Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BRexit. Or How to ruin your country in one easy vote.

This is a political post. 

Let me put this in, more or less silly, but still accurate, terms. Britain has decide to break up with it's girlfriend, the European Union. It's tired of having to check in on late nights out or sit through her reality shows and just knows the fun times are around the corner if it just didn't have to put up with her relatives dropping by all the time. Now, after this break up, Britain for some reason thinks it can still get the EU to keep doing the laundry, buying the groceries, and getting frisky on the regular, you know, all the parts that Britain likes. Oh, and if it could not have to move out for while, that would be great too. Britain apparently doesn't listen to many Beyonce songs.  

I hope the stalwart conservatives in this country are watching, because this is the destination of that whole "take back our country movement" that has put reality show TV star and carnival barker billionaire Donald Trump in the driver's seat of one of America's major political parties. Visceral feel good action for a particular segment of the population, damn the actual consequences to everyone else. The BRexit vote was a repudiation of globalization, the process we've been undergoing in various stages for the past three decades now. The problem is that much like social gaming or a vodka with a new horrible flavor, globalization is where we're headed right now. This attempt to slam the brakes on the future in their own little corner of the world is going to hurt a whole lot more than it helps.   

To start with, the political fallout is catastrophic. The Prime Minister resigned so that there would be no one with the power to act on the vote until the next election, with the hopes that by then everyone will have come to their senses. In turn, the conservative government is pretty much taking a powder and this move by the Brits is causing the other members of the Union, a large part of why World War III hasn't started yet, to wonder if they'd be better off on their own (note: They won't). Even Scotland is now trying to get out from England and get back on the EU's good side. Some are wondering if the government that gets elected and sees the writing on the wall will even go so far as to reject the vote, which could put a whole nation right back here six months from now.   

And if the political looks grim, the financial fallout will be worse. Because if the EU survives, the other 27 countries probably won't want to use London as their financial hub like it has been doing for the past two decades. Hello Brussels. In Belgium. I'm not even sure if Belgium is a real country. And the restart of trade restrictions and probably tariffs as well aren't going to do British industry any favors. By closing itself off to easy trade and potentially decimating its financial sector, and doing it in a particularly ugly manner, the idea that the incoming rulers will somehow be able to negotiate a new sweet heart deal to let Britain get all the benefits of the EU membership and none of the issues is highly unlikely. Like winning the lottery unlikely. 

Sadly, the polls show that it was the older people who are trying to turn back the clock edging out those who'll actually have to live in the future. And much like FOX news viewers in America, those old folks drank the Kool-aid and believed the politicians who were spoon feeding what they wanted to hear. They were told that the membership fee for being part of the European Union, a sweet $350 million per week, would go to the National Health Service instead. This sounds great on paper. Yet a week after the vote the promoters of the idea to leave have already scrubbed that idea from the record, glossing over the fact that the original numbers weren't exactly real to begin with.

Immigration fears, seemingly now a world wide constant, were also stoked. The isle had seen a steady rise in immigration as the rest of Europe's economy floundered. Of course THOSE people, as they historically always have been according to every "fill-in-the-blank" supremacist, are responsible for any "fill-in-desired bad situation" here. And the good people bought it. Well, maybe not good people, as I understand a number of people even thought a vote to "Leave" meant foreigners would have to leave Britain. Like now. If that doesn't set off red flags for xenophobia, I don't know what will. I wonder if the British can see the irony in not wanting foreigners in your country? Ironically, the move has Britain's best export - expatriates - scrambling for answers.

And if all this sounds oddly familiar, it's because is. This is the same Leave NAFTA, we'll use your tax dollars better - until we actually get into office song and dance currently masquerading as party movement in America. And while it's practically a used car salesman pitch on a national level, it apparently worked on the sophisticated Brits. They're supposed to be the smart ones!

Britain broke with their girlfriend, and it turns out that it's looking pretty lonely out here. May I suggest some roses, some tears and a little Marvin Gaye?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Any Given...oh, I see what you did there.

Ramblings Post #316
Stumbling can be a good thing. Sometimes that stumble can help you right yourself, help you spot flaws you didn't even know you had. Stumbling can occasionally lead you to new things and new ideas. This is figuratively speaking mind you. Literally it means you may have to get a really good pair of shoes repaired. 
This guy got a TV show?
I'm not sure who Bill Simmons is or why he has a show on HBO. I'm vaguely aware he worked for ESPN, or maybe batted third for the Piscataway Pit Birds like 15 years ago. He sounds like he used to do color commentary for Junior League golf or the Western Maine Curling association, you know, something like that. But I'm sure of one thing: His new show might be worth watching. Although Simmons comes across - and dresses exactly like - an extremely well-off suburban dad who just happens to have former NBA players and movie stars as neighbors, his first broadcast indicates one thing about the show that all other sports talk shows lack : the willingness show unsanctioned outrage. 

If you've ever watched a sports show you know only properly sanctioned outrage is allowed. For example, SportsStar X does something despicable - punches a baby, elbows a nun, posterizes someone's grandmother - and the sports reporters all express a kind of properly worded, carefully temperate anger at the situation. Or Team 55 makes a horrible play or executes egregiously poor sportsmanship, and cue the middle of the road even handed admonishment. Every so often a veteran reporter will quietly, but professionally, mention that they disagree with an official league action - doesn't matter which league - but that's about all the fury you might get. They can't bite the hand that feeds them. For all that access, big time sports reporting has become for the most part a PR wing of professional sports. Sports Radio is still kicking and screaming, thank god, but at the national level it's all rather bland. Sometimes PTI gets it, but mostly bland.

So flipping through the channels I spotted this new show, Any Given Wednesday, and stopped to see what it was. The first guest I saw, Charles Barkley was suitably feisty. But then Barkley once through a man through a window, feisty is expected, although he's mellowed a bit to now we cheerfully refer to him as "a character." And then some reason probably having to do with a promise over drinks, Ben Affleck was invited to Simmons super fake looking living room set that looks like the house it would be would be in would be featured in Architectural Digest. Not real relaxed, fake relaxed. They joshed and joked. It was genial. Then, Simmons asked Affleck about Deflate-gate. 

It was like watching a Twitter meme explosion happen in real-time. Ben Affleck turned into the Boston sports fan nut that calls into the radio station to argue with the DJ - from his bedroom in his mother's basement, where he sleeps on Red Sox sheets under a poster of Larry Bird while wearing Boston Bruins PJs. He let loose in a rant that included shots at the league, the media, opposing teams and anyone else who might doubt that the Pats are greatest team ever and made it clear that this whole thing is based on pure jealousy. It was in a word, beautiful. And I didn't agree with a single thing he said. Not one. I am stunned that the show aired it.

Untethered from a sports network, and using no footage, the show might just be able to get away with poking holes in the polished front that is modern sports reporting. For a while. Right up until the leagues start "suggesting" their talent, former or otherwise, just not drop by. 

Until then, this might just finally be some good sports television.  

Barkeep. Next time, make sure they have beer. No, they need whiskey. And give him an hour.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ayesha NO!

Ramblings Post #315
I'm not one to to try and go parent anyone, especially not anyone grown. If you're old enough to drink and get a light bill, then you're old enough to realize that actions have consequences. Consequences and Repercussions. A lot of people younger than me want to act like this is no longer true, like the idea of freedom means being free from the results of your actions. It doesn't. You reap what you sow. Unless you're a superstar athlete, in which case I'm sure we can work something out.


I still think the Warriors can win it all in a ONE game Championship.

Somebody get Ayesha's phone right now. Please. She about to eff' up the church money!

Look I'm not saying that some very improbable coincidental coincidences, if you will, appear to have taken place during this year's NBA finals. And I'm not saying that the league has no interest in seeing a seven game series between what is now it's old phenom versus its new phenom. And I'm not saying a little drama isn't good for the series ratings. I'm not saying a lot of things. But I AM saying that her making a statement about a league approved "fix" doesn't really play out well for anyone. Not her, not the hubs, nobody I can get an eye on.

 At the start of the series, Golden State was head and shoulders above the Cavaliers, and a sweep looked highly possible. The two stars were coasting, wait, they weren't even coasting they were on the bench resting, and the Cavs were getting run up and down the floor like the middle school kids playing at the Rucker. Adjustments were made and nothing changed. The Cavs won their home game, but then we kind of expect you win ONE at home. Then it looked like it was over. Only....the Warriors had just come back from three down in the previous series. So it is possible. So, never before, but now twice in one season? That Tyronn Lue, Cleveland's coach puppet, somehow has crafted something magical?

Um...

Look, LeBron is a great basketball player. Physically gifted, good hands, a sweet shot and with an eye and head for the game. But... for the most part when pressed he plays the game in real life like I play on 2K : How many fouls can I get called on the other team so I can play the scrubs? Maybe it's strategic, they used to call it "working the refs," so I understand it. In theory. But if every time LeBron looked over to the ref hoping for a foul, you had to take a shot of vodka, you wouldn't make it past the first quarter. It's become excessive and annoying if not a defining trait. It looks like whining. And it's irritating to watch someone skilled try to manipulate their way to even more of an advantage. Watching the game this less than sporting sportsmanship seems to have infected the rest of his teammates as well. We already don't have hand checking, like damn. I'm not saying that it maybe one of the reasons ratings are down, but then I'm not saying a lot of things.

The Cavs have hung around long enough to get their groove back. They're a good team, no doubt. But they shouldn't have had the opportunity. And now that they're rolling again, it's a one game championship, which is what the league tries avoid by having a series.

And someone tell Ayesha to relax. The Warriors look like the Showtime Lakers out there. Let Bron-Bron get his last little shot at this. The Warriors will be back in this "isht" for seasons to come if nobody gets the big head. 

Barkeep, let me get some beer. No, I'm serious. Just one though. Gotta watch my figure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando.

This is a political post.

I waited a while to make comments on the tragic events in Orlando. I needed my thoughts to settle, to take some time and get some perspective. Because it's weird waking up in the morning to a world where if things continue on this path we may have to start placing the daily massacre reports like perverse sports scores with a ticker at the bottom of the screen. Far too commonplace. We are living in interesting times.

I'm not sure what it will take for some serious self reflection on our national love affair with guns, but I sincerely doubt we're going to get any new control laws, just so everyone's clear. I don't doubt some well crafted, well thought out and limited legislation will emerge around the country, they should, but with our current Congress I doubt they could get any traction. I mean, we'd barely begun to get in line to donate blood before the anti-gun control advocates started politicizing this horrible tragedy by claiming everyone who hated guns was going to politicize the tragedy. Despite common sense suggestions for something to be done by people as far right as Bill O'Reilly, we are a nation that loves the "lone gunmen against all evil" idea of security.

Now, onto larger issues. It has become clear that in our rush to explain things, to figure out why something happened, the general media concept is to assign blame as quickly as possible. Facts that change things may arrive later, but once that initial thought has been expressed we have a hard time letting it go. I think news organizations ARE be aware of this and the idea that they are not as much reporting the news but guiding the national conversation with their assumptions. I'm certain FOX news is, the rest I'm not so sure. I realize that ratings are important and more eyeballs equals more revenue, thus the faster the news organization in moments like these the better, but the profit motive may be ruining the idea of the impartial news report. NEWS needs to be above the fray. Right now it is not.

The shooter who killed so many people at the LBGT-centric nightclub was an American, of Arab descent. The President, as men in his position are wont to do, gave a empathetic and thoughtful response. Future former presidential candidate Trump renewed his call for a ban on Muslim immigration. This the same ban he claimed was merely a suggestion just last month as he appeared to be attempting to moderate his message for the general election. And then the story changed.

Our immediate assumption? ISIS. The gunman announced it and of course we gobbled it up, hungry for a demon that wasn't us to take responsibility for this horrific act. According to some, ISIS  is apparently responsible for everything bad in the world. Plane down? ISIS. People killed for vague purposes? ISIS. Get robbed? ISIS. Taxes too high? ISIS. Car got towed? It was them. They ran out of your favorite at Ye Old Ice Cream Shoppe? You already know. Damn those lactose hating jihadists!

Here we are days later, and what we were so sure of we're now not so sure of. It seemed odd to me that a terrorist organization would make a strike halfway around the world at some random gay bar, in a just off the radar part of the world. Now we find out that the killer was part of the safe space he attacked so viciously, a semi-regular who was known to the other patrons. Yes, he told the police ISIS was his motivation, but those he admired despised him, and would have executed him for his simple existence. That they want to now claim credit for his actions is....I don't even have a word for it.

And while he may have harbored the idea of ISIS and it's precepts as an ideal to strive for in effort to gain favor with his family, is it possible he was just a man frustrated by the stark contrast between who he was and the religion he followed? I'm not asking for sympathy for him for his actions are beyond the pale. But to get an understanding...that understanding we need so that we can process this and prevent this from re-occurring we can't take the easy solution because we don't want to deal with the complexity of the hard one. Suddenly, there is a lot to unpack here, multiple issues from personal acceptance up to and including our national gun policy. We can't, um, we shouldn't just blame some faceless demon and call it a day.

People died in a senseless tragedy. Are we mature enough in this country to at least have a conversation about it? All of it?

*Sigh* 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ali


I  am in agreement with the sentiments on Twitter from the bloggers VSB...Muhammad Ali has died. And 2016 can go to hell.

Opening of the 1996 Olympics. I was at home, watching the opening ceremony, having cringed at the pickup trucks that had raced around the stadium, and watched with detached interest as they lit the flame. And then, unexpected to me, Muhammad Ali emerged to move the flame the last few feet. I was suddenly riveted, and on my feet, cheering for him, as the entire arena did the same. I was one of those Ali moments that just sticks with you.

It's taken me a while to write to this, mostly coming to the realization I was never going to find quite the right words. The last time I saw Ali he was in a cart at a Miami Marlins game and he looked nothing like I wanted to believe. And so I want to remember him as a more vital man, potent with style and bursting with charm. Not just unparalleled fighter, but also the man who came after.

Ali was....

There is no way to finish that sentence because the man was almost too many things to quantify. At a time when black men died for raising their voices, Ali hollered in defiance. He was witty, yet insightful, charming with just a hint of dominance. He won boxing championships. He told the US government not just no, but HELL NO. He appeared on Broadway. He spoke about injustice and racial politics. In the comics he fought Superman...and won. In his prime, he was larger than life.

From DC Comics...
It's hard to describe to those who didn't see him then, who only see the former boxing great slowed by disease. And it hurts to even try. As my brother put it, "He represented a kind of pride for black men in America that didn't exist in quite that form before him."   

Muhammad Ali was the the Greatest of All Time. And I hope he rests well.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Why not? It's Only a Dollar....

Ramblings Post #314
First you click the button, and you go weee! That's how they get you. Like drugs. First hit is free. That's how they get you hooked on that...um, whatchacallit, Candy Crush. Before you know it you're Mafia Warring, Farmvilling or worse. That's when they got you. Before you know it you're giving up your Latte and muffin for a power-up or a shiny new tractor. Just stick with the drugs boy. Cheaper. Smarter! 


I've been writing quite a bit, a couple of pages a night (not much of it usable) and researching,  wasting more time on reddit than I'd care to admit in mixed company, and so this blog and my game play have dwindled and currently consists of monthly updates plus the free to play games in the Apple Store on my Ipad. Don't judge me. This desperation has pretty much convinced me that I really need to create one of these phone gaming apps because this right here is just ridiculous. I've downloaded and deleted more than a few, but I see what they're doing and I'm pretty sure that once I'm finished this project I can come up with something a few million folks will be willing to download...as long as it's free to start. That's the key.

I've written about the dangers of DLC in the past, but this is something different. Good DLC is like adding toppings to a burger, making an already good product better. Bad DLC is selling you the bun and charging you extra for the meat, making you pay extra for what should have come standard. This is DLC supreme. It's selling you that same burger by the bite, and calling it gourmet. It's reminiscent of the old double my pay scam I once read in a Richie Rich comic book. 

The few games I've taken the time to start all begin the same way. Some relatively crudely designed story to make the cartoon mechanics of the game make sense, and an incredibly easy first level. You feel so alive, like the conquering hero! This continues to the second or third level depending on how many levels there are. Or, if there are only six levels, like in the racing game I downloaded, then you just get the one. I mean, I was the king of the track the first season. Win after win, zoom, zoom, zoom. Then came season two. And suddenly it's like I'm racing against Ferrari in a little red wagon. And looking at the way the game is structured, it doesn't appear you can't even really grind you way through like you would in a regular console or PC game. So I figured, why not, it's just a buck, and opened the power up menu.

Whoa.

Okay, kids, let me say this, if you look through the power up menu of one of these "free games" and one of the items has a retail value over $40, you might want to think about just deleting that whole game. Because I've got a business degree and modicum of experience, and I'm fairly certain when I tell you that this seemingly ridiculously priced item for a casual game you play maybe ten minutes per day if you're bored, IS THE BARGAIN PRICE. A deal if you will, the discounted hook-up. This price actually SAVES you money. Because I'm also almost fairly certain that what the developer would prefer you do is take the $1 or less option. Because you'll do that without thinking about it. Repeatedly. And so eighty five 'why not, it's only a buck' mental justifications later, they've doubled their income.

For the record, I'm just gonna try to grind it out and see how that goes. It will certainly make the game last longer.

But that give someone a buck mindset, that is what the developer is aiming for. A six or seven hundred thousand curious downloads of something as brilliant as matching the shapes, and the average developer is in high cotton. And let's say a fifty percent bailout rate at the first level. Which translates to three hundred thousand on the first round. Then you figure each level up another ten percent out.... it just keeps adding up, dollar by dollar. If you get lucky and get a Candy Crush, with fifty MILLION or more players, you can get to a few hundred million in a snap. Just like the old Mars Candy Co, a billion dollars a nickel at a time.

I've often lamented as to certain business models and their effectiveness for getting people to part with their money, usually as deceptive or unethical constructions. This I envy. This I want in.    

All I need a theme.

Barkeep, I'm gonna need some five hour energy, a sketchpad and three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Brain food.