Thursday, September 29, 2016

Google Car Freakout

I must have an eye this week for picking out odd things. First, as presented in the previous post, the slippery slip of Trump's paper confidence and this morning, this bit of wacky weirdness.

So I was just innocently browsing homes for sale in Ferndale, Michigan (not thinking of moving there, just salivating over the ridiculously low prices for really nice, cute cottages in a progressive LGBT friendly community) and I check out Google Streetview to get a sense of the hood. Looks like a nice, maybe even slightly upscale town (for metro Detroit!) but check out this couple who apparently see the Google car with its unmistakable jutting camera boom on the car's roof. The wife's like "Whatever." but the hubby? is havin' none of it. "NO, THEY CAN'T SEE ME!!!!"

As you can see in the series of screen caps below, as the car gets closer, the guy goes apeshit and looks like he just wants to curl up and disappear. Maybe he's a fugitive? IDK, but he just looks like a regular-ish guy in the shots we can somewhat make him out.

So if you're a peevish white dude with a burly no-fucks-to-give wife who pro'ly thinks your're a paranoid freak, and you were walking to your car, which looks like a burgundy Honda CRV sometime last October at the 200 block of 9 Mile Rd. in Ferndale, Michigan...


We see you!


The Big Bad Internet

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What Got Under Donald's Skin?

I'm not the only viewer of last night's first Presidential Debate of this election to notice that The Donald first seemed calm, cool and confident, then, he seemed to have suddenly fallen back to his ol' bullying ways.

Why was that? Did Hillary say something to piss him off? Did the moderator, NBC's Lester Holt, make him mad? Was he not getting enough oxygen to his brain with that weird sniffing?

I say it's because he dropped his "cheat sheet" of notes that were written on a small cocktail napkin sized scrap of paper.

Here's the evidence:

In the first capture, we see Donald glancing down at his crib sheet notes just as he starts his opening statement.

Here, a couple minutes later, we see Hillary jotting down notes on the plain, lined paper notepad positioned on the podium for that purpose. Not once in the entire debate did I notice Donald taking any notes.

No, despite how the shot looks, Donald isn't snoozing. He's looking down at his prepared notes, as he did often in the beginning, before apparently dropping them.

The NBC NEWS LIVE chyron at the bottom right obscures the area where I later, as shown in the last pic, saw the fallen cheat sheet. Is it there yet, or, minutes later...

Has he just now dropped it?

Sure looks like he's trying to crouch low but realizes he can't quite go that low with out making it obvious that he's picking something up off the floor.

Abort! Abort! Either he's cued via his earpiece or common sense (ah who am I kidding, his people cautioned him to "just leave it") he's back on the upswing, now looking towards his left...

In order to deftly grab the glass of water sitting on a shelf at that height. Again, note the original crouch way would the stage people put a glass of water that low so he had to be after something else. The crouch was so low, it popped his tie out of his jacket. You know that made him really pissed when he reviewed this later. Ties hanging out of jackets is so low class.

And once in hand he hardly puts it down, sipping from it again and again and again. This is also when his cray cray self starts to take over and he badgers Mrs. Clinton, interrupting her again and again and being a general ass like something got to him. His remarks were more off-the-cuff and not rehearsed and I know that's this guy's shtick, but c'mon, you'd of thought he'd be prepped for this, right? Oh, he was. But it was all on that sheet of paper.

THAT sheet of paper. Right there, sitting helplessly on the floor right in front of his feet. See it? Poor, poor Donald. First the teleprompter at a speech he gave last week and now this. Yes Donald, the gods are out to get you Donald. It's a plot to make you look bad! (Take it from me, this is what crazy people think.) I rest my case.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Maudlin About A Stranger's Death

Are you ever on the internet and innocently browsing when all of a sudden you find a link to some tidbit of information that just floors you? Well this happened to me last night (ie earlier today around 4am) while I was looking up shit on Wikipedia. Ah Wikipedia...if it happened, it's in there. At least if it's from the last few decades or so.

I for some odd reason got the yen to look up and see how Don Lapre, the infomercial king of the 90s was doing.

Turns out...not so good. And hasn't been for almost five years now. At the age of 47, facing heavy prison time for his allegedly scammy business practices, he committed suicide. And the way he did it called desanguniation? I guess not but it's basically slitting arteries 'till you bleed to death...Man, that's some shocking shit!

Distraught even when I later got home (although I kinda don't know why actually) I decided to look further into this. I came across a blog post made back around the time Lapre died from some guy who happened to be a former customer of Don's get rich quick package back in the 90s. See the transcript of his post below, but I don't think he was mad at Don and he states he even feels sad for him and I guess that's similar to my feeling.

Here's his post:

Do you remember being awake in the middle of the night at the turn of the millennium? You’d watch infomercials promising riches from unclaimed tax refunds and real estate buys with no investment.

I’d watch Don Lapre tell his “from my one-bedroom apartment” story of wealth built on placing classified ads in the newspaper. (For those of you who are too young to remember, classified ads were like Craigslist, and newspapers were like websites that got your fingers dirty.) I was in my early twenties, newly married, and we were living in a small one-bedroom place in San Diego. Whenever I’d start to really, really despise my swing-shift hotel front desk job, I’d stay up night after night, watching Don promise to make me rich. I’d be up until, sometimes, four in the morning because of my late work shifts and Don’s maniacal enthusiasm.

One day, after I’d expressed complete and total frustration with my stupid job one time too many, I found myself in possession of Don’s kit. Here was a program, it claimed, that anyone could follow, and anyone could make money using. It was, I think, about $50. It came with some audio cassettes of motivational talk and stories, and some binders full of tips or tricks or vendor listings. There was a website builder to help you quickly establish a web presence and there were more videos to watch, to take you “step by step” through the process of getting rich by selling classified ads.

I lasted about a week with Don’s kit, never placed an ad, and shoved the box into a closet, where it sat until we moved a couple of years later and I threw it away. Watching Don’s infomercials after that was sad, because it was clear that I’d been completely stupid, that as with most of these infomercial schemes, the only person getting rich is the one selling them, and it was just embarrassing to know that I’d been duped. The worst part was that it wasn’t obviously a scam: there was a lot of leg work, directions to follow, and actual things contained in the kit so it could seem like I’d gotten value for money, and I’d just been too lazy or ineffective; that I didn’t want to succeed badly enough; that if I’d just stuck it out I would have seen a return worth the $50 I was suddenly out. Those are the best scams, really. The ones that leave everyone thinking it was their own damned fault. I still think it was my own damned fault. That’s a neat trick.

Later, Don’s infomercials disappeared. It turns out that, at that time (around 1999), he wasn’t even the owner of that business anymore, having been forced into bankruptcy. The new owners, purchasing the assets cheaply, continued to air the commercials, but he was out of it. And then late-night was taken over by different get-rich-quick videos, and sleazy camera guys getting college girls drunk to catch them in compromising behaviour.

His classified ads program was not his first venture, and it wasn’t his last. He started selling vitamins. Don’s “Greatest Vitamin in the World” program not only sold vitamins, but promised “independent advertisers” commissions for directing clients to his website, where sales would be finalized. He filmed new infomercials discussing the vitamins and their claimed health benefits, as well as the marketing scheme he’d worked out.

This time around, the scam was more evident. Government officials took an interest first in the health claims aspect, and then later in the affiliate marketing side of the business, which did not seem to be paying out anything like the amounts he’d promised. Don shut down his business in 2007 when warrants were served on his office and home. He was indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud, and money-laundering in June, 2011. He posted a message to people on his website, denying wrong-doing, and he awaited his trial, scheduled to start today, October 4th, 2011. But two days ago, Don was found dead in his cell, apparently having taken his own life.

This is a strange thing: In a way, I count myself among Don’s suckers (though not related to the business he was indicted over), but I can’t feel any animosity toward him, and I certainly don’t feel any sense of just dessert having been served. I’ve never felt like he owed me $50, not any more than I feel like a casino owes me my money back because I played the slot machines for four hours straight. What I do feel is sorrow. It’s hard to read his child’s words to him, at the bottom of his website, and not think that no matter what Don’s particular crimes, he deserved to have more time with his kids.

It’s crazy to be maudlin about a total stranger’s death. And it’s crazier to write so many words about him when I could barely write a thing about Jessie, about her family’s loss, about our loss. I’m sure it’s transference.

We finally told Erin about Jessie, and for the last few days she’s been going through the grieving motions, a bit like it’s a play. Every time she says “Dad, it’s so sad that Jessie died,” it hits me again. Jessie had more time with her family than her doctors ever thought she’d have, but we all deserve more. “Dad, it’s so sad that Jessie died.” It is, that. It is at least, that.

And it’s also sad that Don died. We all deserve more time with our kids.

For your further education about this tragic figure, I link a sample of one of his 90s infomercials. His style of talking, believe it or not, was what I emulated when I was a telemarketer. As kitchy as it sounds, the over-enthusiasm worked. And I rode it hard. Later when I trained hundreds of other telemarketers in the early 2000s, I taught them to sell like Lapre...all hype and little info. Just get them psyched!

And when I think of current figures like Donald Trump I immediately think of Don Lapre. Watch the video. Think about Trump. Isn't it the same thing?

If only Trump would do us all a favor and desangunate himself soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When You're A Jet

When you're a Jet,
You're a Jet all the way
From you're first Cigarette,
To you're last dyin' day.

Jet Song from West Side Story

Sunday afternoon, I too was a Jet. And I was a Shark also for that matter. Heck, I was everybody in the musical. You see, the very intimate, in-your-face and among the seats staging at the Orlando Shakes Margeson Theater is such that you feel like you are not merely watching the action, you're in it! I swear I almost capped a bitch in the ass, motha fucker! Oh, sorry, that level of violence and language would come much later in the timeline of gangs in America, wouldn't it?

Well not to say violence isn't a part of the West Side Story of course. By my count, three dudes die, one has his ear slashed and many have cuts and bruises. Maria though, of course, would suffer the most, one would believe, with an eternally broken heart.

The Shakes players done did it well. I was afraid before going in that they'd do like they and other troupes do and re-interpret the musical into a more modern show. Now not saying that'd be totally bad. WSS is rather dated "Daddy-O." I don't think gangs "rumble" anymore. And certainly not by acclamation of a War Council with rules of engagement and such. Actually, what the fuck am I talking about. This is the epitome of Broadway fantasy. None of it's real. Heck, I just read that the so-called gang slang used in the play is total gibberish entirely made up by the writers.

But as usual, I digress. Suffice it to say the show was wholesomely rendered from it's original Broadway form. The late 1950s version which also spawned the Oscar winning film. The dance and the style was a solid rendition of that mid-century avant guard blending with popular musical theater that's so emblematic of shows of the time. The music, played quite admirably and, happily, nice, full and really loud by the Shakes orchestra. (Take that Orlando Symphony "softer is better" losers!)

The songs are some of my favorites of all musical theater. "Maria" sung by Mark Koeck playing Tony was belted out strongly and with great vocal range but this guy does need a smidgen of work on his acting. Like his acutely chiseled face and super-tight, muscular body seems to betray, I think this guy's all about the calculated precision of a task rather than the emotions behind it. Like a lot of young performers, it's almost like I can telepathically hear his brain screaming out exact stage directions and reminders about pose, expression and intonation, but his heart, the feeling heart, is all like zzzzzzz.

Carly Evans playing Maria also couldn't act her way out of a paper bag but her singing was pretty good. Again, thankfully, nice and loud.

This show, like Spamalot, tells me that when it comes to the Orlando Shakespeare directors they assume the whole audience is hard of hearing. Well at least one Orlando venue gets's Florida: We're old!

My personal award for best performance in vocals goes to Alejandra Martinez belting out a beautiful rendition of "Somewhere" commencing the stunningly simple yet glorious Heaven-esque dance sequence. She had a more passionate and emotional style which was absolutely essential for this song, probably my all-time fav in any Broadway musical, for sure.

Well the lady to the right of me was actually bawling during the final scene when Maria is crouched over Tony's dead body on the ground so I guess the show was pretty good after all. For all its 50s kitchiness, pre-trigger happy nowadays racism, comic-book-like characters and a well-worn, "updated" Romeo and Juliette-ish plot, West Side Story is still a great bit of nostalgia with themes of cultural divisiveness, blind entitlement and systematic oppression still very much prescient today.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Ric's Koyo?

So I get a text two days ago from Ric saying he's quitting his job. He doesn't have another job to replace it other than a tacit nod from a fellow bike rider who is a head mucky-muck at a low-end pizza restaurant chain that he'd be a cinch to be general manager of a new salad bar concept restaurant they own and are opening in the Orlando area.

Ric already, according to him, talked this over with his mom and he says she was hesitant at first but after he convinced her he was dying a slow death at his current job she agreed to him leaving.

Ric bought his 2 bedroom condo in 2005 during the bubble. He paid $150,000 for it. It's now worth about $75,000 and that's with the more recent upswing in the market. He financed it with no money down and though I don't know at what rate, I think it's not a great one. I think he mentioned once that he pays over $900/month in mortgage plus, I know, the complex has an over $300/month HOA fee. He lives alone and has no boarder income. His credit plummeted a few years ago, he says, due to the accident with the car that hit him while riding his bike and the bad settlement he got from that. Whatever the reason, he now has only a couple of credit cards with rather low limits and they're already nearly maxed out.

Ric became eligible for a driver's licence this year and he was reluctant to get his licence back officially because of the fee. He texted that he bit the bullet and now has a driver's licence after a $310 fee payment.

According to what he told me on the phone yesterday, he's gonna go through with it and quit this job he's had for over 14 years in which he makes over $25/hour. He read me the resignation letter which sounds very formal and pompous.

He speaks about this in terms of the company that will be negatively impacted by him no longer working for them. He brings up the fact he has thousands of dollars in 401K money he'd have access to. He mentions how he'll finally feel free after years of dealing with the bullshit of his incompetent supervisors and oppressive work conditions.

Oh my. This all sounds so familiar.

These are very similar to conditions which set me off on my journey through the long, dark and winding valley of Koyaanisqatsi back in Aught Two (2002 for those not keen on the ol' wheezer version).

My money's on the fact that Ric, like me, is a big ol' drama queen and though he may be pissed at his job and sick of the call center bullshit, he's not gonna throw $25/hour out the window. For our set, that's sick money. Could he make more as manager of a restaurant? Maybe. But I know Ric and I never heard of him working in a restaurant. Ever. How long would he last?

So we'll see. In a few short hours. Is he ready for the ride of his life? Or will he kowtow to the corporate powers that be and nibble quietly hereafter at his bland humble pie?

EDIT @ 11:35 PM: He did it. He really did it. Oh man. Let the slo-mo train wreck begin.