Monday, 9 November 2009

Scam, Scram!

Nothing gets me more fired up than people and companies who take advantage of others who are already suffering. With an ever-climbing unemployment rate, and no end in sight, the U.S. is bursting at the seams with job seekers. One article on illustrated that the chances of landing a job right now are neck and neck with getting accepted into Harvard. Hmm...perhaps I should go Ivy League? Annnyyywwwayyyyyyy, even at our most miserable state of unemployment, scouring the ads day in and day out, resume tweaking, bugging contacts, showing up on doorsteps, filling out applications, etc., we are unfortunately being targeted by scammers all over the world.
Perhaps applying online to jobs, you've received an email such as this:

"He l lo So la ng e,

T h a n k yo u for your interest in the p os it i o n a t o ur firm.

A little mo r e in fo rm at i o n a bo ut us:

A s a re ce nt ly founded an d r a pi d l y g r o w i ng marketing fi r m,
we ho pe to fo s te r a fun y et efficient en v ir o nm e nt fo r our new
e mp l o y e e s. U n l ik e ot h er companies, we be li e v e an ea s yg oi ng
and fr ie n d ly at mo sp h er e is fa ci li t at iv e to q u a l i ty an d actually
in c re a se s productivity.

To be co ns i d e re d, c a nd id a te s mu st possess strong
c o m m u ni c at i on/interpersonal skills, th e ab il it y t o i n te r a ct wi th
p e o p l e a t all le v e ls of th e firm, an d ex c e ll e nt or g a n iz a t io n al skills.

C an di da te s mu s t be se lf st a r te rs an d b e a bl e to undertake
re s p on s i b i l it ie s with limited supervision. They must also be ab le to
multi-task, an d have a wo r ki n g kn ow le d g e of MS Office.
Fa m i li a ri ty wi t h o t he r types of software is a pl u s.

Our policy is to gr ow an d maintain a l o n g lasting and m ut u al l y
be n ef i ci al bu s in e s s re l a ti on sh i p w it h our em pl oy ee s. In keeping
w i th th at st an d a rd, ou r firm offers a c o m pr eh en s i v e b e ne f i t s
p a ck ag e that is s ec o n d t o none. In addition, we pa y o u r
e mp l oy e e s hi gh e r t ha n any c o mp e ti to r i n th is in du st r y.

Co m p en s a t i on wi l l be f u rt h er di sc us se d du ri n g t h e in te r v ie w
pr o ce ss, af te r r e vi ew in g ca nd i da t e ap p li ca t io n s.

Pl ea se ta k e a fe w mo m en ts to fi ll ou t ou r o nl in e ap p li ca ti o n b y
cl i c k in g on t h e 'apply' link be lo w.


Th an k you,

H R S t a ff in g
E m p lo ye e Re cr ui t Portal"

Thankfully, I'm onto them, weird font and all. This supposed HR Staffing firm directs people to a legit-looking page, where unsuspecting, diligent job seekers plug in all of their personal information. BINGO BANGO, PHISHING SCAM! Hook, line, and sinker, and there you go. Whether they sell your information to companies or use it for other malicious deeds, I'm not sure, but, whatever the reason, it's not benign.
It's a shame that we have to, on top of working our fingers to nubs typing out cover letters, be watchful of these types of things, but this is the age in which we live. To other job seekers, use common sense. If, after placing an ad asking for emailed resumes, a potential employer asks you to visit a website, be suspicious. First, look up the company online via Google or another search engine. Next, look up the name of the person who contacted you in conjunction with the company, such as "'Fred Smith' 'HR Recruitment Portal'." Usually, that person's name will come up either via Linked In or a company directory. If it's a scam and someone has reported it online, it might come up as such as well. Also, if that person's email is a free email account, such as gmail, hotmail, or yahoo, and not a company email, it may well be a red flag.
Most of the time, if someone has your resume, there is no need for you to fill out more information on yourself. If it's a legitimate company, such as Time Warner, which has a huge HR department, you may have to sign up to its online job search site, but never EVER do so from a link. Type the website in directly to ensure that you are going to the proper company site.
Last, but not least, check out sites like Ripoff Report and Snopes to see whether other people have been scammed via similar means. Scams are rampant these days. Keep your eyes open and your nose sharp, folks! Good luck and happy hunting!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Matter of Taste

Nutrition experts talk about how portion sizes of foods have expanded with our waistlines over the years, but I find it fascinating that we haven't talked much about how our tastebuds have evolved in a relatively short time. Or maybe it's not scientific or evolution-based. Maybe it's merely money-driven. What I'm getting at is the mysterious disappearance of grape soda.
When my mom was a child in the late 1950s, she and her family would pile into the car on a Saturday night and head to the local burger joint, where she'd order a single burger (probably a Jr. size by today's inflated standards), a small fry (again, probably kiddie sized), and a grape soda. Grape soda, popularized by the now-scarce Nehi brand of soft drinks, was everywhere. The flavor, a purely artificial sugar bonanza that never really tasted like real grapes, was consumed all over television. In fact, it was Radar on the acclaimed series, "M.A.S.H."'s signature quaff at the bar.
But something happened sometime between the 1970s and 1980s to grape soda. It was as if the flavor had been snatched off of its proverbial vine and replaced...replaced by orange, in fact. By the early 1980s, when yours truly came along, the only bubbly made available to us kiddies was some version of thick syrupy orange stuff or a limon concoction. Grape sodas had been culturally banished to the ghetto (or so urban legend says), along with BBQ chips (also tasty--why?). By 1988, when R.E.M. released its sixth album, "Green," "Orange Crush" was a household name. Grape, as we knew it, was marginalized, practically gone.
Orange, however, now takes a back seat to other flavors. By the 90s, we had every flavor we could ever wish for in fizz. Biggest on the list in fast food corp fruit flavors were things like cherry limeade and grapefruit (Fresca). Jones sodas have an extensive list of flavors and are available at places like Panera Bread. Is this flavor explosion a sign of sophistication in tastebuds, greed, or too many choices in America? To quote a wise candy commercial: "The world may never know."

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Westward Expansion: Reaching the Coast

Day 3: (Flagstaff, AZ to Huntington Beach, CA)

I woke up in Flagstaff to the sound of trains tooting away as they cut through the thick mountain landscape. Throwing on some clothes, I wandered to the elevator to catch an early breakfast at 7 a.m. Lo, I did not beat the other guests to the buffet. The dining area was infested with tourists, mostly German-speaking tourists, actually.
The breakfast at this Holiday Inn was a bit disappointing. The only eggs (I rarely eat eggs for breakfast, except when I'm road-tripping--then I crave them--weird) available were perfectly formed eggbeater mini-omelettes containing some sort of liquidy processed cheese. I had one for a protein boost, then went for a biscuit that was dry and crumbly. That's where Texas had put Arizona to shame. I abandoned my crumbly biscuit for a banana and then headed upstairs to digest a little bit before hitting the gym for a morning workout I desperately needed.
The fitness room was teeny, but contained functioning treadmills and a stair stepper. I alternated between machines to get a good cross training workout for my atrophying legs and booty. A half hour later, and I'd worked up a good sweat and was ready to hit the road again.
I'd discovered that the first several hours of my drive after getting a good night's sleep were always the most blissful. I was pain-free, refreshed, joyful and skimming the earth like a low-flying hawk, taking in the breathtaking scenery as I went. After about four hours of this bliss, however, and after a couple of days of it, I'd gotten sick of my iPod music, the mountains, the desert, my own thoughts even, and was ready to get there already.
A friend had called me and I was on the phone when I crossed the boarder into California. There was a checkpoint shortly thereafter. "What are they checking for?" I wondered. I stopped as the friendly guard smiled at me and asked me where I was coming from. "Missouri," I replied. She asked me if I had any plants, fruits, vegetables or animals with me and I told her that I didn't. She waved me on through. Weird state, California.
I knew that I was about to go through the Mojave, so I stopped at a lone gas station in the middle of nowhere. Gas there was astronomical. I cringed as I pressed the highest fuel rating button. A service guy came out of nowhere and leaned against the pump. "I like your car," he said. I said thanks and walked around to check the tires.
"They look a little low," the guy remarked, squinting through the glare of the desert sun to check out my wheels.
He had a gauge in his pocket, pulled it out and read it. "Yeah, you're at about 20. Pull it around and I'll fill em up for you."
I pulled up and the guy ran around the car, quick as a jackrabbit, filling up my tires. I thanked him and ambled back to the highway. I guess you pay an extra dollar a gallon for good service in California (?).
Finally, the desert gave way to civilization. The roads wound and sliced through the mountains for a good hour. However, when I hit the mother-of-all traffic jams, I practically squealed for joy--I was in L.A.! I had, of course, stumbled on Los Angeles during rush hour. Luckily, the majority of the traffic flow was coming from the opposite direction. I was close enough to my destination, and I'd come so far that a little traffic wasn't even much of an annoyance at this point.
Soon enough, I'd reached the coast. Walking along the boardwalk on the way to dinner that evening with Donna and Greg, I thought about how far I'd come. And the adventure is just beginning.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Westward Expansion Continued

Day 2: (Amarillo, TX to Flagstaff, AZ)

Happy as I was to leave Amarillo, happier still I was to see that the rain and fog had cleared away to reveal the bright blue sky. There's an uplifting feeling associated with coasting down the interstate in great weather. You feel invincible and that the horizon is wide open and drawing you into itself.
My first hour on the road I fielded phone calls from worried friends, people whom I'd had to cut short the night before on account of the bad weather. "Yes, I'm alive," I told them. "But still in Texas."
It wasn't long, however, before the brush started to change colors again. Hints of yellows and reds splattered the grayish-brown scape. Huge rocks began to poke out of the flattened earth. Before I knew it, it was "Welcome to New Mexico."
At first, the plains yawned out for miles in every direction. I could see faint rock formations in the distance. As I got closer, mountains rose up on all sides.
I stopped in Albuquerque, at a Flying J travel mart. That thing was packed to the gills with cars and RVs. From the looks of my fellow trekkers, I seemed to be one of the few travelers under 50 at this junction. There was one other guy around my age, in head-to-toe scrubby camo, who made it a point to try to flirt with me while I was contemplating what to stuff my face with. Hot.
The travel mart had two kinds of "to-go" foods: Pizza or "Chinese." I've learned as a general rule in America never to eat Chinese food made by someone who is not Chinese, so that left me with pizza. I wasn't really in the mood for pizza, but it was either that or dry travel snacks, of which I was so sick I would have eaten pretty much anything besides.
By the end of New Mexico, I was kind of getting sick of New Mexico. Luckily, the landscape again began to change. The rocks and earth became redder and redder. No wonder AZ is a red state, btw. Even the soil is red! (I am SO funny).
The rock formations of Arizona are gorgeous. I'm one of those people who automatically sees people in the shapes made by rocks. They placidly watched me as I whizzed by, their red faces beaming into the sunlight. It felt a little eerie, a little reassuring, all at once.
I decided that I would stop overnight in Flagstaff. I found a Holiday Inn Express, which had one room left open for the night, thankfully. This morning, when I headed down to breakfast, the room swarmed with people, mostly Germans, and one really loud and whiney baby.
I'm going to hit the fitness center this morning before heading back to the road, the last leg of my journey to the coast!

A Westward Expansion

Friends asked me to please blog my drive from St. Louis to my new (temporary) home in Huntington Beach, CA, so forgive me for interrupting my usual commentary with this ridiculousness. I didn't want to start a new blog for this foolishness.

Day 1 (StL through Amarillo, TX)

The trip began innocently enough. The weather was 45 degrees F and cloudy as I and the loaded-down Jag embarked on our journey. Fully vetted, the Jag roared down the road as I sniffled, partly because of the cold that had attacked my sinuses over recent days, and partly because of the way my dog looked at me as I backed out of the doorway that day. "I'm crying over a dog," I chided myself, knowing how ridiculous this would sound relaying it to others. Then again, those who have seen this dog know how she has that way of looking, all adoring and innocent and trusting...ugh, it is TOO much!
MO started to mist a bit, about an hour out. By then, all signs of moisture on the inside of the vehicle had left. I was hard tacked on the open road. My wanderlust had kicked in, and I could not WAIT to get to another state!
The further West in Missouri one goes, the weirder it gets. Yes, it's on the Bible Belt, so there are a lot of Jesus billboards. One sign implored people to attend the "church of your choice" this Sunday. Who is paying for that one?
Of course, next to the church and Jesus signs, there are signs for guns and ammo warehouses. Guns, guns, guns! As far as the eye can see! Down the way from the firearms, pro-life and Jesus billboards are the ever-present "Adult Video" supercenters. Oh, Missouri, you are a conundrum!
Suddenly the rain came down in big splats, which the weighted-down vehicle handled well, until we hit mildly flooded roads outside of Springfield. Orange road sign flashed: "Road closed ahead. All traffic must exit at 64." Greeaaattt. Then, I hit what we French like to call, the "bouchon."
We crawled down the road so slowly that I was sure that the dead possum I'd seen a while back could have moved faster. Even off the highway on the exit ramp and down the main road, the pace was excruciating. The diverted highway traffic snaked through Springfield, and finally I found myself back on the highway, slightly annoyed, but no worse for the wear.
By the time that I FINALLY got out of Missouri and into Oklahoma, I was more than ready. OK isn't much better than MO, I must say. It is just as flat and there are just as many non-noteworthy cow fields there as in my home state. However, the slight change in the look of the fields, accented by red brush plants, gave the scenery a more Southwesterly feel.
Like a starving artist, I ate up the scenery, trying to figure out what I'd do with it later in sitting down and writing. Wide open plains, cattle, brush...aaaand that was it, pretty much. Not much fodder for amazing writing. Wait, they wrote an award-winning musical production about this state! However, the wavin' wheat was gone, and the winds were muggy and still on account of the rain. I guessed that I belonged to the land, so long as it would let me go after I crossed state lines.
"Don't stay too long in Texas," my friend, Robb, had said, semi-jokingly. I ended up staying the night in Amarillo, mostly because I feared that I would die if I went any further that night.
I had already decided to bypass staying in Oklahoma City because, after taking a "Stacker" pill, after feeling drowsy that afternoon (I hadn't had a full night's sleep at all Friday through Tuesday), I was still bright-eyed and full steam. However, as night's pitch black drapery fell across the landscape, the misty rain that had been drizzling all damn day created patches of pea soupey fog in the middle of Nowheresville, TX.
Images of Ed Gein and his family flashing through my head as my eyes tried to make heads or tails of the blackness, I sought the comfort of the lights of a well-lit cattle semi. I hugged the guy's tail all 200 miles to Amarillo. Trucks make great lighthouses in the fog, rain, snow and mist--especially the ones with the lights that go all the way up the sides.
About 30 miles outside of Amarillo, we encountered a flipped truck, flames shooting from its underside. The smoke added to the fog that blanketed the highway. You could smell the thing burning for miles. The driver might have been pulled from the wreck, but he was clearly injured. Ten miles or so up the road, I saw the ambulance screaming down the highway on the other side. It must be awful to be in a wreck out in the middle of nowhere, where the nearest hospital is miles and miles away. Terrible. I hoped that the guy was okay.
Once in Amarillo, I found the closest, decent-looking inn in town. My father had insisted that I try to find a hotel in favor of a motel, which I guess that this place was. Baymont Inn. It wasn't too shabby looking, inside or out.
By the time I pulled up, I had been holding my bladder for way too long. I ran inside.
"Can I help you?" The girl at the front desk looked up to ask.
"Yes-I need to book a room for the night, but first, do you have a restroom I could use?" I shot her a plaintive look as I said this.
She pointed me to the public pee spot. I looked in the mirror after I relieved myself and saw that both of my eyes were black underneath. "Ugh. I look like death. This woman probably thinks I'm some sort of drug addict," I thought as I examined my pale, makeup-less face and washed my hands.
I came back and booked the room, trying to throw out light-hearted, jovial comments, which this humorless woman was not quite receiving. She gave me my room keys and pointed me to the parking area.
I parked and lugged a few things to the outer door, which, she said, would open with my key. It did not. I looped around to the front desk again and she told me that the door was not always mechanically reliable, and to come through the inside. Yippeedee. I went through the inside corridor, found my room, and tried my key. No dice. I tried again. Red light. The third time, the door flashed green and the lock popped open. Ahh, finally! Respite! Sanctuary! Re...what was this? A neat little row of suitcases propped on the couch? A laptop on the desk? Someone's been sleeping in my bed! My heart pounded for fear that the occupant was still somehow occupying the room, perhaps hiding in a closet or something. I backed out slowly and headed back to the front desk.
"Was there someone in that room?" The woman at the front desk drawled.
"Yeeesss..." How did she know?
"I was afraid of that. I switched someone to that room just a little bit ago, but I assigned him the wrong room in the computer." She explained. "It's a good thing that he wasn't in there. I would have been in big trouble!"
She drawled her statement with such a lack of intensity, I worried if she really understood the gravity of her mistake. She should thank her lucky stars that she had goofed on good-natured (albeit drained) me. And that the guy hadn't been in there. Naked. *shudder to think*
Finally, I found my bed and a good night's rest. A hot scrambled egg and biscuit breakfast had me up and ready to scramble for the Texas border. Not before stopping at a fill station and discovering that, in Texas, both pickup trucks and mullets will never go out of style.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

TORTOISE @ The Firebird StL 09-29-09

As a music journalist, seeing hundreds of shows, speaking with hundreds of music celebrities, I'm always amazed that I'm still able to be impressed by musicians. It doesn't happen as much as it used to, as the "adult" critic in me has been conditioned to be jaded and skeptical by the "cool kids" in the biz. Bump that though, I can't help it: Much of the time I'm as sparkley-eyed and grinney as the 16-year-olds crowding the stage, flailing their "MINOR" hand stamps high. I'm a total dork, and I'm okay with that. Especially when it comes to a band of the caliber of Tortoise.
Maybe they're called Tortoise because they tour about as often as Giant Tortoises mate. It's been about five years since the last album release, and the fans were clearly hungry for a little turtle soup. For a Tuesday night at the Firebird in St. Louis, the turnout filled half the venue, which was more than I could say for any band or artist I'd ever seen in the place on a week night. The turnout always surprises me in this place because it is, in my opinion, one of the best rock venues in all of St. Louis. Then again, the place isn't exactly advertising itself from the road (it's about as conspicuous as an ant's ear), but anyway, I digress.
For those who haven't heard Tortoise, they are a five-member experimental group that hails from Chicago. The group uses a variety of organic instruments and also electronic toys to create its vast wealth of sounds. Each member of the group comes from some other project, and somehow they all seem to piece themselves together in a way that creates a multi-layered symbiosis. Instead of egos clashing, I guess that somehow they've learned to work with each person's individual talents in a way that, for most bands, is a veritable impossibility.
The stage at the Firebird held a wealth of instruments: Bass guitars, regular electric babies, two drum kits, a fantasy-inducing Moog synth, keyboards, an electronic marimba and a xylophone. As the band took tot he stage, the disjointed lot of instruments all came to life and each element had its turn in the spotlight.
Jeff Parker's wicked guitar fingers send melodic waves cascading like an avalanche over the opening track. His jaw clenches and a hard grin of concentration flashes in and out as his lips draw back in time with the unrelenting rhythm.
In whomps the drum kit. Not one of them, two. It comes as a pleasant surprise that Dan Bitney, not usually known for his percussion, takes up the sticks for a flashy and syncopated drum duet with John Herndon. McCombs, the bassist, takes up the keys, and that turns everything we thought about Tortoise right on its head. And that is awesome.
The dizzy rockadelic frolic is brought on by a banquet of electronics (having never seen an electronic marimba, I was quite intrigued by its light-up action). Bitney and Herndon take up that and the xylophone in another duet. Herndon at one point scratches at the xylophone with the sticks like a cave man carving bones, then flips them right-side and flows right into a gorgeously bone-melting ditty on the metal. All the while, John McIntire dabbles the keys and tosses in robotic noise and "fun" stuff like dimestore beads at a Mardi Gras parade.
Somehow with Tortoise, tacky is tasteful. That 70s cop-show, slouchy polyester vibe suddenly feels like it's en vogue; it just feels right on your skin. A guy in the crowd told me that he could "feel the music in [his] pants." If that isn't rock-tastic, I don't know what is.
I'd like to say that I was fully music-critic sharp and "with it" during this show, that my brain was actively analyzing the elements 100 percent of the time, but if I said that I would be lying. I did get a little bit lost in the music for a while. The psychedelic elements whisked my brain off to another place for a few minutes before I realized what was happening. Listening to Tortoise is like hearing interpreted into music every dream you ever had--or every dream you wish that you ever had.
John Herndon really snapped me back to reality with his incredible guttural drumming. After a good hour of drumming, I imagine anyone would be exhausted, but Herndon, sweat flowing off of his nose like a mini-waterfall, took it to the next level, hitting harder and faster. Whipping the music into a froth, he brought the backbeat to the foreground. I haven't seen dedication like that in years. Hats off, buddy.
All the rock, wonk and jazz add up to a fantastic mystery flavor. As always, Tortoise delivers a rare treat.

(Photos by Harold Coin)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Win-win or a Hideous Game?

Perhaps the movie Fight Club's scene where Pitt and Norton raid the liposuction clinic's rear dumpsters for bags of human lard to be delicately repackaged into flavored body products isn't so far fetched these days. With the world growing ever larger, and the people's rear ends in proportion to the exponential explosion of the population, people are finding fairly creative ways to get rid of the excess blub.
One particularly enterprising Beverly Hills doc used patient fat, converting it into a bio-fuel for his vehicle. Innovative, ingenious even, but unfortunately too risky to be put into place. I do wonder, however: How much fat does it take to fuel one vehicle? Wow, I could totally imagine what life would be like if the world took such ideas seriously. Something like that could lead to an entire industry of couch potatos, or "fat farmers", who sit around, gorging on ice cream and bon bons for months while watching their 800 channels on a sunken divan. Then, when sufficiently "ripe," they turn a profit on the sucked-out cells for four bucks a pound, turning the lazy American stereotype into a brilliant entrepreneur. Wild.
I even came across a website for a Dutch organization that claimed to offer free liposuction to people, then converted the fat into baked goods for starving people. It at first appeared far-fetched, but the site that I investigated appeared legitimate. However, I have been unable to relocate the site, and the Dutch are known for their pranks, so I'm not quite certain that this was not just a beat-all take-em-to-the-cleaners. If not, the bioethics issues are the size of the cookies at Diddy Riese...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Patterns Are the Writing on the Wall

It's funny how history repeats itself over and over. It makes me think that perhaps history and human experience is just a series of logarithmic patterns, bound to repeat sooner or later. Perhaps it is, or perhaps we, as humans, naturally gravitate toward certain highs and lows. Who knows? I always find it immensely fascinating whenever I locate a person in history who has been through almost the exact same scenario that I'm currently facing on personal scale.
Recently I came upon the bio of Gene Kelly, not very disputably one of the most talented entertainers the United States has ever seen. Sifting through the details of his early years before MGM fame and glitz, I discovered that a 17-year-old Kelly originally set out to study journalism (parallel exhibit A) at Pennsylvania State College. Because of economic conditions at the time (1929), Kelly quit his studies in order to find a more stable position to make ends meet (parallel exhibit B). In 1930, his family opened a dance studio, where he taught while eventually going back to school and earning a BA (family business parallel exhibit C). He actually enrolled in law school (consideration of a law degree parallel exhibit D), but dropped out after two months to pursue dance teaching and choreography. Finally,in 1937, he moved to New York City to pursue his dreams and expand on his natural given talents (moving to a big city parallel exhibit E).
The life of Gene Kelly not only draws personal parallels for me, but also for others facing economic and career hardships at this time. It's an inspiring history lesson for people today. So a person's career of choice is facing a slump, uncertainty, or even complete elimination from the viable marketplace; that doesn't mean that a person cannot make a go at a fabulous career. Now is the time to ramp up the creativity, perhaps, to explore our other talents and natural gifts. You never know where it could lead. You may one day be dancing in roller skates, eh, Gene?

Monday, 10 August 2009

Evil evil evil

For trying to do something environmentally sound, I get burned. My resume/news show website, is currently down. I decided to switch to a new hosting service that used wind energy to power its servers, and now am faced with a lengthy domain transfer that could take up to five days. Right. Just before I skipperdeedee off to find my fame and fortune in Los Angeles (or at least find someone who will take a shine to my skills). How annoying.
I am now going to try to squash everything into a file and likely create resume multimedia CDs for the event (inevitably) that I can't get the site functional in time. Plus, I will have my Maglama YouTube, the measley thing that it is at the moment, as well.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Neglecting my blog has become a bad habit that I need to overcome. I have been busy working on several video projects, articles, reviews and profiles, and have actually been pouring my heart and soul out on personal blogs in light of this depressing economic times. Frankly, I haven't had much emotional energy for this sort of commentatorship. Sure, I'll chew the fat about it over coffee with an intellectually elevated colleague or friend, but formulating ideas that I think are worth something in writing takes a lot out of a person. Besides, most of my other spare time is taken up by scouring online ads for full time work.
Speaking of online job ads, leave it to scammers to take full advantage that every other human being in this country is looking for work. Via Craigslist especially, I will apply to a position, only to receive an email shortly thereafter prompting me to follow a link to "complete my application online." Perhaps some of these sorts of human resource websites are legitimate, but somehow I doubt it. Somehow I wonder if it's all a ploy to get people's addresses, phone numbers and other such information. To me, it seems like quite a hassel to go through to get people's info, but you never know. Anything's possible in this day and age. I have yet to find any significant "buyer beware" articles online regarding this sort of thing. However, when someone I don't know directs me to an unfamiliar link and asks me to put in my information, I have every right, as a web-savvy consumer, to be wary.
It's taxing on the mind and emotions to constantly be looking over one's digitized shoulder, but nowadays, with the free-wheeling information exchange of the Internet, we have no choice. I feel increasingly pained for those individuals who lived through the era of handshakes and heartfelt promises. The Harold Hills were few and far between, and a man or woman's word was just as good as signatures and certificates. Now we practically have to require a blood test for every transaction. And, thanks to people like Bernie Madoff, our trust in friends, colleagues and business people is in even more of a shambles.
It disgusts me that scammers prey on people's emotions and seek to kick them while they are down. One recent scamming ring would call elderly folks pretending to be their grandchildren, claiming to be stranded in a foreign country needing money to get home. It's crazy what these people will do. I've heard of some shameful phishing scams in my life, but this one was probably one of the worst.
We'll never be able to avoid these scams completely. A sucker is born every minute, as they say. People will run to the broken back window and forget about the front door. Here's a good site that offers SOME hints on avoiding these crazy schemes online:
Also, if you haven't already, check out for information on chain emails, fake giveaways, and other stories that sound too surreal to be true (usually they are).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Lady Power

A number of topics concerning women have arisen in the news as of late: some pleasant, some not so pleasant.

Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor is a pleasant story. Not only is she the arguably first Hispanic (Justice Benjamin Cardozo in the 1930s was thought to have Hispanic blood), but she is the third woman. Although she will likely sympathize with the left point of view while serving with the court, Sotomayor is no pantywaste. As a judge, she's hard as granite and lionness aggressive. She will give the other seasoned justices a hard kick in their robed backsides. For all that's worth, methinks she is a good choice, the best of both the female perspective and upholding the law. As all of Hollywood would say, work it, Girl.

Not-so-pleasant are the number of female murderers in the news as of late. According to the Bureau of Statistics, women account for 14 % of all violent crimes. I wonder what that will be the next time that gets calculated. Among the disturbing acts are the crimes where women murder their own children or the children of neighbors, however, most disturbing are the numbers of women who attempt to steal babies from other women by cutting the babies out of the wombs of pregnant women. I cannot imagine anything more horrifying. What may be even more horrifying, perhaps, are the possibilities of women getting away with these murders and raising the children as their own. I shudder to think...

At any rate, I thought that I would weigh in here as I have been grossly neglecting my blog in favor of video production and also attempting to find a full time gig in the world. Keep the faith.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Outgrowing the economy

Recently, I came across an article in the New York Times regarding large families living in motels, and was again struck by the thought that perhaps America needs to reexamine the dogmatic idea that bigger is better when it comes to family planning. In one case, the article mentions a couple, the husband who had worked at Target and the wife who had worked at Petco, having lost both of their jobs within months of each other. They have three children, and just added another baby to the family. Perhaps it's my upbringing, but common sense tells me that having lots of children without being able to afford to take care of them isn't a very good idea. However, thousands of low income families insist on bringing such "joy" into the world, straining government and charitable organizations that offer support for each child born superfluously outside of the family budget.

Lisa Belkin of the New York Times asked the question: How many is too many? We, as a society, have yet to determine that number. Scientists say that we should only replace ourselves in order to avoid further leeching resources from the Earth. That means, in essence, every couple should have just two children. Furthermore, considering the cost in this modern day to raise a child, most low income families cannot really afford to have more than one. Yet, somehow more keep coming.

I am not blaming all of the motel families, some of whom were legitimately well-planned from homes with decent earnings and just fell victims of circumstance, but I am saying that perhaps we need to provide better information within our educational system not only regarding the responsibility of having children, but the cost as well. In this economy, our entire way of life will have to be re-examined, and family size is just one aspect that I suspect will come under scrutiny.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Down a dangerous path: A personal note to the singer, Rihanna

Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna. I don't know you, but I do know what it is like to be in a situation like yours. Once you've been abused, .seeing someone else in a similar situation is like holding a mirror up to your past Yet, when a person is in it, she or he thinks that the situationis unique in all of the world. That's part of the evil glue that holds victims there for so long. People on the outside just don't understand and they never will.

It's easy for outsiders to say, "Don't go back to him." And, really, Rihanna is lucky to have friends, family and fans who support and worship her. Still, when a person's self esteem has reached bottom, no amount of praise or common sense can dig them out of the hole they've created. Being young, she's lost in love, that immature love that drowns out the self and replaces one heart with another.

Of all of the women whom I have interviewed on the topic of domestic violence, only one left after the first time. Of course, the first time with her landed her in the hospital. Most of the time it starts with a push, slap or grab and gradually increases in intensity and force. The abuse is typically followed by apologies and often manipulative tears. The abuse victims, with their loving hearts and broken self image, wind up back again for round after round. On average, it takes five to seven tries for a person to leave an abusive partner.

So, Rihanna, while I will understand the reasons that you went back, if you decide to go, I will tell you this: It doesn't get better. Rarely are batterers rehabilitated completely. You are young, you are beautiful and you are talented. There are other men out there who will treat you the way that you deserve to be treated. I've done the research, both professionally and personally, and I can attest to everything I say.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Am I hallucinating, or is life just really strange right now?

Between plane crashes and near misses, nuclear submarine collisions, octobabies, and politicians lying about severe corruption, this past week has been fairly strange in the news. I thought that my week was fairly eventful, talking to former President Jimmy Carter and hanging with Mayor Slay at the Arch River Roller Girls season kickoff event, but obviously it wasn't eventful enough to keep up with the times. Sometimes I have to take a wobbly step backward from my job in astonishment. I don't know what's getting weirder: our reportage of incidents or people in general.

Last week, I web browsed upon the naive face of little Alfie Patten, the underdeveloped 13-year-old teen father of a newborn. Now, a person would think that the shock of such a tragedy would end there, but as the story unraveled, we discovered that Alfie wasn't the only one experimenting with the baby's 15-year-old mother. A 16-year-old came forth to claim that he could have fathered the child. Now we have a real life Maury Pauvich DNA "Who's the babydaddy?" show. The public crunch on this stuff by the handful and the media keep popping it fresh.

I tend to wonder, however, what sort of impact a story such as Alfie Patten's has on a young teeneager. It could very well scare him or her from the prospect of experimenting with sex. However, seeing that another teen tried it, had a baby and was supported and not killed by parents, might have a different impact entirely on a developing young mind.

If there were only one media source in all the world, ethical decisions about what to print would be simple. Unfortunately, we live in a world of competition, the idea that, if we don't print something, someone else will. There is always someone out there with fewer scruples than you have. But, by letting go of most ethics, we add to the snowball effect, inciting emotions, inducing copycats and adding to the crime and corruption of others all over the world.

Words can be worse than biological warfare in ways. A word can infect a community and grow and spread into mass corruption. People like Isioma Daniel know this fact all too well. But we don't even have to start riots or mass killings to sicken the flock. A slightly sicker society is something that Nadya Suleman and little Alfie's expose writers might soon discover. But by then they'll be onto the next more sensational story.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Because I've recently had some major problems with my racket insurance company (which I won't name because of liability reasons, but it rhymes with "Puke off the windshield"), and also because I work and play with robots all day long, I thought I'd post this, just for laughs:

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Until now, I've been reluctant to comment on this whole octuplet story. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I don't know where to begin my rant.
When will the free world start to speak up about child hoarding? We condemn people for hoarding too many animals, say that they are psychologically ill, but when it comes to children, well, people are entitled to have as many as they want? Even if, financially, a parent is able to shoulder the burden of raising 14 children, he or she cannot possibly be able to meet the psychological, developmental and emotional needs of each individual person. Isn't that automatic neglect?
As for fertility clinics, they are as unethical and unnatural on the other side of the coin as those "pro-lifers" say that abortion clinics are. If people are so intent on letting nature run its course, then they shouldn't be implanting multiple embryos into wombs.
And now, especially now, when scientists are screaming for people to quit having large families, how is having one anything but unethical and selfish? The reason for this woman's desperate fertility clinic visit in the first place? She wanted "one more girl" to complete her collection. Something is not right here. In light of everything that is sacred about life, something is not right with these people.
So now, here we are. This woman will eventually unleash her under-stimulated, undernourished children into the world and allow for them to use up natural resources and pollute the Earth, just like Echidna and her demon spawn. You know, sometimes I think that Greek mythology isn't so far off from the real world.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Hail to the Chief

There are unexplicable times when history falls neatly into place, as if it were crafted by divine hands of some sort. Inauguration day, the day when we welcome our 44th commander of the United States into his office, fell right into step between a day honoring another great leader, and a month which again honors that leader and others who sought peace and solidarity.
As for the negative nellies who want to focus on things like Rick Warren, or the obstacles surrounding our current leader, I think they've set their scopes on the miniscule and have neglected the point. We, as Americans cannot rely on one sole person to bear the burdens of our nation. It is a movement and it takes a village to get these things accomplished. That movement, the mobilization of communities to help others in need, is the change about which Obama speaks. That change is fueled by the hope and inspiration of our President's speeches, which is why we so thirsted for someone of his caliber.
Those individuals who insist that President Obama's ideas are grandiose and simply a political chess move have yet to open their eyes and to see things as they really are. After seeing the massive ocean swells of mini flags flapping, the tears, the joy, the school gymnasium chants of "Obama! Obama!" how can a person deny that at least something the like of which we have never seen in recent years in American politics is happening in this country?
In this country we've learned not to be too optimistic. Cynicism crosses everyone's mouth because we've been scorched by too many lies and too many let-downs. But there's something about this rosey side of the blackened cloud that's appealing. Perhaps a little hope, naive or frivilous as it may seem, is the perfect prescription for our ills.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Mideast peace and mainstream media responsibility

Every day the fighting in Gaza, headline after headline, yawns over mainstream news websites, television programs, and looms behind every radio program and podcast. Danger, red alerts, alarms sound, hate and violence are everywhere you look. If you never looked outside of your own door, you'd think that's what the world had amounted to.
Over the past month or so, I've been following people who have a different agenda: grassroots organizations, individuals and scholars who are looking for an end to the fighting. What amount of glory do these people get in the news? Not one blurb, mostly. It seems as though none of these peace-seeking missions deserves coverage, according to the press, because, it just doesn't quite get the ratings that bloodshed and violence do.
Thankfully, bloggers who care about these causes do exist, and journalists like me, who managed to get one article regarding The Mind of Peace Experiment, a revolutionary project that no one seems to know anything about, yet has received attention from heads of state and scholars from all over the world. How much attention will it take for the world to see that publicizing peace is just as important as publicizing war?

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Peace in Gaza

Over the past month, I've had the fabulous opportunity to be in a front row seat to an amazing experiment for peace in the Middle East. The article is posted here in the St. Louis Beacon, and I will continue to follow it in upcoming months.
There is hope!

Fear-mongering: wrangled by yrs truly

A Myspace friend, to my dismay, posted this bulletin:
----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
Date: Jan 8, 2009 1:59 AM

10 - Obama has gone back on his word to punish the Bush administration for war crimes.

9 - Obama has appointed former Sec. of Energy, Bill Richardson (from the Clinton Administration), as Sec. of Commerce. Richardson's tenure at the Energy Department was marred by reports of security lapses in nuclear laboratories. During one contentious hearing, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia told him "you would never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed. " So how is rewarding ineptitude change?

8 - Obama's Vice President elect, Joe Biden, is endorsing a bill that ends net neutrality as we know it and will take away much of our freedom on the Internet, the last safe haven for people of truth and honesty to tell their stories before the dark ages are re-instated.

7 - Obama is considering with Rahm Emanuel (his Chief of Staff) a "Universal Civilian Defense Program" which is a new propaganda and public relations term for the already existing National Guard militia. In other words, he is re-instating the draft. If this sounds familiar, it should. A similar program was proposed in 2007 by former Republican Congressman and former Nixon administration Sec. of Defense, Melvin R. Laird.

6 - Obama is NOT reversing the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, any of the unconstitutional changes in all the Defense Authorization Acts, and the Military Commissions Act which took away our right to Habeas Corpus, one of the MOST IMPORTANT and VITAL pieces of legislation that made this country great!

5 - Obama supported the Detroit bailout - which was completely against the majority's requests. This should come as no surprise because Obama voted FOR the Financial sector BAILOUT bill. Not much of a "change" from what we've had!

4 - Obama has now completely reversed his position on TAX breaks for the rich and now has stated, after giving it some thought, he will keep this policy he campaigned against which helped him get elected. I guess he CHANGED his mind.

3 - Obama has picked a Republican drug warrior (and recovering alcoholic), Jim Ramstad, to be his "Drug Czar". It looks like the "War on Drugs" will continue without change.

2 - Obama is keeping the current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates (a Republican), in that position! Gates should feel right at home - with the new Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel who is outspoken in his SUPPORT for the war in Iraq. How is this change?

1 - Obama is slowly going back on his word about getting us out of Iraq (who had NOTHING to do with 9/11) and has publicly said that all options, including nuclear, are on the table with Iran (who also had NOTHING to do with 9/11). Obama continues packing his cabinet with the most pro-war Democrats AND Republicans that he can find.

For many who supported Obama, his level of betrayal has quickly growing - and he's not even in office yet!

As MANY Libertarians had predicted, there may be VERY LITTLE, if any, difference between Obama and Bush. So meet the new boss... same as the old boss.

To which I replied:

Friend, I'm really surprised that you posted this. First, Obama isn't even in the Presidential seat yet, so most of this stuff is pretty much grounded in speculation. Also, the majority of this is under-researched fear mongering, which I always go out of my way to de-bunk for the good of every good-intentioned human being in this country.

10. This one is STILL open, and no conclusions have been made. Congress doesn't want Obama to look into this stuff right away, because he has other issues to focus on, like rescuing the economy and foreign policy (not to mention that they want to take the heat off of themselves in all of this), and Obama has not made any declarations. Public interest groups, however, are pushing Obama to conduct investigations. Read what the Detroit Free Press has to say about it in this most recent article:

9. The Richardson incident was true. You can read about it here: However, what they don't tell you is that many of the problems that Richardson had with security predicated his arrival on the job. At any rate, he's not even going to be a part of the administration, so this one is pretty much moot at this point.

8. Oh yeah, Joe Biden, going to take away our freedom in the Internet? Really? There is WAY too much money to be made on the Internet for that, and we haven't even chipped the iceberg: . He's an old guy and maybe doesn't quite understand the potential of the movement and. Apple, Yahoo, Google all those bigwigs will fight this one. Here are his past positions, straight from Wired Mag: His main concerns with the web are to protect children fron online predators, actually, and have little to do with hindering civil freedom. Here's another article about him: Besides, Obama didn't pick him for his technology smarts, he picked him because he is ace on foreign policy, has and for his stance on the war.

7. As for this one, it's Rahm Emmanuel's non-military idea from a book he co-wrote in 2006 It hasn't even been drafted into a bill. There has been absolutely no discussion of this plan since 2006. The only places I've even been able to dig up any information are from extreme right wing bloggers and, again, fear-mongering web publications, like this YouTube channel:

Obama said he doesn't support the draft, and, though maybe he believes that young people need to perform mandatory community service, until I see something in writing, I'm going to take him at his word.

6. I'm just referring to B.O.'s website here:

5. Well, this is just anti-Democrat propaganda. Nobody was happy about giving a bailout to anyone, but all of the evidence provided to Congress said that, if we didn't do anything, the consequences would be catastrophic. Let's NOT forget who got us into the mess in the first place. With the car companies, it wasn't fair. They shoved their workers out into the line of fire, and then begged the government to rescue them. What could they do? It blows, it really does, but the Dems are the labour party of the US, and therefore obligated to help these people.

4. He has said nothing about retracting his tax hike for rich people, but I think his focus now is to get EVERYONE spending money. His economic recovery plan is very, very basically outlined, so we don't know the details yet. We wont' know, again, until he gets to office. Plus, this was a HUGE sticking point with even moderate conservatives in the election. People wanted to hang onto their money. So, uhm, dontcha think, if he wasn't going to do this, he would have said so during his campaign? It would have made it a lot easier for him, and Joe the Plumber wouldn't be going to Israel!

3. This one's true. I think it was a bad pick as well.

2. I dont' know what this one's supposed to get at, really. Obama wanted a diverse cabinet. Besides, Gates is a moderate with years of experience, which is what Obama needed most.

1. What they don't say is that Obama inherited a friggin MESS in Iraq, caused by the Bush admin. I'm SURE the neo-cons and crazies are just waiting to pin all of the residual diarrhea from the Dubya legacy onto Obama's coattails. If he does stay there for any length of time, it will be because the place has gone to Hell in a handbasket.

So, that's all I have to say about this stuff. Although I was an Obama supporter, I saw the dude, looked into his eyes, shook his hand. I have no delusions. The guy is a human being who has taken on a tremendous task of saving the world after one person mucked it all up. I think that, while yes, we should keep an eye on anything that might affect our civil liberties, we shouldn't be unduly paranoid before the guy is even sworn in. It won't be perfect, there will be some crap we don't like, but unfortuntely it takes time to move from an extreme right-wing government to a more balanced one. I'd give the guy somewhat of a break.


Honestly, I hate this kind of nutso propaganda. If you're not willing to get your facts straight, don't circulate this stuff. It's great to be aware of what's going on and to look deeper than face value, of course. But, in this age of ridiculous accusations, net spam and boogie boogie man stories, let's get real. Show me the facts, I'll face them. Until then, let's unify a little, okay?

Just my opinion, but ya know...