Thursday, March 25, 2010

We Shoot Game Shows, Don't We?

Last week I was in a meeting in which the ratings for the new game show, Minute to Win It was given a lot of attention.  We all want to know how it's doing.

You must have seen the TV ads for it. No?  Here then:

There is something creepy about this show. Maybe it's the futuristic set that reminds me of Logan's Run or Rollerball. Maybe it's the dark anti-lighting and the beams of light that move through the set like ray guns.

Maybe it's the desperation built up by the voiceover and cliched Sci Fi graphics combined with the extremely limited increment of time in which a life could be changed forever. Or not.

People love a contest and these people are playing for $1 million.  That's a lot of money to most people.  Maybe even to millionaires it's a lot of money.  It's enough to change a life.

We watch them scramble for it for the sake of our entertainment.

We like to say we live in a meritocracy; a place where the skilled are rewarded for their excellence.   But as in much of life, in this show, the possibility of success is stacked against the contestants.

Shh . . . don't tell anyone but during the recitation of the ratings for Minute to Win It, all I could think of was They Shoot Horses, Don't They? a film about a group of desperate people exploited for the amusement of onlookers in a dance marathon.

Back during the Great Depression, they had dance marathons.  For the promise of a cash prize, people danced until they dropped.  Sometimes they even dropped dead.

While I was thinking of the movie and the dance marathons, it occurred to me that game shows and reality television may one day be the only path to earning money remaining in America. Farm land has been eaten by housing tracts that now sit foreclosed upon. Manufacturing is gone.  Even customer service is out sourced.  What have we left but our competitive spirit and our couch potato love of seeing others struggle and compete?

Are we a bread and circus nation, except without the part about the bread?  All circus; no bread.

I used to like game shows.  But now the stakes are so high and the lighting so ominous and in an age of so much desperation, it seems cruel to offer up so much with so little chance at winning.  Did the $64,000 Question seem this cruel?

Me, I'll just keep playing Super Lotto as my path to riches plan of choice.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The L.A. Marathon Passes Us By

Even as I type this, the LA Marathon is happening right around the corner.  Every year we worry about the road closures and detours.  Every year we realize later that the marathon is pretty much done before we even get out of bed.

This year, we were up early enough to actually see some of the runners.  Coffee and camera in hand, we strolled around the corner to catch the action.

The runners come in all shapes and sizes.  

For example, here's an ersatz Minnie - 

Good luck, runners! See you next year! (maybe)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cultivating the Age of Narcissism

It all started with the pre-natal ultrasound.  I don't know about you, but I'm not thrilled to be shown an expectant mom's ultrasound.  How am I supposed to react to these things?

"Wow, he's got your eyes!"

I've never seen an ultrasound that looked any different than any other ultrasound.  For all we know, the whole thing's a scam.  Those people who get all worked up over an allegedly fictitious moon landing could focus a little energy on the pre-natal ultrasound industry.

But the moms love to show 'em off.  In my day, you had to wait until you were at least born before your mom could start boring others with your image.

Then there's the license plate holder - - as in "Happiness Is . . . . Being Taylor's Mom."

Really?  Look, I know she's proud of Taylor and all, but is that really the sum total of happiness for her - being an extension of someone else?  I thought we were past that.

And, do you really think I'm impressed by your bumper sticker?  I'm truly happy for you that your child reads at grade level at Suchnsuch Middle School or that your child has perfect attendance or whatever it is that you're bragging about.  But these stickers have become so ubiquitous that they're a bit like Special Olympics awards, aren't they?  You get rewarded for just showing up.  There's bound to be a bumper sticker for whatever it is your kid doesn't suck at.

Sorry.  That just came out.

Don't even get me started on Lifecasting

But now, just when it didn't seem possible to reference these kids any more than we do, the ad industry has created a new breeding ground for monsters of conceit -

(and in today's irony alert - yeah, I believe every random thought I have to be so important that I must post it on the internet for the whole world to read.  Funny that.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On This St. Patrick's Day . . .

. . . . let's remember that hunger is a man made problem.

For more about Ireland's Great Famine - see here:

or you can start with Sinead -

OK, I want to talk about Ireland

Specifically I want to talk about the "famine"

About the fact that there never really was one

There was no "famine"

See Irish people were only allowed to eat potatoes

All of the other food

Meat fish vegetables

Were shipped out of the country under armed guard

To England while the Irish people starved

And then on the middle of all this

They gave us money not to teach our children Irish

And so we lost our history

And this is what I think is still hurting me

See we're like a child that's been battered

Has to drive itself out of it's head because it's frightened

Still feels all the painful feelings

But they lose contact with the memory

And this leads to massive self-destruction

alcoholism, drug adiction

All desperate attempts at running

And in it's worst form

Becomes actual killing

And if there ever is gonna be healing

There has to be remembering

And then grieving

So that there then can be forgiving

There has to be knowledge and understanding

All the lonely people

where do they all come from

An American army regulation Says you mustn't kill more than 10% of a nation

'Cos to do so causes permanent "psychological damage"

It's not permanent but they didn't know that

Anyway during the supposed "famine"

We lost a lot more than 10% of our nation

Through deaths on land or on ships of emigration

But what finally broke us was not starvation

but it's use in the controlling of our education

Schools go on about "Black 47"

On and on about "The terrible famine"

But what they don't say is in truth

There really never was one

(Excuse me)

All the lonely people

(I'm sorry, excuse me)

Where do they all come from

(that I can tell you in one word)

All the lonely people

where do they all belong

So let's take a look shall we

The highest statistics of child abuse in the EEC

And we say we're a Christian country

But we've lost contact with our history

See we used to worship God as a mother

We're sufferin from post traumatic stress disorder

Look at all our old men in the pubs

Look at all our young people on drugs

We used to worship God as a mother

Now look at what we're doing to each other

We've even made killers of ourselves

The most child-like trusting people in the Universe

And this is what's wrong with us

Our history books the parent figures lied to us

I see the Irish

As a race like a child

That got itself basned in the face

And if there ever is gonna be healing

There has to be remembering

And then grieving

So that there then can be forgiving

There has to be knowledge and understanding

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In the Wee Hours of the Morning, Something Shifted

L.A. earthquake rattles region awake but no major damage is reported [Updated]

Posted using ShareThis

Last night, K sat up suddenly, sometime in the wee hours.

Me: wha?

K: We just had an earthquake.

Me: (expletive deleted)

K: 4:10

Me: Are you sure? (but I'm thinking "strike-slip fault?")

K: yes

Me: (realizing that 4:10 meant the time, not an estimation of magnitude) Call it.

K: What?

Me: Call it.  Then we'll see how close you came.

K: 3.7

Me: That's not so bad. (I'm thinking "should I get dressed?  get ready to flee?"  But I didn't think it for long.)

We go back to sleep.

According to the article, it was 4.4.  Still, not so bad.

Still, I don't like it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Pictorial History of Economic Theory, from A to B

Remember when I said that Echo Park had been dubbed Red Hill because of the Socialists and other progressives who gathered here in the '30s?  That's all ancient history now.  But even as late as 2002 when K and I first moved here, there was a great lefty bookstore down the street.

The building bore this sign -

I loved the non-mainstream selection of reading material and I planned that, when the house was done and I had time to read again, I would become a frequent patron of the store.  

The house and I took too long.  Quite a while ago, the old Labor sign was replaced with this one -  

Yep, that says it all.  Forget the worker.  Forget the value of labor.  Just shop. 

(and yes, I do get the irony here.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Local News

Falling a little behind on local events and happenings?  You can catch up here -

(warning: language in this video is not safe for work, your mom or my mom, but I liked it)

Isn't the real news exactly like this?  You know it's true.

No wonder we can barely think any more.