Monday, January 28, 2013

Goodbye to Sarah Palin the Britney Spears of Politics

When Sarah Palin burst on the political scene in 2008 the first reaction was "who?" The second was she was kind of hot for a politician. The third was how did someone with such limited intelligence make it so far? She was still vaguely hot for a politician. Just ignorant and not very nice.



Palin may not have become VP thank God, but her ability to fascinate continued "People loved her. People hated her. She had transcended the narrow bounds of politics to become a larger-than-life figure, the woman portrayed by Tina Fey, the mama grizzly from Alaska. Evey journalist in the country knew that if you put Palin's name in an online headline or television segment, your clicks and ratings would soar," commented Howard Kurtz of CNN.

Palin didn't seek the Republican nomination for the 2012 election, but she remained a media superstar. Fox News snapped her up as a pundit on a contract reported to be more than $1 million a year. There was a best-selling book in 2009. A Kardashian-like effect (that's a polite term for the Black Death) seemed to take over with obscure family members being given a slice of flitting stardom when daughter Bristol appeared on Dancing With The Stars.

And then Palin inexplicably plummeted like the Mad Hatters' Tea Party that gave her its rabid backing. Recently her Fox contract was low balled and there was an amicable parting of the ways. Palin had suddenly become a nobody from Alaska again, although probably a richer one than before.



The Palin story makes me think of Britney Spears for some reason. In 1999 Britney was the biggest thing since sliced bread, although I have to wonder at that expression. What's so big about sliced bread these days? It's just normal.

Still Britney could no nothing wrong then but for the past decade she's been able to do nothing right, being embroiled in a series of low grade Lindsay Lohan antics.

This is the reason why I have decided to eschew fame; I simply couldn't take the slide to obscurity. Of the two I feel the most for Britney. Maybe I'll do a good deed for Britney like following her on Twitter.



This song is Britney at her prime. I had forgotten about it for the longest time but looking again at the vid. I am shocked at how risque it is.






Friday, January 25, 2013

As Pure as Snow Angels

So here's my snow angel from a few years ago. Half frozen in the half light, but never wanting to go inside.



And the snow is here again and it obliterates the blandness of the street. It fuels dreams and desires and opens up pristine vistas.

Here's the snow angel today. Pure and cleansed with never an impure thought. Somewhat like me. (pause as coughing fit takes over). How quickly we lose our innocence.



Snow makes me think of the mountains. The day when I was alone on the glacier and the world was a silver, stripped down wonderland that flitted away from me at the sweep of my arm, the sun glinting on my skis as I moved down the slope.



Then I recall the night on the lake, the purple skies sinking over the mountains as the cold, hard lights of St. Moritz glinted across the ice and a coldness crystallized the very stars.



And now I think of all the silent glades as the full moon looms large overhead. We can walk hand in hand East of Eden, West of the Carpathians for hours absorbed in each other and never let a soul cross out our footprints in the snow.

 
Snow at the Dismal Swamp Canal, NC (David Macaulay)


We can lose ourselves in our thoughts and each other in a place faded out on the map where the decay of the earth is iced over by the driven snow.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking Back on the Early Days of Facebook

I often wonder about the wisdom of looking back. Can we learn something about ourselves from the past or is it mired in confusion?

"When you reach 95, after you get over your surprise, you start looking back," commented Kirk Douglas.



To look back when you are younger is overindulgent, but what the heck? When I started this blog in 2009 I thought my posts were witty but it occurs to me now they were mostly overlong and displayed a vein of pathos which seems to be lacking in me now now I am desensitised.

More than 500 posts later I have long ago realized nobody will hang on your every word and it's vain to think they will do so. If they get hung on one line, you are doing well. I think my early posts sucked in the loneliness of the late shift in an empty newsroom. I also wonder if I suffered more then from the displacement felt by the immigrants who are recently arrived in this vast continent.

Most immigrants from the Old World will tell you there are two distinct phases. The alienation and the assimilation.

You cross from one to the other the first time you visit a Golden Corral and experience for the first time the joy of the lukewarm buffet on a sticky tray.

This is a rather meandering preamble to explain I'm posting an old blog. The third one I ever wrote in 2009. It's curious to think there was a time when Facebook seemed like a novelty item, like an upscale piece of Belgium chocolate rather than a big old slab of bog standard Hershey's.

If I drank a coffee every time I logged into Facebook I'd be six foot under with caffeine poisoning by now.
I don't think I'm an addict. I don't get withdrawal symptoms. It's just that there's so much going on there that it draws my attention on quiet days.
And I'm not alone. Most of the people at my office are on Facebook including technophobes, sensible people and people as old as me.
If Facebook had been around in the 18th century when the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk (the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe) was marooned on a Pacific Island, he'd probably admit he never managed to start a fire but he had poked someone on Facebook.
Yet if you suggested these eminent work colleagues 'hang out' on MySpace they'd look at you as if you suggested membership of the street gang the Bloods was possibly a jolly good idea.
Still there's a kind of law of diminishing returns going on with Facebook. I know there are people who like to lord it over others because they've got more 'friends' but I am ashamed to confess I have some 'friends' on this site who I'd walk past and in a corridor and not a - recognise b - talk to (the latter probably goes without saying because it's not very English to talk to complete strangers).
And the more friends you have on this site the greater the potential for you to be bombarded with photographs of children of relatives of 'friends' who you wouldn't recognize in the corridor closely followed by photos of those children's friend's new bicycle.
Then there are those mindless status updates, which I am as guilty of as anyone, in which you are informed the friend you wouldn't recognize in the corridor had bagels for breakfast and they tasted good.
Then a friend of that friend will tell you they had sausages but ended up throwing up.
Facebook also allows you to comment on an update from a friend who you would recognise in a corridor and to then be ritually bombarded by follow-ups from people you wouldn't know from Adam (or Eve) who are attacking you for being an unreconstructed pig.
Then there are some of the more annoying features of Facebook - the pokes, the super pokes, the nuclear pokes, the opportunities to throw oxes at people, or buttons with smiley faces or council estate memorabilia such as white dog turds, snow balls, Christmas trees, potted plants etc.
The list is endless.The weird thing about Facebook is that I have good friends from back in the day on there but they're not friends as I used to know them, Jim.
Instead of having a good chat over a beer, you make do with sending a bijou Halloween cat or super poking them from 2,000 miles away.
Facebook has brought us closer to our friends but paradoxically pushed us further apart by consigning us to a sterile parallel universe in cyberspace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Great Leap Backwards at 2 a.m.

Getting an early night is never a good idea. I woke at 1:30 a.m. feeling hot and feverish. There were a lot of thoughts that passed  quickly through my fevered brain like the ads on a commuter train which you never read properly. My life tends to be like that now; little time to fashion and dwell on one thought and I am onto the next. We are all collectors of partial information. We sprinkle a few grains of the plot before we have lost it.

Oh yes. This blog. Why do it? Because it's there and after a week away the daily visits are down from 300 plus to 200 plus and we can't deal with falling numbers now can we, because we would be slipping back and not moving forward like Mao's Great Leap Forward but now I'm confused because 大跃进 (that got you didn't it) entailed agricultural collectivization, which was more a step back to the Dark Ages.


Mao's official portrait

The death toll from starvation as a result of this policy implemented in China from 1958 to 1961 was up to 45 million which is staggering when you think about it, eclipsing the death toll of the Holocaust. But ask yourself how many people know about this? When was the Great Leap Forward last taught at your son or daughter's school. Could it be that we don't care so much about Chinese people as folks in the dust bowl or Germany?

How did that happen? I was talking about the blog. Feels better to walk away sometimes. Or just post dog pictures.

Maybe China could have benefitted from Twitter in the same way as Tunisia. Or at least I presume it did because nobody has bothered to go back and find out, having moved eagerly on to Egypt, Syria etc.

It's easy to lose the plot and to go off on a tangent. Did I really just send a Facebook friend request to one of the most tyrannical bossesI have ever worked for, a man whose personal hygiene defied description? Just bacause Facebook suggested it. I suppose it's OK. Facebook hasn't brought in a smell ap. yet, I guess it's only a matter of time. Sorry I just got distracted by someone's blog post about ornate tea pots. One of the problems with society these days is we don't spend enough time eying up fancy tea pots at 2 a.m.

So I hoped to get some agent tips at writers' group tonight but people drank too much and disagreement between women on whether killing techniques are taught during Army basic training threatened to spill over into bloodshed.

At least I managed to hand out some of those bottle openers I have been working on which don't seem to open bottles so well, and, believe me there are nights when bottles need to be opened.

Back to the mobile device. A middle aged man is stalking me but I am dodging the calls. And David Bowie has posted his latest video shoot on my feed. Doubt if I'll watch it as he's too old for the small screen - by which I mean iPhone as opposed to TV. The marketing guru whose talk I braved a room full of granite faced women business owners to listen to this week said by 2015 about 75 percent of us will be viewing info on a mobile device instead of a laptop or PC. I made up the figure as I have forgotten but it was something like that.

The feed from the Dallas Morning News reads "does the concept of meeting-less relationships confuse you or do you think online-only connections aren't as weird as they sound?" It's related to a football player with an imaginary girlfriend who seems to have died in an imaginary way and the mainstream media failed to pick up on it. I'm moving in favor of meeting because it might solidify my distracted brain but I'm already wondering why so many sharks are moving south to Palm Beach.

So what happened to Chairman Mao as a consequence of up to 45 million deaths? You'd think the sharks would be circling.

"Mao stepped down as State Chairman of the PRC in 1959, though he did retain his position as Chairman of the CPC," states Wikipedia.

Bloody hell. Worse things than that have happened to me for spelling someone's name incorrectly in a story.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kate Middleton Portrait Causes an Art Attack

The new portrait of Kate Middleton has stirred up a bit of controversy. The painting is the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cornwall and its black background suggests a tradition of Royal portraits going back centuries.


But centuries years ago Royal painters didn't have to put up with millions of critics on websites and the social media, suggesting Kate looked 100 years' old, dowdy, tired or even like a nightclub bouncer.

Kate herself didn't go on Twitter to rant. "It's just amazing. Absolutely brilliant," she told artist Paul Emsley when she met him at the National Portrait Gallery.

Others saw the portrait as a slight on the world's most popular Princess. Others went to town with Photoshop.



I don't think the portrait is too bad. It could be a lot worse. Look what happened when Britain's top artist Lucien Freud was let loose on the Queen.



Robert Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, commented: "It makes her look like one of the Royal corgis who has suffered a stroke."

I don't think that one was commissioned.

Perhaps Royal artists are wised up to the dangers of over flattering portraits. In 1539 Hans Holbein the Younger was commissioned by King Henry VIII to paint a portrait of the German Princess Anne of Cleves. The king was impressed enough to arrange a marriage with her but when he saw her was disappointed with the real thing.



Remarkably all parties survived the ordeal with their heads attached to their bodies but the unfortunate episode illustrated the need for Flickr etc.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Piers Morgan - To Deport or Not to Deport

Freedom is not free is a message I often see on bumper stickers here in the US of A. I'm not sure what this really means but I assume it's a kind of coded message that suggests in order to be free as Americans (or British Americans) it's necessary to kill a lot of Arabs.



Guns are necessary for freedom too, apparently, although maybe not if you are holding someone against their will at gunpoint.

In the interesting recent TV exchange between Alex Jones and Piers Morgan, Jones suggested guns were needed to protect freedom.

"1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out on the street begging for them to have their guns taken! We will not relinquish them! Do you understand." Jones told Morgan.

1776 was apparently a pivotal year in the Revolution. The subtext is clear here - take our guns and next thing you know Americans will be wearing red tunics and white wigs, drinking decent tea  and doffing their hats to the Queen of England. Of course this is sort of ironic in a way because the likes of Prince William seem to be far more popular in the US than back at home.

"Do you know Diana?" a lady from the employment center asked me on arrival in the USA. It was hard to know how to reply as she was dead anyway. I mean Diana - the employment office lady was just dead in the head. Of course I would have liked to have known her. Diana - that is.

The new revolution - the 2012-13 one apparently starts with the deportation of Piers Morgan and gathers a bit of momentum after that. Before we know it Brits in the USA will be pulling baseball caps over our brows, fitting steel testicles on the back of our Mini Coopers (before we trade them in for a double cabs) and glugging Jack Daniels, to avoid being identified.

Jones' petition goes on to request that "…Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens."

However, the White House has stepped into this bizarre affair. Spokesman Jay Carney said in response to news of the petition that he supported Morgan's right to free speech. Said Carney, "…It's worth remembering that freedom of expression is a bedrock principle in our democracy."

If you haven't seen this video yet, I suggest you see it for the entertainment factor alone. Jones comes out with some classics such as "The gun doesn't kill people" and "How many Great White Sharks kill people each year but they are scared to swim?" I wonder if I can book him to liven things up next Christmas during the post turkey lull.




So it's a sort of First Amendment v. Second Amendment kind of thing. It's all very confusing, if you ask me. The British system in which decisions of national importance are based on how many times one of the Queen's Corgis barks, seems far more straightforward to me.

The Piers Morgan thing is also rather complex as there's a rival petition in Britain from Brits back at home who don't want him back.

When you think about it, it's kind of strange that Piers was chosen to replace the iconic, if old and rather scary looking relic of American culture Larry King.

Perhaps people like Alex Jones are calling for another revolution because they have come to the conclusion the US is now being run by Brits like Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell, it has an African American liberal-ish president and the number of Spanish speakers will shortly be overtaking the number of angry white men who have had a God-given right to run the show ever since the Indians were rounded up, while referring to people as Bud.

So now I find myself viewing Piers, who I always saw as something of an annoying twerp, in the unlikely role of a hero. Obviously time for a tea fix. I'm sick of the same old debate Bud (Lite).



Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Art of Clueless Dog Training

It's hard to believe this is my first Video blog, although easier to comprehend when you see the jerky camera movements and fuzzy shots of grass and hear the odd swear word slip out.




I was planning to make my first video blog in Cannes complete with celeb. studded launch but that didn't quite pan out. The folks at the Hotel Martinez couldn't get the champagne order right so instead I opted for the manky old park around the back of the hospital. Who needs palm lined boulevards when you can have rotting bleachers?

Clueless Dog Training is an exercise in ineptitude. It was also really gray, dank and freezing out there. The sort of day that makes you think "Hey meth addiction wouldn't be so bad."

Until you realize it really would be. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hey There Pretty Lady - Nice Gonads

"To the female angler fish the male angler fish is a very loud and annoying and unnecessarily complicated pair of gonads," states ZeFrank in the video True Facts About the Angler Fish. Is this meant to be just about angler fish?



This funny short video may not go down as an all time classic but it's attracted 7.18 million views which is probably more people in a couple of weeks than Charles Dickens ever got to read his racy best seller Bleak House.

As someone who has worked in the media and got all excited when my story achieved 100 views and was most read, although we quickly get over such vainglorious beauty contests, it's rather sobering to think that the number of people viewing one video on YouTube exceeds the population of some nations. Denmark, for example, has 5.5 million people.

You can potentially do a lot with the power of viral, although it's hard to see quite what, given that most of the evil Middle Eastern dictators have now been overthrown.

2012 was clearly the year when this kind of thing went out of control. In 2013 it may go bonkers.

In July 2012 a little know Korean rapper called PSY released something you may have heard called Gangnam Style which has attracted a mere 1.1 billion views to date.



In Britain the distinctive sales pitch of a Pakistani fish seller at a market in the East End of London was picked up by someone who had one eye on the viralsphere whatever-its-called thingy. The result was the One Pound Fish video which has since attracted 11.9 million views.

It reached number 29 in the UK charts which all seems rather irrelevant given the number of hits the song had on YouTube.



One Pound Fish is now going international with an appearance of the fish seller in France. He's heading to the US next.

While I don't want to rain on anyone's parade the expression WTF comes to mind. If you go to any street market in Tunisia or Egypt you'll find sellers with the same, if not an even more amusing technique. If I think about this too hard (and I try not to) this is mildly depressing. My only hope achieving immortality is probably to get a video of a gorilla scratching its backside at the zoo and to take her viral or to try to get a hormonal giraffe to play the flute.

All of this makes the stars of yesterday seem somewhat eclipsed by comparison. Take, for example, Duran Duran's rather cringing Indian Jones white boys in India routine on Hungry Like the Wolf that has attracted a mere 6 million views on YouTube.



Sorry boys - looks like a slap around the face with a wet angler fish is in order.