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Friday, August 13, 2010

Life - or Karma?

There is nothing like Karma. It is a belief system that comforts and empowers, often in times when we feel weak and powerless. "Karma's a bitch" we often say, and more recently I came across it's less-aggressive cousin, "Tread lightly through the lives of others - Karma has no mercy". More than likely as you read both expressions, you nod your head in agreement and belief (and...hope?) that there really is a system of justice that knows how to best reward a great act or avenge a horrible injustice. We just need to be patient, and let it unfold.

But at what point is it just life happening, or is it Karma? It's a tricky question...or maybe not.

Karma, at the end of the day, is truly a convenience, and helps one through situations when a punching bag or a therapist is unavailable, and taking justice in one's own hand isn't always legal. I have been wronged by people, and while I never wished them evil, I found myself muttering about how Karma will take care of them. Then, when they fall ill, or have problems that I find out about, I will smugly grin and say, "hey, they had it coming" as if their current debacle(s) was the direct result of what they did to me, and, if I'm feeling magnanimous, other people they've probably wronged too.

But I have to play Devil's advocate. As I age, I find it harder to believe that every great blessing or horrible misfortune has to be the result of something someone did or didn't do. We all know of people that have been good people all their lives and never seem to catch a break and die struggling. We also know of truly irascible people that seem to have it all or get whatever they want. That doesn't seem to be Karma in action. So, then, is the tenet of Karma a farce?

Getting older led to certain realizations. For example, that the longer you live the greater the chances of many good - and bad - things happening to you. Because, as it is also said ad nauseum, "that's life". I have been blessed with many good things, a good marriage, good family, good friends, good job. But I have also been cursed with financial woes, a medical issue that required three surgeries, bum ankles, vertigo, loved ones suffering hardships that broke my heart, and being yet another musician that never quite "made it". This despite all of my best efforts to be money-wise, hard-working, healthy, kind, polite, supportive and professional. I'm not perfect, but I'm definitely not Hitler. So for the many sacrifices I have made, why would such bad things happen to me and hinder my progress towards my goals? I would sit in moments of deep self-pity asking myself what I did wrong, or where did I go wrong, why wasn't I in a better position, because, believing in Karma, I should be rewarded at some point for the good I've done, right? I eventually had to accept the fact that this is the hand I was dealt, and I need to keep on doing good and right things. It helps make the world a better place, even if I'm not rewarded in the manner I feel that I should be. Perhaps that's more Fate then Karma.

Also, there are instances when a person has done horrible things, and then you would hear how they contracted some disease, or a dear friend or relative of theirs died. It's tempting to say that's Karma in action. Is it really? Reality: People get older, and they all will eventually have some physical ailment or discomfort. People die. People of nice people people become ill and pass away, too. That's life; not necessarily Karma.

What about applying the Karma Principle to the necessary evils that come along with having relationships with other people?

Take employment, for instance. What about the HR professional who is in the position to make or break someone's life, dream or goal? Or the Insurance Claims Adjuster, whose approving or denying a claim may save or break a family or business? Or the manager who has to lay off workers or justly terminate an employee? The result of these folks not doing their jobs can result in them losing theirs. Surely, there are those in every profession that abuse their power, are unnecessarily cruel, and enjoy making people suffer, and we would love for Karma to rear up and go get 'em. But it does not seem fair that those who do their jobs conscientiously and handle the unpleasantries of their job description with as much compassion and professionalism as they can muster, should be affected by the Karma Principle at all.

Also, what about the person breaking up with someone because they are unhappy in a relationship (and the other person thinks things are going great)? Sometimes someone's happiness may come at the expense of breaking another person's heart. If it is the right of every human being to be happy and fulfilled during their time on earth, then why would - or should - Karma wreak revenge on the person who wants out? It also doesn't seem fair that one half of a couple has to suffer unduly, so the other half can continue without ever being able to provide the happiness the other person needs - and the relationship needs - to blossom. As we have all seen at some point in our lifetime, most relationship martyrs seem to defy the whole Karma thing altogether by remaining miserable and hardly getting any reward for or relief from their suffering, so there is hardly any incentive for anyone to subject themselves to such an existence.

Lastly, is there a threshold to when Karma should kick in? I do not think anyone has an issue with Karmic Justice when it comes to people like wanton criminals, but what point should a minor personal slight, a true, unintentional error in judgement, or an innocent remark that wreaks havoc result in the antagonist getting rained on by chaos and fire? I generally pray for Karma to do its thing against those who intentionally devastate others, who are unforgivably crass or mean to everyone they encounter, who try to take something that isn't theirs, or break agreements that destroy friendships and families. Maybe someone else's threshold isn't as high. Maybe a driver who doesn't get thanked for letting a car merge in traffic, or someone who doesn't get a wedding invite for a co-worker's wedding wishes Karmic Justice. Is there a sliding scale for reward or misfortune when it comes to Karma, and who decides? It's touchy stuff that ultimately boils down to the belief system and individual quirks of the person who feels victimized.

The above is not to downplay the power of Karma as a coping/inspirational tool. We want to - no, need to - believe in Karma like many of us believe in God. Faith in the power of something unseen, yet fair, that will right the wrongs in the Universe, balance the energies and most of all, give us hope that something is out there fighting for us so we can achieve some peace in a chaotic world. We are fuzzy on the particulars, and may not apply it as fairly as we should, but if it makes people kinder, more thoughtful, and keeps people from doing something they shouldn't, it's worth believing in. Because what goes around comes around.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pet Peeves #24

1. Pedestrians that forget they don't have a bumper on their ass.
I'll never understand the small minds who get a thrill and/or power trip by walking out into the street during traffic, against the light, strollin' along, making cars screech to a halt as if they're daring someone to hit them. Don't give me that, "well, they're in a car, they can wait", or, (insert some other arrogant reason here). I'm not talking about the people who are legally crossing the street while drivers are trying to make a turn. I'm talking about people, especially teenagers/high schoolers, who mosey and deliberately walk out in traffic and/or block traffic so they do their, "I'm gonna be tough and rebellious 'cos I'm a teenage douchebag" schtick. I really want to plow through them like it's Death Race 2000 and each of those dipshits are double points. I'm also talking about those people in parking lots wandering around like zombies who seem to forget there are cars around and they need to pay attention (DUH, didn't you just park YOUR car ya mook?) also, dontcha just love those pedestrians that seem attracted to a car's reverse lights like moths to the proverbial flame? WTF? Those little white lights are not your cue to walk behind my car. Really. Please note, that I don't have this attitude because I have a car. I am often a pedestrian too, so I see both sides. I try to be courteous to pedestrians when I'm behind the wheel and a courteous pedestrian when I'm getting around on two feet. C'mon folks, it ain't that tough to not be an inconsiderate meathead.

2. LeBron James
This man has his whole life and career ahead of him. Just as you do not live your life for anyone else but those who matter most to you, he is doing the same. Being on the world stage does not change the fact that at the end of the day, a pro athlete's priorities are the same as most working people weighing the best option for them, their families and their future. So he didn't come to your town. Boo hoo. I am a New Yorker and it would have been fan-freakin'-tastic for him to come to NY and save the sorry-ass Knicks. But he didn't. And ya know what? The world didn't end. It would have been cool for him to be a Net because it would still bring him to the Greater NY area, but he didn't. Oh well. After hearing the pearls of wisdom from the idiot owner of the Cavs, perhaps we're seeing why LeBron wanted to leave. Maybe he was tired of carrying the Cavs - and Cleveland as a city - on his young shoulders when all he wants is a ring and be surrounded by a team that can help him achieve that goal. Now, ESPN pulled an article that supposedly showed LeBron doing what any young, rich man should be doing - enjoying himself. So? He gets it done on the job (the b-ball court), he is respectful and well-spoken in interviews, and he doesn't get in trouble off the court. What is he supposed to do when he's not doing those things? Knitting? I love sports, but I've always hated most sportscasters. Now, I am really starting to hate sports fans as a whole, too. They're selfish, arrogant, immature, hypocritical, bigoted, mean-spirited, often jealous wannabes who should run their own lives as well as they run their fantasy-sports games. LeBron, you are all that and a bag of chips - enjoy your young, successful life and continue to do what is in your best interest and do the things you enjoy. Because should you get injured or lose your magic, these same people will throw you under the bus like a piece of used tissue. But it seems you may know that already, and good for you. All of you hatin' whining bitch-bastards that haven't grown up and realized that basketball is just A GAME - get a brain, get a clue, then get A LIFE.

3. Speaking of whiny bitch-bastards...
...Did you know Obama was the cause of the oil spill in the Gulf? And the high humidity? And Global Warming? And that run in your Mama's pantyhose? Well, if you listened to the Right, that is what they would have you believe. Obama is the cause of everything that's wrong. Pick a topic, any topic, no matter how unrelated. From Lindsey Lohan going to jail, LeBron James leaving Cleveland, circus midgets, tainted food, all 'Bammy's doing. Uh-huh. Case in point: Recently a friend on Facebook posted something about the oil spill in the Gulf. Nothing political, just a thought on how terrible it was. One of his friends - true to Right form - went all ballistic, asking where were the Obama fans now, and they sure are silent now, how it's his fault the Middle East is such a mess, his efforts to fix the economy were a failure, he wasn't doing anything, blah blah blah. Really? Really? WTF? Here was my response:

"Sorry, can't let that go by w/o comment. I hate mindless followers of anyone, and I am definitely not an Obama groupie by any stretch, but really, what's to say? I'm sure if this happened during the Bush Administration, his fans would be silent too. There is really not much anyone can do during something like this, and I truly doubt any President would be down there getting his hands but so dirty either. What would that prove? I'm not stupid - he can't stop the flow of the oil, and him rolling up his pants leg and slinging a few shovels of it for a photo op is not symbolism I need. And as much as Obama-freaks annoy me, the Right and the Anti-Obamas are twice as annoying, bitching about everything but never offering any solutions and never having a plan. Do you really think McCain would have handled this differently, other than allowing Sarah Palin to go surfing on the oil slick, chanting, "Woohoo, we don't have to drill now!"? C'mon. As far as the Middle East goes, apparently, whatever President you approved of wasn't good enough with handling the Middle East either; if so, it would have been solved waaay before Obama. As far the economy, there were the 8 years prior to Obama's arrival that caused the economic mess we're currently in, and he came into a damn-near Depression and was handed a huge deficit run up by the prior Administration. There are definitely those who treat Obama as if he's the second coming of Christ, which is ridiculous. But I find it funny that the Anti-Obamas expect him to turn around the economy in less than two years. Really? That wouldn't be a miracle? You may not approve of what Obama has done, is doing, or has tried to do, but that doesn't mean he isn't doing anything. There's a difference. Sorry to rant, but just as you're sick of Obama Worshippers, I'm sick of the Obama-bashers. Extremists on either side can never be trusted to be fair."

The bottom line is that the Right/Republicans/Conservatives still can't get over the fact that their lack-luster, no-plan having, old man McCain and that winking Alaskan fishstick of a idiot Palin didn't win, and sore over the fact that the economy is slowly but surely recovering against their best efforts to thwart it. Guys, really. It's bad enough that you were willing to FUCK the unemployed - plenty of whom are your constituency (which make me again wonder why there is such a thing as a working-class Republican) - but to constantly and consistently piss and moan and try to inject Obama in every single conversation about what's wrong about America right now from floods to tryptophan makes me really believe you people are insane. Unstable, unreasonable, and insane. Not the way to get my Independent vote. Sure, Obama could have handled a couple of things differently, but he is doing his best to stick to his promises and has no problem being upfront about it. That is an attitude I can appreciate even when I'm annoyed at him. No, I don't miss Bush (you have got to be on crack to be missing that mentally-deficient jackass who plunged us into this economic morass in the first place). No, I do not regret my vote. But I do regret the lost time reading the diatribes of the Right and these Tea Party freaks as that is time (and brain cells) I'll never get back. It also makes me realize that as a Country we really haven't progressed that much. But I will give the Right credit for one thing: They can brainwash like nobody's business. They have their Sheeple by the shorthairs, and that is mad impressive. Now if they could use some of that manipulative power to do something truly right by all Americans and not just "Right" for those with deep pockets and power trips, this Country would be a far better place.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

1. Gulf Coast Oil Disaster: Where are the benefits, celebrities and such?
I have a couple of friends on Facebook who put up posts asking where are the benefits, money and celebrity spokespeople for the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster? They're right. Where are they?

We as Americans were dialing in money, bringing food and clothes to Haiti and other world disasters. Now, we're facing an oil spill that is devastating the Gulf Coast, and all I hear is crickets. Some parts of Gulf Coast still haven't fully recovered from Katrina and Gustave, and now this happens. The livelihood of many hard-working people has been ruined, the ecosystem has been irreparably damaged, and this blob of doom is creeping toward Florida. At a time when our economic recovery is so close yet so far, this summer's tourist season really could have made a difference bringing in revenue, jobs and hope. Instead, we have empty beaches, dead fish, dying oil-slicked fowl, and whole lotta, "We're gonna try this and hopefully it'll work" attempts at stopping the gushing well, all of which have failed. The last attempt appears to be working somewhat, but the damage has been done, and the repercussions will be felt for years. We can yell all we want about how there should have been a Crisis Management Plan in place, who is truly responsible, blah blah blah, but that's not going to help the Americans directly affected by this mess. BP swears they are going to compensate those who are losing financially, but that is not going to help the overall recovery of the coastal area. What about next year? What about the ecological damage? Can we put a price on that?

Granted, it can be argued that the public was not advised just how bad it truly was. But now that cat is out of the bag, and we, as Americans, should be stepping up to help our own. I realize that we're not talking about the loss of home and human life, and BP should be footing every expense related to this. But understand the claims process - it can take weeks, maybe even months, to review and settle such claims, and that's not going to help a family in need right now. There has to be a way for willing and able Americans to donate to those folks, help clean up, help the affected animal/aquatic life, or somehow be able to assist in the slowing the spread of the slick. It is hard to know where to begin, but if you think that the crisis in (our own) Gulf will not affect the country as a whole you are fooling yourself, and as human beings we should be showing some solidarity for an area of our own country that just can't seem to catch a break.

2. Right-Wingnuts bitching about Obama not going to Arlington.
Again, I am a moderate Independent, not a Democrat. I am not a Obama groupie. That said, I am so sick of the whining and grousing of the Right-Wingers who jumped all up Obama ass for not going to Arlington for Memorial Day. You would think they would research this topic before they started going beserko (that's the only way to describe it - they really lose their shit over stuff like this and it's borderline crazy), but perhaps they were counting on their Sheeple spreading more Mighty-Righty propaganda and not fact-checking. Here's some info for you: Obama is not the first president to miss the Arlington ceremony. Ronald Reagan spoke at West Point one year and went to his California ranch another year (Yaahooo! Fuck them Veterans!) Um, what about the other SIX YEARS?? Hmmm. George H.W. Bush did not go at all (disgraceful - especially since he is a war veteran) but he did send Dan Quayle once, which somehow makes a slight an absolute insult. Bill Clinton, who's military stint was unremarkable, went to Arlington all eight years. Dumbass Dubya, who dodged combat service in Vietnam, attended from 2003 onward, probably in an attempt to make up for his Dad. If I were a Veteran, I would find that insulting. Your Dad, who did serve, doesn't go at all, used his money to help you dodge true enlistment, and then you have the nerve to show up with your fake sympathy? If Dubya never went to Arlington, I couldn't even be mad at that - send someone who truly gives a shit or actually knew what it was like to serve. Like many other topics in this life, however, he hasn't a clue.

But I digress. Should Obama have gone to Arlington? ABSOLUTELY. That was an opportunity to show his respect for the troops past and present, and show his patriotism. Yes, he did other things to honor our troops that day, but some traditions he needs to stick to as President to appease the hardcore, the old-fashioned, a yes, the Right. Especially when they are looking for any little thing to rag him on. Especially when they're still riding that whole Muslim/Socialist schtick. Why add fuel to their fire? It wasn't a good call. However, the Right were just a little premature to blog until their fingers bled about Obama not showing up at Arlington, when their own Republican Presidents have a spotty attendance record at best. It's hypocrisy at its finest, and shame on them for using Memorial Day, a day to honor our servicemen and women, as a means to further their own anti-Obama agenda. Pathetic.

3. People who hand-write letters!
In communication these days everything is so impersonal now. With emails, Word docs, e-cards nothing seems to have a personal touch. So it's great getting something from time to time that is hand-written and signed for by someone you know and care about. However, what is NOT cool is getting a BUSINESS letter from a client that I don't know from a hole in the wall, whose situation I'm (trying) to read for the first time, that is 3 pages long and hand-written...on fax cover sheets. Oh, but it gets better. In the documentation (in which all of her communication is hand-written) she chastises someone - who was visiting a foreign country for the first time - for not locating a Internet Cafe to send her an email, but she couldn't locate a keyboard to type a professional letter representing her business and her problem? Really? Potential and current business owners, take note. The only hand-written thing on a business communication should be your SIGNATURE. You are not a doctor and I am not a nurse or a pharmacist who has to decipher your chicken scratch, so keep your crappy handwriting to yourself. Maybe you got a gold star for penmanship back in grade school, but this is 2010, and I don't see how you expect anyone to take you or your business seriously when you can't send out a typed letter on business stationery.

4. Players
I have a girlfriend complaining about this guy she's seeing. He fancies himself a playa, which he kinda is (I've seen better - he's not nearly as smooth as he thinks he is). She didn't think she could change him as much as she hoped once he was done running around, he would see what a keeper she was, and could possibly have him to herself one day. In the meantime, she knew what she was getting into, so she doesn't expect any sympathy when he roughshods over her feelings or bangs her friends. But her choosing to mess around with a guy who could never be faithful and she would never truly be able to trust isn't the peeve. My peeve is the man himself and men like him. They appear to be on a never ending quest to plug every orifice on every woman they set their eyes on. One can argue that men have an instinctive need to spread their seed, and I have to say I don't completely disagree with that. But many times it isn't some biological drive that motivates these men. Sex is a game, a competition, or fills some unrequited need (get therapy, son!). Sure, a lot of the women they fool around with are common whores, but in their sexual rampaging they break the hearts of some wonderful women who looked deep enough into their soul to see some good there. Instead of respecting that - and them - these women get tossed aside and filed away according to performance and availability. And it sucks to see that. What's even sadder is when these men age and their libido subsides, they'll want that good woman. Now that he's worn out, used up, possibly with several illegitmate children that have broken him financially, he'll want that woman who gave him everything he ultimately needed and was willing to give him whatever he wanted. Now that he has nothing left, he'll want that comfort and security. By then, she has learned to live with the scar on her heart and moved on, and if she's smart, found a man who appreciated all she had to offer. Sadly, I've seen a couple of women who never found the right man take these men in. Men that never gave them a second look back in the day, or considered them "the last option". Or "saw" for a few weeks until he saw another woman he found more appealing. Or kept her around because he knew she would always be there for him and she would ultimately forgive/accept his transgressions and insensitivity. It isn't fair that she would allow herself to accept a shell of a man who brings nothing to her later on but baggage, and probably couldn't even give her the passionate thrill that made her fall for him in the first place. Good women, don't let that be you. You deserve better - now AND later. Men who use women like that deserve to end up alone. Some women would rather have any man than be alone, but think about it. While loneliness sucks, it beats being played - again - by a man who has previously broken your heart, and shows up later with even less to offer you than before.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

RANT & FYI - Online brokers should have no right to sell or otherwise provide ANY of my information!

Folks, I definitely have my knickers in a knot about this one.

Every now and then, I Google, Yahoo, Mamma and AOL myself, just to see what's out there in the Internet. I'm no celebrity, but I am a traveling and working musician who networks through the Internet. So I have privacy and safety concerns. What I have found, to my dismay, are many information brokers that offer the public the right to my information, sometimes for free, but more often than not, charge for access to things that really is nobody's fucking business. Why is this allowed?

Yes, I understand that entities such as employers, insurance companies and landlords have every right to do some research on an individual they are going to hire, provide coverage to, or allow to rent space to. That is not what I have issue with. What I have a problem with is any old fucknut finding out my address, my relatives, where they live, how much I approximately make, and how much I paid for my house and a description of my property. With my address, said fucknut can Google map my house and check out my lawn. These companies didn't ask me if they could publish any of my information, and then they have the unmitigated gall to make money off of it. Oh, and did I mention that most of the information is outdated or just wrong? And, some even have the nerve to CHARGE YOU in order to remove YOUR information you didn't give them permission to publish! Nice.

They claim that their information is accessed from public records, which is true for the most part. When you buy or sell a house, start a business, that information is filed with the courts and is considered public record, and many States have put this information online for easy access. For example, before the Internet, if someone wanted to get information about your property, they had to physically go to the courthouse and request the information. There was a layer of privacy there, and the person requesting the information had to show their face and perhaps were asked the purpose for requesting it. But the bottom line is that they had to physically go get it, and that information was not cross-referenced with other information that has nothing to do with your property. They got information about the plot of land and who brought it, not that Aunt Nellie also lives four blocks away and that you're Republican. Or got divorced. Didn't know that an online broker can provide that info about you to anyone who pays $3.95? THEY CAN. Worse yet, they can look up the details of your divorce online, and NONE of that information is redacted (non-viewable). So your ugly divorce case that was filled with unflattering accusations or situations that may or may not be true is completely available for view for a fee. So a potential employer has access to the juicy stuff that really isn't relevant to the job your seeking, and so does any motherfucker with a grudge. Or your stalker. Or your abusive ex. Not cool.

Your voter registration information includes your address and your registered party. The Department of Motor Vehicles just gives you up altogether. You can shield your Driver's License all you want, but any Schmoe can contact the DMV and get your info if they really want it. Some states, like California, are more progressive than most for making it harder to obtain such info or just making it unavailable altogether unless the info seeker has a legitimate reason to have it. Other States should be following suit, because there is just too much personal stuff that folks just don't need to know.

Yes, some of these sites allow you to remove yourself, but they sometimes make it a project, and you do run the risk of giving them even more - and updated - information about yourself when you attempt to get it removed. It's time consuming, and I mentioned earlier, they sometimes charge you. I called the Customer Service Department of one to get myself removed, and was told it would cost me $10...and I'd have to pay them $10 every year in order to keep my info off of their site. I asked the gentleman what gave his company the right to publish anything about me without my consent, and then charge ME to have it removed? He said certain information was public record, so they were able to post it, and they are a pay-site. I said even if that were true, they are still publishing my personal info, regardless of the original source, and they did not ask my permission to do so. He began stammering saying that the charge for removal was $10, and there was no way around that; that is the fee. I hung up absolutely livid. Others want you to fax your Driver's License, provide you email address, then make you wait weeks for removal. Even then, if you information changes (such as you change your address) you'll pop right back up and have to remove yourself all over again.

Add to the information that is considered public, there is the Social Media debacle. Folks are on MySpace, on Facebook, posting and blogging away. You have the ability to reveal what you want others to see, from your status to how many kids you have, but you have divulged much more when you signed up, and the control over your privacy is at the whim of the website. If you haven't heard all the hollering about Facebook and its cloak-and-dagger personal information giveaways then you must live under a freakin' rock. Even when you try to restrict access to protect yourself, at some point it may have been public without you knowing. Just because something is online shouldn't always mean it's fair game, especially if someone has taken steps to insure only certain people see it.

My bottom line is this: It just shouldn't be that easy to get personal information on people. There needs to be restrictions and regulations in place for these Online Information Brokers. Anyone that signs up to access these records needs to provide documentation to substantiate why they need this service and the purpose for it, and they should only be allowed to view information relevant to their specific needs. Anytime someone accesses this information, the subject should be notified, and if it isn't a bank, a landlord, a potential employer, etc. the subject should be given the option to not allow the information to be provided. These companies should be audited yearly to make sure that subscribers that received information were legitimate businesses with a definite 'need to know', and should be fined for those requestors that aren't and don't. An individual should be able to remove their information permamently without a fee, and if the information is not removed with 7 business days the website providing the information should be fined. If someone contacts them to correct or change information and it is not done within 7 days the website should be fined as well. There has been instances where people had their names linked with someone else's criminal record due to database aggregation error, and never knew a crime they didn't commit was attributed to them until they were denied something they applied for. That isn't right. If these companies cannot guarantee accurate information, but want to be paid anyway to provide it, then they should be held accountable when someone is accused unfairly, loses a job opportunity, or has information released about them that damages someone irreparably. They may argue that it isn't cost-efficient or that database accuracy cannot always be guaranteed, but this is about peoples lives, and they're practically giving away the most private information. If they can't respect that, or at least research what they're selling to make sure it's accurate, then they need to be put out of business. This can only happen if their product - you - speaks out about it.

Such businesses are a necessary evil, but the best compromise would be that only a few such businesses would exist, and they would be regulated and held to the same privacy-protection standard as other businesses and agencies are. In this age of identity theft, over-zealous nosy neighbors, extremists, bullies, stalkers, etc. it boggles my mind why they are allowed to make money and have free-reign with our personal info. We don't get a share of their profits, but we can get someone we never wanted to see again on our doorstep. This has got to change, and the more you know about what can be found out about you without your permission and knowledge, the more you will agree.

Start here:, and be ready to have your eyes opened. Go.

Pet Peeves #22 - 5/15/10

1. Bullies.
By now, everyone has heard about the poor girl that committed suicide because of excessive bullying. Social interactions are an important part of growing up, and the pupose of school is to teach and to groom the social development of children. However, if the schools can't create a safe environment and protect kids from obvious cruelty from other students then we need another alternative stat. How can a child learn when threatened, nervous, abused or bullied? What purpose do the attending teachers and administration serve if they are not preventing this from happening right under their noses? It is proven that bullying scars people in to adulthood and has long-term effect on their lives, so why aren't school staff being held more acountable? Plus, this epidemic may be costing us as a society. Kids that could have grown up to be true contributors to this world are reduced to shells of what could have been; emotionally bruised, timid adults who admit to have abandoned their dreams along with their self-esteem and trust. This is what school is teaching these days? The more I hear about bullying in schools the more I understand homeschooling. Some teachers may argue that they can't be parents and referees too, but you are working with children. This isn't fantasy-land, you know kids can be cruel. Plus, these are dumbed-down, violent times where people don't feel they should be accountable for anything as long as it feels good and they aren't stopped. And this mentality trickles down to the kids. If you can't handle that reality, you can't be trusted to protect what you are supposed to nurture. If you can sleep at night watching some poor kid get humiliated every day, then you get an F. You should take two weeks off, accept the fact that you are sackless, and then quit. For those who think that bullying is 'part of life' and that they should "learn to stand up for themselves" and those who can't handle it "deserve it" are probably the parents of bullies and secretly think it's cool that their kid isn't considered 'weak'. Last time I checked, school was to educate, not see who can make it out alive with the least amount of bruises. Go ahead and be proud that your kid is too stupid to excel at anything in school except doling out abuse. The apple probably didn't fall too far from the tree. Congratulations. Oh, and for those school staff members who punish kids for finally standing up for themselves and fighting back - you should be ashamed of yourselves. So a bullied child didn't make your job easier by just sitting back and taking it, now you're upset that the kid acted out due to pure frustration? Now you're upset? You allowed the bullying to get to that point! You had a responsibility to nip the bullying in the bud when you first knew about it, but you did not. To punish the bullied instead of the bullies makes you accessories to the suffering that child endures. Period. To think anything else means you don't have reasoning skills, which makes me wonder how you got your job.

2. Okay, enough with the 800 pound Gorilla shit.
Speaking of bully-like behavior, I've hit the threshold. I've just about had enough of this 'everybody gotta be a tough guy' schtick that has attached itself to popular culture like Swine Flu. Every reality show guy wants to be an egomaniacal douchebag (i.e. Paul Sr., Jesse James). Every woman wants to be either some ghetto rage machine (just about any Black chick on reality TV, like "New York") or some loud-mouthed "take no shit" princess (i.e., "My Super Sweet 16"). It's not just reality shows. It's everywhere, literally, like a disease. The ridiculous sense of entitlement, the rudeness, demanding respect when offering none. The 'fuck you' swagger, the puffy, shiny, gym-rat 'Roid rage, the over-tanned, fist-pumping designer label wearing 'my shit don't stink' mentality that permeates the air like 20 day-old milk. I knew I was done when driving home last week with The Hubby. I had noticed something hanging from the bumper of the car in front of us. Upon closer inspection, it was a shiny gold scrotum. A pair of balls. A pair of balls hanging from the back bumper of a car. I had to rub my eyes and look again. The Hubby said, "Oh, you haven't seen those before? They come in different colors and some even have hair on them." Seriously?!? WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT OF THAT? Is the driver over-compensating for the fact he's driving a Ford Focus? Why do people, especially kids, need to see a pair of dangling balls from a car? I seriously wonder if these people are from Mars or raised in barns. What ever happened to manners, courtesy, class and just not being a dick? It appears those things show a weakness these days, and that is just mind-blowing. And sad.

3. Reality shows based in New Jersey.
It's easy to feel bad for New Jersey sometimes. The out of control taxes, car insurance issues, the recent severe flooding, forever in New York's shadow, it really just makes you go, 'damn, they can't catch a break'. But it's amazing how TV shows like "Real Housewives", "Jersey Shore" and "Jerseylicious" chip away at that sympathy. I realize that many NJ folks are horrified too, and these shows don't represent the majority of them (maybe it was okay as long as someone else was being stereotyped). I do hope that they get a program on that shows a different type of Jersey native, but until then, if a new show has anything to do with New Jersey, it's going to suck, it's going to be embarrassing and I'm not going to get a refund for my destroyed brain cells. And dear Lord, please, the sooner we can lose Snooki and "The Situation" the better the world will be.

4. "American Idol" has officially jumped the shark.
I case you didn't know, the term "jumping the shark" means any TV show that made a move that officially killed any resemblance of coolness or relevance it once possessed. The term was derived from when The Fonz water-skiied over a shark and drove the stake into "Happy Days". I dismiss the show "American Idol" primarily because they seek to create candy-coated pop singers who start out with an individual style and sound, only to end up sounding and looking just like everything else on radio that is shoved down our throats. That said, I can offer some respect as the judges are/were industry veterans with track records. They make no bones about the product they're looking to groom, and one only has to look at Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. Those ladies may have never been discovered without the show, and the world would have been denied their formidable un-Pro Tooled talent (and I'm not being facetious here, they are two great natural singers). Plus, they are mega-stars now - their dream has been realized. Kudos to 'em! So the peeve is not A.I.'s formula, or the success the show has received due to it. The peeve is when they get music celebrities on that are short on actual talent but long on good luck - like Miley Cyrus. She was going to be a mentor on the show. Not a judge, but a mentor. SHARK JUMP! What advice can Miley Cyrus possibly give someone who can probably outsing her? How to downplay a famous parent and the perks and obvious advantages that came along with that? How to regularly sing above your God-given register to the point dogs ears twitch uncontrollably? How to feign having paid dues when your fame was practically handed to you? Having kids who are just hitting puberty worship you does mot make you a talent. It means you are dumb-lucky and whoever does your marketing deserved every penny. So you have a TV show and half-way carry a tune? And? This qualifies you to mentor? Oy. It seems many regular viewers thought this season was the worst, so I guess it's par for the course.

5. Taylor Swift Fever
Yes, Taylor Swift is a good role model for young women. Unlike some other young super-stars, she is sweet, modest, and seems to have her head on straight. She also is a good songwriter and apparently writes songs from her heart that have connected with folks of all ages, hence her nominations and oodles of accolades from fans and folks in the music industry (which I believe is completely out of line - she not that great, c'mon, already, folks are just too blinded by her cuteness). She only lacks two things - a solid right hook (for Kanye, that douchebag, see #2 above) and an actual good singing voice. Last time I checked, if you're considered a singer, you should have that. She doesn't. Of course, she sounds good on record, but live, she's painful to watch. She's dancing and flipping her hair all over the place, but "hair, tits and hips" works better when you're a dancer - not when you can barely carry a tune and struggling to stay on-key. This isn't just based on her horrendous duet with Stevie Nicks, (that was a hot mess); this is based on other live performances I've heard her do. She is not a good singer. Sure, not all legendary singers are technically great, but they bring something more to the table in vocal character and LIVE they are on-point with what they do. Taylor's voice is average with studio magic and much less than average live. She's a good writer - let her write songs for other singers with bonafide vocal chops who can really max the songs melodic value, especially in a live setting, for the freakin' love. Taylor is up for two awards for the CMA's - Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year. I would be less offended if she won the Entertainer of the Year award than the Fem Voc award, because you can entertain a crowd without a great depth of talent. Taylor has clearly has worked her butt off this year entertaining the masses and is just as deserving of that award as anyone else in that category. But, to get a win in the Fem Voc category against true vocals giants like Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood would be a disgrace. She is not in the same ballpark, not in the same town, hell, not in even in the same hemisphere as those ladies vocally. If I were Martina and Carrie I would be totally offended that Taylor was even nominated. It's not an experience (age) vs. 'lack of' kind of thing. When Christina Aguilera came out, she was as good as Mariah and Whitney who are older and more seasoned. Christina has the vocal gift. Period. Taylor Swift DOES NOT have the vocal gift. I'm sorry - I want the singers I hear on radio, TV and especially live, to be amazing, to show and to justify why they are on that stage and have the fame that they do. When they aren't great on a basic musical level and don't live up to their title (i.e. singer), I can't respect them no matter how many records they sell, how elaborate their stage show, or how hard the media tries to shove them down my throat.

Pet Peeves #21 (originally posted 4/28/10)

1. People who keep yelling (or 'yelling' by using all caps) that Obama is a communist/socialist.
I'm not an Obama groupie by any stretch and I'm not even a Democrat, but dammit, it's the same message/posting every time, about how Obama is a commie bastard that hates America and we all need to 'wake up'. I AM wide awake, thank you, but what is putting me to sleep are these right-wingnuts that keep whining that same phrase over and over like a prozac-induced mantra. Really? This is the best you guys can do? Just because Obama - like a few other U.S. leaders/candidates before him - wanted to make our healthcare system, which features the best medicine in the world, available to all Americans, he's a communist/socialist? All this weeping and gnashing of teeth at how the Republican plan would have worked better...oh wait - THEY NEVER HAD ONE. Republicans that aren't business-owners and/or rich need to realize that every time it becomes apparent the Republicans do not have a plan, or least one that takes the working class into consideration, they play "The Socialist" card, and y'all fall for it every time. And all that yappin' about how the Democrats are gonna pay in November - okay, fair enough. If they do, hopefully the Republicans will actually have some bright ideas to bring to the table instead of sitting back, bitching and griping at every attempt by the current administration to get this country going again. The Republicans lack of concern for the middle-class of this country is what led to their downfall in the last elections. Maybe this time the Republican voters will hold their candidates to the fire and make sure they have progressive plans that keeps their ideals while improving the lives of their working class supporters instead of just the wealthy. If that happened, I could get behind them for the first time in awhile. Guys, really, STFU already, and get a plan! GET A PLAN.

2. Ode to the guy who wore shorts through 90% of the Winter.
I'll never understand why it's such a fashion faux-pas to wear white after Labor Day but okay for people to walk around in Bermuda shorts until first snow. There is one dude at work that was STILL wearing shorts, t-shirts and mandals into DECEMBER. Seriously. Maybe he found it hard to let go of the summer, but he finally got over it, and put on some pants. Which was a good thing since I've had to look at his hairy legs a lot longer than I would have liked. You way-into-the-Winter-shorts wearing mofos may think you look cool and casual, but all I can think of when I see you is that you have got to be a coupla fries short of a happy meal to be so underdressed while everyone else had already busted out their gloves and hats.

3. "One-Hit Wonder" artists who are resentful of their one big hit.
As a musician who has never had a "hit" song (yet...?), I don't understand these musicians who have had one big hit and then get mad that they have to play it every time they hit the stage possibly until they physically can't perform anymore. Believe me, there are songs that I have played in bands and no matter how much I loved the song at one point, I grew tired of playing it AND hearing it. So song fatigue in itself isn't my peeve - I totally get that. But, what I DON'T get are these folks who had a song that was so huge it allowed them to, at worst, be musicians for a living, or at best will feed their progeny until the earth implodes (I don't think the descendants of the person who wrote "Monster Mash" have a problem with those royalty checks every year especially around Halloween). In particular, we have Jani Lane who is so sick of being Mr. "Cherry Pie" and that guy from A Flock of Seagulls who said. "All everyone wants to hear is 'I Ran'. That's all they want to hear and frankly, I'm sick of it." Then they show him performing a show with his face balled up while people dance, happy to hear a familiar song that held a place in time for them. But what are these guys doing thanks to the notoriety of their one hit? Pretty much whatever the hell they want. I especially love the Flock guy, who runs his own business (I'm sure launched with "I Ran" money) and they show him on a boat with a woman, reportedly his wife, who was totally out of his league. The kind of woman that would never have looked at him twice, and if she did, laughed and pointed. But its amazing how a fugly old guy gets better-looking when four checks are year are showing up in the mailbox AND he's a business owner, AND he gets paid to do 80's Revival gigs (and you know he asks for extra so he can slog his way through the one song that put him where he is today). C'mon, dude, suck it up! Some one-hit wonder artists are cool about their one shot at immortality. The lead singer of Pretty Poison (remember "Catch Me I'm Falling"?) said it was better to be a one-hit wonder than a no-hit wonder. She enjoys her time onstage when they get the occasional revival gig, and the fact people still give a shit about her band and the one song that put them on the musical map. Bottom line: With so much competition, heartbreak and unfairness in the music business, anyone who at least makes the charts once in their lifetime should be eternally grateful, not bitter because no one cares about the rest of their songs. That one song possibly changed their quality of life forever, and gave them an opportunity - no matter how fleeting or stunted - to capture the fickle public's attention long enough to make their dreams come true. Some gratitude would be classy, at least out of respect for those of us who still await our shot at the brass ring.

4. Heffas who sleep with married celebrities.
First off, they're married - you're already wrong. Tiger, honey, good thing that you're rich, 'cos you ain't smooth. Plus, dude - 98% of those chicks you messed around with were FUGLY - seriously, at least bang someone hotter than your wife! As far as all the women that slept with him, they missed the memo. If you're the 3rd, 4th or 5th wench to hop between the sheets with a famous married person, you're not going to get a lot of money crawling out from under your rock to admit as much to the public. If you're not the first to drop the bomb, you're just the naked chick that showed up to the porno set after the money shot. Nobody cares...but you're still a slut. Congratulations! Speaking of Bomb(shell) there's the whole brouhaha about Jesse James and his side-dish Michelle "Bombshell" McGee. Most of the Internet is now having a field day with her "Nazi" photo shoot, but they didn't need to bust those out for me to question her character. She says she went public because Jesse lied to her about he and Sandra Bullock being "separated" and she was angry. I say "BS". She wanted to bang Jesse James and I bet ya a dollar to a donut it would not have made a difference to her if he was married or not. Star fuckers do not care about marital status, it was just an excuse to ruin his life because her goodies weren't good enough for him to leave his pretty, famous and rich wife. Sure, it's his fault that he couldn't keep it in his pants, but ratting him out while simultaneously admitting to taking it out of his pants doesn't make her a heroine - it just makes her another bitter chick tapped by a celebrity that never had a shot a being his wifey and now everyone involved has to pay. And hey, this was her chance to get the fame she wouldn't have had otherwise, and she's getting her 15 minutes. Unfortunately, something as low down as that will get you 15 minutes - sometimes 20 - in entertainment these days. Now the SWoMSFH (Second Wave of Married Star Fucking Heffas) are coming out of the woodwork, but again, ya'll are late to the party, and a foursome being 'shocking' is soooo 1990's. Unless your Jesse story involved ball-gags, a hamster, a couple of midgets, a wayward chicken and some peanut butter all wrapped up in a Nazi flag no one is going to care except dudes on MySpace that want to friend you and you don't wanna fuck. Hope that bump in your friend count is all you hoped it would be!

5. C'MON, people, BCC or remove old email addys when forwarding!!
I periodically have to put this in a Pet Peeve because people apparently aren't being exposed enough to it. Fer shit's sake people, when you're forwarding an email to someone, PLEASE delete ALL prior email addresses that the email was sent to. It takes two seconds to highlight and delete when you're forwarding something. If this is too much of a hassle, then don't forward. Period. Why is this so important? Three really good reasons: 1) Many people read their email via cell phones, and having to scroll through 400 prior email addresses before I even get to the message IS ANNOYING and will give your Crackberry friends a thumb cramp. Also, keep in mind folks are possibly being charged by the KB, and you've just ate up a shitload amount of their available monthly data. RUDE. 2) I don't want my email address floating around strangers (and I love it when these emails also display your full name AND sometimes where you work. Now I have a bunch of people I don't know who now have more personal info than they need to have about me. Thanks! 3) Forwarded emails generate SPAM. Where do you think spam comes from? UNPROTECTED EMAIL ADDRESSES. Inevitably, someone in that email chain is collecting and making a buck off of all the email addys in these forwarded emails. So when you don't BCC or delete prior email addys, you are helping to perpetuate spam. Nice. Yes, I love receiving the jokes and inspirational stuff you send. But if you don't think enough of me to protect an email address I gave to you in confidence, then please leave me out of your email circle altogether.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pet Peeves #20 (originally posted 9/15/09)

1. People who fancy-up common names...then get mad when you don't say it their way.
No, my name is not common and nine times out of ten people are going to say it wrong. I've learned to live with it - it's not their fault my name isn't Lisa. While my name is not common, there are some common names that have a standard pronunciation and some people just have to get all prissy with it, then get all pissy when you get it wrong. For example: The name Alicia. Pronounced AH-lee-sha. Standard. Alicia Silverstone would get all testy when they didn't call her ah-LEE-SEE-ah. Oh, poo poo. Recently I got a file and the contact name on it was Diane. So, of course, I call up and ask for Diane, standard pronunciation. Before I could even finish saying it she jumped all over me - "EXCUSE ME it's pronounced 'DEE-ahn' (like Dionne - and like I was supposed to know this). I could picture her sticking her nose up in the air as she corrected me. Really? Can we say, 'off to a bad start'? Maybe she pictures herself as some sort of big deal. Hopefully she can picture me rolling my eyes.

2. Musicians with WAY too high of an opinion of themselves.
I'll try and keep this short because I could go all day with this one. Over the years I have met some incredible musicians who are also wonderful people, but I have also had the displeasure of dealing with jerks who think that stinky feces, putting their pants on one leg at a time, and treating people with respect is something lesser people have to do. Let's get it in perspective people, right the fuck right now. Unless you are playing the Garden, The Coliseum, The Beacon or places like Nokia or Blender, you are NOBODY. Unless you been featured on WonderWall, or appeared at least once on Hilton Perez's website, or are mentioned on TMZ, you are NOBODY. Unless your face is in Rolling Stone, Revolver, hell, even Hit Parader, you are NOBODY. Okay? I include myself in that. If you ARE playing bars, small local venues and weddings you may be very good, even great and sadly undiscovered, but you ARE NOT A ROCK STAR SO PLEASE LEAVE THAT DIVA/DIVO SHIT AT HOME IN FRONT OF YOUR MIRROR. I'm all for not taking any crap from a mean bar owner, cranky bartenders and making sure you're paid as agreed, but there is difference between making sure you get treated respectfully and just being a flat-out pompous my-shit-don't-stink-so-you-best-kiss-my-ass self-important DOUCHEBAG who thinks that every time they walk into a venue with a guitar it's everyone's cue to suck up to you like you're the fifth fucking Beatle. Newsflash: YOU'RE NOT. Again: YOU. ARE. NOT. Every promoter that books you could easily book someone else. Every place you play may not be all that impressed with you. Every artist you play with in your scene are your peers. So lose the attitude, because even though nice guys may finish last, I bet they get more - and better - gigs than you because they don't show up at a small local bar with a rider, treat everyone there like servants, and don't whine about every little thing. GET OVER YOURSELF. Got it? Good :)

3. Make the fucking commitment!
Nothing drives me up a damn tree faster than a bear with a stick of dynamite up its ass than people who can't make a commitment or make up their mind about things that aren't complex. They hem and haw, procrastinate with no respect for the time and schedule of others. I swear, I would rather have someone be completely honest with me and say that I'm a low priority and last resort when their other options run out, rather than waste my time when I could have asked someone else or planned something else. If I thought enough of you to approach you about something time-sensitive, then think enough of me to let me move onto my other options so I don't get screwed or lose out on something else. It's about respect, people!

4. That MySpace 'Pop out' IM doohickey at the bottom right of the screen.
That is even more annoying than that dumb ad with the bouncing chick in pink with the golf club. STOP. IT. NOW. Stop slowing me up with that annoying ass thing that looks like a blue mosquito every time I scroll down! If I wanna IM someone, I'll do it, dammit!'

5. Folks who get mad at others for not hanging out on the Internet on their terms.
There are some folks out there that get a bit of a 'tude when people have to either cut back on their Internet time or just don't have time to read and respond to every blog or mess with those app doohickeys. Please understand that I would love nothing more than to hang out and Internet-socialize as much as I used to, post more blogs and maybe even learn to play Mafia Wars. But right now I work two friggin' jobs. Two. I'm sorry that right now I can only put up a couple of bulletins, do an email or two and then have to bail. I'm sure you would rather get a thoughtful reply to your stuff when I do get a chance to really read it, than just a one-sentence robotic response just so it's there. That's superficial. One things slow down I'll be back on point. Hell, I've been drafting this Pet Peeves since JULY LOL...Cut me a break!

6. Snarky-ass kids.
Many linguists have opined about the death of the English language. There was a time when if we wanted to get a glimpse into what was going through the mind of a soldier or a politician or just a regular civilian all we had to do was look at old letters and journals featuring proper English and a lot of it was damn-near poetic. Now, nobody handwrites anything, but our dictionaries now sports terms such as 'bootylicious' and 'pornfolio'. IMs and texts have reduced the need to know how to spell or put a sentence together, and by default if we can't express it in a certain amount of characters or less, we're outta luck. Now, I'm afraid this abbreviated sense of communication has filtered down to the younger generation. They seem to have lost the ability to verbally communicate, not only with any sort of feeling or expression but also with a scant amount of respect. Since they no longer seem to know or care about how to address someone, many communicate as if they are giving orders to a small animal, and also with an air of snottiness that is truly uncalled for. Is it just me? Am I just getting old? Or is it because someone has passed a certain age they are no longer deserving of being treated with any sort of respect by brats barely old enough to drink? I really feel that future generations will only be able to communicate in person with grunting and pointing. Hopefully, I'll be dead by then.