Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'll take SPIN for $200

Did you ever wonder how George W. keeps his image up through all the muck? The unfortunate answer to that question is—WITH YOUR TAX DOLLARS. That’s right, we’re all paying for the spin that’s meant to bamboozle us into thinking the Prez is earnest, honest, and sometimes the victim of unfortunate circumstance.

According to the Government Accountability Office, in the past two-and-a-half years, the Bush Administration has spent 1.6 billion dollars on advertising. The ads were created to bolster appeal, to redirect attention, to slip Bushie’s nasty actions under the rug. Here’s the interesting breakdown (for those advertising friends of mine) to see how our industry is helping bloat the Republican Machine.

Ad dollars spent:

Leo Burnett $536 million
Campbell-Ewald $194 million
GSD&M $179 million
JWT $148 million
Frankel $133 million
Ketchum $78 million

Of course, dollars are dollars, and I’m not one to complain about filling the company coffers. I like having a job. But, damn it, I cringe to think that some of my colleagues are forced to brainstorm ideas on how to pump up Georgie Boy. I wonder if they’ve slipped some subliminal messaging into the ads? Georgie and team wouldn’t notice the difference. Milliseconds of film could display “LIAR LIAR” or “You’re next on Cheney’s list.”

Either way, the issue here is how exorbitant the price tag is for Bush’s ad and PR campaign. The worse he gets, the more he spends. I think it’s interesting that Bush passed a law last year making it more difficult for people to file for bankruptcy, yet he’s bankrupting us all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Vices or Vises?

It feels like I haven’t written on this blog in a million years. It’s been exactly 16 days. It has weighed on my thoughts, which makes my mind wander to how I should be writing more. Then, I start self-analyzing. It gets brutal, and I tear myself to pieces. So, I put on the brakes. Halt. Stop right there.

Take a deep breath. Ahhh, I remember now, darn it, I can’t do it ALL. Shit, I’d really like to do it ALL. It’d be nice to have super human energy, to step through each day doing exactly what my high hopes set me up to do. But the reality is that I just-can’t-do-it-ALL, because there isn’t enough super human energy in me, and damn it that pisses-me-off.

Have you ever felt like this? If you have, you may need Tripsocord Milusen.

Those high achieving thoughts debilitated me. The stress was unbearable. I couldn’t function. My co-workers started to ask questions. Finally, my wife said something to me, and that’s when I started taking Tripsocord Milusen. My life has changed drastically, all for the better.
–- Chad Newhouser, co-vice president of Spunkleechies House.

Tripsocord Milusen is a Hominidae serotoninreflimator. It messures the brain’s expectation sensors and blocks the path of ambition-like tendencies that pass through the neural system. Before you know it, you’re happier working toward the middle life. No more pressure, no more hyper motivation. You’re now operating with the lower cerebral masses. No more strategy talk, no more keeping on your toes, no more Paul Pope triangular-erecting calf vices feeding on your neck. Tripsocord Milusen is here to straighten out your life.

‘It’s such a great relief, not to think so much,” said Gerard Goodriff, a 4-month client who worked at a Ti Kan granular investment company.

According to top American scientists, running with high ambition is known to cause early onset of blood pressure, cardiac disease, blood paranoia, and mental health conductivity. With Tripsocord Milusen your high drive will shift into neutral, heading you toward a carefree life south of the bell curve.

“I had no idea The Avengers was playing on Nick at Nite,” said Sandy Trunken, a former New York State senator's wife. “I was always trying to chase the next dream. Thank you Tripsocord Milusen.”

Ask your doctor about Tripscord Milusen today. You, too, can forget about tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Fighting grime

Of all the social issues college students have stood up for over the ages--peace, gender equality, racial acceptance, democratic rule--the recent one at Yale University is something of great inspiration.

For 10 long years, Yale students have been pounding on administrators' doors to change the university's "no soap" policy--a simple yet hygienically
cruel cost-cutting measure that dates back to the university's founding in 1701.

Now, the lack of soap in college dorms is unusual, but to have such a situation at an Ivy League school is even more unusual. Yale administrators cited lack of appropriate funds as the reason for no soap in the bathrooms. Apparently, the $9,540 per year for dormitory residency wasn't enough to cover the cost of soap--even if they shopped at Costco.

Finally, the administrators caved in. Word leaked to the press. Yale's reputation was at stake due to the hygiene-centric attitudes of newer generations. (Some insiders blamed the Japanese and their sanitizer influences on American culture.) The decision was made to wipe the no soap policy clean from campus balance sheets.

Yale students and grads cheered in celebration. "Victory at last," wrote Ted Wittenstein, a 2004 grad who analyzed weapons of mass destruction intelligence for Congress, to a friend in an email message, as reported by the AP.

There's nothing more fulfilling than working hard for something you believe in. Life is full of struggles. But, when the struggles get you down, just think about those poor Yale kids. They perservered, they fought the big fight, and they won. So can you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Music moguls, get over yourselves

I've been in a huff over the digital copyright issue since the filesharing lawsuits handed out to students a few years back. But, the recent lawsuits against Sony and the increasing number of royalty and licensing issues concerning digital media has revived my annoyance with the industry.

Mike, a fellow blogger at
ThisAreMusic, nudged me toward David Byrne's website to give me one more example to get my goat. Byrne tells us how the industry, through the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, has placed onerous restrictions and licensing agreements on streaming radio. Why? Maybe the legislators were too stupid to know what they were doing. Maybe they had no idea that streaming radio serves the same purpose as broadcast radio. Both are probably true, but, in the end, the "rules" are just another example of the industry's paranoia about CD profit losses.

If I didn't love so many of them dearly, I'd simply pick the CDs in my collection with the big-guy labels and toss them on the disc golf course (this would be the light-weight division, which gives me kudos to adding TWO new classes of sport on the disc golf course). And, I wouldn't try to keep them on the grass. No, I'd aim for the ooze flowing down some crack of the Huron River.

I'm a firm believer in sharing digital music, simply because it inspires me to buy CDs. Damnit, I like buying CDs. I like owning the music, checking out the insert, drooling over trinkets of lyrics and music-god oddities. It makes me feel like a member. And, I need this because nobody else will let me be a member. I'm a lonely person; this membership makes my life worthwhile. (I'm not that bad off, but I like to give myself a pity party now and then.) But, you know what I really hate? Paying $16 for a shitty CD. That makes me want to revoke my membership and rub the CD on raw beef and give it to my dog.

With a few digital samples, I'm able to weed through the junk and be more precise about my spending. In the end, I end up spending more. This is what the music industry doesn't seem to get.

Before I was able to taste-test music online, I'd be very reluctant to spend my money at the record store. Face it, I'd been burned too many times with a shit CD: A band would release a catchy single, I'd run out and buy the CD, and then I'd learn the other 10 tracks blow. This experience taught me to wait. I'd wait until I heard a rockin' CD with friends. I'd wait until a few more singles were released. I'd wait to read or hear a reputable band review. Sometimes, I'd wait so damn long, my excitement turned elsewhere and the band was put on my "will buy later" list. Say goodbye to spending my money right away. The industry and the band lost their moment of opportunity. In those days, I spent less money on CDs. So, the industry argument on how digital downloads and sharing carves out CD profits is complete bullshit.

Maybe it's time to go completely digital. Maybe it's time for everybody to get on board with record companies like
Cordless Records. Total Internet sales, marketing, and distribution--worldwide. No more concentration on the production of CDs. Fans can burn to their hearts desire after their purchase without creepy protection devices or additional fees. What's more, with companies like Cordless Records, bands retain ownership of their masters and copyrights. Sure, right now the "success" of a band is still measured by how many CDs are sold, but how long will that last? Times are a'changin, and traditional record companies will feel the backdraft when the weights fall in favor of online music.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pay it again Sam

Everytime I hear another story about digital protection I lose my pants.

(That's because my stomach muscles tighten when I get angry and my extreme low-riders fall off my non-existent ass.)

Besides Sony and their digital copy paranoia trips, the latest news comes from the U.K. where DJs are now required to purchase an additional license from the music rights agency Phonographic Performance Limited when playing digital copies of CDs, vinyl records, or online downloads.

PPL claims that current licenses do not include digital music, and as a result an extra charge is necessary. Bullcrud. This is just another example of the record industry trying to make twice the profit on a single sale of music. There is no legitimate argument for requiring an additional license in this case except for industry greed.

DJ groups are outraged. They argue that they're playing the same music in the same venues to the same audiences, except in a digital format. With digital, DJs don't have to lug around 100s to 1000s of CDs. But, they can forget about lugging around their entire digital collection if it's extensive. The license restricts DJs to 20,000 tracks per public performance.

Many DJ groups and the National Association of Disc Jockeys have gathered to create a committee to lobby this issue. Hopefully, in the end, they'll get to use digital free-of-charge and we'll get to see the music industry's Robber Barons smolder in the flames of public resistance. Personally, I'd like to rip an electronically charged MP3 up one of their ySpots.

I'd like to go back to sleep now

Here's an update on my computer drama.

After a trek to Best Buy (yes, I can't believe I betrayed my sacred oath and walked through those doors again), my friendly neighborhood computer geek informed me that I am now the proud owner a large doorstop. Umph, I replied. There must be a better way to show my love and appreciation for this machine--a plastic encased creature that has been the receptacle of my hard work, creative stumblings, and literary triflings.

Then it occured to me. I can use it on the disc golf course. I'll start a new trend. The very first heavy weight class in disc golf. To get others to catch on, I'll wait on the course until a line-up of guys is behind me. Then, I'll start chucking my laptop about 5 feet at a time, over and over again until the guys are completely irritated with me. One of them will step up (the cutest one, of course) and say "look, those cords fit you well, but this is how to toss a laptop through the fairway." Ahhh, I'll yell with glee. My laptop has new purpose--it's now the most challenging frisbie on the course. I'm satisfied. Life is complete. My hard work and creative twaddling on this machine has been transformed to the promotion of fresh air and exercise, and the occassional smoke break.

Eventually, I start marketing the heavy weight disc and become filthy rich. Dope smoking slackers across the world look to me as a Goddess. Indie rockers, hipster writers and the one-and-only Johnny Depp want to hang out with me.

I know you're thinking this "fantasy" is a bit over the top. But, honestly, all of that really happened. Then, I rolled over and hit the cold spot of drool on my pillow and it all disappeared.

I'm slowly working my way back into your virtual lives, so please be patient and don't think I've gotten bored or have severe writer's block.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's time to take a break--NOT

What do you do when you're ferverishly typing your next exciting blog post and suddenly your computer starts to sizzle and brew its insides like burnt Texas toast in the DeLonghi? If you're like me, you scream, "Ahhhh, my files are melllllting."

This is what happened to me the other day, hence my absence from the blogosphere. So, here I am, all newly connected on my antique Gateway that moves at the pace of a worm cut in half. This is no way to live when you're a technically in-tune individual such as me. Again, I have been humbled. I will survive.

So, now on to the thing I was so feverish about before the plastic-melting stench and smoke invaded my life.

January 10th marked the beginning of the Muslim holiday Eid-Al-Adha. According to tradition, Eid-Al-Adha celebrates the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make of his son Ishmael (or, Issac, as told in the Bible). The holiday brings much festivity, prayer, and pilgrimages to Mecca.

In Dearborn, Michigan, Eid-Al-Adha also means more time off school for our youngsters. Now, I'm all for diversity, but in the wake of the long Christmas break, the last thing these kids need is more time off from the classroom. What's more, in order not to cause controversy (HA!), the Dearborn School District slyly refrains from printing on the school calendar exactly why there is no school. The calendar simply states "vacation" for three days, which fall just prior to MLK Day.

The hedging on this issue in the district is unnerving. I questioned several administrative staff members in the district about this "vacation." Apparently, they have been given instruction not to disclose any information concerning the real reason school is out of session. Their answers were the same every time. "It's vacation. That's all I can say." As if the kids were in dire need of another vacation from their neverending studies over Christmas. No ties to the Muslim holiday are publicly acknowledged. Very odd, indeed.

As far as my research has found, no other Michigan school district recognizes this holiday with time off. It's unique to Dearborn. Does this fact have something to do with the district's uneasiness about announcing the true reasons behind the vacation?

To clarify my position, I am not in opposition of observing Eid-Al-Adha. I'm just opposing that the holiday adds to the number of days off in the school year for all students. The combined vacation days in this district don't just shorten the summer break; they also break up the continuity of learning. It's as if Dearborn kids are sprinting through the curriculum, moving along quickly then taking a break, moving along quickly then taking another break. It's ridiculous.

The Eid-Al-Adha vacation also begs the question of how religion influences the decisions made within the secular establishment of a school district. Although noteworthy, that question for debate is useless because the bottom line is that school districts cannot count a day as a legitimate day of instruction unless 75% of students are in attendance. Dearborn, most specifically East Dearborn, has already experienced the lack of appropriate attendance during Muslim holidays. Therefore, it has been deemed necessary to provide vacation days during those times to avoid being fined or reprimanded by the State.

The topic of time off for religious holidays is tricky business. Nonetheless, in Dearborn it's time to come up with creative solutions to the number of days off during the school calendar. Maybe we can shorten the Christmas holiday. Maybe we can divide the district so that predominately Arabic schools recognize the Muslim holidays while predominately anglo schools recognize the Christian holidays. These are just options, and undoubtedly dicey ones to throw out for discussion. But, a decision needs to be made so that students aren't off for two weeks, on for five days, off for four days, back again for three weeks, off again for one week, and so on.

There is no consistency for learning under the current method. And, this situation will become even more exacerbated with the new law governing that all Michigan schools start after Labor Day.

If it's time to rid the schools of religious influence altogether, so be it. Under the current program, true fairness would mean that we recognize all religious holidays in the school calendar--Jewish, Arabic, Christian, African. You get the picture. If school districts statewide did just that, heaven knows, our kids would never be in school.

Is it too much to take only a week off in December, and then a week off in January? Can't we cut down on the existing week-long breaks over Easter and Thanksgiving? How about taking another look at the week-long midwinter break? Let's ask the teachers.

I'm thinking that the current calendar, with its many, many vacations, does nothing but give teachers plenty of rest, while parents work harder at keeping their kids' studies in check due to lack of classroom time. Case in point, at the onset of every vacation, my kids come home with a study packet.

Since the Teacher's Union negotiates the details of the school calendar, I'm convinced that the results we see every year are in the best interests of the teachers, and not the students. The religious holidays may be a good reason for more time off that are above and beyond the traditional breaks. There obviously has been no compromise elsewhere in the calendar.

The Teacher's Union isn't the only one at the bargaining table. The union for non-instructional employees are also a part of the negotiations. However, I'm going to guess that their union might not support the calendar as is. Why? Because non-instructional employees don't get paid during those additional days off. I'm sure they'd rather be working, getting paid.

David Mustonen, Communications Coordinator for the Dearborn School District, suggests that parents write letters or emails to the school board, the superintendent, the directors of education, and each union about the calendar. Although I haven't spoken with many of the Muslim families affected by days off during Christmas and Easter, I certainly have heard many qualms from non-Muslim families about the extra number of days off during Ramadan and Eid-Al-Adha. It's time to make a change. Otherwise, next year we might be celebrating The Islamic New Year.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bush signs law with fingers crossed behind his back

George Bush signed a new law last week prohibiting the torture of detainees. However, Bush states that it's ok to bypass the law if "I say so."

If Bush is the only US citizen allowed to torture detainees legally, I say please detain these two and put an end to the madness.