Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Just When You Thought It was Safe to Turn the Lights Out

This is the weird dream I had last night. It was so weird I remembered it all when I woke up. Hours later I can still "see" this very clearly. If you can figure out what it means, please post a comment!

I flew out to LA and rented a car. I drove to Anderson Cooper's to spend the night. I parked my green Toyota rental car on the street and went in to Anderson's.  He was wearing a ridiculous brown wig. I met his girlfriend. I thought she looked familiar. She was chef Robert Irvine's wife, an Asian-American female wrestler. At some point I realized my rental car had been stolen.  Anderson and what's-her-name had a wonderful Christmas Eve w/friends while I spent the night trying to figure out what to do about the car. Then right before bed Anderson told me they were leaving on a 6am flight to visit his mother in New York.  It was already about 3am. I was still on the phone, trying to get through to the car rental agency,  trying to get cops to take a stolen car report, and trying to figure out how to get to the airport to fly home the next day.  Anderson and "the girlfriend" left for the airport and stuck me with taking care of the cat and dog. I looked all over for a leash to take the dog out but couldn't find one. So I locked the dog upstairs with the cat. After not being able to get "through" to either the rental agency or the cops, I finally got a ride to the airport...and woke up.

So with this dream still vivid in my mind, I have all kinds of questions:
How did I get to be such good friends with Anderson Cooper? (Or do I call him Andy?)  Why does he live in LA? In a crappy neighborhood? And why is the gay Anderson Cooper living with Robert Irvine's wife? Why didn't they or any of their friends offer to help me? Why did he make me sleep on the couch? How could they stay up until 3am, then go to bed, and STILL get to LAX and make a 6am flight? 

Some of this I can explain away. Anderson Cooper? Well, he IS cute, and who wouldn't want to be friends with him? Robert Irvine's wife? Uh, I got nothin'! I have no explanation for any of that. Is she still married to Irvine? If so, why was she living with Anderson? The stolen car? Yeah, I have had a couple of break-in/stolen car incidents, and one did happen around Christmas, but on Christmas NIGHT, not Eve, and in Atlanta, not LA. Not being able to speak to a real person at a car rental agency at 3am on Christmas morning just kinda makes sense, no explanation necessary. Anderson and his girlfriend making their flight? Simple. Hollywood magic. Not being able to let the dog out to pee? Well, right before going to sleep I'd texted Nick and asked him to let Rowdy out after he got home and before he went to bed. And the ridiculous brownish wig Anderson was wearing? I saw Andy Richter wearing it during a commercial for the Conan O'Brien show that aired during the Sox game. Come to think of it, I'll bet the Red Sox loss was the cause of this whole thing. But I'll still watch the next game!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Technology Circles

So, in the beginning, cavemen and cavewomen used to draw on walls. We call that prehistoric art. When young men and women draw on walls today, no matter how artistic or profound the message, we call it graffiti and vandalism and have it removed or painted over, and if caught, the artist is arrested. But in reality graffiti is a valid form of communication, just as cavemen's drawings were their way of communicating with each other, and of leaving their stories for the future.

In later years families would gather around the large living room radio, listening to important news broadcasts, storytellers, or music and sometimes shows. Some of the shows were one time performances, some were early game shows in the form of quiz shows. Some were broadcast in parts with stories spread over several shows, like episodic television we now call sitcoms or dramas. Back then they were serialized stories.

For years, people would carry verbal or written messages from one person to another. Or they would send brief messages by carrier pigeons (precursor to air mail?) and then by telegraph. And when people  would send their messages on telegrams they would necessarily be brief, using abbreviations and omitting extraneous words to save money.  Brevity was cheap. One had to go to a telegraph office to send and pay for the message, which would be translated into Morse code to be sent over copper lines. The telegraph operator in another town would receive and decode the message, and a paper copy of it would be delivered to the recipient. Nowadays people encode, send, open, decode and read the messages on their own. We call it texting. Brevity is still the way to go.

People used to call on the phone when it was a party line. You would call a friend and, without you being aware, Ethel across the street could just pick up her headset and listen in. Many people like Ethel would then share whatever they heard with their friends. Important information was printed up in newspapers or announced on the radio.  Now we write whatever is happening, or how we are feeling, what we're doing, what our thoughts are on any subject, by sharing on our and others' virtual walls in Facebook. 

People used to take precious photos of family and friends and others on special occasions. They would send away their film and wait days and sometimes weeks for their black and white film to be developed and printed. The photos, for the most part, were carefully planned because of the costs of developing and printing the images. Even the 'candid' shots were considered carefully by the photographer. Sometimes the photos would be tinted or have color applied by hand. Then came the invention of colored film.  Those photos were precious and put in albums ( books of special paper) to be cherished and handed down from generation to generation. Often there was writing on the front or sometimes the back, naming the event and the people in the photos.  Now we use camera/phones and take as many photos as we want of every damn thing we see, because it doesn't cost anything. And when we label the event or people, we call it 'tagging.' We use Instagram to add color and special effects to the images. We put our photos in digital albums and rarely look at them. We share a few, compared to how many shots we have taken, but most stay stored away on hard drives or memory sticks, never to be seen again, like the albums in the attic. And those we do share, we share by sending digital copies and there is no cost, no extra prints to be ordered or time to wait. We can send that photo of the whale we saw off Martha's Vineyard to a friend on a whale watch off the California coast, and they can send back THEIR whale pix in a matter of seconds. Then we can either call or, more likely, text to converse about who is seeing more whales and getting better pictures.

It used to be some families were fortunate and one member of an extended family would have a moving picture camera. He would be the designated family occasion documentarian, first shooting without sound and later editing the film by splicing it, and adding sound. This was extremely tedious work and a thankless job for the cameraman, whom we never saw in the films because nobody else knew how to operate the camera. Then there was a time when the wealthy or hobbyists could afford video cameras, and pretty much anybody could 'film' the most mundane events, because videotape was relatively cheap and the cameras were easy to use. If we didn't care for the images or the event was boring, we just deleted or taped over those parts.

But we were still a little picky about taking videos everywhere because the cameras were bulky and the cameraman had to look through an eyepiece and so generally was not in the shot and missed out on activities. Unless he put the camera on a table or tripod, where it would promptly be bumped and there would be hours of footage of a wall or people's feet, or aunt Matilda dozing in a chair with a cat on her lap, which was cute for a few seconds but not forty-three minutes. But no matter, we can delete and fast forward through that part, or tape over it.  Now nearly everybody considers themselves photographers and videographers, story tellers and record keepers, because nearly everybody has a phone with apps that allow them to take photos and videos, and to send messages without ever speaking a word to anybody. We can download apps (applications) that will help us edit that pre-school recital video into a full-scale Broadway musical. We write on virtual walls on Facebook, adding photos or drawings made with apps. We carry on entire conversations via texting or even send briefer messages via Twitter, using weird abbreviations and omitting words to reduce a message to 140 characters or less.

The phones not only connect us to each other, they can connect us to our homes, controlling practically any controllable device including lights, the stove, the television, the music system. There are apps that can open your garage door and run diagnostic analysis on your car. There are apps that will start your car on a cold day. There are personal apps that will checkout your symptoms and tell you if you have a simple, brief illness or if you should hurry yourself to an ER. Or call an ambulance. And when many people use their phones in public, especial those using hands-free devices like Blue Tooth headsets, it brings us back to the old party line, where the rest of us can (have to?) listen to one or both sides in a conversation. It seems the old adage is true. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

An Open Letter to the U.S. Congress

A CNN headline today reads "Cruz: GOP will win"

I wish you politicians would stop treating governing a country as a freaking game! It's NOT! Not to us Americans, anyway. Not to the people you have SWORN to represent to the best of your ability. Your "game" is toying with the jobs and livelihoods of nearly a million government workers alone, nevermind all the people who work for businesses that support the government: suppliers of equipment, parts, materials, even office products; local businesses, stores, restaurants, coffee shops, lunch places normally patronized by govt. workers or the workers from ancillary businesses. Even local mass transit systems are suffering. Millions of people are being hurt, financially and emotionally, by your pettiness. 

If you can't find it in your hearts, assuming you have them, to do your jobs for the people you represent, do it to protect the reputation of this great country. We are losing all kinds of respect from members of the international community. And not just respect, but faith. And money/business. This loss of business is creating a domino effect in some other countries as foreign suppliers of goods and raw materials to the U.S. government see their companies suffering losses, forcing them to layoff or fire their own employees. 

Yes, in case you haven't forgotten, we are part of a GLOBAL economy. We are, or at least we have been, a large part of that economy. And we are still, for now, anyways, the most powerful country in the world. We are the world leader in the eyes of many. But you politicians are chipping away at our power, our standing, our very reputation all in the name of gamesmanship.

It is about time for you to put aside your petty differences, to stop trying to fool us, your constituents, into thinking that somehow the government shutdown has been caused by the implementation of the ACA. We are not as stupid as you seem to think we are. We KNOW the budget and debt ceiling and a Continual Resolution are all tied to your inability to pass a budget and to agree on funding the government. The ACA, "Obamacare," is a program that is already taking effect. IT IS LAW. It has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It is NOT a bargaining chip to be used by politicians. The budget is not, in any way, tied to the ACA. This is pork-barrel politics at its worst. The time for you to express opposition to "Obamacare" has passed.  If you feel the need to make changes to the program, there are procedures in place to do so. Holding the government hostage is not one of them. It is not a reasonable or valid means to solving any situation. It is merely a childish, expensive, and dangerous ploy. 

Congress MUST stop holding our government, nay our COUNTRY!, and us, the people, hostage to their petty political games. Congress MUST recognize the need to keep our government processes running smoothly, without disruption. Congress MUST recognize, accept, and act on its duty to work together to find an agreeable and equitable solution to the budget crisis, to compromise where need be, to set aside partisanship and instead embrace their (YOUR!) duty to represent ALL Americans and to enact legislation that keeps our government functioning. 

Congress needs to act, and ACT NOW to return our government to a fully functioning entity. Congress needs to ACT NOW to restore our faith that our governing bodies have our and our country's best interests in mind. Congress needs to ACT NOW to get our government employees back to work, to get our government programs fully up and running properly again. Congress must ACT NOW to help America's businesses, some large, many small, who have been hurt by a loss of business due to the government shutdown. 

Congress must ACT NOW to do the job they were elected to do. Congress must ACT NOW to keep America at the forefront in world leadership, and to restore faith in the U.S. from the international community, faith that we will not self-destruct and in so doing cause the collapse of the world economy, resulting in unrest, civil disobedience, violent uprisings and complete and utter chaos at home and abroad. That sounds like an exaggeration, but that IS where we are headed if Congress continues to play its games unchecked. It is fast becoming a dangerous game with serious, deadly consequences. Especially in these days of unprecedented use of social media to quickly gather groups intent on making their wishes known in supporting a cause, and the equal ability of opposition groups to form as quickly in the same place at the same time. Eventually there will be violent clashes between these groups and law enforcement will be brought in to try and regain control. This is how rioting starts. And it will spread to other communities, metropolitan, suburban, even rural. And seeing such violent unrest in our country will cause concern and, in reaction, unrest in other countries. Again, yes, it will be dangerous, and yes it will be deadly. In the US and elsewhere it may even lead to martial law. But inside the hallowed halls of our Capitol Building, our Representatives and Senators will watch the violent destruction on television screens, under the protective eyes of the few security officers still working during the government shutdown. And they will continue to roll the dice and play their games, refusing to call to an end this ridiculous charade of running a government when what they are doing is throwing sand at others in the sandbox, bullying each other, and destroying people's lives in the process.

It all comes down to this- to paraphrase a recently popularized satire of a children's bedtime storybook: "Go the FUCK to Work!"