Sunday, January 30, 2005

If an e-mail is sent in the forest and there's no one there to read it, does it make a sound?

If you've followed my previous blogs (and very few of you have), you know I think is the devil and the telephone is satan. Then it should not come as any suprise to you that I think e-mail is evil incarnate.

Okay, put aside the fact that it is a souless tool, fraught with misinterpretation and unintended inuendo. Put aside the fact that it allows anyone with computer access to fire off endless junk mail begging you to buy non-existent perscription or send your bank account information to Nigeria. And put aside the fact that hackers (may they rot in hell) have made every e-mail you get, even if it is from your Aunt Sally, a potential letter bomb that can wipe out your entire computer.

All of that aside, and e-mail still sucks. Because in my experience, what should have been a boon to staying in touch has created new barriers that make reaching out and touching someone (figuratively) that was a friend or relative akin to a wave to that neighbor two doors down that you've never talked to. People these days treat e-mails from friends with a shrug and grunt and then move with whatever they were doing.

E-mail is a message, my friends. Unless it asking you to refinance or avoid embarrassing moments by ordering Viagra, it bears a response.

In the past, you could write a letter, pop it into the mail and assume you'd get a response. If you didn't, it was safe to assume some disgruntled postal worker had mangled it and tossed it into the shredder. With today's e-mail, you can ask for a receipt when a note is delivered and another when it is open and presumebly read. So when you write someone and they don't respond, you have to assume they don't give a rat's behind.

Case in point: I have a former friend I'd known since I was 16. Even when we both left Boise and went separate ways, we managed to stay in touch. When she got married in England 12 years ago, I was one of the only people from the states that went to her wedding. Okay, we communicated sporatically after that. She and her husband ended up in Montana. She became a college librarian. He taught English or film theory at the same college (I assume). I hadn't heard from them much in the past 5 years or so. But with the marvel of the Internet I was able to find her e-mail address a couple of years ago. I sent a note asking how she was. She responded with a few short lines. We exchanged e-mails a couple more times and then I didn't hear anything else.

So, in the past couple of weeks I happily sent out e-mails to friends announcing my engagement. I sent one to my friend in Montana. I heard nothing. So I assumed I had an old e-mail address. I double-checked and sent another e-mail with the return receipt option checked. Sure enough the e-mail was received and opened. I waited patiently for a reply, anything. Nothing. No "good to hear from you," no "congratulations," no "don't contact me again." And I haven't a clue why. We never had a falling out as friends. We don't even live in the same state, so I'm not sure how I could have offended her.

If this was an isolated incident, I'd write it off. But this happens all of the time, even with my family. I send e-mails to my brother, my nephews, my niece and I rarely get a response. I sent an e-mail to my nephew who got married in Las Vegas last spring telling him about my engagement and didn't hear a peep (likely because he thinks the government reads all of our e-mail...perhaps they are sending their bank account information to Nigeria as we speak).

The evil of e-mail is that is that it is forging a self-absorbed society that can't even type two lines of text and hit the send button because that would require thought and motivation. We are a society surrounded by so many instant communication methods that we have become numb to real communication. The telephone made us a disembodied voice, void of emotion. E-mail takes away the voice and turns even personal communication into mindless, electronic junk.

That's how I feel about it. Got a problem with that? Here's a quarter, e-mail someone who cares.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Spam Hall of Shame

Some spam is so incredibly ridiculous, it begs to be shared:

SUBJECT: Hellow, what do you do on Monday? Call me.
FROM: Jassmine Filenson Dear sweethart,

I just get round to email! My camera shootings takes a lot of time! I love and miss
you very much, I think just about you!! I'm fine, my first photosession has ended
yesterday, and you, as usually, the first who will see my photos. My photographer is the really genius! I there madly beautiful, especially when I oiled!!! I love you,
and I want you.

Love, yours Jassmine.

I’ll try to write as often as possible, I’ll send you new photos very soon.
Photos’ password: wantyou

Okay, please tell me no one falls for these things. Yes, it had an attachment and no, I didn't open it. Even my grandmother could tell it is a virus and she's been dead for years.

My favorite line is, "I there madly beautiful, especially when I oiled!!!" God knows what the line was when they plugged it into Babble Fish for translation.

Say goodbye Jassmine.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Seek and ye shall find

I get a kick out of looking at the stats for my Web site to see how people end up at Dizgraceland. A large percentage are looking for Elvis. But it is the extreme randomness for how people end up in my blog that really kills me. 

There are people out there actually doing google searches for "mechanical monkeys playing cymbals" and "dead animals in my crawlspace." I can only imagine their confusion when they end up at Dizgraceland. But it is a small world after all (that's going to get me those Disneyland hits for sure). 

 I've given up on the dream of being a blog celebrity, though. The whole "Build it and they will come" theory hasn't really worked with Dizgraceland. Neither has my "sell my crap on eBay and get rich" scheme. I guess I am just destined for that gray land of anonymity. That's what comes when your favorite character in Amadeus is Salieri, not Mozart. Though I did see Tom Hulce in a restaurant in Seattle years ago ordering a cinnamon roll (he played Amadeus Mozart in the 1984 movie called coincidently Amadeus...he also had a major part in Animal House). I've never seen F. Murray Abraham in a restaurant (he played Antonio Salieri in the movie...Amadeus, not Animal House). I did see Samuel L. Jackson in the Brooklyn Cafe in Seattle once, though (he was in neither Amadeus or Animal House). 

Life is funny that way. Suffice it to say, I don't run in the celebrity crowd. I did see Alec Baldwin in the LA airport a couple of years ago. And I met Cynthia Lauren Tewes a week or so ago. She played Julie McCoy in the Love Boat series. I have a friend who stood behind Johnny Cash in a deli in New York once, too. So, we're back to it's a small world, after all. 

Did I mention I met Mickey Mouse once, too?

Go ask Alice

The one thing we all have in common as we age is a lively discussion of bodily functions and what medications we take. Having been raised a Christian Scientist and not taking medications for the first 23 years of my life, I've more than made up for it in middle age. I take about four pills a day, twice a day to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and stomach acid. If that wasn't irritating enough, I now find that I have to take potassium supplements to replace the potassium in my body being leeched out by one of the blood pressure medications. It was much easier being a Christian Scientist (though I never could get used to having to go to Sunday School).

I know it is not an original complaint that the cures they give us cause more problems (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). But this is my blog and I have a right to rant about non-original topics once in awhile. Or even all the time. It's my blog. It's not like you are paying to come here. Though you should. These are pearls my friend.

What was I talking about, oh yeah, my medications. Doctors are quick to dole out prescriptions and they all come with these nifty lists of possible side effects and interactions with other drugs. Have you ever read these things? "May cause shortness of breath. May cause coughing. May cause internal bleeding. May cause you to stop breathing. May cause you to watch more Reality Television. " The lists go on and on because I don't think they are written by medical experts. Rather they are written by legal experts trying to cover the butts of the pharmaceutical companies who want to make sure you realized all of the risks before you popped their stinking little expensive pills. And don't get me started about the cost of the pills. It's gotten so bad, we have caravans of seniors making trips over the Canadian border to score Lipitor and Atenenol. I'm not looking forward to retirement and wondering whether or not I can afford my cholesterol medication and the medication required to battle its side effects.

Then there is the Pharmacist who doles out the pills. Can anyone tell me why it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to count out 60 pills, pour them in a bottle and slap a label on it? And these are people who went to school just to make sure you are getting the size, type and quantity of pills are the right ones. I have a degree in Journalism and I think I could fill the bottle with the right number of pills in under five minutes. Given the proper training and encouragement, I think a chimpanzee could fill the bottle in under five minutes. But this is just my uneducated opinion on the challenges of filling prescriptions.

Call me cranky, but I attribute most of my frustration to the side effect of being doubled up in the bathroom for two days wishing I hadn't let my potassium supplement run out.

Oh well, live and learn. I've got this white rabbit I'm chasing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Fifteen minutes

I spent most of yesterday sitting in a recording studio taping two 45 second radio ads. More accurately, I sat there watching the back Dave the engineer's head and listening to voice talent read the same lines 20 times. Watching radio commercials being made is a bit like watching paint dry. Or listening to paint dry.

It's a miracle how they are pieced together though. And it is a pretty lucrative gig for actors and moonlighting DJ's. You get paid pretty good to say the same three words in 50 different ways. Plus you don't have to wear a tie.

But like Alfred Hitchcock, I have grown fond of having a little bit of me show up in my work. So on one spot. I got to shout "Pull over" six or seven times in the recording booth and have it spliced into the commercial as a "sound effect."

One time, I had my 1976 era family portrait on a billboard. It was a really cool billboard of the inside of a car decked out to look like someone's parlour. The headline read, "Spending too much time in your car?" And there on the dashboard was my family portrait.

Another time I got to do the sound effect of a guy being poked in the eye with a pool cue.

Being a marketing manager has it's privileges.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Close but no cigar

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
-- Sigmund Freud

I don't claim to be a cigar aficionado. I'm not even sure what is meant by a "good" cigar. When I was a kid, my mom used to say, "I wonder how far he had to chase that dog" when she'd pass some guy smoking a cigar. Suffice it to say I don't smoke them often, but everytime I am outside the country and see a store selling Cuban cigars the rebel in me has to buy a couple and smoke them out of spite. I mean, they seem like such a stupid thing to boycott.

And cruise ships create these lounges that scream for you to smoke cigars. And, they always seem to name them Winston's. This last Carnival Cruise was no exception. This was a brand new ship built in Italy. It was pristine. And I am proud to say I got to stink up Winston's Cigar Lounge with some nasty Cuban cigars that tasted as if that dog my mom always referred to had crapped in my mouth. But for once, I got to be the nasty smoker blowing smoke at passersby, oblivious to their dirty looks as the filthy blue smoke billowed about the lounge. It gave me that taste of what it must be like to be a smoker.

Ironically, the ship designer had made Winston's Lounge the plushiest and most comfortable bar on the ship. And in his or her's great wisdom, they also made the lounge a major thoroughfare on the ship that people leaving one of the dining room's had to pass through after dinner. So, I got to blow my toxic cigar smoke on parades of people just passing through. What a major power trip!

It was an exclusive club I joined. Look at all of the great images of cigar smokers we have: Winston Churchell of course, every World War II sargeant in every World War II film, Al Capone, Fidel Castro, Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis' manager), Daddy Warbucks and Sigmund Freud. I tell you, I was giddy with the power smoking a cigar gave me.

Now if I could get used to the crappy taste, the headaches and the smell, I'd probably smoke them more often.

Oh well, there's always the next cruise. I think the Diamond Princess also has a Winston's Lounge and I'm betting money I can find Cuban cigars in Mexico.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

You Are Dumb

You Are Dumb

I found this site while doing a Google search for "The Real Gilligan's Island" (don't ask). Anyway Bryan, the author of the site is a genius that's not afraid to point out the dumbing of America. I couldn't resist passing on the address.

I'm no dummy.

But is it art?

Okay, I can’t really stand it when I’m over at someone’s house and they pull out the slides of the vacation. You can only see so many shots of Tuscany and picturesque tile roofs before you want to rip your eyes out of the sockets. Because, as with most things, you had to be there to appreciate them.

So, having said that, I’m going to violate my own rule and put up some shots from our recent cruise. These are from St. Thomas. They are various shots of Fort Christian. I like them because I think they are visually interesting regardless of whether you have been to St. Thomas or even know where the shots are from or of.

Fort Christian is St. Thomas's oldest standing structure. It was built between 1672 and 1680 and now has U.S. National Landmark status. The clock tower was added in the 19th century. This building has, over time, been used as a jail, governor's residence, town hall, courthouse, and church. Fort Christian now houses The Virgin Islands Museum, where you can see exhibits on USVI history, natural history, and turn-of-the-20th-century furnishings.

I really enjoyed exploring the Fort. It wasn’t crowded and I get a kick out of interesting architecture. Plus the place had interesting vibes. Having been a jail at one point, you can only imagine some of the lost souls hanging about. The dungeon, solitary confinement cell for one was very creepy.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Seeing the light....

One of the odd little anomalies of Web based reality is that we begin to measure ourselves in site stats. Tracking hits gives us that little affirmation that people are actually out there visiting our Web pages. It can become an obsessive thing, especially if you track statistics with one of the many sites out there that feeds into that desire to know that someone from Iceland visited your Blog at 2 p.m. on Sunday and stayed for 5 minutes before leaving in disgust.

I admit that I look at Web stats for my Web pages. And I found it was very interesting and predictable that my stats were pretty low during the holidays, especially since I was on a cruise and didn't make any new entries. After all, people are just sitting on the edge of their computer seats waiting for my next entry, aren't they?

So, when I announced my engagement on January 5, I was startled to discover that my Web hits went from 30 or 40 a day to more than 200. It was the affirmation I was seeking. People were indeed just waiting with baited breath for my wisdom to hit the Blog and were pouncing on any entry.

Then it dawned on me that Elvis' birthday was January 8. Every year around this time, people hit the Web looking for information about the King. They Google him and inevitably they run across Dizgraceland: A Tim-Elvis Experience. And inevitably, they are very disappointed.


But I look on the bright side. At least the disappointed people did not send me hate mail this year for disrespecting the King.

Not that I disrespect the King. Elvis has somehow become firmly interwoven with my life. Perhaps he has a message for me. Perhaps it is just a coincidence. But everywhere I turn, Elvis crops up. Now, you could say this is true for everyone, but I choose to believe the King speaks to me through many signs. For instance, when Tess and I were in Nassau a couple of weeks ago we went for a very expensive and non-informative carriage ride. The driver's name was Elvis and his horse's name was Nat King Cole. Elvis gave us a tour of the city that touched on the many high points of Nassau. I now know where the jail is and where all of the radio stations are located.

Here is a photo of Elvis and Nat King Cole:

Elvis also showed us many historic buildings and literally showed us a sign:

So, I am pretty safe is saying that Elvis is pretty much watching over my life. And to show you that I really am pretty much an Elvis-foamer, I bought a four-CD set yesterday that has a hundred songs done by other artists that were originally done by other artists. The CDs have the originally artist recordings. Did you know that Al Jolson originally recorded "Are you lonesome tonight?" I didn't think so.

Because I am the chosen one.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A modest proposal

Tom Robbins once wrote, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." And, it's never too late to find your soulmate. I proposed to mine on our Christmas cruise and she accepted. I consider myself a lucky person. We plan to get married this spring.

And, no, I doubt if we'll get married by an Elvis impersonator. My nephew stole that thunder and frankly, I'm a romantic at heart and want something a bit more memorable than a chapel on the strip. We're thinking of getting married on another cruise if I can work out the details. A wedding at sea just seems appropriate. This would push the number of cruises I've been on to 14 and I'm feeling a bit decadent.

Anyway, here's to beginnings! Happy New Year!