Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Observations part 2

The new U2 album Buying Experience
So I cruise over to Tower Records for my ritual that I have done since I could drive. I bought the new U2 album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb". I have bought all the albums since Achtung Baby on the first day of release. I don't usually do this anymore with any other group since I have gotten older. I was the first person in Stockton to buy the 1st Beatles Anthology in 1995, I even got my picture and name in the paper. I was a local hero for one day. I actually needed to be the first person to buy that anthology because I did a presentation on John Lennon the next day and I desperately needed the "Free as a Bird" on CD. My professor had grown up in the Beatle times and I thought it was cool to get the CD days after the song came out on TV. This was wa-a-a-y before Napster or KaZaa. In fact, KaZaa would really suck on that 28.8bps modem I had back then on my 486 66mhz Packard Bell with an upgrade to 8 megs of RAM. I was the first to get 8 Megs of RAM as well.... I am totally digressing...
Yesterday's experience was quite a bit disturbing. I went to a Tower in the Sacramento area to buy my new U2 experience. I proceeded to the NEW RELEASE section and found a big display. Tower was confident in selling these CD's. There were lots. In fact there were three versions of the CD. One was just the CD. Then there was one with a CD and DVD limited edition package. Then there was one for the big collectors with a book, CD and DVD clearly labelled at $29.99. I pulled the CD/DVD combo pack out of the $11.99 slot, and then proceeded to check out. The girl at the check out was clearly at her first job post high school. She was new at the very least. She rang it up for $15.99 plus tax. I said, "Whoa its like, $11.99 back there." Now, I feel after buying quite a few hundred CD's in my short 30 year existence on this planet that I was ready to correct the young lady, just as I had helped the woman in front of me with the name of the group who sang 1985; Bowling for Soup. "Are you sure?" she says. "What?" I said, "The Bowling for Soup thing or the price of U2 because the Bowling for Soup thing is all over MTV2." She looks on the computer and wow, look there $11.99.
"I have to get my manager." she says.
So I wait. And wait. Hey it's four bucks. That is a quadruple percent Venti Mocha, sans whip cream. Less than 2 gallons of gas. A pint of Guinness at the bar...
Out comes a guy hanging on to his late 30's by the short ones, with really screwed up hair, reeking of cigarettes--both the legal and illegal ones. "Yeah, I am the manager."
So I presented my dilemma in my U2 purchasing experience.
And the bastard cuts me off and says "That one is $15.99, it's not priced, but that's what it is, there are 3 versions, do you want that one?"
Okay, the issue at hand here wasn't which CD I wanted but rather what price the CD I wanted was. (I love that sentence) So I took Mr. Dazed and Confused over to his store's CD rack and asked him to show me where it says $15.99. "I see 3 versions, but 2 prices, $11.99 and $29.99, show me the $15.99 price, the CD isn't even labelled with a price." I demanded.
"Oh it's a mistake, $15.99" the walking Cheeto says.
I gaze back at the register where the woman buying the Bowling for Soup CD is making small talk and rolling her eyes about me at the post-teen jockeying the register.
This is where I say, What the Fuck? Seriously people, we'd all use that phrase or some derivative of it right here and now no matter which red or blue state we lived in. I did nothing but question 4 bucks. 4 measley, stinking dollars. Their mistake, I caught them, F-You, $15.99, BS.
Tower Records is one of the biggest retailers, created right here in Sacramento. I can see the original store if I stood on my roof, its 8 blocks away. And they are going through Chapter 11 right now. There are plans to destroy one of the last independent theaters, Tower Theater, right above the old store.
Why are they in Chapter 11? Because of weed I guess. The dude running a store is addicted to hippy lettuce. The girl behind the counter sucks down X and goes to raves. This is what is left at their stores? This urban sub culture that was too cool for school? No wonder they went BK.
And why do we suffer bad experiences at record stores like this? Because no one gives a shit anymore about copyright. (Read it is scary because we all break the law daily and the fines are HUGE!!!) We download and trade songs. I don't think we steal as much from the rich artists as we do the poor retailers. Of course, we could go online and buy by the song on Apple. But then we'd only buy the songs we'd want and then the artists will get pissed because they couldn't make albums, destroying their art and what not. Then the whole system would be screwed and we'd probably get crappy bands because there was no money in it.
U2 with their much deserved record deal from selling 100 plus million records probably makes 25% of Retail list price at $15.99 or roughly 4 bucks. I guess my 4 bucks paid their royalties.
Hmmm...ponder that!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Funniest Site on the Net (Volume 1

The North Korean News Page

Holy Crap!!! This may also fit the scarciest site as well. For the people in the blue states, if you think Bush is bad for our country, just turn over to the other side and take a look at Kim Jung Il and the almost daily news that comes from this "democracy". Just take a look if you would at the news it broadcast on the 13th of November :

Mongolian Paper Discloses U.S. Plan to Make Nuclear Strike at DPRK Pyongyang, November 12 (KCNA) -- A Mongolian paper carried an article titled "The U.S. intended to make a nuclear strike at the DPRK" on November 9. It said: The Washington Times recently obtained a secret document disclosing the fact that the U.S. intended to make a nuclear strike at the DPRK in 1998. U.S. bombers were making preparations for it in North Carolina according to the "Operation Plan 5027". A south Korean lawmaker said that the U.S. planned to make a nuclear air strike at the DPRK as early as in 1994.

So Clinton planned a Nuclear Attack? Wow... he was the devil. We Americans are missing something. I searched the Washington Time to track down an article for the truth. Unfortunately, it seems to have been removed or is missing.

Think of the postitives if you would of absolute power in a country:

Every Vote Counts: Especially if they are for you, the absolute leader and you usually win 99% or more of the vote. And if you vote for the wrong guy, if there is another guy on the ballot, you won't have to vote again. How can you vote, without the use of your arms?

No stupid stadium names: Think of the ramifications for sports fans everywhere. Candlestick Park in San Francisco would not have a stupid name like it does now due to corporate sponsership. Our beloved home of the 49ers would not be called Monster Park (Not for their Monster season... When is Miami coming to town?). Kim Jung Il Sports Complex. The Ball Park near Hussein's. Ayatollah Arena. Awesome!!

Obesity solved: No more pot bellys, love handles or cellulite. Everyone would look like Mischa Barton. Well maybe not in the good way. 10 million people are starving themselves thin. It's the North Korean Low Carb Diet. You are lucky if you have a carb a day to eat. And lots of excercise for no disposable income for that greasy fast food.

No celebrity crimes: No excess from success. No stories like ODB, dead at 36 from CRACK. No OJ trials. No Hasselhoff/Betty Ford reunions. In North Korea, there are only 3 celebrities you need to know and they are conveniently featured here. All named Kim for your convenience.

World Leaders fear you: Let's face it. Kim Jung Il is one scary mofo. Japan fears no one but North Korea even though we have Japan's back. South Korea has a demilitarized zone, instead of a line. China has people fleeing to it!!! If people are fleeing your country to live in China because of better human rights and for better economic conditions, you are a bad ass. You tell the US weekly that they ain't shit and personally condemn the US for what we've done to Iraq with a near threat of war, even after Bush says you are the member of an Axis of Evil?

U.S. Madcap Arms Buildup under Fire Pyongyang, October 29 (KCNA) -- The U.S. madcap arms buildup of an unprecedented scale now under way in south Korea under the pretext of the "cutdown of its troops" and their "relocation" is a dangerous military action which can be seen only on the eve of a nuclear war of aggression against the north, observes Rodong Sinmun Friday in a signed commentary. Aegis destroyers belonging to the U.S. 7th Fleet were recently deployed in the East Sea of Korea for an actual war which have already begun performing operational duties and one squadron of F-15E fighter bombers of the U.S. air force and other ultra-modern weapons and operational equipment were deployed in south Korea, the commentary notes, and goes on: This is a move to bolster its forces for aggression and a prelude to a new war of aggression against the north. The news analyst goes on: The U.S. is now busy creating an environment for provoking a nuclear war of aggression against the north and inventing a pretext to pressurize it while deliberately setting afloat the story about a crisis. This irrefutably testifies to the fact that the second Korean war which would bring a nuclear holocaust to the Korean nation is neither hypothesis nor an far-off event but imminent. The DPRK can never remain a passive onlooker to the U.S. and the south Korean warlike forces' reckless arms buildup intended to stifle the DPRK by force. It is its legitimate right to increase self-defensive deterrent force both in quality and quantity.

CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the big three should be all over this. Oh wait, the Peterson Trial is taking up this time.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Album Review #1---- American Idiot by Green Day

Yes, I thought I'd include album reviews here as well. I think my wife and I have collectively 1200 cd's from various genres ranging from classic rock, rap, country, rock and even classical and opera.

One purchase recently in my book sticks out above 95% of our collection: American Idiot by Green Day, the loveable punks from Berkeley. Definately a giant leap forward from a band that I always knew we'd get a lot more than warped adolesence and habitual drug use from. The album to me has a fantastic plot line that sounds like someone you grew up with or that went to your school growing up. Maybe even someone you know now that hasn't grasped how to make it in our complex society. American Idiot has some serious political overtones about our society and inherent polarity in our two party system. The title characters: Jesus of Suburia is an obvious kid left in the wake of divorce. It's amazing how our society almost martyrs its children.
St. Jimmy is maybe a disciple or even brother of the previous character searching for identity. Then there is the rock n roll girlfriend these guys chase throughout the album all leading to either the "death" of St. Jimmy or maybe Jimmy growing up. I still haven't decided.

What I was intrigued about before I bought the album was the two 9 plus minute songs. They are really almost a collection of melodies similar in style to the last half of Abbey Road. (Editor's note: I am in no way comparing Green Day to the Beatles) The first one, The Jesus of Suburbia borrows a lot from music I have heard before. I hear some West Side Story with the 2 plus 3 beat in the "I don't care" section of the tune. Similar melody to Ring of Fire from Johnny Cash in the "Broken Home" section of the tune. Green Day passes from punk to art rock back to punk seamlessly throughout the record. Nothing is better then when great bands make great records. I'd like to see them do this record live. Their energy as a live act could really propel this.

Billie Joe has always impressed the hell out of me as a song writer. He's right up there in my generation with Kurt Cobain from Nirvana as one of the best songwriters since 1990. Very natural talent for melody in his vocals. Green Day's choice of instrumentation surrounds this perfectly. I truly dig the acoustic guitar Novacaine. The changes in that song surround a painful frustration in those lyrics. It's a war from wanting a cure to ignoring the cure. (sounds like the theme song of a previous blog) Extraordinary Girl is a song that again reminds you of the Beatles.

This is definately a hard CD to take from the deck as you'll let it play over and over.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Observations, part 1

Today I was in a Carl's Jr. drive thru getting lunch. For some reason, when I get into these drive-thru's, I like to study the process. Each fast food has their own routine. Some take your money before they give you food. Some give you your drink, take your money and then make you wait for the next batch of fries or something. Some ask you to call a number if you are asked to pay a different amount then the one showing. Some even have a timer above the window, showing you how long your order is taking. Some, frighteningly enough in Southern California have bullet proof glass!!!! 99% of all drive thru's have a left turn into them. There is a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Sacramento with a right turn and they take your money through the passenger side. Amazing. Some even have cameras in the speaker so they can see the car you are driving, and they actually comment on it, which is a frightening experience. Especially when its Starbucks and they have your Triple Venti Low Fat Mocha with no whip scream ready for you as you pull up.

Drive Thru's have good days and some have bad days. Some have a smooth flow and you can feel it because you are constantly moving. Others make you wait. Some scare me because the speaker is busted and you think your order is screwed or they don't give you a total and ask you to pull forward, which leaves you in total limbo, especially if the speaker is screwed. Efficiency is a key and it is something you begin to trust when you cruise through the drive thru.

Today, however was a bad day at this particular Carl's Jr. Why? Because they screwed the process by putting too much shit in the way. For starters, the left turn is narrow as hell. The SUV loving tree hugging yuppies in Sonoma County can't hang these corners. Many Tahoes take three point turns to cut the corner. Tons of scrapes on the far right side of the turn. I wonder how old ladies do it in Buicks. Secondly, there is a newspaper rack... just a bit out of reach. I understand the franchisee's need for profit centers in his business but a news paper rack. I witnessed the guy behind me lose balance pulling the spring loaded door, thus causing him to insert more coins. Then, after you have got your paper, made the turn, ordered and denied the voice in the speaker's feeble try at super sizing your order for 39 cents, you reach the spot before the window where you pay, where you see.... THE ATM MACHINE!!! This is here for all the fools that pull into the drive thru line that don't have the money. You know the feeling where you are looking under the floormats for the last quarter while you hold up the line four car lengths from the window, thinking you are saving everyone behind you time. Stop wasting time and slide the plastic! Of course the ATM is just out of reach of most of the people on the planet. But, still as it was, the tiny lady in the big ole Tahoe had to get the money in front of me. It was kinda comical at first because she leaned all the way out to slide the card. Then she had to key her pin and so while leaning out the window she opens the door to reach further, slamming her head and her door into the ATM, dropping her ATM card under her SUV. It was kinda funny seeing this while I was waiting, reading the headlines of the newspaper in the rack outside my door. Well finally she pulled forward slowly while putting everything back in her purse. She approached the drive up window ever so slowly handing the money to the cashier. Then the funniest thing I had ever seen occurred. The drive up window person dropped the lady's food. No joke. The thing dropped right under the door of the SUV, between the two tires. The bag was oblong like a football so it travelled pretty far. If I had been enjoying my soda at this point, I would have shot it through my nose as I laughed so hard. All I could see through the tinted Tahoe's windows was the lady miming "What do I do now?" The drive thru window person, in perfect comedic timing, gave that "I speak no English" look back. Then the door opened to the SUV, right into the drive up window for dent number two.

What happened here? Are we really into the demise of western civilization? We are so over-glutton for profits we make big huge SUV's for tiny people to drive. We fill ourselves with the appettite for high margin fast food. We don't want to get our asses out of our big SUV's to order this food, so we cram them into drive thru's built in the compact car era of the late 70's and early 80's, where we run into technology built for the 21st century, the drive up ATM and these drive thru's are run by people who will work for minimum wage. I see no solutions here. If we raise minimum wage the drive thru won't get any faster or easier to manuever. If we remove technology from our lives to keep it simple, we will not progress. Nobody wants to go back to there Gremlins and Mustang II's of yester-year. Heck, everyone knows you can't even park them SUV's easily so why close the drive through. We've outgrown our world. I am glad I told drive up window person that I didn't need to super size it but I am sure next time they'll be a new profit center for that lady in the Tahoe to stumble through.

Monday, November 08, 2004

it begins here

Random thoughts...

Giving this blog-thing a try. I find it facsinating that you can type random shit and there are millions of people surfing the web that will read it.

Have you ever had a headache? Seriously... and blistering, head-splitter right between the temples. This is me most days. Why me? I don't have a clue. Started back in early March with something that felt like an earache that came and went. Loud noises drove me nuts. I started my HMO regiment to health care during this time. What a riot! First, I was diagnosed with an earache and I got those antibiotics that make your pee stink. I went through this the next week or so and then... nothing, earache and now a headache that came and went. So I went back to my HMO practitioner and we went over my symptoms. We apparently got to the end of his knowledge and he was like," oh you need to see the ear nose and throat doctor". I thought to myself as this guy searched the hospital computer network looking for my illness, this guy is a doctor, more educated than I ever will be, and he was baffled. So a few weeks later, still in some pain, I got to see the ENT doctor. And he determined my biggest fear... "Not my department, its for the Neurologist to look at." Funny, how these HMO's seem like department stores. They are convenient for one stop shopping, but I'll be damned if they'll help you outside of their department. So I, with my ear pain thing and the headaches, got my appointment slip and some more drugs to take home. Drugs are bad, but they are sort of cool in a way. Vicodin helps you forget pain for a few hours. And when you have no pain you feel better. And when you feel better you leave the doctors alone. Unfortunately drugs like Vicodin have side effects, like addiction and paranoia. Paranoia fortunately set in before addiction. I was paranoid that I was addicted. Paranoia set in when I tried to see how long I could go without dropping a Vike before the pain from the headache came back. That is never good. However, the bottle did say, take one tablet every four hours for pain. So if you are in pain within 4 hours what do you do? Wait? They are for pain. Finally, the day came and I saw the Neurologlist. He was nice. He had the goal to test me for everything. I gave 4 viles of blood, had a TB test and I even got a cat scan. I was quite proud actually to take all these tests. I sure hoped a failed at least one, one of the easy ones, like a viral infection or something. But no... I passed. Clean bill of health except for my ear pain/numbness and the afternoon pressure cooker that I call a brain. I got some more Vicodin and "some pills to help me relax (sleep)". WTF was the Vicodin for? And WTF are anti-depressants gonna do? Give a 30 year old man, menopause? Doctors at these HMO's draw me to one conclusion, they give you drugs until you go away. And you either live with euphoria from the drugs or you suffer in line waiting for the next appointment to get more drugs. They call them prescriptions but seriously I think they are grease for the squeaky wheels. I often wonder, 7 months later, after all this started, what my medical bill would be if I didn't have insurance. Thousands? Maybe. Maybe it's cheaper to treat me with drugs than it is to cure me. After all the HMO is trying to make a profit. Maybe I am lucky, I have insurance. There are starving people from China in this country that would love to have my insurance. Free health care for everyone. Ok maybe not, the Chinese grow the opiates to make Vicodin, thus by weakening our economic power with standardized health care for everyone, we'd ship our pharmaceutical jobs over seas to make Vicodin cheaper. Go with me on this. We'd have to buy the tariff ridden drugs back from our former US company that is based in China, with no standardized government health care. Have we not learned that we should not succumb to the power of a weaker Asian economy? Does anyone own a Honda? Could creating a health care plan for all American's to enjoy and the costs that go with it send more jobs over seas to keep costs down? Can you imagine the tax or the cost structure to pay our doctors to keep America healthy? Doctors ain't cheap. The first doctor I saw didn't know shit but I am sure he vacations well. And what about the ENT doc? Or the test giving Neurologist? Those specialists aren't thrifty either. I am sure the best ones don't work for nothing. You think doctors do what they do for the love of it or the money? See what happens when you remove the choice of money. Amazing... I'll stick with my HMO, at least the drugs are cool.