Friday, December 17, 2004

Holiday Hell, Part 1: Worst Xmas Songs

Christmas hasn't been the same since my stint as a worker in a pastry shop for one holiday season. Being subjected to 8.5 hours of non-stop "holiday cheer" for a month, courtesy of one of the crummiest radio stations on the planet (Detroit's 100.3 FM) changed my life, and NOT in a good way.

Here are ten of my least favourite holiday songs, in no especial order:

1) "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"-- Cher & Rosie O'Donnell:

I know, I know, easy targets, but the radio station I like is playing this one repeatedly, and it really is a horrid song with no justification for existing. It generates zero emotion, and the duetting stars don't appear to feel any themselves. Rosie sings better than Cher does, though. (Note: Rosie's duet with Donny Osmond on "Winter Wonderland" isn't half bad until they start to ham it up at the end. Really.)

2) "Santa Baby"-- Various Artists:

A slinky, sexy Santa song. Yeesh. I don't like this one musically, I don't like it lyrically, and I don't like any of the versions I've heard of it, ever.

3) "Do They Know It's Christmas?"-- Band-Aid:

One of the sloppiest things Bob Geldof has been involved with. I don't care if it was for a good cause, as the whole premise of the song is appallingly soppy. Hint: non-Christian kiddies in Third World countries wouldn't care about Christmas even if they weren't ill, starving, and/or living in a war zone. "Feed the World," fine, but sticking Christmas into it is just loopy. Look Bob, I'm sorry the kiddies have nothing to eat, but I couldn't care less if they know about Christmas or not, so can I skip buying the record and just give you some money? (Note: I have not heard the Nov. 2004 re-recording of this and never want to.)

4) "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas":

Pure evil. Everyone involved with this song needs to burn, but especially the singer. I don't know if that was a woman pretending to be a little boy, a man pretending to be a little girl, or what, but it was HORRIBLE. They played this every day in the pastry shop.

5) "Little Saint Nick"-- the Beach Boys:

Laaaaame. This defines a certain category of Bad Xmas Song-- it's all about the Beach Boys going through the motions and has zilch to contribute to the spirit of the holiday. Mike Love's contributions to this one really grate, but I suppose that goes without saying.

6) "Little Drummer Boy"-- Various Artists, including David Bowie with Bing Crosby:

I don't hate the song so much as the many bad versions of it that litter the radio. It's not a complex or compelling tune, and it's a repetitive song, and a bad version of it is just interminable. The Bowie/Crosby cover isn't half bad because it jettisons most of the tune and goes into space with Bowie's "Peace on earth..." section.

7) "Sleigh Ride"-- Amy Grant:

A soulless cover of song that can be lovely and cheerful when done by the right performer. Most radio-friendly versions of this song are terribly, and Miss Grant's has nothing to recommend it.

8) "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time"-- Paul McCartney:

Paul McC gives the lie to his aura of melodic genius in this hopelessly plodding, brain-dead, and shameless excuse for a holiday tune. The lyrics are terrible, but that chorus of "Sim-PLY HAV-ing a WON-der-ful Christmas time!" should have gotten the man more jail time than all of his pot offenses combined (ie, at least nine days). "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" has its problems, but it kicks this song to the curb and then piddles on it.

9) "Mary, Did You Know?"-- Various, including Kenny Rogers:

A song about (and addressed to) the Blessed Virgin that denies the Immaculate Conception. They actually performed this at Immaculate Conception Church's (Hamtramck, MI) holiday concert this year! The song is pure glurge anyway, but that IC staged it boggles the mind-- I guess they didn't actually read the lyrics before assigning it to the kids. Doctrinal quibbles aside, did I mention it's glurge? Yech.

10) "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town"-- Bruce Springsteen:

A bad idea made much worse by the fact that radio stations still play this lame mongrel of a tune. I've heard that even Springsteen is embarrassed by this one, and I hope that's true because he certainly should be. Unmelodic and joyless.

There are many, many more, but these ten are either burned into my soul (#4 and #8) and will always be present on any Bad-Xmas list of mine, or are annoying me very much at the present (#2 and #7).

Friday, November 26, 2004

McDonald's to patrons: you're all scum

Some time ago, I reviewed the some spots for McDonald's "i'm lovin' it" ad campaign. I wasn't too thrilled with the local offerings of Mickey D's global offensive, and I am displeased to report that the new ads are worse. Not because they're omnipresent on my Canadian-based radio station, not because the "food" they promote is likely as crappy as anything else McDonald's has squeezed out in the past, but because these ads betray a breathtaking contempt for the losers who buy into it.

Really. Take one of the current ads for the "McDeal": Male Voice and Female Voice offer interwoven accounts of how they met, fell for one another, and then how he treated her to a McDeal. Nice, eh? Then there's the closing lines-- she can't wait to introduce her new honey to all of her friends. He can't wait to date all of her friends.

Yeah. I guess the moral of this one is that real friends don't treat friends to McDeals.

I thought the "Queen Bee" salad ad from this summer was repellent, but this one is certainly worse. Salad Girl was a narcissistic moron. McDeal Guy is flat-out scuzzy, and his "girlfriend" is no bright light either if she's so knocked out by his crappy "treat."

Then there was the Monopoly ad from last month. Now, this one had nothing to do with the food-- it was a promotion for the McDonald's monopoly game tie-in. It was playful and innocuous compared to the McDeal ad, but still contained the weirdo notion that treating someone to McDonald's lunch is something special.

They have to be taking the piss. I thought Mommy taking me to McD's for lunch was something neato when I was four, and that's half because I kept pretending I was Ramona Quimby going to Wonderburger. (Wonderburger was portrayed as something special in the Ramona books, but it seems to have been inspired by joints other than McDonald's-- Burger King and Wendy's, perhaps-- plus the Quimbys were dirt poor and couldn't afford to buy gummi bears.)

I am not reviewing the other McDeal ad currently on, which features a gaggle of Female Voices fantasizing about the food, the guy behind the serving counter, and the sexy voice of Mr. Announcer. Really.

In conclusion: McDonald's is demonstrating pure contempt for the people who eat their food. Maybe they think it's po-mo or something.... It's kinda like the Citibank "Live Richly" campaign: who are they trying to kid?

Screw 'em. Go to Wendy's.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mall of Memories

So, the Mall of Memphis, once the largest shopping mall in the Mid-South, is now a rubbish heap by the side of the freeway. It actually closed nearly a year ago-- Christmas Eve, apparently, but I was unaware of of its demise until I saw its bulldozed remains this weekend on a brief visit back there.

The signs of terminal malaise had been present for years; from abput 1988, when I first would have visited, to 1999 or so, when I last went there with a friend, it became a markedly less fun place to shop. Same thing with Hickory Ridge, the carousel notwithstanding, same damn thing with poorpoor Raleigh Springs. More on that later, but let's take a look about at the late, great Mall of Memphis.

I first went with my grandmother, 1988 or thereabouts. It was a special outing-- I felt even a trip to the local Marshall's with her was pretty great, and going across town to the big mall was really something. I remember the bizarre murder mystery I thumbed through on the car ride (I don't know why she let me, as it wasn't a book for kids); I remember the hotels flanking the mall-- the Marriot, the Wilson Inn, the Wilson World Hotel. I remember the huge parking lot, the two-story horseshoe-shaped food court, where Grandfather's Ice Cream (?) offered Blue Vanilla as a trademark flavour. I was surprised by the ice rink, and probably awed at the sheer scale of the place. People, that was one big mall.

Grandma and I didn't go to the movie theatre that day, but Mom and Dad took me with some of Dad's friends and their kids to see Kindergarten Cop when it came out. I was probably too young to be watching that, too, but that's what you get for mixing Arnie, guns, and little kids in one "family" film.

In the winter of 1990 0r 1991, Mom got a job in the houseware's department of Thalheimer's, then one of the MoM's anchor department stores. She hated the job and hated the clothes (and shoes!) she had to wear for it, but it was holiday money. She got me Thalheimer's Snow Bear, a huge white bear in a red vest, for Christmas that year. Thal's was the first of the anchor stores at MoM to close; I think Service Merchandise was next. That's when things started to get bad, I suppose. The smaller but far more posh Oak Court mall opened in East Memphis, and people and their money were streaming to Cordova, Bartlett, and Germantown. The horrors of Wolfchase Galleria glimmered on the horizon...

Also, a woman was killed in the parking lot in '92. It wasn't the last violent death at the MoM, and the place acquired the sobriquet "Mall of Murder."

Still, the Mall of Memphis turned out to be a prime meeting place for my far-flung high school friends (I think it was equally inconvenient for all of us to get there). Those are the best memories-- running around the music stores and T-shirt shops, looking through the blown-glass critters sold next to the ice rink, watching ferrets play in the windows of the pet store, eating warm Mrs. Fields Toffee Cookies. Best of all was playing "Claudia"; going into the children's dress shops and trying on dresses meant for little girls, then modeling them for my Anne Rice-loving friends like I was Claudia the child vampire. Kinda sick when you think about it, but I loved it. Those were cool dresses, too-- velvet-and-lace confections with artificial pearl drops, or chiffon-and-tulle billows dripping with ribbon roses.

We had Geralyn's birthday party there one year-- I baked the cake (yellow with chocolate icing) and brought it into the food court for us to enjoy. Another time, Ger and I went there with only her brother Michael. We had fun being mouthy to the clipboard-bearing God-botherers near the main stairs, but by that time the mall's decline was clear and there wasn't all that much to do. I think that was also one of the last times I saw Michael before his death in a car wreck.

I was shocked, but not very surprised, when I saw the ruins where the mall had been on Friday morning. I was also not very sad; for all the times I went there, I was not personally attached to the place (never even ice skated), and the stores that did have memories attached, like Thal's and Grandfather's Ice Cream, were long vanished. Perhaps the sheer scale of the mall turned me off; in the end, the tragedy is that a once-grand shopping centre of that magnitude should have fallen vacant as it did. By the time its closing was announced, it had but thirteen tenants. Blame crime, blame shifting demographics, blame a combo platter of both with a side of racism, but all in all... what a damn waste.

I feel worse about Raleigh Springs, though. That was my mall, and once it was a lovely place-- dated in its structure and atmosphere but packed with places to shop and eat. It had a whopping four anchor stores: Sears, Penney's, Goldsmiths, and Dillards, plus a Walgreens, a Woolworth with an attached diner, a two-screen budget movie theater, two music stores, an Asian import shop that sold framed butterflies, a Waldenbooks, and a variety of places to eat (A&W, Milano's Pizza, Chick-fil-a, Bresler's 33 Flavor Ice Cream...).

Last time I went, they still had Waldenbooks and Sears. For a couple of years, one whole side of the mall advertised the date that the new Food Court/Strip would open. After a while, they didn't even bother to paint over dates that had already passed with new bogus numbers. I stopped even poking my head in there two years ago, when I learned Dillard's and Goldsmith's were going elsewhere. I wonder if they still have the two fountains with aquamarine-tinted water, or the pink-flowered bromeliads.

I'm afraid to go to Hickory Ridge. Not because of the crime, but because I remembered it as being so very nice, and the last time Geralyn and I went it was Kinda Shabby, and that was six or seven years ago. For all I know, they've ripped out the carousel.

The fate of the Mall of Memphis, like that of earlier showpiece shopping complexes on Summer and Lamar, should be a lesson to the happy yuppie shoppers at Wolfchase Abomination and the Shops of Saddle Creek: today's "shopping centre of the future" will be the wasteland you're afraid to take your children to. And you've only yourself to blame.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The continuing saga of DECO's transformer

DECO attempted to install a pair of "baby" transformers to replace the replacement of the one that blew up back in August. They were incompatible, or something, and the whole "do-we-or-don't-we" installation debate provoked some great fights on the other side of the house.

Then they got another little transformer that would be compatible, only it's not. Or something.

Then yesterday, someone sent three DECO operators here to my home station because they were going to shut down house service and fix all the cascading problems that transformer caused. Now, this would have been a bloody inconvenience to me, shutting down power to my office on the very day I process payroll, but it didn't matter 'cause it didn't happen.

Mind, the operators found out it was a no-go after they'd all been pulled off other jobs and assembled here, and after I'd grabbed two of our own operators to assist in the matter. It's actually going to happen today.

Or maybe not. It's raining.

It was great to see the Three Amigos (Chirpy, Lou, and Kramer) in one place, though. They're always fun, even if Chirpy was in a kind of a bad mood about the whole mess. Lou told me'n'Gordon about the fun DECO is having at another station. A sixty-year-old regulator needs to be replaced, and the replacement parts they found are even more ancient-- more like eighty years.

It's cool working on a system with such history. I feel bad every time an old Westinghouse gets scrapped. Gordon says that DECO maintained things so well for so long that the antique equipment functioned great for decades, but that after Maintenance's budget was cut, things have kind of gone to hell (and didn't ITC find that out when they picked up the transmission system!). Now DECO (and ITC to a lesser extent) are having the old stuff fail on them, replacement parts are hard to find and may be older than the pieces what dun gone bad, and the other option is installing new stuff entirely.

ITC likes that latter option. They change out breakers and reactors, and just scrap the old stuff instead of using it for spare parts in case the ones that haven't been changed out yet go bad. This is perhaps not the best approach... they scrapped three reactors at Rouge earlier this year, and now one of the matching reactors at Rouge's sister plant is making funny noises. It'd be nice if they could fix the problem using the discarded bits from Rouge, but those are kind of gone (ok, completely gone).

Gordon's assessment of the squeaky reactors: "Too bad. It's broke."

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Devil's Music

Back when I posted on Usenet, I did a list of my least favourite songs of all time. 'Classics' by Neil "Self-Plagiarist" Sedaka and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs were high on the list, timeless pieces of crap that they are, but I don't recall the whole of the rankings now.

I ain't diggin it up, though. Too many memories in that Usenet archive...

Anyway, the list would be sadly out of date, because so many terrible, terrible songs have come out in the last few years that re-evaluation of my list is in order.

Two tunes that I feel sure I will look back on with loathing five years from now bear analysis.

"Who I Am," by Jessica Andrews

This one emits fumes from the get-go: "If I... never live to see the seven wonders." Hate to break it to ya, chickie, but you could live to be a thousand, never mind a hundred, and not see six of 'em. They're kinda gone and all. Points off for an example of stuff she can live without that's useless at best, 'cause NO ONE will be able to see that no matter how many Grammys they win.

Which brings us to another reason this song is terrible-- it's all about her, little Jessica Andrews and her singing career. She may never win a Grammy, but that's okay 'cause her momma's her fan, and her friends love her. All well and good, but the listener is never given any reason to love this self-satisfied, self-absorbed little girlie. She may know who she is, but at the end of the song I don't especially and I've no reason to care. Jessica is right-on when she calls herself "clueless and clumsy," though, as the lyrics to the bridge attest: "I'm a saint and I'm a sinner, I'm a loser; I'm a winner."

Go away, Jessica; Alanis Morrisette does the "find meaning in cliche dichotomy" thing better than you ever, ever will.

I hope Jessica is a one-off source of badness. If she's not an American (or Canadian) Idol reject, she sure sounds like one, and I don't think that'll have much lasting appeal.

The other song on my (s)hit parade is from a more prolific source of irritation. Train are a major purveyor of under-thought and overplayed sludge, the dregs of what used to be "alternative rock." They've replaced the now-defunct Creed as my least favorite pretends-to-be-rock band, and the tune currently infesting the airwaves is a good example of why I loathe them.

"Calling All Angels" isn't so much a song as an attempt at one; it's barely more than one verse, a bridge, and a fragmented, repetitive refrain. Most of it is padding; "I won't give up if you won't give up" alternates ad infinitum with the short-on-meaning title phrase. It would be just banal, but Train are so lacking in versatility that it sounds very, very, much like their previous songs, IOW not very good. And, given that it's the third or fourth time this particular brand of aural backwash has hit the airwaves, that makes it Very Annoying.

Still, it's the lyrics to the bridge that sends this one careening into pure "whafu..." territory and sends my bile rising every time I hear it.

When children have to play inside so they don’t disappear

Trite and manipulative. When a hack songwriter is out of ideas and wants to jerk you around, he asks you to think of the children.

While private eyes solve marriage lies cause we dont talk for years

TMI, dude. If this is a comment on your own marriage, it sounds like your own damn fault. If it's a generalization about American life, as the previous lyric seems to be, it's a dumb one.

And football teams are kissing queens and losing sight of having dreams


Ok-aaaaaay. I thought football players were supposed to dream about snogging the prom queen. That's not a good thing anymore? Or... wait. Is Train's lyricist saying that America's football teams are facing a threat from crossdressing homosexuals? Drag queens are destroying America's youth through kisses?

I... Don't...Get...This

In a world where all we want is only what we want until it’s ours

Eh. Unoriginal. And Courtney Love did a better and more personalized take on this particular sentiment on "Violet."

Train are friggin' irritating overall, but "Calling All Angels" takes the caca cake. It's more than dire, it's a force of evil potent enough to give me the urge to sacrifice baby mice and rabbits to make it Go Away.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Arcs and Sparks

I was saying to Jon just yesterday that arson seems to be on the rise in the neighbourhood despite increased police presence. Aside from the seven or so fire trucks screaming down the street each evening, the burning van Jon saw on the street next to ours on Friday was Not a Good Sign.

THIS morning, I awoke about eight minutes before my alarm was to go off. I lay there, trying to enjoy those last few minutes of warm and dark, but an odd sound kept penetrating through my catnapping. It sounded to me like water, and I kept running through watery possibilities-- Jon taking a way-early shower, Jon doing an inexplicable load of laundry, a burst pipe, rain coming through an open window...

The sound was only coming through the window at the back of the house, though.

The fire engines didn't alarm me at first-- as I said, they've become commonplace-- until they stopped in front of our house, flooding red lights through the window.

The picture began to clear for me. I climbed out of bed, and stepped from the bedroom into the main section of the upper story. It was all aglow with orange. I couldn't smell any smoke, and as I walked forward to the window I held out my hands to gauge the heat. I felt no approaching inferno, and when I reached the rear window I looked down into the garden and saw the source of the trouble.

The next-door neighhbour's shoulda-been-condemned mess of a garage was ablaze. Garages in our area are outbuildings facing an alleyway; so the houses themselves looked safe. I couldn't tell if our own garage had caught fire yet, but the one on the other side of the inferno was already licked with flames along its roof.

Things were alarming, but not yet catastrophic.

Jon started running around screaming about the gas lines and the need to save all Grandma's photo albums. I put on my shoes and contemplated Bandit the cat, who was now awake and seemed awfully phlegmatic for a creature that's supposed to sense danger. The lights we had turned on had flickered repeatedly, and given that the power lines go over the garages, it was reasonable to fear that they'd go out. I powered down and unplugged my computer (my version of Jon's "Save the Photos!" urge) and hoped that no arcs really would set the house alight.

I also hoped that Grandma wouldn't have a heart attack.

I saw the blue-white flash of the arc that took out our neighbour's electricity while I was standing on the back porch watching fire fighters tramp through the vegetable patch. Our own power stayed on, no smoke was in the house, and Grandma took the whole thing pretty well.

I washed the dishes while I waited to see how our power situation was. By this time, I felt that short of the electrical problem, things were in good hands. The fire brigades were at work, my immediate family and possessions were safe, and there wasn't much left in the garden to be stepped on. I would probably be late for work, so I called up Mac to try to arrange for an apprentice to watch the phones until I got there.

When the DECO guys showed up to fix the distribution lines, I took my shower. Jon was outside talking to the fire fighters and the burnt garage's owner. Our phone lines were also down, and the company had been called to fix that.

All in all, I was ten minutes late for work, apparently missed no calls (the requested apprentice was late himself), nothin' of ours was damaged, and DECO and SBC fixed everything up that morning. It was a terrible way to wake up, but ultimately wasn't so bad. One morning like that is enough for a lifetime, even so. I am ticked at myself for not investigating the "water" sound when I sensed something was funny as soon as I awoke, but my consolation is that the fire brigade wouldn't have arrived any earlier for it-- clearly, they must have been told even before I awoke at 4:53.

It was arson, of course. This be Detroit and all.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It never ends....

I missed some real "go boom" action last week. DECO finally energized their new transformer about ten minutes after I, Gordon, and the guys left the station. Ten minutes after that, the thing failed.

Big explosion. Big, big, explosion. The transformer lifted clear off the concrete mat. Fortunately, none of the eight guys who were standing around it were hurt.

Chirpy sez they were lucky it was only a primary explosion, and that the transformer didn't fail a second time. Primary failures are loud. Secondary explosions send parts flying.

Anyway, the new transformer is shot, and the new cable they spent weeks laying may be ruined as well. I'm glad it's not our stuff. We didn't have a transformer repair budget to begin with!

Tempers are getting frayed over on the DECO side of the fence. About five guys had a hell of a spat today over regulatory issues-- the operators and the PERT guys were at each others' throats and both were bashing the Underground. All paperwork-related stuff, regarding who signs in on whose crew, but its an indication of bad times in general.

Hey, maybe we can lure some people over to our company after this! Join the dark side, fellas...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The downside of working with high-voltage equipment

Gordon got a memo yesterday from the superintendent. It seems we had a couple of near-tragedies at the beginning of the month. First, a guy put a ladder up on an energized breaker instead of the de-energized one the guys were working on. Then, a guy drove a piece of machinery underneath another energized section of equipment, where he shouldn't have been in the first place.

I shared this info with some of my guys this morning. They'd heard of both incidents, but they also claimed that the same guy was involved in both of these near-misses. They didn't name names, but through their discussion of said incidents, I was able to figure out whom they meant.

He's a nice guy, reserved and fairly kind. He seems more mature than about half the guys we have in the apprentice program, but he is new to the kind of maintenance work we do here and his inexperience came out in these two close calls. Just in terms of personality, he isn't the first guy you'd expect to put a ladder up on an energized breaker. In fact, when I told my Northern counterpart about the "incidents," she immediately suspected one of my "cocky" cut-ups was at fault. Not so-- the cocky one was among those in my office, discussing the whole business with his mates with the mixture of bravado, scorn, and real apprehension you'd expect from a pack of twenty-something guys.

I realize working on the transmission system can be dangerous. Even if I didn't have a healthy respect for the power of 345,000 volts from the get-go, the stories Gordon and the other DECO veterans have told me would have given me a graphic idea of how bad an accident on the job can be.

I'll need to write about the Crestwood fire sometime.

The prospect of somebody dying on the job is always in the back of my mind. Even more present is the reality that many of my co-workers are, statistically speaking, nearing the end of what this business calls the "normal life cycle." One of the North operators had a major illness this summer, though he's expected to fully recover. One of my South guys went back into retirement after four of his contemporaries from DECO died in a brief time-frame. He opened his copy of the DECO retirees' magazine one month and found all four of their obituaries. He decided life was too short not to enjoy the retirement he'd already earned.

Mortality is something you live with. That's true for you people who don't work on power lines, too. Whether Americans can stand it or not, death is not optional.

That doesn't mean stupid accidents are any less stupid. One of the guys I work with daily, a guy I am fond of, a guy who showed me how to assemble a breaker valve during lunch break one Friday, nearly turned himself into a crispy critter. Twice.

Chirpy says that he's never seen a young guy accidentally kill himself, that it's always the older guys who get overconfident and take shortcuts.

Not very comforting, ne?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Evolution of Humour, part 1

Some time ago, I was browsing's Welcome Back Kotter forum. Based on memories of the re-runs, I feel the show was always insufferable, and I wanted to see how many 'fans' agreed. Most, alas, pin-pointed John Travolta's exit, or the 'maturation' of Horshack as the breaking point. Those things may not have helped the show any, but I think it was dire from the premise on.

Anyway, one poster had a sublime realization-- in many a show, the characters that are supposed to be funny, the ones people glom to the during the show's first run, are not funny in the least. Rather, it's the 'straight' (as in 'not comic,' rather than 'not gay') characters, the ones who aren't written as borderline retarded, who are truly amusing. I dunno who the 'actually funny' character in Kotter would be (Horshack, of course, is the funny-retarded character), but the poster also cited the case of not-actually funny ReRun vs. actually-funny Raj in What's Happenin'.

I always liked Raj best.

It's a dead-on observation, too. Take one of my favourite shows, The Monkees. I'm sure people cooed over Peter Tork, and rolled around laughing at Micky Dolenz-- at least they were supposed to. Hell, I do even today at times. Still, when I watch my season 1 DVD, it's apparent that Peter Tork the character isn't as amusing as Peter Tork, the intelligent off-screen commentator, that Dolenz is far more charming when he's not acting loopy, and that the most witty and engaging characterization is given to Mike Nesmith, whose cynicism (and sideburns) probably turned off some of the kiddies back in '66.

Dolenz and Tork play 'cute kids' by acting like an ADHD three-year old and a none-too-bright three year old respectively. Nesmith tries the teenage-ingenue bit on occasion, and is totally unconvincing at it; he was married with a child before becoming a Monkee, and it may have affected his ability to successfully impersonate a preschooler. When he acts as an adult, the default brains of the group, he's not just amusing, he's the only character with any depth or who even hints at depth. 'Peter' and 'Micky' are caricatures, and 'Davy' is drawn with too few lines to make it into the second dimension. 'Mike' seems human, and if his screen test is any indication, he really was being true to himself-- being a person.

The same is kind of true of the Beatles. Lennon's sharp-edged foolerly and Ringo's sweet clown act drew the raves in the '60s, but watch Help! or A Hard Day's Night now and see how underrated George Harrison's role in the films is. His AHDN scene with the slimeball television exec shines as bright as the "solo turn" scenes given to Lennon and Starr (McCartney's were cut, probably because his comic timing was off. I'm guessing this based on the rest of his filmography.). George's little comments in Help!-- his implied rivalry with Paul, his attempt to impress the girl, his sweetly underplayed rescue of Ringo-- all provide a charming contrast to the OTT wackiness that threatens to derail the film at times. I'm not saying Lennon and Starr weren't good, as they were (McCartney, though...), but George's contributions were underappreciated.

Where am I going with this? That anonymous JtS poster was onto something-- a character with comparatively dry and subtle wit, one whose comic side is backed by maturity or otherwise grounded in reality, will age better than a character whose comic shtick is composed of repetitive puerile outbursts and/or wacky hair. The character whose appeal lies in a pretty face, a reputation with the ladies (or girls) and little else will certainly lose against time.

Hell, even Full House demonstrates the rule. Danny Tanner wasn't great shakes as a character (I love Bob Saget's po-mo take on his role, though), but Uncle Joey the unfunny man-child was terrible even before his damned talking woodchuck suspended the viewer's reality from the neck until dead. Danny and Uncle Jesse (Elvis act bad, but sarcasm good) had each a modicum of maturity that made them watchable. So did the long-suffering father in Family Matters, particularly in his interactions with Urkel. It's just too bad that wacky-wacky-wackjobs are popular enough in the short term to hijack shows that otherwise might have been fair entertainment.

Things that go boom!

The DECO guys are still cleaning up the mess from that failed transformer. The happy new transformer itself is in, but they've spent the week laying a new cable from one end of the station to the other. It's quite a production-- a swarm of DECO guys, all of whom have company vehicles that dwarf our own (sizeable) trucks, plus an assortment of heavy machinery and a huge, noisy thing to clean out the manholes.

Oh, and the circuit breakers...

They've been opening for three straight days, with muffled explosions that sound remarkably like the blast that started this whole mess. These are planned explosions, of course, not the sort that cause alarms and emergency dispatching, so they're exciting in a good way.

Today's breakers aren't DECO's, though. The very loud blasts today come from our own Delle that Gerry and the guys are testing. It's a little reminscent of the Civil War battle re-enactments I could coming from Ardenwood during California summers.

I love it down here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

i'm ignorin' it.

I didn't notice when McDonald's changed their slogan from "We love to see you smile" (hell, that one didn't even register with me) to the current, ubiquitous, "i'm lovin' it," and I haven't eaten there since my last annual shamrock shake. I prefer to ignore them, but my radio station makes that impossible. I listen to a Canadian radio station, which plays a mix of very good, mediocre, and crap but is still the most "listenable" station that gets good reception in my car. They also have good weather reports and a mix of Canadian and US-centered news, but on the down side they have McDonald's as a major sponsor. I get at least one of their commercials played at me every third commercial break.

They rate as follows:

--The first one I heard, for 'sundae treats.' I guess these bear the same relation to an ice cream sundae that a "happy shake" does to a proper milkshake.
Annoyance rating: 5
It seemed short, and while it was played constantly, the rapid-fire delivery and raucous, androgynous vocals (kinda like Shirley from Sly and the Family Stone) made it strangely tolerable. The trademark "I'm lovin' it" phrase was so slurred I didn't even make it out until hearing the line in another commercial.

-- Which would be this one, for salads.
Annoyance rating: 10. Or maybe 11.
Totally un-frickin'-bearable. The girly-girl vocals, the appalling lyrics, ("It's okay to stare/I'm the queen bee/eat your heart out/it's all about me)... gyah! Okay, McDonald's comes out and says clearly that shallow, narcissistic morons who speak in cliche buy their salad. Anybody still hungry? This one didn't seem to get as much airplay as the "sundae treat" one, so maybe people joined me in turning it off.

-- Another commercial with a brief run. Possibly also for salads.
Annoyance rating: 4 or 6. 4 if it truly was so unremarkable that it wasn't worth committing to long-term memory, 6 if I don't remember because I kept turning it off. All I remember is the tagline, which was sung in a voice close to that of the hideous salad girl.

-- The toasted deli sandwich one, currently airing.
Annoyance rating: 7. Eager-beaver whitebread guy enthusing about toasted deli sandwiches, followed by a gratuitous slogan performed by a sleepy, grungy stoned-sounding band. The two approaches don't work, fake music like *that* wore out its welcome circa 1996, and while the sandwiches do sound good, I don't bloody trust McDonalds! If the commercial makes me want a toasted deli sandwich, I'll head to Quiznos. At least Quiznos has interesting commercials featuring spongmonkeys!

The bottom line: none of these commercials is more than adequate. Two leave me uninterested in the food, one makes me positively antipathetic toward the chain and anyone who eats there, and the fourth makes me think fondly of another sandwich chain. The "i'm lovin' it" push is a 100-country synchronized campaign, and allegedly it's boosted sales, but I think the next time I set foot in a McDonald's will be when shamrock shake season rolls around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Yu-gi-oh: Giving anime a bad name since 1996

I watch anime to enjoy depth of characterization, intricately layered plot, well-developed symbolism, and yes, cute androgynous cartoon-people. When they all come together, as in Revolutionary Girl Utena (which also has fantastic music), the results transcend entertainment, animated or otherwise. You could call it art, but in a case like Utena, you could even call it cosmic.

[Sidebar: Cowboy Bebop also has wonderful characterization and music, and while the series is episodic instead of a continuous unfolding narrative, the individual episodes have well-crafted, surprising plots. It's my favourite non-shoujo anime by a mile.]

I'm glad that anime is quickly becoming mainstream in the US, but while it's a treat to be able to pick up Bebop and Utena at Suncoast, the shelves at Best Buy are eloquent testimony to the sad fact that many anime shows are drivel or worse: pointless mopey schoolyard love triangles with interchangeable non-evocative titles, giant robot sagas in interchangeable post-apocalyptic settings, and pointless excuses for cross-dressing. Maybe Strawberry Eggs is a great show with crap packaging (like Central Park Media's tragic mishandling of Utena), but I'm not even inclined to find out.

Just above the bottom of the barrel are probably the "gimmick" shows that exist solely to get kids to collect stuff-- cards, mainly. I exempt Card Captor Sakura (NOT Cardcaptors!) from condemnation-- it was a CLAMP manga, it's very visually appealing, and it has actual characterization that was all ruthlessly excised from the English dub. Yu-gi-oh, however, is vile. The main character, Yugi Moto, is one of the ugliest little freaks to have a show centered around him, the supporting characters are bland, and the English voicework is contemptible. The Egypt-invoking plot is as unoriginal as it is crappy, and can anime shows please stop naming characters Anubis? The card-game itself is apparently fairly demanding, but I don't play card games and won't give the show a pass for that.

I anticipated that the just-released Yu-gi-oh! movie would make the Pokemon flicks look like Tezuka's Metropolis by comparison, but the critical mauling it's received (a whopping 2% positive on has been gratifying. True, most reviewers were too irked by the gimmick to even wax eloquent about the film's crappiness, but some were detailed enough to confirm that Dan Green does the dubbed voice of Yugi. That's a sign of quality, oh yes-- Green was reponsible for the slimy vocalizations that ruined the character of Mikage in the Utena dub. Given that Hikaru Midorikawa was the original Mikage, that's a hell of a come-down. I suppose I could say that Green has finally found his niche, but Yugi's dubbed voice is so objectively unpleasant that it makes Yu-gi-oh more unwatchable than it already is.

I can only hope that the movie's release marks the downswing of the Yu-gi-oh franchise.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Your Dog May Be a Genius, But You're Just a Loser

People have strong reactions to those "My Kid is an Honor Student" bumper stickers-- to the point that there must be a fair market in retaliatory stickers. The most common of these is probably "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student," which is rude enough to be funny.

Wait a sec, though. What does this sticker really say about the people who use it-- or even those who laugh at it? It doesn't take much analysis-- the message is simply that its better to be able to pound the daylights out of someone than to even appear to do well in school, and that, by extension, the people who appear to do well in school deserve to be pounded.

Bill Cosby needs to give these people a lecture, no matter what colour they are.

I admit that those "Honor Student" stickers are kind of a joke, given what little it takes to be an honor student in a lot of schools. Even allowing for that, the very fact that the parents put these stickers on their cars suggests that they take some pride and interest in their child's education. Given the current state of education in the US, these people should be applauded.

Okay, this issue is old news, and all of these stickers have been around for more than a decade. I'm rehashing this because I saw a new variation on the anti-honor student theme on Friday that really, really got to me.

"My Golden Retriever is Smarter than Your Honor Student."

No, Rover is not. Even Rico the Border Collie is no match for an honor student deserving of the title, unless they're handing out bumper stickers at Tiny Tots these days. Your Golden Retriever may have a superb vocabulary, and possess a range of expression and emotion that makes him seem like a furry human, but your dog is a dog, and the intellectual whomp packed by a child of ten, or even five, outclasses your doggie easily.

Your dog can't write. Your dog can't read. Your dog can't use language as defined by Chomsky (he may he a jerk politically, but as a linguist he can't be laughed off). Your dog can't use formal logic, or even concrete logic. Your dog has no system of ethics, for that matter, and check your dog against the Kohlberg scale some time. A well-brought up ten year old should already be past the reward-punishment motivation for behaviour.

Speaking in relative terms, your dog is a moron. The average dog is arguably less intelligent than the average ape, dolphin, monkey, elephant, parrot/cockatoo, pig, and even octopus, in roughly descending order.

[Cats are intellectually below all of these, and also below corvids and squirrels, but that's a rant for another day].

I think dogs are a good deal more sophisticated than humans have historically given credit for, as are many animals, but claiming your dog is 'smarter' than somebody's school-aged kid isn't just rude, it's absurd.

[I would hazard some hypotheses about this individual being childfree and possibly despising children, but that would be an ad hominem. I am generally suspicious of people who worship Golden Retrievers, though. The breed tends to attract a particularly obnoxious strain of yuppie.]

The pig that died to make the pork I'm eating for my lunch was probably smarter than your dog. The molluscs that die to make tasty calamari, takoyaki, and camarone con pulpo are all as smart or smarter than your dog. How'd you like that on a bumper sticker?

"My lunch was smarter than your dog."

Maybe your dog is crackerjack mentally, sir/ma'am, but you're a sad, arrogant, ignorant loser.

Little Dead Fords, Continued

An Aspire has lain by the shoulder on I-94 eastbound near my exit for more than a week. Usually the defunct cars disappear in a couple of days, but no one was interested in this lonely little car.
It was cute, too. It's a reddish-purple that goes with the "girly" theme the Aspire ah, aspires to. I suppose it's beyond repair, and it's a sad sight, but I've become almost accustomed to it.

Yesterday, though, a little deep blue Escort similar to mine lay abandoned within sight of the Aspire. Not a reassuring sight, oh no. What's with all these little dead Fords?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Stuff got blowed up-- the saga continues

Breaking news-- Monday's explosion was not our fault. It also did a hell of a lot more damage than previously believed, and why it took four days for the alarms to go off is anyone's guess.

The DECO transformer is shot. The whole unit will have to be replaced. They have six or seven guys out here now, more than I've ever seen in one place, and I guess I'll be seeing them for a while. The transformer shouldn't take too long to change out-- DECO's are tiny compared with our 345-->120kV behemoths, which can be the size of a house.

The transformer actually failed on the spot that Monday when a fuse blew. The fuse wasn't discovered immediately because it didn't fall out the way a spent fuse is designed to. The house service (aka "the power in my office") didn't fail until yesterday, when it went out with no warning and screwed up my computer. Those z-phase lines to our equipment were shot, but our transformers have automatic mechanisms to protect them and DECO one didn't.

Working in the field is great.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Stuff got blowed up, part 2.

Lynda heard it at Relay 3, and thought that a circuit breaker over on the 2 mat had gone off.

Terry was sitting in the Relay 2 house, and heard it coming from the North, where the DECO stuff was.

Gordon and I, in Control 1 next to the DECO mat, were close enough to see the cloud of smoke enveloping the transformer.

DECO says its our stuff what's gone bad. Apparently something on our z-phase caused a fuse to melt on a potential transformer.

Weird. The investigation continues...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


I am not a "movie" person. I am a movie review person, and spend too much spare time at, but I do not and have never gone to the flicks on a regular basis. When I do, it is because a very special movie "event" has drawn me in (LOTR: Return of the King) or because I am on the verge of losing my mind (The Alamo. No, really. And it wasn't that bad.).

I suppose Spiderman 2, which I saw in its opening week, falls in that first category. Good film, that, but that's a blog for another day, maybe. No, among the interminable trailers preceding the feature was a clip for something called Open Water, about a couple o' yuppies who get left behind during a scuba trip and encounter sharks, jellyfish and whatnot. It claimed to be based on a true story, and I did vaguely remember hearing of a left-behind couple in Australia some years back, but mostly the trailer was a lot of screaming and thrashing around.

I recall saying to Jon that I didn't understand what point there was to even making a movie like this. Either the couple is triumphantly rescued after all that screaming ("Susan? Susan?!? SUSANNN!!!!"), which is cheap, or one or both of them become fish food, which may be realistic (it sure happened to the real-life couple) but doesn't seem to fulfill the qualifications for a classic, cathartic tragedy. Either yuppies get lost, get freaked, and come home safe, or yuppies get lost and die. That second one may look tempting on paper, but a) you need a good script for it and b) the picture obviously wanted the audience to identify with the yuppies, not laugh cruelly at them.

It may sound like I'm cheap-shotting the film, given that I only saw the teaser trailer, but trailers give away so much these days that I felt secure in saying that this was a movie that probably didn't need to be made. Even in that clip, I saw too much shrill panic, too many close calls, to find a happy ending believable or satisfying, and I didn't want to see a snuff film with real sharks either. I hoped most people wouldn't go for that.

Well, the tomato-meter's data says otherwise, but even after reading positive reviews, I am not much swayed. Particularly since I cheated and read about the ending. While Ebert makes a powerful case for why the film would pack a wallop in an insightful viewer who recognizes the delusion of self-importance that gets most of us through the day, Slate's Edlestein sums up in the spoiler'd second tier of his review the problem I had with the very idea of Open Water: either you go for the cheap thrills followed by a cheaper rescue, or you sketch out a pair of marginally sympathetic characters, force the audience to identify with them just because, and obliterate them without the mitigation of allegory, symbolism, or even much in the way of a story.

Morally, I can applaud this decison on the part of the filmmakers, and if Open Water has the same profound effect on normal viewers that it did on Ebert, Edelstein, and some others who were unsettled not by the sharks, but what the film said about existence, then I suppose it deserved to be made after all. I still don't want to go see it.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Stuff got blowed up real good

So, I'm typing away at the computer a little after nine AM, and a loud but dulled explosion occurs out in the station yard. I can't tell at first whether some vehicle out on the road has backfired in a massive way, or if one of the transformers really did explode. I run to the door and look out its pane; a whitish-yellow cloud of smoke has encircled the 45 kV transformer. It's DECO's stuff, to be sure, but it looks nasty.

Gordon, far more experienced than I, thinks it's a cap cell explosion. He walks out to it, has a look around while the smoke dissipates, and finds nothing to prove or disprove his hypothesis. He does hear an alarm going over on our side of the station, at the 345 kV section.

Our operator over there hears the alarm, and she comes over to check things out. She's in our relay house long before DECO's alarms finally pick up the cry. She too thinks it's a busted cap cell, but finds little beyond a melted fuse in the annunicator panel.

Why our alarms went off and not DECO's is a mystery, especially as Gordon and I had no electrical problems prior to the explosion-- which just about rules out a house-service problem.

DECO gets their own guy out, and he finds nothing-- nothing at the transformer, the cap bank, no critters lying dead outside the fence-- no reason for that large boom and cloud of smoke.

This DECO guy isn't an incompetent either. Fact is, he's the husband of our operator. And he still can't tell what happened.

Just another exciting day down at the station.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Wops, Cops, and Roger Waters

Woggie is back, and he has a new ethic slur of the moment. After three albums with iffy references to Asian people (The Final Cut, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, and Amused to Death), and some crude (but funny) jabs at the Irish on The Wall's DVD commentary, he's gone and rhymed "wops" with "cops" on his upcoming song "Leaving Beirut."

Roger, dear Roger, why can't you leave the crappy end-rhyming to Gilmour?

Really, now. He does claim that the whole "fleeced in Naples by the wops" business is drawn from personal experience, as opposed to a generalized perception of Italians as pickpocket criminals, but personal experience is no excuse for a lyrical gaffe Gilmour wouldn't have permitted on About Face.

Besides, the sort of slurs Roger throws about in a careless manner give his attempts at addressing contemporary issues an almost quaint feel. Wops? Hey Rog, I have an idea for your next song: "Dagotown." Has a nice mouthfeel, doesn't it? We can base it on my great-grandfather's personal experience in old San Jose. Come down here and I'll share my notes with you.

Or, how about an album based on the injustice of NINA policies? Oh, wait, you're not so keen on the Irish.

I'm being unfair. I will be the first to say that many of the "slurs" that get Roger in trouble for being misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-black, etc, are explicable and even appropriate within the context of his albums. All the neo-Nazi ranting on The Wall is in a narrative framework that demands it-- come on, how scary is a would-be messianic dictator character going to be if he gets up at the podium at his latter-day Nuremburg and just picks on the dopeheads and acne-ridden music freaks? He'd probably get drafted for public office by political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. No, Pink needs to be an evil bastard, or at least talk like one, and taking the lyrics out of context and beating Roger with them is missing the point. Even the "gook" line from Amused to Death's "Too Much Rope" makes sense, as it's given to the viewpoint of a former Vietnam vet who is trying to make peace with his past. Context is critical.

The man does seem to have a problem with Asians, though. At the very least, he comes across as insensitive toward them; as I wrote above, the iffy references to Asians are on at least three albums covering a nine-year period. Roger may have even slipped some "nip" or "jap" references into Radio KAOS that have escaped me. It troubles me far more than the common accusations, because not all the references can be neatly explained away by narrative demand, but I haven't seen any widespread commentary on this particular issue. (And the crowd didn't much care when I brought it up about four years back.)
That Icelandic interview I linked to above is interesting for another reason: I can't seem to recall hearing or reading about the teenaged Roger's jaunt through the Middle East before. At the least, this account of joyriding and hitchhiking through Beirut and Baghdad rings only the faintest of bells, though it should be at least as interesting to the Floydian biographer as Gilmour and Barrett busking in France. If the young Roger really did view regions outside Britain and the usual British holiday destinations (St. Tropez, etc) firsthand, that does somewhat dull the "armchair commentator" blade that's also used against him. At least he bothered to leave the chair!

Come to think of it, a new bio on the Floyd did come out last year; I didn't have a chance to buy it then and I don't remember the author's name now. Maybe that had details on Roger-in-Beirut. I'll have to look into it.

A final thought: Roger's car broke down on the road to Damascus. There's a weighty image to ponder.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Belief in Hell Boosts Economic Growth!

No, it's NOT from The Onion

Close enough, though.  I found this article on the homepage, and the ways in which it offends the thinking reader are legion.

Fer crying out loud, can anyone prove that a belief in hell-- or gods-- even promotes morality in the first place?  Particularly economic morality?

The Fed's own account of this study is as laughable as the write-up, and the absurdities ought to be obvious.  Ireland has a pretty good economy these days-- but it was the bunghole of the North Atlantic for centuries.  Have the Irish become more religious than before?
Apparently not-- church attendance is falling, and notable seminaries have had to close for lack of willing priests.  Maybe the Irish just fear hell but don't believe in God, Christ, Heaven, or the rest of it. 

Does belief in reincarnation NOT promote morality the way belief in hell "does"?  If not, why not?  That goes unanswered.  Or, apparently, unasked.

What about belief in the Islamic hell-- you know, the one with ovens and fires that sounds ten times worse than a modern liberal Christian "separation from God" kinda-hell?  The study didn't even examine notable Islamic countries (Turkey does NOT count).   Where are the North African economic powerhouses? 

The Fed's article can be found here.  Note the correction at the top of the page!  The paragraph on how fear of hell leads to less corruption is a masterpiece of weasel words and fuzzy thinking.

Christ on a biscuit.  If people have to concoct these kinds of arguments to support their religion, there must not be any good evidence to start with.

I think this religious dishonesty is undermining my faith in the economy.  Time to start hoarding my wages in the cookie jar.  Down with banks and speculators!


Friday, July 23, 2004

Swallowtail Weather

I tend to associate swallowtails with late June/early July, as Tiger Swallowtails were going gangbusters during this time on my first encounter with Michigan (2002).

This year, they've been a fizzle: a few sightings early in spring, and a mere handful at what I'd considered their peak season.  Even our annual jaunt to Lake Superior didn't net us many swallowtail sightings, and the last two years they made an obstacle course of every road we traveled north of Standish.

So, I was thrilled to see a large, dark form swooping around my workplace's front lot with that characteristic "heavy" swallowtail wingbeat.[*]  It came close to me repeatedly, once flying straight at me before veering off with a metre to spare.  It had definite tails, but otherwise its appearence was foreign to me.  It was dark, but lacked the brilliant colour pattern of a Black Swallowtail, and it was not iridescent like a Spicebush, much less a Pipevine.

I know those three 'guys' very well, and none of them checked out.  This butterfly was about the size of a Spicebush, and it had the "classic" rounded outline instead of the "long," angular wing-shape of a Black Swallowtail.  It was dark brown, not true black, and the colour outlining its hind-wings was yellow-orange.  There may have been some yellow on the forewings as well.

Hold on, you say.  There is a butterfly in the region with just those colours in that pattern, the Giant Swallowtail.  Nuh-uh.  I had a vivid encounter with those at Point Pelee last year, and that glass slipper won't fit.  One, those things are freaking huge, literally the size of a small bird.  I watched a Giant zoom through a glade containing a couple of Monarchs, and the Monarchs were rendered Dwarfs, or at least Peasants, by it.  Two, the Giant Swallowtail flies like a bird.  No leaden wings there.  Three, the Giant has pale underwings, and this mystery visitor did not.

I'm stumped, and while I love to see a new and unfamiliar lepidopteran, I don't want to be flummoxed by one.
A few minutes later, I saw a Tiger soaring over the road.  That makes it a very good day.     

* Compare a Tiger in flight to a Monarch sometime.  Even better, compare a Monarch with one of the dark swallowtails, like the Spicebush.  The swallowtails seem positively clumsy by comparison.

The Glorious Gravel Pit

The yard outside my workplace was recently graded, and I noticed right off that the new gravel was pretty darned cool. A few days after it was laid down, I picked up a nice piece of calcite that bordered on optical-grade. Next to it was a black sedimentary rock with a cute, nearly complete cast of a brachiopod (I presented that one to Jon). A cursory inspection of the lot on any given day will net me a handful of partial fossils, mostly brachiopods. I found a few today in the space of five minutes while sitting just outside the door-- and I think I'll run them by Jon for identification.

The fun doesn't end with sedimentary rocks, though. There are some nice frothy igneous bits, and some pretty red pieces of granite, and lots of lovely rocks with crystalline veins, or visible fault lines, and beautiful colours and structures.

Sadly, a good portion of the lot is ground daily by pickup trucks, massive supply vehicles, and my own little Escort. All the pretty rocks, fossiliferous or otherwise, will be ground into smaller and smaller bitses, until only dust is left, and that dust in turn will be sprayed with nasty oil to keep it from kicking up clouds.

Ah well. The brachiopods all could have ended up as oil deposits to be burned inside said trucks and vehicles.

Little Dead Fords by the Side of the Road

During last Friday's morning commute I saw a mid-90s light blue Ford Escort lying abandoned on the shoulder of the freeway. A few miles later, a Ford Tempo (same era, same colour) had met the same fate.

Both those cars were gone by Monday, but that day another Escort lay abandoned on the shoulder. This one was a pale red, like a very faded maroon, but looked to be the same approximate age as the other cars.

I drive a mid-90s Escort, a '95 to be precise. This phenomenon does NOT make me feel good.

Note: This morning, the Dead Ford of the day was an old Explorer. That one I don't grieve for.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Read This Now and We'll Throw in a FREE splorgnark!

$19.95 USD is the price the average person will shell out for just about anything.  [I base this on my own experience and on a lifetime of watching commercials for mail-order crud].  If the price is anything less, say $15.99, the mark... er, prospective buyer will feel the goods really must be worthless.  Any more, and the buyer suspects that the price is jacked up no matter how many "free" deal-sweeteners are thrown in.  Besides, if the product *is* garbage, it's a lot easier to rationalize blowing "less than twenty" dollars [plus sales tax and probably S&H...] than it is to say, "Oh well, it was only twenty-seven ninety-nine."

Now, my question is, WHY is this the mental threshold?  And when did it come to be?  Twenty dollars doesn't cover my average trip to the farmer's market, but before inflation (and, presumably, cable television ads) it wasn't exactly play money.  What was the going rate for "exclusive offer" toys, gadgets, and elixirs on 1940s radio, or 1960s magazines?  And what would that correspond to in today's money?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Nice Things

Things that are Good, Dibrova Edition:
Perfect white water lilies.
Clear water and little fish.
Brown eye-spot butterflies with no fear of man.
Snout butterflies (1).
Perfect little blue butterflies that sit centimetres away from you and rub their hind wings together, even if they are eating bird crap.
Red Admira(b)l(e)s, in general.
A whole tree of cedar waxwings, alive and happy.
Missisauga rattlesnakes that are moving away from you.
Turtles.  Turtles.  Turtles.
Mushrooms that look like porcelain.
Tall trees that provide shelter from summer downpour.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Mm, the inevitable.

Schwarzenegger Calls Budget Opponents 'Girlie Men'

God. I've just been praying for a headline that made me laugh, and the Lord has provided. The Lord and Arnie.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

using System;

namespace Cymbalina { 
          class DianeBlog {    
                      public static void Main(String [] args) {
                              Console.WriteLine("Hello, world.");