Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ad Season is Coming!

Like many of you, dear readers, I am excited for the start of the annual NFL season. Let's be honest, of all of America's professional games, this is the one people really wouldn't want to do without. It's compact 17 weeks of regular season play. The regularity of its schedule. It's easy to plan around and, almost always, filled with the kind of drama that you don't need ESPN to point out... the season is that good.

This means Kissing Suzy Kolber will kick into high gear, fantasy teams will be selected and then bitched about... but it also means (gulp) advertisements. With the economy in a rut, it's likely fewer ads will be made, meaning we're bound to see the same ones over and over again. Heaven. Help. Us. I yearn for the day when games go commercial-free, a la international soccer.

Until that fine day, I am stuck. Now, some ads, I can tolerate. Like Coors Light's ads where they take old coaches press conferences and splice in new questions. These are good only because watching coaches act like buffoons doesn't get old:

Now, while I can enjoy those, the issue is that we will be subjected to terrible ads over and over again. Who's ready for Howie Long telling you that your pansy Toyota truck is no match for his Chevy?

But the all time worst... STILL thanks to Chevy:

WHOSE country is it? Can you tell? I am pleased to see that this ad campaign is so reviled that there are more parodies than legit versions on YouTube. Amen for small miracles.

Anyhow, this is the price we pay for the NFL... i must really like the game to endure it all, huh?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Enough is Enough

I generally try to keep calm about the rancor of political debates. I've grown accustomed to pundit blather that fuels ratings-focus "news" channels. But this week, we have hit a level of ridiculousness that I didn't quite think possible. And I'm done. I'm letting it all out.

The town hall meetings that are all the buzz right now are an atrocity. While I certainly think that our congresspeople have stopped doing anything to try and build a consensus among their constituents (which they should then take back to Washington), the people disrupting these meetings have pushed us into a theater of the absurd.

The thing is, see, the Constitution that many of these folks say they are defending was not just the product of someone sitting down and drafting it. In fact, the Constitution was the product of an extremely partisan battle among several groups. The only reason we have a Constitution is because this group found several compromises - each giving something for the benefit of the greater whole.

From what I can tell, compromise is gone. Even though the two different bills on healthcare being debated by respective congressional houses can still be edited and more, many people are saying no flat out. It's almost like you drive home one day in a car that has three tires underinflated, a cracked windshield and a dented passenger door. You contend you want a new car and the opposition simply yells "NO! THE CAR WE HAVE IS FINE! IT GOES WHERE WE NEED IT!"

Perhaps, you don't need a new car, but taking no action isn't going to benefit anyone. Yet, the disrupters say you don't need a new car. Period.

But let's say a wave of rational thought dumps over these folks... they still are either willfully ignorant and victims of misinformation. So... let's address the questions:

Healthcare reform could lead us down the road to socialism!

Lordy. This is like saying no one should get married because it could lead to divorce. And, again, we could spend some productive time together drafting legislation with checks and balances that heads off many of the concerns these folks have.

But we have the best healthcare system in the world!

Do we? Let's ask my brother-in-law who was born with a cleft palette and has needed several surgeries to repair his face and mouth. When he had his last, which was to realign his jaw and properly construct his upper lip and nose, the insurance company said, essentially, "no, his face is good enough." More than a few hours were used to change that view. Or, let's ask my sister-in-law who works full-time, but has to buy her own insurance because her employer doesn't provide it. Despite this, and working more hours than most, she has to pay $50 for a prescription I can get for $7. And she makes less money then me. And is younger so she is default healthier. Or let's ask my friend in Ohio who went to her primary care physician today, someone she's been to before, and still had to sit in a waiting room for an hour and fill our pages of paperwork she had filled out on previous visits.

We are the country that put a man on the moon. That won World War II. That invented powered flight. This healthcare system is as good as we can do?

Well, if we pass this bill, isn't the government going to take away my insurance?

Umm, no. Government insurance would be an available option, competing with private insurance firms.

Oh right. Like private firms will be able to compete with the government!

Well, FedEx and UPS seem to be doing just fine after years of competition with the government-run United States Postal Service. They're doing so well that the Postal Service has to buy advertising on TV to compete, in fact.

Well, that's one example. Find me another.

OK, how about three for starters:
  • Government loans for students and home buyers don't seem to have put the banks' loan divisions out of business. In fact, it's the government-run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that needed bailouts before the banks.
  • Amtrak, which receives federal funding, hasn't managed to put state-run transit lines out of business in areas like the Northeast. In fact, NJ Transit, SEPTA, the T and similar systems seem to be extremely crowded despite a government-run competitor.
  • Even thought our government runs a military (which also has a government-run healthcare plan!), it hasn't impeded private military contractors from raking in profits.
Well, won't the government force me to use some doctor they want me to use?

They might, especially since my private insurance company already does. Or is that big book of doctors I'm allowed to go to I got when I signed up produced for gaiety? If that's not forcing my hand, I don't know what is.

Well, then they'll ration healthcare! Telling me what procedures I'm allowed to have.

Again, just like my private health insurance provider. Anyone who ever got a letter saying that something wasn't covered because his primary care physician didn't refer him is hearing me loud and clear. Medical decisions have long been out of the doctors' hands.

Well, they'll probably start funding abortions with my tax dollars!

Umm, no. Not only is that not something that will be allowed or encouraged, but let's be honest. I don't know of any provider that covers this. I know a handful of people who had an abortion. They paid cash.

What about these "death panels?" They're going to kill off our senior citizens.

No, they won't. That is a scare tactic. One of the bills being debated covers recurring end-of-life planning meaning the creation of a living will. Normally, these are done with lawyers. No reason a doctor cannot offer counsel here. And why do you need one? Remember Terry Schiavo and that whole mess? If she had a living will, it wouldn't have been an issue. She would have stated her preferences and either be dead or still laying there today.

And the truth with all of this folks... if you don't sign up for the government plan, none of this really affects you. And if you don't like the bill, it's better to talk about your concerns in a rational way.

We are a country divided in thirds... democrats, republicans and indys. All of these groups need to find ways to compromise. And not just on healthcare. But the idea that everything is black and white isn't going to allow America to function in this century. If we cannot find solutions we can all walk away from content, we're doomed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Like that friend we all have...

You know that friend that was there for you a lot in the past? You had a lot of great times, maybe had a moment or two... but then, one day, that friend changed. At first, you figured it was just a phase. Underneath it all, the friend was still the same. But outrageous happening after outrageous happening, you start to find you can't hang out with this friend as much anymore. You still defend him.her, but even you have to shake your head. And more than anything, you keep hoping that friend will go back to being the way it used to be.

That is how I feel about Our Lady Peace.

Let us go back to 1994. Remember 1994? I loved me all my grunge music, but this - this - was something unique.

Starseed - Our Lady Peace

Had all the heavy stuff I liked, but had a nice unique sound to it. And they were Canadian, which meant they weren't getting heavy U.S. airplay. But they were getting HUGE in Canada. If you were an American fan of OLP, it was like being clued in to some great secret.

In 1998 or so, I saw them open for Third Eye Blind in Philly. There was maybe 200 people there for the OLP set. It was incredible. This band that regularly played to 15,000 up north was our own little house band for 50 minutes.

Lead singer Raine Maida's falsetto was, granted, not for everyone. But songs like this were like nothing else on the radio when I was in college:

Potato Girl - Our Lady Peace

In 2000, they releases Spiritual Machines, a tremendous fourth album that knocked my socks off. When their drummer fell ill, Pearl Jam's Matt Cameron filled in. It was bliss.

Then, apparently wishing for USA success, they ditched everything and went to Hawaii to record with Bob Rock of Metallica fame. The first sign this was going badly was when their founding guitarist left the band. The next sign this was going badly was Gravity, the resulting album. It was, needless to say, deritivie from the start:

All For You - Our Lady Peace

Still there were a handful of moments on the album where you could still hear the band that I had loved for many years. I hoped it was a one-album dalliance. But no.

Then came Healthy in Paranoid Times. In fairness, the first two songs on there got my hopes up, especially the album opener. But from there... it was all "we're Our Lady Peace. And we're a big-time rock band."

What the world didn't need was another sloggy, "dark" rock band in the vein of - dare I say - fellow Canadians Nickelback. And to my great horror, one night, there was David Cook on American Idol, singing "Innocent" by Our Lady Peace. Kill. Me.

Last month, Our Lady Peace put out its latest Burn Burn. Some in the press are heralding it as a return to form. Apparently, they didn't listen to the album. Or, if they did, only to the very end. In the last song, "Paper Moon," we get a brief throwback to Raine's falsetto tricks that made this band sound like, well, Our Lady Peace.

Sure, there are some standard rock anthems on this new disc. But there's nothing there that comes close to the excitement of the past.

And like that old good friend, I wait for things to go back to the old way...