Saturday, December 20, 2008

If I were an Entrepreneur. . .

First, like any good story writer, I must give you the background story:

The East coast of the US and various areas in the middle parts of America are a full month into being pummeled by the throes of Father Winter's frigid wrath. What this can translate into, for the uninitiated, is sub-zero (that's Fahrenheit) temperatures, white-out driving conditions, and half-inch-thick ice covering everything from cars door locks to telephone wires to red-ripe fruit still hanging on to branch-tips with the tenacity of a small and vicious dog's clinging to an unwanted visitor's trouser cuff. Unfortunately, the powers that be do not cancel the world and it's incessant needs during such treacherous outdoor conditions. They can't really, for in certain parts of this vast and complicated country, such heinous weather lasts for months at a time, and allowing people to use the truly valid excuse of completely unsafe driving conditions as a reason to stay home from work could hypothetically ground all productivity, and even worse - all consumption - to a definitive halt. Yikes. How very un-American.

To battle this need for continued rat racing and good consuming, areas that are accustomed to such intense (and deplorable) weather conditions have management techniques in place. Plow trucks, salt trucks and sand trucks are among the most commonly used methods to battle the icy conditions that cause countless vehicle pile-ups and excruciatingly long commutes for those rueful rats racing to and fro all the livelong day. But there's one massive problem with those problem solvers. And that is. . .if the temperature drops much below freezing, (that's 32 degrees Fahrenheit), they are completely useless. That's right. When ice is falling from the sky, pummeling everything in sight, rendering electricity outages across miles of cityscape and leading to many an old-lady breaking her hip, those salt trucks are no good. No good at all.

So, what to do? What to do? Well, several cities have proposed an interesting new solution in recent years. That being. . .beet juice. You heard me right. Plain-old sticky-sweet sugar-beet juice. Reports would have you believe that it works like a god-sent miracle, melting even the thickest of ice off streets and highways with a quickness not seen since the senior Earnhardt dominated the NASCAR scene. So why isn't it used all over the frozen land? Why do massive swaths of American landscape remain locked under fractions of inches of treacherous solid water while the salt trucks sit idly in their service vehicle parking lots? Because beet juice is a little bit stinky, a tad bit sticky, and worst of all. . . a deep, dark, staining red.

People can't stand that the juice dyes the tires of their cars. And the sidewalks of their streets. And the soles of their shoes. It's red, it's vegetable juice, and it goes nowhere very very slowly. So this is where my entrepreneurial spirit (which I didn't previously know I had) bucks up and gets very excited. I have the perfect solution ,and it will make me scads of money (uhmm, and I'll be helping lots of people be safe and stuff which is really good, too. cough).

Have you ever read the series of children's books written by James Howe? If you haven't, I highly suggest you get on that, and quick. At any rate, the stories are all very cheeky and pseudo-scary, and center around a strange little rabbit named Bunnicula. The vampire rabbit. With clever titles like, "The Celery Stalks at Midnight," Howe details the antics of this juice-sucking vampiro-bunny as he hops from garden to garden, depriving the root vegetables in each row of their distinct colors and striking fear into the hearts of every subterranean tuber.

Well, if you don't see the obvious connection here than you're apparently not quite awake. This is what makes this idea so deliciously brilliant. First step is, I procure some nice fertile, open land and plant some beet seeds. Next, I hunt down Bunnicula (he's not hard to find when one follows the country's only trail of colorless rutabaga) and win him over with my personality, cheesy jokes, and stockpile of veggie juice. He'll be as juiced up as an alcoholic at an Irish-Catholic Christmas party. Then, I breed him to create a whole army of vampire bunnies. I will name them things like Incubunnyus and Lehoppystat, and we will all be friends. I will keep them sated with bulk v8 supplies procured from CostCo as I hatch part three of the plan: tend those beets on my beet farm and start weaning the fanged little furry fiends off their myriad juices and get their juice-lust honed in on the money-pot. . .sweet, sweet beet juice.

Once their thirst for the thick red nectar is insatiable, and their fangs drip and glisten in the moonlight with their desire for a fresh kill, I will release my army of vampire bunnies into the rows of juicy beets. I won't watch the carnage; my cruelty only goes so far. But once they have had their way with the heart-shaped roots, I will reap what I have sewn; I will harvest the red-juice-depleted vegetables, and press them for their remaining sweet nectar. This red-free beet juice will descend like a savior on the winter-embattled citizens of the land, bringing them freedom and traction and paths to productivity/consumption they never before imagined during the coldest of seasons.

And that is my plan. And I know it's ridiculous. And I don't care :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More than just a Dead Sea

Ah, the Mall. There is no finer petri dish of American, than the good ole' American Mall. It has everything you love to hate about America, and sometimes a fountain. Most of my contemporaries have abandoned the mall as a regular staple of their consuming habits. Only making the trip when absolutely necessary. I've had these same feelings as well at one time, but I've grown up a bit and realize that if I hate the Mall, but if I still have to go there for "this certain store" or for last minute gifts, then I'll continue to hate it unless I change my attitude. So now I treat the Mall like a trip to the circus! It doesn't happen often, and half the fun is in people watching. Like a reality soap opera.

At the Mall today, I noticed what seemed like an large increase in the center booths. You know the ones, they sell anything from cellphones to hermit crabs. Sweet Christmas Baby Jesus, there was a lot of them!

"Were there this many before? I'm not sure, it's been a while" I thought to myself while weaving in and out of them. I then realized that no body, and I mean nobody comes to the Mall specifically for these crap-stands and shit-booths. They are just bloated versions of the check out line of WalMart. But there were many more than I could ever remember.

I was then accosted by one of the Dead Sea Salt ladies, asking to see my hands. "Can I see your hands, please?"

"No, don't worry, I know you're just trying to sell me a product."

"No no no. I just want to show you the product," she reaffirmed.

I had a question I was dying to ask her. "How do you feel about what you do?"

"Oh many people have no idea about the Dead Sea. I came all the way from Israel for the season to show you this product."

"Yeah I know, they're all from Israel!" I retorted. "I want to know how you feel about having to harass people all day? You're not stupid, you know you have to bother people to sell your product. I just sat back there and watched all kinds of people wave you away. How do you feel about that?"

She held her composure well. "Well the customer has the right to say no, if they are not interested. I just want to introduce them to this product."

"No no no. Set all that aside," I told her. "Outside of the job and the product and what you are paid for. How do you feel about having to badger people all day, personally?"

"This is just a job, I am a nutritionist. I come from Israel over the season to introduce people to the wonderful salts of the Dead Sea!"

She wasn't listening to me. My anger flared from her lack of coherence, and I thought it would be sporting of me to threaten calling security on her for touching me. She did touch my hand. I did present it, "but I never said yes, officer of the peace."

I let this manic notion go.

I realized that in seeking her answer, I have now only created two more questions.
Was she A: Sticking to her sales persona so well, that she would not allow me to see the real her?
Or was she B: Genuinely passionate enough about these damn Dead Sea Salts that she really did believe in them to the point of spending her weekends in high heels and product soaked har, badgering the weak willed until they tried her faith in hand products? A belief that is so strong that she cannot transcend beyond these damn Dead Sea Salts, and think objectively about how she is interacting with people everyday?

"So your telling me, that you believe in the product so much, that it's more important than how you feel personally about your job?"

"Yes!" she didn't hesitate to say.

"WOW, you have some fortitude! That all I needed to know," I said, and they were my last words to this absurd individual. Walking out of the Mall, I was only flooded wondrous confusion, and even more questions. Either she is stupid with faith, or she will go home with my question rolling through her mind. Over and over for weeks, till she either wakes up to her own sorry reality, or falls off the deep end. I better be careful, these sort of questions might be dangerous to the general public. Should I even worry, I was never asked to save anybodies soul?

Who am I kidding, she thinks I'm the crazy one!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Socially Acceptable Stalking?

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

Everyone is a stalker on the internet, to some degree. No one wants to admit it though, because they don't want to view themselves as a stalker. Who does? It's a nasty label, and we have all experienced situations that border on, or even cross, the stalker line. So the bigger question is; At what point do we decide that this behavior is actually stalking?

So you may have looked at my profile, unbeknownst to me, and you chose not to message me so that I wouldn't have the impression that you are a stalker. Relax, people do this all the time. Why? Because it's easy, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Real drive-by stalking of the past takes work, and most Americans are too lazy for that. Some journalists have claimed that this modern stalking behavior is voyeuristic, or at least borderline. My problem with that is such a word implies some sense of sexual gratification, which I feel is an over sensationalized attempt to play into the public's appeal of anything taboo and sexual. People are not browsing profiles for sexual gratification, a small percentage maybe, but not the majority of us.

My theory for why so many of us stalk the internet, is that it gives a false sense of empowerment. Being "in the know" is a common desire for any human. We crave to understand what is going on around us, even if it is trivial. Just look at tabloid sales for example. I have no facts or figures to wow you with, but it's pretty common knowledge that gossip sells. This is the whole core of what fuels traffic to sites like Facebook and MySpace. We have the power to know when our friends break up with their stupid boyfriends or shiftless girlfriends, before they even have a chance to tell us in person. Or we know what literary tastes someone has without having to take any effort to get to know them, like we used to do back in "the day". It's just society's next big step towards a collective consciousness. But it's not as scary as that sounds.

Why is it not so scary? Why do I feel it's a false sense of empowerment? Because it's a watered down version of the truth, of reality. The information is relatively unproductive knowledge, for the most part just like celebrity gossip, that is of little value for the pure fact that it is so watered down. Everything on these sites is filtered by every user to some degree. Since we only post what we are comfortable with the world knowing, it's only part of the story, part of that person. Some people seem to pour their heart out, but I can assure you that it's still only the tip of their personal iceberg. Most people will steer plenty clear of divulging anything that may incriminate them, or bring about unwanted scrutiny. It's only natural to not open your vulnerabilities to attack. We have to be aware of this when reading the information of others online. Since most of the info is of little significance or value, why do we waste our time? I'm not sure really, but maybe most people are really just unaware of how filtered all these wall posts and status updates are. This leads them to think the information is more valuable than it really is, which in turn gives a false sense of empowerment. For knowledge is power, but trivial knowledge really only produces trivial power.

Our ability and methods of communication are rapidly increasing in this new millennia, but it's a double edged sword. The easier it is for others outside our physical proximity to connect with us, the more we naturally have to guard what we divulge to them. Having a face to face, heart to heart, with a friend cannot be replaced with a Facebook status update. I'll be damned if I see the day anyway.

What I find a real test of will power, is avoiding the urge to seek out this unproductive knowledge. That false empowerment can become addicting, just like any form of power. Take for example, women who I have dated in the past. I use this example because it involves people who I have been very intimate with, but that intimacy is now something of the past, and I have a different dynamic with them than my relationship with some dude who shared a drawing class with me four years ago. Sure, I'm still friends with these women, and even friends on Facebook. I can hop over to their profile anytime I want, but I don't, unless I have a reason to send them a message or something. Even when I know they visit my profile (hacks on the internet can reveal a lot more info than people think) and rarely leave me a message or any other sign they've payed a visit, I still resist the urge to silently look at their profile.

Maybe I'm weird, cause it seems a lot of people visit their ex's profiles, but I think it's only because they crave information on them. That craving can be even greater when it's someone who you know as close as an old boyfriend or girlfriend. Don't get me wrong, it's completely normal to wonder how an old girlfriend or boyfriend is doing, especially if you parted on good terms. But there is a difference between sending them a letter or email asking how things have been, and scouring their profile reading and judging every wall post from the other people in their life. I feel like it's snooping in on them. It makes me question my motives for clicking on their profile in the first place, if I didn't go there to actually send them a message. I guess that I'd like to think that if there was anything important that I should know, that they would be sure to inform me.

Now here's a paradox for you: If I'm aware that everything posted is filtered information that is consciously displayed for everyone to see, then is it really snooping when you visit their profile, if nothing private or personal is there to read anyway? Maybe not. But, I am aware of the deception of one's own perception. I've heard too many stories about so and so leaving comments on someone's profile, when someone just dumped whoever. I've had to tell a few of my friends to stop scouring their ex's comments, looking for dirt. I'm sorry dear, but any floozie who leaves a comment on your ex boyfriend's wall is going to be suspect in your mind.

I guess that may just be the main reason I steer clear of such behavior; because I don't want to give my imagination any reason to make up stories that are based on its own false pretenses. Stories that may cause emotional responses and thought loops that are not only unfounded, but just waste mental energy. My imagination is wild enough, thank you very much. It's my responsibility to keep it in check.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A steaming pile of Prop 8

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

I forgot to mention this, but your hood will be an essential ground zero point for stories on Porp 8. For the many stories for and against Obama that I will no doubt find in the south, must be contrasted by the debacle that has become Prop 8.

More power to all the negros who finally reached their day in the sun, and history owes them, no doubt. But Prop 8 is just another steaming shit pile that America can't ignore.

Lets bring some abstract and hypothetical math to the situation. If the gay population is ten percent of the population as a whole (which I always thought was a low estimate), then you will always be part of a minority. No matter how much the American population increases, you will still only have ten percent who actually carry themselves as openly gay. You can't just pop out a bunch of gay babies to increase the ranks and eventually out vote the rest of the country. Hell, it's hard enough for you to adopt! So unlike the racial minorities in this country, who are gaining ground and becoming the majority, the only option you have is to teach the ever increasing ignorant straight population that you are NOT trying to put your dick in their ass! My own crack-pot theory is that buggery is at the core of their fear, just think of how many men cringe at the thought of a colonoscopy. But that's off topic here, and I could touch more on it in the book.

The point being that you have to fight against the fear that breeds in the religious and isolated straight American. Not an easy task. No, but I do believe you have the advantage of the modern technology that is already chipping away at the old sour-puss religions in this world. For I really feel that is what will bring about its undoing. The spread of information will show the younger generations that the gay population is just as "normal" as the straight.

Let me know what you think of those points. Send word. I'd love to use some of your stories in the book, and think of a crafty pseudonym for yourself that I can use. I'll capture them in person once I arrive there. Can't wait for you to parade my ass around the city.