politics

Unemployment went down. So what?

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It was announced yesterday that unemployment dropped to 8.5% with 200,000 jobs added to the workforce.

At first seemingly positive, that 8.5% still doesn’t account the hundreds of thousands of American’s who have long since stopped looking for work. And we’re still millions of jobs behind where we need to be for a healthy economy. Growing health care costs and having an entire generation or so of people who are simply unable to retire isn’t helping our economy either.

The American Dream is becoming the American Joke. We’re grasping to an idea that we are simply awesome when the facts remain:

Our kids are obese.

Our jobs are non-existant.

The government as a whole does not care about the well being of the taxpayers. It has not occurred to them that keeping workers healthy means that taxes roll in on high.

Our Rich are richer than ever and the middle class is falling away to disappear all together.

Those that think they can lead the country are the worst human beings, ignorant and racist.

In the fall of 2010 Academy Award nominated graffiti artist named Banksy created a new introduction sequence for the Simpsons. He sums up American Life unapologetically and it’s amazing to look at it now.

When Banksy’s intro first came out it seemed exaggerated to an extent (we all know that unicorn hooves are glittered, not plain gray). We live a privileged life style, even those of us in rougher spots. Few of us are the individuals lucky enough to be given one of those record Wall Street bonuses being handed out this past quarter, but if you’re lucky enough to be in front of a computer someplace reading this – or, better yet, accessing this from your phone – then you probably have something in your life to be thankful for, even if it’s just your own work ethic.

But it has changed. We are unapologetic consumers still, but the life the Simpsons have is what many now aspire to. They live an above average middle class lifestyle, with a four bedroom home, and a household in which only one parent needs to work. Many of us currently have  to buy goods from other countries because we are unable to afford the same items manufactured here.

Not enough people have jobs and those who do are often not making enough money. Even Tom Brokaw is so shocked by our outsourcing and American lifestyle that his advice to new grads is to search elsewhere for work: “elsewhere” as in other countries.

What is “enough”, though? I want to have a child. I know I do not make enough for that. I want to pay off my school loans and to have enough in savings that if faced with an emergency or a lost job, I could survive for a couple months, but I don’t make enough for that either. I do have plenty of stuff, though, and while it’s less than many others, it’s still more than I need. I have a game system, but it’s a five year od We have had to pay a price as American’s to have the things we have. The price is guilt and gluttonism. We have swelled, fat CEO’s lording over corporations that now have more rights as humans that homosexuals that want us to spend more, but won’t pay us enough to go to the doctor if we’re sick; ironic considering that if we are to spend money, we have to be well enough to earn a paycheck.

I don’t mean to confuse issues. We’re down and out, but still above many. We’re clinging to ideals that have to change in order to move forward. But we do have to move forward, so wasting political time trying to inhibit civil liberties, bringing race into issues in which it has no place are really far from what we need as a nation to better ourselves. There are two issues that keep coming up in debates that I just don’t want to see any more time wasted on. Neither are helping the present situation.

Let all have equal rights. You’re human, you’re entitled to certain rights, and we’re all equal. Period. Granting a contributing, intelligent, good person the to marry the individuals they love (who merely happen to be the same sex as them) will not cause other people to demand the right to marry ducks. Get over your bullshit causes, your own personal lack of self-esteem, and your want to keep others beneath you. Basic human rights. Don’t waste my time insinuating that keeping these people as lesser citizens is actually good for our nation as a whole.

Yes, the welfare program in this nation needs to be seriously revamped, but it is not a race-based system. Black people are not the only people on welfare, so it would make a great example and really to a nation good if you stopped insinuating that fact. And it does a shit ton of good for American’s of all races. Move along.

What is really important is lessening the gap between the classes, creating jobs, making healthcare accessible, and funding schools. Better lives for all, a booming economy dripping with profits, healthy people working hard for the decent lives they’re thankful to have, and future generations who might actually be useful and competitive to other nations.

The gap between the classes is ever widening. We were angered and nauseated by the working conditions in this nation during and immediately after the American Industrial Revolution, but now we’re hard pressed to acknowledge that worse conditions persevere in countries all over the world in factories owned and operated by American companies. Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point where we have to have cheaper clothing and home goods because it’s all we can afford. We’re dependent on those conditions due to this huge gap.

Food costs have grown since Banksy’s film, but my salary has not. I can’t contribute to purchasing American made items in American factories because I can’t afford it, which makes me a huge part of the problem. I want to help, but I don’t know how. And the politicians I see are not concerned about this. They throw around the term “job creation” placing huge exclamation points at the end of it, but they’re not actually ever saying anything. They never actually express a real solution to this issue because doing so would been admitting that the politicians and the corporations that fund them would have to sacrifice a small portion of their already bloated salaries themselves. Oh, the horror. And we don’t need just simply “job creation”. It’s more than that.

Other than that, politicians seem to spend the rest of their time concerned with making a religious group happy that I personally do not subscribe to. Worse yet is that what apparently are the primary concerns of that group is inconsequential to what it really takes to live a good life in the United States. I am a good person. I’m honest, I work hard, I treat my fellow man well, I don’t steal. I understand that an allegiance to a specific sect is not what makes a person good. That has nothing to do with it. And I’m tired of hearing people say they’re going to vote for SoAndSo because he’s Christian. There are many politicians that claim to be “good” Christian Republicans, and they’re banking on the ignorant vote.

So, as far as the economy goes, as far as achieving a decent life for Americans, I don’t know what to do.

I know it’s best to stay away from non-American made goods, but I don’t even make enough money to dress as professionally as I should. It’s the same reason I don’t eat exclusively all organic or local foods. It’s a frustrating cycle and one I’m sure will eventually destroy us as a people. I am not shocked or surprised by how Banksy or other people in other nations very us. I’m just shamed.

I am thankful for the life I lead, after all I have a job. It is an employers world, however, and I am constantly reminded that I am a dime a dozen. It does nothing for morale, but I am thankful I have work. I like working hard so that my boyfriend, who also works hard, and I can have a life together. I’m not sure I would have children while living in the United States, because I hate the idea of them having no or very little health care. I also have very real feelings about a nation that puts the occupation of other nations above education, and as someone who has worked in the public school system and has a Masters degree in education, I can’t stand for compromised education for my kids.

I love this country. I lived in four states, driven back and forth across country four times. And I really want to support it. But I just don’t think it, or at least the people who run the US, care about me, or anyone else within its borders, any more.

So the unemployment rate has gone down. So what?

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Cable Television Needs to be Sent to the Glue Factory

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I don’t have cable television. And I don’t miss it.

Everything I want to watch can be seen through AirPlay on my Apple TV or with an HDMI cable through my laptop to my television. This doesn’t mean I don’t want more. This simply means I’m not willing to sell my soul each month to Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast, or any other television content fister.

Cable an’ iPhone sitting in a tree, could me making some money right from me…

Here in Austin the vast majority of people I know do not have cable. Less then 10% of our friends and coworkers pay for television channels. In fact, I have a single coworker that I know of that has cable. Most of us depend on live streaming Netflix at a whopping $15.62 a month, PBS through an antenna, and books. Hulu has a certain allure for NBC and Fox television shows, but even their online content contains more and more advertisements – the exact reason many of us dropped cable service in the first place. And I’m going to simply glaze over the recent indiscretions of Netflix, what with upping their rates and QuicksterGate, etc. The $15 a month I’m paying Netflix right now is more than worth their service to me. I’m over their past mistakes.

Once I counted up the friends and contacts I have without cable I discovered a correlation to the iPhone: Every single person I knew without cable had an iPhone. We vary in age from 25 to 40, and vary widely in nationality and race. Some have children, some refuse to even touch kids. I work for a mobile company, one friend a social worker, one friend an anesthesiologist, another three movie and comic book artists, most college educated, some not, some beyond an undergraduate degree. What I’m saying is that the group I looked at has differences, but what it came down to was that we hate ads shouting at us, telling what meds we should be on, and we have to pay for that harassment.

It’s certainly an interesting coincidence. Or maybe our attention spans are so shot do to über short television programs that are then fragmented by ads that our multitasking and high strung brains now need to replace one form of technology for another because it’s simply the only way we now know how to function.

I don’t regret giving up cable at all. Most days I find myself thankful I have no idea what the Didgeridoo with the Stars shows are that I hear about on the radio and from the coworker I know with cable. This does not mean that there aren’t shows that I would certainly like to see, however. It just means I’m tired of paying thousands a year when what I want to watch is probably valued at $5 a month.

I hate cable for that reason. But I do blindly love my iPhone. The iPhone and its entertaining and multitasking capabilities are an indication of our future. I’m paying less then half of what I was paying for cable for my iPhone AND I don’t have to deal with advertisements. I even have Netflix on it, and can send anything to my television through AirPlay on my Apple TV. I watch any show I’ve purchase from iTunes for a dollar or two on the big screen. No ads and I own the few things I’ve purchased forever and ever.

When I am in a household with cable television I generally watch BBCAmerica or PBS. BBCAmerica always winds up being a rather frustrating experience: American cable corporations cut an additional 10 minutes from an hour long BBC program to squeeze in more ads. Simply knowing that I’m getting shorted is immensely irritating. I am “sold at” every second of every day – we all are. By that I mean in some way at almost every moment, something is accosting me with ads, even when it’s through a purchased service such as Pandora or Hulu.  I wanted to watch a program airing from 8pm until 9:30pm one evening a few nights ago while staying with my parents, who have cable. When we hit the “information button” on the remote to get a summary of the show we noticed it’s run time was 53 minutes; there was 37 minutes of advertisements for a 53 minute show, meaning roughly 35% of what we’d be watching – and my parents were paying for – was ads! Fox added 70% airtime of the original length! The constant presence of companies shouting at any and all makes a listener feel intruded upon, violated, and leaves one with a very short fuse. We’re paying exorbitant prices to conglomerates making millions from the advertisements alone that they force upon their loyal customers and it’s simply not worth is any more. Cable stopped being worth its cost years ago.

While Hulu may be the internet’s number one cable programming site, I can’t imagine it will last much longer without changing its business practices. Hulu had two to three ads per show at its inception. In many cases you could opt to watch a  three minute advertisement or trailer and then watch your 22 or 42-minute television program without any break whatsoever. That is no longer the case. Hulu now often has 4 or 5 breaks per 22-minute episode and often those breaks have at least two advertisements. The ironic thing is that Hulu believes people will pay for this spike in advertisements, essentially saying “We here at Hulu are now making more money then ever from ads and on top of it we want to guarantee our multimillion dollar bonuses by making you pay for service you’re technically already paying for.” That service is of course Internet. And I have yet to meet a single person who does pay for Hulu Plus. Even at $8 a month, it is not worth it. The Street summed up HuluPlus in a single short comment perfectly: It costs $9.99 a month and still has commercials? Lame.

I was always ready to chuck something straight at my television every time I was told “This program is brought to you by…” Bitch, please! The programming is brought to me by no one other than yours truly – ME! – for paying my own cable bill.

Issue at hand:

Hulu and the other cable companies could be smart: I would pay $10 a month for advertisement free Hulu that I could play on the internet, my iPhone, Apple TV, or through a game system. I might even pay $15. But there would have to be NO advertisements. I want credit for bringing the program to me, damnit.

If the large cable companies had a single brain between the group of them, they could see a major money making opportunity in front of them – and respond to the major decline in cable subscribers. Make an “App” for mobile devices, cut some losses and rebuild service in the way the public is demanding. They could attempt to appease their clients and at least keep some revenue coming in from consumers.

Unfortunately, for now it seems cable companies are apparently blinded by the massive boner they have for the almighty dollar and would rather keep fees at absurd levels and lose people completely, then work with the consumers wants and needs to keep far more customers around.

I may be a punk, but even I know that hard economic times can often mean the restructuring of how business is done. If cable networks were willing to create a “Pay By Channel” option, I guarantee a flood of ex-customers would come flocking back to their services. And if Hulu dropped the crap ads on top of having to pay a monthly fee, their subscribers would double in number. I would sign up today. But that might mean that some King of Shit Mountain CEO would only get a $29 million bonus this year instead of $30 million. And we just can’t have that.

*A little FYI about Netflix and Quickster: In the 1980’s, when video stores became big business, the government stepped in and said they could not sell the personal information of their clients to outside sales companies. This law remained in affect when Netflix was born; even though it was a ‘dot com’, it was still a movie rental business and therefore couldn’t earn the added income of selling its clients’ information. By splitting into two separate companies, a streaming television group and a movie rental group, Netflix could legally sell all our information, at least on the streaming side of things, which was unprotected. So, kind of a dick move on their part, but, as nauseating as it all is, our personal info is bought and sold every day. Ever been asked for your number in order to purchase something at Bath and Body Works or Radio Shack? Yeah…Just say “No” from now on.

Doctor Wholidays, Edible Star Wars, Dan Rad is Ginsberg (?!) & So Much More!

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*To start: 15 Unseen Characters on TV that we all know and love.

*What does an AT-AT taste like? Gingerbread, apparently. The best quote I’ve read regarding this amazing wintery treat: “That AT-AT is going to make me fat fat.”

*Where’s Waldo: The Feature Film, or The Worst Idea Ever, has gotten a screen writer. Shouldn’t have been too hard to find, since the entire movie will consist of two lines – “Where’s is he?” and “There he is!”

*If you’re reading this then you’re not really doing anything at all. Science deems it so!

*Video of Doctor Who cast members reading bedtime stories. Kind of ironic when you think of the episodes that definitely don’t help you sleep at night – DON’T BLINK! Ugh, but Martha Jones reads one, too. She was my absolute LEAST liked sidekick.

*WHAT THE – OHMYGOD -OH! Just make it stop! JUST MAKE IT STOP! I don’t know if you heard, but there’s this show called Virgin Diaries. A couple thought it would not only be an awesome idea not to have sex until marriage, but to wait to even KISS until their wedding day. And so their first ever kiss – with anyone – is…just awful. And you can watch it on tv! I don’t know what that kid thought he was doing, but the bride and all the guests look like they were *this close* to puking. And keep in mind that that’s just the kiss. As newly weds there are…other…things…they’ll be thinking about doing, and they’ll do it just as well as they did whatever the hell that was. I’m so creeped out right now. I think I need to go make out with some stranger in a bar just to put the stars back in alignment. Take a gander!
*Hey, everybody! London has a giant Lego Christmas Tree with Lego balls and all!
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*You know what makes the Doctor Who Christmas Special even better? A Doctor Who Christmas Special Marathon leading up to it! Whoooot!
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*If someone isn’t already working on a porn adaptation of this, they really, really need to get on the ball.
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*The three brothers Hanson all got married so young and just about immediately started poppin’ out babies. So in an attempt to support those budding families, they’re now selling…beer?
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*”Squeal like a pig! Squeeeeal like a pig!” Yeah, I don’t remember that guys name either, the actor or character, but it should be noted that he’s passed away. Must be one of the most quoted lines ever, next to “You got a real pretty mouth.” I say that one to my friends all the time.
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*There’s one thing that really super bothers me about Daniel Day Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln in an upcoming film: He looks more like Abraham Lincoln than Abe did. He’s going to be the first person to get an Oscar for a movie that hasn’t even come out yet.
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*So, Daniel Radcliffe is set to play Allen Ginsberg. After seeing the Harryest part of the Potter in Equus, I don’t question any of his roles any more. I’m sure he’ll do hung – WELL! I meant, I’m sure he’ll do well.
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*J.J. Abrams has decided to create a new female role for the Star Trek sequel. Some how I’m far more okay with this than when Peter Jackson created a new female role for The Hobbit. Is it necessary? We’ll have to see it to know for sure and, let’s face it, we’re all going to see it.
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*Can’t afford the $120+ Lego Millennium Falcon for your loved one (I sure as hell can’t!). Try one of these Do It Yourself Star Wars gifts! Love them alllllllllll.
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And I’m spent.

Friday is Pop-Tastic: Archer, Indiana Jones, Thundercats, & More!

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*Want to see 1000 hours of work smooshed down into 3 minutes? Gosh, I do! Timeplapsed Thundercat Painting is truly the very best way to start off your Friday.

 

* MTV Geek has released their Top of 2011 Animated TV Shows List and I actually agree with most of it. If you’re not watching Archer you have to start doing so. Much of it is on Netflix Watch It Instantly. H. Jon Benjamin is just fantastic and the mom from Arrested Development plays both a mom and head of a Secret Agency. The character she voices on Archer is pretty much the same character as she played in AD, which is a beautiful thing. I’m starting to think that may be just how she is in real life. And I love her.

 

*Almost exactly 30 years after her mysterious death, the L.A. Sheriff’s Office has decided to reopen the Natalie Wood investigation. This is based on new information the office has recently received regarding her disappearance on Thanksgiving of ’81.

 

*Anonymous is still determined to Occupy Wallstreet and they’ve got pretty creative ways to achieve this!

 

* Meet the King of the Geeks: A super nerd cracked the Jeopardy code. That lucky genius bastard.

 

* 17 Minutes of the newest Indiana Jones filumentary?! After this I’m going to have to go lie down from Excitement Overload.

 

* And, finally, those skinny bitches over at Victoria Secret are biting into my Geek Chicness, only they’re doing it with far perkier breasts. Hate them.

PS: I know Twilight whatever the hell came out today. And I don’t care. I don’t care about prancing, sequinsy vampires and their wolf frenemy that falls in love with a monstrous new born infant.

I don’t. Freaking. Care.

Paying For Batteries in Cash & Dignity

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September 2010 OpenSalon Editor’s Pick

“Okay…8 pack of  double A batterieeeees…Anything else?”

“Nope, that’ll do it.”

“Okay, phone number area code first?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your phone number, area code first.”

“I just want to buy some batteries.”

“Yeah, we have to enter everyone’s phone number for every sale.”

“Why?”

“Um…Cuz.”

Luckily, like most girls, I’m practiced in the art of giving out a fake number when need be. I just never thought I’d have to do it to buy batteries.

I am thankful for the Information Age. We’ve got dating sites and this new thing called “social networking”. We’ve got twits doing tweets and we never have to leave our house for Christmas shopping. Amazon.com is my personal savior.

I love online shopping. Buy those shoes you need while on your lunch break, without even getting into your car.  I only buy from sites I know, sites with those security insignias all over, long established sites and only sites that promise my information will not be sold. But I often wonder if these sites can be trusted. I only ever enter information when I’m purchasing something and I only enter the information necessary for billing and shipping; I generally don’t have a problem with it.

I do have a major problem, however, with stores that request personal information when I’m checking out in person. If it’s not being mailed to me I don’t understand why any of my personal information is necessary or why I should be expected to give it out.

After my trip to Radio Shack, to which I gave the number 867-5309, and received both my batteries and a dirty look, I went to Payless Shoes, where I was requested for the same information.

“I don’t give out my phone number.”

“Not a problem,” replied the sales woman and continued with my purchase.

At least she was able to finish without having to enter anything false.

At lunch my husband and I went to a chain Japanese restaurant.

“Two for lunch, please.”

“Sure! First and last name and zip code.”

“Is there a wait? It looks empty.”

“No, no wait. Name?”

I raised an eyebrow. Had I missed a memo? In an age when identity theft is both relatively new and on the rise, why are we so pleasantly expected to give information everywhere we go? Perhaps there was a criminal on the run, the local authorities only knew her name and that she liked to frequent fake sushi places. Surely that’s the only reason anyone would need personal information to sit you at an empty restaurant.

“Kate Doe. 78704.” The hostess typed it in.

“Birthday?”

“I don’t give that out.”

“Would you like to give your email to rece-“

“Actually I would just really like some lunch.”

“Oh.” She paused. “Okay.”

Lunch? In a restaurant?!? What a novel idea!

Though I was asked for information when ordering, it was just salad dressing preferences and type of rice, data that actually had relevance to eating. At the end came the bill and… an info card, which we received a full debriefing on by our waitress: Give them our information to do whatever with and we’ll receive coupons periodically…amongst other wank in our email box.  That was the last straw.

I just laughed.

“What?” My husband asked me. “We’ll get coupons and it says they won’t sell our information.”

“No, they won’t. But the third party that holds our information, archives it for them, does.”

I used to work for a bookstore while I was in college, we’ll call it Edges. Shortly before I quit, they implemented a customer card system. I watched coworkers get fired because they did not push this card enough. Edges’ policy was that there was no reason why anyone should leave the store without one. I watched customers get into fights with managers that wouldn’t drop it, I watched people complain and scream to workers young and old  – and make them cry – during the heart of the holiday season because Edges forced their employees to push this past the point of “No.” According to them “no” never means “no” because “there is no reason why a customer should leave the store without this card as it saves them money for free”. This policy means, of course, that Edges has the personal information of everyone who has ever shopped there.  And, sure, as stated, Edges doesn’t sell the phone number, name, address, and email of those shoppers who signed up for the card. But the company who handles the information sure as hell did and does. That’s what’s known as a loophole.

Part of the problem is that we live in the age of corporations. I went to Payless because it’s all I could afford. I went to Radioshack and the lunch place because they were near the other locations we had to visit. We could dive into facts, conspiracy theories, etc. denouncing the faceless corporations for feeling entitled to the personal information of those it keeps living in hovels. I know my information is out there and it makes me nauseaous. The fact of the matter is that I made the decision to shop where I did on this day and if I want to keep my information private I now have to consider that in where I buy the days necessities.

It’s an acknowledgment of a ridiculous truth and it’s completely infuriating.

Fat Monkeys Have All the Luck

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Like all people who have “tried every diet” and suffer being “fat from birth”, any miracle drug completely excites me. Part of that is because science amazes me. Much of the pills we take come with both positive and (many) negative effects, many simply cannot be good for the human body, but we take them anyway in a desperate attempt to achieve whatever it is we’re seeking. After all, even placebos are often more than 10% affective. When one views medical science’s studies, failures, and new policies of the past 100 years – hell, even in the past 50 years – they surpass the previous 1000 years by leaps and bounds. And there’s something very mad-scientist about everything. I like to believe that it’s all for the betterment of mankind, but medicine, like American Universities, are now merely businesses with the prize being cash and not an advanced human population. We’re a people of instant gratification so we jump at cures, damn the long term affects.

I am no different, and I might carry a little shame, but not enough to stop me from getting in line for the following drug, if it one day winds up on the market. The good people at the Medical School at the University of Texas at Houston have developed an injection that kills blood vessels that feed fatty deposits. This means the blood vessels shrivel away, the fat is starved and then reabsorbed into the body, at which time the lucky recipient urinates or sweats out the excess just like regular weight loss. While all animal testing has its ethical issues, it is good news in the medical world that this drug is proving so effective on monkeys, as frequently drugs that may test well in the first stages (on rats) may not work well during the next point of testing, on our cousin primates. The drug may also help with insulin resistance.

I assume UT Houston purchased the primates from lab supply centers, and then fattened them up with a healthy diet of American junk food and Lifetime Television. I imagine they might have even turned binge eating in front of the BoobTube into a sort of drinking game with food instead of booze: Every time there’s an episode of Golden Girls on, the monkeys get cheesecake. A made-for-television movie featuring Jennifer Love Hewett would warrant a pizza and a pint of cookie dough ice cream. Designing Women means fried chicken and bourbon. Paradise… But I digress.

Once their test subjects had the “fatty deposits” necessary, testing began, and thus far has been excitingly successful. The average monkey on the injection lost 11% of their body weight in a month, an amount most humans struggle to lose and keep off within a year’s time. The placebo monkeys only lost a maximum 1% and their thighs now make a shwishing sounds whenever they wear track pants.

Much to the chagrin of curvacious ladies everywhere, the next stage of testing will be on humans, but only on men with prostate cancer. It is not clear why this would be and the NPR article offers no explanation. It has occurred to me, however, that this might be so that in the event of complications, i.e. death, the scientists would have the option to say “Oh, the cancer killed them. P.S. the drug is now for sale through Phizer.”