Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back Before The Sixties


Some interesting observations today from Judith Warner about the current fascination with late 1950s/early 1960s America, on television (Mad Men) and in the movies (Revolutionary Road):

"Unlike the baby boomers before us, we “baby busters” of the ’60s never rebelled against the trappings of domesticity represented by our images of the 1950s. Many of us, deep down, yearn for it, having experienced divorce or other sorts of family dislocation in the 1970s. We keep alive a secret dream of “a model of routine and order and organization and competence,” a life “where women kept house, raised kids and kept their eyebrows looking really good,” as the writer Lonnae O’Neal Parker once described it in The Washington Post Magazine."

"The fact is: as an unrebellious, cautious, anxious generation, many of us are living lives not all that different from those of the parents of the early 1960s, yet without the seeming ease, privileges and benefits. Husbands have been stripped of the power perks of their gender, wives of the anticipation that they’ll be taken care of for life."

As with all of Judith Warner's columns, the Comments about them are always worth reading too:

"My life as a 50s and 60s housewife was quite pleasant, although we managed on far, far less than the two-income homes of today. Married women today have a mountain of debt to worry about, now that their husbands are unemployed.It couldn't last--the grandiose culture that so many women expected to enjoy. Self-indulgence has led so many ordinary couples to financial ruin, despite the wife's second income. Expectations of self-fulfillment have been far too high."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - On Now!


Have you been watching the new season of "Battlestar Galactica" this month?

"Scifi.com, the online site representing the Sci Fi Channel, serves up a holiday gift with its original online series “Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy.”

"In this 10-part serial, Lt. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) finds himself trapped on a shuttle adrift in deep space with five others, including two No. 8 Cylons (played by Grace Park)." (Boston Herald)

I haven't been watching it either, since I don't usually watch TV on my computer.

But I think I'll have a look!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fly The Friendly Skies


A former TWA Flight Attendant reflects on the decline of airline service over the past two decades:

"I know the days are gone when [flight] attendants could be written up if we did not put the linen napkins with the T.W.A. logo embossed on them in the lower righthand corner of the first-class diners’ trays. As are the days when there were three dinner options on flights from Boston to Los Angeles — in coach. When, once, stuck on a tarmac in Newark for four hours, a planeload of passengers got McDonald’s hamburgers and fries courtesy of the airline.

"I have experienced the decline of service along with the rest of the flying public. But I believe I have felt it more acutely because I remember the days when to fly was to soar. The airlines, and their employees, took pride in how their passengers were treated. A friend who flew for Pan Am and I have a friendly rivalry over which airline was better. Friendly, yes. But we each believe we worked for the best.

"We tell stories about cooking lamb chops and dressing them in foil pantaloons; we debate the beauty of my Ralph Lauren uniform versus her Oleg Cassini. I like to tell her how we would have the children on board serve the after-dinner mints — delicious pale-green circles with T.W.A. stamped on them, arranged on a silver tray. We remember the service we provided — dare I say cheerfully? Happily? Proudly? And when my friend and I part ways, although we hold on to our allegiances, we know that all of our passengers were served well."

I am an infrequent flyer today, but old enough to remember those glory days of air travel -- particularly international travel -- which I did a lot of for business.

We just returned from a great vacation, marred only by the serial hassles of airlines and airports. The personal memories evoked in this article are warm, but so very distant. And, I'm afraid, never to return.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hooters

File this under "Be Careful What You Wish For:"

I was once part of a team reviewing a software application that vets internet inquiries from potential customers. As part of the project, a list of "vulgar" words and phrases was developed to screen out pranks and inquiries not worthy of followup.

One of the words on the list was "hooters," which meant that any inquiry containing that word would not be passed through for marketing and sales followup.

Someone on the team pointed out that Hooters has 310 restaurants, generated over $120 million in revenue in the prior year, and according to this recent article is open to new technology:

"ATLANTA -- Hooters of America Inc. will install Radiant Systems' 6e line of back-office and point-of-sale technology at all 110 company-run branches of the 310-unit casual-dining chain, Radiant said.

"The technology vendor also said Atlanta-based Hooters had named Radiant as a preferred supplier to franchisees."

"By providing comprehensive table-service functionality from the POS to the back office, Radiant technology will help Hooters efficiently manage restaurants and improve profitability," Chris Duncan, Hooters vice president of administration, said in a written statement.

"He said the 6e system's centralized data-reporting capabilities and Internet functionality -- or "Web-architected platform," as Radiant described it -- would "allow our employees and managers to see enterprisewide metrics in near real-time, which will enable us to manage growth and change based on more accurate operational information."

"Hooters" was promptly removed from the "vulgar" list.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Karen Carpenter Australia 1971

We Are China Ten Years Ago

Tom Friedman has a way of getting at what's wrong with us:

"I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

"It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone.

"A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train — with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

"Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?)

"As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before.

"Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport.

"It closed in 1998."

It's time for the United States to re-boot.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Leg Lamp


Screen Grab | The Leg Lamp
By Pilar Viladas (New York Times)

For sale: replicas of the kitsch leg lamp made famous by the film “A Christmas Story.”

I’ve long been a fan of the movie “A Christmas Story,” the tale of 1940s Midwestern childhood that opened in 1983 to lukewarm reviews, but which later became a cult classic.

Until recently, however, I was unaware that the film’s infamous leg lamp — a saucy light fixture shaped like a woman’s leg, complete with fishnet stocking and a fringed satin shade that suggests a World War II pinup girl’s undergarment — was anything more than an amusing/horrifying prop.

In fact, the Web site redriderleglamps.com sells replicas of the kitsch classic in several sizes, from a 50-inch floor model to a 20-inch desktop size. And for a (considerable) surcharge, die-hard fans can have the lamp shipped in a facsimile of the wooden crate marked “Fragile” that caused such a stir when it arrived at the home of the film’s 9-year-old protagonist, Ralphie, and which occasioned one of the film’s funniest lines.

Darren McGavin, who plays Ralphie’s perenially grouchy father, looks at the crate and says, “Fra-gee-lay … must be Italian!”

Brian Jones, the man who began making the leg lamps in 2003, also bought — for $150,00 on eBay in 2005 — the wood-frame house in Cleveland where “A Christmas Story” was made and opened it to the public; according to a recent story on cnn.com, 30,000 people a year now visit. There’s also a museum and gift shop across the street, where you can ogle the leg lamps in person.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recession-Proof


Add Restylane and Botox to Wal-Mart and McDonalds on the short list of things that seem to be thriving in this awful economy.

“It’s like comfort food,” says Maralyn Burr of Omaha, Neb., who in June lost her job as a district sales manager for Borders bookstores. With $140,000 in debt from her 22-year-old daughter’s musical education, Burr told the WSJ she’s slashed spending and all but stopped eating out. But she hasn’t given up her Restylane and Botox injections."

As indicated in an earlier post on the Freeway, Botox appears to have become mainstream.

Governing The Other 56,255,297


My Manager approved my request for a vacation day on January 20. I’m not going to Washington that day, but I am looking forward to President Obama’s Inauguration speech.

I was impressed with his election-night speech in Chicago, after it was clear that he’d won the election.

I think Maureen Dowd really captured that moment in her column the next day in the New York Times:

“His somber speech in the dark Chicago night was stark and simple and showed that he sees what he’s up against. There was a heaviness in his demeanor, as if he already had taken on the isolation and “splendid misery,” as Jefferson called it, of the office he’d won only moments before. Americans all over the place were jumping for joy, including the block I had been on in front of the White House, where they were singing: “Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”

“He rejected the Democratic kumbaya moment of having your broad coalition on stage with you, as he talked about how everyone would have to pull together and “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

“Promising to also be president for those who opposed him, Obama quoted Lincoln, his political idol and the man who ended slavery: “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

As I wrote in my post just after the election, 56,255,297 Americans voted for McCain/Palin, and many more didn’t vote at all.

It appears at this point that President-elect Obama understands this reality; I hope so, because we really need a President who can govern in the best interest of all Americans.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Look Before You Leap!


There are real animals on the savanna outside our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and there may even be antelopes, although it certainly is not a freeway.

And there is a framed drawing of three monkeys on our wall, illustrating Fante Proverb No. 7 from Ghana, which I've been thinking about all week:

"The monkey leaps only as far as it can reach"

And this article from the New York Times popped up when I searched for more information about the proverb.

Walt Disney World really is a magical place!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vacation!

We're outta here for a week!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fly Your Freak Flag At Half-Staff Today

Wombs For Rent

Here's an update to a Freeway post about women lining up to sell their eggs:



In a recent Wall Street Journal, Thomas Frank responds to New York Times reporter Alex Kuczynski’s personal account of hiring a surrogate mother.

Actually, “responds to” is probably not the right phrase -- it’s more like “rips apart.”

Thomas Frank writes:

"Surrogate motherhood has been the subject of much philosophical and political dispute over the years.

"To summarize briefly, it is a class-and-gender minefield. When money is exchanged for pregnancy, some believe, surrogacy comes close to organ-selling, or even baby-selling.

"It threatens to commodify not only babies, but women as well, putting their biological functions up for sale like so many Jimmy Choos.

"If surrogacy ever becomes a widely practiced market transaction, it will probably make pregnancy into just another dirty task for the working class, with wages driven down and wealthy couples hiring the work out because it's such a hassle to be pregnant."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe Nominees

FILM

BEST FEATURE - DRAMA
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“Frost/Nixon”
“The Reader”
“Revolutionary Road”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

BEST FEATURE - COMEDY
“Burn After Reading”
“Happy-Go-Lucky”
“In Bruges”
“Mamma Mia!”
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

ACTOR - DRAMA
Leonardo DiCaprio - “Revolutionary Road”
Frank Langella - “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn - “Milk”
Brad Pitt - “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke - “The Wrestler”

ACTRESS - DRAMA
Anne Hathaway - “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie - “Changeling”
Meryl Streep - “Doubt”
Kristin Scott Thomas - “I’ve Loved You So Long”
Kate Winslet - “Revolutionary Road”

ACTOR - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Javier Bardem - “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Colin Farrell - “In Bruges”
James Franco - “Pineapple Express”
Brendan Gleeson - “In Bruges”
Dustin Hoffman - “Last Chance Harvey”

ACTRESS - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Rebecca Hall - “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Sally Hawkins - “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Frances McDormand - “Burn After Reading”
Meryl Streep - “Mamma Mia!”
Emma Thompson - “Last Chance Harvey”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tom Cruise, “Tropic Thunder”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Ralph Fiennes, “The Duchess”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Sam Mendes, “Revolutionary Road”

SCREENPLAY - MOTION PICTURE
Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”
David Hare, “The Reader”
Peter Morgan, “Frost/Nixon”
Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Baader Meinhof Complex” (Germany)
“Everlasting Moments” (Sweden)
“Gomorrah” (Italy)
“I’ve Loved You So Long” (France)
“Waltz with Bashir” (Israel)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
“Bolt”
“Kung Fu Panda”
“Wall-E”

ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat– “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Clint Eastwood — “Changeling”
James Newton Howard — “Defiance”
A.R. Rahman — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Hans Zimmer — “Frost/Nixon”

ORIGINAL SONG
“Down to Earth” — “Wall-E” (Music by Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman; Lyrics by Peter Gabriel)
“Gran Torino” — “Gran Torino (Music by Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens;
Lyrics by Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens)
“I Thought I Lost You — “Bolt” (Music & Lyrics by Miley Cyrus, Jeffrey Steele)
“Once in a Lifetime” — “Cadillac Records” (Music & Lyrics by BeyoncĂ© Knowles, Amanda Ghost, Scott McFarnon, Ian Dench, James Dring, Jody Street)
“The Wrestler” — “The Wrestler” (Music & Lyrics by Bruce Springsteen)

TELEVISION

TELEVISION SERIES - COMEDY OR MUSICAL
“30 Rock”
“Californication”
“Entourage”
“The Office”
“Weeds”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES -COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Christina Applegate - “Samantha Who?”
America Ferrera - “Ugly Betty”
Tina Fey - “30 Rock”
Debra Messing - “The Starter Wife”
Mary-Louise Parker - “Weeds”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES -COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alec Baldwin - “30 Rock”
Steve Carell - “The Office”
Kevin Connelly - “Entourage”
David Duchovny - “Californication”
Tony Shalhoub - “Monk”

TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
“Dexter” (Showtime)
“House” (Fox)
“In Treatment” (HBO)
“Mad Men” (AMC)
“True Blood” (HBO)

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Sally Field — “Brothers and Sisters”
Mariska Hargitay — “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”
January Jones — “Mad Men”
Anna Paquin — “True Blood”
Kyra Sedgwick — “The Closer

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA
Gabriel Byrne — “In Treatment”
Michael Hall — “Dexter”
Jon Hamm — “Mad Men”
Hugh Laurie — “House”
Jonathan Rhys Meyers — “The Tudors”

MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
“A Raisin in the Sun”
“Bernard and Doris”
“Cranford”
“John Adams”
“Recount”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Judi Dench — “Cranford”
Catherine Keener — “An American Crime”
Laura Linney — “John Adams”
Shirley Maclaine — “Coco Chanel”
Susan Sarandon — “Bernard and Doris”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Ralph Fiennes — “Bernard and Doris”
Paul Giamatti — “John Adams”
Kevin Spacey — “Recount”
Kiefer Sutherland — “24: Redemption”
Tom Wilkinson –”Recount”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Eileen Atkins — “Cranford”
Laura Dern — “Recount”
Melissa George — “In Treatment”
Rachel Griffiths — “Brothers and Sisters”
Dianne Wiest — “In Treatment”

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION
Neil Patrick Harris — “How I Met Your Mother”
Denis Leary — “Recount”
Jeremy Piven — “Entourage”
Blair Underwood — “In Treatment”
Tom Wilkinson — “John Adams”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Californication

The final episode of Season 2 of Californication airs this week on Showtime, and even though I thought it might be about to jump the shark a few weeks ago, I’ve hung in there.

The writing is so good, the characters so flawed, and the tone of the show so inappropriate that it's hard not to keep watching. In fact, it’s refreshing not to be uplifted once in a while.

And there are wonderful surprises, like the appearance of Justine Bateman as Becca's teacher and the mother of Becca's boyfriend (and about to be Hank's latest lover):



That's certainly a lot for anyone to process in one episode, but par for the course on Californication.

It’s good that episodes are only thirty minutes long; any longer would be way too rich for anyone's system.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You Know The Economy Is In Trouble When...

...women line up to sell their eggs.

"The going rate for a surrogate is about $25,000. Egg donors generally receive $3,000to $8,000. But a few agencies advertise that they'll pay much more for specific characteristics. One ad running in campus newspapers promises $25,000 for a donor who is "100% Jewish with ... High SAT Scores... Attractive, at Healthy Body Weight and Free of Genetic Diseases."

"Whenever the employment rate is down, we get more calls," says Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, an agency in Chicago where inquiries from would-be egg donors are up 30% in recent weeks -- to about 60 calls a day. "We're even getting men offering up their wives. It's pretty scary."

"Now that we have more donors, it's become a buyer's market," Ms. von Halle says. "Some people are looking for a 6-foot Swedish volleyball player with 39 ACTs, and they'll take their time."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kindle


I consume a lot of printed content, especially books.

I’m always reading more than one book (frequently several) at the same time, because reading is my relaxation strategy and what I choose to read depends on what frame of mind I’m in at the time.

My Kindle has become a paradigm shifter, like my iPod. These devices enable me to read and listen wherever and whenever I want.

My BlackBerry is an important communication device, but my Kindle and my iPod are important to my soul, and that’s a whole other magnitude of importance.

If you were hoping to get a Kindle for Christmas,it looks like you're probably out of luck, and it appears that you have Oprah Winfrey to thank for it.

But if you’ve decided to get one, wait until it is back in stock at amazon.com instead of buying another kind of electronic reader. The dedicated wireless link to amazon.com and the instant gratification of being able to download a free chapter or two from a book you’ve just heard about on NPR can’t be duplicated by any of the Kindle’s competitiors.

Yes it is expensive – but so was your iPod when you first bought it, and think about the difference that has made in your life.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Warning: Book Clubs Can Be Dangerous

Drawing by Gary Hovland

Apparently, membership in a Book Club should come with a warning label:

"For Doreen Orion, a psychiatrist in Boulder, Colo., the spoiler in her book group was a drama queen who turned every meeting into her own personal therapy session.

Dr. Orion was used to such people in her practice, but in her personal life — well, no thanks.

“There were always things going on in her life with relationships, and she’d want to talk about it,” she said. “There’d be some weird thing in a book and she’d relate it to her life no matter what. Everything came back to her. It was really exhausting after a while.”

"And more clubs means more acrimony. Sometimes there is a rambler in the group, whose opinion far outlasts the natural interest of others, or a pedant, who never met a literary reference she did not yearn to sling. The most common cause of dissatisfaction and departures?

“It’s because there’s an ayatollah,” said Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. “This person expects to choose all the books and to take over all the discussions. And when I come on board, the ayatollah is threatened and doesn’t say anything.” Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cranberries - "Dreams"

One of those songs you just can't get out of your head:

I'm Sure You Already Know This, But...

Some useful tips from David Pogue in his New York Times "Circuits" column:

* Nobody, but nobody, is going to give you half of $80 million to help them liberate the funds of a deceased millionaire…from Nigeria or anywhere else.

* You can enlarge the text on any Web page. In Windows, press Ctrl and the plus or minus keys (for bigger or smaller fonts); on the Mac, it's the Command key and plus or minus.

* You can also enlarge the entire Web page or document by pressing the Control key as you turn the wheel on top of your mouse. On the Mac, this enlarges the entire screen image.

* On most cellphones, press the Send key to open up a list of recent calls. Instead of manually dialing, you can return a call by highlighting one of these calls and pressing Send again.

* You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.

* When you're filling in the boxes on a Web page (like City, State, Zip), you can press the Tab key to jump from box to box, rather than clicking. Add the Shift key to jump through the boxes backwards.

* You can adjust the size and position of any window on your computer. Drag the top strip to move it; drag the lower-right corner (Mac) or any edge (Windows) to resize it.

* When you're searching for something on the Web using, say, Google, put quotes around phrases that must be searched together. For example, if you put quotes around "electric curtains," Google won't waste your time finding one set of Web pages containing the word "electric" and another set containing the word "curtains."

* You can use Google to do math for you. Just type the equation, like 23*7+15/3=, and hit Enter.

* Oh, yeah: on the computer, * means "times" and / means "divided by."

* Google is also a units-of-measurement and currency converter. Type "teaspoons in 1.3 gallons," for example, or "euros in 17 dollars." Click Search to see the answer.

* You can switch from one open program to the next by pressing Alt+Tab (Windows) or Command-Tab (Mac).

* Just putting something into the Trash or the Recycle Bin doesn't actually delete it. You then have to *empty* the Trash or Recycle Bin. (Once a year, I hear about somebody whose hard drive is full, despite having practically no files. It's because over the years, they've put 79 gigabytes' worth of stuff in the Recycle Bin and never emptied it.

* You don't have to type "http://www.blogger.com/" into your Web browser. Just type the remainder: "nytimes.com" or "dilbert.com," for example. (In the Safari browser, you can even leave off the ".com" part.)

* Come up with an automated backup system for your computer. There's no misery quite like the sick feeling of having lost chunks of your life because you didn't have a safety copy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Want That!


Even though Lionel is way out of touch with what kids want for Christmas these days, it seems to have gotten its groove back for a lot of big kids.

Four cars for $699 is an awful lot of money but if I was into model railroading and had some extra coin to burn, this New York City subway set is something I would absolutely have to have!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers

FORT WORTH, TX—Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying, scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial carrier.

American Airlines has promised never to raise its fees for not printing a boarding pass.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday. According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30 surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays instead.

"Tough times unfortunately mean tough measures," American Airlines president Gerard Arpey said. "It's never an easy decision to ask our loyal customers, as well as thousands of people chosen at random out of a telephone book, to pay a little extra, but that's just the reality of today's economic climate. We hope all Americans will understand this when receiving one of our new bills in the mail."

Arpey said that non-passengers of American Airlines should expect to pay a small fee when making Greyhound bus reservations, choosing to drive to their final destination, or simply being a citizen of the United States with a valid Social Security number.

Arpey went on to note that some additional charges would also apply, including a $15 fee for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet, and a one-time payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.

"We are confident that these new measures will not discourage customers from flying with American Airlines," vice president Margaret Wilkinson said. "However, we'd like to remind our customers that there is a 'discouraged-from-flying-with-American-Airlines' charge if they do in fact choose not to fly with us."

American Airlines, which posted a $1.45 billion loss in the second quarter of 2008 alone, claimed that the new fees—including the Taking A Shower Fee, the Knowing What An Airplane Looks Like Fee, and the Eating E.L. Fudge Cookies While Watching A Rerun Of House Fee—will help the company rebound. According to internal projections, the airline will recoup $500 million in the next three months alone, with nearly 80 percent of that revenue coming from citizens asleep at home.

"Watching television last night cost me $250," said Baltimore resident Michael Peterson, one of many Americans now forced to pay high airline costs for folding their laundry and going to the ophthalmologist. "It's ridiculous, but what can you do? I guess that's just the price of not flying these days."

"American Airlines charged me for cleaning out my attic," said 74-year-old Samantha Pratt, a New Jersey resident who has not left the state since 2005. "Sure, I didn't have to wait in any long lines, or go through invasive security searches, and I got to clean out my attic, which is something I've been wanting to do for weeks, but come on now."

In response to American's move, other airlines have begun offering more competitive rates. United this week unveiled a new $99 "spend the weekend quietly reading indoors" offer, while Southwest is introducing a $125 round-trip fare for those walking to their corner store for some groceries.

JetBlue, a commercial carrier known for its thrifty rates, has come out ahead of the pack, however, and is being lauded for its decision not to charge non-passengers not to fly.

Despite reduced offers such as these, many remain concerned over the new fees. Some have even expressed doubt about whether they'll be able to afford to see family members they currently live with during Christmas.

"It's just not worth it anymore," said Caroline Huza, an Ohio native and mother of two. "Plus, every time I stay at home, I always get trapped next to some kid who won't stop crying."

(From The Onion)

The Right Answer

A colleague emailed me this morning:

"I read this article in the paper this morning about a survey of how many high school students cheat and lie.

It’s depressing enough, but then the principal of Andover High (MA) was quoted (and he’s very supportive of today’s students) as saying, 'We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer.'

WTF? That says it all, doesn’t it?

What is learning for if not 'the right answer'?

I hope my doctor and airline pilot have the right answer and I don’t care if they don’t know all kinds of 'strategies for learning.' Good god."

I've ranted before on the Freeway about the dreadful state of American public education, and how far behind other countries we have fallen, in terms of being able to compete in the global marketplace.

I don't think many school-age daughters of immigrant parents are wearing tee shirts with anti-math messages. Many of them seem to have a grasp of the skills it takes to succeed these days. But the shirt continues to be a big seller.

I'm constantly astonished at the general lack of curiosity and the inability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time in our culture. So reading this story about how it's okay to lie and cheat to get ahead is really disheartening.

The "right answer" is to fix our broken education system.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dreamboat Annie

The amazing Wilson sisters - Ann and Nancy:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Plaxico Burress Perp Walk

A Boston police detective I spoke with said that an expensive handgun has become a fashion accessory among some professional athletes, right after the diamond earring, gold chain, and Rolex watch.

And no -- if you're thinking that the Patriots might ever consider signing Plaxico Burress after he gets out of jail, because they signed Randy Moss, let me just say that Plaxico Burress is no Randy Moss, and never will be.

For The Die-Hard Red Sox Fan

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Backstage Pass

OK - so it's not politics, football, or rock and roll. But the article was in the New York Times, and I try to cover a broad range of subjects on the Freeway, including fashion, with your mind in mind.

Like politics, football, and rock and roll, high fashion is performance art, and as such requires considerable behind-the-scenes preparation, as indicated in this photograph.

The handlers/trainers/roadies have multiple responsibilities prior to the performance to get their candidate/player/rockstar ready to thrill and impress the fans. It’s the same thing at a fashion show (I’m trying really hard here), with the same outsized egos unchecked at the door.

For instance, is the model in this photograph training her contemptuous gaze on the photographer because she’s trying to protect her teammate's privacy, or because she's realized that she may not be the primary focus?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?


How did things get so fracked up, you ask?

Michael Lewis (author of "Liar's Poker") offers one small example in Portfolio:

"In Bakersfield, Calif., a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000."

The sub-prime mortgage debacle was no accident. The perpetrators made gazillions of dollars from it, the strawberry picker is out on the street, and you and I are about to pay off their gambling debts.

What a country!

Britney Spears


I only have one Britney Spears song in my iTunes library -- "Satisfaction" -- but I listen to it a lot because it's the only cover of that Rolling Stones classic I've ever heard that's really good.

So although I'm not a fan, I hope, as Rolling Stone hopes, that she's back to stay because she is capable of making really good music, and I'm all about really good music.

Unfortunately, the mixture of celebrity and drugs with the burden of being a gravy train for a dysfunctional family is too much for almost anyone to handle.

I wish her well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bebel Gilberto - "So Nice"


Nova Bossa Nova

Let's see: your dad is Joao Gilberto and your stepmom is Astrud Gilberto.
You'd better be good...

C'mon People Now, Smile On Your Brother...

Welcome to Black Friday:

"Nikki Nicely, 19, wanted a television — a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen, to be exact, on sale for $798, marked down from $1,000, and available for a limited time in the wee hours of Friday morning at the Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio.

So, at 4:40 a.m., when a fellow shopper tried to pry away the box she had been guarding for an hour, Ms. Nicely did not play nice. She jumped onto the man’s back and began to pound his shoulders, screaming, “That’s my TV! That’s my TV!”

A police officer and security guard intervened but not before Ms. Nicely took an elbow in the face. Still, when the dust settled, she had her hand on the box. “That’s right,” she cried as the man walked away. “This here is my TV!”

And from a Wal-Mart on Long Island:

"A man working for Wal-Mart was killed on Friday when a throng of shoppers surged into a Long Island, New York, store and physically broke down the doors, a police spokesman said.

The 34-year-old man was at the entrance of the Valley Stream Walmart store just after it opened at 5 a.m. local time and was knocked to the ground, the police report said.

The exact cause of death was still to be determined by a medical examiner.

Four shoppers, including a 28-year-old pregnant woman, were also taken to local hospitals for injuries sustained in the incident, police said."

To quote the late Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

Buyer's Market

"Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars...warehoused on crowded port property."

A colleague at work is shopping for a 50" flat screen plasma television this weekend, and I look forward to hearing on Monday what kind of a deal she got.

My 42" cost $1,200 last year, which was a good price at that time.

My advice to my colleague was to wait a week or two, watch the prices continue to fall and negotiate a cash deal on a 50" with a hungry retailer for $750.

Anything seems possible for the qualified buyer in this economy.

I'm almost ready to buy a new car, and I know the model, specs, options and color I want.

I already know that I'm qualified for 0% financing for the full term of the loan, so my conversation with my local dealer will go something like this:

"Here's what I want, and here's what I'll pay for it. How soon can you deliver?"

Somehow, I don't recall previous conversations with new car dealers going like that before.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tom And Gisele's Thanksgiving


A Thanksgiving Day helping of Tom-and-Gisele for their fans on the Freeway, from today's Boston Globe:

"Tom Brady and his supermodel sweetheart Gisele Bundchen surprised everyone at yesterday's annual Thanks-for-giving meal organized by Goodwill Industries at its Roxbury headquarters.

Walking without a limp, the Pats QB upstaged a slew of pols who were present,

Bundchen arrived first, and quickly put on an apron and got down to work dishing out stuffing, mashed potatoes, and squash. (We spied the slender siren sneak one bean.)

Brady showed up as the tables were being cleared, and was greeted by Bundchen with a kiss on the cheek. Later, Brady signed a few autographs while Gi, who seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself, chatted with folks and moved to the music

Speaking of Brady, Maria Menounos called to clarify something. She says she didn't mean to suggest that the Pats should permanently replace the two-time Super Bowl MVP with Matt Cassel.

In an item this week hyping her "Access Hollywood" interview with Ashley Dupre, Menounos told us she's been impressed with Cassel's passing progress. But that's as far as the infatuation goes.

"Matt will be a wanted man after the season, no question," the Medford native says of Cassel, who will be a free agent. "But there's no replacing Tom Brady. Period."

By the way, the guy in the background of the picture at the top looks like he can't wait to get his hands on some of that pie!

Happy Thanksgiving, Scooter Libby!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Keeping It Zipped

[Time to revisit this post in light of a developing story]
.
It’s unfortunate on so many levels that Eliot Spitzer couldn’t keep it zipped.

Blowing up his marriage was the worst part; the damage he inflicted upon his wife and daughters can never be repaired, no matter how well-insulated they may appear to be in their Fifth Avenue home.

But to have wasted all the determination, talent and leadership he displayed as New York’s Attorney General and then as its Governor in going after the bad guys on Wall Street really hurts all of us, especially now.

Certainly it would have taken much more than one person to have pointed out all the financial chicanery that has produced the current mess. And maybe there was no whistle loud enough.

But Elliot Spitzer had begun to sniff it out over a year ago, and had inspired a team of young attorneys to follow the money and pursue prosecutions in cases involving Wall Street excess.

His stupidity and selfishness brought it all to a hard stop at absolutely the wrong time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harvard Square


The imminent closing of Out of Town News, while sad, really doesn't surprise me.

For five years in the early 1970s, I managed one of the many bookstores in Harvard Square -- back in the analog day before just about everything in print was available online, most of it for free.

My store, Reading International, was one of four full-service bookstores within a few minutes of one another. Sprinkled throughout the same area were several specialty bookstores as well – poetry, foreign languages, architecture and design, etc. – each serving a specific clientele.

Back then, before amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, WaldenBooks and Borders, customers paid the price that publishers printed on the books. There were no discount bookstores because publishers and booksellers worked together to fix prices and preserve their profit margins. And consumers were content to pay full price.

In the 1980s, it all changed.

By then, I was buying books for chain stores, and negotiating quantity discounts from publishers, who eventually capitulated by rewarding their largest customers with the best pricing and promotional deals.

Then the internet kicked in; then the Kindle.

And speaking for myself as a fairly large consumer of the printed word, we're all (with the exception of independent bookstores) better off for it.

Harvard Square has changed in many ways, but so have we all. And it will always be fun to pass through or hang out there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

OMG! - NFL 3-D!!


"With sports fans still getting used to their high-definition television sets, the National Football League is already thinking ahead to the next potential upgrade: 3-D.

Next week, a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders will be broadcast live in 3-D to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston [invitation only]."

The Wall Street Journal reports that while watching an NFL game live in 3-D, "it's as if the ball is coming into your arms."

Football fans can let their imaginations run almost as wild as these Halloween-costumed New England Patriots cheerleaders did during the Pats-Rams game at Gillette Stadium on October 26.

The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jennifer Aniston


A celebrity interview with absolutely no nutritional value, for a cold Sunday morning in Boston

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22

Ted Kennedy raised the ball in triumph after hauling in a touchdown pass in The Game of 1955, a 21-7 Harvard loss. (FILE/JOHN B. LOENGARD)

At least the Boston Globe acknowledges the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy today, albeit in a story in the Sports section about today's Harvard/Yale game:

"All four Kennedy brothers played football at Harvard, all of them at end and three on the varsity. Bobby and Ted both earned letters and appeared against archrival Yale, with Ted scoring in the 1955 loss. Today, when Harvard and Yale meet at the Stadium for the 125th time, is the 45th anniversary of Jack's assassination, when the game was postponed for the only time."

Not only was the game postponed, but the whole world stopped for those of us who were around on that day.

The "torch had been passed to a new generation" only three years before, but November 22, 1963 marked the end of innocence for many young Americans.

Every year, that event becomes a little smaller in my rear view mirror, but I'm convinced that dark forces in this country became committed to overturning the election of 1960 in the most violent way.

Those forces exist today, in very different configurations. Yet they still exist.

I hope that we have become wiser and more vigilant over the past 45 years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Ruling Class

From David Brooks:

"Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed."

More On The Obama School Search


Some cogent observations about school choice from Sandra Tsing Loh in today's New York Times:

"Now that we’ve made history by electing our first African-American president, what has changed? On first blush, not much, especially when it comes to our schools. Indeed, as the spiraling United States economy takes precedence, education is moving to the back burner, though sadly it was never really on the front burner during the campaign. Meanwhile Washington high society is swooning as chatty lifestyle stories document the courtship of Barack Obama’s daughters by a bevy of exclusive private schools. Am I the only one who is outraged here?"

"Sarah Palin was taken tirelessly to the mat for every detail of her personal life — her mothering skills, hunting proclivities, reading habits (such as they were), the wacky names of her children, her pricey outfits and even the height of her heels.

By contrast, the Obama family’s move from toney Chicago private school (chosen before presidential security was an issue) to toney Washington private school draws little national commentary.

Why? Because for the ruling American political and professional class, not to mention the news media, sending one’s child to public school is unthinkable; and has nothing to do with public education policy. (Love that Teach for America, though! And universal preschool — it’s great! Computers! Innovation! Stimulation! Richard Branson! Aspen Technology Conference! Blah, blah blah.)"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Still More Paglia On Palin

Camille's back:

"How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World."

(Illustration by Terry Shoffner)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom And Gisele Update

From the Boston Herald's "Inside Track:"

"New England Patriots prince Tom Brady returned to rehabbing at Gillette Stadium yesterday. We know this because his locker is once again filled to the max with clothes, caps and a variety of metrosexual must-haves.

First off, we must point out that No. 12 is the only Patriot with a mirror in his cubby. Like he needs one.

We also bring to your attention the bottle of Propel Fit Water in the SmartWater spokesjock’s locker, ahem.

There’s also an array of personal-care products: Listerine, deodorant, skin lotions, etc.

And it’s all so very neat, isn’t it? Like, Jerry Seinfeld neat. Unlike Tom’s neighbor, Randy Moss, whose shoes and laundry-filled locker is a shocker!

BTW, nice to see that Tom isn’t stowing his beloved Yankees cap in Foxboro. His non-Pats lid of choice is one from “Entourage,” the HBO biopic of Boston bad boy Mark Wahlberg’s early days in the Holly ’hood. As you’ve probably read, Marky claims he’s scored Tom for a cameo in the upcoming sixth season of the show.

Well, Tom appreciates a good Entourage. He’s got Gisele, his Guy Friday Will McDonough and, you know, little Vida, the dog . . .

[Regarding Gisele,] Tom Brady’s glamazon GF, who hasn’t been seen in these parts since No. 12 returned from La-La earlier this month, finally surfaced in the Big Apple - leading us to wonder whether Gi has been sex-iled for the duration of Tommy’s recovery!

Gisele was photographed - solo - at a weekend cocktail party in NYC hosted by Harper Collins and DVF, designer Diane von Furstenberg’s label, to celebrate the publication of “A Year in High Heels: The Girl’s Guide to Everything from Jane Austen to the A-list.”

Meanwhile, word from Gillette Stadium is that Brady has been there nearly every day working to rehab his injured, infected knee. And if you believe Tom’s trainer, Oscar Smith, when Brady’s rehabbin’ it’s No Girls Allowed!

Smith, who runs the O-Diesel Studios in NYC’s Tribeca, said Brady - who underwent surgery for a season-ending torn ACL in La-La last month and has been battling post-operative infections - wants no distractions when he’s training.

'There are crazy women out there who will hit on him, take his picture and pull other stunts in public, so he trains alone,' Oscar told the New York Post. 'No distractions and no Gisele.'"

I know this appears to be a shameless and tacky post, but Antelope Freeway has certain reader commitments to honor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sia - "Day Too Soon"

I think Sia channels Joe Cocker (give it a couple of seconds to start):

Cash-Strapped NPR Launches 'A Couple Things Considered'


WASHINGTON—Facing major cutbacks, National Public Radio has been forced to retool and relaunch its popular program All Things Considered as a truncated newscast that now only considers a couple, maybe three things per show.

"We'd love to consider all things, but the reality is we no longer have the resources necessary to do so," host Michele Norris said following the new show's first broadcast, in which falling gas prices and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis were considered.

"We'll still be able to mention six or seven things, gloss over four, and reference five, but we cannot afford to give every single thing our full consideration. Perhaps we were biting off more than we could chew in the first place."

A Couple Things Considered is just one of many new shows brought about by budget constraints, along with NPR's recently launched Bicycle Talk and Public Radio International's This Tri-State Area Life.

(The Onion)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

eTrade Baby

Can't get enough of this little guy...click on the title to see why

Will The Obama Kids Go To Public School?


Magic 8 Ball says..."My sources say no."

Wasted In Wisconsin

"EDGERTON, Wis. — When a 15-year-old comes into Wile-e’s bar looking for a cold beer, the bartender, Mike Whaley, is happy to serve it up — as long as a parent is there to give permission.

“If they’re 15, 16, 17, it’s fine if they want to sit down and have a few beers,” said Mr. Whaley, who owns the tavern in this small town in southern Wisconsin.

While it might raise some eyebrows in most of America, it is perfectly legal in Wisconsin. Minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant in Wisconsin if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.

When it comes to drinking, it seems, no state keeps pace with Wisconsin. This state, long famous for its breweries, has led the nation in binge drinking in every year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its surveys on the problem more than a decade ago. Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a sitting for a man, four for a woman.

People in Wisconsin are more likely than anywhere else to drive drunk, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The state has among the highest incidence of drunken driving deaths in the United States."

Wow! Who knew? I always thought Wisconsin was best known for its cheese.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let It Bleed


From David Brooks in today's New York Times:

"If Detroit gets money, then everyone would have a case. After all, are the employees of Circuit City or the newspaper industry inferior to the employees of Chrysler?

It is all a reminder that the biggest threat to a healthy economy is not the socialists of campaign lore. It’s C.E.O.’s. It’s politically powerful crony capitalists who use their influence to create a stagnant corporate welfare state.

If ever the market has rendered a just verdict, it is the one rendered on G.M. and Chrysler. These companies are not innocent victims of this crisis. To read the expert literature on these companies is to read a long litany of miscalculation. Some experts mention the management blunders, some the union contracts and the legacy costs, some the years of poor car design and some the entrenched corporate cultures.

There seems to be no one who believes the companies are viable without radical change. A federal cash infusion will not infuse wisdom into management. It will not reduce labor costs. It will not attract talented new employees. As Megan McArdle of The Atlantic wittily put it, “'Working for the Big Three magically combines vast corporate bureaucracy and job insecurity in one completely unattractive package.'”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gibson Guitar Factory

Toward the end of my excellent tour of the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis TN, I spotted a red double-neck electric guitar like the one Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page plays -- a six-string neck and a twelve-string neck attached to a huge solid body. It was beautiful -- sanded, freshly lacquered, and waiting for its electronics to be installed before (perhaps) being shipped off to Mr. Page in London (Seth, our tour guide, wouldn’t confirm or deny).

I asked Seth if there was a double-neck in the Gibson factory store that I could look at, and he said there was. In fact, he said, every Gibson guitar model -- acoustic and electric -- is represented and for sale in the store, and at “factory store discounts.”

I play a vintage Martin D-18 accoustic and know a little something about guitars, which is why I had been looking forward to taking the tour, but I’m not in the market for another guitar, even though I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a real electric guitar to feel what it must be like to play one. Because while “Guitar Hero” might be fun -- like karaoke -- it’s not playing guitar.

In the store after the tour, Travis (really), the sales associate, must have noticed me drooling over the double-neck and decided that this old geezer looks like he’s ripe for a sale.

“Want to try it out?” he asked. “I can plug you in right over here,” he said, pointing to some live amps.

I thought “Are you kidding? Of course I do!”

“Sure,” I said. He got a cable and plugged me in.

The first thing you notice is how heavy it is, which probably explains why Jimmy Page always looked a little hunched-over when playing it. But it is fun to play – being able to switch between six and twelve strings is really neat. I didn’t get close to understanding any of the controls or deploying any special effects, but that was okay. It was enough just to play it.

I unplugged it, and returned it to its stand.

Now that I realized I could play any guitar in the store, I was drunk with power. Travis must have seen this scenario play out in the store many times before, and knew enough to wait out the storm before making any attempt to close a sale.

So I plugged in and played a Gibson Les Paul Model guitar that Les Paul not only invented, but actually played and autographed during a recent visit to the factory. I thus had a direct connection to the creator of the electric guitar and multi-track recording. I felt like Adam in Micheangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel.

Then on to a gorgeous red SG model, then to a J50 accoustic, then to the Sheryl Crow Signature Model, and on and on.

Soon it was closing time, and I wished Travis a good evening, and said I’d see him tomorrow.

I did have another chance to visit the store before we had to return home, and I got to play a couple more guitars.

And I did really did buy something – strings for my Martin, and a bunch of picks for my guitar-playing friends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reporting From Desolation Row...

Watching “Mad Men” reminds me that divorce carried such a powerful stigma until the late 1960s that it could disqualify someone from being elected President (see Nelson Rockefeller). And the negative social consequences of divorce on women were almost impossible to overcome.

Adultery was not far behind, although (as Mad Men demonstrates so well) it was probably no less common (at least among men) than it is now, because back then it was privately tolerated (or suffered if you were a woman).

I mention this because I recently heard some national bloviator go on about how hypocritical it was of what he called “The Right” to rail against abortion, and not against divorce and adultery.

But values really got scrambled in the 1970s – so much so that now we read about young women across all social strata thinking they need to incorporate aspects of the porn world into the way they present themselves. This is because guys, they think, spend all their free time (when not watching sports, or gaming online) watching porn, and they perceive this as the competition.

While marriage may still be their objective, there is a tacit assumption that divorce and adultery are always options for them in the “futures” market.

“The Rules” have certainly changed.

So it wasn’t surprising to read this morning that ashleymadison.com, which appears to be an eHarmony for adulterers, has begun advertising its services on mainsteam media outlets, with little or no objection.

"'The agency was drawn to advertise here [Boston]," Biderman said, because many Bay Staters were seeking out his Web site, and because Boston is “a heck of a sports town” and "male fans are a target demographic.'"

"Biderman said his agency has more than 2.7 million members - 70 percent men and 30 percent women. The average male member is in his mid- to late-30s or early 40s and has been married five to 10 years."

While the membership numbers may be suspect, and how different this may be from an "Escort Service" is certainly debatable, and the advertising rollout may still catch a lot of flack, it would appear that a mainstream market may in fact exist for this kind of service.

You don't need to lean your head out too far from Desolation Row to know which way the wind blows (sorry, Bob).