Monday, February 9, 2015

My Little Stasi

There's an app for that.

For years I have bitched and moaned about my prosperous but non-civic-minded neighbors who will have their driveways plowed and leave their sidewalks unshoveled, a direct and selfish affront to those increasingly few of us who actually walk to the bank, the post office, the library, the liquor store.

The public scold within was furious, but thwarted.  By the time I slip-slided my way to wherever I was going, the desire to rat them out had burnt itself out. Until the next time.

But the app-gods have listened and my town has introduced an app for snitching on the neighbors: B(for Brookline)ONLINE, available for both iOS and Android. The graphics look like they were designed by a second grader with a color crayon, but it functions like a proper little spy, um citizen reporting, device.

The scold in me is thrilled.  There's a handy-dandy checklist that includes unshoveled sidewalks, potholes,  and sidewalk obstructions.  The only thing that isn't on the list is rogue wild turkeys which we have aplenty, but which apparently aren't the responsibility of the Department of Public Works.  You can include a photo in your report, a report which can be anonymous.

The paranoid in me is less ecstatic.  There is something very unsettling about a cheerful, easy-to-use reporting system that allows anonymity.  What makes it more unsettling is that this is one of the most politically liberal towns in the United States.  I'll spare you the rant, but think what the Stasi could have done with an app like this one.

Become a Citizen Reporter! Be the eyes and ears of the town online or on your mobile phone. This feature allows citizens to submit requests, report issues (potholes, graffiti, broken street-lights, etc), check for other requests, and get a timely response from the town. Report online or download the smartphone app via the iTunes store or the Android Marketplace.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Je suis fatiguée

I'm not Charlie.  I didn't subscribe to Boston Strong either. I am tired, though, and what I am is tired of is the sloganization of world events.

Yes, it is terrible that three terrorists took out twelve journalists in Paris.  But an illuminated Arc de Triomphe declaring "Paris est Charlie" just seems beside the point.  And though the French have always prided themselves on logic, no live person or (entire city) is a mortally wounded magazine.

Meanwhile, over in Africa, Amnesty International reports that Boko Haram massacred as many as 2,000 at one crack.  I dare the sloganeers to take on that one.  They won't.  The snappy catch phrases belong to the first worlders who get bent out of shape when the terror toads have the audacity to commit crimes on their Euro-turf or mess up their civic events.  Crimes that in the larger scheme of bad news seem about as serious as farting in elevators.

The world is a stinkin' place, full of stinkin' creatures that just can't stand anyone who isn't just as mired in the year 900 as they are. And it's particularly stinkin' because there is no solution. Just more slogans, more candlelight vigils, more sad illusions that all that mourning makes one bit of difference.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Whatever

Happy Holiday of your choice.  My family celebrates Christmas in a not very pious, oh, make that downright raucous, manner with eats, drinks, loud renditions of Christmas in Killarney and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, and a stellar Yankee Swap. 

The older I get, though, the more my holiday spirit dwindles.  I stuffed a few greens in a pitcher, draped some LED lights on the mantel, and put a wreath on the door, but the whole thing makes me feel more jaded than jolly.  The rainy, gray weather isn't exactly festive, and I live in a multi-culti neighborhood where not too many people celebrate the winter holidays.  There are some new folks who did install a vintage light-up Santa and a couple of inflatables in the front yard which is a nice change from terminally tasteful white lights in every window. They aren't worried about their electric bill, I guess, and thankfully they keep the inflatables pumped up during the day which spares the neighbors the sight of snowmen and penguins lying face down on the lawn like deflated drunks.

Myself, I observe the Solstice.  Notice I didn't say celebrate, because there is nothing to celebrate about the darkest days of the year except that they are quickly over and it will only be a couple of months until it is noticeably lighter at 4:30 in the afternoon.

That Solstice observance is a generally downbeat look at the year that is ending, with a firm heave-ho to things that have taken up residence in my psyche and to which I no longer wish to grant roosting room.  This year that list includes thinking about Dick Cheney. Sayonara, sucker, and go back into your hole or your vampire coffin or wherever it is you hang out when not fulminating about spy-world and let us think about something more pleasant.  Good-bye to thoughts about celebrities and the First World Plus problems such as being trash-talked behind their backs by other celebrities and having the trash spread about by the minions of the World's Twerpiest Dictator, Ever.  Good-bye to the twirling beach ball of death that has taken up residence in my antiquated lap-top. Good-bye to all the annoying things I can't remember right now because I did such a good job of removing them from my consciousness.

I'll spend the week between Christmas and New Year's ignoring the ubiquitous best of the year lists and packing up my kitchen in preparation for a renovation that will render it unusable for four months. Now that's something to look forward to, even though I know it will provide many an item for next year's top ten annoying moments list.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ear Worms Are Eating My Sanity

And this week the ear worms are wearing Santa hats.

I do a lot of walking. I enjoy the fresh air.  I enjoy the exercise. I enjoy not having to worry about finding a parking space.

What I don't enjoy is the sound track in my head, radio station WTFD (Why The F#$@ Did-I-Remember-That), playing non-stop drivel in the form of pop, rock, and folk.  Since that is about the only music I have ever listened to, I can't really expect to hear arias, classic jazz or Handel's Messiah, now can I?

Last week's ear worm (All About That Bass) has been supplanted for the holidays not by Good King Wenceslas or even Weird Al's Christmas At Ground Zero, but by the Whiting's Egg Nog jingle, straight from the Vault of Really Old Crap from the 1950's embedded in my psyche.

When I listened to it on You Tube I was quite pleased to discover that in spite of it's age and mine, I had remembered the lyrics. 

Cheer, cheer, cheer!
The holidays are here!
It's egg nog time!
Whitings' Egg Nog time!

The reason I remember must be that I heard it year after year after year.  Seems quaint now, but companies used to repeat the same Xmas ads year after year after year.  Even more quaint, the Xmas hoopla didn't start until the day after Thanksgiving.

But the egg nog jingle really seems a bit much.  I don't have any fond memories of sitting around the family punch bowl, and I really hate egg nog, which has always seemed like a drink for people who want to hide their alcohol consumption in a cup of opaque glop.  I guess the modern equivalent would be pouring a slug of vodka into the green sludge of a kale smoothie. 

Every ear worm runs its course, even if it may recur, and I'm sure the egg nog will pass in time for New Year's, if not before, when it will probably morph into Blue Christmas or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  I'd like to put in a request for something with a better beat.  In that case I'll be the old lady shimmy-shimmy-coco-bopping down to the Post Office, in sync with the music in my head.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shameless Publicity Hound of the Year Award?

And the winner is . . . .

Ben Edelman, Harvard Business School professor and bush-league pundit in the hotsy-totsy consulting field of on-line fraud prevention and detection.

His consulting biz must be a bit on the lean side, though, else why would he engage in an on-line vendor war with a local Chinese restaurant over the discrepancy between the prices on an outmoded webpage versus the prices he was charged for  his stir-fried supper?

After the recent Grubergate debacle, I'd think that even a blowhard lawyer/economist would think twice before committing himself to the passive-aggressive warfare of snotty emails and complaints to the  Massachusetts Consumer Protection authorities described in today's article which reprints the correspondence between Edelman and Ran Duan of Sichuan Garden.

It has to be for the publicity, and he has succeeded quite well engendering such dreamy headlines as:

Harvard Business School Professor Goes to War Over $4 Worth of Chinese Food

I'm sure his clients will be really impressed by his acumen and tenacity.   He also garnered a shout out from the GS Eleveator Gossip Twitter feed (@GSElevator):

Harvard’s Ben Edelman is a scumbag piece of shit…

(Actually, it is hard to imagine overhearing that comment in the GS elevator without the qualifier:  and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.)

Maybe Ben-Boy is simply jealous of Ran Duan, who is himself no slouch in the publicity department, having been featured in a Boston Magazine article earlier this year and been recently named "America's Most Imaginative Bartender" by GQ.  Is the whole thing just part of an esoteric pissing contest that hasn't been uncovered? Is Prawn-gate just the beginning of National Enquirer-worthy revelations?

There's no mention of what fortune Edelman received in his complimentary cookie, but it probably didn't say: You don't hunt mosquitoes with an elephant gun, unless you are a Harvard B School professor in which case you are exempt from the rules of common sense, not to mention common courtesy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Here's Looking at You, Netflix!

Long ago, long before there was an internet, and faced with the dismal prospect of choosing between watching  It's A Wonderful Life or Candlepins for Cash, I moaned that, in spite of owning a state-of-the-art Sony Betamax VCR I just wasn't able to watch what I wanted to watch when I wanted to watch it.  Avoiding the stale leftovers of broadcast TV meant going out into the real world and driving to a video store where, one could only hope, they would have a comedy that didn't revolve around bodily functions or a classic drama that I hadn't already seen.

I will know that I  am living in the future, I proclaimed, when I can point the remote at the tube and choose from a menu of just about anything ever made.  Well, Prais the Great God Mammon, the future is here, more or less, and I am happy, more or less. Binge watching has never been easier, and although not everything-everything is available always-always, I can still manage to spend my allotted viewing time scrolling through the offerings, enjoying the plenty even if I can't come to a decision.

There are a few shows I make a point of keeping up on, though, and one that made the cut was Longmire.  I love this show.  Walt Longmire is The Law, sometimes aided by his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, barkeep and tracker, and his deputy Victoria Moretti, a transplant from Philly. There are no city streets.  No hipster irony. No terrorism plots.  No bureaucracy.  No scenes in abandoned warehouses. Just a smoke-free, yet complicated,  Marlboro Man versus the equally complicated bad guys. Sometimes the chase scenes are on horseback, or feature a waist-deep slog through snowdrifts, and above it all, The Big Sky.  It's an updated version of the TV Westerns that dominated the networks back when I wasn't old enough to stay up to watch them.

A & E produced three seasons of Longmire, and then pulled the plug, in spite of the fact that it had a more than respectable audience size.  Why give it the chop?  The audience was comprised mainly of those worthless undesirables: people like me who had aged out of the advertisers' pet demographic of 18-49.  I guess that's what happens when you put on a show that is realistic, but not "reality," or  is a bit more complex than Duck Dynasty.  And, of course, everyone knows that once you are over 49 it is a quick slide into housebound dementia on a budget that can't stretch to more than cartons of Depends and cases of Ensure.

But there will be a fourth season, thanks to Netflix, which has a business model that doesn't rely entirely on the "key demo," and I'll bet there are a few oldsters who will sign on to Netflix because of Longmire, and stick around for the other offerings.  Housebound dementos are a good market for Netflix, after all, since we need all the  entertainment we can get to while away the weary hours until oblivion, and we don't wish to be cajoled into buying more stuff that won't fit into those closets full of canned cat food, video tapes, and photo albums.

Join me as I raise a can of nutrition beverage and make a toast to my favorite time waster:  Here's looking at you, Netflix!

As for you, A&E, just go fight your Storage Wars and leave us old folk alone.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yoo-hoo, Cohasset, it's 2014

not 1914.

I used to live in the next town over from Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Cohasset was much ritzier than my little town, which wasn't ritzy at all. I drove through Cohasset on the way to a memorial service a couple of weeks ago, and it is still ritzy, in that rock-bound coast, black shutters on white clapboard way of many New England seaside towns.

It's citizens are moneyed, but not, apparently, very street-smart.  A rash of car burglaries, right outside of (gasp!) their very houses occurred over the weekend, netting the miscreants sacks of goodies including cash, phones, and electronics.  Most, if not all, of the swag taken from unlocked cars.

Cohasset Burglar Doing The Happy Dance

Duh, double-duh, huh-whuh!?! In the article I read in the Boston Globe, a shocked Cohasseter  claims "never to have heard of such a thing." Talk about a sheltered life.

No, I'm not blaming the victims, but come on, folks,  take a little responsibility.  First, your cars are sitting outside, not in your three-car garages.  Second, they are unlocked. Third, you leave your valuables in them.  Fourth, your town has little or nothing for kids to do of an evening.  What do you think might happen?

In the olden days, in my not very ritzy town, kids used to smash windows in cars and pry out the stereos which they peddled to each other, or took down to the Gut and tossed into the water for fun.   Back then, it might have made a bit of sense to leave the car unlocked, so as to avoid the smashed window, but mostly the larcenous little darlings didn't bother to check.

No one has bothered to steal a car stereo for years.  Thievery is a whole lot easier now, with all that free-floating paraphernalia most people seem to haul around, (the stuff you can easily gather up and take with you when you leave your car unlocked)  especially if your targets don't have the sense to realize that even in a cushy enclave, there may be somebody who wants their stuff.