Friday, December 30, 2011

End of a Year

A couple of images to sum up the year.

First, some amazingly on point gingerbread cookies.  Perhaps a new movement?  Political Baking Art?  Count me in!

This harkens back to Christmas, but also captures the political mood of the year.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Education Pays

This has long been one of my favorite soap box topics.  Teachers deserve more respect and more pay.  This leads to more people considering it as a career option instead of (at best) a stop before a real career.



Well now there is some proof that better pay actually leads to better eduction.  Opponents often say that just paying the same people more will not help, but that is not the point.  If you paid them an amount comparable to their worth to society (which is certainly more than lawyers or day traders), then you could more conceivably hold them more accountable for their jobs. You could trim those not performing well (a small percentage) and add some better people.  

What could be more important to society's overall health and future prospects than education?  Maybe we could teach children to think instead of just remember facts.

And I might as well touch on my other favorite sub-topic.  The younger the child, the more important the education.  Learning habits are established before grade school.  Yet, we as a society show that the older the student, the more prestige and money for the teachers.  I have nothing against the many college professors I call friends.  They do great work.  I just do not think it is so much more important than a kindergarten teacher in terms of impact to society.  Maybe the impact is just different, but equally valid.  I just think we need to value the teachers of the young.  Now they are not taken seriously enough, in terms of pay or prestige.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Consumerism Amok

I received not one, but two emails on Christmas Day offering me a special discount for purchases that day only.  Seriously?  Retailers busiest season is the month leading up to the day, and the day after is one of the busiest days of the year.  They couldn't let us have one day?  

I know there is plenty of consumerism going on that day without any shopping.  Presents are requested by brand name.  Most people are hauling in stuff that day and are very aware of that stuff.  Some even enjoy the giving part, but most gifts are better received if you got the brand name right.  So I am not trying to be overly idealistic.  Every other holiday has sales associated with them, so there is plenty of time for buying things.  It was nice to have a day or two per year where life was concentrated on family and friends and not buying stuff.  Thanksgiving is being shaved away as the Christmas shopping starts for many at midnight that day.  Now they are going to take Christmas too?  Sure you could always buy stuff online on Christmas, if your family is that boring or tedious.  I just hate to see retailers like Target and Williams-Sonoma encouraging it.

Is this another sign of aging?  Feeling old fashioned?  Am I just trying to hold on to antiquated notions in the face of "progress."  Oh well, if that is now my role, I am still not backing down.  Leave my holidays alone!  And while you are at it, get off of my lawn.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Hannukah

Yes, there are two parodies of the Wiz Khalifa song called Black and Jewish.  The link is much slicker and has a real video, but this one is funny too...



Check back tomorrow for a Christmas video.  I try to be equal opportunity around here, but I have not seen any funny Muslim, Kwanza, or Festivus videos out there this year.  I am not saying they aren't out there.  I just have yet to come across them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Art Thoughtz

I have a definite pet peeve about "alternate spellings" of words like "thoughtz," but in this case, the words fit.  This is the video show of Hennesy Youngman featured on Youtube and Vimeo.  I am sure he would just say that I am outdated in my thoughts about spelling and grammar and all that.

  
He may have some good points about making art.  I have always liked to play with and explore definitions of art, but for many people (maybe just older people), art has a very fixed definition.  It involves paint or stone or maybe clay or glass, but it is clearly representational or abstract.  Also equally important is the fact that it is expensive.


A few years back, I was involved in the $25 show.  All the art by all of the artists involved sold for $25.  Some of the artists were well established.  Yet I heard comments from several people who heard about it who talked about "real art" as if that were some other thing... that you could not sell "real art" for $25.  How sad.  On the other hand, most people are intimidated by art and museums.  We had a woman come to the $25 show who said that she had never been to an art show in her entire life (and she was at least middle aged).  But she came to this one because it seemed more within her graspe.


It is the same thing with new media.  Hopefully the youngest among us will not grow up with the antiquated notion of art as only painting or sculpture and embrace a more open and new definition.  Art can exist on the street, on a website, or anywhere for that matter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Isn't Revolutionizing Retail Enough?

Do you have to try and squash all the little guys too?

I admit to using Amazon, especially for things like electronics.  The prices are great and the convenience is awesome.  For more specialized items, customers even end up supporting smaller businesses that are distributed through Amazon.  Most of the stuff I have bought did not even come directly from Amazon, but an affiliate.

I am wary of any company that seems to be getting too big and two strong, especially when they let it go to their corporate person head.  Yet, I have always seen Amazon more competing with other behemoths like Walmart and Target and Barnes and Noble.  I did not see too much harm in that, but now they are literally going after small businesses.  As a small business owner and supporter of small businesses, I am pissed!  I am speaking of their recent program urging customers to go into local stores, scan products, and then come back and buy them from Amazon.  Customers are given a discount for doing so.  This allows Amazon to gather massive amounts of market data easily.  More insidiously, it does so at the expense of local businesses.  The company gives customers actual incentives not to support those businesses.

And here I am advertising for them.  I may have to rethink this relationship.  It certainly has not benefited me anyway. I know it is convenient, especially for sending presents across country, but I cannot support this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Fun


So here is some great perspective on Christmas and setting up consumerist expectations.


And here is just some Christmas awesomeness in a very short video.

And what Christmas would be complete without a nativity scene. 
There are more images here.









Monday, December 19, 2011

Media, Media, Media

Why do I feel like I am in the modern day version of Metropolis.  






Media has become a factory, owned by a few

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reason for the Season

DOn't forget the "reason for the season" we are told.  Well don't YOU forget.


Our memories are so short.  Perhaps it is human nature to define everything by what we can remember during our time.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and all that.  The world is complicated.  Religion is complicated.  I wish we could stop always trying to reduce everything to a simplistic state we can comprehend.  Not everything is knowable.  It is that mystery that makes life amazing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breaking the News

This is spot on!  You may want to swallow any drink in your mouth before watching.
It is interesting what passes for news with multiple 24 hour news sources.  It is also interesting what is left out of newscasts in favor of this kind of bullshit.  Much of the rest of the world gets ignored, not to mention any in depth analysis of domestic issues.  I guess news is not exactly a public service, but I can still be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Corporate Personhood

People are finally seeming to realize how fucked up it is to consider corporations equivalent to people in our country.  I would have said equal, but of course corporations tend to have way more power than actual people.  So people are doing something about it.  Bernie Sanders started a petition to support a proposed constitutional amendment stating that "corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people."  Simple, but important.  Please go and sign it here.  Now.  I will wait.


Stephen Colbert is using some of his Super PAC money to try and put this issue on the Presidential primary ballot in South Carolina.  Of course, along the way he is also pointing out the greedy and ridiculous state in which our political system seems to find itself currently.  The guy and his staff are geniuses.  It seems that we now have to depend on comedians to save our country.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm a job creator, you're a job creator

Wouldn't you like to be a job creator too?




The myth of the super-rich being the job creators has been repeated so many times, it now seems to be taken as fact, even by those that see a problem with the great income inequalities in the United States right now.  Rather than argue with that myth, we just tend to say that the rich can afford more taxes.  Or we point out that they pay a smaller percentage of tax than people making less.  Or we point out that they seemed to be creating more jobs when they were taxed more, 25 years ago, than now when their taxes are lower.  These are valid points, but cede the job creator myth.  We are talking about the super-rich, which includes very few small business owners.


A new article challenges the whole idea of the entrepreneur as the job creator.  Of course, there are plenty of super rich that are not even entrepreneurs, but live off of trust funds, but let's just talk about those that would seem to be actual job creators.  Yes, entrepreneurs come up with great ideas, even creating products that we did not know we needed (like smart phones and iPads and Chia Pets).  This is a great thing and they should be rewarded handsomely, but their inventions would not mean a thing without a pool of people sufficiently economically secure to buy these products.  If we are not employed and making enough money, we cannot buy these genius inventions.  Plenty of inventions have languished without people buying them.  They may have been great ideas, but if nobody buys them, they will not create a single job.  If an innovator convinces some investors that he has a great idea, they may give her lots of money before products are sold, but these jobs will be temporary without customers with money.  Once the initial cash has been used up, plenty of companies have gone under before they could sell products and change the world.


So if we continue fostering an environment where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, the job creators will not be able to create jobs.  If only 1% of the population can afford something, that is a very limited market.  It is a market too small for all but the most luxurious specialty goods.  But then how will those rich maintain without us to sell crap too. Some day, maybe only the Waltons of Walmart fame will be at the top, and anyone else who sells the cheapest of the cheap stuff.  The six heirs already own as much as the bottom 30% of the US population (over 100,000,000).  How high can that figure go?  Do you want to live in that world?

Monday, December 12, 2011

FREE Market Capitalism

You have probably seen the infographic about the merger of banks.  If not, click on the link below.  This one is for the media and contains many more facts and more analysis.  OK now, zoom in on this sucker and read it.


This is from a piece that talks about the danger of a media monopoly.  I just still do not get why we did not learn from the Great Depression.  We established laws against monopolies to promote competition.  That was considered good for America.  Why have we changed our minds on that and decided the opposite (regulation is bad even if it promotes the free market)?  Well maybe the chart provides some of the answer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Sane Millionaires

This is a video from some wealthy people.






They make sense.  It does not have to be an us vs. them issue.  We all need the country and economy to be healthy.  It helps the wealthy as well as the poor.  And the two just keep getting further apart, as shown by the fact that the wealth of the six Wal-Mart heirs is equal to the wealth of the entire bottom 30% of Americans.  That is well over 100,000,000 people!


I live well and hope to have plenty of money, but that does not mean that I don't think that we all should not do well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Decency

It is always nice when people have the strength of character to do what is right, even when their job (or some other authority) is telling them to do otherwise.  I just read about this case where the sheriff and movers refused to evict an older woman.  Wish I read more stories like this.  Too many of us just accept unacceptable outrageous things just because "that's the way that things are."


Other times, people hide behind procedures and regulations to avoid a difficult choice that may make them look bad to other people.  Take Bonner Gaylord.  He is a city council person in Raleigh representing my old district.  He was one of two people to vote against the resolution that passed the city council this week condemning the proposed constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.  Many cities in NC and the rest of the country pass such resolutions on a regular basis.  Heck, I think Carrboro, NC passes one per week.  But Gaylord said that he did not think it was the "purview" of the council to vote on such matters.  Bonner, it is called a symbolic gesture towards what is right.  It seems that a bunch of Republicans in the state have shown more courage than you in coming out against the amendment.  Heck, at least Odom stuck to his guns in being an asshole and said the way he felt.  You just avoided the issue like a true politician.  I am just glad that you do not represent me or you would be receiving a strongly worded letter.  Nice dodge.

Friday, December 2, 2011

simple equality

This has been making the rounds.  It is worth a watch.  And here is some more information about that actor.  It turns out that he is also a filmmaker, journalist, and novelist.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

Just a quick note about World AIDS Day.  Sure things are getting better for people with AIDS and worldwide numbers of new infections seem to be slowing down, but the AIDS crisis is not over.  The disease is not getting much press these days, but we cannot forget that it is a serious problem that still needs our attention and money.

Many of us who have been closely touched by the disease would like to put it out of our mind.  Those are some painful memories.  But we do not honor those people if we forget how and why they died.

pharmacopia

I think that the large corporations are (ie big pharma) are drugging the nation not only to make dumptrucks full of cash, but also to keep us drugged up and "happy" so that we stay lazy and apathetic and don't do anything to change the way things are.  Don't upset the applecart. These over-prescribed anti-depressants are now joined by adult ADHD in the world of made-up diseases that are an excuse for taking drugs.  Some people are just are too good and proper to do illegal street drugs that keep the lower classes down, but the the one percent need to keep the middle class down too, so that they do not notice that it is being taken away from them.  It is like Nazi Germany when people did not act because they did not believe reports that other people were being killed.  That sounded like some sort of conspiracy theory (as does this).  



Anyway, the corporate oligarchs needed something to sedate the middle class.  Actual sedatives were very out of fashion, so they had to invent something more complex.  This something had to allow for the more active lifestyles of today.  You want to keep that body up as well as that mind.  Booze used to work and still does for some, but if someone could come up with something prescribed by doctors to make people "healthier" would have the total buy-in of credibility.  All of this, and it can be paid for by insurance, if you were lucky enough to have that paid for by the employer.  Otherwise the costs of the insurance are probably putting a strain on the finances.  Anything to numb the pain and exclude reality enough to not have to face some terrifying truths.  "Then we don't have to worry about them revolting and taking away our vast riches and power."


Now, I know that psychoactive drugs can do some people with real issues (other than life is tough and the world sucks right now), a world of good.  I am not making fun of anyone who needs these medications to function.  I just think that they are over-prescribed and that this market is expanding too fast.  When I saw Adam Levine getting paid to tell the world about ADHD, it just sent me over the edge.  Maybe I have slipped over into that world of insanity inhabited by conspiracy theorists and anarchists.  Maybe all of this is my mind exercising a defense mechanism by finding something external to blame for my extreme laziness and debauched and decadent lifestyle.  I have to find my ways of coping as well.  If so, I can place the moment it happened.  I remember thinking, "This is it.  This feels different."  I do hope I can transcend all of this.  Or maybe I have ADHD and need some meds myself.  Was that a squirrel?