Saturday, February 26, 2005

From Suck to Blow
Not too far from home, ensconced in one of those cookie cutter low budget strip malls that all too often house pet supply stores, nail salons, dry cleaning services, and diet analysis centers resides the most unfathomable of cottage industries - a vacuum cleaner hospital.

I have no idea how in the world such a business manages to stay afloat. Are vacuum cleaners that prone to illness that they require their own specialized care? I wonder if there is one doctor who performs an entire diagnosis, or if there are specialists focused on specific areas of the vacuum cleaner; a mobility specialist who identifies problems with the wheels, axles, and swivel joints; someone else to check the vacuum bag and hoses for signs of clogs, emphysemic-like conditions, and inhalation difficulties; A circulatory engineer who inspects for frayed wires and burned out motors.

Does each stage of inspection require a referral, and if so are there additional co-pays? Is there a multi-tiered service fee schedule where different pricing is levied depending on the patient brand and its manufacturing history - in & out jobs for Dirt Devils and Hoovers, but overnight stays for the Kirby? Is there a drive-thru service for DustBusters? What happens if you have a Dyson? Is such an advanced level of care required for this machine that one must travel to the Regional Vacuum Hospital to consult with the necessary trained specialists?

What about prescriptions for accessory items? Is the HEPA dirtbag considered a non-formulary brand? Nylon belts the generic alternative to rubber? Are light bulbs for the headlamp covered? Is one forced to obtain accessory items from major retail in-network providers, or can one shop online from off-price Canadian etailers?

The existence of the vacuum hospital begs many questions. I suppose that if one wishes to avoid having to visit such an institution, one has to make lifestyle changes both preventative and prophylactic - choose wood flooring over carpeting; apply protective plastic slipcovers over furniture; purify the air free of dust and dander through daily use of an Ionic Breeze.

.....okay, enough, I'll stop.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Receded Wave
""There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs."...."We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark -- the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
-Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) by Hunter S. Thompson

From a self-inflicted, gunshot to the head, Hunter S. Thompson's has killed himself in the excessive style true to the manner in which he lived.

I think it is a rarity where one can say a single person is representative of a specific era of history and culture, but I am certain that such a thing can be said of Hunter S. Thompson. His famous line (quoted above) from his most known publication bears witness to his unique and insightful observations of American culture during the 60's, and his lament that a high water-mark of progress had been reached during that time - only to recede away in subsequent years.

When someone mentions "The 60's" to me, I can't help but instantly hear Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild playing in my head, or visualize Peter Fonda cruising down the road as Captain America. And I also can't imagine a 60's without the likes of a Hunter S. Thompson - as participant in the movement of the times as well its designated observer.

I barely heard him. My eyes had finally opened enough for me to focus on the mirror across the room and I was stunned at the shock of recognition. For a confused instant I thought that Ralph had brought somebody with him--a model for that one special face we'd been looking for. There he was, by God--a puffy, drink-ravaged, disease-ridden an awful cartoon version of an old snapshot in some once-proud mother's family photo album. It was the face we'd been looking for--and it was, of course, my own. Horrible, horrible...
-from The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved (1970)

In truth, Hunter S. Thompson died the moment the wave of the 60's broke. No matter how acute his observations may have been in later years, they were irrelevant - his was an iconic life that vanished when that which he reflected did also. His suicide is the natural conclusion to the fear and loathing of post-60's America he held. His later years were spent largely in retreat - bunkered down in his Colorado compound no doubt with ample quantities of booze, drugs, and typing paper. His later works breaking barely a ripple in the cultural consciousness.

The passing of Hunter S. Thompson, in my view, marks the official end of the idea of the American frontier. Think of the themes of the 60's: rules to be broken, rules to be rewritten, perhaps even the abolition of rules themselves. Freedom to imagine, freedom to roam, freedom to experiment. California Dreamin'; On the Road; Get on on the Highway; And We Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden....There were spaces still left in America, territorially and imaginatively, where one could get lost in, where one could explore, where one could potentially Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out. As dominant as the national culture was, large gaps still remained. If not, how could there have been space for a counterculture to develop and flourish? Hunter S. Thompson was a pioneer in this new cultural frontier as exemplified by the way he lived; in the way he observed, and in the way he wrote so that others could understand (and perhaps be inspired to join). Can the same be said of any living writer today? Of the succeeding generations, is there a voice that is as iconic as Thompson's was to his?

The cresting of the wave ended the march of unbridled freedom that the 60's generation sought to expand and empower. The figurative receding waters, observed by Thompson, marked the culture returning to sobriety and caution - a passing truly abhorrent to the practitioner of excess that Thompson was. Indeed, ours is a time of antibacterial hand sanitizers, 911/GPS locator services, international organizations in thrall with the Precautionary Principal, and schoolkids under the control of behavior modification drugs. Safety and Precaution. Precaution and Safety. Safety and Precaution. The very antithesis of Hunter S. Thompson.

No wonder he pulled the trigger....

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Florida Can Be Cool Sometimes

That's (not) Entertainment!
We went down to Boston to see the stage performance of The Lion King. Man, it's a good thing the tickets had been given to us as a gift because I think I would have gotten violent if I had wasted my own money seeing this thing. I have no idea what the big hype is with this musical - the production was severely underwhelming. First off, the use of lighting and sound could have provided a more immersive experience if they paid more attention to it. The music seemed canned rather than live (and probably was) - everything sounded like it was dubbed, including the actor's lines. The props looked like big slabs of painted particle board. (But Granite, most stage performance props are simply painted slabs of board). Yes I know, but the Broadway level professionals are skilled at making sure that the look of their staged performances exceed the type put on by your local high school. Unfortunately, they failed miserably here; staging a performance that looked no better than an highly extravagant community theater musical.

Another huge problem for us was with the costumes. The designers inexplicably chose to have the characters be both in costume and operate talking puppet masks. So when the lion or hyena speaks you are seeing a made up actor deliver the lines as well as speak them with its puppet mask apparatus attachment. This effect made it difficult to connect with the characters - you couldn't focus in on the actors because the puppet masks distracted you, and you couldn't focus on the puppet masks because the actors were more than just operators. If they had gone one way or the other - dress up in face paint (like Cats) or wear masks (and be hidden behind them) the show would have worked, but they way they did it was really f'd up and we hated it.

We left during intermission. It was just not worth sitting through the rest of.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Long View
I am amused with some of the negative reactions to the President's interest in reforming Social Security. There's an inability with some to take the long view when reviewing the performance of the US stock market over the past several decades and have confidence that the potential for upside and higher average yearly returns should continue decades into the future. I find it difficult to understand why those who do not believe in the future of the stock market would, conversely, still hold a high degree of confidence that the government would continue to pay out healthy amounts of traditional Social Security.

In a macrosense, the health of the economy and the health of our governmental fiscal apparatus are closely linked. For those who defend the idea of maintaining the traditional Social Security system and are hostile to the idea of adding a system of private accounts, how can one simultaneously hold a confidence that the fiscal health of the government will have progressed unhindered 30-40 years out - able to fund annually a burgeoning Social Security system, while also believe that a 30-40 year timeframe of stock market performance is too risky to count on to provide for retirement funds? The holders of this attitude basically say, "I have utmost confidence that the fiscal health of my government will be sound 30-40 years out into the future and will entail no risk to, yet in that same 30-40 years I have no confidence that the private economy will have grown in any appreciable sense enough to provide for a healthy Social Security return through a private account."

If one is to believe that the economic performance of the private economy, over the next 30-40 years, will be stagnant and too risky to rely on, how can one also believe that the governmental fiscal state (which is linked to the health of the private economy) will be healthy over those same 30-40 years? I don't get this view. It seems to me to be a contradictory mix of dread with the economy and faith in the government. Believe me, if one is going to think that economic performance over the next 30-40 years will go down the dumper, then our government in that same time will have a lot of problems funding a lot of things, including big ticket items like healthcare and Social Security. Don't count on Social Security to be around if you're pessimistic about the long term prospects of the economy.

Un-converted Rice
Was it coincidental that the Democrat (self-proclaimed party of women and minorities don't forget) opposition to Condoleeza Rice's confirmation for the position of Secretary of State was led by a former member of the Ku Klux Klan (Sen. Robert Byrd D-WV) and a notorious womanizer (Sen. Edward Kennedy D-MA)???

Hateful Nuts
If the following attitudes are typical, then it does not surprise me that the Democrat party is failing to win majorities:

I'm a Republican: Fuck you
by Sue in NH
Sun Feb 6th, 2005 at 14:02:54 PST

I'm a republican. Fuck you.
I'm a republican. I have my own pile of money. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. My kids go to private school. I don't care about your kids, or public schools. When my kids are better educated than yours, they will get better jobs and make more money than your kids. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I have a job with health insurance. If you were not so lazy or stupid, you would have a good job with health insurance too. It sure is sad when you go bankrupt after a catastrophic health crisis, but its probably your own damn fault anyway. Fuck you.


I'm a republican. I'm a Christian. You are either a heathen, a raghead Muslim, or the wrong kind of Christian. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I'm going to heaven and you're going to hell. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. It is not only my right, it's my duty to spread freedom and democracy around the world. If you don't understand that, Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I have a condo in Vail, a summer home in Maine, and a beach house in Florida. We don't need any National Parks or protected forests. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I'm white. I'm perfect, and I'm not like all those brown, yellow and black people. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I live in a gated community. It's too bad about all the crime out there on the city streets, but that's your problem. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I hate taxes. Its my money. I earned it. I don't want to pay to support all you lazy, uneducated, pathetic poor people, least of all you teenage mothers (whores), you drug addicts and all you black boys. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I hate homosexuals. When I think of gay people, I think of of man-on-dog, horse on woman, threesomes, and other sexual fantasies, and that frightens me. If you are queer, or have a queer friend, Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I was born rich, and I've become more rich, and damn it, since I can't take it all with me, I'm going to make sure my kids are just as stinking rich. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I'm never wrong. I know everything, never make a mistake, and can't learn anything from you, you damn ignorant pussy democrats. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. My rights and civil liberties should be protected, but not yours, you terrorist loving, America hating, pansy liberal. Fuck you.

I'm a republican. I hate you and everything you Democrats stand for, you fucking communists. Fuck you.

-from The Daily Kos