31 March 2014

This Beats Working!

An informal survey of my readers  (i.e., I didn't ask, but some are very bold and write me without invitation) yields these results:

The most frequently asked question by my blogees is,"London, what the fuck do you all day long down there?"  Please note that today's NYTimes has an article explaining why it is no longer obscene to say "fuck" in the newspaper. Indeed, the article ridicules those publications that adhere to 50 yr. old journalistic standards in that regard. How embarrassing for the author of that piece that he works for one of them. 

And I have received a suggestion that I stop pissing all over Chris Christie, because the newspapers and tv talking heads are doing a good job of it and they don't need me.  I reject that because i) I enjoy pissing all over Chris Christie, and ii) the newspapers and talking heads miss key parts of the story. For example, there was a headline in the online NYT a few days back that trumpeted "Report Clears Christie "  All the news that's fit to print?  You had to go to the second paragraph of the story to learn that Christie's lawyer wrote the "Report", that not only "cleared" Christie, but it concluded the "lane realignment" was the fault of a hormonal female staffer who had been recently dumped by her lover.  Hmm, do you think we should pronounce the "t" in this "Report"?

Also, did you see the Times headline that screamed: "Christie No Longer Denies Learning of Lane Closing While It Was Happening!" Well it should have been there, but wasn't. When the Governor was confronted with that allegation, his response was "I don't remember".  That ain't no denial, and in summation the prosecutor would be well within his rights to say so. Also, for me, it brings to mind Richard Nixon, meeting in the oval office with Haldeman, Ehrichman, and Dean and instructing them what they should say to the Watergate burglars who had been subpoenaed to testify in the grand jury, "Just tell em to say they don't remember."

What else do I do?  Soak up St. Barths, that's what.  This past weekend was the St. Barths Bucket, a "race" of sorts of ocean going yachts of surpassing beauty. The Queen of the Fleet, is 66 meters long (you do the math, I have started drinking) and is gorgeous. So I took pictures from our deck. That part was easy. Getting them into this blog, not. Here are some of the stills, I hope. First is the view from our front porch on the night before:

Next, some of the long shots of the sailing ships at work: This one is supposed to be a video of the big one, after weighing anchor and before raising her sails. I could not get the video to work here.

Next, a few ships under sail. The video still refuses to cooperate:

Those were pix from day 3.  Here are some from day 2:

While struggling with the tech part of this process, I heard a shriek from the backyard. It's Dina, the housekeeper. She has encountered a new-born iguana. To give you an idea of proportion, a full grown iguana, tip to tail, is about four feet long. Remember the fearsome old man who came to visit Stephanie in her bedroom a few years back?:

Well, here is his descendant, hanging in the same neighborhood.  This guy is 12 inches nose to tail, tops:

How adorable is that?  He fell into an area bounded by four sheer walls, and he is insufficiently developed to climb them. So whatta we do? CALL DOFIE, that's what,  and this is the result:

So now you know what we do here all day long.   

Et vous?

A bientot.

15 March 2014

Report from Xandadu

Report from Xanadu:

Prose only. My poetry is rusty.

I am being harassed by waspish readers because of alleged lame blog production of late. I have a legitimate excuse and as soon as I get around to submitting a note from my doctor, I am sure Fidel DiBlasio will see to it that I get paid for my time off from work, putting aside the nagging fact that I don’t have a job.  In addition to back (c’est un double entendre) pay, I plan on also submitting to Fidel a claim for the emotional injury the complaining blogees have inflicted. That injury, though indirect, is proximately related to my disability. Trust me on this: I am a lawyer.

My back injury has led to a treatment plan that involves a new element in my tropical diet: codeine. Colorado, you are missing out: grass can’t be this good.  Now I know why islanders walk around wearing just bikini bottoms and smiles: Codeine is an over-the-counter drug here.

Even Le Journal, the St. Barths weekly, keeps us all current on the missing Malaysian Boeing 777. (Dodge that segue!)  This is my opportunity to find a way to make a living and never leave this island. What a great novel this will make. Hey, somebody needs to pick up the Tom CIancy baton, why not moi? I am already casting the movie. (Not yet sure of my role, but for sure it will be a leading one.)

Here’s the plot synopsis, ripped from the headlines!

Final Chapter: By the time the reader reaches this chapter, she will know the hijackers are Pakistani-hired Iranians, stole the plane and ditched it in the Indian Ocean, so that India would devote its entire Navy and Air Force to search for it. The hijackers escape. I am not yet sure how, but they do, and are picked up by an Iranian submarine. (The Pakis paid off their cousins who lead the Malaysian military to screw up and delay the report of the plane’s diversion till it was too late to do anything about it.)  While India focuses on its southern and eastern shores looking for the plane, the Pakis smuggle a nuclear weapon into India over its northern border, and truck it down to Mumbai and then threaten to trigger it if India does not do something that I haven’t figured out yet, but it’s important and it affects the United States. The US President (played by moi?  Maybe Pinks.  We’ll see) demands India stand fast. Whether India gives in to the demand will not be disclosed until the next book.

First Chapter: This begins, of course, with a lot of guys sweating through their khakis looking at huge computer monitors trying to figure out where the plane went, while the Malaysian military basically says, “I dunno, I just work here.”

The middle chapters: They find the plane the same way the U.S Navy found the Scorpion, the U.S submarine that mysteriously sank in 1968 (see fabulous story in the  NYT, 15 March,2014). Lots of other stuff in these chapters. I’ll fill in later.

Now here is the catch. What if the entire thing is so obviously grist for a novel, a movie, a tv series, a Netflix special, etc, that it never happened?  Think Wag the Dog!

Or how about this: the plane was indeed diverted and crashed, but the whole murderous escapade was orchestrated by a narcotic infused whacko bird (No, not Rush Limbaugh!) whose brain was rapidly decaying by reason of tropical jungle rot and who had already written the novel and needed to create the incident to match his story and make the book a best seller?  Man, ya gotta give him credit: the marketing ploy of the year!

Please think about all this. I will mention you in the acknowledgement if your full chapter donations are acceptable. For exceptional submissions, I will name a character after you. Oh, yeah. Husseins need not apply, I already have one of those.

A bientot.

02 March 2014

Christie, Putin, Incognito, and Comcast

It isn’t much of a challenge to figure out what the first three assholes in this title have in common. And their victims are easily identified.

But as I sit here in Lotus-Eater-Land, with my feet in the warm sand of Saline Beach and my eyes squinting behind extra-dark polarized shades, I trip out looking at the green hills surrounding the beach.  If I focus, I can spy an occasional family of goats picking its way across the face of the hill. I can indulge in the sculptured beauty of the crescent white sand beach and listen to the hiss of the wavelets breaking at the water’s edge, interrupted by the bleating of a kid who has temporarily lost his mom as she leads the family across the hill. The soft sounds are of a piece with the pleasing color patterns: sand, water, sky, and the exotic filmy pareos worn by the stunningly bare beachgoers. All these sensory inputs complement one another and induce a dreamy semi consciousness.

So much for Saline Beach with eyes open. Close your eyes, and you see other things with equal clarity but that picture’s theme is not tranquility: it is dissonance-- A jarring black and white picture that jerks you back to an unpleasant reality.

With eyes closed, I am able to see this morning’s New York Times.

What I see is Comcast snapping its ever-larger towel at everybody else in its locker room. All of us who have either a cable box or a cable internet connection will ultimately be the victims of this economic bully. We’ll all suffer the welts and the experience the frustration born of  helplessness.  There is no place for us to hide: the Comcasts of the world have us penned in and they can snap towels, add traffic cones to direct us into stalled pathways, send in the tanks, or otherwise dominate us at will.

“How did this come to pass?" you ask?  Okay, I’ll tell you.

The Genesis:

Book One:

In the beginning, there was broadcast radio, followed by broadcast television, and it was good.--at least for those of us who could  drop a wire out the window or put an aluminum antenna on the roof within range of the broadcast signal. We tolerated staticy sound and snowy tv pictures to be entertained by Milton Berle and enlightened by Walter Cronkite, but we paid no supplementary fees to get the signal because our government, having sensed the commonweal would be advanced by the citizenry’s ability to listen to Father Coughlin on the radio and later watch Hopalong Cassidy on Sunday afternoons, annually gifted billions of dollars worth of spectrum to broadcast station owners.  They, in turn, developed a cannot-lose business model: they took the 24/7 free spectrum, chopped it up into millions of 30 and 60 second bits, and sold them to purveyors of soap flakes and tobacco carcinogens. Hey, spread the word: “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.”

Book Two:
In this chapter, the creator gives us cable.  And it too was good. We could see Archie and Edith Bunker as clearly as if they lived next door and we now could see that Walter Cronkite was ageing gracefully. But progress was not free.  Now we taxpayers were paying twice for our tv picture: once via our spectrum gift to the broadcast networks, and again in a modest fee to the cable company.

Book Three:

Cue the serpent: The broadcasters, while continuing to gorge on the free apples the U.S. government constantly piled on their pushcart, noted the increased popularity of cable tv and were envious this garden contained a profit stream from which they did not drink. “Enough is not enough”, was the new cognitive dissonance speak: it was not enough the taxpayers annually renewed their spectrum gift; it was not enough the taxpayers endured beer and ginzu knife commercials in order to watch the Mets finish last again. The broadcasters wanted more.   And so it came to pass the broadcasters and the cable tv companies traveled to the secret bank vault they had in common, and conversed. While we journalists are privileged to refuse to reveal our sources, I can nevertheless provide you with a transcript of their brief conversation:

Broadcasters: In the words of company’s inspirational icon, Vito Corleone, we want to "dip our beaks" into your stream. This is a friendly conversation, but should you decline to pay us this small tribute, we will effectively put you out of business by denying your cable customers the ability to see our beer commercials and football games.

Cable Companies: No way. You guys are already getting monies from the government and your advertisers. If I pay you, I would have to raise my prices.  Don’t be a bully.

Broadcasters: Name calling?  Don’ t act like a child. Sticks and stones ........ . We are talking  Pay or No Play. Screw your customers; just charge em more money.

Cable Companies: Yup, that’ll do it.

And so it came to pass that consumer/taxpayers pay three times;   i) taxes that would have been relieved if the spectrum were sold instead of given away free to the broadcasters, ii) fees to the cable company to compensate it for its investment in infrastructure, the salaries of of its employees, and profit, and iii) a surcharge that the cable companies pass through to its customers to compensate for the fees it must pay to distribute the broadcasters’ government-subsidized content.  And in return for this “triple play” cable fee deal, we get to buy the “loaded” car model: if cable customers want watch football games, they must subscribe to a package that includes Jerry Springer, The Price is Right,  and Sean Hannity.

Book Four:
The Almighty saw that her constituents were suffering under the lash of the towel snapping cable company overseers, and she relieved their burden by developing a new means of delivering content.  She called it “Streaming.” And it was good. Now the taxpayer/consumers could discard their costly cable boxes, turn their backs on broadcast content and commercials, and get stuff sent directly to their computers (and display it on their 55” flat screens as well as their 5” iPhones) from new content distributors, such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, etc (Can  Google be far behind?) With those channels of communication, they could fill their screens night and day with stuff they WANTED, and the cost would be pennies a day: Netflix is $7.99 a month, Amazon is cheaper still.  Hoorah, we are liberated!

Book Five:

Last week, when Comcast announced it was paying gazillions for Time Warner Cable, its CEO pitched for government approval of the planned merger by publicly pledging Comcast’s allegiance to the priciple of Net Neutrality. This means, as I understand it, that Comcast would treat equally all who send internet signals to Comcast customers, from individual emailers and baby-picture swappers like you and me, to large users like iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and the other content “streamers”.

Okay, I decide, in that case let em merge, because in ten years, fewer people will want to buy monopoly-priced cable tv packages that include junk they don’t watch. We will all turn in our cable boxes, and we’ll pick and choose content from companies that stream their offerings, be they football games, movies, independent creations like House of Cards, Breaking Bad,  or whatever.

Book Six:

Uh, oh. Not so fast, dahlink. The President of Comcast didn’t win his job at a church bingo contest. (Actually he inherited it from his father but the smart gene survived the succession process.)  Streaming  threatens his entire business model. How will he respond?

Well, inasmuch as he will have absolute control over half the internet traffic in the United States, he could see to it the streamers’ signal never reached the consumer, or at that when it did arrive it looked looked like dial-up from 25 years ago. You remember dial-up? No?  You should.

Wait a minute here: Would Comcast intentionally interfere with a signal put out by a non-broadcaster?  Nah. It was just a coincidence that all those Comcast customers were complaining their Netflix downloads were slow, pixelated, or otherwise unwatchable and the FCC four years ago found that Comcast intentionally and illegally degraded a provider’s signal.  Who remembers details like that? Wikipedia, that’s who.

But the Comcast CEO’s recently embraced Net Neutrality, so that streamers would be treated equally with everyone else. So we have nothing to worry about, right? Eh, not exactly.  Y'see, these people invented cognitive dissonance. Two days after pledging net neutrality, the Comcast CEO announced that Comcast would charge Netflix an extra fee to carry its signal!  Huh? What happened to Net Neutrality? “ Ahh”, says Comcast, “this is a technical subject, you wouldn’t understand.  Trust me.”   

Trust them? This harkens back to one of my favorite Henny Youngman stories: A woman comes home early from a shopping trip and finds her husband in bed with another woman. She screams at him, “How could you do this to me? Our marriage is based on years of trust and here I find you in bed with another woman?” The husband turns from his paramour, looks at his wife and says, “Woman?  What woman?”

So now Netflix needs to pay a fee to Comcast to deliver Netflix’s signal to your computer and tv set. Where is that money coming from? Netflix shareholders? Hah, the $7.99 per month will soon be history, Amazon is next, then iTunes, they will all fall in line. Comcast, (which not only has a size advantage over the other cable companies, it also owns NBC and therefore is also the beneficiary of a government spectrum handout) will lead the mob. It and the other cable companies will snap their towels, rearrange the traffic cones, and the taxpayer/consumers can add another layer to the monthly fee we pay to watch the Giants win 7 games in a 16 game season, and have Jerry Springer and Al Jazeera on our program guide. You don’t like Jerry Springer or Al Jazeera? So just pay for them and don’t watch them. That’s the cable company’s version of Freedom of Choice.

Book Seven:

I can hardly imagine.  I need a rest.

A bientot.