Monthly Archives: July 2011

Common-Sense No-Show

Three events this week have expressed the complete disappearance of common-sense on our planet.  Submitted for your approval: Amy Winehouse, the US Debt Ceiling and Norwegian Terrorism.  Why not start with Winehouse?

It follows the usual pattern, international success at 22, lionized by the media as a slightly off-kilter darling with the beehive and tats.  Stir in a couple of public meltdowns, a unique marriage, professional-grade substance abuse, the rehab revolving door and likely a circle of sycophantic cling-ons who do nothing but blow rainbows up their butts.  You have a Betty Crocker Approved recipe for an early death. 

The media must help society kill the popular.  If we can’t kill them, then at least we must gnaw their leg bones with examples of Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears, or as far back as Marilyn Monroe serving as sound examples.  We eat our young.

The US Debt Ceiling Debate is simple enough:  The US has run out of money and must either a) cut back on what they’re spending it on, b) raise taxes or c) a wise combination of both. 

There is a choice d)  Declare bankruptcy and throw the entire economy of the planet into the toilet from which it will not recover for at least a generation.  Where common sense is missing is the knee-jerk reaction of the various parties involved.  The Republican-Tea Party morons are adamant that taxes must not be raised especially for big corporations and the fabulously wealthy. 

This is nothing more than the last vestiges of Regan-era trickle down voodoo economics.  It didn’t work in 1976; it didn’t work in 2001; it doesn’t work now and it won’t work in the future.  Would the US please grow up and recognize that you can’t run an economy on the basis of a sound bite?  You can only spend as much money as you have and if you don’t have enough money, you have to cut back somewhere, or get more money by raising taxes.  General Electric earned $5 billion in profit last year and paid no taxes.  Why not try simplifying the corporate tax code and canning about 98% of the tax credit dodges set up by previous administrations of both political stripes to reward their buddies? 

What you have developed is a form of corporate welfare socialism that wraps itself in a free-market capitalist cloak when someone looks too closely.  We can only quote Eisenhower so many times:  Watch the Military-Industrial Complex.  Those guys don’t so much as set their alarm clock unless the government is paying for it in some manner. 

If the sole reason large corporations have for doing anything or being in the US is the tax breaks, then you don’t have an economy. If the US economy is as wonderful as the press release says it is, then they’ll stick around and pay their fair share of the bill while making damn good profits from doing things well.  That would be how an actual economy works.

The Norwegian bombing is very much a story in transition.  Close to 100 killed in two incidents, one a bomb let off in the government area of downtown Oslo, followed by an execution spree at a youth campsite.   

We can hear the NRA doing a logic backflip now decrying Norwegian gun laws as unable to protect the citizens who should have been armed and would have ended the killing spree by massed fire.  Except the shooter was disguised as a police officer. 

The Fox News commentators are disappointed:  The story isn’t about towel-headed bearded terrorists with bombs sewn in their bellies, detonating for Allah.  The perpetrator is homegrown Norwegian loon with a Timmy McVeigh complex.  He allowed himself to be taken alive, one would assume so he can read his manifesto at his trial.

So what happened to our common-sense gene?  Has it gone recessive and like the little toe, will soon be nothing more than a nubbin on the side of our pituitary gland?

We can lay a percentage at our media, who pander to nothing more than our basest, most vindictive instincts.  We love to see the famous and fabulous brought down several dozen pegs at a time, like reading the News Of The World, or the Huffington Post.  At the same time, we’re the ones who insist on there being an entire cultural subset of hollow celebrity presented for our amusement and entertainment.  We are confronted by a fire-hose of minutiae about hundreds of thousands of events, screaming for our attention, demanding their fifteen minutes of importance.

Back in the Golden Era of Hollywood, the publicists did the same thing, building profile for budding stars, grooming the images of the anointed, piling up little mints of image.  Their timelines were measured in months, each week a new photo set coming out, to add another particle to the image of Deanna Durbin being the girl-next- door, or Roy Rogers as the singing cowboy with his loyal horse Trigger.

Today, our timelines are measured in trending-now minutes from Twitter as the measure of success.  We don’t see beyond the next hour, looking for the next data fix masquerading as news.  It isn’t much different from fans writing in for an autographed picture of Cary Grant, except the time scale is compressed. 

That might be where we’re losing our common-sense.  We don’t reflect, taking actual minutes to think about what we’re hearing and seeing.  To close the circle, Amy Winehouse is tragic and predictable.  The US Debt Ceiling Debate could be fixed if someone grew a set and told the business elite to either bucks up, or get out.  The Norwegian terror killings have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with a hyper-politicized loon.

Pity the Thumbstruck

We must be devolving at a rapid rate, as we have come to dislike the smartphone with a certain intensity that is nearing that cross-the-line moment of slapping the phones out of the hands of strangers.  Having owned a cellphone in various guises since the coal-fired days of a Motorola clamshell, we’re not technological Luddites.  We get the connected, agile workforce meme and understand why it is important to a boss.  It’s a load of manure, but we get it.

Certainly, realtors, doctors, on-call technologists and several dozen other professions need that always-connected technology to respond to situations.  No question and no issue either.  What we don’t get is the head-down, but still moving lopsided gait of the Thumbstruck. 

You’ve seen them walking purposefully along the sidewalk, then suddenly, as if someone had thrown a switch, their head ducks, their walking skills deteriorate to that of a toddler with a full diaper ambling from side to side at best, or totally paralyzed.  You keep waiting for them to fall over, face-plant into a light pole or stagger into the side of a bus.

Downtown street corners are notorious for the Thumbstruck.  Well-dressed, prosperous, allegedly intelligent business people suddenly gone rigid, except for the fingers and thumbs, incapable of locomotion and completely unable to get out of the way.  They stand like momentary Polynesian sentinels, fixated on their thumbs, impervious to their surroundings and the pigeon crapping on their shoulder.    

Grocery stores are terrible places to see the Thumbstruck.  Mother, Father, two yard apes in full sugar binge scream, a cart full of processed food and she comes to a dead halt in mid-aisle, intently pecking away in a Grand-mal Thumbstruck seizure that rends her incapable of movement.  Father stares off into middle distance, distracted by the shiny bags of Cheezie Poofs, oblivious to the savage fruit of his loins who are attempting to stab each other with the sharp corner of a tetra pack of juice and a set of grilling tongs. 

A full minute later, Mom comes out of her seizure and shares the earth-shattering issue.  Was it a sudden need of the launch codes by NATO?  Was her input vital to the stock market and the spot price of copper?  Did Obama need her immediate feedback on how to avoid the debt ceiling crisis?  Father blinks once, twice and then one last time, surfacing from his Cheezie Poofs reverie, his attention leaning towards the current environment, still oblivious to the children engaged in gladiatorial combat.

No.  “Cathie wants me to pick up some raisin bread for her for next week but not the Sun Maid brand, just the generic store kind as she’s making her French Toast and she’ll leave the money on the back deck under the gnome.” 

Father blinks twice more in comprehension, his head nodding in that peculiar husband-mode known as “I am not listening to you, dear” as Mom returns to her Thumbstruck seizure, while attempting to push the cart at the same time, bumping forward into the display of previously frozen crab legs, blocking the entire width of the aisle for another minute.  It would seem that the Thumbstruck lose all visual acuity and problem-solving abilities when in mid-episode, as Mom could not comprehend how to back up a shopping cart. 

Father wisely returned to Cheezie Poofs land, having seen something shiny reflect off the Mylar packaging and was again incapable of movement, standing directly behind Mom, the cart full of groceries and howling children who were now engaged in attempted mutual self-trepanation using cans of cat food as medical instruments.

Her seizure concluded and the smartphone merely clutched desperately in her hand, Mom suddenly recognizes she is in a grocery store, with a cart stuck against a freezer and two familiar looking children trying to open each others’ thoracic cavities with frozen perogies.  

Is she contrite, or even vaguely embarrassed?  Of course not.  In fact, she looks angry that the other shoppers have delayed her for the last five minutes.  How dare they!

The Thumbstruck.  Incapable of movement.  Incapable of conscious thought.  Incapable of anything except the ability to move their thumbs.  Filled with the fat sense of entitlement that they’re cutting edge communications-critical, they’ve become the sidewalk and store bollards to which Stupidity binds its lines to our society.

Pity the Thumbstruck.

Two Gone

Two milestones have passed in the last week that cause us to look back a bit and see where we’ve come from. 

The first passing was the terse note from James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation that News Of The World would cease publication on Sunday, forever.  It would seem that NOTW’s fascination with hacking into the voicemail of victims, families and celebs along with some serious corruption charges are going to stop the presses for good.  To say that News Of The World was the singularly most tawdry UK Sunday paper in existence would be perfectly accurate and perhaps even a moderate understatement.  However, the line was crossed when it was revealed NOTW was involved in hacking into the voicemail of murdered British teen Milly Dowler to see what kind of dirt could be dug up.  Even the families of British soldiers killed in action have had their mobile phones hacked, purportedly to garner headlines like “Dead Vet’s Nanny Buys Undies Online From Same Store As Posh Spice”  

Being in the same store where NOTW is on sale makes you feel like you need a half-hour shower afterwards.  Not even the National Enquirer  makes you feel that soiled and News Corporation has done the right thing by closing the paper for good.

The Space Shuttle on the other hand was almost always a feel-good story, with a couple of notable exceptions.  Designed in the early 70’s, the Shuttle was the reusable delivery van of the new frontier of space exploration.  The last flight is under way with Atlantis dropping off a years’ worth of groceries at the International Space Station as STS-135.  Of course the Shuttle has been overhauled and updated a few times in the past thirty four years.  Now NASA is going to have to bum rides with the Russians to get to the ISS.  There is no replacement for the Shuttle, except some pretty drawings and PowerPoint presentations that would make a stone statue yawn.  

Perhaps that is the sadder passing of the two.  The end of the Shuttle and no obvious inheritor means we’ve given up.  The various surviving Shuttles will become gate queens stuck on pylons until they rot away. 

In thirty years expect a two line story on your smartphone implant that some old geezers are trying to raise a few million Yuan to restore the rusted out remains of the last surviving Shuttle from a defunct outdoor water park in Toledo, Ohio.  The geezers want to remind us of the days when humans did really cool, heroic things.  Back when we could tackle any problem and solve it with a combination of education, determination and genuine effort. 

Back when we were Good.  Damn Good.