Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making Life Easier Part 1

I'll be a full fledged curmudgeon soon. I've been practicing all my life, but I believe that 65 is the likely age at which one can officially be deemed an Andy Rooney-esque curmudgeon. In light of my approaching status as a curmudgeon, I'm creating this "Making Life Easier" series to all the danged young whippersnappers out there that seem not to have a clue about attending to their own enlightened self interest. Note -- this series is also aimed at Idiots: whippersnappers who no longer have youth and inexperience as an excuse for their actions.

So... for whippersnappers and idiots, here's an example of the self-defeating behavior that I'm talking about -- the Airport Baggage Claim.

What everyone wants is to get his or her bag quickly and easily off the carousel... it should be so easy. Passengers surround the carousel, grab their bags as they pass, and place each safely behind them, where, when all bags have been collected, they can then easily cart to the airport exit.

What happens is this -- everyone crams in as close to the carousel as possible, often leaning forward to view the oncoming baggage. Because there is limited space close to the carousel, this results in  multi-layer humanity. The back layers can neither see their bags, nor get to them when the do, by chance, espy said bags. At this point, the back layer passengers must elbow their way though the front layer. And, of course, once they have a bag in hand, there's no place to move the bag because other back layer passengers have now filled in the void left by their movement into the front line.

What would make it easier is this -- don't cram close to the carousel. Stay a few paces back. This enlarges the circumference of the circle (oval?) of passengers. For example, our hypothetical carousel is oval -- two 10' diameter curved ends with a 10' "straight-away" on each side... total exposed curbage is about 51', or enough for only 34 average sized people to stand shoulder to shoulder. For a flight with 100 people, this is three layers of passengers engaged in hand-to-hand combat, groping blindly for bags which have, in all likelihood, gone to some far distant city, anyway.

Simply moving back 6 feet from the carousel increases the available front line footage to accommodate 60 passengers, probably enough for each passenger to see their bags, grab them as they come by and move them easily through the space left by their temporary absence -- which is thoughtfully left open by the other enlightened passengers -- and then to happily scamper though the airport exit to stand behind 300 other passengers in the taxi line.

Do I really think this ever would ever happen? Hell, no... by dint of my approaching curmudgeon-hood, like a good pair of Levis, I've also spun around the dryer enough times to be faded and jaded.

Wouldn't it be interesting, though, if as a society, we could make spontaneous decisions that favor our own enlightened self interest. Wouldn't that be something? Don't hold your breath or you won't live long enough to become a curmudgeon.

Next time, I'll talk about how to increase efficiency of freeways and get where we want to go more quickly! Can't wait, can you...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Election

As an Obama supporter, naturally I'm glad that my guy "won". However -- you'll get no gloating from me.

I've come close to shedding tears in this last few months over the incredible vitriol poisoning our country. Nobody wins until we can get past the "our team vs. your team" mentality.

Divisive politics is good for cable news network ratings . Their polarizing rhetoric garners a loyal following. And political campaign managers believe that they must sharply distinguish their client's beliefs from his/her opponent's in order to generate interest.

But, we have some serious problems to face and we're not going to solve these through name calling, stonewalling, and petty bickering. We must not be our own worst enemy... there are plenty of REAL enemies to take that honor.

If you're a "liberal", spend some time listening to the concerns of your "conservative" neighbor... and vice versa. If you listen to Rush, spend a little time with Ed... and vice versa. If you're an evangelical, invite an atheist to dinner and listen, don't preach... and vice versa. The more time you spend with one who disagrees with you, the more you'll find a good person with a different life, and a different viewpoint.

And finally... take a pledge right now. Instead of writing nasty notes on Facebook, posting poorly researched inflamatory memes, taking the easy pot-shot... instead WRITE YOUR CONGRESSPEOPLE. Every day if necessary. You might be surprised how good this will make you feel.

This is NOT a football game... there is no "opponent". We all win and lose together... and we just get one shot at it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Physicists Gone Wild

AUSTIN, TX -- Thousands of theoretical physicists celebrating the confirmation of the Higgs Boson, spilled into the streets last night. The rejoicing, dancing of jigs, and telling of ironic stories soon turned to violence. Disagreements over credit for the original theory and the implications of the discovery, heated, then erupted into fist fights, scratching, and pulling of hair. Several incidents of biting were reported, but no serious injuries resulted.
One physicist, his pocket protector hanging loose having been torn from his shirt in a skirmish, blamed the violence on “outside agitators”. A group of engineers calling themselves IFMB (Invisible Force, My Butt) staged a counter demonstration. Some witnesses report hearing taunts such as, “Where’s the practical application, math boy?” shortly before the violence escalated.
There is an uneasy quiet in the streets of Austin tonight. Police say they’re planning ahead for the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics which has the potential to spawn additional emotionally charged demonstrations. Austin Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, said, “We’ve always had a good sized community of theoretical physicist here in Austin, and they generally blend into the fabric of normal society. They are by nature an emotional bunch and things like this are bound to happen from time to time.”

Hey, That's Not Funny!

Hey, That's Not Funny!

We live in the age of Edgy Comedy. Or, more accurately, we live in the age where comedians want to be perceived as Edgy. To be Edgy, you have to toe that line -- and sometimes you're going to cross that line. To be Funny is to be Edgy, and conversely, to be Edgy is to be Funny. Right?
Ummm... really?
Now, who am I to question the wisdom behind pop culture -- I mean, audiences choose what they like, right? It's not like, for example, disco was crammed down our collective throats (to use a particularly tasteless analogy.) The poor record executives were simply responding to popular demand -- the popular demand to supply cocaine, hookers, money, and other goodies to radio program directors who, without these perks, wouldn't stand within a mile of K.C. and the Sunshine Band if it meant hearing "Shake Your Booty".
Edgy comedy is nothing new. Just go back and read Voltaire... what a hoot! Man -- that guy really skewered the prevailing power structure. And Jonathan Swift? He was so edgy and crafty in his satire that you can barely discern where the boring prose stops and the hilarious satire starts!
Closer to current times, edge walkers cite role models such as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks, leading to modern practitioners such as Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Daniel Tosh -- S-C-R-E-E-C-H (sound of tires squealing, if you didn't get it) -- wait a minute... Daniel Tosh????
Yes... poor Daniel recently was trying to walk the edge and fell on the wrong side of the line. Now... to be fair, Daniel generally confuses the concept of being edgy with that of being a complete idiot. I almost always switch away from Daniel's show in search of something more appealing to my intellectual bent such as "Ow, My Balls" - er, I mean "Top 20 Most Shocking".
Daniel, in a recent stand-up performance, attempting to respond off the top of his head -- a dangerously small area -- to an audience member's remark made a joke which some would consider seriously offensive. By "some" here, I mean 99.999999999% of humans with functioning brains.Now, in the aftermath of Tosh's plunge from this precipitous edge, there are the obligatory demands that he be removed from his Comedy Central Show, "Tosh.O". Now, my television has an advanced control which lets me switch from one show to another, but apparently some TVs don't have this capability, nor can they be disabled. Consequently, these sets blare forth at full volume "Tosh.O" day and night, subjecting the hapless owners to constant brain-atrophying stupidity. Alas -- he must be removed. On the other hand, hatefilled, fear-mongering, fact-bending Rush Limbaugh is protected by freedom of speech.
...and, SURPRISE. This is right: he is and he should be.
This doesn't mean Tosh can't be criticized for his idiocy. But Daniel, is just like Lenny, George, Richard, and others who have raised controversy in their times. Well, other than the fact that George Carlin, for example, was a brilliant satirist who lampooned hypocrisy in his creative comedy routines; Daniel Tosh's concept would impart to The Three Stooges the gravitas of Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, and Walter Cronkite covering the outbreak of World War III.
Personally, I don't believe "edginess" in comedy requires having one's anus figuratively moved to a position below one's nose. Though it's hard to judge in modern context, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Monty Python, Steve Martin, and most recently, Brian Regan, have all walked a comedic edge, not by simply spouting mindlessly about ANY topic, but by expanding the actual sphere of what makes us laugh. Mike Judge did this in his animation and motion pictures; Gary Larson accomplished this with a single panel daily cartoon. We feel SMARTER after laughing a these things. I would hazard to say, no one feels better for having watched yet another skate-boarder fall on the metal railing he/she -- no wait, the idiots are almost always "he" -- is attempting to navigate.
By the way... I know the best way to keep Daniel Tosh from repeating such a tasteless outburst: don't laugh. You'll be surprised how quickly this silences the class clown!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

These Things Bother Me

I'm not a "conspiricist" -- but I'm certainly a skeptic. When money and power are involved, I know that those who seek, above all, money and power, are conspiratorial, conniving, cynical, corrupt and capable of criminal capers! When considering the actions of the power-class, the skeptic in me arises like Lt. Colombo from his Peugeot -- I just want to ask "one more question".

In this case, I've been reading some JFK assassination discussions. This event, that bleak day in November, 1963, shattered my sheltered suburban teenage world. At age 15, I was not sufficiently politically astute to judge policy, but like many, if not most Americans, we were fascinated by the colorful couple that occupied the White House. They represented what we wanted our country to be -- smart, good looking, well spoken, daring, idealistic. Seeing the President gunned down like a rabid dog on the streets of some wild west border town was devastating to our national psyche.

But if the assassination, itself, was devastating, the dangling conversation which followed began the great era of American Distrust of Government. No one is, was, or ever will be satisfied that the many disturbing questions were answered -- worse, they were purposely distorted and subjected to the "official plausible denial" that has become the babel or our public political discourse. In this case, the Truth will NOT out.

Specifically irritating my Colombo senses tonight are two suspicious deaths connected with the Kennedys that won't let me climb into my Peugeot and drive off, satisfied to work at the precinct desk until my pension kicks in. No... like Colombo, I have to ask at least one more question.

First, the death of Marilyn Monroe. I recall the news stories... she had committed suicide. Every teenage boy in 1962 had a mad crush on Marilyn -- she represented in our adolescent minds all that we believed we wanted. For her to commit suicide -- didn't she know that we loved her, we cared... we could have saved her... at least that's how it felt.

Now, however, to my jaded 64 year old mind, no longed afflicted by the pubescent passions that twisted my tender mind, I have to ask -- was this not a suspicious death? She was having an affair with both the President of the United States!!! Fer cryin' out loud, folks. I watch those Investigation ID crime reality shows obsessively -- this is a GIANT RED FLAG. No conclusion here -- I'm just raising the question. Don't you think the possibility of foul play is there? While on the topic, Marilyn died of ingesting barbiturates. There is much written on this topic and there's no need to repeat it here.

The other confounding issue, also a "suicide by ingestion of barbiturates", is the death of Dorothy Kilgallen. Here, Colombo would look at his notebook and he would see these items scrawled:

  • Ms. Kilgallen, an avid investigative reporter, particularly interested in the Kennedy Assassination, had recently concluded the only interview granted by Jack Ruby;
  • Ms. Kilgallen was a panelist on a show hosted by John Daly -- the son-in-law of Chief Justice Earl Warren who, famously, chaired the Warren Commission that confirmed the "single shooter" theory which was supposed to quell public demands for answers;
  • Ms. Kilgallen has publicly announced that she had discovered evidence that would "crack the case wide open", in the parlance of detective shows -- she was planning to make this public the week following her death;
  • Ms. Kilgallen's files containing her research disappeared following her death;

Here again -- there is plenty written about Ms. Kilgallen's death and the many suspicious aspects of the "suicide" verdict. You don't have to go far -- here's a good discussion right here on blogger:

Almost certainly, Kilgallen and Daly were social contacts. Kilgallen, given her interest in the Kennedy Assassination, most certainly raised questions with Daly, given his close relationship to Justice Warren. And the file disappeared! Lt. Colombo is definitely not going to let this one rest.

The internet is festooned with blogs, pros, cons, "ifs", "ands", and "buts". Where one man sees a gun, another sees a reflection... where blogger A sees another shooter with a rifle on the grassy knoll, blogger B sees a photographer with a long lens. We'll never argue, or reason our way out of this one.

This is a story where billions of dollars and decades of power were involved. The people involved also control the sources of information. The story is not complete... it never will be. Our skepticism of all that has followed is well justified.

Happy Fourth of July, America!!!

--July 4, 2012