Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sic transit gloria mundi

Thanks to Overboard, created and drawn by Chip Dunham.

Brandsinger's favorite comic strip.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Starbucks "Race Together" program

This morning I walked into Starbucks wondering what to expect. Everyone's talking about the new "Race Together" program that their CEO recently unveiled. Would an espresso maker ask me what I thought of racism? I prepared my answer: I'm against it! Or better is to be more emphatic: "If I see racism I expose it!"

Actually, this question was not my concern. When I walked into Starbucks I believed a barista might challenge me — voice pitched indignantly high — on whether I've seriously contemplated the privileges of being white.

As it turned out, the transaction was normal. When the barista handed me the little white cup, the only black lettering on it was my name. Looking around the shop, it was clear that no occupants of Starbucks — no customers, no servers — were eager to shatter the 8:15 a.m. calm by broadcasting their views on race in America.

Some people believe that the line between commerce and politics is inviolable. (Companies operate solely to make money, customers have a right to opt out of politics, etc.) Others believe that corporations have a moral obligation to take a progressive stand on social issues (protect the environment, boycott evil suppliers, etc.).

I'm with a third group: those who believe that we have no choice whether to take a stand or not: Human beings and companies have an impact on social and political issues by their everyday interactions on this planet. They might as well think about the issues and take an explicit political or moral stand when appropriate.

You might ask me, What the heck does "take a stand when appropriate" mean? It means that Starbucks baristas should challenge customers' views on race when appropriate — i.e. never.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Poetry in motion

The NASA probe "Dawn" just entered the gravity field of the dwarf planet Ceres… 3 billion miles away from earth. It's now sending back photos and other data for our contemplation.

What kind of human mind can even conceive of and accomplish such a feat?

In a Wall Street Journal article I found a clue to what kind of mind:

In his Dawn Blog, Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote: "This beautifully choreographed celestial dance is now a pas de deux."

— “a beautifully choreographed celestial dance”! — and that man is “Chief Engineer.”

I’d add that he’s also a poet.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Dr. Oz — Brand gone bad

This modern tale reminds me of an old German movie I saw in college about a fussy, goatee-d professor-type — the proverbial "old fool" — who falls in love with a sexy show-girl — the classic, cold-blooded seductress — leading to his disgrace and doom.

In one scene, the show-girl literally twirls the old fool around her finger by his neck-tie — and he's loving it.

In the modern version, the part of the old fool is played by Dr. Mehmet Oz — the charismatic heart surgeon and vice-chairman of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Oz has a sharp outfit, good career and solid reputation. He can use his own hands to save human life.

Ah, but Dr. Oz — like the old fool in the German movie — stumbles into a den of temptation. His eyes fall on the irresistible show-girl — and predictably, he reacts like this: 
Dr. Mehmet Oz at the moment of temptation
The audience shudders! No, Dr. Oz, danger, danger! Don't go there. Don't fall for her! ... even though she looks like this:
In this tale — as in the original movie — the old fool falls in love and plummets inevitably to his disgrace and doom. The audience is shaken... but knows that this disaster was avoidable.

Here is the final scene:

What a tragedy! Such a promising career! All thrown away by the natural human weakness for erotic German cabaret singers in stockings with their legs arranged to reveal just enough carnal charm to drive even a distinguished heart surgeon to act like an insane old fool.

Ach! or whatever they say over there. Merde! ... um... Saab! ...
But of course, it wasn't because of a cabaret singer at all. This waste of a perfectly good reputation was all for money.


Friday, January 23, 2015

NFL fans: Get a Grip!

Is the NFL brand tarnished because the Patriots might have stuck a needle in 11 game balls and let out some of the air? I know, I know, everyone is upset over the perceived damage to the "integrity of the game." But lace my mouth shut before I say it: This is professional football, not Court TV.

This is a human activity where intense violence + astute strategy = success.

When there's as fumble, and everyone jumps on the guy with the ball, what do you think goes on under that pile of fired-up men? No one's serving tea and crumpets. 

Let me ask you this: Why does each team bring its own footballs to the contest in the first place? Doesn't that imply that each team has, shall we say, preferences as to how the balls are protected and prepared?

If the condition of the ball were so crucial to the outcome of the game, why aren't the game balls secured and provided by the refs?

This "scandal" is ridiculous. Means little. Will not "tarnish" the game, the Super Bowl, or Patriot Coach Belichick's reputation — which is carefully cultivated for its misanthropy.

Brandsinger displays grip on his preferred not-fully-inflated ball

Plus, I'll admit to another factor: I prefer playing with a football that's not fully pumped up.

— Brandsinger

Thursday, January 15, 2015

When a catch is a cantaloupe

We live in an age in which every conceivable human activity is defined by — surprise! — lawyers. Take, for example, the ordinary act of reaching up to a flying object... and drawing that object to your body with both hands. What would you call that action? ... a what?... go ahead... are you having trouble here? ... I'll try again. An object is tossed by a schoolchild, friend or colleague ... and it's flying in your direction and you reach up with both hands and gain possession of the object,  bring it close to your body and then come back to earth on both feet. What do you call that? Is there a noun that comes to mind? Is that a plastic spoon? noooo. that's not it. Is it a building? no... that's not right either. Is it a peach? ... c'mon, it's much easier than that! It begins with a C. Are you closer now?... a c-c--c-c-c-c.... cantaloupe? no... Think again. You reach up, grasp it in your hands and come down on your two feet with the object in your hands. Still confused?

Let me describe the action in pictures:

1 You leap up and grasp an object firmly in both hands... bring the object to your body as you come back to the ground...

3... and you lunge forward... still holding the object with both hands.

What do you call this? Got it now? --- We've seen this action all our lives from playground to gym to pizza shops. We all know what it is. It's called a "CATCH!"

But here's the problem: In the lawyered-up National Football League, that's not a catch.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ebola education NYC style

The number one job of elected leaders and health officials is to keep citizens safe. Facing the deadly Ebola virus, New York City officials seemed torn between the need to contain the spread of virus and the desire to contain the spread of fear.

One could reasonably ask, “Which is worse, catching Ebola or panicking?” 

Personally, I prefer panicky people shunning contact with neighbors, boiling their clothes and spraying money with Lysol than having perfectly calm people spread a deadly virus by hugging everyone including you and the mailman.

In any case, I  see that, after months of concern over Ebola, New York City is still trying to guide New Yorkers on how to perceive the danger of catching this lethal disease.

Has NYC succeeded in communicating clearly? You tell me:
Seen on the #1 subway train was this poster with EBOLA in giant letters.
The first point tells riders that "You can ONLY get Ebola from direct contact with the body fluids of a person sick with Ebola or who died of Ebola."

The second point — trying to be reassuring — says "You CANNOT get Ebola through the air or sitting next to someone who does not have symptoms." 

Well then, no danger sitting next to someone on this train... because...clearly no one sitting next to me on this train has any "symptoms." I'm sure... 

The final point says that "SYMPTOMS" include a headache. Well... um... I'm 100 percent positive that no one sitting next to me on this train has a headache. No need to panic.