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Pondering the American Life and “Where’s This Thing Headed, Anyway?”

Once again it’s late and my thoughts are swirling. A few things got my mind stepping from place to place. First it was this chemical spill in West Virginia that has hundreds of thousands of people without water to drink, bathe in, etc. Then there was the update on the Target data breach which now says that up to 70 million people’s card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc. could have been compromised. From there it was easy for me to jump to one of the few questions I struggle with on a regular basis: what the hell are we doing?

enjoy_capitalism-largeAs far as I can see, the vast majority of the world’s issues stem from money, one way or another. Governments and companies abuse their own people in order for a few to profit. Large populations are taken advantage of in order to make stuff at a lower cost, so that product prices are lower/more competitive, thereby selling more, and again, making a small percentage even richer than they already are. Capitalism and the model of “go to school to get a job to make money to buy stuff” just can’t be sustained. Have you ever walked through a department store or grocery store and wondered, “Who is going to buy all this stuff?” And for me, the next question is, “Why do I want all this stuff?”

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Why the Zombie Fetish?

zombiesFor the past couple years I’ve wondered why so many people I know are fascinated with zombies. At first I thought it was just the next “vampire thing”—you know, being morbidly intrigued by super-powered monsters—but that didn’t fly because zombies are just plain gross. Vampires may be deadly, but they’re always sexy, some are friendly, and they’re a minority. Then I thought the interest stemmed from the exhilarating horror of it, the car wreck you can’t look away from. I’ve definitely known people that just love to see disintegrating or rotting flesh, guts oozing out of open wounds, or gallons of blood squirting at the camera. But that attraction of gore couldn’t explain why almost everyone I know is into zombies in one way or another.

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Are Streaming Music Services Evil?

I have to admit that I do believe that most businesses are sort of evil, because I believe that money really is the root of all evil. This belief doesn’t stop me from supporting businesses because, well, I’m an American. I’ve grown up in this glorious first-world country, growing accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and while I try to mitigate my negative impact on the world through smart consumer choices—and through recycling, reusing, and blahdy blahdy blah—I still basically support evil.

For the longest time I resisted paying for a streaming music service, but the need to balance my greed for music and how much I was paying for it finally pushed me over the edge to subscribe to Rdio (plus my friend works there). And like most addictions, I was in denial because I didn’t want to believe there could be anything bad with it. Yet I started to let myself wonder: how do artists actually make money off this shit? I mean, I’m only paying $10/month and I’m listening to hundreds of artists/songs/albums…the math doesn’t work out.

Then today, I read this:

A few bands or labels, it seems, haven’t quite jumped on board. Part of the reason is that a song has to be played between 100 and 150 times on a streaming service in order to generate the same licensing revenue as a single download sale.

Ouch. And then I read this:

Here’s how much money one band estimates it makes per Spotify play: $0.009. That’s not a typo. It’s almost one cent. And we know what one cent is worth. A post on TheNextWeb estimates that, at that rate, the band needs more than 5,000 plays to break even (based on how much it costs to have a service digitally distribute the music). To make $50 profit, they’d need another 5,000 plays.

Double ouch.

Being a musician and having many musician friends, of course I believe musicians should get paid. Yet I’m still not sure I’m willing to give up my virtually unlimited music fix that costs me $10/month. To maintain this habit of mine through direct music purchases, I’d have to spend at least 10x that. It’s the Walmart syndrome: I know the cheap stuff made in China is badness for everyone, but I can’t afford the stuff that’s locally-made/organic/fair trade/produced-by-Americans-or-some-equally-happy-worker. So I have to decide if I make it a priority and pay extra, go without (gasp! horror! apocolypse!), or buy “the cheap stuff” and turn a half blind eye and tell myself “everyone else is doing it” and me stopping won’t make a difference anyway.

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The City of Clovis Found Jesus a Sponsor

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There is so much going on in this picture, I just don’t know where to begin. I was cruising around Clovis the other day because my wife had a dentist appointment over there, and I pulled up to this light to make a u-turn. This scene I captured in the photo could not be missed from any angle in the busy intersection, and as I saw and understood more of what was going on here, I basically laughed out loud. As I waited for my light to change, I rolled down the window and took this picture and as I was making the turn, I actually got strange looks.

I wanted to shout, “C’mon people! Do you see what is going on here? You’re making a generic, vague plug for prosperity in your city, while supporting Christianity and advertising windows. What the hell?!” I’m still unsure of how anyone in charge of any of this decided that posting a huge cross above a window advertisement and cheesy, bathroom-tile-fountain was a great idea? Yes, it’s central and visible, but what message are you sending with regard to other religions in your city and about Jesus and crucifixion for that matter. It’s kind of grotesque, really. Have we become so mired in capitalism, close-mindedness, and shitty aesthetics that we can’t see how gaudy and lame this is? Wait, let me answer that: yes Clovis, you have. This isn’t just an eye-sore, it’s disrespectful and truly un-American.

In the end I just laughed, thinking of this rant in my head, and imagined all my friends agreeing with me and then I imagined all the people that drive by that every day, super proud of their city, awestruck by its beauty, and thinking how that is *exactly* what Jesus would have wanted. God bless Clovis and God bless America. Amen.

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Amazons

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I saw this today and at first, I was like, “What the what?!” I knew it wasn’t only for moms, but still, as a dad who takes care of a lot of the kiddo stuff around here, including ordering shit online, FROM AMAZON, I was a little offended. My next thought was of course, they chose the name because of “the ring” of “Amazon” with “Mom”. It just sounds better; rolls off the tongue smoother. Sure enough, I read the fine print:

“Yes. Despite the name, Amazon Mom is open to anyone who is responsible for caring for a baby or young child–“Amazon Primary Caregiver” just didn’t have the same ring to it. Kidding aside, we chose this name because we noticed moms in social communities (like our Amazon discussion boards) looking to connect and share information about products and problems with other moms. We wanted a name that would let these groups know that this program was created with their unique needs in mind.”

So, there it is. Amazon is basically saying it’s open to everyone, but we’re only focusing on this one group of people: moms that contribute to online discussion forums about baby products and THEIR “unique” needs. I also think it’s funny to consider the correlation to Amazons (i.e. appealing to a dominant woman culture).

Time for some devil’s advocate, so sit tight a minute:
On the one hand…
I am offended. Here is a major online retailer branding something that totally excludes me. Yes, it’s in title only, but still, it sends a message that they considered me, but in the end their marketing department didn’t respect me enough to include me (except in the fine print). How can we as a society expect more out of our dads, when we continue to marginalize them to jokes about mowing the lawn, manscaping, man-caves, and barbecuing? Imagine if marketing department focused adverts for care products for children at men too, as if to say, “Yes, we acknowledge and expect the men in our society to be stepping up on this level. We’re appealing to you men out there that care if your child has diapers.” Would it solve the lazy, clueless, self-centered dad thing? Probably not. But it couldn’t hurt, right? Given all this, hell no, I’m not signing up for Amazon Mom.

On the other hand…
Dude’s aren’t thinking that much—they’re not that sensitive. Who cares what it’s called? As long as I’m saving money, fuggit, sign me up. I’m man enough TO be a member of Amazon Mom goddammit!

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