Archive for December, 2010

“We Regret the Error”

Excuse my logic but isn’t the following occurrence more common than the media would have us believe?  A newspaper or magazine runs a large page one banner headline assassinating someone’s character or reputation one day.  Then the publication discovers it has erred.  So now it runs this teeny-weeny correction (ie. we regret the error) buried somewhere on page 16 where no one will read it after it has already destroyed some unsuspecting and libeled victim.

Now here we are in the internet era. Most people don’t even read newspapers anymore, much less read all the way to page 16.  But that leads us to a more important point.  The internet, a creation designed to give us the news in a millisecond, can also be guilty of this crime.  Writers of the wire services and internet service providers such as Yahoo and AOL are in a desperate rush to be the first to break a story.  Facts go unchecked. References are either anonymous or of questionable veracity but the story sounds like a real “scoop” to the writer so he goes with it anyway.  As for corrections?

I have noticed that the internet is often guilty of the same sin as the print media.

Furthermore, because there are no real safety nets in place for monitoring what gets posted on the web, many inaccurate stories or outright lies get published and are never atoned for by the author.   Look at this very blog of mine that you are reading now.  It doesn’t have to pass the scrutiny of a seasoned editor or a cautious publisher.

With this in mind, below is a brief collection of some of the recent hogwash that has made it to the internet, accompanied by this author’s take on the subject.  I think most sound thinking individuals who consider these would agree that we truly live in an age of cyber-silliness (excuse my alliteration)  Note: in keeping with the absurdity of these items, there is no order (ie. alphabetical, chronological or the like) in how they appear.  You could say I just shot from the hip on this one.

1)      President Obama was never a U.S. citizen and as such is ineligible to hold that office.  You think the CIA, Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security or any umpteen other agencies wouldn’t have blown the whistle on this? C’mon!

2)      Bill Clinton is dying.  Everyone is dying a little bit at a time.  So is this really news? The big picture is that he’s not like three weeks away from it. He is still a vital, active guy, actively campaigning for party members, traveling overseas, etc.   

3)      Proctor and Gamble Company is a supporter of the Church of Satan.  Please. Liz Claiborne has also been rumored to support that religion.  This type of thing becomes like UFO sightings or the old witch hunts.  Soon they’ll be telling us that Microsoft is secretly implanting a computer chip in the brains of all newborns.

4)      FDIC is going bankrupt.  While there may be some validity to this story that began circulating in 2009, I like to believe that the run on banks this would create virtually mandates that the government would step in and prevent it from happening.

5)      Jim Morrison is still alive and living in South Africa.  I am an avid fan and love to think this true but given his lifestyle and the fact that the other Doors’ members are still alive, wouldn’t someone have heard from ol’ Mr. Mojo Risin’?

6)      The government is secretly withholding cures for cancer to keep population growth in check.  You think high roller VIPs the likes of Patrick Swayze, Peter Jennings, Farrah Fawcett and Elizabeth Edwards wouldn’t have been helped?   

7)      Various end of the world predictions.  Heaven’s Gate, the Branch Davidians, Y2K enthusiasts, and the new movie 2012 all have prophesized the coming end.  I still haven’t taken out life insurance.

8)      Celebrity deaths. Paris Hilton, 2007; Will Ferrell, 2006; John Goodman, 2005; Eminem, 2000, Lou Reed, 2001; Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, 2001 and Margaret Thatcher have all been rumored to have passed.  Incredibly several years back one guy got so excited over the reported death of Fidel Castro that he chartered one of those planes that tow a message behind it to fly around the Miami Beach area proclaiming the end of the Cuban Leader. When Castro was found to still be alive did airplane guy fly another plane around subsequent to that with an editor’s correction? What do you think?

 

 

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Fears of a clown

Excuse my logic, but aren’t most of the clowns we see, scarier than they are funny?  Now I admit as a former journalist I always find myself looking beneath the surface of things.  Sometimes there isn’t a hidden meaning.  Yet other times… What’s behind the makeup that a clown wears?  We’ll get to that shortly, but first some anecdotes that you will see  properly segue into our analysis of clowns.

 I used to attend group psychotherapy sessions down in Florida.  We had several different therapists and you never knew which one would be running that day’s group. It was about the fourth or fifth session where this young, petite woman walked in and announced that she would be the therapist for that day’s group. The session was moving along without a hitch until this therapist called out one of the more smart-alecky patients on something he said. He exploded causing the therapist to have a mild meltdown.  “Look at all your makeup,” he said derisively. “You look like a f%&@*ng clown,” he exclaimed. The woman therapist who I think was still green behind the ears, perhaps only recently out of grad school, looked mortified. She didn’t call on that guy again that day or at any future sessions we shared. 

 Then there was this young boy we knew because his mother was a friend of our family through our children’s school. One day, my wife and I remarked to the youngster how pretty we thought his mother was.  “Oh yeah?” he began incredulously.  “You don’t know her like I do.  Behind all that pretty makeup she’s a real drill sergeant. A regular beast.”  Needless to say, we all erupted into laughter at the young man’s utter candor.

Look at the picture of Hillary Clinton below, Googled from a Google images sight that shows “scary clowns”.  Incidentally, under that search topic there are 887,000 entries.  Starting to get my picture? Anyway, the photo of Hillary is absolutely terrifying.  She kind of looks like a cross between something out of the 2001 movie “Moulin Rouge”   and the Jessica Walter femme fatale character in Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me.”

Lastly consider the hideous appearances of Batman’s “The Joker” as displayed by Jack Nicholson and more recently in “The Dark Knight’s” Heath Ledger.  Anyone who watched those movies knows that behind the happy smiles worn by Ledger and Nicholson lurked some very sordid spirits.

Now allow me to promise you that this is not meant to be a sweeping condemnation of clowns.  There are many people who are professional clowns who perform admirably and brighten up peoples’ lives.

However, did Stephen King just dream up out of thin air “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” for his book and later movie “It”?  I believe not.  That character lured unsuspecting children to their deaths. That clown was not funny.  Not one bit. Stephen King, like other good writers, often draws upon personal experiences in molding his characters.   Was this the case with the clown in “It?”

I believe there is a curious relationship between comedy and horror.  And while I can’t put my finger on the exact dynamic at work in these two genres I can tell you that when I first watched “The Exorcist” as well as Wes Craven’s “Evil Dead,” I was scared. However when I watched those movies several times after, I always found myself in stitches laughing.   So here we have something meant to scare us making us laugh.  Could the opposite be true?  Could something meant to make us laugh instill fear instead?  I believe yes.

Furthermore, fear is not always unfounded. Our gut feelings are often right on target. So if we look at a clown and feel a tinge of fear it may be justified. 

Consider just a few of the many stories we found when we looked up “clowns and pedophiles” on the internet.

There was the case back in 2005 in San Diego of “Marty the Clown.”  He had been entertaining kids for a number of years until it was discovered that he was registered on the Megan’s Law website as a registered sex offender.

Then there was the case of “Pon Chin Chin,” a clown operating in the San Antonio area.  In September, 2010, News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Brian Collister battled with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the agency was forced to release information about the activities of registered area sex offenders. It turned out that Pon Chin Chin was a registered sex offender.

If you think I am just on some kind of ill-advised witch hunt, try this on for size.  This past April state legislators in Florida began working up a bill that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to dress up as or work as clowns.

Now on the positive side, Willard Scott played Ronald McDonald after first having worked as a Bozo the Clown on Washington DC’s WRC TV.  We all know Willard’s a great guy.  So it’s not all gloom and doom. 

Yet let’s face it.  If the clowns pictured here were to show up at your kid’s birthday party, your extreme concern would be justified. You probably wouldn’t even let them in your front door. You most certainly wouldn’t refer them to your friends.  

In the end, I think though that most clowns are relatively harmless. After all, the art of clowning dates back to 2500 B.C. when a pygmy clown performed as a jester in the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. Through the centuries including the era of the Aztec nation in 1520 A.D. and later in Native American tribes clowns have entertained and intrigued their audiences.  In modern times, the aforementioned Bozo became a huge and successful franchise and Ronald McDonald is still going strong 40 years later.

If there really was a clownspiracy going on, there would surely be a public outcry – or boycott.  So to borrow from the popular 1970s introspective interrogatory, “Have you hugged your clown today?”  If not, what are you waiting for?

Copyright 2009, Greg S.

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Money Madness

Excuse my logic, but why do we actually believe people when they say “money doesn’t matter” to them?  Several cases in point are offered to validate this question.

First off, I have seen countless times on our NJ State Highway 17 where one gas station slightly north of another but on the same side of the highway, is offering gas for 2 cents per gallon cheaper than their competitor.  People gravitate to the cheaper one and in many cases are eight or ten cars deep on line.  This translates into about a 20 minute wait.  So it is clear that money does matter to these people.  Yet there is an amazing absurdity to the entire spectacle.  Let’s say that person buys ten gallons of gas.   At the savings rate of 2 cents per gallon they have saved 20 cents.  Is 20 minutes of their time worth only 20 cents to them?  To continue the argument, would they accept a job if it only paid 20 cents per every 20 minutes or 60 cents an hour?

Then there is the matter of what we do to earn a living. I have heard many pundits tout the benefits of working at a job that you like.  We spend about a quarter of the entire hours in a week working and if you add commuting time to that it becomes about a third of our entire week’s hours.  So it stands to reason that if you look forward to going to work each day you will be a much happier and more upbeat person.  Yet how many times have we heard a friend or relative say after switching from a job they loved to one they hate “well you know, there was more money in the new position.”?  Ergo, some people will spend one third of their entire existence working at something they loathe just to make more money.

Back in high school I had a good friend who one day told me he wanted to become a doctor. I asked him “why?” fully expecting him to extol the virtues of a job that focuses on helping people.  NOT.  My friend told me “I want to be comfortably and anonymously wealthy.” Money sure mattered to him. Think about that the next time you are deciding on which surgeon to go with.

Look at today’s professional sports teams.  Players make astronomical sums of money.  In the old days, it was not uncommon for a player to spend his entire career with one team, or maybe two teams at most.  Today, there is no loyalty by the player to the team or vice verse.  A player making $18 million a year at one team will quickly jump ship for an extra $2 million a year offered by another team.  I mean that player is already making enough money to last three lifetimes, yet he will show absolutely no loyalty to the team he is on if he can make more elsewhere. You think money doesn’t matter to him?

I know one woman whose social circle includes a number of wealthy professionals. She once told me that a man she knew one time proclaimed “If you’re not worth at least $20 million, you’re nobody.”  Seems there are a great many of us “nobodies” walking around.  You think money didn’t matter to that guy?

 To digress just slightly but to hammer home the point, there is a story I have told many people about a guy from my high school.  We were standing along the back wall of the church for Sunday mass.  The usher came to each of us and held out the collection plate. The usher came to this guy from my graduating class who had a bad reputation as a troublemaker.  The usher must have already been looking toward the next person he was going to approach because he didn’t see what I clearly saw.  The trouble making kid put his hand in the plate and TOOK OUT $5.  I mean this guy had the audacity to steal from a church!  You think money didn’t matter to him?

Now I am not saying that most people will stoop that low in pursuit of the mighty greenback. There are many people who pursue the higher moral ground in living out their lives. However, I will leave you with several observations.

On the low end of the spectrum, I have seen relatives of mine use the same tea bag three times over.  Likewise the paper towel.  My one grandmother used to hang used paper towel up to dry and use it again. I have seen other people grab cigarette butts that were no more than an inch in length and light them up again just to get a few extra cost-free puffs.

Money mattered to these people.

On the high end of the equation take the actress turned author Suzanne Somers.  She was once asked if she ever got tired of the continuous fame she enjoys.  She summed it up succinctly. It’s all about the money.  She was then asked something to the effect of how much money she needs to live in this life. She tersely replied that you can never have enough money.  Imagine, naïve, childlike Chrissy Snow of television’s “Three’s Company” pushing her get healthy books, the reliability of which have been questioned, to make more and more millions.  You think money doesn’t matter to her?

The last point I would like to raise about people when they say money doesn’t matter concerns the current economic gloom and doom.  An article on Yahoo several weeks ago analyzed the current dilemma.  It pointed out that when most of an economy’s money is concentrated in the hands of a few, an economy is rarely robust.  When people used to ask me why I think the economy is bad I used to tell them to call up Oprah. Or Mayor Bloomberg.  When large amounts of the wealth are in the hands of a few much less money gets spent than if it were in the hands of many.

An example is in order.  You have a single male professional athlete making $15 million per year. When he eats out, most often he eats out alone or if with others he’s only paying for himself.  So he buys one meal per night.  If that same $15 million were in the hands of a man with wife and 4 children, when they eat out 6 meals are purchased.  Fact.  More money is being spent by the family man. The family man has to buy more clothes, cars and other consumer goods than the single athlete. Again, more money will be pumped into the economy.

So as long as we continue to concentrate most of our money in the hands of the super wealthy, the outlook for our economy is bleak.  I am not advocating socialism or communism.  But what I am stating is that for the extremely wealthy, money matters. It is ALWAYS on their minds.

Everyone else should start to wise up.

 

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Debunking Cliches

Excuse my logic, but aren’t some clichés and other forms of “conventional wisdom” sometimes off the mark?

 Submitted for your approval is a dissection of some clichés which we think as the sarcastic suggestion regarding clichés goes ‘should be avoided like the plague.” Following those is a short list of clichés which in this writer’s opinion still get high marks.

“At the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold.”  You ever notice that the person telling you this forgets to tell you which end of the rainbow?

“Behind every cloud is a silver lining.”  Does this apply to a mushroom cloud as well?

“He who hesitates is forever lost.”  What about someone who was planning to commit suicide?

“It’s a certified, pre-owned vehicle.” Excuse me, but isn’t that just double-speak for what is nothing more than a used car?

“Think outside the box.”  Isn’t it funny how people who use this phrase often don’t do it themselves?

“I’ve been working like a dog.”  Interesting to me since every dog I ever had never did an ounce of work.

“Quitters never win.”  Recovered alcoholics and people who have quit smoking, gambling or adulterous behavior might challenge that one.

Other clichés which I find quite irritating are as follows: “The early bird catches the worm.” Yuk.  “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” So what?  “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  You think?  “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Big deal. What does a penny buy anymore?  “No good deed will go unpunished.” Too cynical for me.  “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Maybe it’s just grandpa indulging in his favorite cigar.  “A leopard never changes its spots.” Neither does a Dalmatian and there’s nothing wrong with it.  “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Tell that to the ever increasing number of octogenarians getting their first college degree.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Very few make house calls anymore anyway.   “Time heals all wounds.”  There are combat veterans and amputees who would debate that point.

Cliches which in my opinion still have some merit, are as follows:

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  Whether or not God would agree is beyond my knowledge, but striving for his approval and being tidy seem like good traits to me.

“Practice makes perfect.”  Yes, it is used way too often, however it is true in so many of life’s endeavors that repetition is the foundation for eventual success.

“You are what you eat.”  It has also been proven almost beyond debate that one’s diet is a major contributor to their health.

For those readers who are interested in this topic, most local libraries have many books on the subject.  Also, the internet has a wealth of information on clichés.  Just Google the word clichés and you’ll find more articles than you can shake a stick at.  Did I just write that last line?  OMG.  Now I’m using worn out and dated phrases too!

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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