Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama sound-bites and flash mobs

So, our Messiah is "satisfied, but not pleased." That's funny, because I'm not pleased either. But what's more, neither am I satisfied. I think that has to do with "the light on the horizon" that Obama referred to during his 100 Days speech which, alas, is the "transformation of America."
I don't want my country "transformed." I thought it was chugging along just fine as it was before the Messiah (but not, he begs you to remember, a "miracle worker") won the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Incidentally, if there's any "light on the horizon" with regard to Arlen Specter's defection, it's the honesty involved in his decision. After lying to us repeatedly since 1980 about being a Republican, Specter now has total freedom to be what he's always been: a twat. But an honest twat, at long last.

* * *
Strange things often occur in most societies—British society more than most—but this shouts "STUPID RETARDED BULLSHIT" better than most things I can think of:

T-Mobile, a cell phone tariff company, regularly stages what's known colloquially as a "flash mob," where people gather in a public place, like the London subway system or a high-traffic train station like Victoria, Waterloo or Liverpool Street, and sporadically start dancing. Word of "flash mobs" spread by the usual mediums: Facebook and MySpace. In 2007, the Metropolitan Police quite understandably decided that enough was enough with regard to this mobile clubbing—considering people actually use public transportation to get to and from places they need to be, not to be caught up in a flashdancing mob—and have clamped down on such activity.
Which means that T-Mobile has to apply for a permit to stage their remarkably annoying "flash mob" commercials.
I suppose it's trying to make the best of a rubbish music scene combined with the lack of sunshine that makes some Brits want to dance in a train station and, amazingly, consider it a good time. Honestly, don't these people have anything better to do?
T-Mobile's slogan is "Life's for Sharing." I can think of things I'd like to share with them, but they are, wouldn't you know it, unmentionable.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hoping the Prince trumps Algore

Prince Charles is currently working on a book entitled "Harmony," due to come out next year, in which he sharply criticizes big businesses for thinking only of profit and nothing of the environment.
It is said to echo Algore's "An Inconvenient Truth." But whereas we all know Al Gore is a hypocrite—his Tennessee home gives off lots more CO² than Dubya's Texas ranch—and a man who just wants to be regarded as a serious political force to reckon with, Prince Charles' screed may carry more weight. He's the prince, after all, so he's got no clout to lose.
I look forward to the release of "Harmony," and the impact that will have on how businesses and the environment are regarded. If the Prince of Wales avoids obvious political grandstanding, long-winded pontification, doesn't fall into the Green = Red trap, and uses scientifically backed evidence to present his claims, then I am all for it.
There's no doubt that many businesses do put profit over people and nature. (Think, if you will, about whether all that plastic packaging for food, toys and other commodities is really necessary.) And so often might—in the form of money—makes right, dooming nature reserves to become yet another concrete jungle. Is business good for the community and society? Yes. But do they go too far in their pursuit of profit? Often times, yes.
I'm all for a successful business environment, as long as the businesses in question don't ride roughshod over the individual character of a community or downgrade the environment surrounding it.
I hope Prince Charles will succeed in brandishing his sword on behalf of nature and community without simply becoming another Al Gore.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

(FW:) For the "eww, pets?" types

Normally, I am loathe to reprint e-mail forwards on this site; I don't like having something appear in this space that I myself didn't write. However, this is so brilliant that I had to publish it here. This is for all you people out there who can't understand why some folks, like Squirrel and I, prefer pets over children.

(1) They live here. You don't. (So shut the f*** up or get out!)
(2) If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture.
(3) I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
(4) To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.
And remember, dogs, cats, birds or small animals are better than kids because they:
(1) eat less,
(2) don't ask for money all the time,
(3) are easier to train,
(4) normally come when called,
(5) never ask to drive the car,
(6) don't hang out with drug-users,
(7) don't smoke or drink,
(8) don't want to wear your clothes,
(9) don't have to buy the latest fashions,
(10) don't need a gazillion dollars for college and
(11) if they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It does not take a community ...

Previously published by Blogcritics

Last weekend, I was sitting in the local café after my run, nursing an americano, when a public interest segment on the radio news reported that Easter was a stressful time for couples who often fought over child care duties. "Ah," I thought, as I crossed my arms behind my head and smirked like the Cheshire Cat. "No such problems here!"
But, alas, there will always be those—plenty of those—out there who act as if having a child is a universal commandment, one that every person everywhere must obey. Case in point: a few days later, supping my usual black coffee, I listened to a London talk show musing about single parenthood (re: single motherhood). Then they had some woman from some single parenthood association on the air who was arguing for more government benefits and a "community" where we all look after each other's children.
I nearly spit my coffee out when she said that. Clearly this was someone who took Hillary Clinton's It Takes A Village way too much to heart. "And by what law will I be forced to take even the slightest interest in somebody else's brat?" I thought. "I'll move to the northernmost reaches of Greenland before I'll be commanded to help bring up others' offspring."
She rambled on about how, in the current economic climate, it was wrong to make mothers work and how the child welfare money they currently receive is inadequate. "Think of it as an investment," Ms. Single Motherhood Personified urged. "We are investing in each other's children and that will help to bring them up. Why would we spend so much on defense—on killing people—when we could invest in communities that would look out for each other and their children?"
Pass the tissues please. Doesn't that just getcha right there? (Points to rear end.) Actually, pass the toilet paper. I'm about to demonstrate just what I think of that idea ...
The talk show hosts meanwhile, bless their hearts, were being polite and acting as if single motherhood is a viable, healthy lifestyle choice, but they did challenge her. By what right, they asked, did other hardworking people have to pay for others' children? Ms. SMP had no better reply than her previous one. "It's an investment," she stammered.
The monumental point she's missing is that it's not money that will bring children up properly, nor a hippie community. It's the balance that a two-parent family provides that will see children through to adulthood. Of course, given the way parents are these days, with fathers calling their sons "little buddy" while letting them run riot while the mother sits on the sofa in a state of near-total oblivion, that's no guarantee at all of an enriching upbringing. But it's still the natural state of things.
Furthermore, if you want kids, make sure you can afford them. If I had my way, all this nonsense of paying women to breed would stop straightaway. You bring up your own children on your own time and money. It's your investment, yours and yours alone. It's no-one else's concern that you brought yet another human being into the world, nor should it be. That's your affair.
Lastly, the proper upbringing of a child is not a matter of lack of disposable household income. "When I was growing up," the female talk show host asserted to Ms. SMP, "we were poor. I had nothing. I didn't have the fancy trainers [sneakers], mobile phones, Xboxes and everything else that other kids have today, no matter how poor they claim to be and no matter what their living conditions are. What happened to a parent putting their foot down and saying 'No, we cannot afford it, and that's all there is to it'? That's exactly what my mother and father alike would have said to me."
Amen. Mine as well. I worried about hurting my mother. I worried about my father hurting me. I was brought up properly. But it seems there's no more of that filial respect inspiring the little angels out there anymore.
Here in Britain, three-quarters of teachers report that increasing numbers of students have been acting rude, disrespectful and aggressive. Physical assaults, such as punching, shoving or biting, on teachers are more the rule than the exception, and 1.5 percent of teachers say they have dealt with acutal or possible incidents of students stabbing each other.
Worse yet, teachers face even more abuse from these aggressive, clueless parents who threaten them as a result of their "little angels" being disciplined or given bad grades. Ms. SMP needs to take her cue from this and put two and two together. Will she, though? I highly doubt it. Ten years from now, she'll still be wondering where her ideal community of child-care experts is and begging for more government hand-outs while she squirts out her eighteenth brat from her eighteenth man.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In praise of Obama's "inconsistency"

Previously published by Blogcritics

I'm the sort of man who likes to give credit where credit is deserved, and it is in this exact spirit that I applaud Barack Obama for supporting a U.S. boycott of the United Nations Racism Conference.
Israel, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands and Italy have also boycotted the conference, and Germany is strongly leaning toward doing so.
Not only is the U.N. ineffectual and corrupt, but it is blighted by double standards, and this is no more so apparent than the Holocaust-denying, Jew-hating scum that will partcipate in this so-called conference on racism and the seriousness with which they'll be greeted.
The Mohammeds, Ahmeds and Jamals in attendance will demand their usual condemnation of Israel and the re-instation of the U.N.'s 1975 General Assembly Resolution 3379 which stated that Zionism was a form of racism and racial discrimination. (Resolution 3379 was revoked in 1991.)
The 2001 U.N. Conference on racism in Durban, South Africa was disastrous due to rancorous language condeming Israel, and Obama said that if the language from Durban did not significantly change its anti-Israel and anti-Western bias—which it hasn't—then the U.S. could not take part in the latest conference.
Democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee does have a point when she made clear her disagreement with the President: "This decision is inconsistent with the administration's policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with..." she said. "The US is making it more difficult for it to play a leadership role on UN Human Rights Council as it states it plans to do. This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple."
Mr. Obama is indeed being inconsistent here, given his desire to pal around with the evil likes of Castro, Chavez and Ahmadinejad and listen to their every anti-American grievance, no matter how silly or psychotic. But I'm glad the Prez is being inconsistent here. If our absence from the conference does indeed make our job in helping to craft U.N. bullshit ... er, "human rights" more difficult, then it will have been well worth it and anything but a missed opportunity.

Addendum: Ahmedinejad's reprehensible behavior yesterday—having took place hours before this piece was published—completely validated Mr. Obama's concerns. The Iranian president is treating this conference as a joke, as a platform for his anti-Semitic paranoia, and making a mockery of the conference's goal, as noted by a very disappointed Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General. The British should never have had a presence in Geneva in the first place, but at least they walked out, along with other European delegates, when Ahmedinejad started spouting his tired old claptrap about a Jewish world conspiracy and "racist" policies of the Israeli nation. This is the same man that our Messiah thinks we can have an everlasting peace with if only we just had dialogue? I hope that now Mr. Obama is a bit more enlightened with respect to the fact that President A. is a madman.

Monday, April 20, 2009

There's nothing like a recession to make you feel three-feet tall again

I think we can all agree that the credit crunch, recession, economic downturn—whatever you care to call it—is bad news and makes for lean, even despondent, times.
But one of the worst aspects is that for those still lucky enough to work for companies that have thus far survived, their employee rights start to evaporate into thin air.
Because a business knows that jobs with commensurate salary schemes are very rare these days, they can screw with you as much as they like. They bank on the fact—forgive the horrible pun—that you no longer have much freedom or choice to tell the boss or management to stuff themselves and look for work elsewhere if you feel their rules are too stringent. If you're settled in your job with a comfortable wage, you're likely to stick it out, no matter how unhappy you are with how hard-line the business you work for has become.
It doesn't help that the operations manager of our work is an uptight, forthrighteous cow who apparently is a great fan of the book Brave New World, but since her tenure started last year—which co-incides with the start of the recession—she has reduced our vacation entitlement, clamped down on breaktimes, introduced a dress code (where none existed before), instituted punitive tardiness rules, and put forth more demanding guidelines on both work quality and quantity that we are expected to produce. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if they suddenly announced that we were expected to wear three-piece suits and bow before a picture of her upon first entering the office, with CCTV cameras aimed at us to make sure we do.
The fact that the management doesn't care at all that working nights is different from day work, and thusly should operate on a different level, isn't the only affrontery. I honestly feel like I'm in grade school again, not trusted to be an adult who gets on with his work. That used to be the case, and the place still ran like clockwork, but those were, in retrospect, halcyon days. Now we are all being treated like rowdy schoolchildren who shouted obscenities at recess—which is exactly how I've come to think of our "breaks" these days—and who pissed in the water bubbler one too many times.
In fact, I can't recall ever having worked for a company—here or Stateside—that had a holistic approach to their workforce, that treated them with a level of respect that would ensure mutuality, the sort of workplace that made you happy and proud to be there. Apparently, such places still do exist, but it must be like winning the jackpot to be hired by one.
Instead, most offices remain totally oblivious to the fact that a miserable workforce is a non-productive one. Being told that we should be grateful for the salaries we continue to earn is not good enough. That's the whole goddamned point of working, isn't it? I want to be treated like the nearly 40-year-old man that I am; I don't think that's asking too much, but in these dark times, it obviously is.
I resent companies getting all their own way at the best of times (I am not one to complain about a bit of regulation), but the fact that they can stomp over the rights and sensibilities of their employees when the going gets tough is extremely maddening. Add the fact that you can't do jack-shit about it and it's an even more compelling reason for the anger we're all feeling.
I guess we never truly leave school when we grow up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Salute to the level-headed

Sometimes, there are stories that make the soul stir. I found this to be one of them.
In the aftermath of the earthquake that recently shook the central Italian city of L'Aquila to the ground, a 98-year-old woman, one Maria D'Antuono, found herself buried under the rubble of her home. She was trapped for thirty hours before rescuers came to her aid.
She passed the time knitting. She knew she wasn't going anywhere fast, and that it wouldn't do to panic, so she poured all her emotion into her crocheting.
Under similar circumstances and equal duress, I can imagine myself playing Sudoku as calmly as I could manage, concentrating on that as a way to survive, just as Mrs. D'Antuono did with her knitting. Or so I believe.
But the truth is, no-one can predict how they will act during an emergency. Would we be paralyzed with fear? Would we panic? Or would we keep a level head, ensuring our survival? There's more to the story than one's personality—the strong and confident stand as much of a chance of meeting their fate as the shy or the weak.
It's what's inside you that counts—and that, to a certain degree, is unchartered territory. It makes you wonder, what if?!
Mrs. D'Antuono's story made me reflect on the amazing capacity for life that some people are blessed with. She certainly humbles the panickers in our midst and serves as an inspiration to all. I'm glad she survived.