Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Googling "Michael Jackson" and "Get a Life"

For reasons beyond me, the TV is on around noon. The media, tens of thousands of fans, celebrities and ticket scalpers are falling over themselves at today's Michael Jackson Staples Center "memorial."

Even those nearest and dearest to me are so into the over-the-topness of it all that they are recording it.

"I'm just doing it for the music," says a Near-and-Dear.

And I'm thinking, "Don't we have better things to do?"

This is sweeping me willy-nilly into the ultimate putdown, "Get a life."

But then I'm thinking about my mental drift, "Hey, Rick, you're being banal."

And then I'm thinking, "How many others are banal enough to link the memorial gnashing and wailing with the put-down 'get a life'?" Just how widespread is this cynical sneering and sniveling of "get a life" about Jackson's ga-ga fans?

A wonderful thing about Google is that you can pretty well sample anything, including how banal one's cynicism.

So I Googled "Michael Jackson" and "get a life."

I got 139,000 matches. A random reading revealed that a small portion of the "get a life" interjection was aimed at the likes of, well, cranks like me. I'm the one who should lighten up and "get a life" about "Jackson," his death, and the mourning festivities.

Touché!

Still, most of the 139,000 seem similarly cynical. To us, the sudden outpouring of grief for Jackson is absurd and possibly culturally pathological.

The world is melting. The economy is tanking. Millions have no health insurance or have lost their jobs or homes or both. A few dozen wars are being waged around the globe. Children are dying.

And what are the lumpen getting their rocks off on? A dead pop idol of questionable repute.

I believe this is called a "disconnect."

Next? Googling "Michael Jackson" and "disconnect."

I know, I know. I should get a life.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Buying nothing may cost you

The anti-consumerists who publish Adbusters magazine like to turn the biggest shopping day of the year — the day after Thanksgiving — inside out by calling it “Buy Nothing Day.”

I’m finding this economy is doing a far better job than the Adbusters “Culture Jammers,” as they call themselves. The recession-teetering-on-depression is turning every day into a “buy nothing day.”

In the good old days of easy money I would regularly get an irrational urge to buy something — anything. I couldn’t explain it. It must have been Pavlovian without my being aware of the stimulus. A song perhaps. Likely a jingle. Or a smell. Or a color.

Cast under a spell, I’d search for some urgent need, or more often, blatant, sensual desire. It could be as little as jamocha almond fudge ice cream or as great as a 1972 MGB roadster.

But since the great economic downturn, months go by without a “Buy Something (Anything!) Day” twinge.

I was reminded of the infrequency today when I went out to buy something I actually needed. The experience created an odd variation of the old twinge. I found I was mildly disappointed when my entire purchase came to $2.69.

Talk about inconspicuous consumption.

I needed a connector that converts stereo headphones to monaural.

Here I can feel a long, boring explanatory paragraph coming on. I’ll spare you except to say that a new hearing device I bought (yes, bought!) a couple of months back, doesn’t accept stereo headphones or earbuds. It deals with them by sending sound to only one ear.

Not good, especially if you are going deaf in the first place. I definitely need sound to both ears.

The nice fellow at Radio Shack solved the problem for $2.69. I was expecting, even anticipating, spending at least $5. And then the clerk tells me that if I go to the company web site and answer a few questions (weasel word alert: “a few questions.” That’s what the phone survey folks say too.), Radio Shack will "give" me $10 off my next $40 purchase.

Let's see. I spend $2.69 and get $10 off my next $40 purchase. Hmmmm. I’m wondering whether I might make a modest living by buying cheap connectors at Radio Shack and answering questions on-line questions.

Could it be I can’t afford to buy nothing?

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Declare your own independence

"Men talk of freedom! How many are free to think! Free from fear, from perturbation, from prejudice? Nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand are perfect slaves."
1858, Henry David Thoreau

Have you declared your own independence?

Do you use the freedoms we as Americans have?

If not, are you truly free?

Are we?

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Hey TriMet! Should Max cars be billboards?


Webtrends, the on-line survey outfit, has caused quite a stir in Pedaltown by posting provocative signs on Max trains reading “Should Cyclists Pay a Road Tax?”

Wrong question.

How about: “Should tax-subsidized MAX trains be used as billboards?”?

If you want to play Webtrends' little game, which is to show the effectiveness of asking in-your-face questions, you can go to the Webtrends site and tell them what you think. The questionnaire asks for comments. I can think of a few. . . .

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Calling all graphic artists!

Portland has nearly as many graphic artists as it has bicyclists. It might even be the exact same number. Could it be. . . ?

Anyway, here’s the deal. I could use some help.

I am, by default, the acting chair of the new Hillsdale Community Foundation. The name pretty much says it all, but if you need to know more, suffice to say we are out to raise money and to make sure it improves our little community here in Southwest Portland.

I had some free time this afternoon, so I started fiddling around on Quark and came up with a couple of logo designs. Not terribly bold, (boring even) but their formality provides instant credibility, which, as a new organization, we happen to need.

So, graphic designers, have at it.

Your ideas? Constructive criticism?

Oh, I know that I’ve used the dread and derided Helvetica, and, yes, I have also seen the documentary.

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