Brand Names Insult My Intelligence

I do not purchase clothing that prominently displays a brand name.  (On the other hand, I’d be tempted to wear an “I love Halliburton” t-shirt for the shock value.  But that’s another post…)  I am not a walking billboard and I am not stupid enough to pay for the privilege of becoming one.

Unfortunately, most people are not as wise as I am and I usually must remain silent about their mindless attire.

I’m not presumptuous enough to tell you that clothing should be art.  Since I’m less than wealthy, I see little point in plunking down over $100.00 for a designer shirt that will be shredded within a year or two.  (Those luxury goods aren’t always designed to last.  Rich people often care more about the latest fashions and they can afford to replace things more regularly.  In their minds, a shirt from 2012 has already gone out of style and belongs in the dumpster.)

Instead, I want my clothing to cover all of the necessary body parts and remain intact long enough to keep my bank account from crashing.   (Gender appropriateness is also important.)  Therefore: clearance racks!

And you thought this would be an advertisement for Wal-Mart…

This works for me because I’m a guy.  By contrast, women often like to accessorize with pretty things.  For example, a non-utilitarian purse.  They treat it like clothing and it has to match the outfit, so they often end up owning many purses.

I’ll leave the “battle of the sexes” content to the bloggers who do it better.  I’m more interested in the idiotic, and one particular design type stands out.  It’s the standard “look how special I am because I can afford an expensive brand” variety:

This demonstrates the owner's aesthetic excellence.  (Photo credit: )

This demonstrates the owner’s sense of aesthetic superiority. (Photo credit: prettycatty)

Let’s review.  You’re carrying around a container that holds cash, cards, and expensive electronics.  Why are you advertising to potential thieves that the contents might be especially valuable?  Of all the purses at the football game (note the obligatory transgression of gender stereotypes), yours now stands out as the most desirable to steal.  Brilliant!

Of course, your bag’s probably fake.  Just like you.

Funny how things work out…

Innocence Insults My Intelligence

The wonderful folks at WordPress who host this blog published a most interesting writing prompt today:

Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me

What is your favorite sweet thing to eat? Bread pudding? Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? A smooth and creamy piece of cheesecake? Tell us all about the anticipation and delight of eating your favorite dessert. Not into sweets? Tell us all about your weakness for that certain salty snack.

Really?  Am I the only one who is having a hard time NOT reading this as an invitation to write pornography?

Valentine’s Fundraising Insults My Intelligence

I’ve written about my wealthy Alma Mater’s brilliant fundraising techniques twice before (here and here), but yesterday’s attempt at moneygrabbing takes the cake.  Here’s the email I received.  I’m sure it will warm your heart as much as it did mine:

Subject: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is a day for letting others know how much we care about them.  Why not show current students and faculty how much you care about their success through a gift to the University Development Fund.  The University Development Fund supports student and faculty research, scholarships, libraries, and much more.

You can share your love for the university by ensuring it has the resources it needs to continue on its path to excellence.  Make a gift today, we promise it’s better than flowers!

There’s so much wrong with this that I feel the need to just start listing punchlines:

1- If we’re talking Valentine’s Day and showing my love for 18-22 year olds, I can do that.  As a result, you may receive dollars from us in about 19 years if we forget to use a condom.  Since I couldn’t do that when I was a TA, I might not mind making up for lost time.

2- I have no interest in showing the faculty how much I love them in a Valentine’s-inspired way.

3- Why didn’t I think of that?  What woman wouldn’t prefer a donation made in her name as opposed to flowers?  How romantic!  (However, if you know a woman who would prefer a donation to a much less fabulously wealthy organization that does charity work instead, I might like her phone number.  🙂 )

4- The university is on a path to excellence?  Since students are going so far into debt to attend there, I would hope that the university is already providing them with excellence.  If you provided me with something less than excellence, it doesn’t make me love you.

5- I know you’re a research university, but shouldn’t teaching resources figure somewhere in what the Development Fund supports?  Sorry, but the libraries don’t quite count.

6- When I was a student, much was made of Valentine’s Day being V-Day, meaning Vagina Day.  I realize that “Vagina Monologues” performances make a substantial contribution to funding important charities that serve women, but you don’t need to keep the genital-themed discussion going by acting like a [CENSORED].  It’s all in bad taste.

7- I remember how much you spent on landscaping and I wonder how many students could have graduated debt-free if you had gone for a simpler aesthetic.  I can’t imagine how much of the Development Fund goes towards plants.  But then again, university officials would likely cite that old poem:  “Elsewhere I think I’ll never see a school as lovely as a tree.”  I support that environmental sentiment in theory, but in practice your tree looks more like this:

Created by n-rg.  The original is at http://n-rg.deviantart.com/art/Money-Tree-74891232

Created by n-rg. The original is at http://n-rg.deviantart.com/art/Money-Tree-74891232

8- Is it really such a good idea to ask for money on the same day so many people are giving such expensive gifts?  However, I might be able to contribute if you’ll accept leftover chocolate.  The grocery store is having a sale.

“Goethe” Insults My Intelligence

Everybody loves Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, right?  No?  You’re saying your English teachers thought nothing worthwhile has been written outside of the U.S. and Britain since the ancient Greeks?

That’s a shame, but it’s not uncommon.

Of course, this explains why Goethe’s name inspires so many asinine mispronunciations.  I understand that foreign names can be difficult for folks whose life experience has rarely taken them beyond the English language, but you have to wonder if some people need glasses or a brain transplant.  With that in mind, let’s look at some common errors involving our friendly German literary giant:

Girtha:  Do you see an “R” in Goethe?  Of course not.    Girtha is more like “Bertha’s hips have a lot of girtha.”  I’m not trying to be sexist; Goethe’s hips lacked girtha:

Statue of Goethe in Leipzig, showing his not-so-girthy figure.  (Photo credit: Sebastian Niedlich)

Statue of Goethe in Leipzig, showing his not-so-girthaic figure. (Photo credit: Sebastian Niedlich)

Go eathy:  I’ll go eathy on you too, Mr. Lisp.

Geetha: This sounds like a female geezer.  Goethe may have been a geezer at some point, but female is kind of a stretch.

And if he were Thai, Goethe’s name would be spelled as เกอเธ่.  I could forgive an English speaker for not pronouncing that correctly.

Here’s the correct pronunciation:

Yeah, I know that wasn’t fair; you have to pronounce an ö to get the name right.  Fortunately, no one is policing my blog… unless Vladimir Putin is angry about that gay-themed rainbow image I did of him over the weekend.

Blogger’s Note: If you’re lucky, I’ll be able to field comments on this post.  If I’m lucky, I still have electricity right now.  Goethe is not so lucky because he’s dead.

Ethnocentrism Insults My Intelligence

Ah yes, the Olympics have arrived and the Russians have been celebrating… except gays and lesbians and guest workers and thirsty people and anyone who wishes to use a restroom with exactly one toilet in it.

That list goes on longer, I know, but I’m not here to rehash commentary that has appeared in a million places during the past few days.  Instead, I’d like to talk about our friend, Vladimir Putin.

The original is Putin’s official photo, courtesy of http://www.kremlin.ru . They grant permission to modify the image, but I doubt that this is what they had in mind. If i disappear tomorrow, no, I was not planning to take an exciting and sudden vacation in Siberia.

The original is Putin’s official photo, courtesy of http://www.kremlin.ru . They grant permission to modify the image, but I doubt that they had this in mind. If I suddenly disappear tomorrow, that “exciting” vacation in Siberia was not undertaken by choice.

As you can probably tell, I intend to discuss the outrage people are expressing over his statements and policies on homosexuals and homosexuality.  Many are claiming that the whole issue has given Putin a black eye and destroyed his ambitions for showcasing Russia’s greatness during the Games.

Granted, Putin deserves a black eye, but I wonder if he doesn’t come out ahead in all of this.

Hear me out.

It’s easy to forget that the LGBT issue is only controversial in certain countries.  He’s in line with the economically and politically critical Arab countries (and Iran) as well as numerous African countries and India, among others.  He was already on the outs with many Western European countries and the U.S.

Need evidence of those preexisting rocky relationships?  Let’s chat Ukraine.

To me, the whole controversy benefits Putin; he’s driving  a cultural wedge between us and more restrictive nations that will place him on the side of the countries whose friendship he wishes to maintain in the midst of his exploits in the Caucasus (and other places).  There’s more to geopolitics than the U.S. and Europe…

Of course, that makes him relatively immune to contrary arguments.  His LGBT policy, in such a scenario, amounts to little more than the political calculations of a shrewd tactician.

And the protesters are dancing and singing Kumbaya (and some are competing) and asserting that they’re changing the world because their message is getting out.  And in doing so, they forget one of the central Olympic tenets, namely that the Games represent a meeting of all nations and cultures.  That includes the many countries that impose a death penalty on homosexual activity.

Nevertheless, the protesters have managed to raise awareness of the issue among Americans who were already aware of the issue.  For that, the world owes them a profound debt of gratitude.

Bad Background Images Insult My Intelligence

I’ve spent enough time online to see some horrific blog designs.  Some are a matter of personal taste, which I have no intention of criticizing openly.  However, a few folks obviously have no clue what they are doing.

They’re morons.

In the spirit of enlightening you in the ways of me, I would like to point out some common errors and show you some easy methods for developing better backgrounds.  All images in this post were modified using free and simple photo editing software and I just played with all the nifty little buttons without knowing what they are.  You’ll find no evidence of Photoshop or other costly applications here.  (I’m unemployed, remember?)  Caveat: I do still have a scanner from my grad school days.

Also, you don’t have to like these images; I only focused on technique and some of the creations here are quite loud.  I wouldn’t use all of them myself but then again lots of good images aren’t an appropriate match for some individuals.

If you want “Matchmaking for Blog Dummies,” you’ll need to go somewhere else.  I don’t do romance here.

That said, let’s cut the preliminaries and dive in with four basic rules.

1- Your original photo should have a high resolution. Subjecting images to technological torture often causes them to bleed their detail away, leaving them as limp as a corpse.

2- When detail bleeds away, colors often go with it.  Your photographs or scanned images should normally contain at least as many colors as you’ll want in the final product.  It’s usually harder to add colors to an image than eliminate them.

3- Similarly, it’s easier to reduce the file size of a high-definition picture than it is to make the image more robust.  If only dieting worked that way…

4- Don’t forget to crop your images; if it doesn’t end up appearing on the screen, you don’t need it.  A smaller image takes less time for people to download.  Your visitors will thank you for it by sticking around until your page finishes loading… unless your writing scares them away sooner.

And now the joy of pointing out people’s stupidity.  Item one: people often confuse their original image with what ends up appearing on their blog.  I like my candelabra image over on the top right, but it’s pretty easy to make an awful background out of it.  For instance, tiling the image can give us this:

Slide1Easy to read, right?  That’s why I have these big box-like things on my blog to shield the text.  However, that doesn’t eliminate all of the problems in the example above.  Let’s look at something a little wiser:

Continue reading

Music Reviews Insult My Intelligence

I don’t have enough time right now to do a full post, but I need to vent.

Earlier today, I discovered an old review for a band whose music I received for Christmas.  The band is not Western and they incorporate aspects of their local music traditions into their work, including so-called “wild” rhythms.  (“Wild” is according to the reviewer.  I’d sooner say “unfamiliar.”  )  The results will astound you.

However…

The reviewer needs to learn a few things.  He claimed that the band sounded good when recasting traditional songs but not so much when they moved towards original Western-style works.  He even goes so far as to say they seem “desperate” to become a part of Western mainstream music.

We all know everyone’s goal is to be like us, right?

But then again, he describes the traditional singing methods as “strange” (in a different review) and “growling,” so I suppose he must have started out with a few prejudices already implanted.

Trust me, that singing ain’t growling…

And unfortunately, I’ll have to stop here.  (Sorry to leave you hanging.)  Once I’ve got my ducks in a row, I’ll post links to the articles and a youtube video if I can find one.  In the meantime, please accept my sincerest apologies and a really cool picture I found.

File:Igil oktober saya front view.gif

(Photo credit: Johanna Kovitz)

Being Special Almost Insults My Intelligence

Like most bloggers, I have fallen into a horrible habit.

You see, this blog has looked pretty much the same since I started it in May.  And once again I’ve started thinking to myself that I ought to change things up a little.   However, I always come back to a few hard truths when my mind starts wandering:

1- The blog theme (layout) I use gives me an uncommon header because almost no one uses this theme.  I’d have to pay for an upgrade to get that with another theme.  This makes me special.

2- My blog theme lets me have a background image that is visible for more than a centimeter on each side of the text box.  Because I can have a more unique blog this way, I am special.

3- My background image camouflages the header menu that would otherwise look like clutter.  That makes the military special.

And so I realize that I should, at most, change the background photo’s color scheme and possibly the text box color.  This never ends well.

Here’s the edited background photo I came up with today:

red1point1

In theory, it looks good.  In practice, it’s hard to find a text color that would be visible against my header and this background.  So I changed the remaining color scheme and came out with something truly special.  If you’d like to see some strangely attractive hideousness, check out the result at my test blog: http://www.blacklightcandelabra.wordpress.com  (Warning: I’ll keep it up for a while but I can’t promise that it won’t change in a couple of weeks.)

Professional Athletics Insult My Intelligence

Stadium crowd performing "the wave" ...

Okay, I cheated.  This stadium isn’t in the U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a pet peeve about sports that I’d like to share with you: idiots who care about the “home team.”

Once upon a time we were all in high school, or most of us were anyway.  As you may remember, a big deal was made of the football team and other athletic successes.  It made sense in high school because  our classmates and friends were competing under our school’s banner and you could get behind your friends even if your school spirit was lacking.  Sure, it was obnoxious when non-athlete classmates would cry “we beat Smith High School” as though they had partaken in the victory, but sports were a reasonably wholesome diversion for the community, or at least the part of the community that didn’t get drunk or pleasured behind the stadium, or those who didn’t die from heat stroke, or get coronary disease from the stadium food, or meet other undesirable ends.

And then many of us went on to college and the athletics got bigger.  Unless you went to a small college, you probably never met any of the players.  At my college, they even lived in a separate dorm, although I did observe the occasional player or two in the dining hall for us plebes.  I suppose, then, that the players were at least nominally of the community.  But as we all know, college sports improves school spirit and increased school spirit translates into alumni donations.  A visible and visibly successful sports team also increases applications for admission (which helps in the almighty US News rankings) the way advertisements do; if high school kids have heard of a school, they’ll view it more favorably.  Nevertheless, it’s no harm no foul here because no one is getting swindled… with the probable exception of those athletes whose dreams of stardom are being taken advantage of for the college’s gain.

Unfortunately, these school programs prepare their graduates to be fleeced later on.

English: Anaheim Angels vs Boston Red Sox at A...

Okay, this one is geographically correct. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And that finally brings me to professional athletics.  Most players do not hail from the city they play for and they rotate from team to team as trades and free agency arise.  To say that the average baseball player is our friend or neighbor is more than a little stretch.  Suffice it to say that there is nothing inherently Boston about the Red Sox except the franchise name, and the same goes for all other teams.   Nevertheless, the sports business has convinced the public at large that such a connection exists, which gets people excited about “their” team.  They then become willing to pay for tickets and t-shirts and all sorts of other expensive paraphernalia.   In theory, that’s not a bad thing.

In practice, it means the rest of us end up having to fund, with our tax dollars, increasingly more advanced stadiums because the sports businesses threaten to move away otherwise.  What other business can get away with demanding substantial government subsidies like that without the public becoming enraged about it?

I know the sports franchises often claim that athletics attract customers for other local businesses.  Just a thought: if we took all that money that would be spent on a new stadium and applied it to something that would benefit local businesses more directly, I’m sure we’d get more bang for our bucks.

Drumming Up Business Insults My Intelligence

man-o-lantern

(Photo credit: j l t)

I would like to take a moment to inform you that funerals suck, although not as much as dying, I suppose.

There was a death this week caused by a massive heart attack.  The whole thing reminded me a of a catalog I had recently received in the mail for some reason.  I don’t remember the company’s name but it specialized in products for larger-than-average people.  I only saw the cover and it featured some products that could be useful.  There was the plus-size clothing (a necessity for overweight people who don’t want to walk around naked), oversized chairs with extra weight capacity, and a triple-basket deep fryer.

Yeah, an oversized deep fryer for fat people.  Normally I’d gripe about the stereotyping but I think I’d rather nail the company for trying to drum up business.  If all those overweight people buy the deep fryer, they’re going to need to buy additional oversized products.  If they buy the more sensible vegetable steamer (which wasn’t advertised on the cover and probably wasn’t in the catalog), the company can lose some customers.

Fortunately, I think vegetable steamers sell better these days than triple-basket deep fryers.  The people buying the deep fryers probably don’t need vegetables because they are vegetables, or will become vegetables (or vegetable food) soon enough.

Misunderstood Graveyards Insult My Intelligence

English: English Cemetery, Málaga, Spain

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you apply for jobs, every detail of every sentence must be free of factual errors and grammatical mistakes, not to mention typos.  Applicants have to spend a lot of time preparing these perfect materials for HR departments and other employer contacts who probably couldn’t recognize accurate language use if they saw it being copied from an English textbook.

I am not here to gripe today.  I’ve already written about how people with bad grammar and spelling habits probably move ahead in the employment process because the HR folks think the errors are correct.

Instead, I wish to entertain.  I was looking through job postings today and found an organization that is seeking someone to work the graveyard shift.   And they decided to use the word “graveyard” prominently in the job ad’s headline, presumably to scare off people who would reject such a work schedule.

You already know this can’t end well, don’t you…

They have put up an ad for a “Bi-lingual Spanish Graveyard Youth-Care Worker.”  I’m not quite sure what graveyard youth-care is (much less Spanish graveyard youth-care) but I can’t believe people would send their children there.  Or, if it’s care for newly buried corpses, why the need for a bilingual caretaker?  I’m pretty sure corpses can’t understand Spanish.

So maybe I should apply…