Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tagged to Confess Weird Habits

Julie tagged me to confess/admit weird habits and again I am willing to play the meme game. Though I admit already that most of my habits seem kind of odd to me so picking out five of them has made me think of both current and past events. Part of the requirement of this particular game is to include the following paragraph, so here it is.

The first player of this game starts with the topic five weird habits of yourself, and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don't forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says You have been tagged (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

Here's my list.

I am very klutzy and clumsy in the physical world and have been since childhood. Some examples include - cutting my elbow severely on a black walnut to the point I needed stitches; nearly cutting my hand off when I crashed through a greenhouse while attempting to act like I was Spiderman; falling on my glasses and nearly breaking them while attempting yoga exercises.

I tend to prefer sleeping with the television on, usually with the TV set on Turner Classic Movies.

I often find myself in or noticing moments and places that can best be described as Weird - such as just last night when I noticed the rather normal-looking upper class woman in front of me at the grocery check out was buying a huge tub of cat litter, a case of cat food and a copy of the Halle Berry movie "Catwoman': or the time I went solo to a nightclub in Manhattan and got admitted to the VIP bar and sat next to the midget from "Twin Peaks," for whom, of course I bought a drink.

I often wear t-shirts based on fake places from television shows, like Brak's grammar school, from "The Brak Show" and from the fake Sunnydale High School from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

I have only washed my pickup truck four times in 9 years. C'mon, it's a pickup truck in Tennessee, and should always be dirty.

Now then, let me tag five people to play along as well. Tags will go to LA Barabbas, Valley Grrrl, Concha Loca at Stinkhorn Rodeo, Travis In Iraq, and since I got recently Blog Rolled by Nashville Is Talking, then they are invited to play along. If any on you read this before I can email you, then please just jump in when you read this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Camera Obscura - Winter In America's Box Office

I've noticed it before - what type of movies usually follow the Christmas and New Year's holiday? Horror movies. I'm not sure if it says more about the worldview of distributors or audiences. Perhaps both. Perhaps after it's part of a balancing act humans require - follow good will toward men with ripping and shredding and killing off everyone.

The gore-fest karma-for-hedonists feature "Hostel" took the number one slot at the box office last weekend. With credits for the movie listing "Quentin Tarantino presents" and newcomer Eli Roth as director (maker of "Cabin Fever"), critics seem to be so appalled by the grim nature of the movie they either love it for being so disturbing or hate it for being so disturbing.

Another dance with dark desires, though not horror, appears as a companion piece to "Hostel," with actor Johnny Depp as a depraved and dangerous poet and friend to aristocrats in a period movie called "Libertine." Think Evil Jack Sparrow.

Speaking of evil, I know of no other directors working today who are as hated as Uwe Boll. Web sites and discussion boards rage at his lack of ability and his constant awfulness. Some say he's the Ed Wood of the 21st century. 2006 sees his newest hit the screens with a movie based on a silly splatterfest video game called "Bloodrayne". The critics agree, it's just plain awful. But this would-be vampire movie has such odd casting I am almost intrigued - almost. Meatloaf, Udo Kier, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen and the robot chick from "Terminator 3", Kristanna Lokken -- the only one missing is Snoop Dogg as Van Helsing.

Boll's company has been taking advantage of a tax loophole in Germany which allows for all movies that lose money to be used as total writeoff - though that law is changing this year and I expect Boll's career will likely end as a result. There's even a Public Service Announcement by some very unhappy gamers warning you to fear him.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Controlling Behavior Through Paychecks

A sneaky trend aimed at controlling your behavior is growing. Wrapped in the good intentions of "preventative healthcare" and "cost control", more companies are demanding employees either behave as directed or face job loss. Compare that with what happens if an employee tries to correct health hazards created by the companies they work for.

The defense of these companies is "hey, go get another job if you don't like it here". Rather than address skyrocketing costs of health care, business just demands you change your behavior.

Weyco demanded last year changes regarding smoking habits - now they demand employees take certain medical tests or face firing.

The entire article is in the CSM. Here are some excerpts.

The approach makes sense for employers, says Lisa Horn, manager of healthcare at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., which advises personnel managers. "They're really trying to improve the health of their employees overall, and not just reduce costs for the employer, but also for employees," Ms. Horn says. "It certainly seems like their intentions are in the right place."
"The color of your eyes, the car you drive, and your weight may all sound like private matters. But in many states, employers can take those facts - and many more - into account when they decide whether to hire or fire you.

Some groups are protected on the federal level: Employers can't discriminate against workers based on age, gender, race, disability, national origin, or religion. But unless state law says differently, all other characteristics are fair game, including your political leanings and even what you wear outside of work.

These firings didn't violate the law thanks to "at-will employment," a legal concept in 49 states that allows bosses to fire workers for virtually any reason - or none at all. (Montana is the sole exception.)"

Now compare these ideas with what happens if a worker's health is damaged by the work they do. Laws limit culpability of companies that make hazardous material. Companies normally win suits brought by those who suffer from the problems left by pollution. If a school teacher complains of mold problems in a classroom, they are silenced. Whistleblower laws have to be written to protect an employee if they report problems within a workplace.

Seems the golden rule remains - he who has the gold makes the rules.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ethics Exhaustion Part 2

It was long ago that humorist Will Rogers noted "We have the best Congress money can buy."

Two recent finds on the web indicated how widespread the current culture in D.C. has turned to representing private interests and not private citizens. For instance, the number of federal lobbyists in 2000 was 16,000 but by 2005 that number was 35,000. Ever since the courts decided, with no debate, to designate many of the rights of an individual, or corporate personhood, to a corporation, we have steadily increased the influence of business and erased the protections of individuals.

With 13 billion dollars being spent on lobbying between 1998 and 2005 and over 250 former congressional members or agency heads now employed as lobbyists, whose voice in America is loudest? The individual or the corporate person?

Cries of "your side is almost as bad as our side" in the current Abramoff scandal are at best a distraction. Even the National Review plainly states this issue is deeply damaging to the Republicans:

It is true that any Washington influence peddler is going to spread cash and favors as widely as possible, and 210 members of Congress have received Abramoff-connected dollars. But this is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.

Abramoff is a Republican who worked closely with two of the country's most prominent conservative activists, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. Top aides to the most important Republican in Congress, Tom DeLay (R., Tex.) were party to his sleazy schemes. The only people referred to directly in Abramoff's recent plea agreement are a Republican congressmen and two former Republican congressional aides. The GOP members can make a case that the scandal reflects more the way Washington works than the unique perfidy of their party, but even this is self-defeating, since Republicans run Washington."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ethics Exhaustion

Gov. Phil Bredesen and the State Legislature are working on it. So is the Congress and Justice Department. They are investigating themselves to see who and how and where corruption has tainted the process of governing. Here in Tennessee, and perhaps nationwide as well, citizens have hardcore belief and hardcore doubt in reforms that will effect change.

I know there is a sense of Ethics Exhaustion among the general population. A good example of what brings that about is the long-fought legislation to create an anti-torture bill in Congress which the president signed and yet he also signed a statement saying his office was not legally bound to uphold or enforce the law.

Here in this state, as in many others, influence peddling and lobbying play a cash game - and the recent revelation that Jack Abramoff will "talk" about his work has many officials and party supporters scrambling like bugs running from a blast of insecticide. I doubt much will take place to correct or punish those who broke the law since Abramoff and the Justice Dept. have worked on his "plea bargain" for a year and a half. Some will be sacrificed for the Greater Good, but many will skate away to safety.

Wailing about federal corruption often misses that the most damaging and corrupt administration was a previous Republican-led disaster: Ronald Reagan's legacy is the leader, with nearly 200 administration officials indicted or investigated. Selling arms to Iran, the multi-billion dollar collapse of S&Ls, the fastest growth of federal power and government in general - seems as if the door was kicked open to allow for anything with a response that "the ends always justifies the means."

Perhaps all this "corruption" really has become the status quo.

Another recent example here in Tennessee is the nearly two dozen findings that the Tennessee School Board Association's director Dan Tollett grabbed money like he was on a game show. But the TSBA is working on it. I'm sure it will be better .... soon ... one day .... maybe.

Governor Bredesen today made these comments to legislators:

"In the months since last spring, I have traveled a great deal across our state, and it is gratifying to me to see the amount of plain old common sense on this subject. Most Tennesseans believe in the integrity of their government, of their elected leaders.

They know that there are bad apples once and awhile – I’m dealing with similar issues myself. They also know that public officials aren’t vacuum-wrapped in plastic; we all live in the real world and there are always potential conflicts and cross-currents. But they trust us, when things go wrong, to move forward, to learn from the experience, and to do the best job we can of fixing the problem.
Tennesseans still trust their government.

I ask us now to join together – Governor and Legislature, Democrat and Republican – to prove once again that we are worthy stewards of that trust."

If you've bothered to read this far, how do you really think all these Ethics investigations will fare?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Truthiness, Muffin Tops and Whale Tails

Enormous leaps of faith often occur based on some study or set of statistics, and if you follow the lead of some of the talking heads on TV and radio and the internet too, then all you need are the hollow outlines of a concept to elicit meanings and conclusions which are then broadcast and published and someone who hears or reads it believes it to be true. One recent study concludes that an average 16-year old American girl is the most prominent influence on the English language.

The American Dialect Society discussed this and other issues over the last week, including the "newest" words to reach prominence in the English language. But is this influence truly new or are conclusions about how we talk accurate?

"Linguists believe that young women and men talk differently from each other: women ask questions out of politeness while men want data. Women allow each other to finish a sentence before starting their own, while men interrupt more. In addition, women seeking prestige pick up fashionable new words faster than men.

Experts believe this has been going on for centuries. A Finnish study of 15th-century English court correspondence, for example, shows that aristocratic wives moved from archaic "ye" to "you" significantly earlier than their husbands."

"Truthiness" was voted top new word (and coined, I think, by the Colbert Report on Comedy Central) and to me it plays like a word that is a concept that really doesn't need facts.

But for now, you can talk about whether or not podcasting will jump the couch as a bunch of whale-tailers and muffin tops, like, totally take over the world of words. (Play this game at home - just plug in your favorite era of slang, as in "The mod happening was groovy until the fuzz arrived." or how about "I jitterbugged until dawn with a tomato who was reet, sweet and not too petite." or "She got all Single-White Female on me" - thanks Buffy.)

And the fun thing about "studies" and "scientific surveys" is that you can create on almost anything you imagine. Another recent study was launched to study the ways in which clothing affects the appearance of a woman's butt. Love the picture that accompanied the story too.

And there's this one about how cell phones and mobile text-messaging causes more tension within a family.

Hope this life-hacks your blogging.