Going Nowhere

An open letter to The Travel Channel, also submitted online to their Viewer Relations Dept:

I like shows about travel. One would think I could find one occasionally on the Travel Channel. One would be wrong. Where the Travel Channel is supposed to be on my TV, there’s a network devoted to recreational binge eating and ghosts. I don’t believe in either one.
This is chronic. You aren’t producing shows about travel anymore, right? Anthony Bourdain travels, but then he just eats. Except for Samantha Brown  – who’s great – you’ve got nothin’. And one show doesn’t make a channel. 
Come on, guys, spring for some air fare and show us some travel.

Can you relate?

zen and the art of

Here's something that's been bugging the stuffing out of me for a while. People need to stop using Zen And The Art Of … in the title of every misbegotten how to spew that their half-baked muse strikes them to hack up.

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values was a great book by Robert M. Pirsig. It was published in 1974, 36 years ago this spring. I read it in about 1981, and could not put it down. That was back when I had an attention span.

Since then, countless people have ripped off that title. Zen And The Art Of Poker, Zen And The Art Of Rhubarb Furniture, Zen And The Art Of Vampires, Zen And The Art Of Chicken n Dumplins, Zen And The Art Of Zen, Zen And The Art Of Leather Pants, Zen And The Art Of Getting Rich, Zen And The Art Of The Banana Sandwich. Then there's the one that set me off, Zen and the art of serial-drama maintenance.

Huh? Knock it off! It was fresh once, over a third of a century ago, when Pirsig did it, and that was that. He got there first, nailed it down, done. Get over it. Shoot for a original thought, for cryin' out loud. 

You can't just come along and write For Whom The Bell Rings, A Clean Well-Lighted House, or The Sound and the Funny, and expect to get away with it. What If I spewed up a poem about walking a dog at night, hearing her rabies tags jingling, and called it Stopping By Woods On A Chilly Evening? I'd be dragged to the withered bracken!

Am I serious? No, not really. I made up half those titles in the third paragraph. Can you guess which? But it does seem like a pretty easy way to scratch the itch to find a title, and nobody respects taking the easy way out. I can stop ranting now, and we can just feel sorry for those so lacking in imagination. They wouldn't know Zen if it ran up and bit them, and they don't understand that repetition is the death of something, as somebody already said.  

OpenOffice: fubar

OpenOffice.org is down. Offline. And redirected. They just released an upgrade, which I was going to download tonight. I guess I’m not. The text that’s there doesn’t even say it’s OpenOffice, it says:

“CollabNet is currently down for scheduled maintenance.
As part of CollabNet’s expansion and improvement plan, we are upgrading the space in our datacenter to help better serve you as our customer. CollabNet is making improvements and expansions to the network, power, and the overall infrastructure of our datacenter space.
The maintenance is scheduled to conclude at 7:00AM PST Saturday morning. Please check back later.”

Who the heck is CollabNet? And why are they parked like a 75 Chevette on the OpenOffice site? I found CollabNet on Wikipedia, and it looks like they have some relationship with open source, which may explain something.   Tomorrow is cool. If it said OpenOffice is currently down… I’d have no complaints. But to take down a major site, with no mirror, and no splash to hold it’s place and confirm the URL and destination, is profoundly unprofessional.

I was really hoping I could escape the hamster wheel of MS Office this year, but Oracle bought Sun, leaving OpenOffice’s future uncertain, and now this. Disappointing.

come on, guys

This is an open message to all the weather forecasting professionals out there:

Would you guys please, for cryin’ in the mud, put your little heads together and straighten out your act?

Look at this screen shot from today’s Google News. You may have to click it to make it big enough.

Cooler weather, and a heat wave, at the same time in the same place. Oh dear.

All of my life, I’ve been watching you guys predict the weather. You’ve never been right more than a few days in a row. I look at the prediction, say 72 degrees, and then I look at the thermometer the next day. 78 degrees. That night, the prediction for the next day, 70 degrees. And on and on. No! You got it wrong, and it’s really warmer than that out here!

Never any adjustment in thinking based on empirical evidence. Isn’t it supposed to be a science?

I get stuff wrong all the time, but like most people I try to learn from my mistakes, get a little closer to correct the next time. I’m just sayin.

expectations and emergencies

Back on June 7, I submitted via e-mail a piece of short fiction to the 2008 Noozhawk Fiction Contest. The prize, had my little vignette not succumbed to presumptive failure to thrive, would have been a scholarship to the SB Writer’s Conference, which starts this week. The conference has gotten so prohibitively expensive that I wouldn’t even consider paying to attend.

At this price, if they resurrected Faulkner and Frost to teach at the event, sure. But lesser mortals now holding forth have overestimated their message.

I won’t be attending the conference, and not because my story didn’t win, though it didn’t. It simply disappeared. Poof. Sucked into a void of abject indifference. Not so much came back as a “submission received and deleted, you hack.” Reminds me of a scene in one of the Star Trek movies: the teleporter malfunctions while people are being sent. Their molecules are scrambled horribly. Somebody says to Kirk over the communicator something like, “Sorry Admiral, but what we got back here didn’t live long.” Cracked me up.

I didn’t enter the contest expecting to win. I submitted just because writers write and sometimes you have to move something to the Finished pile. And I wasn’t expecting flowers in consolation when I didn’t. I’m just saying, it’s unprofessional. Inconsiderate. Regardless of their opinion of my story, nobody should be ignored. Besides, I know it’s OK writing, if they don’t. Know what I mean?

A boilerplate response text could be pasted into a reply and sent in seconds, free. I took the time and care to format and submit my humble piece as requested, and kept my covering e-mail brief and polite. Futility.

Any writer will tell you, get ready for rejection. I can handle it, but this isn’t that. And this isn’t my first rodeo, he said, channeling Bush. I have been to town enough times to know you don’t go to the whorehouse lookin’ for true love, and you don’t send your writing to strangers and expect to find it there either.

The weird thing is that I’ve searched the writers’ conference site and I can’t find any indication that judging ever took place or that a winner was selected or announced. Maybe things fell apart. That’s happening lately.

I saw a crazy dangerous possibly drunk driver
on the highway the other day, so I dialed 911 on the cell. Nobody answered. Can you believe it? “All operators are busy,” at 911! That was a first for me. I finally gave up; the car was long gone, and I couldn’t have told them where to look anymore. Thank God nobody had stopped breathing or was bleeding to death.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre….

mother jones, kiss my blog

I’m cheesed off at Mother Jones magazine.

Tonight, I watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition, as I often do on Sunday night. It was pretty cool. They built a home for a family in Vermont with a very disabled two year old kid. And as always, they did a great job. Beautiful house.

Not 2 minutes later, I open an email from Mother Jones about how bad and nasty the show is, how tasteless and crass because they go overboard in building stuff for people that’s too nice. No kidding, I’m not making it up. Moronic.

A few people try to make a difference for others. I don’t care what their motivations are, or what they get out of it, or how much or little they give relative to what they have. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re involved in making the world better for anyone besides yourself — better in any way when the sun sets than when the sun came up — you get an A+. Automatically, top of the class.

Because most people don’t do anything to help anyone else. They just sit there, not giving a wet slap. They get a C. You don’t have to care, but you just get to pass.

Some people steal and hurt and even kill others. They get a D-, right? There’s still some hope of reform.

If you want an F in my book, just sit there on your fat butt and do nothing except badmouth somebody who does good. Tell me they could give more, or differently, or question their motives. That’s how you really piss me off. Criticize someone who gives something away; stuff or money or time or anything.

Oh, it makes me mad. I could go on all night. I think I’ll make some tea and try to calm down.

Y’all don’t be sending me any links to Mother Jones, thank you kindly anyway.