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Bits and Pieces 2

This week, in honor of Larry King’s announced retirement I thought I’d do a different kind of blog; rather than a single topic, just a collection of random thoughts, observations and complaints. Okay, mostly complaints.

Is it just me or do the cars with the loudest engine noises tend to have the worst drivers? Is there some kind of relationship between mufflers and driving skills? Or is it just that people who can be counted upon to make bad decisions behind the wheel are required to announce their presence to the world by gunning their engines? Personally, I think that if a driver gets enough traffic tickets, their cars should be outfitted with a special light or buzzer that informs the rest of us that a bad driver is approaching so we can take the proper precautions.

While we’re on the subject of driving, what is the deal with rap music? I get that those who are really into the music love to “feel” the bass line but I personally get tired of sitting at a red light minding my own business listening to my own music suddenly having it drowned out by some a-hole who pulls up to the light in a Z28 or some other crap car with rap blaring from speakers that are probably more expensive than the vehicle they’re driving. I think it should be legal to take a baseball bat to their speaker system and to the driver as well. Of course, that’s a bit extreme I know; perhaps it would be more humane to weld headphones to their ears that play a constant stream of Henry Mancini and Perry Como so that they can get an idea of what it’s like to be forced to listen to music you can’t stand.

I love stand-up comedy. I honestly do. I’m not so fond of going to stand-up shows. Not because of the comics – they’re doing what they do best. It’s because of the idiots who go to the shows and think they’re as funny as the guys and gals onstage. Newsflash – you’re not. Shut the hell up. And while you’re at it, don’t try to be funny after the show either; you got no game. To the rest of you, you’re welcome.

So now they’re making 3D televisions, and apparently this is the next serious thing in home entertainment. Having a plain old television isn’t enough anymore; first you had to have HD because apparently the difference in clarity was sooooooooo pronounced – NOT! Then we had to get Blu-Ray instead of DVD because the picture and sound are sooooooooo much better. Now, we have to have 3D because that makes the experience so much more realistic. Does anybody really need to see “Two and a Half Men” in 3D? I mean, I like Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen as much as the next guy, but do I really need a third dimension to really appreciate them? Two dimensions aren’t enough for us anymore?

I used to think Roger Ebert was a bit of a curmudgeon because he constantly railed that 3D is unnecessary in films and even though the technology is better, it remains more of a gimmick than an intrinsic part of the storytelling process. I have repented, however, and publically apologize for doubting you Roger. I should have trusted you. We have become such sheep that we will pay an extra $3-$6 per ticket in order to add that lovely third dimension that in most cases don’t do anything for the story or the experience. The studios and the theater owners rake in the cash and we fork it over without a word. I wonder sometimes if some alien farmer showed up to harvest us for food in some sort of “Twilight Zone” alternative reality if we wouldn’t just meekly walk into the slaughter house because we were told to do it. I know theater owners wring their hands and complain about the cost of updating their facilities with digital projection equipment and the 3D equipment, and the cost of purchasing those lovely, stylish 3D glasses which after paying extra to see the movie we don’t even get to keep. Baaaaa.

It’s not just the theater owners and studios who are doing this to us. Have you noticed we’re being nickeled and dimed on every little thing these days? Everything we do, we get charged for the privilege of doing it. We purchase airline tickets for ourselves and now, we have to purchase them for our bags as well. If you want to use your credit card or debit card to pay for gasoline, why that’s two to five cents per gallon extra because, after all, taking your money costs. The list goes on and on.

 I blame this way of thinking on banks. For years, the banks have charged us for every little thing we do. Want to withdraw your money? There’s a fee. Want to transfer your money to another account? There’s a fee. Want to purchase money orders with your cash? There’s a fee. Want to convert your money into a different currency? There’s a fee. Want to pay your mortgage early? There’s a fee. Want to pay it late? There’s a fee. Want your transaction to be handled by a teller? There’s a fee. Want to do your transaction at an ATM? There’s a fee. Want to do it over the phone? Fee. Want to do it over the internet? Fee. Want to think about your money? Fee. Fee. Fee. Fee. Fee.

It’s time to take back our lives. I have a modest proposal and President Obama; I’m talkin’ to you now. Let us enact a new Consumer Reciprocation law. Basically my idea is along the lines of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; any policy enacted by a retail institution, financial institution or any sort of business that interacts with a consumer must also be reciprocal. If a bank charges a consumer fees for them to withdraw their cash, the consumer should be able to charge the bank for holding it, and I’m not talking about interest. If a doctor charges a patient a cancellation fee for changing an appointment, the patient should be able to charge the doctor if that doctor keeps them waiting more than half an hour for their appointment. If an airline charges a passenger a fee for their bags, that passenger should be able to charge the airline a fee for misplacing that bag. It seems only fair.

Any business that charges a late fee for payments should then be charged a late fee when they don’t process refunds in a timely manner. Don’t you get tired of doing business with companies that charge you late fees if your payment is a week late, but then tell you that the refund they owe you will take six to eight weeks to process? Me, I think businesses should be held accountable to the same standards they hold their customers to.

The same thing applies to governments. If I have to jump through hoops to get a permit to open a business or remodel my home, then the government should have to jump through hoops to get my tax money. You want my taxes? I’m sorry, you’ll need to fill out Form 854-A in triplicate, then send it to my business office. After that, there will be a 30 day waiting period while I do absolutely nothing, after which time I will deny your request out of hand. At that point, to appeal you’ll have to fill out forms 631-ZZZ, 282-4/Y, 4,802,396-QZR and form 65,266,945,782,389,631,442-XFVR/Y-@91!3 in blood on a Tuesday and submit them while standing on one leg in the front of my home so I can laugh at them, at which point I’ll set it aside for three years until suddenly sending them their check without explanation.

Finally, on a more serious note, what is all the big deal about gay marriage? Why are so many people so passionately against it? The most common explanation I hear on the subject is that a marriage exists as a commitment between two people whose goal is to raise a family. Now, I don’t have a problem with that if there’s a standardized definition of a marriage as an institution whose purpose is to nurture children and create a home. However, there are a lot of gay couples who want to do just that. There are also plenty of heterosexual couples who don’t want children at all.

So if we define marriage strictly as a means of creating and raising children, should couples who choose a lifestyle that doesn’t involve children be allowed to marry and receive the same tax benefits as those who choose to have a family? And then shouldn’t same sex couples who meet the same criteria of a heterosexual marriage reap the same benefits?

It boils down to prejudice, folks, plain and simple. The people who say that gays are second class citizens and shouldn’t be afforded the rights that straight people get are the same sorts who thought that African-Americans shouldn’t get to vote or attend the same schools as white people. Denying same sex marriage is tantamount to the state telling an individual who they are allowed to love, who they are allowed to make decisions for them when they are incapacitated and who is allowed to inherit their estate when they die. It’s unconstitutional, plain and simple and for those who believe same sex marriages should be disallowed on moral grounds, for one thing I’ve known same-sex couples who have FAR more morality than a lot of heterosexual couples and secondly, the last I heard there was a separation between church and state in this country so check your goddamn religious beliefs at the door of the state house.

It’s also hypocritical to my mind for someone who follows Christian philosophy that at its core teaches us to love one another to spew such hatred and venom to people who only want to love who they want to love. Sure, I get irritated when I see a raging queen on a TV reality show acting catty – for one thing, I hate perpetuating stereotypes but also I find that behavior in straight women just as irritating as in gay men – but by the same token I get far more irritated when I see a self-righteous jerk telling me that the raging queen is a lesser person because he doesn’t conform to Christian religious morality.

Screw that – I believe that we show compassion to EVERYBODY regardless of their beliefs or their lifestyle. That’s what Catholic education taught me, that we are all of us God’s children, owed the same respect as we would want to be treated with ourselves. If a right doesn’t extend to everybody, it is meaningless. It is time we give up our prejudices, lift our ape knuckles from dragging on the ground and evolve.


One Response

  1. oh a gripe column – I can certainly appreciate this! I completely agree with 100% of your content here, and being your wife that’s probably a good thing. What I’d like to add is the one point you’re missing – manners at the movies.

    When did going to the movies mean acting like you are sitting in your living room, talking, moving around, etc. Most of all, parents, when you bring your children to the movies and it’s NOT a G rated film listen up – I paid to see this movie too and would like to actually HEAR the movie. I’m tired of having to tell you to tell your children to be quiet, stop running around and most of all wait for you to take your crying infant out of the theater when they have “cried long enough”.

    If your child cannot sit for 1.5-2 hrs on the couch at home without talking or walking around, they aren’t ready to go to the movie theater. And I don’t care if its the baby’s normal naptime do NOT bring them to the theater. Get a babysitter and you will actually get to enjoy the movie too! When did common courtesy evaporate?

    Here is a warning to all you moviegoers of all ages at my theater in Altamonte Springs FL….I do NOT hesitate to tell you to be quiet, to leave if you’re annoying me, or go get the manager to toss you out. Check the back of your ticket – “Violation of the Code of Conduct will result in removal from the property without a refund”.

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