Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don’t Blame Me

That’s the Way the Ball Bounces

With the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) playoffs in full bloom, there’s a simultaneous growth of blooming idiots on both sides of the referee’s whistles. The refs, who unlike brain surgeons, are forced to make critical, instantaneous decisions in front of thousands of hostile fans, insecure and screaming coaches, and prima donna players. Many of the latter carry the extra weight of a festoon of tattoos on their arms, chests, torsos and legs. When a foul is called, they put on an Academy Award acting performance followed by a “Who me?” incantation before they sulk away. If they vent their anger at the refs, they may also get a technical foul, and two of them in any game earn an ejection from the game. Referees have blown calls and one such obvious playoff technical call was rescinded after the league viewed the videos. Players may kvetch – complain ­— on the court but should find some solace knowing that the average NBA salary in $5,356,000.Three players earn more than $23 million a season to run around in their underwear and throw a sphere through a metal rim for a living. Of course it’s not all peaches and cream as the lowest paid NBA performer earns a mere $457,588 for the 82-game season, which comes to $5,580.34 per game. This serf probably plays ten minutes a game, which comes to a paltry minimum wage of $558.03 per minute. The minimum wage for the rest of the country’s workers is $7.25 per hour.  


What a Racket! What? A Racket?

The top international professional table tennis players may make more than $100,000 a year through tournament prize winnings, endorsements and sponsorships. Whether they are a top-ranked pro or an amateur, when it comes to matches, some players seem to have a similar entity to blame when they misplay an opponent’s serve or volley, and it is not the referee — it is their racket — aka paddle or blade. They will first look incredulously at it at arm’s length, slowly bring it to eye level and carefully scrutinize the surface, trying to determine where this instrument deserted them. Some turn the racket over to check both sides trying to ascertain if suddenly a malformed surface appeared. It is a far quieter action than that of the miscreant NBA player, and an excellent study in facial expressions.


Who’s to Blame? Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Perhaps French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was right when he emphasized in his writings that each of us is responsible for the consequences of our actions. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Whom Do You Trust?

Yesterday after finishing lunch in the King Louie Restaurant on NW Stark Street in Portland, Oregon’s Chinatown, I picked up two fortune cookies to see what the future held.

You might be dubious about the predictive power of a fortune cookie but I am not. The first fortune cookie I ever opened was in San Francisco’s Chinatown after I arrived in California in March of 1960. It told me in simple language what I was meant to do during my lifetime as it read, “You are creative and like to write.”

The two I opened at King Louie’s had me a bit confused for the first one read, “Your choices at the moment will be good ones. Trust yourself.” The second seemed to be contradictory as it read, “Trust others, but still keep your eyes open.”

There was no reference to the word “trust” in relation to those currently in any political office, to those running in the upcoming primaries, nor to anyone connected with a financial institution. However, I will keep my eyes open regarding those aforementioned entities. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The President Has Resigned

Ecclesiastes Verse Three...Life Is All in the Timing

I retired after the spring 2008 semester at San Jose State University (SJSU) and twenty-two years of teaching in the School of Journalism. It was time to devote more time to my own writing rather than spending more and more energy helping students try and improve theirs.

No one seemed to know then that with the collapse of the state’s economy, the entire California State University (CSU) system with twenty-three universities was also in need of rescue. 

With fewer moneys available, those in the executive offices mandated that SJSU’s student enrolment would be reduced, some part-time faculty would be let go, and some staff positions would be eliminated. In their infinite wisdom and limited vision, too many eclectically-titled vice presidents making more than $100,000 a year decided to move some staff members around rather than releasing them. It seemed like a kind gesture.

A Dollar Saved Can Be a Dollar Wasted

In the School of Journalism, a woman with the title Academic Assistant who had spent years diligently working with the students, helping me and my fellow professors extricate themselves from messes that we had created, and who was the face of the School greeting and helping everyone who walked into the office, was told to prepare to work at a yet unknown destination elsewhere on campus after this spring’s semester ends.

Across the hall, the dedicated and student-friendly Equipment Technician who was the most knowledgeable (and only) person in charge of maintaining all video, audio and computer equipment would also be reassigned — somewhere. Those two positions would remain unfilled with the School’s Resource Analyst forced to take on their duties. That would be in addition to her regular, taxing obligation as the chair’s and School’s “secretary”, maintaining the financial records, trying to work with and appease more than twenty odd professors with their collection of idiosyncrasies, and helping students with their outside-of-the-classroom problems.

More or Less

This is what is happening in just one area and you must multiply this by dozens of programs at SJSU times the same situation at all CSU campuses.

Leaving A Sinking Ship For a Field of Dreams

To add to SJSU’s dysfunctional operation, its president resigned in mid-May, after just two years to escape “the angst facing California’s public universities.” He had managed to eke out a living on his salary of $328,209 plus fringe benefits and $25,000 from the university’s foundation. He would become the CEO of the ACT national testing organization in Iowa City at $554,000 a year where the cost-of-living would be far less than the Silicon Valley and where his two children were attending the University of Iowa. There he hopes to find his own field of dreams, or perhaps buy the one created for Kevin Costner’s 1989 movie which is up for sale at $5.4 million.

Pales In Comparison

Author, television commentator, former vice presidential candidate, tea party agitator, moose skinner and bull slinger Sarah Palin, “earns” $100,000 each time she regurgitates the same canned platitudes whether it is at an Amway meeting or the National Rifle Association convention.

Palin is up to her wading boots in controversy for she was asked to be the featured speaker on June 15 at cash-strapped California State University-Stanislaus in rural Turlock, California for the university’s 50th anniversary gala sponsored by the Stanislaus Foundation. Her contract calls for either first class seating on a commercial airline from Anchorage to California or the providing of a private aircraft which must be a Lear 60 or larger. 

The Foundation for the Defense

It is obvious to all right-thinking individuals that this is a tempest in a teapot, not a Tea Party teapot, nor the Teapot Dome Scandal of 1924. Her fund-raising speech would be sponsored by the nonprofit CSU Stanislaus Foundation, which they claim to be totally independent from the university. That is the truth, almost, except the latest news reports note that the foundation not only operates on the Turlock campus, but also uses university facilities, equipment and employees.

No Moose is Good Moose

As the semester ends today at San Jose State University with a forced, unpaid furlough day set for tomorrow, no moose has yet been sighted in Turlock. Moose is actually both the singular and plural description of the animal, not mooses nor meese, and there might have been a tenuous connection between Sarah Palin and the latter word. According to the Heritage Foundation, the former Attorney General Edwin Meese is an elder statesman in the conservative movement and a prominent thinker. The “prominent thinker” description dissolves any connection with Sarah.











Friday, May 7, 2010

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

Mother’s Day Gelt
Americans will disgorge an estimated $14.6 billion this year on mom with the average person spending $126.90, up from $14.1 billion and $123.89 in 2009. Restaurants are looking forward to May 9th celebrations when an additional $2.9 billion will be spent on wining and dining. Fathers may be whining a bit since in 2009 total spending on dear old dad was less than $9.5 billion, for an average of about $90. Perhaps this lower monetary regard of fathers in today’s society is best personified by the title of Arthur L. Kopit’s play, “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad.”

Mother’s Day Gilt
The week before Mother’s Day, a plethora of advertising inserts provided much needed revenue for faltering newspapers. The products advertised ranged from roses to jewelry, with Kohl’s asking those who really care to “Celebrate Mom, make her day a big deal” with “Gifts from the heart.” Foremost was a certified diamond solitaire earring set regularly priced at $3750, now only $1,274.99. A florist was more direct encouraging readers to create “Memories as sweet & treasured as those she made for you…. Just Because You Love Her.” That’s why some consider James Paul McCartney a profit.

Can the Right Stuff Be the
Weigh to a Mother’s Heart?

There were enough restaurant offers with tantalizing headlines to satisfy any mother’s appetite and then some. She may have preferred the “Complimentary Drink for all Mothers,” or having someone “Treat MOTHER to gourmet Mexican Cuisine,” or choose from “250 kinds of Hot Entrees from Around the World for Happy Mother’s Day.” Chevy’s undoubtedly will be packed after every mother demands to go there so her loved ones can “Guac her Sunday with $3 Tableside Guac-My-Way.”

The Inane and the Insane
For That Kind of Mother

An electronics store offered a “Super Street Fighter IV” game under “Mother’s Day Gift Ideas.” There’s also the skin game for mom with one local establishment offering mother “The gift of Ageless Skin,” another prodding you to “Treat Mom to Something Special - Enticing Lingerie,“ and its competitor proudly proclaiming, “May is National Masturbation Month.” Don’t know the age or disposition of your maternal relative, but you are quite normal if you are a wee bit hesitant in telling mom about these specials.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Financial Fee Fie Foe Fume

Tree for Two
As financial institutions “merge,” are “taken over,” or are “devoured” by their competition, more trees must be sacrificed. U.S. Bank “absorbed” Pacific National Bank last year and customers of Pacific were just mailed a two-for-one package — a full-color, 32-page glossy “Welcome to U.S. Bank” brochure and a 54-page “Your Deposit Agreement” booklet. Customers have to be impressed that on page three they included a 48-word paragraph assuring recipients that “We have written this booklet in plain language.” This is easily evidenced on page nine where it is written, “In Missouri, a revocable Trust or Pay-on-Death account may include an appendage to its title “not subject to the Nonprobate Transfers Law of Missouri.” Even if you can’t understand all or most or any of what the booklet describes, you have to feel at ease with their reassuring slogan, “All of US serving you.”

Help Fight Terrorism — Open An Account
As they “joined forces” Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney modestly described themselves as ”legacy firms” and “powerful names in wealth management” in their 26-page booklet. They exude confidence telling clients that each Financial Advisor or Private Wealth Manager is there for them through thick and thin. These individuals were formerly known as stockbrokers but while their bonuses were growing thicker and the value of investment portfolios was becoming thinner, the word “broker” became a distasteful term. Those managers may once again be earning their clients’ trust with a calm demeanor while wearing their requisite starched white shirts and well-polished, shiny black shoes as they take on the enemy with this patriotic action shown on page 21. “To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, federal law requires all U.S. financial institutions to obtain, verify and record information that identifies each individual or institution that opens an account or establishes a customer relationship with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.”