Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Zombie Guns, Oh My!

Saw an interesting item ( http://www.saysuncle.com/2011/11/07/taurus-zombie-responder/ ) at Say Uncle, a firearms blog I frequent.

I myself am not a big fan of the "zombie" shows, though I can understand the "brain candy" appeal they have for some. What I get a kick out of is the reaction some folks have to a company marketing its wares to a targeted fan base.

I have a friend who thinks this revolver is not only a horrible idea, but that it promotes the image of shooters anti-gun folks point to as the reason we don’t "need" guns. Meanwhile, he has several firearms modeled after movie props, many of which made no sense then or now.

I personally don’t care. If Taurus’s marketing department wants to sell a gun to kill zombies, and there is a "market" for such a thing, even as a novelty item, it’s their capitalist right to do so. After all, this is nothing but a Taurus Raging Judge revolver with some laser etching and goofy green grips.

Can’t wait to see what happens when the anti-gun folks discover this one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy This!

I’ve watched the "Occupy Wall Street" bunch with the morbid fascination I would devote to a third rate high wire act in a backwater circus, simply waiting for the inevitable fall. Unlike most of these folks, I support the whole Constitution, including the Amendments thereto. I believe in the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably gather. Their tactic of making a spectacle to gain attention does not concern me. I’m not even concerned so much with the obvious disparity of coverage and treatment by the MSM between other "grassroots movements" (read TEA Party) and the folks currently camped out in various cities around the Nation.

I say Nation because, while some of these folks want to claim responsibility for the rioting in foreign nations (a somewhat dubious desire it would seem) I don’t give them that much credence. Seems to me the Italians, Greeks and oppressed Socialists of Europe riot over a bad game of darts in the local pub and don’t give a rip what some spoiled brat mouth breathers in Lower Manhattan do with their spare time.

What does concern me, and what I do take offense at is this 99% gimmick that some high priced public relations agitator cooked up. If they are really upset at the true 1% of the wealthiest Americans (and by extension the corporations they control) they would be choosier about the people they allow to stand in unity with them. For example, have any of the multi-millionaire movie stars or musicians actually brought their backpack, closed foam cell pad and garbage bag raincoat out and set up camp with these folks? Not that I’ve heard of. And have they ever read the history books to see what similar "peoples revolts" turned into? 1905 anyone? 1917? Well, actually, they probably do and they think it was just a nifty outcome.

Now a like minded group of misanthropes are threatening to take over a ‘location to be negotiated later" in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, much to the amusement of the population as a whole. According to the local papers, the organizers are in negotiations with our local Democrat controlled government for a nice public park with shade and facilities, all paid for by the taxpayers of course. Seems they are not getting what they want fast enough and now the threats of an actual takeover are coming fast and strong.

I will note for the record that they have not marched into any of the major hotels (all owned by major corporations and folks actually in the 1% wealthiest folks in the nation) because the outcome would be less than pleasant. Oh, they have marched down the world famous Las Vegas Strip a time or two, always escorted by the very well behaved local police, but never into or on ground epitomizing all they claim to hate. As I understand it they are supposed to be upset about student loans, mortgage defaults, and the bail out in general and who can blame them? I’m upset about those things too. So what keeps me from becoming one of the suppressed masses? A job.

And not just any job. A job I created. Yes, I am one of those evil business owners. I have actual employees who rely on me to pay them every couple of weeks. Every week I toil away for many more hours than I ever worked on an hourly job to do just that. I make less in real income per hour than when I worked for others. I pay everyone else before I pay myself, and that includes vendors, the government (taxes and fees) and my employees. So when someone wearing a notional union’s t-shirt and carrying a placard spewing vaguely (and sometimes overtly) socialist messages tells me they and 400 of their closest friends are going to occupy a "location" until they get what they want, all I can think is "Occupy a Job for a while, and then, maybe, I’ll listen to you." Till then, grow some stones, call Mommy for some bail money, and go take over a casino owned by someone on the Forbes list. We have several to chose from.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disposable by Design

Growing up I was not a member of the "disposable" generation. We fixed everything. I remember the first time I saw a disposable razor, which looking back was the beginning of the end. And worse, it was a gift from my Dad.

My father, a well traveled business man, developed a habit of bringing me something from each new and exotic location his work took him, like...Toledo. Actually, he traveled the world selling his employer’s wares consisting of heavy equipment, and parts to maintain that equipment, some of which had been in service for decades. Unless the trip was to an actual exotic location, the item was likely something he got at the airport or on the flight. I have a very nice collection of airline trinkets from back when jet travel was a marvel, and those who could afford it were treated as royalty, or at least minimally important people.

Tell someone today that Delta Airlines provided it’s customers with actual metal dining utensils AND let them keep the same after the flight and they may accuse you of telling tall tales. Toiletry kits, sleeping masks, pillows and the ever present playing cards were all items brought to me when my father would return from a trip in the 60's and early 70's. Towards the mid 70's such items tapered off a bit, and then around 1978 it happened. He returned with a bag of nuts and a little bag containing a comb, small toothbrush and a completely disposable razor made of plastic.

I’m not saying they did not exist before then, but that is when I became aware that not all razors were made of sturdy metal with blades carefully inserted by hand. My grandfather used an electric razor every time I saw him shave, but had a wonderful straight-razor in his bathroom. With an ivory handle and a gleaming blade my young mind wondered how anyone could use such an item without requiring medical intervention.

Over time I became aware, as did we all, that it could be more cost effective for a manufacturer to build a disposable "cheap item" than one of higher quality. Every Sociology and Economics major has debated the concept of "planned obsolescence" as the downfall of manufacturing and, to some, the country’s slide into social degradation. It was almost as if manufacturers discovered a way to get cars, televisions and household appliances to break down exactly 30 days after the warranty expired. Should the item survive more than a year past the warranty expiration date, the part needed to effectuate repairs was no longer made.

These days computers are almost a disposable item, as are televisions and whatever passes for a video recording device. But the disposable nature of society really came home to me a few weeks ago when I attended a university event and chatted up the ever present and indispensable "event photographer." She was shooting her favorite rig, a professional grade major manufacturer digital body and lens. I openly ogled the several thousand dollar camera as she described its functional attributes and advantages over "old film cameras.".

As a photographer myself, I love the work of photography greats like Ansel Adams and secretly covet the somewhat arcane but elegant equipment used to take some of the most widely viewed images in modern times. Because of that, I secretly hoped digital imageing was a fad, much like Beta-Max and multi-colored tube socks with toes. Unfortunately for me, it is not. My precious film cameras, upon which I spent considerable sums of my then available discretionary income, are now relics of progress. I can literally replace any of them on E-Bay for less than $50.00. Before too long the manufacturers will no doubt refuse to even service them, assuming I can find the proper film and processing for same.

And then my new found camera friend let me in on a little secret. Her camera, designed for professional photographers, and costing several thousands of dollars, was in fact...disposable. When the electronics in it go wonky, and they will go wonky she assured me with a certain resigned calm, the camera is junk. The manufacturer will not repair the "mother board" because something else equally important will simply be going bad in the very near future. Instead, they politely thank the stunned owner for using their product and direct them to their newest catalog of cameras. Not even a little voucher for a discount. No need she said, there is usually a waiting period for the top of the line model. Electronics being what they are, there is always a new algorithm or diode or something that makes the technology better and in the process makes the old version obsolete, the new word for "disposable."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lead the way Mr. Buffett

So I see Warren Buffett wrote an Op Ed suggesting the super rich pay more in taxes. He apparently feels congress "coddles" billionaires like himself.  Political commentator Pat Buchanan suggested he lead the way by donating 5 billion of his more than 20 billion estate to the Federal Government.  I disagree.  He should donate all but 10 million of it.  And if he does not?  I urge congress to seize all of his property and holdings, here and abroad, and put them towards the deficit.  After all, Warren has shown an aptitude for making money and I'm sure in no time at all he will be back on top.  In fact, he would probably make several million the first year in speaking fees alone without doing any actual business, and you know what?  He should.

I'm not rich, nor am I poor.  I work very hard, often in service to those who don't work at all and expect miracles to be performed on their behalf.  I listen to class warfare all the time and am always astonished when otherwise intelligent people say something completely disingenuous about the rich "shouldering more of the burden."  Warren Buffett is not a young man.  He could easily give away most, if not all of his current wealth and live out his days in a simple fashion.  I'm sure he gives generously to charity, probably for the same reason I do...tax breaks.  And it's not just Buffett on my list.

I remember a country music star opining in a trade magazine that we don't pay enough in taxes as a people.  He also openly supported numerous democrats for office including, I believe, the current President.  Here is my dilemma.  This man came from nowhere and made a success of himself.  He works very hard, as far as I can tell, and deserves his just reward.  He is deeply involved in charitable giving, going so far as to show up at random clubs where he will play any song requested for a cash donation, and then donate all of the money raised to a worthy cause.

That is leadership, right?  He is giving his valuable time and talents to raise money for charity. But, if he really feels there is too little giving (via the government's taxation powers), and supports me paying more of my hard earned income in the form of taxes to support those "less fortunate," (read on public assistance) he should REALLY lead the way.  My suggestion?

He should sell ALL of his properties, including a recently completed private island compound, and send all the money raised to the IRS.  He is allowed to keep one house free and clear with a value of no more than $450,000.  He is allowed to keep, for himself and his family, $100,000 per year of his (and his equally talented wife's) earnings, which is more than most of the country lives on each year.  I will make a concession to his employees and say that he can pay for his touring, recording and performing from his gross earnings, then pay himself his annual salary.  Everything he earns over and above the cost of touring and his annual salary, including the proceeds from the sale of his properties, excess on recording/performing, acting and the change left in his couch, are to be sent to the Federal government each year for the rest of his life.  If he will do that I will pay attention to what he has to say.  Rapt attention I might add.

Think it will happen?  Me neither.  And in case you think I'm bitter, I'm not.  To the contrary. I respect the man and his talents very much.  I've listened to and enjoyed his music for what seems like more than 20 years, and might be, now that I think of it.  I'm simply tired of rich liberal elites proposing that some other rich guy give more in taxes without stepping up to the plate themselves. 

Oh, and in case you are curious, or simply not a fan of country music, the performers I refer to are Tim McGraw and his wife, Faith Hill. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Silent Protest

I just saw Avatar for the first time.  I refused when it was in the theaters because I will no longer pay to see any movie that pushes an ultra left wing environmental anti-capitalist, anti military view.  I'm not so shy about watching it once it hits DVD and I can borrow a friends copy.  It was exactly what I expected: Dances With Wolve4s in Space.  Perfect tech. Wonderful cinematography.  Liberal drek.  I'll see the sequel the same way...a year after everyone else.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New York Writ Large

Say New York and most will have a mental image of Manhattan, not any of the other boroughs. Where in Manhattan will depend largely on if your mental picture is derived from television, movies or personal experience.  I rarely get there these days, and when I do it is almost always a hurried event, but for me New York is a 20 block section of mid-town radiating out from the Algonquin hotel.

Even though my personal picture of New York tracks largely with the areas often depicted in film, I rarely see the same types of people show on the screen.  But every now and then a little bit of the city's vibe can be experienced. 

In 2005, after more then a decade without a visit I was in the city, I was treated to what I have always considered the trifecta of quintessential New York street theater.  In one 10 minute period I saw a cab driver get into a very loud argument with a man in a limousine trying to get somewhere important; a young lady being literally dragged down the sidewalk by a pack of dogs she was no doubt paid to take out for their business; and a game of three card monte get busted up with the purveyor and his shill each grabbing what they could and fleeing from a very motivated tourist who seemed to have at last caught a hint of his stupidity with an attempt to reclaim his money. While such thing probably happen in other large cities each day, they will always be my picture, right or wrong, of New York.

A Little Random Riffitation

This blog is NOT about music, per se. Yes, I know a riff is a short measure of music or signature sound. So is spewing an opinion no one really cares about until after they hear it. I Riff on everything in life, generally in conversation. Until now, I’ve Riffed in the written form in an ever growing series of notebooks, binders, sticky notes and once on a mirror in soap, but never where anyone else could actually, you know...read it. Why? Time and effort. It's work to get published these days.

I have written professionally in the past. "Professionally" in that someone other than I or my mother read, enjoyed and published my thoughts and words for others to read and comment on.  Every now and then I was even paid for such things. But those were not Riffs. They were assigned articles on specific topics. The editors often removed all of the really good bits of pseudo Riffing, fearing, no doubt, that their readers would “storm the castle walls” as it were in the editors section of the next publication. Nope, in the past, with very few exceptions, my published work was relatively dry. Not any more.

As the name of this blog implies, I tend to write about whatever strikes my fancy. I’m a trained curmudgeon and have an opinion on virtually everything. There is no real rhyme or reason to what I may include here. Unlike many blogs with specific areas of interest - and bloggers who actually have dogged focus on an objective - I may rant about politics one day and marvel at a wonderful cloud formation the next. Reviews of movies, books, plays and street performance will crop up out of nowhere and my daily observations of life in general will be an ever present theme. Why, you may ask, would I wish this sort of thing on the world?

Because I am a satirist at heart. I write, as do most writers, for my own enjoyment and if someone else likes what I present, so much the better. Formal writing is, as they say, re-writing. A first draft of anything should never see the light of day, especially as much of it is written at night. Even a second draft, generally speaking, is little better. Unfortunately the nature of blogging seems to be that what little time is available to do it goes into 1.) Thinking up a post, 2.) Drafting that post, and 3.) Publishing that post. Often in the same amount of time it took for you to read that last bit of enlightenment. I tell you this by way of apologizing, in advance, for my horrible spelling, punctuation and grammar. Yes, yes...I know. I claim to be a writer of sorts and I should be better at those pesky little subtleties. And you are correct. However I would refer you to the third sentence of this paragraph. 

Under normal circumstances I would write a bit, wash it through a spell checker/grammar evaluator, and only then allow it to see the light of day for purposes of...re-writing it. That is NOT going to happen in the time frame I have for this ever expanding tome. Also, as in the title, I sometimes elect to misspell words, make “mashups,” or simply slaughter the Kings English as it were. And before you ask, I do in fact have a well read copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, as well as The Chicago Manuel of Style, and I couldn't care less. 

I've read Cormac McCarthy and know that following the elements of style and form set out by others is not required to tell a gripping and successful story. I once flunked an English class or three (but was elected class speaker based upon my Riffs) and am more than able to continue my ways without getting great grades at it. What I have to do is entertain the reader and tell a good story. That is what makes Riffing work for me. Hopefully that is what will be enjoyable about these Riffs for you, the reader (or victim as the facts may be.)

So, thank you for finding my little blog, and taking the time to read it. Please let others know if you found it entertaining or otherwise worth a few minutes of your time.