Friday, May 22, 2009

Stream of Consciousness

Sometimes I have random thoughts, "braindrops" if you like, that don't fall under any particular heading. I save them up like string and every now and then throw them into a miscellaneous post like this.

Congratulations to Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor. It's nice to see someone with such humble beginnings rise to such a prominent position in life, and I'm sure she is a wonderful role model for minorities everywhere, whether or not she is confirmed. We need to be careful here though. As heartwarming and affirming as her personal story may be, we need Supreme Court Justices who will allow the United States Constitution to guide their decisions. That document, envied the world over, contains all the protections we need as citizens of the United States. No individual Justice's prejudices or personal opinions should be allowed to supersede it, no matter how interesting their personal story.

Did you ever read the back of weekly church bulletins? I know, I should be paying attention to the sermon, but I find it hard to focus when the priest keeps repeating himself until he reaches the allotted 10 minutes. Anyhow, the sponsors of the bulletin are almost always funeral homes or doctors. Do they think only the sick and dying come to church? How about Costco or Home Depot jumping in with ads for the "not almost dead" reader. I wouldn't mind finding a good deal on new tires while Father Redundant drones on.

Jerry Seinfeld had a funny bit about aliens landing on earth and concluding that dogs were the rulers of the planet after seeing humans scooping up their messes. I have nothing against dogs, but any chance of me ever becoming a dog owner evaporated after they passed that pooper scooper law. I could deal with feeding and caring for a dog, walking them when they needed to go out, and taking them to the vet as necessary, but the idea of me trailing a mutt around with a little plastic bag until they decided the moment was right to poop....ain't happenin'.

What's with all the ads on the radio that end with some speed-talker reeling off the sponsor's disclaimers at 1,000 words a minute? How can this be allowed in an age when consumer advocates are lurking behind every rock? If there are conditions that alter any claims or warranties just made about the product in perfectly understandable English, then the verbal equivalent of the "small print" in a contract should have to be read in understandable English too.

I understand that fashion has its twists and turns, and that styles come and go...I only have to look in the family album at some of the clothes we wore back then that look so ridiculous now. But there is one trend that I just don't get...the guys with the pants worn down around their knees with their underwear showing. I think the look started in poor black ghettos, was popularized by black rappers, and has now been adopted by white "wanna be's". I won't have to wait fifty years to know this look is ridiculous, it's ridiculous now. Pull up your damn pants!

What my car
looks like
to birds.

More random thoughts to come; signing off for now. Th.. Th.. That's All Folks.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stuff in the News

Arizona State University recently invited President Obama to deliver the commencement address to it's 2009 graduating class, but as is customary, did NOT confer an honorary degree on the President. The media were horrified and headlines screamed: "Obama Snubbed." I applaud the University for upholding its standards. In explaining why the degree was not conferred, the University stated: "Arizona's honorary degrees are given "for an achievement of eminence" and that the President was not considered for an honorary degree because his body of achievements, at this time, does not meet the criteria." It's arguable whether becoming President of the United States should qualify, but that said, it took courage for the college to stand its ground.

The other side of this affair is the grace with which the President accepted the decision. Instead of the knee-jerk reaction of the liberal press, President Obama used the incident to urge ASU students to try harder to achieve. His statement: "I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven't yet achieved enough in my life. With a smile he added: "First of all, Michelle (Obama) concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home." But more than that I come to embrace the notion that I haven't done enough in my life. I heartily concur. I come to affirm that one's title, even a title like 'President of the United States,' says very little about how well one's life has been led." I'm no fan of Mr. Obama's, but this was a very classy way to handle the situation, and I applaud him.

As long as we're patting the President on the back, let's give a nod to his wife Michele. I developed an active dislike for her during the Presidential campaign. That remark about feeling pride as an American for the first time when her husband was nominated really set me off. I am still not solidly in her corner (a fact I'm sure causes her to miss a lot of sleep) but I see a strength in her and a sense of family values that resonate for me. Here's an excerpt from her commencement remarks to grads at the University of California, Merced "You will face tough times. You will certainly have doubts, and let me tell you because I know I did when I was your age,” she said. “Remember that you are blessed. Remember that in exchange for those blessings, you must give something back. You must reach back and pull someone up. You must bend down and let someone else stand on your shoulders so that they can see a brighter future.” I like that message a lot.

Don't think I'm going soft...I have a few shots to deliver as well today, the first for Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. I think Mike's done a fair job for the city during very tough times. His recent drive to overturn the city's law on term limits for Mayors opens the way for a third 4-year term. For a guy who spoke strongly for term limits, this was a betrayal of all the citizens who voted for the law. He's like a spoiled rich kid used to having his way. He's also using his billions to start campaigning against a rag-tag bunch of contenders who have no chance of beating him. He's already filling the airways with ads in that annoying nasal voice of his that I will have to listen to until November.

Finally, today's paper ran an item about a Staten Island woman named Marie Grasso who runs a demolition company. A quote: "She is No. 1 on the list of building code scofflaws. Grasso has run up more than $1 million in fines by routinely violating building code safety rules, permitting conditions that injured workers and undermined the stability of adjacent properties. Yet the city continues to award her permits to knock down more buildings. Grasso is one of hundreds of contractors and landowners who've racked up fines but continue to work, unpunished. All together, this legion of scofflaws has amassed $263 million in unpaid fines since 1999, half of which the city has given up on collecting." What the hell gives taxes keep going up while idiots like this get off scot free! Jimmy to NYC...turn over collections to the Gambino Family and make Marie an offer she can't refuse.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sorry, I Don't Speak Starbucks

On the way to the golf course this morning I decided to stop at my favorite Dunkin Dounuts on Route 66 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I like their coffee and they make a nice breakfast sandwich. Usually I'm served pretty quickly, but for some reason today, the place was packed. The two servers in the snappy paper hats were doing their best to cope, but looked overwhelmed. (In Staten Island, the ten people ahead of me would have been waited on before they could get their money out to pay, but in Jersey they move at that slow motion "MaƱana" pace. A customer at the register whose bill came to $4.14 gave one of the servers $10.14. The look of confusion that came over the server's face told me I wouldn't be getting out of there anytime soon. I think she was taking her shoes off as I walked out the door.

There's not much open at 7:00 AM in the suburbs, but I spotted a Starbucks in a strip mall across the highway. Normally I'm not a Starbucks kind of guy. People in there treat drinking a cup of coffee like some kind of sacred ritual. Many of the customers appear to live in the store. They sit in the plush club chairs in full Tommy Hilfiger regalia, nursing a cup of coffee for hours on end. If I were the owner I'd throw these assholes out the door, but hey, that's me. The owner of this Starbucks had his own problems. He was so super-cheerful it frightened me. At some point I thought he was going to vault over the counter for a group hug.

When I finally got "inside the ropes" I asked for a medium cup of coffee. I absolutely refuse to use the pretentious Starbucks terms for coffee sizes like Venti and Grande...please. Then Happy, the owner, says to me: Komodo or Pike?" Oh no, he's speaking Starbucks. Let me try to reason this out. Komodo is a dragon, and Pike is a peak, what the hell does this have to do with coffee? "What is Komodo or Pike" I ask, raising my voice a little the way we do when we speak to someone who doesn't speak English. I learn that Pike is their standard house blend and Komodo a bolder brew. Since the weakest Starbucks coffee gives me the caffeine shakes, I figure Komodo will turn me into a serial killer. I go with the Pike.

I then remember that Starbucks now serves breakfast sandwiches which are really quite good. I ask for a sausage and egg on a roll. The guy at my diner knows exactly what this means and simply brings me what I want. Happy, the owner at Starbucks, has questions. "Do you want that on a Multigrain roll or an Artesian roll?" I panic. I know what Multigrain rolls are, but Artesian roll is not coming up in my memory banks. Happy looks at me with that well-practiced: "How did this unwashed idiot get in the door" look, and disdainfully points to the glass-fronted showcase at an Artesian roll. It's as if he knew that language was fruitless in trying to explain things to a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal like me. (If you're out of the bread loop too, an Artesian roll is kind of a flat, Pannini bread that proved to be delicious.)

As I sat there munching my sandwich and sipping my Pike, I glanced at the menu just to have something to read. Some other breakfast selections I could have chosen: Parmesan and Gouda-flavored frittata or Black Forest ham and Cheddar, and to drink, a Venti Mocha Latte with a Piccolo Queso Sombrero. (I have no idea what on earth that is.) For lunch you might want to try the Grilled Vegetable San Francisco Ciabatta and wash it down (whatever it is) with an Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte. Before you leave, be sure to pick up some coffee to take home like Arabian Mocha Sanani, Brazil Ipanema Bourbon, Ethopia Sidamo or Guatemala Casi Cielo. Someone please, I need a Starbucks to English dictionary!

I know Starbucks is a very successful chain that redefined the coffee drinking experience worldwide. I know people are simply wild about their exotic blends from every corner of the earth. I know they are committed to saving the planet by using part of their profits for environmental causes. That said, I'm just not a big fan. I'm a Dunkin Donuts guy in a Starbucks world. My feelings can be summed up perfectly by quoting a line from comic George Gobel, who was the last guest to come out on a 1969 Tonight Show program. Already sitting at the dias were superstars Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and Bob Hope. George turned to Johnny and delivered the classic line: "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?" Click below to see this great clip.

YouTube - Bob Hope Dean Martin George Gobel Johnny Carson


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Monday, May 4, 2009

Presenting: "The Barack-ettes"

As I get older, I feel so far out of the loop that I can't even see the loop any more. Things are changing much faster than they used to, and I often feel like I'm on the outside looking in. I remember when VCRs came out back in the seventies. My mother looked at that machine like it was something from another planet that did wondrous things, but that she could never hope to understand. It's not just technology that is changing, but people's attitudes, priorities and values as well. I know it's inevitable that younger generations will experience the world differently than older ones, but that process seems to have accelerated considerably.

I just read an interesting magazine article about how these generational differences play out in the workplace. They looked at three generations: The Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X - 1965 -1980; and The Millenials - 1981 - 2000. (I am considered part of the pre-Baby Boomer generation known by the cutsey name of The Matures born between the year Dirt and 1945.) The article talked about the way each generation views work, and related a story I will share with you that pretty much illustrates how much things have changed. A company President from the Baby Boomer generation (they view work traditionally, pretty much as I do) was out on the office floor when a phone began ringing. All the employees were on the phones except one (a Millenial), who showed no inclination to answer the call. The President took care of the call, and then asked the Millenial why he had not picked up the ringing phone. His answer: "I was down to the last two minutes of an E-bay auction in which I was bidding."

The company President told the writer interviewing him for this magazine article that he took no action against the employee because things were different today. Young people don't look at work or a job the same way that Baby Boomers did. (See, here's where I move way out of the loop.) If I had been that company President, and got that answer from an employee of mine, his ass would have been out in the parking lot in a New York minute, followed by his belongings raining down from the nearest window. I (the company President) had to pick up a ringing phone because you (my employee) were engaged in bidding in an E-bay auction on company time! Not on my dime, Buckaroo.

Another area where I feel out of touch is in understanding the Millenial's addiction to technology. I use my home computer more than most, but don't feel panicked if I'm away from it for an hour. I just don't get sites like My Space and Facebook. Setting aside the risks for teens who naively post stuff on these sites better kept private, the real thing that puzzles me is why people feel compelled to send messages like: "Marcie is feeling blue today" or "What flavor ice cream are you". Who has the time or the interest to respond to this stuff? The same slavish attachment holds true for cell phones and I-pods, why must people be on them incessantly! They walk around with those stupid Bluetooth appendages sticking out of their ears. Us "Matures" are thankful for any quiet time we can get. (P.S. My blogs are not a compulsion; I can quit any time I want.)

I rarely go to the movies any more because my wife gets embarrassed when I shush people who are conversing as if in their living room. I used to watch the Academy Awards, at least until the show became interminably long. It was nice to see real stars (as real as Hollywood gets) with real talent compete for the coveted Oscars. Lately, on those rare occasions when I look in on the broadcast, I hardly recognize anybody. Actors and actresses come and go, with very few like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman showing any staying power. They seem so hallow and superficial, and as for their acting ability, I'll quote an old line from a Dorothy Parker review of a spectacularly ungifted actress: "Her performance ran the gamut of emotions from A to B."

Finally, there is politics. I didn't vote for President Obama, but I'm rooting for him and for the country. There was a 20-page pullout in this week's paper celebrating the success of his first hundred days in office. Please tell me what I'm missing. I thought success was measured by accomplishments. Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking for miracles after three months, after all, he inherited a mess with the economy and the war, but let's wait until he actually achieves something before we celebrate. I can't get excited about sound bites and speeches, but apparently I'm in the minority. At his public appearances, the President is usually surrounded by young groupies who cheer wildly, no matter what he says. (I call them the "Barack-ettes.") I listen, but like all skilled politicians, he doesn't say much. The time for speech making is over; he's got the job and it's time to start keeping all those promises.

I don't like the feeling of being marginalized and out of the loop, but the way things are going, maybe it's a loop I don't want to be in.

LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association