheapo cigarettes, which hopefully yet aren't constructed out of recycled tissue paper, are up and over 3 bucks a pack. That's all my budget needs at this point in time. I also never understood how people can smoke 2, 3 or more packs a day. I must admit long ago that I tried lighting up. Ack. WHO DUMPED THE CHARCOAL IN MY MOUTH? I couldn't inhale at all. My lungs boarded themselves shut, and That Was The End Of That. That was in 1976. I smoked (or tried to) for One Late Evening, while staying up all night studying for College Final Exams. Let's just say I got crazy and leave it at that. How about that. Corrupted by Higher Learning.


How about one more little thing that Flew In From Left Field and made me shake my've heard about the Auto Company Bail-outs? How about this: It's been reported that Auto Companies who've Taken Bail-outs are finding that their Sales are dropping. Why? Because they took the bail-out!!! I wasn't ready for that one. So, NOTHING'S WORKING!!! And I know President Obama is doing his best, but more and more, it's looking like the Automakers are gonna have to just sort this one out for themselves. Maybe someday this country will look like Downtown Havana, Cuba...a scene littered with old-beater-dinosaur-falling-apart vehicles. If auto sales are slowing down in the U.S., which they ARE, that means people will be hanging to their old klunker-cars for longer and longer. MY car is 10 years old, but it's a Dodge Intrepid, so it still looks fairly cool. But how about that...helping an industry is hurting it at the same time. John Lennon said it well..."Nobody Told Me There'd Be Days Like These...Strange Days Indeed".

Is it just me, or is the world getting crazier as time goes on? It sure feels that way. And after proofreading this post and digesting the subject matter, the words of a 1975 Paul Simon song came to mind...

I sit by myself and I watch the cars...I fear I'll do some damage one fine day...
But I would not be convicted by a Jury of my peers...Still Crazy After All These Years...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Everything You Know Is Wrong...
Sometimes, GREEN is Not "Green"!
Sometimes it amazes me, the things one can glean from newspapers. Actually, these days, with all the layoffs in the industry, I'm amazed I can manage to even FIND a newspaper. But seriously, all started when I scanned the Editorial Page; you know, the portion of the paper where Those With Almighty Journalistic Integrity, Scruples, and Educated Judgment proceed to lay all their personal insights on the rest of us, and we, the readers, not only get to read the bad news, but then have the Editorial Page editors and writers tell us all what that bad news MEANS. What amazes me the most, however, is the fact that I have not yet even begun to approach the Subject of this Post...hmmm...does that qualify me for space on the Editorial Page....? Anyway, one such Editorial Offering informed me about the Very Deep Meaning of Michelle Obama (That would be the current White House Wife) planting a vegetable garden on the posh back lawn of the White House. This would be that same back lawn that generations of Presidential Gardeners have been paid overinflated thousands of dollars to maintain in years past. In short, the White House Back Lawn Turf is gonna be unceremoniously ripped out, to be replaced with stuff like Zucchini, Radishes, Onions, maybe even Rhubarb and Artichokes. And yea verily, the White House Wife and the White House Daughters will till the soil and harvest the agricultural bounty yielded by the earth-laden soil, and All Will Be Good and All Will Prosper. (Where did THAT come from? And why did I write that?)
As the Wise and obviously diluted-into-a-stronger-mix copy in this article on the Editorial Page proceeded, it went from the 'Specific' into the 'General', by commenting on Grass in general. The "legal" grass, that is. Grass in the form of Yards. Not the three-foot-yard, but the concept of Yards, as in front yard and back yard, and more specifically, the grass in those yards. Now I had never looked at it this way before, but the Writer of This Obviously agonizing-over-every-word Editorial Article pretty-much painted the picture of the traditional Lawn as being oxygen-consuming, yielding absolutely nothing, and perhaps being nothing but a Wasteful Tending Of The Soil. In short, you plant grass, you mow it, you water it, but what does Grass Really Do? You can't eat it, I'm sure you couldn't smoke, Grass Just Sits There And Performs No Practical Function Whatsoever, according to this Editorial Page Writer. And as such, the Average American Grass-laden Yard tells the world that we don't have initiative to instead rip up the whole damn thing and put a garden in its place in this age of financial cutbacks everywhere. Grow Yer Own Food, no matter what the cost of Putting In A Garden turns out to be. Ack.
There's an old Debating Tactic called "Begging The Question", in which one small point is seized on and magnified to an excruciating degree, and thusly, I have done just that here, regarding the subject matter of this pending lawn-to-farm-at-the-White House Editorial comment...Obviously, the writer was imploring us to Put Away our Lawn Mowers and get out Our Shovels! Yea, verily, it's our duty as AMERICAN CITIZENS to TEAR the grass OUT of our yards, put in plants, and hope to have a good harvest before Winter Winds begin to whip most of the country into a desolate icebox in which nothing will grow, until the next spring. In short, a GREEN lawn isn't "Green", ecologically speaking anymore. To that, I say this: I HATE digging weeds. I HATE the annoying hayfever when I get close to anything even APPROACHING a garden. I don't grow things. I just don't. I think Garden Work is the most tedious, hellaciously BORING work that I've ever done. I'd rather mow the lawn than being involved with anything that has anything to do with a garden. And I can't STAND lawn-mowing. And I don't really like vegetables either. Where's the air conditioner? Just leave me out of this...I just wanna go sit in the shade for a while...
So why am I spinning my wheels with this diatribe? For one reason, mainly. The House where I Grew Up was situated on a large Corner Lot. We had 26 Pine Trees on that lot, and I mowed that lawn many a time. It's hard to mow a lawn when you're sneezing several times a second 'cos the hayfever's invading the ol' sinuses, but I survived. But mostly, I remember throwing the Frisbee with my Dad, or tossing the baseball back and forth with a friend, or shooting the basketball on the backyard court, or sitting in the lush grass with My Dog At My Side. I remember outdoor meals, and my Mom as she tended the her flower garden, which had Huge Plants in it every year, turning it into a virtual jungle that our longhaired cat, "Rascal", went hunting in. The Yard signifies to me life and good times, and to this day I cringe at the thought of Being Somewhere That is Not Green. How someone can live in, say, Elko, Nevada or in Death Valley, or almost anywhere in Whitman County, Washington is Beyond Me. Most of all, I miss the Frame of Mind I had when I was a kid, out laying on the Grass. It was a secure feeling that I Just Don't Have Anymore. And I haven't had Quite That Feeling for such a long time now. I cherish the memories, though. But this editorial writer pretty-much portrayed the Lawn as an Earmark of laziness on the part of the American Public. What a shame...all that land that could be PRODUCING something, and what do they do? They grow GREEN GRASS INSTEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, they must be awful people! So now, I have to try and weasel my way out of this subject, so let me quote an old song...
"Green, Green, it's green, they say, on the far side of the hill...
"Green, Green, I'm going away, to where the grass is greener still..."
This next subject has absolutely nothing to do with lawns, grass, or anything green, or "green" for that matter...although you can presently find them everywhere, perhaps on a sidewalk around which there may be growing some grass, weeds, or maybe someone dropped a Green dollar bill in one...I'm talking about the Phone Booth, that cultural hallmark which Rose to Fame when Clark Kent began changing his clothes in one, turning into Superman. Of course, nowadays, it's probably best to try to stay away from people who undress in a phone booth. Alas (sigh), the Phone Booth is Going The Way Of The Dinosaur. They're Not Needed Anymore, not really. Just another part of our Cultural Heritage we're losing...

This foto came from the Spokesman-Review, which is still "printing" as of this writing. Hang in there, guys.
Finally, the song lyrics quoted above (in GREEN) are from a song titled, logically enough, "Green, Green" by the New Christy Minstrels, which was a big hit back in 1962. You know who the lead singer on that song was? None other than Barry McGuire, who later on performed a Cheerful Little Toe-Tapping Ditty titled, "Eve Of Destruction", a #1 Big Boss Mindblowing chart-topping record. I'll bet Bob Dylan wishes he'd written it...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AIG EXECS: Are They Gonna Change?
History's been made! Bonuses are being Given Back!

I suppose one of the biggest stories this week is about those bloodsucking AIG fatcats who received Big Bonuses recently, after the company received Government Money as a 'bail-out' of sorts. Maybe the company couldn't afford to recklessly dish out cash until they got its bail-out? The prevailing line of logic, until recently, was that AIG was OBLIGATED, yea, verily, REQUIRED to pay out those big bonuses in order to, as the company said, "keep the best and brightest within our corporation." And so, I thot that was all done; no more unjustified mega-bonuses Ever Again...

Aha, but a starting development presents itself here. Fatcat Bigwigs at AIG are GIVING THEIR BONUS MONEY BACK! Are they doing so out of Moral Obligation, or that they think, "well, it Just Doesn't Look Good to take the money right now." Still, a third possibility is that the AIG bosses have contacted those overcompensated fatcats, and advised them, "hey, buddy, just give yer money back for a little while 'til things blow over..." Well, whatever the reason, Corporate Execs are Giving Their Bonus Money Back. YIPPIE!!!

Remember when actor Michael Douglas said in that movie, "Greed Is Good"...well, it should be amended thusly: "Greed Is Good As Long As People Don't Know or Care If You're Greedy". And believe me, this ain't the time to dish out undeserved dollars. I 'spose now, that corporate execs are having to economize, going to such drastic measures as using Regular instead of Unleaded when they fill up their Lincoln Town Cars, or perhaps using plain instead of scented bathroom tissue in the Executive Restroom. Hey, we all have to sacrifice, right?
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper supplied this photo. And yes, they're still publishing...
A while back, I had to perform a 'full system recovery' on my computer. In Doing So, I lost some programs, including my 'Picture It' software. Doing some housecleaning recently, I found the Program Disks. So, in times to come, I'll be performing my magic and casting my spell once again. Although, it's not a quick way of placing a post...these doggone pictures take longer than most of my overdeveloped and ridiculously narrative-type entries. Now, I'll be able, once again, to add ridiculously overblown, naive and moronic photo-satires. You've been warned...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All We Hear is...Radio Ga-Ga...
...Radio Goo-Goo...Radio Blah-Blah...

No, I haven't lost my mind. Not yet, anyway. "Radio Ga-Ga" is a song that was recorded by QUEEN, back in 1984. Although Queen remained popular world-wide for a number of years, we in the States didn't hear much from Queen after the turn of the '80s; their last big hit here was "Another One Bites The Dust". "Radio Ga-Ga" did show up on the charts, but it never did all that well in the U.S. The song itself refers to what's happened to Radio over the years, how it's been taken over by various programming interests, how it's not once what it was...the song's lyrics depict someone who remembers growing up, listening to music on the radio and refers back to the days when "Radio was new...Radio, Someone Still Loves You..."

Queen recorded several more albums before lead singer Freddie Mercury died of AIDS, and they've all got some great music on them. After 1986, Queen didn't tour anymore because of Freddie's rapidly worsening condition; the album "Innuendo" was written and recorded while Freddie was almost too weak to go to the recording studio; it's a great record. Freddie and the band even recorded some tracks after that, which ended up on a 1995 posthumous album, "Made In Heaven". Freddie died in November 1991. I don't approve of his lifestyle, but the fact remains he was Undeniably Brave to keep going like he did; although he was suffering tremendously, his voice was strong and clear until the end. And Queen was one of the great groups, and all of them were really great musicians.

The "Radio Ga-Ga" picture sleeve, signed by All Four 'Queens'...(1984)

I had to write 'all of the above' in order to be able to 'tie-in' intelligently the Original Subject that I was gonna write about; namely, that I went to the beach, and while listening to the Car Radio, I began getting tired of the Same Old Songs always played by the Oldies' Station, so I went over to the "A.M." band and you know what that's, talk, talk talk talktalktalktalk.....honestly, this is a great age to live in, because if you can't think for yourself, there's plenty of people on the airwaves who'll gladly do your thinking for you...and when starting this post, the "Radio Ga-Ga" title came screaming out at me...

Today on 'talk radio', I heard a female radio host say that President Obama is destined to become really, really ineffective as soon as everyone Really Learns about the pitfalls of the bail-out program, pushed by the President, and passed by Congress. Then I went elsewhere on the dial and heard a couple of guys posing as economic wizards say that Things Are So Much Better now that Prezzident Bush is No Longer Prezzident. So in other words, a person can listen to talk radio and no matter what their political belief system is, find someone that agrees with his/her viewpoint. I support President Obama, but, is there A Dark Side, Something That I'm Missing if I don't regularly listen to Dr. Laura Ingram, who actually said that "It's going to be a long four years" when referring to the President, or Rush Limbaugh, that blowhard windbag? Must I listen to that right-wing radio stuff in order to become Really Educated About Politics?

I've found a radio host, Ed Schultz, whose approach I like. He's got a rough-and-tumble style, a matter-of-fact outlook, and he appears to be just a little 'Left' of center. So he's not a wacko, and he's not a naysayer. He sounds more like a "Mr. Practical" kind-of-guy. But when I listen to him, is it because I seek a radio show that conforms to MY beliefs, or is it because Mr. Schultz is really telling it like it is? And you know, I don't know. I can't answer that. I do know I'm more comfortable listening to him than I am to Rush Limbaugh. Maybe it's just that I'm tired of naysayers who want to Expose the Democratic Party, and then, what, return the Republicans to Power again?

I do know I'm not a dippy bleeding-heart liberal, because I've listened to Ron Reagan (Yep, Ronald Reagan's kid is now a Radio Host), and he's just a little bit too-far Out There for my taste; he's certainly bright, but he reminds me of my Philosophy Instructor in college...that class was so Way Out There that to this day, I am not sure I learned anything. I mean, I read, I wrote, and I participated in class discussions, but I Have No Idea What That Semester Of Philosophy Was All About. I guess I'm not an egghead. And I guess I'd make a really Poor Politician as well. All the debating, all the conferencing, all the pontificating and gesturing that Politicans do. No thanks. It's all just too much for me to comprehend. That's the source of much of the "Radio Ga-Ga" that I was referring to. Talk, talk, talk, yak, yak, all just goes on and on and on endlessly. Or until I hit the "off" switch. Click. Aaaaaah, silence...

So where did the title, "Radio Ga-Ga" come from? Queen's drummer, Roger Taylor, heard his little boy say something about "Radio poo-poo" while listening to the radio...and out of such inspiration a song was born. So now you know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm in the Minority, for once!
...and I'm actually surprised I've never written about this...

I'm a fat, middle-aged guy, and from what I've seen, there are thousands and millions like me, and we're all lumped together in one huge, unexceptional, boring, mindless sort of quasi-majority, but hold on, thar...wait a minute...I Am In The Minority. Yes, I Am Oppressed. And it's time to rise up and be counted!!! For, I belong to the 10% of humanity that is left-handed. At least, that's what I read on a blogsite I visit occasionally. Being lefty, I guess I'm supposed to be creative and all that. Although I play guitar right-handed. The same dexterity that allows me to hold a fork in my left hand, I 'spose, allows me to play chords with the left hand. I've tried strumming the guitar left-handed, like Paul McCartney, but my right hand can't make a chord to save its life. And the left hand drops the guitar pick. Go figure...

I tend to feel imprisoned and restricted whenever I encounter mindless, numbing stalwart logic. I stunk at math in school. Well, that must be the lefty-right-brained-thing. You know, where it's said that Left-Brained people (Right-handers) are supposed to be more proficient at assimilating ultra-logical and technological things. Nope, I don't possess either quality, so I guess they're right. They're right and I'm left. I imagine Star-Trek's Mr. Spock was right-handed. He was ultra-logical, after all. Come to think of it, my Dad was right-handed. And he was Logical Beyond Belief. I imagine most people who've tried to brainwash me over the years have been right-handed. Ninety-percent of them, according to statistics.

It is said that left-handers tend to be more ambidextrous than 'righties'; whether that comes naturally or out of necessity (a bit of both, probably), I'm not sure. I remember the twinge of excitement I felt upon actually finding a left-handed desk in my freshman year at college. Heart, be still thyself! For ages before that, I sat at right-handed desks, trying to get comfortable, but never quite doing so. Or maybe I was just uncomfortable with the concept of School, which is entirely possible. Penmanship class was always a struggle...everybody, regardless of 'handedness', had to write with the same slant (which this italic type is supposed to simulate), but in order to do so, I had to hold out my left hand, and then bend my left wrist at a painful 85% angle and sort-of 'push' the pen along. A lot of good that did, for as my left hand slid over what I'd just written, it would smear the ink. Sometimes Ya Just Can't Win...

I remember going to a jam session where the drummer was left-handed; for once, I didn't have to switch the drums around to play. I made a lot of right-handed drummers mad at me when I had to re-arrange their drums so I could play. The very first nite I ever played drums, waay-long ago, I sat behind a right-handed players' kit. The song started, and immediately Something Was Very, Very Wrong. Everything in the drum kit was situated on the wrong side. And I've tried to drum right-handed...and I can't. It's my left hand which keeps time on the hi-hat. Although, a left-handed drummer uses his left foot on the bass drum. But I'm right-footed. But, my left foot was a slave to my left hand. So I managed to play drums okay, although my foot-pedal action always came out kinda backwards. Huh?

When I played baseball as a kid, I swung the bat in right-handed fashion. I was an awful hitter. One day, the bright idea struck me, "well, I'm left handed, so why don't I bat lefty?" Yeah, a lot of good that did me. Couldn't hit that way, either. I got to be good at throwing a Frisbee, though. Although, right-handed people tended to drop the disc when they tried to catch it...why? Because, throwing it left-handed makes it spin the opposite way. But if I'm left-handed, why, then, did I kick the football with my right foot, and serve the volleyball right-handed? Maybe I'm A Very Confused Human Being, maybe? Being the only lefty in my family could be difficult at times. I'd sit at the dinner table next to my right-handed sister and continually bump elbows with her. I'd complain, but because I was the oldest, I had to be more "understanding" according to my folks, so my complaints fell on deaf ears.

In spite of my left-handed-ness, whenever I see someone else doing something left-handed, It Just Looks Weird. That night when I saw the guy playing drums left-handed at the jam session, it just looked strange. Phil Collins, formerly of "Genesis" and a Star in his own right, plays drums left-handed. Whenever I see Paul McCartney strumming beautiful little melodies on his turned-upside-down guitar, it looks weird. Jimi Hendrix, who put a whole different spin on rock music, was also left-handed. So was Kurt Cobain, and We All Know Where He Is. Ack. One of my favorite drummers, Ian Paice of Deep Purple, is left-handed, and definitely has an individual approach to timekeeping. (A guy named "Paice" being a time-keeper; how cool is that?) Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is a left-handed guitarist. I thot that was cool, too. Deep Purple and Black Sabbath are STILL two of my favorite groups.

So it's said that left-handed people are supposed to be artistic? I can't draw a portrait to save my life. Really. I can cartoon and doodle a little, but that's about all. I used to doodle all over the notes I took in class. I'd have to print or write very, very small, so that my notes could fit around all the doodles. I guess Leonardo DaVinci was left-handed, but that's all I have in common with him. He was a genius, after all. Ah, but get this: Mr. DaVinci wrote a lot of his notes Backwards. And I can do that. After all, when a lefty writes backwards, he PULLS the pen along, just like a right-handed person who's writing the 'right' way. order to read my left-handed writing, I have to use a mirror. Otherwise, it takes me Ages To Read It. Can't quite figure that one out.

I've often wondered if being left-handed makes me view the world just a bit differently, in terms of outlook, philosophy, flexibility, understanding and just being a Human Being in General. I've always just kinda been on the "outside" of everything, really. If I didn't try to be so damned tactful all the time, I'd be a "my way or the highway" type of person. I tend to chart my own course; I've never worked well in a 'group' setting; just Leave Me The Hell Alone and I'll Do The Job, thank you very much. I'm probably sensitive to an unhealthy degree, but I can't help it. And I really can't believe I've written so much about this topic. I suppose that it's...the only thing I had "left", to "right" about...

But hold on, Wait A Minute. After all, President Obama is Left-Handed. Do you suppose he'd be a proponent of Left-Handed "Rights?" It would be something to frame an Agenda around. "More left-handed desks in our schools!" (exclaims of surprise, mingled with scattered applause...) "We encourage all ink-makers around the country to invest in chemicals which will make Ink Dry Faster for Left-Handers Everywhere!" (The Crowd begins to applaud and scream in excitement...) "Let's have more Left-Handed people in Government; we need a fresher approach to Politics!" (insane crowd applause, mixed with whoops and hollers...) "Let's urge the Automotive Insurance Companies to give a special break to Left-Handed drivers, who are forced to navigate on the right side of the road!" (Thunderous Applause, stamping of feet...) "And furthermore, I urge all Republicans who are Left-Handed to seriously re-examine their political priorities!!!" (at this point, Political commentators on MSNBC fall all over themselves, praising our new President's Creativity as a "brilliant new idea from the LEFT!!!!!".)

Thanks to the Spokesman-Review newspaper, "Huckleberries Online" division, for inspiring this diatribe. I'd send 'em a bill for giving 'em credit, but you know how things are with newspaper finances these days...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Case of Blog Therapy...
...the newest installment of my biography, "Life Goes On"...
Today I found out just how effective "Craigslist" is. I advertised a bird cage through that medium, and one party answered, said he had to come a long ways to get the cage, and he said he'd be here this afternoon, and I told him the cage was his. Well, it's been raining cats and dogs lately, and he called me back this afternoon saying he didn't want to travel, due to the inclement weather. He didn't leave any indication of when he actually would come down; he just kinda left things open-ended. Shortly after that, another party who lives in town wanted the cage today, like as in NOW. They came, got the cage, paid me, and left. Then the first guy called me back, I told him I'd already sold the cage, but before I could get out a complete sentence, "click", he hung up on me. And it continues to rain...
Those of you who've visited this blogsite already know that I used to have a little Meyers' Parrot named Jill. We had our struggles, especially lately. All of a sudden, caring for her became hard. Things between us became strained. She got moody, and I tried harder and harder to keep her happy. Maybe I was stressing her, too. The last few times I'd held her, she bit at me, and once even hissed, which is what Parrots do when something is annoying them. This is what has happened to Every Single Relationship I've ever been in. They start out great, then things change, so I try harder, things get worse, I start becoming frustrated, and finally, crash-boom-bam, the relationship ends up falling apart. That's the way it's always been with me.

Jill's been gone for about 3 weeks now, but her cage has been here, and sometimes it was painful to look at it. I couldn't 'not' look at it; I have a small house and it was a big cage, standing almost 5 feet tall. I put that cage together last year; it arrived in pieces. I'm hopelessly mechanically-challenged, and it took me the better part of a week to assemble it, but I was really proud that I had at last been able to apply myself to something and see a task through to its conclusion. The parrot I bought the cage for was a nervous, skittish Pionus parrot which I had for 3 months; in spite of everything I tried, I could tell that parrot was never really relaxed with me. In exchange for that parrot, I got Jill. A little bird who seemed to need my company. I think the time I miss her most is in the evenings, while I'm watching TV and playing on the computer...


I'd drop what I was doing, and go get Jill out of the cage. I'd have bird treats alongside my La-Z-Boy chair, and she'd sit on my shoulder eating seeds, or pieces of cheese, or little clustered seed balls; maybe I'd give her some head scratches, and sometimes she'd even hide inside my hands and nap there for a little bit. As time went on, she didn't want as much time with me anymore; she'd come out of the cage and she'd want back in her cage sooner and sooner. Like she was getting tired of me, or maybe I was getting all neurotic and was trying too hard. Like I said, this is how all my relationships conclude without fail. It got to the point where she'd want out of the cage and then want right back in again. Something was changing. Maybe I could've been a better bird owner but I was doing what I could. We spent a lot of time together. I even took her places. But at the end, the stress I was feeling just got to be too much. It was like we didn't "click" any more.
So, Jill and I parted ways. I gave her back to the gentleman who operates a Bird Rescue location in a nearby city. He's great with birds, a lot better with them than I'll ever be. For a couple of weeks now I've been in limbo; her cage was still in my house, serving as a tangible reminder of her residence here and the place she had in my life. And now the cage is gone. It's like she was Never Here. But she was, wasn't she? So I have mixed emotions today. Most of all I need the sun to come out because it's been raining much, too much lately. As I prepared to sell Jill's cage, all of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a song by Michael Jackson, of all people, burrowed its way into my brain and I keep hearing it over and over...

She's out of my life...she's out of my life...
And I don't know whether to Laugh or Cry...
I don't know whether to Live or Die
And it cuts like a knife...She's Out of my life...
It's Out of my Hands...It's Out of my Hands...
To Think for (a while) that She Was here
And I took her for granted, I was so cavalier...
Now the way that it stands...She's Out Of My Hands...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Capitalism Gone Very, Very Wrong...
I am so LIVID over this, that it's got my blood BOILING...

I didn't think I'd be posting this evening, but all of a sudden...well, it all started when I went online and ran across an article in the New York Times (My comments in italics):

"WASHINGTON — The American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year. Word of the bonuses last week stirred such deep consternation inside the Obama administration that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told the firm they were unacceptable and demanded they be renegotiated, a senior administration official said. But the bonuses will go forward because lawyers said the firm was contractually obligated to pay them."

This kind of stuff is just so blatant, so in-yer-face, so damned OBVIOUS that you'd think perhaps AIG would want to 'hold off' on those bonuses right now; even if the firm is contractually obligated to pay them, It just kinda Looks bad right now. Go back to the first sentence above..."AIG", which received more than $170 BILLION in bonuses, is paying out, in effect, $165 million to FatCat Executives...and as you'll read below, the money flow doesn't stop there, 'cos these money-grubbing fatcats won't even have to spend any of the 'Above' money, 'cos they still have closetfuls of other cash which they received in the not-too-distant past...

"The payments to A.I.G.’s financial products unit are in addition to $121 million in previously scheduled bonuses for the company’s senior executives and 6,400 employees across the sprawling corporation. Mr. Geithner last week pressured A.I.G. to cut the $9.6 million going to the top 50 executives in half and tie the rest to performance. The payment of so much money at a company at the heart of the financial collapse that sent the broader economy into a tailspin almost certainly will fuel a popular backlash against the government’s efforts to prop up Wall Street. Past bonuses already have prompted President Obama and Congress to impose tough rules on corporate executive compensation at firms bailed out with taxpayer money."

You've got these fatcat operations basically flaunting their wealth and insatiable greed in this most rotten of economic times. We, us, the taxpayers, are in effect, GIVING our money to these business-suited-so-and-so's. I admire President Obama for trying to do something, anything, to prop up our country, but for those of you who say that Obama is not good for the country, how about the big corporations who are basically sticking their fingers up our noses with the attitude of, "ha, ha, we're gonna do ANYTHING WE WANT even if people get cold, go hungry, lose their houses or not be able to pay their taxes." No matter what the President does, nothing in this country will change unless Corporate America Changes First.

"A.I.G., nearly 80 percent of which is now owned by the government, defended its bonuses, arguing that they were promised last year before the crisis and cannot be legally canceled. In a letter to Mr. Geithner, Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., said at least some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives. “We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday."
Huh? What? So these earlier bonuses can't be withheld? For Legal Reasons? These Are BONUSES, for cryin' out loud! Do the right thing and Hold Off on These Payouts until the economy looks a little bit better. People are losin' their homes, for cryin' out loud. But it's pointless to ask these questions, since it's so OBVIOUS that "A.I.G." and similar operations don't CARE. People around the country are tightening their belts, except in Corporate Boardrooms. What can the President do, if Corporate America doesn't set a good example? And the argument that AIG has to pay thru the nose to keep the 'best and brightest'? It needs to be pointed out that these bonuses are in addition To The Huge Salaries these corporate shlubs are already sucking out of the system.

"Still, Mr. Liddy seemed stung by his talk with Mr. Geithner, calling their conversation last Wednesday “a difficult one for me” and noting that he receives no bonus himself. “Needless to say, in the current circumstances,” Mr. Liddy wrote, “I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them.” An A.I.G. spokeswoman said Saturday that the company had no comment beyond the letter. The bonuses were first reported by The Washington Post."

Awwww...widdle Mr. Liddy doesn't get a widdle Bonus...awwww...that means no new Rolls Royce; he'll have to quit drinking Chateau Laffite '59 and cut back to a beverage whose label reads "Gallo". He may have to remember to keep his million-dollar-penthouse suite's temperature at 68 degrees or below. He'll have to find someone who sells caviar for a lower price. Somehow I think he'll get through this...I mean, we all have to sacrifice...right?

"The senior government official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the administration was outraged. “It is unacceptable for Wall Street firms receiving government assistance to hand out million-dollar bonuses, while hard-working Americans bear the burden of this economic crisis,” the official said. Of all the financial institutions that have been propped up by taxpayer dollars, none has received more money than A.I.G. and none has infuriated lawmakers more with practices that policy makers have called reckless."

And that's where it's at. Somehow "Capitalism" gets morphed into "the rich get richer while we don't give a damn about the poor, the homeless, the starving, the disabled or those who cannot get by on their own." This is the Bad side of Capitalism, in which more and more money is being made by those who need it the least, and IT'S BEING FLAUNTED IN OUR FACES. "We're gonna do what we want", the executives are telling us, "and No One Can Stop Us, neener-neener-neener................"

"The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages. The bonus plan covers 400 employees, and the bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $6.5 million. Seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses."

Let's see if I've got this right... Seven Executives get THREE-MILLION-Dollar Bonuses EACH, while the other 393 employees in the bonus plan each get $1,000 or perhaps more. In short, 7 Out Of 400 Employees are getting almost Half of that $6.5 Million In Bonuses!!! What are these guys doing to generate these bonuses? Putting Golf Balls on their Green Office Carpets? Gosh, why take the trouble to become a criminal, why engage in covert activity or swindle people (a la Madoff) WHEN YOU CAN MAKE ZILLIONS LEGALLY FOR DOING NOTHING?

The article goes on to detail what you've seen above already, but I think you get the idea. And it's obvious that Corporate Greed is Alive and Well. And what makes me so mad about this is that Corporate America doesn't care how it looks. They can thumb their noses in our faces, "nyaaah, nyaaah", while Joe-blue-collar-plumber-taxpayer struggles to make payments on his 7-year old vehicle that needs repairs he can't afford to have done. Corporate America, I HATE you. Finally, I'm not a money-grubbing-so-and-so, and I can prove it: I don't need millions and millions of million is all I 'bout it, "AIG"?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Well, what'll I post about NOW?
...its truly the 'Badlands of Blogging', ain't it?
Can it be true? Have I really been dumping stuff here since October 2004? And, it easy to see that I have absolutely nothing to blog about, since I've started off this post with a bunch of questions? My answer: Its MARCH. A Month that's even more bland than NOvember. Face it, there's NOTHING exciting about March. I don't care about pro hockey or pro basketball, or even NASCAR racing. Baseball's begun, but it's hard to care about Spring Training. And of course, Football's all done 'till next fall. There's not enough Sunshine here on the O-coast, and on those few Sunny Days, it's Cold and Windy. In spite of that, I went for a stroll on the Beach yesterday, a 30mph wind blowing straight into my face. So far, I've managed to keep my hat on, although one of these days the wind will lift my hat off my head and dump it, say, somewhere around Baja California. WAIT! That's IT! I took some more annoying photos this week which oughta be good for a few column-inches here...
Whilst beach-walking yesterday, I headed north, straight into the stiff breeze, and all I could think about was, "get to the Jetty...get to the Jetty". The Jetty is a 12-foot high rock wall of sorts that extends out into the ocean; there's deep water between the North and South Jetties, and that's how ships get into the bay. The great thing about reaching the Jetty is that it serves as a quite effective Wind Block. All you gotta do is find a comfy rock to sit on (comfy rock?) and take it all in. Skies were blue yesterday, the Sun was shining, but it was only when I got to the Jetty that I felt any of its warmth. And as always, I really appreciate the solitude of the beach; there's always plenty of room for everyone who goes there, although sometimes its hard to find a place to park the car during Tourist Season, what with "no-clue motorists" driving Winnebagos which equal, if not surpass, the worth of the Homes they live in. Although, with the economy the way it is, I wonder if the Winnebago will go the way of the mighty Brontosaurus...tar-pit city...

Of course, a blog, even if it's about not much in particular, becomes enhanced through the use of appropriate visual aids. So, positioned above, are the Winnebago and the big fat Brontosaurus, two dinosaurs that consumed more than their share...and while one's long gone, the other's on the way out...

Next up, the foto on the left shows a Kite being flown on the Beach while I took a picture from above. The O-coast is a good place to go if someone tells you to "go fly a kite". I hear that often. The photo at right shows a beaten-up and battered fishing boat trying to get to the safety of the Harbour in One Piece. The South Jetty is visible here; the Jetties link the Ocean To The Bay. (Kite foto taken in January; all others taken this week...)

Walking along the beach, I stepped into the windswept fray; the photo at left shows yet another Fishing Boat being haplessly tossed about by the waves; hope no one on it got very seasick. At right, I am hiding behind the South Jetty, protected from the winds for a while...
But did I have sense enough to stay protected from the wind? Of course not. I climbed on top of the jetty and caught another view of the little fishing boat battling its way to the harbour. The foto at right shows the weatherbeaten South jetty, with rocks strewn all over the place by mighty ocean waves mercilessly bashing shoreward, along with someone's rusty pipe handiwork that seems to be saying "Four O'Clock"...

Finally, before I close this post, you might recall that I mentioned Baseball...and the Real Baseball Season will be starting soon, not the useless charade known as Spring Training. I understand the Seattle Mariners don't really have any dominating pitchers yet, and we all know it's the M's pitching that has really sunk the franchise over the years. The M's Need Pitching...and if they don't get it, the ceaselessly pounding, turbulent ocean waves may claim another victim...hopefully the Mariners' ship won't sink any lower than it did last season, in which the team wasn't even good enough to be abysmal, but anything's possible. Row, Row, Row yer boat...

Monday, March 09, 2009

I guess I got stuck on 'Stupid'...
Does Anybody Really Know what time/date it is?

Have you ever done that? You lost a day...? For some reason, I thought that yesterday, Sunday, was today, Monday. Maybe I've had my mind on a lot of things, but it's rare that I've been This Clueless. Wanna know how bad it got? Here goes: My Garbage Day is Monday. So every Sunday night, I have to wheel the Plastic Garbage Container, supplied benevolently by the Garbage Company, to the curb so that the Garbage Man can do his thing in the wee-small hours of Monday Morning. That would be today...Monday (I'm repeating that for me). But as I said before, I Lost A Day Somewhere.

So what did I do? I put the garbage out on Saturday night, thinking it was Sunday night. And then, on Sunday, I went to a coffeehouse here which features a Drum Circle I go to on Monday nights (Monday: That would be today). The Coffeehouse is closed on Sundays. But since I thought Sunday was Monday, I waited for over an hour for someone to show up and open the place. I thot maybe the Coffeehouse owners had personal reasons for not being open on What I Thought Was Monday. And I went back home, still thinking it was Monday, although it was actually Sunday.

"Huh? What?", you must be thinking. I'm kinda thinking that, too. Thinking that today was Tuesday, I went into town, first stopping at another coffeeshop I go to. Well, It was closed. Harrumph! After all, THAT Coffeeshop is always closed on Mondays, but is always open on Tuesday, and, I, of course, thot today was Tuesday, and wondered, "why aren't they open?" By this time I was really getting confused, though; two Coffee Shops which I thot should have been open were closed on successive days. Still thinking today was Tuesday, I ended up at a restaurant, which is open 24/7, so that didn't help me either in terms of determining what day it actually was. Ah, but I bought a copy of today's paper, the dateline of which read "Monday, March 9th." Huh? What?

To add to this mess, my wristwatch read "Monday March 10th", so I really began to get confused. Setting the date on an analog watch is kinda tricky; evidently I'd put in the wrong date or day of the week when re-adjusting the watch because the Month of February ends on the 28th, not the 30th or 31st. It was about this time my brain began spinning out of control...Monday or Tuesday? March 9th or 10th? And then it hit me..."I think I've lost a day, here..." I went back home, and sure enough: The Garbage cart I'd put out on what I thought was Sunday Night (which actually was Saturday night) had been taken back to its place in back of my house on Sunday, which I thot was MONDAY. And of course when the Actual Monday Morning rolled by, my garbage cart wasn't out at curbside for the Garbage Man, and he wasn't about to step outside his truck and go looking for it. So my Garbage Cart sits there, right now, full of last week's garbage until it gets picked up Next Monday, by which time I should be on The Right Day. One can hope.

By this time, my brain was a-buzzin'. Still not quite believing it was Tuesday instead of Monday, when I got home, I Wasn't Sure of What Time It was. I needed to find out. Because after all, the Drum Circle meets tonight (I Hope), and I had to find out what time it was so I wouldn't be late. Of course, I didn't want to ask anyone what time it was, because it's really important for me Not To Look Stupid in the eyes of others. (Too late for that, huh?) You can also factor in, that the switch to Daylight Savings Time occurred just this past weekend. By this time, I was Really Getting Confused. And no, I don't take mind-altering drugs. Long story: My VCR/DVD player receives the correct time automatically over its cable connection. It had been off by one hour since a power outage over a year ago. Today, I noticed it read the same time that all my adjusted clocks, as well as wristwatch, read. Evidently my VCR/DVD unit got correctly adjusted after the latest time change. But I initially thought the unit was still off by an hour. So, I thot there was a possibility, if the time was correct on my VCR/DVD unit, that all my clocks and my watch were off by an hour. As you can tell, this was fast becoming a weird sort-of 'time warp' day...

Well, after mulling over all the possibilities, and not knowing anyone I could bother for the Correct Time, all of a sudden, a thot came in thusly to my brain: "Hey, Idiot, You've got the TV sitting in front of you; maybe you can get the Correct Time THERE." That thought, for me was akin to Einstein coming up with E=MC2, by the way. I found Northwest Cable News, headquarted in Seattle, thus in my time zone, and so I at last not only know what day it is, I now know the correct time. I think. Well, I'd better go now; the drum circle meets in 45 minutes...I think!

An artist's rendering of Forgetful-Me. Does anybody really know what time it is?

I think I've come down with a sudden case of PSFD, known otherwise as Premature Senior Forgetfulness Disorder; either that or I'm just plain-old-Stuck On 'Stupid'. And why am I all of a sudden hearing the strains of the "Twilight Zone's" opening theme? Ack!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Remembering John Stewart...
...a singer-songwriter of note...

Probably one of the biggest breaks songwriter John Stewart ever got, was becoming a member of the Wildly-Popular Kingston Trio, when founding member Dave Guard left. Stewart made quite a few albums with the Trio, and fit in well with them. Stewart did say, though, that he always felt like an 'outsider' in that group. The Kingston Trio finally broke up for good in the late 1960's, but in 1967, he got another good break...a great break, actually...the year was 1968, and The Monkees recorded "Daydream Believer", and one of the first things I noticed about the record, when I first got it as a kid, was the name "John Stewart" in the writer's credits on the label.

I never could figure out what "Daydream Believer" was actually about, other than perhaps being in a good mood, things going well, and so on...but it was a Really Catchy Song, and became the Monkees' 2nd (and last) Number One Song. In the mid-'70s, Anne Murray also recorded "Daydream Believer". It's gotta be nice to be the author of a good song which people have chosen to record and record again...not to mention getting those Songwriter Royalties. In 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. John Stewart wrote a song about it. The Title was "Armstrong". It got radio play, although it didn't chart especially highly. But it had some great lyrics...

Black boy in Chicago, playin' in the streets
Not near enough to wear, not enough to eat
But he stopped to watch it, on a July Afternoon
He saw a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon.

Young girl in Calcutta, barely eight years old
The flies that swarm the marketplace will see she don't grow old
But don't ya know she heard it, on a July Afternoon
Heard a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon.

Rivers gettin' dirty, the air is gettin' bad
War and hate are killin' off the only Earth we have
But the whole world stopped to watch it on a July Afternoon
They saw a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon.

Singer-Songwriter John Stewart...he was 68.

And I wonder a long time ago, somewhere in the Universe
They watched a man named Adam...walk upon the earth.

At the very end of the song, you can hear Neil Armstrong's recorded words, "That's one small step for giant leap for mankind". And that song has always given me the shivers, every time I've heard it. It's next to impossible to find the original version of John Stewart's "Armstrong"; it was issued on Capitol Records in 1969 and was only released as a single. A couple years later, Stewart re-recorded it on an album he recorded for RCA Victor. But it's that original version that Grabs Me Every Time. In the later 1970's, John Stewart recorded a couple of albums for RSO, and had a minor hit, "Odin (Spirit On The Water)", which is also a Very Good Song. So it's here that I choose to remember John Stewart. A relatively unknown musician, perhaps, but also a Very Good Musician who touched a lot of people. Including me.

I found out about John Stewart while looking up an article which concerns Peter Tork, who you might remember as being one of the Monkees. Turns out that Pete has a rare form of cancer which occupies the Head and Neck. He's had an operation so far, and after a recovery period, he'll undergo radiation...

A fairly recent photo of Peter Tork, whose real last name is actually Thorkelson. Get plenty of rest, Pete...

Peter actually got his start in Folk Music. Later on, he answered a casting-call ad for The Monkees, and that's how he became a member. Pete's friend, Steve Stills (yep, of the Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash) suggested he try out. Stills had bad teeth, so he didn't get the audition. Pete wrote several Monkees' songs, including the end theme which was used in the "episode closing" during the second season of the Monkees' TV series. Pete was typecast as the "goofy" Monkees member, but he was a serious musician, playing bass and keyboards for the Monkees, and I suppose, since he was a folksinger, he plays the guitar a bit, too.

Pete didn't sing a whole lot of Monkees' songs; his clear voice can be heard on "Your Auntie Grizelda" (from 'More Of The Monkees'), "Shades of Gray" (from the 'Headquarters' album), "Words" (from 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones' album) and in a song from the Monkees' movie, "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again", from the 'Head' soundtrack. Peter was also the first Monkee to leave the group. The Monkees have gotten together periodically through the years, many times without Mike Nesmith (the Monkee who wore the Green Wool Hat), although in 1995, All four Monkees put together a one-episode Reunion program which appeared on national TV, and along with that, they recorded a new album called "Justus". Pete sings one song on that album and co-wrote a couple more.

I suppose Bob Dylan might call this a "Simple Twist Of Fate"...researching an article on former Monkee Peter Tork, which led to another article about a guy who wrote one of their biggest hits. Strange, how things work sometimes.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

These are hard times...
...and in some cases, DUMB times, too...

FROM SOUP TO...Everyone's been blogging about this, so I might as well jump on the bandwagon...ol' Vince (you remember him from the Sham-Wow commercials) is now hawking a product that can slice and dice anything that stands in your way. He chops onions! He chops eggs! And, he's also chopping filberts, cashews and the like, and at the end of that segment, he says...

What Do I think of Vince as a Pitchman? Remember the old 'ring-around-the-collar commercials? Yeah, he's that obnoxious.

I guess my mind must be in the gutter, but that's what caught my ear the first time around..."huh?" "what?", and sure enough, the second time around, my jaw just fell open...(my Tweety-Bird impression...) "he TEDD IT! He TEDD IT! He Willy Willy TEDD IT!" Turns out the machine he's ground his family jewels in is called the "Slap-Chop". Which is what someone oughta do to ol' Vincy-boy, who doesn't have enough "cred" to sell Second-hand Chevy Nova's or Ford Mavericks at Joe's Lemon Lot.

THEY GET PAID FOR DOING THAT? Lately, I've been watching the dumbest-ever TV show; it's on Tru-TV (which used to be Court-TV), and it's presented by the "Smoking Gun". Basically, each episode is filled with stupid stuff people do, such as trying to drive a 4-wheel drive up a steep rock wall, and the vehicle flips backwards, 'thud', landing on its roof. You know, socially-redeeming stuff like that. The funniest part, though, is the illustrious panel consisting of some of your favorite train-wreck personalities, such as the drug-infested Danny Bonaduce (sweet lil' Danny Partridge, remember?), Crowbar-wielding Tonya Harding, ever-clueless, ever mentally challenged, Gary Busey, who's gotta be one of the ugliest actors I've ever seen, and several others who'd be standing in a soup-kitchen line, were they not famous for, and being paid for, their capacity to be Sheer Idiots most of the time. And they provide commentary for Dumb Stuff Other People Do. Er...that doesn't say much for me, does it...? I watch the shows, after all. Uh, neverrr mind........the program promos promise, "stuff so dumb, you'll feel smart watching it." Me, well, it leaves me stupified. Are We Really That Dumb?

Danny Bonaduce...they start out so sweet, but then they have to grow up...

TECHNOLOGY TAKES US OVER: You've seen 'em everywhere; people yakking on cell-phones while reading road maps and all of a sudden, finding themselves in terrible situations (Screeeeech! Skiddddd...CRASH! Crrrunch.....) A teenage girl was fatally injured recently by a car in Eugene, Oregon, as she was crossing a busy 5-lane thoroughfare...witnesses said she was using a Cellphone to talk on or text-message as she was crossing the street, (yep, she was walking) and sure enough, the device was laying on the pavement at the accident scene. So be careful, people...we all know enough not to drive distracted, right? (right?) Maybe a person shouldn't be Moving At All while using a Cell-phone.

THE YOGURT FACTOR: This country's heading for a major depression, if indeed we're not there already. And, it's a Weird World Out There. Thankfully, the price of Gasoline has come back down for a bit (I paid $2.13 a gallon yesterday), and, get this, people, Yogurt Containers Have Shrunk. For a minute I thot I was seeing things; something didn't look quite right. And I really didn't realize it until I'd eaten my nightly batch of Yogurt. I was still hungry. And it turns out that your little individual-serving plastic Yogurt Containers have by-and-large shrunk from 8 to 6 ounces. That's a new trend in the system We Know and Love as Capitalism. Trick customers into buying a product by keeping the price the same; instead, though, MAKE THE CONTAINERS SMALLER. You know, I'd just rather pay more per ounce and keep the container size The Same.

FROM "A TO "Z": I bought two in-concert DVD's recently...and they couldn't have been more different. The first one I watched was ABBA in concert. "Abba?" Why are you listening to WIMP MUSIC, you must be thinking to yourself...all I can say to that is, they wrote some of the best melodic pop that I've ever heard ("Dancing Queen" is an absolutely magic song), and they can even rock out a bit, as they did on one of their last hits, "Does Your Mother Know?" And, those Abba women...they're both BABES. No babes in the next group, though...ZZ Top. Recorded at a Texas performance, this group, well, what can I say, not a whole lot, although their music is great. Both guitarists just kinda putt around the stage, occasionally doing primitive little shuffle-steps, and the drummer hardly moves, but really, they're motionless most of the time and yet somehow they crank out that ol' Texas blues-rock that's sounded so good for so long.

I have to ask, though, "hey, ZZ, what's with the beards?" Ain't it kinda impractical, on a 100-degree Texas Day, to have to put up with a BEARD that hangs down to your navel? Maybe they wear 'beard extensions'? Irony Department: The only ZZ Top member without a long beard is the drummer, Frank Beard. I'll always hold ZZ Top close to my heart, though. They're the authors of my Old Dorm-Room Official party song, "La Grange". YEE-HAW!!!!! The great thing about the ZZ Top DVD is that they packed almost 45 minutes of extras, including their performance of "Foxy Lady", and when they did, Jimi smiled down from above.

The Ford Maverick (mentioned above) was voted as one of The Worst Cars In History. Hmmm; my Dad bought me one for my high school graduation. A car that size with a 200 cubic-inch engine. Our LAWN MOWER had more power!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Case Of The Elusive $21.64...
...No one knows from whence it came...

$$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$

It all began about a week ago. This, of course, is the time of the month when Bills Begin Arriving in the Mail, and sure enough, there was a bill from the hospital for some physical therapy sessions I'd had recently. So, I prepared myself for the worst. It was a bill from the hospital, after all. Ulp. I gingerly opened the envelope, and was relieved; the amount owed was only $21.64. "Okay", I thought, "even though it's before the end of the month, I can handle this". On the back of the bill was a little section in which all I had to do was write in my Debit Card number and mail it back to the hospital, where they would 'Debit' me. So That was That. Right?

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WRONG! This past Friday, I checked the mail and found that the Hospital sent the bill BACK to me, saying that my card was coming up invalid. Ulp. I checked my card against the number I'd written down on the bill, and sure enough, I blew it. Got one number wrong. I had to go into town anyway, and decided to pay the bill personally. The lady at the Hospital's billing department told me that the $21.64 had already been paid, that I didn't have to worry about it. I asked, "how could you have received my payment via the Credit Card if I had written the number wrong?" I had the two Billing Ladies search their files, and told me again that the Bill had been Paid. They didn't know where the $21.64 came from, only that they'd received it. And so the mystery deepens...

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The Billing Dept. Ladies advised me to check with my Local Bank if I really wanted to pursue this. Which I did. After all, it was the end of the month; I was running out of money. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't end up $21.64 in the hole, after all. Perhaps the bank just hadn't posted the transaction yet. But the bank would've had to if the hospital received payment, right? So, I went to the bank, trying to find out about the ever-evasive and elusive $21.64 payment I allegedly made. The kind bank teller searched my checking account via her computer screen, and she could not find a $21.64 withdrawal from my checking account anywhere. This Truly was acquiring all the mystery and suspense of a True Crime novel at this point. After all, Ya Can't Make This Stuff Up, right?

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Finding out all I could from the bank, I went BACK to the Hospital's Billing Department, telling the Billing Dept. ladies that The Bank could not find any record of the payment. I try to keep my bills paid. I am honest, probably to a fault. And, yeah, in case the $21.64 payment was lurking out there, ready to ambush my Checking Account with an overdraft, I was a little bit financially paranoid, too. After all, USBank charges something like $30 for every day that a checking account is overdrawn. Ulp. The lady at the Hospital's Billing Department said that the $21.64 had been entered into the payment log, and was also entered into the hospital records, and had long since been deposited into the Hospital's Bank Account. It was then I realized No One Knows Anything About This. Afterwards, I went home and checked my Electronic Banking Website, and there is no payment for $21.64 from me, to anyone, anywhere, this YEAR, decade or century.

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So, we have a full-fledged mystery here. To Sum Up: I entered the Wrong Number on a Credit Card Bill Payment slip and mailed it to the Hospital. The Bill Payment Slip was mailed BACK to me, with a post-it note telling me to Check My Debit Card number. I PERSONALLY brought my debit card to the hospital, trying to take care of the bill. But the bill had been PAID, even though I had written down the wrong card number. And my bank can find NO RECORD of the payment. I fully realize "there's no such thing as a free lunch" and this may yet come back to bite me in the posterior. It's absolutely mystifying. I pursued this to the "nth" level, and could go no further, because No One Knew spite of that, I made one last attempt to clarify things...

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Just to make sure, I told the (increasingly exasperated) Hospital Billing Department Lady, "what you're saying, then, is that as far as you know, this bill has been taken care of, right?" And she said, "Yes, maybe you have a secret admirer out there". What, is there a "sugar mama" out there who paid my bill? Considering that possibility, the first thing out of my mouth was, "well, if someone admires me, I hope they think I'm worth more than twenty bucks." (My mouth gets me in trouble a lot.) So I guess I'm done with this. Finished. Finito. For now, anyway. But out there somewhere is floating $21.64; it's now part of a capitalistic parallel universe, and eventually will present itself as a $21.64 Overcharge on someone else's Hospital Bill. And the Billing Department won't know where that came from either.

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After all this, I got Overdrafted anyway. Turns out my Car Insurance Company decided to take their electronic payment on a SATURDAY, something I wasn't counting on. I checked my bank account and saw a negative-three dollar balance. I corrected that, and was told by my bank (over an '800' number) that the bank wouldn't charge me an overdraft fee, since they don't post anything on the weekends. So I guess it all works out. Maybe I can send another theoretical $21.64 payment to the bank to cover me should I get overdrawn again. Ulp.