When You’re Hot You’re Not: Drink Coke

Coke has just introduced a new concept in vending machines. The new Coke dispensers will adjust the price depending on the weather. If it is really, really hot, you will have to pay more for a Coca-Cola. If it cools down, thereby, presumably, reducing demand, the price also goes down.

The first question, of course, is does the price go lower than what you pay now? I doubt it. But I don’t think Coke really cares. Once the public has accepted these machines (I’m sure they’ll be asking for your vote any time now), the price can go where-ever Coke thinks it can go. Which is up, of course. Coke will tell you that “market conditions” should determine the price.

So, if it’s hot and dry outside, and you’ve been working up a real sweat, and you see this vending machine… you are going to have to pay more. Well, why not? If you go to the hospital and the doctor notices that you are really, really sick, why shouldn’t he charge you more for treatment? Rents go up when the Olympics come to town.

I could be in favor of this idea. Hmmm. Might be good. But, let’s say that it is a really hot, dry day, and the vending machine runs out of Coke. Well then, along comes Mr. Truck-driver with another big load of Coca-cola. And he knows that Coke is going to make a killing in this hot weather. So he says to Coke, “my hourly rate has just doubled. It’s hot. There’s people lined up to buy your product. I’m merely taking advantage of market conditions. Pay up.”

And it doesn’t end there. Car sales go up? Ford workers get an increase. Enrollment goes up? Up goes the salaries of the teachers. The computer network breaks down? Ahhhhh. Too bad. But the technician and systems support person now costs $500 an hour instead of $150.

Market conditions.

The Casualties

I came across this plaintive little piece in a newsgroup on various pharmaceutical remedies for mental illness. I was struck by the fact that the man is an ex-marine, something he assumes should convey an image of power and integrity, but for me means nothing more than the cloak of institutional authority we append to schools for killers.

I was also thinking about the fact that our society, cruising along at this hysterical pace towards some kind of elusive manifestation of nirvanic technopoly… seems to be casting more and more casualties to the side.

It’s by a guy named Jim. He blames everything for his troubles, except that which is most directly before him and least obvious to him: our narcissistic culture of instant gratification and the mindless pursuit of wealth. He feels left out, lonely, and isolated. His problem is that he has become reflective and thoughtful. He thinks he should have some sense of purpose here, but he can’t question the assumptions that betray him, because he is so much the product of those very assumptions. So he tries the medications….

From a Christian perspective, it seems we are sent here on earth, to fail. We have our little victories, but inevitably we fall short of the grace of God. I think once we admit this, that we cannot fulfil all greatness, perhaps we can have a better perspective about going on with life. I have a disorder which has most recently been downgraded to bi-polar provisional. This because depression takes hold of me much more often than the manic high that we long for. I may have had this much longer than the past five years but was unaware because everything is relative-normalcy is only defined by those around us. I have done things that my ex-wife considered crazy, but from my point of view were, perhaps, necessary evils (I threw my landlord out once after warning him three times to leave) We all make our choices-whether we are in control of our faculties at the time of event seems to be the distinguishing factor of our sanity.

I was a recon Marine during the Gulf war. I was raised in utter poverty by a social outcast and an overbearing mother. I speak my mind as Marines do, but am not accepted in this practice by civilian people. I uphold a personal code of honor and integrity, but we live among those who do not. In my quest for truth and integrity-I become branded as strange. My wife has left, but she was never a very good person anyway. Her heart is cold and selfish. So….what do the afflicted do to lighten the burden even in the face of suicide as perhaps our only means of escape from the madness. I wish I knew. It is the fear of destoying my beautiful children’s lives by taking my own life that keeps me going-one step from homelessness, one step from jail, one step from insanity. I have no friends, though I consider myself a very nice guy. Strange as it seems, people consider me very good looking and well built too, but my personality seems to scare them off- though few if any people will offer a reason for their hurried departure. We live together but alone. I envy those who have close, good hearted friends. We all need them. AFter many different medications, I have begun to think that not only is there no cure to this thing, but no real relief either. We ride ’em high and ride ’em low and just hope we’re still breathing when the dust settles. Best of luck and God speed to all of us who suffer.

Pushy Annoying Software Turning the Internet into Television

I just installed Music Match, an MP3 ripper and player. It’s a nice piece of software. I got it for free off the internet. No, I didn’t steal it: they’re giving it away. Of course, you can buy an upgrade for $29. But the version you get for nothing actually does pretty well everything I want it to do. Thank you.

However… after I installed it, it started harassing me about upgrading. But, okay, there is a little button I can click to tell it to stop harassing me. However, then it started bugging me about going onto the internet to download more information about the artist whose CD was in the player– Leonard Cohen. Go away. Then I ripped some MP3’s. It did not ask me where to put the files. Why not? If I ordered a pizza, do you think they would hang up before I gave the address? Right. And then they would deliver it to My House in My Neighborhood in My City. And I would have to go out hunting all over town until I found that house, so I could have my dinner.

No, I prefer to say: deliver right here, this place, this location– so I can find it. Put it in this drawer, so I can keep things organized. But Windows wants you to store your pictures in My Pictures because it thinks you are incredibly stupid and haven’t the slightest idea of how to organize anything.

Music Match crashed, by the way, on a Windows 2000 system. Windows 2000 crashes– don’t believe people who tell you that Microsoft has finally put out a reliable product. Microsoft products are full of bells and whistles. They make a lot of noise as they crash and burn. I have had Windows 2000 crash while running Windows Explorer, a Microsoft program. Nothing else.

When I did humor Music Match and told it to go ahead, find some information on the internet for me, what did it do? It called up Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I don’t use Explorer. I use Netscape.

Music Match is by no means the only software out there pushing you around. Almost everything you install nowadays starts trying to sign you up for Internet access or spam or web portals or whatever. How convenient, right? How nice. It does it all automatically, even if you don’t want it to. Quicken has been harassing me for three years to use their investment services. Go to hell. Sorry– I got mad, after the 1,477th time.

Microsoft, by the way, doesn’t think “spam” is a word. It highlights it with a squiggly red line, as it does words like “honour” and “labour”– legitimate British English spellings.

Anyway, my point is this: we are getting inundated with rude software that knocks on your door offering a valuable service and then takes over your cyber-house. In the process, it uses up valuable resources on your computer, including drive space and CPU cycles, and wastes your time clicking on messages boxes you did not ask for. And if you do accept any of their offers, you are likely to get either spammed or ripped off.

This is all part of a concerted plan I identified years ago: the plan to turn the internet into television. Television invites you to be a passive moron, watching with a vacuous expression, buying whatever they sell you, blithely accepting vulgar interruptions of every program every few minutes to hawk some valueless piece of junk to you.

The internet used to be different. But the corporations have taken it over. They see it as a true wonder of the modern world: a new way to sell things. A new way to manipulate people. A new audience of suckers for these vampires to sink their teeth into.

Elian – Call Home

Well, well. Isn’t it reassuring– if you’re a Democrat– to know that Al Gore is quite capable of getting down and dirty when necessary to win votes. Makes you feel all fuzzy and warm about his prospects for the November presidential election.

Al Gore, don’t you know, would like to win the state of Florida in November. The state of Florida consists largely of crime-ridden urban vacuum Miami and Disneyland. With George Bush Jr. as the Republican nominee, Disneyland is sewn up, but, hey, Miami is still up for grabs. And Miami is populated with ex-Cubans still seething with hatred for Fidel Castro, forty years after he nationalized the casinos and bordellos of Havana.

Enter Elian Gonzalez and his mom. Elian’s parents were divorced, and his father had custody of Elian. His mom, ever the responsible parent, and a non-swimmer, decided to abduct him– that’s what we call it when a dad does the same thing– and hop into a flimsy home-made aluminum boat and defect to America. The boat departed at night, over-loaded by two with a couple of last-minute adventurers, and almost sank shortly after it left the beach. Elian, terrified, didn’t want to go when they tried again a few days later.

He had more sense than the rest of them: out in open water, the boat sank. Elian stayed afloat on an inner tube and saw his mother and almost all of the others drown.

Elian drifted for several days until he was picked up by a fisherman and brought to Miami. He was placed in the custody of some distant relatives of rather distinctive all-American enthusiasms. They decided that rather than send Elian to live with his own father in Cuba, they would make Elian a symbol of their festering obsessive compulsive hatred of Castro. They would Americanize him.

A whole cartload of conservative Republicans supports this disgraceful effort to remove a child from the custody of his father. They support this brazen and cynical attempt to exploit the child for craven political ends.  The party, supposedly, of family values, wants to exploit a child.

How low can you sink?

Abba Babble

Get this– from the Toronto Star, April 2, 2000:

Buried in their songs is a complex artfulness disguised in simple pop formulas, a carefully crafted infectiousness that resonates in the group’s shimmering four-part harmonies, crisp, Scandinavian enunciation, and deceptively easy rhythms. These songs, these performances, are the work of pop music geniuses. They reel us in every time we hear them.”

And one day we will all come to believe that Gilligan’s Island is really an existential drama about the dread with which modern man faces technological domination.

Their names are Bjorn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (the red-head), Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog (the blonde). Anni-Frid, Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha: Abba.

Faltskog no longer has anything to do with music. Lyngstad is into environmental causes. Benny plays accordion in some obscure folk band somewhere in Sweden. Bjorn is promoting a musical, “Mama Mia” based on Abba songs.

The most disgusting aspect of this revisionism is the pompous self-importance it allows small-time talents like Bjorn Ulvaeus.

You know, I could have sort of liked Abba a little, if I hadn’t read this drivel.


“Serious music critics now rank Ulvaeus and Andersson’s songs with those of the Beatles and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, and their musical weight in European culture alongside Grieg and Sibelius.”

Exactly which serious musical critic?  Let me assure you, serious music critics do not rate Abba with the Beatles or the Beach Boys or even, probably, with Bobby Sherman.  Well, okay: with Bobby Sherman.

What is this? Some kind of neo-con aesthetic putsch? You have to believe that only an idiot who is unaware of the Beatles’ career beyond 1965 could make such a statement. The kind of idiot who never listened to Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper’s, White Album, Let it Be, and Abbey Road. As for the Beach Boys, well, yeah, lyrically there’s not much to choose from, but please name me a single Abba song that, in terms of musical imagination, could be uttered in the same breath as “Good Vibrations”.

Exactly which Abba song can be compared to “A Day in the Life”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Penny Lane”, or “Fool on the Hill”?

You want to know something else? The girls were never all that good-looking either.