Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Fading Geisha

The life of the office geisha is one of popularity and intense interest followed by sudden exile to a pen full of former geishas who once the bloom was off the rose, found they had to work harder than anyone else to justify their office space. Office cultures left to themselves will consume their young geishas like rats consume fresh cheese first and only bother with the aging cheddar when hungry or too lazy to reach the top shelf.

The hard thing to realize is that the geisha not only trades on beauty but trust and these are antithetical goods. Once she trades on the beauty, the trust evaporates particularly among other women. It is not they will hound her out but that they will slowly make her subordinate to them and if she doesn't like that, she has to move on.

It's an old story and most of us who have lived the office life know it. Every year will bring a fresher flower and no matter how hard one tries, pheromones fade in potency. The wise geisha cultivates her inner light at all times because it will grow brighter if she does not surrender to the frustration and disappointment of realizing that many around her who befriended her are fickle. Woe to the one who decides that the office life is the only one worth living. We usually discover these working longer hours for the same money fading and becoming bitter as those that do trust and love them fade into the distance.

If she is wise, she cultivates the inner light and does not break faith with those who did not break faith with her. Faith is not adoration or approval. It is truth, even the one she cannot believe though she heard every word they said. Sometimes the word needed is found not on the billboard of her beliefs but in the wastebasket of her frustrated desire.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tell It All Brother

In Bay City, Michigan, Marvin E. Schur, a 93 year old widowed war veteran froze to death in his house because an unregulated power utility company sent a worker to put a filter on the man's power meter that cut off his heat if he used too much power. When he was discovered, he was wearing four layers of clothes and had icicles hanging off the blankets. The city expressed its dismay and regret, then raised the electric rates 3%.

In New York City, Bernie Madoff who stole the retirements of hundreds of investors is living luxuriously under house arrest. At CitiBank, they are having to explain how they could buy a luxury jet while being bailed out with our retirement money while giving out millions in bonus checks to the very crooks who can't explain where the bailout money is going. Nancy Pelosi stands on camera and blames George Bush but it is Obama's problem now and no one is stepping up.

Is this what we are? Did we get so mad at the crooks that we forgot to look in on the old man next door? Are we so numb and so protective of our jobs that we will hang a note on a door of this man instead of pounding on it until we find out who we are condemming to a slow painful death in the freezing winter?

Is this America?

No bloody wonder the world hates us. I can't get my head around it and I don't want to. Years ago my first fiance and I were walking in the middle of a heat wave when an elderly lady called out to us from behind a screen door. When we opened it, we saw a double amputee from diabetes with a hot jug of water next to her. She wanted us to move her old floor fan closer to her wheelchair. We did that then we called the police. The young officer came and took information, and within the week, a local church came and put in a window unit air conditioner. The lady died a few months later but not from heat stroke.

In Los Angeles this week, a man capped his wife and family because having both lost their jobs, they couldn't envision going on. They lost hope.

Times are hard and getting harder. People are hurting. Others are getting away with their crimes and I can only hope God or karma tends to them. But today I and mine are ok and I can be thankful for that.

But I can't get my head around that old man freezing over an unpaid $1100 power bill.

Don't accept it. Don't. Don't let an old man who went to war and came home to raise his family and lose his wife die alone with an icicle as his last medal. If we want to get back on our feet, we will have to start caring again.

Tell it all, brother, before we fall.

If You Could Read My Mind

Reflecting on the Google deal with publishers of copyright works and digitization, it occurs to me that the change is not simply one of access but form. One wonders if it has the same effect as single outlet systems have had on other media.

There was a time when MTV ruled the music industry when it became the only radio that mattered. In the beginning, it was experimental, fast and very trendy. The fly in the ointment was that instead of being a sound medium, it was a visual medium and popular music was driven straight into the New York fashion houses. Thus the infamous Bo Diddley statement live on camera to Chrissie Hynde, “You ain’t no musician; you a model.”

Anytime a single media outlet dominates a media type, the form of that outlet begins to shape the evolution of the content. Digitization of books will follow the path of online communications: it will shred the language. The pressure to write shorter sentences and use punchier but less evocative words is strong. You see it in the Twits and Tweets. You see it in comments such as “OMG put a period in that sentence”. Pop music publishing first in sheet music, then in radio formats killed the long form composition for any practical commercial uses. TV did irreparable damage to movie structures and topics.

If Google is the only access, expect the quick death of the novel and possibly other forms of print. Once it is on the screen, patience turns into umbrage. Add a high energy drink or two, and it becomes vitriol.

The redeeming thought is that hypermedia systems are multimedia systems and have their own forms of expression such as being able to embed the videos for effect or accentuate a point. That is good for new forms, but older forms do suffer. The consolation is that MTV wasn't able to hang on to its monopoly and today has very little influence. Radios are increasingly irrelevant in the day of the download. Pop music has never recovered but some form of it will return in the pop mashups.

Few can carve in marble as well as some once could two thousand years ago. Themes may be eternal but forms evolve. Still, a couple of nuclear airbursts can wipe out that Google library, so perhaps we are not yet ready to burn books for kindling to make room for new monitors. We aren't becoming Bradbury's Montag having to memorize a book to save it from book burning, but any complex instrument left unattended surrenders to entropy. Evolution is not continual improvement, but it is continous forgetting.

Caveat emptor.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You Know The Economy Is Bad When

You know the economy is bad when the wait staff at IHOP becomes unusually polite.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bippity Bobbity Boo!

As pointed out elsewhere, the overwhelming choice of those answering Obama's Chicago web site call for votes for the change most desired of the new President was repeal of the Federal laws criminalizing pot. Predictably, Obama's transition team had to issue the terse statement
“President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
Because in the early campaign, Candidate Obama had hinted that he was for decriminalization, some of his fervent worshippers, umm, supporters, were dismayed. One asked, "What does this all mean?"

It means the current pipelines become stronger and if Obama changes his mind, they become the new suppliers of a bigger tax base. According to CNBC, California and the Federal government are already collecting millions in taxes from "product" grown in the Emerald Triangle openly and without fear. With ten more states having decriminalized, this only made the trade more interstate than intrastate. When dry counties go wet, bootleggers become distillers.

And the idea that these Mendocino farmers, the hippie's kids who figured out how to turn outlaw into entrepeneur botanists by increasing the potency a dozen times, who recruited the truck drivers and fishermen, who turned a poor region profitable, might be the new money on the block, well, that isn't acceptable in Chicago and Washington DC. If big money is to be made, the old Lords of the City will be the ones to make it.

And they don't know how to grow righteous reefer. Yet.

This is one where the wisdom of crowds or plain common sense loses to the political expediency of ensuring the lustre does not wear off the New Spiel before other agenda items are safely tucked into the Speaker's pocket. The herb goes under the bus with the gays just as it has with every election before when they dared to hope for common consideration.

No change but then, no surprise either. I get the distinct impression now as I did before the election that some people who work their hearts out for these candidates should take a job in the Beltway for six months to get the cold dash of reality that it brings. The day after the election, voters go back to being mice and pumpkins while Cinderella goes to live in the castle.

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