Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buying American Products

Okay, this one is sure to ruffle a few feathers but I had better get it out there because it’s how I feel and, after all, this is a rant blog. I remember back when it was cool to buy American. I remember when folks cared if their neighbors stayed in business. I remember when the thought of buying a Honda or Toyota over something American-made was frowned upon. And I’m only thirty-six.

I’ve heard all the arguments possible over the years, and to me none hold very much water. Does a Toyota plant here in the U.S. create some jobs? Yea. Do Toyota dealerships create jobs? Sure. Do you think that Japan doesn’t get a lot of money from selling their cars here? You bet they do.

Oh, and before you start telling me that most of the parts on American cars are outsourced, let me just inform you that I know this. I know that Canada, Mexico and China are making parts like mad for American vehicles. Not much I can do about that. It’s the principle of it. I’m not saying that Hondas and Toyotas or any other Japanese-made automobiles are trash, either. I know they are good vehicles. But I also know they aren’t American companies, and I like to support my country when possible.

If you think that Honda, a Japanese auto-maker, is simply going to let us set up a plant here, hire our own folks and sell their cars while all the profit stays here, you have another thing coming. The money is going to Japan, one way or another. There isn’t a chance in hell that the guys in Japan don’t know where each and every car went, and what it sold for.

Now, I don’t have a degree in business and I was never any good at economics, but I know that Chrysler, Ford and Chevrolet offer comparable cars at comparable prices to the Japanese auto-makers. I can already hear you saying, “I had a Ford this or a Dodge that and the thing kept breaking down! The parts were trash!” Maybe that’s because everyone is sending their money overseas while the Big Three flounder, trying desperately do make sales. I’m just saying.

Folks will do anything at all today in order to save a few dollars, up to and including putting their own neighbors out of business so that they can get three more miles to the gallon or buy an item at the Wal-Mart for a few pennies less, which also carries almost nothing American-made. It’s the sign of the times. Me, me, me.

My favorites are the elderly men with “I remember Pearl Harbor” or some similar sticker on the bumper of their entry-level Japanese car. Did I miss something? Do they really think all the money they spent on the car went to a dealership in Ohio? They couldn’t have ponied up and purchased American, just for the principle of it? Mind-boggling.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

American Idol: Yea, About That.

Let’s talk about American Idol for a second. I know it’s years and years late, but I’d like to discuss Ruben Studdard vs. Clay Aiken. Regardless of who walked away with the title, I don’t know who you feel won that season but I have a hunch. It probably matches who I thought won. Clay Aiken, plain and simple.

Now, I’m not saying that Ruben Studdard cannot sing, or that his voice is anything less than songbird melodic. What I’m saying is that Clay Aiken was, and is still, better. By far. Not even close. No contest. After that season I seriously considered not watching the show anymore. I felt that something had to have been rigged, because Aiken’s voice was nothing less than fabulous and he wasn’t, well, fat.

We all know that in a perfect world, nobody would judge folks based on their appearance. Welcome to Earth. That happens here, every day. And in a competition as fierce as American Idol where the judges are literally looking for the next music star to represent the American Dream, I would think that a sweaty, overweight feller might not be the poster child. Then again, maybe he would. Have you been inside a Wal-Mart or fast food venue lately?

But I digress. I am not here to pick on Mr. Studdard’s weight. I am here to say that it was a *singing* competition, and Ruben came up terribly short. I’m not even sure that it’s simply a matter of opinion that Clay Aiken should have won. It may be edging into the fact category. He is simply a better singer, with a better range and better appearance and stage presence. I’d be willing to bet that if a Ruben Studdard song were broadcast over the radio I wouldn’t have a clue it was him. However, I recognize Clay’s voice from a mile away.

Was the lesson here that different and original sounding isn’t better? Probably a large part of it. And if you don’t believe me, check out Chris Daughtry, who did not win but has an extremely successful career. Or Adam Lambert, the kid who wowed us all with his vocal range and onstage charisma. Yet another second-best. I honestly don’t even remember the name of the winner that season. But I remember Lambert’s. You betcha.

And now we have Steven Tyler, who literally sings along with the contestants. All pro. I don’t know about you, but that gets so annoying to me that I can’t stand it. If I wanted to hear Aerosmith, I’d put a CD on. I want to hear contestants, you boob. Keep that large trap of yours shut. I’m just saying. If he wants to sing so bad, I recommend he try out next year. Who knows, maybe “Dawg” won’t let him through.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are you a Writer? Are you, Really?

Are you a writer? Do you believe you are a good writer? Do you write just for fun? Do you plan to maybe someday submit your work to be published? Have you ever been rejected? Are you afraid of rejection slips? The following is what prompted me to ask these questions.

I very often hear that a writer won’t submit their short stories to contests that the big boys (like Glimmer Train, for instance) host because of the entry fees. Really? Seriously? Fifteen dollars for a chance at winning twelve-hundred dollars, twenty copies of the book and being officially published in a respectable issue of something isn’t worth that kind of pocket change to you? It makes me wonder.

I think what’s really going on is that writers have no faith in themselves, and rarely actually try to better themselves in their craft. They write a few short stories that friends and family declare are great, and they just plateau there. Why fix what ain’t broken, I guess. But when it comes time for other literary types to really put a magnifying glass to their work, the interest is lost. Why?

It’s because somewhere inside, they know they aren’t good enough to place in a contest of that caliber and also know they aren’t going to take any real steps to improve. So, they chuck their stuff up all over the Internet and eventually self-publish a collection of their own short stories (which, by the way, are very likely in dire need of an edit and polish). This scenario plays out every single day in Writerville. Where’s the drive? Where’s the fire? What happened to the desire to win, to succeed?

I’ll wager the entry fee to a short story contest that these very same people, the ones to whom a twenty-dollar bill is like a gold brick, spend twice and three times that much in a single evening out enjoying themselves. So then it simply comes down to drive and sacrifice. Hell no you aren’t winning any real contests if you would rather throw your entry fee money into bowling down at the lanes or having a few drinks with friends. Nobody said being a writer was easy. It’s tough as nails, which is exactly what your attitude about succeeding has to be.

Do I enter the “big money” contests? You bet I do. Have I won yet? Nope. Will I? Yes. Yes I will, and I don’t care how long it takes. Writing is either a pastime or a dream for you, and it’s time to be honest about which category you fall into. Being a published writer whose bills are paid by that writing is my dream, my personal plateau. If yours is just to show your friends and family what a good quick tale you can spin and then get it on the Internet as fast as possible, that’s great! Then you are already a success, because that is really, really easy to do.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tool Trucks

No, I’m not referring to your friendly neighborhood Snap-On or Matco delivery trucks. I’m talking about two-wheel drive Chevies that are lifted to the sky and are adorned with chrome, ghost flames, 6,000 watts of bass or all of the above and more. The “tool” is merely the driver, who is obviously compensating for something with the four-foot lift. Let’s explore.

Lifting a truck has its purposes, to be sure. It puts more space between the chassis and the ground and also allows for bigger tires. Both of those are primarily off-road necessities. These trucks do not go off-road. Also, changing the entire suspension and then throwing on thirty-eight inch tires is sure to void a warranty or two. I’d like to know the percentage of these tools that realize what over-sized tires do to the braking abilities of a 4,500 pound auto.

Second, chrome is for street rods and ghetto-mobiles. Nothing other than the factory chrome has a place on a full-sized pickup truck, and even it is questionable. The next time one of you has the urge to buy a $250.00 grille with flames cut into it, maybe you should think about upgrading your transmission’s cooler so you don’t see real flames in the future. I’m just saying.

Third, those tires cost well into the range of a thousand dollars or more for all four. I say four because you never see a spare on these trucks. Tools are too cool for spares. Besides, since they never off-road the trucks, what’s to pop a tire? Surely not the driveway, which is by far the truck’s biggest obstacle. Between the tires and rims there is surely two-grand or more, just rolling under the truck. Yet I bet he’s behind on payments...

And the bass. Really? Mega-wattage coming from the cab of a lifted pickup truck? Now, I’m not a Southern boy and I don’t often say, “Weee-hooo!”, but I’m still of the opinion that there is a difference between a utility vehicle like a pickup and say, a 1964 Impala. Upgrading the sound system for your listening pleasure is one thing. Putting in amps and speakers that make your truck louder than a jet engine taking off is quite another. As if the mind-numbing hum coming from your tires wasn’t enough, now we also have to attend your rock concert. Pop in some Justin Bieber, tool. I hear he really mixes it up.

Maybe they wear their flat-billed ball caps too tight. Maybe they are always high and drunk. Maybe the tattoo gun slipped and damaged a nerve that is directly connected to their brains. Whatever the cause, tools never cease to amaze me. Oh and bro, the J-Lo white-rimmed sunglasses look great on you. No really, they do.

California Freeways

Okay, so today’s gripe is really several, all wrapped into one adventure. The honey and I spent the last couple of days down in Hollywood. Okay, we know there is enough to rant about in that area, but I have a few in particular today. Not about the area necessarily, but about the way there and back.

As some of you may know, I make my living at home writing both fiction and articles. That means I don’t have to drive a whole lot, and it’s a darn good thing. I thought CA was supposed to be a place where everyone rushed, and folks who move in from out of state had a hard time keeping up. So why then are people going 45 MPH in the fast lane? And why do they merge at 35 MPH, and then simply get into the fast lane as quick as possible, just go to slow some more? I have never seen so many slow drivers as on our freeways.

Of course, they aren’t all slow. Inevitably, some kid in a Honda with a coffee can for a muffler passes me going 90 MPH, bobbing his head and hitting the gas as often as possible so we can all be sure that his car does indeed sound like an overgrown, angry bumble-bee. These same geniuses always have horrible paint jobs and the headliner is invariably falling down around them. Seems to me that the hundreds they spent on the exhaust and rims might have been better used at the paint and interior shop. I’m just saying. And lose the blue lights, fella; we are in CA, not on the Moon.

Also, just to be clear, a police car on the other side of the freeway who is tending to a fender bender cannot pull you over. It is okay to remain at or just above the speed limit when you see him. I promise. And did someone govern mini-vans at 55 MPH when I wasn’t looking? Are those things really such piles of crap that they don’t have it in them to go above 60? If I see a mini-van ahead I just change lanes to avoid the inevitable temper problem.

Finally, I would like to drop a note to Cal-Trans, explaining that they really don’t need to blind oncoming traffic for four miles when they are doing a little road construction. The lights they put up rival Wrigley Field. Tip: If the light is pointed down, you can see your work better. No need to point it directly at the motorists. Thank you.

As a side note, we did run into Kathy Griffin down there, who was outside her home jogging. Sorry, Kathy, if the honey scared you as we rolled by in the dark gray Taurus and she screamed, “I love you Miss Kathy!” It simply had to be done. Hey, at least we didn’t stop and ask for pictures. She really is a fan. She loves your stuff. I couldn’t talk her into stopping, though. She thought she’d be bugging you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Facebook: Copied and Pasted Statuses

So, what is it with folks and their copied and pasted statuses? Do they have no original thoughts? Do they feel obligated to pass along information if they are asked to? The copy/paste a status thing is so utterly ridiculous to me that I refuse to even read them anymore. Talk about generic.

First off, many of these statuses claim that you should copy and paste them if you have the best mother/father/daughter/son in the world. Well, logically then, the status can only be posted once, because there can only be one best of anything. Is it a tie? They are all the best? Why bother then? Why not just go to your mother’s/father’s/daughter’s/son’s wall and tell them that you think they are the best in the world? That seems a hell of a lot more sincere to me.

Second, the vast majority of these statuses contain horrible spelling and grammar mistakes and probably should be edited before copying and pasting. Yes, we all make spelling and grammar mistakes from time to time, but I highly doubt that anyone is asking someone to spread those mistakes around freely, without a care in the world. So please, folks, before you copy and paste your status update put it through a word processor or run it by a friend who knows the English language so that you don’t look so foolish.

Third, most of the folks I see copying and pasting status updates are also the ones complaining that there is no time to get things done during their day. Many of these same folks play the Facebook games that are so popular. I myself have never played one, and don’t plan to. I have enough on my plate. But, seeing as they had the time to copy and paste something utterly useless and maybe even offensive if thought about long enough, I can’t imagine what other “necessary” things they are doing with their time. I’ll bet a whole dollar that if they simply logged onto Facebook, did what they needed to do and logged off, there would be time to do the little things that are escaping them. Just saying.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kids Having Kids

I like sex. In fact, I like it a lot. But somehow, I have managed to make it 36 years with no kids. And I’m very glad that I did. While I realize that some 18-25 year olds really are adults who are responsible and have their minds in the correct place, I think most are not. And they are having children.

Call me old school, call me a fuddy-duddy, call me boring, but I have a real hard time believing that the average 21 year old kid is ready to be a parent. I really do. Yes, a big portion of that belief comes from knowing how I acted and thought at 21 years of age, but also of course by talking to other 21 year old kids. In my opinion, someone who has only been allowed in bars for a matter of months shouldn’t become a parent. What can they possibly teach their kids?

At 36 life has slowed down considerably, and I have gained extremely important life lessons just in the past few years. When I was 21 I wanted to screw everything that walked, I wanted to drink a ton of beer and my priorities were my car, my friends, parties and work. In that order. Does that sound like an environment fit for a toddler? It didn’t to me then, and it doesn’t to me now.

As I mentioned, I realize that not everyone spends most of their early 20s in a drunken haze, getting fired from job after job and rebelling against society in general. However, I still believe that the area between our late teens to mid-twenties should be a period of learning, not teaching. We need to gather up all the life-lessons and experiences we can before we are able to effectively teach another human being about life.