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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Listening

I remember writer Ray Bradbury’s past television series, The Ray Bradbury Theater, in which, at the beginning of each episode, Mr. Bradbury ascends to his studio in a rickety elevator, unlocks a door, and steps into his mysterious writing chamber. The room is filled with curiosities of all sorts; knickknack items crowd every square inch of shelf space and windowsills. While the TV show’s credit music dies down, Mr. Bradbury peers around the room through his thick glasses while he tells us he’s waiting for inspiration. That broken clock over there or that odd piece of jigsaw puzzle here; or perhaps the cracked African voodoo mask in the corner sitting next to a mirror in whose reflection dangles a Cupie Doll hanging from the ceiling. He feels a story in that one, he tells us. A story waiting to be written if he but listens.

Well, I’m listening right now, searching for a thread of inspiration or direction, but all I hear is my computer’s cooling fan and a strange thumping outside my window. I get up from my chair and press my face against the glass. A shadow brushes the window pane one-eighth of an inch from my eyes. A dark hand thrusts through the dirty glass, grabs me, pulls me through the tiny window without my body even breaking it. Cold air fills up my lungs and – – shivering in an unexplainable chill and surrounded by a musky odor like damp wolf hair – – I am whisked effortlessly up into a treetop. From there I see a light shining from my bedroom-office window. Is that me looking through it?

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Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012. He was not only one of my favorite writers but an inspirational figure to thousands of young writers everywhere. I am grateful he left behind such a rich legacy for us to enjoy for centuries to come.

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FRIDAY FOOD THING

I am a bacon aficionado. I have no scruples opening up those cardboard sample windows on every package of bacon in the grocery store cooler until I find one that has a conspicuous absence of fat. Or, carving away the fat from within purchased packages and returning it (the fat) to the store from which I purchased the bacon. “See this?” I pleasantly explain at the Customer Service counter while dangling my Ziplock bag of pork fat . “Six ounces of FAT in a sixteen-ounce package of premium bacon!”

Since I rarely get an acceptable response other than personal agreement, I have come up with my own explanation as to what’s really going on with bacon:

  1. Pigs are getting  fatter.
  2. Packaging technologies are getting better at displaying only what manufacturers want us to see.

Browsing the processed meats display cooler (one of the most heavily trafficked areas in any grocery store) for a great-looking package of lean bacon is difficult. There are so many different types of bacon, hot dogs, sausage, scrapple and assorted meats shoved into the same display area that’s it difficult to tell which item tag belongs to which item. Bad design: time consuming, frustrating and confusing within a crowd of people vying for space while checking out the goods, especially when I am not the only one peeking through the clear plastic window of each and every one to make sure that the particular package does indeed contain bacon rather than pork fat.

Sometimes, a line of shopping carts pile up such that the patrons trapped in-between cannot even move, moreover browse the bologna labeling. As a result, savvy shopping cart drivers often park their carts in nearby aisles in an attempt to avoid the gridlock, resulting in mini-traffic jams all over the store.

I think it would make sense for bacon manufactures to package bacon with a representational slice clearly visible through the front window of the packaging and to remove the cardboard flaps altogether from the rear side of the packaging. Who wants to buy a package of bacon with an already torn open cardboard window pane anyhow?

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I have found that it is usually not a good thing when a large company providing a costly service suddenly decides to change the rules, especially when that company feels compelled to tell you about it in a gobbledygook email filled with legalese that sets a 30-day deadline-in-writing for your “opting out” of the agreement. I may be old fashioned, but giving up ones’ constitutional right to a trial by jury for any reason is more than just a little bit problematic.

Dear Customer,

Guess what??!! We recently made changes to your Residential Customer Agreement with [TV/Cable/Satellite Provider]. One of the changes adds an arbitration provision that requires you to use either arbitration or small claims court, not a jury trial, to resolve any legal disputes with [TV/Cable/Satellite Provider]. You may opt out of this arbitration provision by providing written notice to [TV/Cable/Satellite Provider] within 30 days.

More than likely, you have already received something similar to this, and — if you are anything like me — scratched your head and thought something like, “What the hell is THIS?”

I’ve spent several hours researching this topic. Here are some Google searches that will help you learn more about Arbitration Provisions:
Arbitration Clauses Pros and Cons
Arbitration Pros and Cons

From my perspective, these arbitration provision agreements seem to favor the service provider; I suspect you will be seeing more of them in the future.

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One of my favorite songs is Against the Wind, by Bob Seger. The song was released in 1980 at a time in my life when I was young and foolish and free and impressionable and just beginning to travel down a path that eventually delivered me to where I am now. Hell, yes. Against the Wind was kick-ass back then. The song was so popular and so much air time was given to it that it captured a Grammy Award that same year and embedded itself into the hearts and minds and consciousness of millions of people. Me included.

Changing our points of view is what good art, literature, music and poetry is all about: a glimpse, a sound, a special light or shadow, a hint, the glimmer of something forgotten or sensed for the first time, a recollection or fleeting scent; when it happens we may not even be aware that something amazing has melded with our souls. Bob Seger songs are good at doing that. “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” is a line from Against the Wind that has stuck with me through the years. Although the words refer to an obvious love affair gone wrong, as I grew older and less foolish and less impressionable, the lyric’s interpretation took on various and more ominous undertones.

Mom passed away in April of this year. She was 95 years old. She once mentioned to me during one of our daily early morning coffee break telephone chats that she had been puzzling over how the things that we learn to do better as we grow older would have helped us so much more if we had known about them when we were young enough to appreciate them better. Wish I didn’t know now what I should have known then.

I can live with that. Mom, I will miss you.

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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I am about to become a hypocrite, so let me get that out of the way right up front. I’m a hypocrite because many years ago, when I was a PM Magazine story producer for WBRZ TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I produced a “Hot Chile Pepper Eating Contest” feature story sponsored by WBRZ. The contest took place in a steamy Cajun bayou bar on a Friday night. A hot steamy night. The story was so entertaining it was included on PM Magazine’s national reel. I enjoyed writing the script and editing the story, and although the contestants were some of the craziest people I had ever met, I enjoyed being at the event and even thought it somewhat socially redeeming.

How does that make me a hypocrite?

I recently watched several minutes of the 2015 Nathan’s Famous 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest before switching channels. Unlike my Hot Chile Pepper Eating Contest, I found the hot dog eating contest a disgusting display of gluttony and uncomplimentary commentary indicative of why the American lifestyle is often perceived as it is by many global communities. What I saw was… embarrassing.

The 2015 Nathan’s Famous 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest winner consumed an incredible sixty-two hot dogs and buns in ten minutes. Consuming a hot dog was a two-step process. To speed things up a bit, the contestants were allowed to “dip” each hot dog bun in water for several seconds to make them mushy and *easier to shove down the contestant’s throats. The bun-mush mixture was then swallowed separately from the hot dogs themselves, which were crammed into the mouth 2 at a time in a kind of plunger motion.

I suspect my hypocritical perspective change from the perceived humor of teary-eyed contestants plopping hot peppers into one’s mouths compared to the repugnant ingurgitating of beloved all-American hot dogs is as much a matter of being 30-something then vs 60-something now.

“I can eat fifty eggs.”

*I wonder how many eggs Paul Newman’s character could have eaten in the movie, Cool Hand Luke had he been allowed to eat them scrambled instead of hard boiled?

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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In case you have never tested a battery by licking the ends of the *terminals, a 9-volt battery can pack quite a wallop, even ones you think may be dead. The following link was submitted to my sister blog site, Recipe du Jour by long-time subscriber, Joan, through my good friend and blog’s owner, Rich.

Common sense should tell us that all metal-encased batteries — fresh or otherwise — should never be stored alongside other metal batteries for obvious reasons. (Think of loose batteries as a jumble of (+) and (-) thingies enthusiastically waiting to rub their tiny, orgyastic nubs together.) With the holiday season approaching, I thought this video might help us think twice before tossing a handful of batteries into a space (with Christmas decorations, for instance) without first considering the possible repercussions. As someone who has experienced a house fire first-hand, I can tell you there are very few ways to ruin your day faster or more completely than a rampant inferno at home.

Thank you, Joan and Rich.

(*of course I have never tried this, nor recommend anyone doing so…)

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I bet I’m not the only one noticing how television programming has recently begun messing with us big time. Probably in retaliation for our recording more and more programs and later fast-forwarding through the commercials. Yeah. I’m talking about those start and end times that mysteriously add or subtract a minute or three to a television show’s runtime for no other reason than disrupting our viewing habits by snipping off a recorded program’s last couple of scenes.

Now, THAT’S some serious messing with us.

In my mind, there is absolutely nothing worse than losing the last 45 seconds of a “Longmire” or “Elementary” or “Castle” or “Da Vinci’s Demons” or a “Vikings” episode just before the whodunnit is revealed or some inconceivable secret is about to be disclosed or unspeakable act committed or a weapon is pointed directly at a major character’s heart.

Which is why I have begun a grass roots and strategic first-level counterattack campaign using my provider’s recording/Timer options to extend an end time by tagging on an extra 2 or 3 minutes of recording time to the scheduled end of a favorite program. Unfortunately, my counter attack has been short lived and I gotta tell you that television networks have already begun counter-counterattacking my devious counterattack, and satellite providers absolutely love it: by increasing the number of late-ending programming, standard satellite receivers can’t always record more than one popular program at the same time if program start and end times overlap by those silly 2 or 3 minutes.

Most cable/satellite companies don’t give a hoot how television programming messes with us or how frustrated we get trying to record our programming choices in their entirety. That’s because most of these satellite providers have come up with an expensive solution:

“ATTENTION VIEWERS: if your older receivers allow you to only record 2 programs at the same time, simply purchase our new “super-dooper” receiver package. Sure, it costs WAY more than your current obsolete receiver box, but it allows you to arbitrarily record up to SEVEN shows simultaneously — and, with over TWO THOUSAND hours of recording time!”

There are additional tricks lurking in the television programming arsenal of weaponry which affect us viewers, too. Here are only a few of them:

  • Miniaturized unreadable credits from the previous show running half-screen at a ka-zillion miles per hour and parallel to the new and current program’s miniaturized opening half-screen scene, making both the credits and the new opening scenes impossibly too small to see. What the hell is the point in having credits if we can’t read them — isn’t that the point of having credits?
  • Extremely large, cutesy and obnoxious animated teases that interrupt the program we are watching and inform us what shows will be airing later on in the evening. What — we are smart enough to reprogram DishNetwork or Direct TV’s start and end times but we’re too stupid to know which programs we want to watch?
  • The quickie flashback synopses at the beginning of new episodes that begin, “previously on…” yet rarely, EVER show us the closing scenes from the previous week’s show. You know the ones I mean — the same scenes that were clipped the first time because television programming was “messing with us”.
  • Inane informational pop-ups, TV station logos, and screen-crawlers that completely cover up CC Closed Captioning but only during critical scenes.

GOOD NEWS:

Thankfully, I have come up with a 100% sure-fire and fail-proof solution to resolve all start and end time recording issues. All you have to do is take out a small wire snip, carefully open your receiver’s hidden contro

“ATTENTION READERS: this blog post has been clipped due to arbitrary word-count programming changes.”

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