CLICK HERE FOR BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND MYSPACE LAYOUTS »

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Kindness Of Strangers



Blanche Dubois, as fans of Tennessee Williams can tell you, depended greatly on "the kindness of strangers". That said, why can't we all be strangers? Why can't we all take on a kindly attitude in our everyday lives? If you're waiting for a bus, why not start a conversation with that sad- [or angry, if you're feeling very kindly. Or very strange...]looking person next to you. It doesn't cost a cent to share an encouraging word. In a store, why not start a conversation with the person in line behind you? You're both going to be there for a while [especially this time of year]; why not spend it trying to forget the delay, and remembering that we are all human, all interconnected?
There was a story on the news recently. Someone, just for grins [maybe s/he was performing a random act of kindness to blog about], paid for the next person in line's coffee at a drive-thru shop. The next person did the same, as did the next. In time, the chain of kindnesses extended for some two hours! It wasn't an expensive thing to do, yet imagine the simple pleasure in having a stranger buy your coffee, and the simple pleasure of doing the same for another stranger, another fellow human, another link in the chain.
Take a look at the world. There's a lot wrong with it. We may not, by ourselves, be able to change the big picture. But we can improve our little corner by simple, unexpected [I hate the idea of "random"; we should be looking for the chance to help a fellow human!] acts of kindness, of courtesy, of acknowledging our fellow members of the human race. (If you need an idea or two to get you started, try
-Mike Riley

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blame It On The Boogie



Was I the only person who saw a report that The Jacksons were considering a tour in 2008? It was a brief item in some "Celebrities" site on the Web last week, quoting Jermaine [the only member of the family besides Michael and Janet to have even limited success as a solo artist] that the brothers would reunite for a series of shows next year. Maybe it's just me, but this could be one of the biggest entertainment stories of the year.


No, there haven't been any hits, or even new recordings, from The Jacksons in almost two decades. Then again, that's not a huge hardship. Groups like The Beach Boys have gone longer between recordings, yet make a comfortable living cranking out the past for My Generation [read: Baby Boomers who feel disenfranchised from the current world of music. For the record, I was in the last wave of that birthing migration] and make a damn good living at it, thank you.
[By the way, are any of the original members still touring with the Beach Boys? My God, John Stamos used to be their tour drummer. Really. Just ask either of the Olsen twins...]
The part of all this that interests me the most is whether Michael will join what promises to be a cross-continent migration. Miko, if memory serves, was always a fragile traveller at best. Granted, his shows defined high energy, allowing him to briefly take the title of "the hardest-working man in show business" from James Brown. As well as most of JB's dance moves [The title, incidentally, is currently retired, out of respect to Mr. Brown's memory. Perhaps in a few years...]. Further, Jacko seldom cancelled a show. But one heard the whispers from the road [no, not those whispers] and worried if their tickets would ever be used [Nowadays, of course, tickets from cancelled shows would hit eBay within minutes of the announcement, and probably bring in more than bootleg recordings of actual performances. The World has changed, and not for the better...]. Then again, if Michael doesn't join the family, who'd go? A medley of Tito's hits would be brief at best and, as noted earlier, Jermaine's body of work is rather limited...
I've got it! Introducing the previously unacknowledged Jackson brother - Randy [no, not Michael's actual brother, Randy. Randy Jackson, the erstwhile American Idol judge and former member of Journey!] Think about it - he'll draw the "AI" fans, those who can't get Journey out of their iPods, fans of Oreo cookies - it's win-win all the way around! Kick this around, people! It'll be the tour of 2008!
Now, can I get t-shirt rights?
-Mike Riley

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Gross-Out Contest


If you, like me, are of a certain age [say, 50], you probably remember an apocryphal story that did the rounds in the late-1970's. Two rock stars noted for their wild stage antics [the version I heard starred Ozzy Osbourne and Frank Zappa; I suspect there are versions with other performers] decided to settle once and for all who was the more outrageous. They went through several rounds evenly matched, following excess with excess. Finally, an evil smile came to Osbourne's face. He turned his back to those in attendance, dropped his pants, and proceeded to empty his bowels. "Beat that !", he said in wicked triumph. But Zappa was not to be denied. He calmly walked to the pile of waste matter and began to eat it. Ozzy conceded the title on the spot.
I bring this up because of the latest barbarity to grace our beloved Blogosphere, the already legendary "2Girls - 1 Cup" video. (For those not aware, I'll try to explain it as delicately as I can. If you're sensitive, or easily disturbed, or, for the love of God, underage, please skip the next few paragraphs. I never thought I'd have to say that about a posting here...)
The video begins with two very attractive women kissing, fondling and, in general, enjoying each other's company. Suddenly [and God help me, I wish I knew how; virtually every video service on the 'Net has banned it. What little of it I've really seen is from the so-called "reaction" videos, when normal people are exposed to...] one of the girls proceeds to defecate into a glass cup. The two proceed to eat the contents of the cup, smearing it over each other's faces. They continue their passionate love-making. They even exchange vomit. [In the interest of accuracy, these are the only sequences from "2G-1C" that I've seen. Or want to...]
Although I like to think of myself as, well, safe on the furniture, I did have a past. I've seen many of the popular images from our violent culture [and isn't it sad that violent images are popular in this culture?]. I grew up with most of the sensitivities of the typical American male [or lack thereof]. I even took part in a gross-out contest or two. And yet, this little show hits me [ and virtually anyone who's seen it] like a train wreck in progress; I want to turn away, to forget what I've seen, but I cannot.
A few questions come up:
1. / Are any of the special moments faked? Uncertain. Prop food [and I do mean "food"] could have been substituted, camera angles could allow for illusions, but, if that was done, it was done well.
2. / Why does this video have the power to disturb? A few possibilities: it challenges traditional values on several levels [eating waste, a lesbian relationship, beautiful young women smeared with feces. Is it that they are beautiful?
3. / Why the "reaction" and "tribute" videos? Damn good question. Anybody wanting a shot at that one is welcome to enlighten me.
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hard Times




I try to keep the tone of these entries light, for what should be an obvious reason. I don't believe people want to read about depressing topics, or, more accurately, topics presented in a depressing manner [Let's face it, one person's depressing topic is another person's laugh-fest]. Normally, I can find a cheery, or at least a non-dreary, way to discuss whatever's before the floor. This one, however, is too close to home. Last week, several employees of the radio company I work at, including some announcers, were let go.


Let's be honest here. This is not a tragedy. No one was killed, no buildings collapsed, no one drove into a lake. But I think everyone believes that their job is important, their position secure. Whenever someone loses a job, the whole fabric of Life feels shaken. Conversations around the building were a bit more quiet. Laughter was a lot harder to find.


Again, the number let go [4] was not particularly huge. But each person has a story. A single mom. A person trying to finish a college education. People with lives, desires, and most frustratingly of all, bills.


I guess what hurts the most, puts the most concern on the table, is that there doesn't seem to be an end to any of this. We went through similar "reductions" in the days before we were sold last year. Nowadays, being sold doesn't seem to lead towards security.
A few of you in the back row are no doubt thinking, "Well, this kind of thing goes on every day in America". Yes, indeed. Rather my point. Something has changed in this country, over the last ten years or so. Owners of companies were always trying to make a higher profit margin. It was expected, and considered the mark of a successful business [And, realistically, no working person could really resent it].
While we remember the 1980's as the decade when "Gordon Gekko" famously intoned the phrase "Greed is good", in the movie Wall Street, the greed didn't seem to take hold until the late part of the last decade of the last century. Now, a damn-the-worker mindset is endemic in the US. I bring all this up because today is Election Day in most of the United States. Next year's vote will really set the agenda for the next few years. But it may just be time to begin putting a framework for change together. It's time to look at the candidates, consider what views they support [and not just with lip service, either], and vote our own enlightened self-interests. Hey, there's no shame in it. Big Money has done it for years...
-Mike Riley

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Random Acts Of Kindness

I wish I knew where the term was first used - "Random Acts Of Kindness", I mean. I remember seeing it sometime in the 80's, as a play on the phrase "random acts of violence". Even then, there was a sense that the random act didn't have to be earth-shattering, or even community-shattering, for that matter. People would do things like paying the road toll for the driver behind them [at least until someone caused an accident trying to catch up to the person who'd paid the toll. I'd like to think it was to thank that person. But it probably was to find out who'd done it, and why] or shovelling a neighbor's walk clear of snow [usually an act of showing-off by the neighbor who'd just gotten a snow blower]. Still they were "well-meant" acts, and certainly a kindness to those who were on the other end of them.

That being said, it felt pretty good to be on the front end of them, too. We need to do more of this, helping people in need, or not in need, but in need of a kind act to make the day special. As you can tell by the little doo-hickey on the right-hand column of THIS VERY BLOG SITE!, Bloggers Unite! is hoping you'll take the time to do something special. There's a date of December 17th to blog about your good deed, but there's no reason to wait until the 16th, or stop at one deed. [If you don't have a blog, and want to see your effort noted, leave me a "Comment". If you have a blog, write it down to encourage others]

-Mike Riley

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some Things I Just Don't Get








One thing about the Internet; it can spawn more cases of "Things that make you go 'hmmmm'" than any book ever published or movie ever shown. Case in point: please compare the two photos above. The one on the left shows a beautiful sunset [or sunrise, maybe; who knows/who cares?]in the state of Hawaii. On the right, a classic photo taken in my home town of Buffalo, NY during the "Blizzard of '77" [Understand, here in Western New York State, only the BIG snowstorms get names. And the storm in January of 1977 was historically big. Click http://www.wbuf.noaa.gov/bzpns.htm for an impartial account]. The point is, while I love Buffalo dearly, we occasionally get some really bad weather, and frequently have to deal with pretty poor conditions. I suspect this is not true of Hawaii [except during the occasional hurricane]. So how to explain the fact that a warm-weather paradise has one of the highest percentage of bloggers per capita in the US, with around 12 % of the city's adults [Honoluluans?] either reading or writing a blog regularly? Still more perplexing is the fact that Buffalo, the one-time "Garden Spot of The North", ties with Pittsburgh, PA, another cold-weather community, for lowest percentage of persons blogging, or reading blogs. Just two percent of adults in these two communities either read or write blogs [see, I'm part of an extremely exclusive community!]. (My source for this intellectual fireworks display, incidentally, is this article from Pacific Business News: http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2007/10/22/daily23.html);
then again, San Francisco was one of several communities ahead of Honolulu, and San Diego tied with the Hawaiian capitol. Don't they understand they have nice weather? Why wouldn't they prefer being outside to reading blogs indoors? There must be a reason, but for now, this stat is one of "Some Things I Just Don't Get".
-Mike Riley
PS: The Good Folks at "Bloggers United" are gearing up for another mass action on December 17th. You'll get more information as soon as I have any...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Une Femme Galante




"Designed by Dr Joseph Guillotine, a man described as kindly and who wanted to make execution more humane, the guillotine quickly became a symbol of tyranny during the French Revolution.
Victims were placed on a bench, face down, and their necks positioned between the uprights.
The actual beheading was very quick - often to the gathered crowd's disgust - taking less than half a second from blade drop to the victim's head rolling into the waiting basket.
However, debate rages over whether the quickness of the execution was humane or not, as many doctors put forward the notion that it could take up to 30 seconds before the victim lost consciousness.
That piece of gruesome news would not have worried the crowd, which continually called for aristocratic and royalist blood to be spilt.
An estimated 40,000 people travelled on the tumbrels through Paris to die under Madame Guillotine."


-NapoleonGuide.com




You know, I'm not all that different from you. Every day, hundreds of men just like me walk along the streets of this vast city. You may have even seen me, myself, as I went to buy bread, or cheese, or wine. Simple things. Things you do everyday. But when I wear the articles of clothing that conceal my identity, the mask in particular, everything changes. The people in the crowd back away from me in fear. I change from a simple citizen of this New France to The Man Who Kills. The crowd changes from a simple group of people, people like you, remember, transacting life, to a witless mob chanting for death. And maybe that is you as well.




Please understand, I am far from political. Though I am doing somewhat better under the new order, I had no objections to the way things were before. I had food, a roof over my head, enough money for a little wine. What more could any man want? Rather a lot, apparently, if the rumored excesses of the Royals are true...
(I have doubts about the veracity of the mob. Indeed, if you allow me to whisper, I might add that I have some doubts about the mob itself! It cackles like a bird, runs rough-shod over the laws of human decency, which should trump any law proposed by man. My late father never trusted the mob. He told me once, "If your only choice is between a tyrant and the mob, take the tyrant every time. The tyrant is only one man, and will thus be limited in the number of outrages he can conceive and commit. But there is no limit on the mob.")




It was not my day to offer death when the King was killed. I have heard that he approached his end with an almost inhuman dignity. He was said to have prepared himself for the blade before approaching the Guillotine. Louis, when approached by the Revolution guards who wanted to tie his hands before allowing him to ascend the platform, called out in a masterful voice, "Do what you have been ordered to do. I accept that. But you will not bind my hands!" He was a brave man, was Louis.

I admit that I am sympathetic to the King's position. He had actually been trying to reign in the nobility, not at all like his two predecessors on the throne. But the example we had been presented across the ocean, in America, was too tempting to ignore. I believe that, had an acknowledged saint been upon the throne at the point the Revolution began, he, too would have suffered the same fate as Louis.

But whatever was the point in killing his consort, Marie Antoinette? Certainly, she had been a prime example of the excesses at Versailles, but after her children were born she settled down, and became an exemplary mother, and wife to the King. And what was her reward? Separation from her children, imprisonment in the squalid Concierge prison. and the terror of facing the Revolutionary guards herself, as her husband had.

But for all the criticism and torment, she, too faced her death with a special type of grace. As she was led up to me, she stepped on my foot, Now if anyone deserved the freedom to do as they wished, Marie had earned it, Yet she spoke up then, the first and only words she spoke that day. "Pardon me Monsieur for stepping on your foot, I didn't mean to". (Now understand that more than a few have stumbled en route to that final encounter.None, except Marie Antoinette, had ever apologized for a misstep.) Those were the last words she spoke on this Earth.

I pray that, when my last hour comes, that I may approach my end with the dignity and calm that Marie Antoinette did. Quell femme galante!

-Something different from

Mike Riley



Monday, October 15, 2007

Welcome To The Fragile World - A Blog Action Day Posting


Sometimes, timing is everything. Case in point: in the run-up to Blog Action Day, environmental issues happened to come to the forefront, in the form of the selection of Al Gore and the United Nations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, because of their commitment to the environment. In case you hadn't heard, today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day, and the cause of choice is the need of all humans to take better care of the planet we share.

If you cruise across the Blogosphere today [and I'd encourage it], you will no doubt find statistics, and compelling arguments concerning a better treatment of the Earth. I don't have the statistics, and, for various reasons, I'm actually writing the dispatch from home, where I don't have T1 lines to make accessing those statistics easier. As for compelling arguments, is there a more telling one than the prospect of our grandchildren, or great-grandchildren being unable to enjoy the sounds of birds outside their homes, or to visit a forest filled with life, or even to walk down the street because the ozone levels are too high? Forget what we have already done to this planet; we MUST do better for it!

The folks at the Blog Action Day home site have suggested a few non-profit organizations that are trying to help, and could use your help as well:

-The National Wildlife Federation: www.nwf.org
-The Nature Conservancy: www.nature.org
-The Conservation Fund: www.conservationfund.org
There are other suggestions at www.blogactionday.org; if you can help financially, well and good, if not, please consider the role your lifestyle plays in harming or helping the Earth. Reconsider those actions that destroy the air, water, and soil we all need. It takes a whole planet to save the human race.

-Mike Riley

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sometimes, There's Nothing To Add...


The unusual, but eerily familiar-looking house [yes, "house"] pictured above is currently under construction in South Korea. It's the subject of the following article from the AFP news service:
Clean loo campaigner to open toilet-shaped home
by Lim Chang-WonThu Oct 11, 12:54 AM ET
Sim Jae-Duck was born in a restroom and now he plans to live and die in one -- a 1.6 million dollar toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.
Sim will open what is billed as the world's one and only toilet house on November 11 to mark the launch of his World Toilet Association.
The 419-square-metre (4,508-sq-foot) concrete and glass structure is rising on the site of Sim's former home in his native city of Suweon, 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of Seoul.
Before he moves in, anyone who is flush with funds can rent it for 50,000 dollars a day -- with proceeds going to his campaign to provide poor countries with proper sanitary facilities.
Apart from two bedrooms, two guestrooms and other rooms, the two-storey house -- of course -- features three deluxe toilets. Unlike the giant "toilet" in which they are located, they will not be see-through affairs.
"A showcase bathroom screened by a glass wall is located in its centre, while other toilets have elegant fittings or water conservation devices," Sim told AFP.
The showcase loo will feature a device producing a mist to make users feel secure. An electronic sensor will raise the lid automatically when people enter, and there will also be music for patrons.
The house, complete with a stream and small garden in front, is named Haewoojae, meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries".
Sim's birth in a restroom was in line with traditional beliefs.
"It was intentional. My mother followed advice from my grandmother that people born in restrooms will enjoy long lives," said the 74-year-old.
Sim's campaign began during his term as Suweon mayor from 1995 to 2002. His drive to transform toilets into "clean and beautiful resting places imbued with culture" earned him the nickname "Mayor Toilet".
Public restrooms in the city were jazzed up with paintings, fresh flowers or even small gardens. His achievements prompted Sim to launch the Korea Toilet Association in 1999, in time for South Korea's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup three years later.
Then he decided to take his clean toilets drive worldwide. The proposed World Toilet Association might be seen to rival squeaky-clean Singapore, where the World Toilet Organisation is based, but Sim has said the work of the two bodies will not overlap.
Indeed, he hopes his toilet house will highlight the global need for better sanitation.
"My family has already agreed to preserve this house as a symbol of South Korea's new toilet culture after my death," he said. "The house will be remembered as an example of saving mankind from diseases and protecting the environment."
Sim, a member of parliament, will host the World Toilet Association's inaugural meeting which he hopes will attract 300 representatives from 70 countries.
On the final day he plans to invite all participants to his house, which he said "envisions a new concept to place toilets in the centre of our life".
Sim said his campaign will focus on setting international standards for clean public toilets, adding that countries such as Mongolia, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil are actively supporting it.
Epidemics caused by poor sanitation worldwide cost two million lives a year, he said. Worldwide, 2.6 billion people live without toilets. Elsewhere, poorly designed flush toilets waste vast amounts of potential drinking water, he added.
A future project in his active mind is IT-based toilets, where people can check their health or surf the Internet.
"Toilets were once regarded as stinking and dirty places. Not any more. They must be treated as the sanctuary that protects human health," Sim said.
Alright, I said nothing needed to be added. But I do have a few questions:
1. / Would you really want to rent a toilet-shaped house, at any price?
2. / Does mist make you feel secure [it usually creeps me out]?
3. / Is there a better name for this location than "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries"?
4. / If you were mayor, would you be thrilled to have the nickname "Mayor Toilet"?
5. / Speculate on a world where toilets, clean or otherwise, are "the centre of our lives". Extra credit if you can do so without snickering.
Hoping you see an unusual house or two this weekend...
-Mike Riley

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fade To Grey

I don't normally blog about sports [and I'm not planning on it, either], but a recent death in the world of sports caught my attention. Somewhere in that group photo on the left [forgive me for not being able to discover where, exactly] is one Edwyn Owen, known for most of his life as "Bob" Owen. Owen was a member of the 1960 US Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team, the first American hockey team to win Olympic gold, and the only one to do so until the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team. Despite the fact that the '60 squad is nearly forgotten today, its story may be more compelling than the 1980 team.

Kevin Allen, in "USA Hockey: A Great Tradition", said this about the circumstances of the US club in 1960: "In many aspects, the U.S. team's performance at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, was every bit as remarkable, if not more so, than the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Olympic Games. First, the Americans had never beaten the Soviets. Second, the Canadians were better than the Soviets. Third, the team hadn't played all that well in the 18-game pre-Olympic tour. And finally, some players didn't like seeing Herb Brooks and Bob Dupuis dropped from the team to make room for the Clearys. Dissension threatened to undermine this team before it even arrived in Squaw Valley." 'The Clearys' refers to Bill and Bob Cleary. Bill was a great amateur player who insisted that his brother be added to the roster. They were one of two pairs of brothers on the roster; Roger and Bill Christian, from Minnesota, was the other.

The United States was hosting its first Winter Games since 1932. It was hoped that the Americans could at least match the '52 and '56 teams, who both earned silver. But coach Jack Riley [no relation] pulled his all-amateur [this was in the era that pro athletes were banned from Olympic play] team together, smoothed over the controversies, and led them into the final round. In round-robin play, the US beat Sweden, then edged Canada and the Soviet Union [the first time the US had beaten them, and a Cold War victory to boot], then faced Czechoslovakia for the gold. The Squaw Valley Games seemed to be oddly-arranged; after beating the USSR in an exciting night game, the Americans had to come back for an 8 AM contest the following morning! Sluggish from the previous night's effort, the US trailed the Czechs 4-3 after two periods. But a third-period Roger Christian hat trick [three goals, for the uninformed] helped push the Americans to a 9-4 victory, and the Gold.

The 1960 Winter Olympics, despite being played in the US, didn't draw a lot of interest in the host country. Winter sports in general, and hockey in particular, rated very low on the leisure activity "radar" of the era. CBS, the television network that broadcast the Games in America, paid only $50,000 [a low figure, even in those days] for the broadcast rights. Few of the hockey team's games were televised (although the club's success led to the first national broadcasts of pro hockey in America). After the publicity surrounding the 1980 team, there were reports of some bitterness and dismay among the 1960 team's alumni, feeling that they, too, deserved some renown for their feat.

Most of the Olympians did not end up in pro hockey; in fact, the most famous post-Olympics members were the Christian brothers. They used their carpentry skills to design and build hockey sticks for the successful company that bore their name. Ironically, one of the players cut to make way for the Cleary brothers went on to make some Olympic history of his own. Herb Brooks was the coach of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" US team.

In retirement, Bob Owen lived quietly, supporting amateur hockey in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas. He loaned his name to the championship trophy of the town's tavern-league. The Bob Owen Cup was an empty beer keg, with a silver cup attached to the top.

Owen died last week, in a bizarre incident in his native Kansas. His car was found in an open field, aflame. Fire investigators believe the vehicle's engine set dry grass under the car ablaze, starting the fatal fire. Bob Owen was so severely burned in the blaze that it took until earlier this week to identify him.

Owen wasn't a memorable part of a nearly-forgotten team. But he did play for his country, and helped achieve victory in unlikely circumstances. Most of us can't say that.

- Mike Riley

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Playing With A Camera






Not much to report. I got this camera [3.2 MP] for my birthday last month from my brother and sister-in-law. I'm not much of a photographer, but I like the way these turned out. Top to bottom, they depict:
- A view of the studio at WJYE-FM, Buffalo, NY, where I work. No more watching the spinning record (or CD). Nowadays everything that goes on the air [except me] is digitally recorded [or re-recorded], then placed into the computer that operates the system. I usually don't wax nostalgic for old technology, but there are nights when I really feel the thing has gotten too easy, and that I should be doing more of the work [Fortunately, the feeling passed in time for payday that week]
-Looking out the studio window, at the "Hotel lafayette" I'm 12 stories up, so a ground level perspective was impossible.
A parking garage near the radio station. I just liked the squares that decorate the second or third levels, formed by half-walls, decking, and the actual decorations themselves. So art can come from anything -
-Mike Riley
"All for now, I'll be back. probably early next week. Yee-fuckin' haw!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

If I Had It My Way, I'd Kill Him


I'm not the first person to ask this question in the Blogosphere, and I don't suspect I'll be the last, but, here it is:
-Is there a more creepy corporate icon than the current Burger King?
I mean, COME ON! Even if you have an aversion to clowns, Ronald Freakin' McDonald is a more benign-looking representation of the Hamburger Empire than Frozen-Faced Freak Boy.
This has been my belief since the current BK was introduced, but I was reminded of it last week, when business forced me to wait for a bus outside a Halloween-themed store. The business was forcing one of its employees to dress up as BK to attract attention to the place, and perhaps encourage people to wear a King costume on Halloween(Not me. Never me. Not now, not ever, NEVER!). Sitting next to me on the bench by the bus stop was a woman who I'd guess to be in her mid-20's. Her reaction to the ersatz icon? "I hope that thing don't come over here. It's just creepy". So it's not just me, as so many of these rants are. It may not be as universal as I suspect it is, but that's BESIDES the point. He's creepy, he's creepy, and that's all there is to it.
To set a baseline: the most-offensive fast-food mascot in recent memory was Taco Bell's Chihuahua, the most awkward ethnic stereotype flaunted by a national advertiser in the last decade or so. But Taco Dog, for all his offenses, was never guilty of frightening little children and adults alike.
I actually felt sorry for the pseudo-King. That costume has to be #1 or 2 on the list of "Halloween Outfits Most Likely To Get You Beat Up By Drunks Offended By Your Face Not Moving. But it's not just that. It's a creepy face, a permanently-goofy expression of Serenity in a world of Perplexities. It's a face that disturbs because it looks singularly un-disturbed. By anything.
And they'll likely sell or rent millions of them...
-Mike Riley

Thursday, September 27, 2007

BlogCatalog Against Self-Abuse! [in aid of "Bloggers Unite"]


(Actually, what with the Earth's rotation and all, more than a few places around the planet have reached Zero Hour. In the interest of candor, THIS VERY ENTRY is coming out Somewhat after Midnight, EDT. )

Before we go any further, A Disclaimer:

I DO NOT KNOW THE "OFFICIAL" BLOGCATALOG OPINION ON SELF-ABUSE!

[That said, I wish I understood the mechanics of "language translation". Not so much, the idea; more the nuts and bolts. After all, the potent English word "Self-Abuse" may or may not have equivalents in other languages. I need someone to translate these missives from English to, say, Italian. Then a second translator, who had not seen the original, would be charged with translating the translation back into English. 30-minute time limit. - MR]

BESIDES PEOPLE, even I don't have the nerve to completely trash "BU" during a major show of force. (Hey guys, I'm a member and all. I know the Rules...) And, as the Quicker Thinking among you have no doubt realized by now, it's Another form of "Self-Abuse" that's on the Table.

Being Specific, I mean the abuse we hurl almost continuously on ourselves. Understand, please, that I am not against a regular "self-examination"; What I'm bringing up is the kind of things that most of us [well, a lot of us, anyway] do occasionally, and Quite A Few, I Expect do entirely too much

Take a 'mo:

Circumstances Against Your Control - You're beating yourself over the head for things that are under the complete control of: God, Allah, The Buddha, The Boss [However you interpret that term], Coleman Hawkins recordings, You Know What I'm Getting At Here. Do you have a CLUE how unhelpful and unhappy the makes not only you[On principle, I think how you want to feel, so far as it's in your control, ought to by Law be your choice. After all, you're really the Only One who spends 24/7 with you.], but those of us who have to put up with you [we have our limits...]?

Circumstances Rigged To Explode In Your Face - 98 % of the time or so, you should not only be able, but should "feel obliged", to dismantle the bomb in question. FOR PRACTICE, if for no other reason [And I don't mean to kiss your employer's ass, either. Consider the benefits of being able to dismantle, then rebuild, those menaces, Knowledge Is Power!]

Situations Lost Because Of Legitimate Ignorance - Understandably, forgivable. In a world where Learning is frequently parcelled out by the size of one's purse, instead of one's abilities [Sorry for that very Franklinian touch - when you're confronted with the depth, breadth, and length of Franklin's file of Inventions, a frequent first reaction is to yell out, "arright, Franklin, you're the biggest bloody genius of the early-American-era. We'll just FORGET one bloody Thomas Jefferson". Fortunately, bouncers stepped in before further harm took place. Mr. Riley added that he had never had better treatment by what he termed "a bloody mini-army, just waiting for an excuse, or even a mis-read gesture, to begin the Earth's "Armageddon" [the real, and final Armageddon is, and always has been: Forces of Satan - vs Forces of God. I believe that God's Forces win. But it may hot be as big a walk-over as I'd like it to be...].

(You, no doubt, can add to this list. No you can't. You can only add to the "Comments" section. Damn. Maybe you could put your additions to this list in as "Comments. Just a thought...)

The point is, we trash Ourselves a great deal more than others. So knock it off! [Imagine that Slogan on the side of a dumpster in Your Town! We'll pay you less than you want, but almost as much as those sleazebags that operate the trash-collecting company that gets your [not THIS] area's "outsourced" trash-pickup business]. After all, can't we all get along with ourselves?

Not as much of a parody as you'd think...

-Mike Riley

PS: A special 'Thank You" to the sponsors of this little journal, for allowing us to carry the "BloggersUnited" poster; instead of carrying on a disgraceful "price war" over sponsoring this Historic Issue, they agreed to leave the space unpurchased. In gratitude for this unprecedented gesture, PLEASE VISIT AT LEAST ONE OF THEM TODAY! (Whether or not you end up buying things is Your Business, although I try not to put companies that have a bad reputation on this page). - MR

PPS: I would never call the two facts related. But the GM-UAW strike was settled WITHIN SIX HOURS after this space printed a brief look at the overriding dance between Labor and Capital. (Unlike "Dancing With The Stars", neither side is permanently eliminated. Frequently, in fact, they've both been on the Outs with the Outside World, sitting in some symbolic Penalty Box...

"BOX, BOX, BOX. BOX, BOX, BOX.

TO THE BOX, TO THE BOX, TO THE

BOX! BOX! BOX!"

-Chant in Buffalo's HSBC Arena, when

the opposition to the Buffalo Bandits

[pro lacrosse] pick up a penalty. - Also MR

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From Point A to Point B (and how we got there)


(Note: Sometimes one writes, not to solve a problem, but to attempt to state the circumstances fairly. Once a matter is presented even-handedly, it sometimes becomes easier to consider solutions. - MR)
As I write this, the United Auto Workers, one of the few major unions left in the United States, is on strike against General Motors, one of its largest corporations. I'm not taking sides in the dispute, nor am I making any predictions about how long the strike will last. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of more expert voices across the Blogosphere who have opinions on all of that. But the situation got me thinking of deeper issues [Not that I'm any more an expert on them, but I haven't seen them addressed before].
The rise of unions in the US was paralleled by the rise of industry. Small companies either grew or were absorbed into larger ones. These new giant corporations needed capital to expand. They sold stock or borrowed money to finance the new growth. Those who put up the money for this expansion, understandably, expected some kind of return on their investments. Companies were placed in the box they remain in today; a need to find competent workers, balanced against the necessity of keeping operating costs low, so as to return an acceptable profit to investors. As this happened, it became more difficult for individual workers to protect basic safety and security rights. Unions arose to give workers rights by collective negotiation that they would not have had dealing with employers individually. (In a way, it also made things easier for Big Business, as they were creating one standard agreement with thousands of workers at the same time. They could then set up cost projections for the length of the contract based on a predictable figure for wages and other benefits.)
The result of generations of such negotiations was, on one hand, an envied standard of living for the American workforce and, on the other, the need to charge more and more for goods to help make up the increased costs for labor. In an effort to reduce some of those costs, corporations began to manufacture more parts or finished products outside the US. It made it possible for them to pay these foreign workers lower wages, based on a lower standard of living. This has led to growing concerns among American workers that their jobs will be "outsourced" and increased calls for job security at contract negotiation time. As corporations turn more and more to foreign labor, they believe they can negotiate for lower wages or benefits or, at the very least, unchanged compensation for work. (There are other tools Big Business uses, such as offering special compensation for employees who agree not to unionize their workplaces, but that is not within the scope of this article.)
As the UAW-GM strike continues, workers in manufacturing plants that sell goods to GM are beginning to feel the pinch through layoffs. While the strike goes on, factories in other countries will soon fall silent. A pebble that drops in one place may cause an earthquake in another...
I wish I knew an answer for all of this, but I confess I don't. Some people have proposed Socialism, or even Communism, as a solution to the ills of American Capitalism, but years of failed attempts to bring these systems to the forefront prove that this nation will not accept them. Some hope for enlightened leaders in the unions or business, but one man's enlightenment is another man's madness. As a non-union worker, I am frankly curious to see how matters will work themselves out.
-Mike Riley
PS: If you are reading this on September 26th, please check back tomorrow. This blog will be taking part in a BlogCatalog-sponsored effort to raise awareness on the issue of abuse. For more details, click on the "poster", or smaller "BloggersUnited" banner. - MR

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remember...




This day in 2001, I came home after work [then, as now, the all-night shift on the radio]. The Woman I Love woke me up about 11 AM. I don't remember her exact words, but she told me that terrorists had crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, while a third attempt had failed, with the plane crashing somewhere in Pennsylvania [only later were we to learn about the determination of a group of passengers on board Flight 93]. I don't remember saying, "You must be kidding", but I remember thinking it...

Sadly, no one was kidding that day. As death estimates rose that day, and the horrific days that followed, I remember first of all a feeling of anger, that such a murderous act could take place on our soil [that's illustrative right there: our soil, our country was violated, its citizens, as well as citizens of many other nations, slaughtered in a wanton act of mass murder]. There was a feeling that our nation should do whatever it took to find, try, and punish those responsible [well, to be very honest, trials weren't necessarily on every one's mind; finding those responsible, then killing them by the most painful method possible was a popular early option]; that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Osama Bin-Laden reportedly plans to commemorate today's anniversary by reading the last will of one of the airplane hijackers in a new video.

While I've never been really comfortable with large public displays of Americanism [as opposed to patriotism, its more benign version], such things happened over the following days and weeks. Thousands of families buried their dead. Millions of dollars were raised to ease the burden of those who were now deprived of a wife, a husband, a brother or sister, a life partner or a life-long friend.

The memorials go on this year, although complaints of politics have come up over the New York tribute [then-mayor Rudolph Guilliani, now a Republican candidate for President, plans to speak, as he has at each memorial service]. The crowds that turn out each year get smaller and smaller. This is, I'd guess, inevitable.

But let this nation never forget the bravery of rescue workers who rushed into burning skyscrapers, who breathed fetid, lung-damaging air as they worked to save, and then recover, those trapped by the carnage. Let us never forget the bravery of airline passengers who thwarted another bombing attempt with their own lives. Let us never forget the feeling of national grief, of national unity, of the national will to go on. These things must be the true legacy of 9-11, not a sense of national impotence at the failure to bring that murderous gang to heel, not a feeling that the national leadership took advantage of the bombings to move its own agenda forward, or a sense that our spirit has been fatally crushed. Pray God, nothing could be, must be, further from the truth.

-Mike Riley

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One Man's Heroes...


Hero worship, for the most part, is a male activity. Oh sure, there are little girls who cheer the exploits of the stars of women's basketball or soccer. In tennis [which is in the middle of a long drought of memorable male stars], the Williams sisters have their fans. But women who pick their favorites usually base their choices on a variety of factors that only begin on the field of play. Boys and men don't care about their stars' fashion sense, or favorite music, or anything that doesn't impact their skill during the game.
As I've gotten older, it's been harder to find sporting heroes. I think I've gotten cynical, more observant to those off-field peccadilloes that make it hard to admire a player. Then again, in this era of Too Much Information, the less-than-edifying habits of athletes are as easy to find as a well-worded Google search. (I've so far resisted the temptation of Googling my own name, but, knowing myself as well as I do, I cringe at the thought of what such a search would turn up.)
Further, as I've gotten older [I'm rapidly approaching my 50Th birthday], my definition of heroism has changed. Instead of sporting exploits, I'm finding myself admiring the skill of people who live their everyday lives in extraordinary ways. I've written about my father in this space (http://aftermidnightpage.blogspot.com/2007/02/color-him-love.html), and I find myself admiring his quiet skill at living with respect for his fellow human beings. As you look around yourself, there are probably people who've earned your honor and praise. But, from time to time, the heroes of your youth come back into your head with a vengeance.
Last Saturday. The Woman I Love and I found ourselves sitting in uncomfortable chairs along the corridor of a shopping mall. We were awaiting the arrival of Gilbert Perreault, Richard Martin, and Rene Robert. Together, they were the most dangerous scoring line in the history of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. The line also had a memorable nickname: The French Connection [noting the fact that all three grew up in French Canada]. Long-time fans of the team will tell you that Buffalo clubs are usually more notable for their goaltenders than their forwards. That's because no line caught the public fancy [or performed so well] as the Connection. TWIL had bought me the opportunity to get their autographs as an early birthday gift. She'd also gone to the trouble of buying a poster-size photo of the three (not the image at the top of this post; I don't have a picture of it available. But you get the idea) for their signatures (Thank you very much, Darling).
We got to the signing area early enough to be near the front of the line. There were a few discussions of the Sabres' chances in the upcoming season. But most of the talk was about...autographs. You were expecting it to be about hockey memories. Well, I was. I really though that people at such an event would be remembering the great plays of the trio we were waiting on. But no, the chat was about this or that player, and how hard it was to get them to sign, how much they had paid to get an autograph, whether the items they had brought to sign would be valuable on eBay, that sort of thing. (Understand, I'm not an autograph collector, as such. I get the names of players I admired. So far, that's Perreault, Martin, Robert, and former Buffalo Bill Steve Tasker [someday, I may write a post as to why I wanted his autograph].)
The three arrived almost on time, and moved quickly to the signing table. They looked in great shape for guys in their late-50's. They were very polite [then again, they were picking up a nice pocketful of cash for their penmanship], posing for photos as they signed, joking with the fans as they added their signatures to this or that item [some people brought five or more bits of memorabilia to be signed].
When I reached the head of the line, I fished my poster out of its protective case, and placed it on the table. I made sure TWIL got a picture of me standing behind the players as they signed. I wanted to say something, let them know what their skills had meant to me; Hell, meant to the success [and survival] of an expansion team. But nothing worth saying was coming out. Finally, as they finished, I told them the truth: "When you're around your heroes, you don't know what to say. Thank you". I'm not sure how they felt about all that, but they did thank me for coming. All in all, it was a wonderful and slightly embarrassing situation (I don't like to be at a loss for words; given my job, it's not professional).
I've been wishing that I'd told my father (and mother) what they meant to me. Sure, I could [and did] tell him I loved him, but not that he was a hero of mine. I think we both would have been embarrassed by the sentiment. But sometimes, the embarrassing things need to be said. With this in mind, I'm hoping that you, during the next week after you read this, tell someone in your life the embarrassing truth, "You're my hero".
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Marxist Theory 101




I thought I'd try adding visuals to these posts. I hope you enjoy it, as well as whatever I add in future communiques. Between the picture, and the title, you've probably guessed that we're talking about the Marx Brothers here. Over the weekend, the 30Th anniversary of Groucho's death passed, virtually unnoticed except for a well-put-together feature on CBS-TVs Sunday Morning [Groucho had this misfortune to pass within a day or two of Elvis Presley. Jesters are always more beloved, but less memorialized, than Kings).




Times change, as I'm sure you realize, but tastes change more markedly. By the time of Elvis' death, the style of rock he forced to the front of the stage had been pushed into the realm of nostalgia. He was forced to spend most of his on-stage time trying to perform music that, to be blunt, he was in no shape to perform. (there's no getting into the psyche of the deceased, but I've always been of the theory that Presley used the drugs he used to one, help him get the best performances he could out of himself and, two, to numb the pain of the fact he wasn't capable of performing to his former high-energy level. Just a theory...)


In the same way, while the movies of the Marx Brothers were highly prized during Groucho's later years (and, for the most part, did well in their original runs), their popularity has fallen into something of a decline. Of course, new movies continue to be made, and there has always been more admiration for new things than old (someone ought to translate that lest sentence into Latin. It's an aphorism waiting to be carved in stone). But I believe there's something else at work here.


In her 2005 book Talk to the Hand, British broadcaster Lynne Truss speculates on, among other things, why Good Manners and Common Courtesy have fallen off the end of the Earth. One of her theories is based on the decline in acceptance of the Class System, especially, of course, as it existed in England. For the most part, the same factors have come into play here in the U-S. Like Truss, I think the end of worrying about embarrassing oneself around one's "betters" is probably a good thing. That being said, though, it has led many people to believe that, not only is no one better than themselves, they are now free to act as rudely as they wish [or, to put a slightly nicer face on it, to act fully for their own interests, without considering anyone else]. Even a quick view of the Marx Brothers' career shows them to be experts at puncturing the inflated worth of anyone brave enough to have an inflated self-worth around them.


They usually played characters that would have been part of their era's "undesirables"; Groucho was basically a con man, Chico, a stereotyped immigrant, Harpo never spoke [mentally challenged, we'd say, while in his time, he'd be condemned as an "imbecile"], while Zeppo, ostensibly the straight man, always seemed to have a touch of larceny in his mix. And, as any fan of the Marxes will tell you, they were seldom funnier than when bumping up against "polite society" usually personified by Margaret Dumont


Of course, this strain of humor has always run through American culture [no, this isn't a course, but you can investigate this yourself if you wish]. But the success of the Mark Brothers movies helped push it into the mainstream, as did other factors [please let's not make this a course, OK?]. Thus, the success of the Marx Brothers in their time, as well as during their late 60's revival, may have contributed to their current decline (You knew we'd get to this sooner or later, didn't you?). No real reason to tell you any of this, of course. I was just fascinated by the thought...


-Mike Riley


P.S.: We have a new sponsor. FoodIreland.com ships popular Irish food products to the U-S and other countries. Their prices are reasonable, and their service superb [By the bye, if the idea of a fry-up makes your arteries harden just by thinking of it, they are also a great sources for real Irish oats. From personal experience, rolled oats really will help reduce your cholesterol levels.]. Click on one of their locations. We'll both thank you... - MR

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What's "Write" About The Blogosphere

Regular visitors to this spot will probably notice a few changes. The familiar "It's Always After Midnight Somewhere" clock has been given a vacation. Its replacement is a count-down clock [as usual, provided courtesy of the clever folks at Clock Link.com. Mouse over the clock to hook up with Clock Link, if you're interested], as well as a couple of banners. There's a story behind it all, of course.

Virtually everyone who blogs is connected with one or more blog network. Over the year or so I've been doing this, I have signed up with a few of these services. The one that seems to be the most active [for my blog, anyway] is Blog Catalog (http://www.blogcatalog.com). They are home to a wide variety of posters, who blog on just about anything under the Sun. The authors are uniformly talented [present company excepted, of course], and know their subjects. It's also one of the few [maybe the only] sites that actually is selective as to what blogs are allowed in [I've gotten over another blog I write not making the cut. I really have...].

Another thing I like about Blog Catalog is that, from time to time, it asks its members to consider the larger world in their writings. A couple of postings back, you'll note that I wrote as part of a campaign dealing with organ donations. On September 27Th, we've been asked to address the topic of abuse. In an interesting move, the organizers of this campaign have decided not to select a particular form of abuse to consider. Of course, this opens up the discussion to anything from physical to verbal abuse, from environmental outrages to the case of a professional athlete sponsoring dog fights [a cause celebre here in the States just now].

As you've probably guessed by now, I will be part of the campaign. Are you in? Click on either the "poster" or the "Bloggers Unite" badge for more information. And even if you're not a member of Blog Catalog, I hope you'll look at abuse as a topic for a post on our around September 27Th. We have many examples of mis-treatment of our fellow creatures, the earth we all walk, the fellow humans we interact with in our lives. Blog for a cause on September 27Th!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Atomic Dog

Sorry I've been away from the keyboard again [and yes, I can hear Someone groaning in the background, "If you spent as much time blogging as you do apologizing, you wouldn't need to apologize"! Well, yeah.], but if you'd grown up here in Western New York, and you'd experienced the heat and humidity that's gone thru here [no, actually stopped and set up a picnic table], you wouldn't want to go near the Blogosphere, either.

Actually, the Blog World has been pretty hot of late, with the YouTube Democratic Presidential debate and its fallout remaining just ahead of the pride of lions on attack in that safari video that's all over the 'Net. There were those unfortunate cases of pedophiles who were cruising MySpace and Facebook, to name just two, in search of what we do not know, but can only suspect the worst, in the name of safety [considering what the Government wants to do keeping an eye on citizens whose prior records are squeaky clean, in the name of safety, the pedophiles got off lightly with just being booted off the sites].

Then again, hot is indeed the operative word. It's a warm Summer season across most of North America [I don't keep as good a check on Mexico as I should, but if the temperatures in the American Southwest are any indication, it's too warm there as well]. I'm hoping that this is not an intentional ploy of Al Gore's, to increase sales for An Inconvenient Truth, but you never can tell, can you?

Why, it's been so warm, I forgot to do something I'd promised myself I'd do once a year for the rest of my life: take a few hours to re-read Hiroshima, John Hersey's masterful reportage of the first use of the atomic bomb, and its aftermath. In the 1980's, he returned to the subjects of his original work, and traced their difficult life journeys since August 6, 1945. I have tried to read it every year, as close to the anniversary as possible. I haven't had the chance to search the apartment for my copy, but I'll feel guilty until it turns up, and I can take up my penance, penance for being one of the creatures whose ancestors felt the need to build so powerful a weapon of devastation. Well, maybe it'll cool off this weekend...

I finally got my first "new" computer to rights this week, so, if i feel the need, I can write to the 'Net from home, instead of waiting to get to work. Well, I'm excited about it! Stay tuned to this space. I'll try to get back to it more frequently, and more fervently. And, stay cool [except for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, where the advice is, Try to stay warm (a sentiment I can understand!)].

Friday, July 27, 2007

It Ain't Necessarily So

It's been quite a month, this July, in the "city" of Niagara Falls, NY, where I live. Two of America's three morning news shows have stopped by the falls to visit, and, by implication, endorse the Falls as a cool vacation stop once again. (Actually, the Falls never stopped being cool. We just lost our ability to appreciate them)

But, all in all, I'm betting some of the "locals" besides myself feel a little guilty about the whole thing. I mean, having grown up around here, we know the Dark Secrets that the Chamber of Commerce tries to keep away from potential visitors:

1. / The View is Better on the Canadian Side. Don't get me wrong. There are some spectacular sights to see on the American side of the Falls, beginning with the park that surrounds it. The Park, or the Reserve, as long-time residents call it, was the first state park established in the United States. Goat Island and its smaller neighbor, Three Sisters Island, are developed enough to make exploring them safe, but not so much that the experience of Being In Nature is lost. And there is no better place to experience the raw power of the mighty Niagara than Prospect Point, the concrete platform shaking with the water's force, the spray from the Falls covering you. But, for those picture postcard images that people love to send home to Loved Ones, the view is better on the Canadian side. To our credit, we residents are usually honest enough to admit this simple fact. Of course, we didn't figure this out just recently. Almost as soon as good roads [and railroads] made visiting the area easy for most of the nation, tourists figured out that the view was...well, you know what's coming next. In fact, until fairly recently, most of the tourism push was on the Canadian side, while in the U-S, companies attracted by the cheap and plentiful hydroelectricity made parts of the city so industrialized [and polluted] that the American side was once famously called, "the witch's end of Fairyland".

2. / With The Best View Comes The Best Attractions. This one comes out of another of those Dark Secrets we spoke of earlier: after about thirty seconds, you've probably seen everything Niagara Falls is going to do. Yeah, they're illuminated by colored spotlights in the evening, and during the Summer (High Tourist Season), there are frequent fireworks displays. But the Falls themselves are water running at a high velocity, before dropping of the edge of a cliff into the [obviously-named] Lower Niagara River. That's it. It doesn't change. This leads to a question: now what do we do? Because the best views of the Falls have always been on the Canadian side, the area around the Canadian Falls has always been a tourist magnet. Promoters and developers, sensing (or seeing) a crowd, were quick to set up attractions to give tourists something to do after seeing the mighty Niagara. With a nearly 150-year head start, the American side is playing an unwinable game of "catch-up". (Most of the major tourist attractions in Niagara Falls, Canada are on, or near, Clifton Hill. The land on this roughly one-block street is divided and sub-divided so as to get the maximum number of attractions, shops, and restaurants into the smallest physical space possible. I don't know if this is still the case, but at least into the 1970's Clifton Hill was private land, with its two owners allowing an "easement" for a street and sidewalks to be built. One side, not surprisingly, was owned by an accountant. The other was the property of a man who had made his fortune when he discovered the largest gold mine in Canada. Seeing Clifton Hill on a busy Summer day, you realize he also found the second-largest gold mine in Canada.)

3. / When Three Casinos Operate Within Five Miles Of One Another, No One Wins But The Owners. This area might be, well, "over-casinoed". There are two gambling [or to use the current industry buzz-word, "gaming"] halls on the Canadian side of the Falls, and one on the American side. (I'm not going to get into a comparison of one casino versus another. I don't spend much time in them. But I will say this; if you smoke, and enjoy a complementary cocktail or two with your gaming, visit the American casino. Since it's operated by an Indian tribe, the land it sits on is considered as belonging to the tribe, and thus is not subject to New York State or Canadian law, like the one that forbids smoking in all enclosed public locations. Just a tip...) For what it's worth, my point is this: too many places to go means no one place is making huge money. It also means more and more special programs to get gamblers...sorry, gamers, to spend their money at your gaming hall. Well, hey, America [or for that matter, Canada] can never have too many gambling-addicted folks dropping their last coins into a town's economy in a last-ditch attempt to keep that locale's head above water. Right?

(By the way, I don't have any moral objection to gambling. Everybody has a certain amount of disposable income to use as s/he sees fit. I spend mine on books and music. And I'm rather proud of the fact that, to date, I've yet to blow my entire paycheck in a book or record store. Although I've been tempted...)

And don't even get me started on the non-user-friendly tourism system on the American side. I'll just say that vital resources for the tourist are either located in the wrong place, or, more usually, non-existent. (Unfortunately, there are also reports that one or more of the several police forces that patrol in Niagara Falls, NY have appeared to make comments or taken action against visitors that seemed to be racially-driven. Again, just a tip.)

Look, we need your tourist dollars. Big Industry left us raped and abandoned by the roadside. So please come to Niagara Falls, NY. But understand that, to see the Falls at their best, you'll have to cross the border [It's really not as complicated as the Federal Government wants to make it, so this may be a good time to come a-callin'].If you bring kids, or if you enjoy the attraction side of touring, Clifton Hill [on the Canadian side] is your best bet. If you happen to be a person of color, we've got the prejudice you probably go on vacation to avoid [you can criticise us later]. But we must be a great tourist site. After all, two of America's three morning news shows have visited this month alone. Right? Am I right?

-Mike Riley

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Smokin' OP's

Sometimes the best thing about the Blogosphere isn't the words the Blogger puts out there, but what s/he finds on Other Peoples' Blogs. Case in point: the excellent site -
http://www.pinkyshow.org. (Yes, the savy out there are saying, it's very nice, but IT'S NOT A BLOG! Get over it...) The Pinky Show is a series of low-tech presentations, narrated by a small black-and-white cartoon cat named Pinky. It's a fascinating collection of perusals of current and historical culture. For instance, a consideration of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition as the first flowering of Imperialist Culture in the U-S. Or a discussion of the battle between Direct and Alternating Current as the means of bringing electricity into American homes [this one, because of a demonstration by Direct Current's promoter, is entitled "Thomas Edison Hates Cats"]. No, it's not the history you learned in school [unless you had a very progressive school], but it's educational to the max. Worth a look...

In the "annoyingly cute, but hilarious" division, there's http://www.icanhascheezburger.com. Cats in funny pictures with cute captions usually make me chortle beyond control, and this site is no exception. (Cats seem to be this post's theme. So what?)

Nothing profound here. Just a couple of stops in One Blogger's Universe...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Give Life [in aid of the BlogCatalog Community Organ Donation Awareness Campaign]

As I write this, it's just after 1 AM in Western New York. I don't know for sure where, or whom, or why, but someone is desperately awaiting a transplant. Perhaps, as was the case with an occasional colleague of mine, they will die without a kidney transplant. Maybe the gift of a cornea will restore their sight. A heart or lung may keep a third person alive, to be a part of their family.

I have a terrible confession to make: I am not currently an organ donor. I don't know why. I guess because my personal health was so bad, I believed that I literally had nothing to offer. After examining some of the information posted at http://www.organdonor.gov, I realized that, despite personal health issues, my organs may still be usable for transplant. Even if they aren't, it's likely my blood can be used to help save some one's life [I have been a blood donor since late last year. I'd have started that sooner, but, owing to bad information and a childhood illness, I didn't think I was eligible.

In case you're wondering, I'm alibiing for myself because I feel rather guilty about not being an organ/tissue donor. After all, in most of the US, it's not very hard to be one; usually, a simple notation on your driver's license is enough [if you do that, though, MAKE SURE YOUR HEALTH PROXY AND FAMILY ARE AWARE OF YOUR WISHES!

The Woman I Love is an organ/tissue donor. People very close to you probably are as well. I'm going to be one, as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. Why? You could ask any one of the nearly ninety-seven thousand people in America who are awaiting transplant donors tonight. Any reason they'd give to explain why they wanted to receive a transplant would be better than anything I could write.

Here in the United States, the previously mentioned OrganDonor.gov site is a good clearing house of information. If you happen to live here in Western New York, check out http://www.unyts.org, the home site of Upstate New York Transplant Services. If you live elsewhere in the world, please investigate organ/tissue transplant donation sites in your country. (I was shocked to learn that, in some parts of the world, people are killed for their organs! Thank God we are in a place where such matters are the stuff of urban legends).

I wish I could have made this a better, or perhaps more compelling, presentation. If you are looking for a few examples of why exactly organ/tissue donation is so vitally important, check out http://www.blogcatalog.com/discuss/entry/make-history-on-wednesday-1 post haste. There are links to several articles on this topic, most of which I suspect are better than this. But forgive my weak words. Find the strength within yourself and give life!