Thursday, September 30, 2010

Social Networking: A Blessing Or A Curse?

I joined Facebook about a year ago and have really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends from the past. It’s great to see how their lives have turned out, what they do for a living, what their families look like, etc. In some cases I’ve even learned things about people (through reading their profiles) that I never knew about them when we were friends in real life. Had I known these things back then perhaps our relationships might have even turned out differently. If you think about it in these terms Facebook actually brings you closer to the people from your past. What concerns me is Facebook’s (and other social networking sites’) impact on the present. Just the other day it struck me that perhaps I’ve started to enjoy my “Facebook friends” even more than my real life friends. A disturbing sentiment yes, but it makes perfect sense if you really think about it. Consider how low maintenance your Facebook friends are compared to their real life counterparts. You never need to call them on the phone, or send them an e-mail, or shoot them a text to see how they’re doing. A simple “like” in response to their status update and you’ve made their day. You never need to give them a ride to the airport, or help them move, or collect their mail while they’re out of town. Jot a quick Happy Birthday message on their wall once a year and that’s proof enough how much you care. In the Facebook world you can go for weeks or even months without ever even acknowledging someone and your “friendship” is as strong as ever. And what about those instances where the drama gets to be too much or a friendship starts to feel like more trouble than it’s worth? Maybe it’s even as simple as somebody’s posting too much or sharing too many strong opinions about religion and politics. Hit the “unfriend” button and poof – problem solved. All the benefits of a real friendship with none of the downside - like having a pet that you never need to feed or clean up after. Those geniuses at Facebook actually figured out a way to take reality and make it better. Or did they?

For all of its many benefits social networking is killing the human connection. Why sit face to face and converse live with one person at a time when you can sit behind a computer monitor in your pajamas and communicate simultaneously with the masses via mouse clicks, status updates, tweets, etc? Why put yourself out there in the flesh, flaws exposed, when you can use technology to manipulate how other people see you? Why even bother to deal with the ugliness of reality at all when you can lead a relatively satisfying, ugly-free cyber-life instead? I think the answer to these questions depends on the answer to a larger question. What are you looking for in the relationships in your life? If you really want to experience other people and get to know their true essence there’s no substitute for spending time with them face to face, conversing with them over a cup of coffee or a cocktail, smiling at them and looking them straight in the eyes, or giving them a hug and feeling their warmth. When you rely on social networking for communication you never get more than a sanitized, pseudo-reality version of people, which in most cases is probably for the best. Just imagine all the bad things that could happen if your Facebook world suddenly collided with your real life world? There’s probably a good reason you lost touch with most of those people in the first place. On the flip side if someone is truly important to you or truly worth getting to know better, be sure to make time for them in the real world. At the end of the day your life will be made up of a series of moments and the people you shared them with. Choose those people carefully and once chosen be sure to invest personally in the relationships. Giving this advice is in no way an inference that I’m the greatest friend out there (I’m not) and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to shut down my Facebook account any time soon (that’s crazy talk). Writing stuff down is simply a cheaper form of therapy and it sometimes helps to keep me on track. In summary (I know - I’m starting to sound like Dr. Phil - I'll shut up soon) I think social networking can be a good thing but only in small doses and only if it doesn’t take away from the time and effort you put into your real life relationships.

Who knew I could write an entire post without sarcasm, cynicism, or profanity? Fuckin’ A.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CHANGE... your perspective

Yesterday President Obama attended a jobs forum and fielded questions from disappointed supporters. First off I thought it took real guts for the President to put himself out there like that so kudos to Mr. Obama for answering some really tough questions and being accountable to the very people who helped vote him into office. As for the job he’s doing as President of the most powerful nation in the free world (allegedly), not so much. That aside one woman’s question in particular really struck me. Below is the transcript of her question/s with the President’s response/s, followed by my commentary (of course).

Q Thank you very much and, quite frankly, good afternoon, President Obama. I am deeply honored to finally be in this forum, and so grateful for CNBC making the forum available so that you can speak to American citizens just like myself.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you.

Q I am a chief financial officer for a veterans service organization, AmVets here in Washington. I'm also a mother, I'm a wife, I'm an American veteran, and I'm one of your middle-class Americans. And quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for --


Q -- and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.
I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn't be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure.
I have two children in private school. And the financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family. My husband and I joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives.


Q But quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again. And quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly, is this my new reality?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that you describe exactly what is the bedrock of America -- a veteran who's working for veterans, somebody who is a CFO and I am sure knows how to manage their money, have made good decisions.

Q Sometimes. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not saying once in a while you don't want to get a new pair of shoes. (Laughter.)

Q Today. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: So the life you describe -- one of responsibility, looking after your family, contributing back to your community -- that's what we want to reward.
Now, as I said before, times are tough for everybody right now, so I understand your frustration. But I would just -- when you say there are things that you'd like to see happen or you're hoping to see happen that haven't happened yet, let me just give you a couple of examples.
I right now have two children -- it sounds like you've got kids, as well.

Q Two girls.

THE PRESIDENT: Two girls. You're going to be thinking about college soon.

Q Next year.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Now part of what we did over the last year and a half is to make sure that billions of dollars that were going to subsidize financial service industries under the federal student loan programs are now going to be going directly to students so that millions more students are going to be able to get loans and grants and scholarships to go to college. Now, that's going to have an impact on a whole bunch of kids out there, including maybe yours.
If you have a credit card, which I assume, you do --

Q No.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, see, now you're really -- now you've shown how responsible you are. (Laughter.) But if you have a mortgage or a credit card or any kind of financial dealings out there, as a consequence of the changes we made, the credit card companies can't increase your interest rate without notifying you, and they can't increase your interest rate on your previous balances. In terms of getting a mortgage, they -- you can't have a mortgage broker steer you to a mortgage that ultimately is going to cost you more money, because maybe they're getting a financial incentive to do so. Those things are now against the law. So there are a whole host of protections in there.
You are a parent who has children -- if your child, heaven forbid, had a preexisting condition, before I took office, you were out of luck in terms of being able to get health insurance for that child. Now, insurance companies have to give you health insurance for that child, and by the way, that health insurance can't drop you if you get sick.
So there are a whole host of things that we've put in place that do make your life better. But the bottom line is if your 401(K) is still down substantially from where it was a while back, if you haven't seen a raise in a long time, if your home value went down --

Q Keep going. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: -- depending on where you live, all those things still make you feel like, gosh, I'm treading water.

Q Still struggling -- that's right.

THE PRESIDENT: And so my goal here is not to try to convince you that everything is where it needs to be. It's not. That's why I ran for President. But what I am saying is, is that we're moving in the right direction. And if we are able to keep our eye on our long-term goal -- which is making sure that every family out there, if they're middle class, that they can pay their bills, have the security of health insurance, retire with dignity and respect, send their kids to college; if they're not yet in the middle class, that there are ladders there to get into the middle class, if people work hard and get an education to apply themselves -- that's our goal. That's the America we believe in. And I think that we are on track to be able to do that.

My commentary:

A really tough question from one of his own constituents – I liked that (but I didn’t like where the question was coming from – see paragraphs 2 & 3 below). The President’s response? Mostly lip service. Almost two years in office and his administration has delivered the following: more student loan money for college tuition, the elimination of exorbitant rates on credit cards and mortgages, and health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. All nice things but hardly the “CHANGE” everyone was “HOPING” for, am I right? I’d be curious to know how many frequent flier miles he’s racked up on his numerous exotic vacations and how many strokes he’s shaved off his handicap over that same time period? Whatever – history shows us that people will say whatever it takes to get elected, and that once elected will rarely deliver on the promises made during their campaigns. I get it. The United States government is a large and unwieldy beast. Even if you’re the President it’s not easy to get shit done. When I voted for Obama (gulp - my fellow Republicans will have a heyday with this information) I didn’t expect him to solve all of our country’s problems overnight or at all. Honestly all I really expected was for him to not fuck things up as much as McCain would have. Was I right? The jury’s still out on that one. I digress…

The point I’m trying to get to is that the problem with the United States today isn’t so much that our government is all fucked up (it is) or that the person in charge isn't working hard enough (he’s not), but rather that there are too many citizens (like the woman who questioned President Obama above) who feel sorry for themselves in the face of adversity and expect the government to make things better. Your 401K’s down significantly from where it was a few years ago? Bummer. You haven’t had a raise in 4 years or worse yet your income has actually decreased over that span? That sucks. Your home’s worth just a fraction of what it was a few years back? Join the club, lady. These problems are only affecting about oh 99% of the U.S. population so pardon me for not indulging in your personal pity party. Times are tough for everyone and there’s no guarantee things are going to get better any time soon (although economists recently announced that the recession was officially over as of last June - what, you didn’t get the memo either?). Amidst all of this economic uncertainty there is one undeniable truth I can guarantee however – expecting the U.S. government to fix your problems is about as futile as expecting Paris Hilton to stop doing drugs and making sex tapes. If you truly believe the government’s job is to take care of you and shield you from all the hurt in the world perhaps you should consider moving to China to join their robot army.

Otherwise stop feeling sorry for yourself and start proactively working towards a solution to your problems. Cut back on the things that aren’t an absolute necessity, adjust your lifestyle according to your new reality, or go out and find a different job to make more money. This country was built on making sacrifices in order to achieve the greater good. Right now is no different. Rather than focusing on how great things were 4 years ago and how shitty they are today, instead focus on how great things can be again and then work your ass off towards getting there. I wouldn’t be giving this advice if I wasn’t affected by it myself. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone hit harder by the current recession, depression, or whatever the hell you want to call it, than me. 4 years ago I was in fat city. Today I’m clawing and scratching just to get by. It would be real easy to sit around with my head in my hands and wait for the government to make things better. Unfortunately that would be one hell of a long wait. Just like in any other situation wallowing in my own discontent would do nothing but exacerbate the problem and prolong the pain. Bad times are only temporary unless we allow them to persist. Don’t ask the President why things haven’t gotten any better. He has no fucking idea why. Instead go out and make things better for yourself. Work hard, keep a positive attitude, and deal with your issues one day at a time knowing that things will ultimately get better. This is America for Christ's sake. For hundreds of years people have rolled up onto our shores with nothing but the clothes on their backs and gone on to be wildly successful. The only change you really need is the change you enact within yourself. So stop fucking whining and start making shit happen. I’m stepping off of my soapbox now. Thanks for listening.

The Quinsey Blog

Friday, September 17, 2010

Advice for the Thick-Skinned

I’ve never understood the allure of advice columns. People anonymously posing questions to so-called “experts” with the hope that these experts can help lead them down the right path. And the experts in turn give advice that’s just generic and ambiguous enough to apply to the lives of all the people who read their column, not just the people posing questions. The whole thing seems pretty lame if you ask me. That being said I decided to try my hand at being an advice columnist. What follows is a recent column from “Dear Abby” (arguably the most famous advice column in existence) with her actual responses to (3) reader’s questions followed by my responses in italics. I think that you’ll find my advice to be neither generic nor ambiguous. I haven’t quite settled on a name for my column but I’m thinking “Advice for the Thick-Skinned” might be appropriate. Enjoy.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, son and I live next door to my in-laws. My mother-in-law, "Hazel," has a set of keys to our house for emergency purposes. For some time she has been using the key to come and go as she pleases, "borrowing" food, dishes and toiletries when we're not home. When we discover the items missing, she usually confesses.

I am really irritated about it and have frequent fights with my husband over this and other privacy issues. How can I talk to Hazel in a way that won't hurt her feelings? She is very sensitive, and I don't know how to confront her since my husband refuses to do so. -- MISSING MY PRIVACY IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.

DEAR MISSING: Try this: Take your mother-in-law to lunch and over a nice, leisurely meal say (slowly and quietly), "Hazel, honey, I have a problem I need your help with. (Breathe.) When you come into the house and take things without asking, it makes me feel violated. (Pause.) Do you think you could please refrain from doing that anymore? (Smile.) I'd really appreciate it."

And if any more items turn up missing, quietly change the locks.

DEAR MISSING: Here’s the deal. Your mother-in-law is clearly an evil woman and needs to be stopped. She doesn’t respect you or your belongings, and if your ball-less excuse for a husband refuses to stand up to “Mommy”, then you need to take matters into your own hands. Try this: Bake up a nice, big batch of her favorite dessert (“Hazel” sounds like a fat person’s name so I’m guessing she likes dessert). When you’re baking up the brownies, cookies, cakes, or whatever the bitch likes to eat most, add two large boxes of Ex-Lax to the recipe. After she’s ingested the Ex-Lax laden delicacies and subsequently emptied her bowels in a violent and painful manner, head over to her house for a little one-on-one time. Look her straight in the eyes and say: “Bitch, the next time you enter my house without asking I’m using poison instead of Ex-Lax.” I guarantee this will solve your problem immediately and she’ll never come over to your house again uninvited or otherwise. It might even get you a divorce from that spineless piece of shit you call a husband.

DEAR ABBY: I am being married soon and my father will be providing the alcohol for our reception. We plan to serve beer, wine and champagne for the toast. Because I will be wearing an ivory gown, I am opting to drink only champagne. I have a favorite brand, but because of our modest budget, Dad cannot provide it for everyone to drink.

I was going to buy a couple of bottles to have at our table for my wedding party, but Dad feels it would be in poor taste and thinks our guests may feel slighted in some way. My feeling is that it's our special day and people will understand. Am I wrong for wanting a nicer champagne than we can provide for our guests? -- BUBBLY BRIDE IN PISMO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR BUBBLY: Let me put it this way -- if there is a chance that your guests would feel slighted if you get caught, then drink what they're drinking at the reception. Afterward, have a bottle of your preferred brand waiting in an ice bucket by your "wedding bed" so you can enjoy a special toast with your new husband.

DEAR BUBBLY: Go ahead and supply the wedding party with Dom Perignon and give the rest of your guests whatever cheap swill is on sale at Walmart. And while you’re at it why not serve Chateaubriand and lobster tails to the wedding party and give everyone else dog meat? Are you fucking serious? How selfish and self-centered are you, anyway? Maybe your guests should all give you crappy gifts with cards that read: “I would have bought you a nice gift but I couldn’t afford to get us both something nice so I decided to get something nice for myself and buy you this worthless piece of crap.” Note to Bubbly’s future husband – if you’re reading this get out while you still can – divorce is expensive and there’s no way you’ll end up staying married to this selfish bitch.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a high school freshman with a dilemma. I'm a good student and get A's in all my classes. I'm also an athlete. I play year-round softball and have started playing soccer for the high school team.
My problem is I took a debate class over the summer and really liked it. I want to join the debate team, but I am unsure if it would be piling too much on my plate for my first year.

I'll be carrying one honors class in addition to two above-grade-level classes. Debate practices are held after sports practices two days a week for one to two hours, so they wouldn't directly conflict with anything except homework time.
Do you think I'm overestimating how much I can handle in extracurricular activities this year? -- TOO AMBITIOUS? IN OREGON

DEAR TOO AMBITIOUS: The fact that this is causing you concern could be an indicator that it is too much. That's why before making up your mind you should discuss this with your parents as well as your guidance counselor at school.

DEAR TOO AMBITIOUS: Let me put it this way – who the fuck cares? You’re a freshman in high school so the things you choose to do in your life right now couldn’t matter any less. Experiment with recreational drugs, get an asshole boyfriend who makes you feel fat, and dream the big dreams that will inevitably be squashed out soon after you enter the festering, soul-crushing pit known as the real world. Trust me, any perceived “dilemmas” you’re facing now are nothing compared to the whoppers you’ll face in your twenties and thirties. Any other questions?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blame It...

Blame it (On The Alcohol)

Blame it on the goose
Got you feeling loose
Blame it on Patron
Got you in the zone
Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol
Blame it on the a a a a a a alcohol

Blame it on the vodka
Blame it on the henny
Blame it on the blue top
Got you feeling dizzy
Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol
Blame it on the a a a a a a alcohol

Every time I hear this damn song I can’t get it out of my head. Sometimes when nobody else is in the room I’ll even bust out my own white boy rendition of the song complete with dance moves (picture the fat kid on YouTube doing the light saber routine – yeah, I look just about that ridiculous). Thanks a lot Jamie Foxx and T-Pain (whoever the fuck you are). The last time I heard it however, it got me thinking. Sure - the song is literally about getting drunk, having random sex with strangers, and then blaming it on the booze (I was over-served damn it). But in a broader sense it can also be viewed as a figurative statement about today’s society as a whole. For at some point in time people stopped taking personal responsibility for their actions and started blaming others for their problems. Maybe it’s the down economy, maybe it’s the fabricated notion of the earth’s eroding atmosphere, or maybe it’s the fact that the world is coming to an abrupt end in just over 27 months (allegedly). Regardless of the cause of this ‘woe is me / I’m the victim’ movement, it’s really starting to piss me off. That being said I decided to have a little fun with the chorus and apply it to some other situations where people blame external sources for their own internal (self-generated) problems.

Version 1: Blame It (On The Government)

I ain’t got no job
I ain’t got no money
Healthcare’s too expensive
Man this shit ain’t funny
Blame it on the g g g g g government
Blame it on the g g g g g g government

Blame it on Barack
Blame it on Pelosi
Blame it on the Dems
But on the GOP mostly
Blame it on the g g g g g government
Blame it on the g g g g g g government

Version 2: Blame It (On The Mexicans)

Schools are over crowded
Wellfare system’s taxed
Everybody’s speakin Spanish
Como se dice this is wack
Blame it on the M M M M M Mexicans
Blame it on the M M M M M M Mexicans

Blame it on Juanita
Blame it on Jose
Don’t blame it on Cheech Marin
He was born in East LA
Blame it on the M M M M M Mexicans
Blame it on the M M M M M M Mexicans

Version 3: Blame It (On The Internet)

At my desk all day
Can’t get nothin done
Hard to pay my bills
Boss thinks I’m a bum
Blame it on the i i i i i internet
Blame it on the i i i i i i internet

Blame it on the Facebook
When my pay gets docked
Blame it on the porn sites
Unless that shit gets blocked
Blame it on the i i i i i internet
Blame it on the i i i i i i internet

Bet you didn't know I could rap. Word.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ode to Las Vegas

Las Vegas might very well be the most intriguing and entertaining city in the whole damn world. With opulent hotel rooms, five star restaurants, top shelf hookers (I’ve been told), and legalized gambling EVERYWHERE, what more could a weary traveler ask for? A place where people don’t judge you for drinking a martini at 8:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the afternoon or anytime in between? Done - hell in Vegas it’s actually encouraged. If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth (for kids) then Vegas is without a doubt the happiest place on earth for adults (ones who like to have fun anyway). That being said Vegas does have its low points. It’s way too fucking hot in the summer time, it’s become a popular hangout for the homeless and destitute, and it kind of smells like a mixture of stale beer and vomit if you wake up too early in the morning (before they’ve had a chance to spray down the sidewalks). In other words it’s a great place to visit but there’s no way in hell I’d ever want to live there. Note to offended residents of Las Vegas: I’m well aware that Vegas is much more than just “the strip” but that’s where I spend my time while I’m there so that’s what this post is about – chill out. What follows is my “Ode to Las Vegas”, inspired by my many trips there over the years starting back in college when I had way less wrinkles and gray hair and than I do now, and when Vegas was way smaller and less occupied than it is now. Enjoy.

Ah Vegas my dark mistress of the night

You sprout up from the desert like a beacon of light

Our affair started off almost 20 years ago

I was young and naive and you stole all my dough

Undeterred by my losses I would come back for more

I was hooked and determined to settle the score

A couple more trips and I soon figured out

You’re about so much more than financial clout

Your slots may be tight but your women are loose

Inhibitions gone wild with the Bombays and juice

While beating the house is no easy feat

Your strippers are affable your hookers discrete

Your food was once crap but is now quite chichi

Cooked in restaurants by chefs who appear on TV

Your hotels are palatial your casinos prolific

I’m hardly ever compelled to tell your dealers to stick it

With so much to offer it’s hard to complain

But your cigarette smoke it drives me insane

So do your old people with their oxygen tanks

And your mesh wearing hillbillies with their overweight skanks

And your Mexican dudes who hand out the porn fodder

And your bums on the bridges selling bottles of water

I digress just a bit but my point don't belie

You’re clearly not perfect and neither am I

But when I want to unleash and forget about life

Leave my problems behind with my everyday strife

There are very few places that I’d rather go

Than Las Vegas, Nevada, my friend and my foe

So though I may curse you and puke on your streets

Hassle your residents and piss in your sheets

The things that I do are done with adoration

For you and your bounty of lust and damnation

Until next time Vegas… I love you.