Sunday, May 31, 2009

Supreme Court Nominee Called Racist By GOP

Sunday, May 31, 2009: I woke up around 10 a.m., jumped on the exercise bike, and watched CNN as I peddled. Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee, is being labeled a racist by right-wing Republicans Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. The Hispanic nominee stands by a speech she made in 2001, although she probably would like to take back one sentence. She said that a "wise Latina woman" would make better decisions than a white male. Many Republicans are dodging the "racist" label by saying "no comment" when asked about Sotomayor's "Latina woman" comment. President Obama came to her defense in an interview with NBC news: "I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama said of the offending words. "But if you look at the entire speech, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through. That will make her a good judge." Even with the hysterical rhetoric by the Republicans, Sotomayor is expected to sail through the confirmation hearings. In other news, Susan Boyle came in second to a young dance troupe on "Britain's Got Talent." I got off my exercise bike, turned off the TV, and prepared my usual breakfast of coffee, oatmeal and a banana. I read Time magazine as I ate. But I ate quickly. It's Sunday, and I've got places to go, things to do. I'm headed to Trader Joe's to get some bananas. I've got to vacuum the living room. There's weeds in the plants in the back yard. My cell phone needs a battery. Then it's off to the museum. Oh no! I forgot to wash the car.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Recurring Dream, Featuring Manny Ramirez

I was playing left field for the Dodgers; number 99. Chad Billingsley was on the mound. Carlos Delgado walked off the on-deck circle and approached the plate. He took a few practice swings, then stepped into the batter's box. Billingsley turned toward the outfield, wiped his forehead, then scratched his crotch. Then he faced the batter, and looked for the sign from catcher Russell Martin. He shook off the first sign. He then gave a quick nod and delivered a 96mph fastball right down the middle of the plate. Delgado swung and hit a fly ball to left center. I sprinted toward the ball, not worrying about the hamstring I pulled in the first homestand of the season. At full speed I ran. Then, all of a sudden I was running in slow motion, as if in a dream. I ran and ran and ran. The ball hung in the air, and I felt myself gaining ground on it. I was now running at full speed. I was heading toward the wall in left-center. The wall was getting closer, but I knew the ball was within reach. I didn't make the major leagues by giving up. Suddenly the ball flew out of my reach, into the stands, and I crashed violently into the wall. Then I woke up. It was all a dream. It's a recurring dream - one that I've had since Manny Ramirez got kicked out of baseball for 50 games for using a banned substance, a woman's fertility drug. Ramirez, number 99, is still waiting to get back in the game - but there I am again, in my dream, with his number. If my dream seems familiar to you, it is. I gave a description of the above dream on Saturday, May 9th. I also mentioned that I was taking the weekends off; "Paul Solomon Takes Weekends Off," I announced. There are errands to run and family matters to attend to. That's why there is nothing new here, except for my recurring dream. Which brings us back to Manny Ramirez. The drug in question is reportedly human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), according to an ESPN report. It's a woman's fertility drug and it is typically used by steroid users after they come off a steroid cycle, to restart their body's natural testosterone production. A woman's fertility drug? That's one drug I'm sure most men would prefer to stay away from; it doesn't sound too healthy to me. Of course, most baseball fans are so used to hearing about drug use by their favorite players, they really don't seem to care anymore. Ramirez is currently 4th in the voting for outfielders for the All-Star game. He's still featured on billboards around Los Angeles. Ramirez and the Dodgers haven't made any statement or public service announcement denouncing performance-enhancing drugs. The game goes on, and Ramirez will be back. And so will my dream.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Boomers Flee Facebook

The most popular social networking site, Facebook, recently passed the 200 million mark. However, over 650,000 baby boomers, those in the 55-to-65 year-old age group, have quit Facebook in the last couple of months, according to news reports coming out this week. While their parents are fleeing the site, though, 18-to-25-year-olds are more than making up for the unexplained flight of the older folks. In the same period, over 2 million of the 18-to-25-year-olds have signed up, and they're spending more time on Facebook. There is speculation that as young people, faced with the current economic downturn, find themselves out of school and unemployed, they are trying to find ways to waste time and distract themselves. Meanwhile, their parents are finding other, more productive ways to live their lives. One reason might be that the over-55 crowd hasn't figured out how to use all the nifty new updates that have recently been added to the site. Young people are more adaptable when it comes to maneuvering around difficult Internet applications. Also, in light of the economic crisis, baby boomers are laying off the extra-curricular Internet use during office hours, just hoping to keep their jobs. It seems that the news of massive layoffs has made the workforce more productive. And as older people put retirement on hold, it's the younger people who have time on their hands. The time-consuming social-networking site lures people in with chain-letter tactics such as the "25 things about me" letter that went around last month. And Facebook remains the gamer's destination of choice, with distractions such as "Texas HoldEm" and "Who Has the Biggest Brain." Games like "Mafia Wars," which started out on Internet sites such as MySpace, have gained massive popularity on Facebook, especially with younger users, who are jumping ship from MySpace to Facebook - and it's not just recent college grads with no job and time on their hands. MySpace has catered to teenagers, and adults never caught on. As teenagers grow up, they are turning to Facebook in record numbers. Their parents, though, are putting more energy into productive things like keeping their jobs, baby-sitting the grand kids, renting movies, visiting friends, and taking walks. And they're actually talking to people in person and using the land-line telephone (remember, they grew up without cell phones). Maybe they're on to something.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twitter Suspended My Account

My Twitter account has been suspended. It seems I violated the Terms of Service and Rules policy, specifically, "You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activity." In my defense, I was referring to a news story that was reported on most Internet news services, including Red Bull Cola was pulled from store shelves in Germany because trace amounts of cocaine were found in the drink. Yesterday, in my blog, I estimated that it would take at least 400 cans of the popular energy drink to get high on the cocaine. In my Twitter comment, I wrote: "Red Bull Cola is pulled from the stores in Germany; 0.13 micrograms of cocaine found in drink. I just bought 400 cans." Then I sent out another message with a link to my web page: "I'm getting high on Red Bull." Within a half hour I was informed on my Twitter page that my account had been suspended due to "strange activity." If you would have read my blog yesterday, you would have learned that although the amount of cocaine found in the drinks was insignificant, because of the high sugar and caffeine content, anything close to 25 cans would have caused cardiac arrest. Now, because of an innocent and obviously satirical comment, I'm being investigated by the FBI, NSA, IRS, INS, CBI, and the ASPCA. On the bright side, however, I've hired a publicist and I'm selling my life story to the highest bidder. So far, ABC has contacted me about doing a reality show based on my triumph over adversity; how I overcame my criminal past. I don't want to seem like I'm capitalizing on my criminal exploits, so I plan on doing only one interview - "The Rachel Maddow Show." All I need is a little publicity so that I can start up a criminal defense fund. And the best way to get the word out is, you guessed it; Twitter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cocaine Found In Red Bull Cola

Stores in Germany are pulling Red Bull Cola drinks off the shelf after tests found trace amounts of cocaine in the product. However, Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment said Monday that the level, 0.13 micrograms per liter, was too low to pose a health risk. A Red Bull spokesman said that the drink is sold in the U.S. and Europe and is both "harmless and marketable." Coca leaf extracts are used in the product worldwide, and the levels are so low that you would have to drink at least 400 cans of the drink to get a a cocaine high. Even if it were possible to drink that much Red Bull Cola, it would be much cheaper just to buy cocaine. And the sugar and caffeine content of the drink would probably send you into cardiac arrest before you reach 25 cans. Fritz Soergel, the head of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Neuremberg, Bavaria, told Time magazine: "If you start examining lots of other drinks and food so carefully, you'd find a lot of surprising things." Jelly, for instance, is allowed to have insect parts, as long as they don't exceed arbitrary amounts set by the Food and Drug Administration. And bottled water has been found to have high levels of arsenic and other contaminants such as lead and aluminum, but nobody's pulling it off store shelves. Experts tell us the levels of contaminants in bottled water are too low to cause a problem. Cocaine, sugar and caffeine vs. arsenic, lead and aluminum. I'm switching to Red Bull Cola.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Michael Steele's Faint Voice

Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich: Depending on who you talk to, one of them is the leader of the Republican Party. With Sarah Palin safely hidden just south of the Russian border, the discussions about who leads the GOP revolves around these three men. Where does that leave Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who continues to be losing the battle for media exposure to the big three? Last week, Steele excitedly trumpeted the GOP's prospects. "The two-party system is making a comeback," he said. "The Republican Party is again going to emerge as the party of new ideas." Although Steele says he's excited about the GOP's prospects, one thing has become clear: those ideas he refers to are in very short supply. And Steele and the Republicans face a far bigger problem. Whatever their message, nobody seems to be listening. The last voice of reason for the Republican Party, Colin Powell, has been openly mocked by Cheney and Limbaugh for endorsing Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in last year's presidential race. Limbaugh called Powell "just another liberal" and said he should become a Democrat. Limbaugh claims that Powell endorsed Obama because he's black. Powell shot back last week: "I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again." As the Republican party seems to be shrinking, Gingrich, the former House speaker who's seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, agrees about the need to broaden the base, offering this advice: "I think Republicans are going to be very foolish if they run around deciding they're going to see how much they can purge us down to the smallest possible base." He's right about that, but the Republicans are still running around in circles. If you listen closely, you can hear Michael Steele's faint voice rallying for a comeback. His is the party of new ideas, after all. It's just that nobody can come up with any off the top of their heads.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Day To Give Thanks

North Korea tests its nukes; President Obama plays golf; Dick Cheney gives another interview defending torture; school kids celebrate the last holiday before summer. Memorial Day is here, and most of us celebrate by having a barbecue, shopping, or watching the NBA playoffs on TV. The custom of setting aside a day to remember the nation's war dead started around the time of the Civil War, in the 1860's. Most of us are not grieving for a loved one who sacrificed for their country. The majority of us do not carry that burden. But we should pause to remember those who have died serving our country, and give thanks to those who are currently in uniform.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nielsen Ratings Include Pets

Follow my blog Monday through Friday. I'm taking the weekends off. One interesting thing, though: I went out last night and came back to find my dog Nina watching TV. Because she doesn't know how to work the remote, she was watching "Southland" on NBC, instead of her favorite "House Hunters" on the Home and Garden network. The Nielsen ratings are coming under criticism lately because the new technology is making its system of calculating the number of people watching certain shows obsolete. DVR's and online Internet viewing are skewing the numbers - some estimates indicate that the Nielsen ratings are off by as much as 11%. One group that is getting counted: pets.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Fax Machine Is Out Of Ink

Today is Saturday, May 23, 2009. As my faithful readers know, and as announced in my May 9th blog, I'm taking the weekends off. This gives me time to practice my trumpet, wash the car, pay the bills, go out for brunch, watch Dick Cheney defending torture on my DVR of the previous week's newscasts, walk the dog, and spend some quality time with my family. Keep up to date on Arts, Entertainment and Politics in my Monday through Friday blog. Now I have to go and buy ink for my fax machine. I'm putting Dick Cheney on pause.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Write-In Campain For "Samantha Who?"

ABC has added ten new shows to its 2009-2010 schedule. That's a lot of new shows, and it's giving the network the leeway to cancel popular shows based on a profit and loss margin, instead of the old-fashioned way of letting a show gain a following, then making back any loss after a few years when enough shows allow for syndication. NBC's "Chuck" was given a second chance after a massive Internet campaign to save the show. But the show was asked to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs per episode. It will survive another year, but will the viewer notice any change in quality? Now there are two shows that have been canceled that are starting Internet campaigns to save them: "My Name is Earl" and "Samantha Who?." Is it too late to save these shows? Probably...But there are now rumors that TBS, which has been syndicating "My Name is Earl," is interested in making new episodes, and several other networks are interested as well. The difference between the two shows is that "My Name is Earl" has been on for four seasons, and has crossed the 100-episode threshold for syndication, whereas "Samantha Who?" lasted just two seasons, and the second season was interrupted by an unusual scheduling pattern. ABC originally scheduled the show following "Dancing With the Stars." It was the #1 new comedy in its first season. Then the network abruptly pulled it from the schedule, and after many false starts (the show was scheduled, then preempted numerous times), it was buried after the abysmal "In the Motherhood." In fact, there are reportedly seven unaired episodes of "Samantha Who?" left, and because of the high production costs, there is speculation that the network will unload the remaining episodes on an unsuspecting public sometime in the summer. If this is the case, what will happen if the audience finds the show and it picks up in the ratings? Most likely it won't matter, because "Samantha Who?" wasn't cancelled because of low ratings. It was cancelled because it was too expensive to produce. Ironically, ABC is one of the networks reportedly interested in picking up "My Name is Earl." The network picked up "Scrubs" last year from NBC and is reportedly interested in "The New Adventures of Old Christine" should CBS cancel it (its status still remains uncertain, although it looks like CBS will come to its senses and pick it up). Which brings us back to "Samantha Who?" The fact is, advertising dollars have shrunk and it was simply too expensive to make. "My Name is Earl" is already recouping its investment in syndication, and "The New Adventure of Old Christine" is filmed in the multi-camera format in front of a live audience, which is much cheaper than the one-camera filming of "Samantha Who?." So even if there is a groundswell of support for the write-in campaign for "Samantha Who?," would anybody really care? Let's hope. In other news, NBC has cast Patti Blagojevich in the new reality show "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here." Her husband, disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blogojovich, had to drop out of the show because a federal judge wouldn't let him leave the country while he faces felony corruption charges. So now Mrs. Blagojevich joins ex-"American Idol" reject Sanjaya, and other people who look vaguely familiar, in the jungles of Costa Rica. With entertainment like this, who needs actors?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remake Of "Fear Factor" In The Works

I'm producing a reality show that I hope will be picked up for the 2009-2010 season. Because the television networks have been cutting costs, I'm putting my detective show on hold. All the networks have passed on my crime show about an alcoholic bipolar homicide detective and his sexy young female partner who work the streets of South Central L.A. looking for murdered tourists. Even filming in Vancouver would be too expensive, so even though CBS likes the pilot script, it's just too expensive to film, especially if I get my first choice, Christian Slater, who commands a high salary. ABC was initially interested. They wanted Pauly Shore for the lead, but he wanted too much money and his own trailer, so they passed. It's all about the budget, so that's why I'm switching to reality shows. I'm pitching my new show, called "Dumb Factor," a remake of "Fear Factor," which ran on NBC from 2001-2006. For $5,000, contestants will bungee-jump off a freeway overpass with an extremely frayed rope. The cars will run over the contestants until someone is stupid enough to get out and help, also getting splattered onto the pavement in slow-motion. This scenario will keep repeating until the commercial break. All that we'll see after the commercial will be a bunch of dead bodies and a massive pile-up of Camrys. The winners will now compete for the second stunt, jumping out of an airplane with a placebo parachute, after which an Internet poll will be taken for the viewer to guess the winner. For those wanting to be a contestant, sign-ups will be on our website at . This show will be perfect for ABC's schedule, because they're in the process of canceling all scripted shows.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Major Networks Cut Costs

The major TV networks have announced their plans for the 2009-2010 season. It looks like many of the final decisions were not based on ratings, but on a strange mathematical formula. For instance, the popular drama "Without a Trace" was canceled by CBS after seven seasons primarily because it is too expensive to produce. "Chuck," because of a massive Internet campaign by its loyal supporters, was renewed by NBC for a third season, but at a price. The budget was cut so heavily that besides asking everyone associated with the show to take a pay cut, the show is reportedly firing at least two writers and scaling back on the number of episodes various supporting cast members appear on. It is also being reported that a major cast member will be eliminated. Then there's ABC. The channel that canceled quality shows like "Life on Mars" and "Pushing Daisies" because of low ratings has given the ax to "Samantha Who?" It wasn't about the ratings. The show was the top new comedy on TV its first season, following "Dancing With the Stars." "Samantha Who?" won the People's Choice Award for "favorite new TV comedy" and co-star Jean Smart won an Emmy for "supporting actress in a comedy series". Star Christina Applegate was nominated for an Emmy for "lead actress in a comedy series". She was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, a Teen Choice Award and others, including the Television Critics Award. The reason "Samantha Who?" was canceled was not because of ratings, however, but because of the high production costs associated with using a talented cast, shooting in L.A. (as opposed Vancouver, for instance), the cost of a quality writing staff, and paying a highly skilled and expensive crew. The show was originally a hit, but then was buried in the schedule by network executives who, despite getting gigantic raises of their own, thought the show was too expensive, compared to the new shows it has lined up for next season. In fact, the producers of "Samantha Who?" were asked about the possibility of trimming $500,000 a week from the budget. One idea was to use a multiple-camera format in front of a live audience instead of shooting on film. But in the end, it came down to money. Even with all the cost-cutting measures, it still wasn't worth it for the fat cats in the suits. "America's Funniest Home Videos" is being picked up for its 20th season, and "The Bachelor" continues to roll along. "Dancing With the Stars" is a big hit, so look for another 15 or 20 seasons. But while TV executives take salaries in the millions, then sit back and wait for a raise of another million or two, they set their fall line-up based on the bottom line. It's good to see "Chuck" given another chance, but it's too soon to know if there will be any major difference in the quality of the show after the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cutbacks per episode. If the show succeeds, look for this to be the standard operating procedure for the major networks. Scripted shows will be given the green light only if they are operating on a tightened budget, meaning fire most of the writing staff, cut back on series regulars, and ask the crew to take a pay cut. Even then, it's cheaper to produce a reality show, so look for more of shows like "Survivor" and "America's Got Talent". Or maybe watch "Scrubs," which was originally on NBC, then was picked up by ABC for one last season. Or so we thought. "Scrubs" has been picked up, but with a new and cheaper cast plus other cost saving measures. I never liked "Scrubs" anyway, so I'll be sticking to my cable shows. Most scripted cable shows, it should be noted, start out with a relatively low budget, but at least they are given a chance to find their audience. AMC, for instance, has stuck with critically acclaimed shows like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," despite ratings that would be considered low on the major networks. But because of the continued manic behavior by the major network executives, viewers are switching to these quality cable shows, and it's being reflected in the ratings. The networks are losing their audience at the expense of cable. Well, actually because of their own stupidity.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How To Cut Expenses

It's time to tighten our belts. The recession may be near the bottom, but it won't be over any time soon. Although Britney Spears reportedly spent $1 million a month last year, most people don't have that luxury. Last year, the world's most famous bipolar singer spent $447,633 on security and bodyguards, for example. That's a bit much, if you ask me. In fact, I've cut out most of my security detail, but for obvious reasons I can't reveal what type of security I'm currently using. $3.6 million on attorney's fees may seem excessive, however a good lawyer will cost you a lot these days. The best most of us can do is stay out of legal trouble. The best advice: don't spend more than you make. By most estimates, the average U.S. household spends close to $50,000 a year. Most people think certain costs are "fixed." The average family spends a little over $1,300 in electricity a year. Just by simply unplugging appliances when you're not using them, you can cut up to 10% off the bill. And then there's car insurance, the phone bill, the cable TV bill, the cost of eating out, and all sorts of other things like housekeepers and vacations. Most people can cut costs on just about everything. They're just unwilling to do it. For example, if you have your coffee at home, and cut out that $4.95 latte every morning five days a week, you'll save over $1,100 a year, after you factor in the few cents a day it costs to use a "Mr. Coffee". Over an average lifespan, that would come out to over $75,000. That's some serious cash. Well, maybe not for Britney Spears. But if she cut her security detail down just 25% a year, that would save her close to $6 million if she lives to be 73. I guess that's not much if you're making $5 million a year. As for the average person's security system, I'm not saying they should get rid of it, I'm just saying it's OK to downsize. For instance, we obviously don't all need bodyguards, but a home security system that costs $80 a week could be dropped in favor of a large dog. And if you really want to save money, get a small dog that barks loud. They eat less.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Uses For Dick Cheney's Bunker

News reports surfaced over the weekend that Joe Biden revealed the location of Dick Cheney's bunker, where the former Vice President hid out after 9/11. It turns out the steel-enforced bomb shelter is located right under the Naval Observatory in Washington, the official home of the Vice President. While Cheney hid out for most of the Bush Administration in his "undisclosed location," Biden is not as secretive as Cheney, and a few days ago he even went out for burgers with the President. Reports that Biden uses the bunker for poker games with his staff are not true, according to an unidentified spokesman. However, the Vice President makes use of the room, which houses a multi-million dollar communications system, to play video games. His favorite is "Grand Theft Auto," but he plays a lot of Wii bowling, because President Obama won't let him into the White House bowling alley. As to what to do with the room now that Cheney is no longer hiding from nuclear attack, an unofficial poll of registered Democrats (there weren't enough Republicans to poll) has come up with interesting results. 23% believe Cheney should be locked in the bunker so we don't have to listen to him on the news every day defending torture; 16% think the room should be rented out to a college student; 8% want it to be replaced by a bowling alley; 6% think the government should test the bunker by blowing it up with a nuclear bomb; and the rest, 47%, think we should blow it up with a nuclear bomb with Cheney in it, to see if he actually would survive. The poll has a 3% margin of error.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Biden Plays Poker In Cheney's Bunker

Today is Sunday, May 17, 2009. News reports have surfaced that Vice President Joe Biden has revealed the secret location of Dick Cheney's bunker-like room where Cheney hid after 9/11. The bunker is capable of withstanding a nuclear attack, and is located in the basement of the Naval Observatory in Washington, where Cheney lived for eight years. The Vice Presidential home is where Biden now resides, and an unidentified source said yesterday that Biden is using the bunker, a reinforced steel room with millions of dollars in communications equipment, for poker games with friends and staff members. Party on, Joe.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sales Of Dr. Pepper Are Up

As you know, if you've been a reader of this blog, I'm taking the weekends off. So today - Saturday, May 16, 2009 - is an off day. I woke up a little after 11. After my usual breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, almonds and a banana, I checked the mail. No, I didn't receive a Social Security check for my dead grandma (or for my cat either). Yesterday I alerted my readers to be on the lookout for stimulus checks for dead people that were sent out by the government by mistake. Times are tough, and we can all use a stimulus check...Even dead people. Anyway, my fax machine is out of ink, my computer printer is broken, and my toaster only works on one side. I'm happy to report, however, that my new Sansui TV is working great. In other news, I just returned from Office Depot to buy a new printer. Unfortunately, the Canon ip1800 printer is no longer being made. The ink, however, is not in short supply. In fact, I have about $50 worth of ink in my closet, but no printer to put it in. Now I'm working in reverse, looking for a printer that works with my ink. This may not be the best way to shop, but these aren't ordinary times. I don't want to throw away $50 worth of ink, especially when the printer cost me $49.99. But that was a year-and-a-half ago. George Bush was in office. I was making five figures a year. My bank was making a profit. My printer was working! Today, instead of buying a printer, I came home with a case of Dr. Pepper. The product placement of Dr. Pepper on the television remake of "90210" is working. I couldn't stop myself. But advertising these days isn't that simple. According to Martin Lindstrom, a marketing expert and author of the book "Buyology," many adds are not only innefective, but have a sort of reverse effect. Health warnings in bold letters on cigarette packs may actually trigger something in the brain that makes them desirable. And Ford spent $26 million to sponsor the most popular show on TV, "American Idol," yet most people got upset that it interrupted their show and now have a negative image of Ford - $26 million down the drain. On the upside, Dr. Pepper is seeing an increase in sales. I don't even watch "90210", but my close friends do. There's a new study that's getting a lot of attention lately. It shows that happiness can spread like the flu. For example, when a friend becomes happier, we have a 15% probability of being happier. Surprisingly, when a friend of a friend becomes happier, we become happier, even if we don't know the third person directly. This study of social networks can also be applied to other things in life, like smoking and obesity. If your friend is fat, you are more likely to be fat. This explains my out-of-character actions at the supermarket. I now drink Dr. Pepper, and it's spreading. Watch out Coke.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dead People Receive Stimulus Checks

Thousands of dead people are receiving Social Security stimulus checks. Of the 52 million checks sent out, 8,000 to 10,000 have been sent to dead people, some of whom were never even in the Social Security system. Most of the problem is due to the government not knowing that these people had died. This amounts to a figure in the millions of dollars, and makes the whole Social Security program suspect. News reports have indicated that while most people are not cashing the checks, and are trying to figure out what to do with them - most people are keeping them as souveniers - some people are cashing the checks. Because the checks are $250, cashing them would be a misdemeanor. Most states consider a misdemeanor as any theft below $500. So if you cash that check sent to your dead grandmother, you'll probably be OK. However, what should you do if you get two checks - say you get one for your dead grandmother and your dead uncle? A theft of $500 or over is normally considered a felony. A spokesman for the National Association of Trial Lawyers suggests that you cash one of the checks, and give the other check to another family member. "To be safe, put the money in an escrow account, and leave it in your estate for your heirs," he says. "That way, it will legally be inherited by your relatives." In addition to all the dead people, there are reports that pets are being sent stimulus checks. Since most pets don't live long enough to be eligible for Social Security benefits, the problem is minor. However, there are several reports indicating that turtles are being sent Social Security checks. Since a turtle's average life-span is over 140 years, most of them are still alive. Which technically would make them eligible to receive benefits. A spokesman for the ASPCA says that because they're not human, however, they are not legally entitled to the checks. Again, the smart thing to do would be to put the money in an escrow account.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TV Viewers Jump To Cable

Television viewers are changing their viewing habits in light of the strange behavior of top executives at the major networks. Budgets are being cut on scripted shows because of the struggling economy. Reality shows such as "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" continue to do well, although "Idol's" ratings are slightly down. There will be more reality shows to come, because in this economy, the cheaper the better. But what about the long-term. The end of network TV as we know it ends in September, when Jay Leno moves to 10 pm five nights a week. Compared to scripted shows, Leno's hour will be extremely cheap to produce, but it will come at a cost. More viewers, especially the 18-to-49-year-olds coveted by advertisers, are flocking to cable, and the 59-year-old Leno won't be able to keep more of them from flipping channels. Cable television, led by networks such as HBO and Showtime, has been giving viewers an option for a while now. But it's the emergence of basic cable channels such as AMC, FX, and TNT, that are changing viewers habits. Talented writers, who are losing their jobs at the major networks, are ending up working on critically acclaimed shows such as AMC's "Mad Men," TNT's "The Closer", and numerous other shows requiring a script instead of a host. Even though we all like Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel, and Regis Philbin, we don't need to have them hosting multiple shows which neither challenge the intellect nor add anything original to the television landscape. The network executives are challenged by the economy, but they are either not interested, or are being forced by higher-ups, not to look toward the future. For the viewer, the future of TV couldn't be better. The choices are many. For the major networks - ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox - the future is now. By September, when the new "Jay Leno Show" premieres in prime-time, the audience will already be mostly made up of 50-to-80-year-old non-college-educated former auto-workers and their pets. So while your dog is watching Jay Leno at 10 pm, be sure to DVR the latest episode of "Dexter" on Showtime.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cheney's Head Appears Larger

An anonymous source has reported that former Vice President Dick Cheney has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, which explains his recent erratic behavior. A spokesman for Cheney said that the drugs were not steroids and were completely legal. "They achieved their goal, and we don't consider them steroids," the spokesman said. "He was using performance-enhancing drugs, but they worked. That makes them legal. Therefore they were not steroids, and he would never do something like that." However, many people are wondering why Cheney's head seems to be getting larger. Certain types of steroid use cause skull growth and create an unmistakable "steroid head" look, made famous by baseball great Barry Bonds. A CBS spokesman says that Cheney does not have "steroid head", but that his head appears larger because of the new technology used in high-definition television (HDTV). When filmed in HDTV, objects will appear larger on the old-fashioned low-resolution television screens.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cheney Says Torture Worked

Dick Cheney's "We Used Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Because They Worked" tour continues. He spoke Sunday on "Face the Nation", telling host Bob Schieffer that the Obama Administration's stance on enhanced interrogation techniques is "deeply disturbing." President Obama has repeatedly said that "the United States of America does not torture." Cheney takes great care not to use the word torture. That's because he doesn't consider some forms of torture such as waterboarding to actually be torture. Cheney said techniques such as waterboarding were successful, citing Khalid Sheikh Mohhammed, who "provided vast quantities of information about al Qaeda" after being waterboarded. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded six times a day for a month, admitted to: taking steroids, stealing sugar packets from Starbucks, driving a motorcycle without a helmet, being a witch, lying about getting a degree in economics from Cornell, and bowling without regulation bowling shoes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Comedian Barack Obama

President Barack Obama did his stand-up comedy routine Saturday night at the White House Correspondent's Association dinner, a black-tie affair attended by a mix of politicians, celebrities and journalists. Not only does he deliver a good speech, but he's got great comedic timing. He targeted everyone from Joe Biden to Timothy Geithner, so he wasn't afraid of poking fun at his own Administration, in power just over 100 days. "I believe my next hundred days will be so successful that I will be able to complete them in 72 days," he joked. "And on my 73rd day, I'll rest." He said his Administration has helped in "bringing in fresh, young faces, like Arlen Specter". He was referring to the 79-year-old former Republican Pennsylvania senator who switched parties last month. Obama then went after the Republicans. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney couldn't attend the dinner, Obama joked, because he was busy writing his memoir "How To Shoot Friends and Interrogate People." The president was a tough act to follow. But comic Wanda Sykes came up next and poked fun at Obama for giving the Queen of England an iPhone during a recent visit. "What are you going to give the Pope, a Bluetooth," she joked. But Republicans are enraged, saying she crossed the line when she took aim at Rush Limbaugh. In a joke about 9/11 she said: "Maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight." She also compared him to Osama bin Laden because Limbaugh said he hopes the country fails under the Obama Administration. She went on: "Rush Limbaugh - I hope the country fails. I hope his kidneys fail, how about that?" OK, maybe a little over the line, but the Republicans have absolutely no sense of humor. George Bush was funny, but he wasn't trying. President Obama can deliver the laughs, then two days later give a speech about Health Care Reform, which is what he did earlier today. Health Care Reform is a serious issue, and Obama was taken seriously. But for one night over the weekend, he gave Don Rickles a run for his money. Far from diminishing his stature as a serious and literate orator, when Obama turns comedian he has a way of humanizing himself. He doesn't always take himself seriously, and unlike Wanda Sykes, his humor doesn't go into that gray area of distastefulness. That's not to say that Ms. Sykes wasn't funny. She was. But she doesn't have to follow up her comedy with a sober assessment of health care and how it is draining our economy. President Obama can talk about anything and he gets our attention. Next up: the auto industry, the bank bailouts, two wars, the environment, education reform, immigration, homeland security, transportation infrastructure, balancing the budget, and the Jay Leno Show.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, including my lovely wife. As to why this message is so short, see yesterday's "Paul Solomon Takes Weekends Off."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Paul Solomon Takes Weekends Off

I was playing left field for the Dodgers. Chad Billingsley was on the mound. Carlos Delgado walked off the on-deck circle and approached the plate. He took a few practice swings, then stepped into the batter's box. Billingsley turned toward the outfield, wiped his forehead, then scratched his crotch. Then he faced the batter, and looked for the sign from catcher Russell Martin. He shook off the first sign. He then gave a quick nod and delivered a 96mph fastball right down the middle of the plate. Delgado swung and hit a fly ball to left center. I sprinted toward the ball, not worrying about the hamstring I pulled in the first homestand of the season. At full speed I ran. Then, all of a sudden I was running in slow motion, as if in a dream. I ran and ran and ran. The ball hung in the air, and I felt myself gaining ground on it. I was now running at full speed. I was heading toward the wall in left-center. The wall was getting closer, but I knew the ball was within reach. I didn't make the major leagues by giving up. Suddenly the ball flew out of my reach, into the stands, and I crashed violently into the wall. Then I woke up. It was all a dream. I looked at the clock. It was almost noon. I had overslept. And it was Saturday, and I had a full itinerary lined up. First up, brunch at Nat's Early Bite. Then we headed off to Barnes and Noble for a book signing by Carol Leifer, who's book "When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win," gets my vote for best title for a non-fiction book. My wife's a big fan, so she got her book signed, we chatted with Carol, and then went shopping for dresses at Nordstrom's. In a recession, people are still buying books, but dresses are another story. The place was empty, except for a few employees. Everything was overpriced, which probably explained the lack of customers, so we headed off to Walmart. So that's where everyone's been going. We could hardly find a a parking place. Unfortunately they were out of the old-fashioned tube televisions, which we were having a hard time finding. Our old TV gave out after 15 years. We needed a new TV to fit into our armoire, a beautiful antique wooden cabinet which is a permanent fixture in our den. Besides, the flat-screen models are much more expensive. We went to Best Buy, Fry's, Radio Shack and Target; zilch. They only sell flat-screens. Finally, at Sears, we found a Sansui, 27" model, old-style. We snapped it up at just a little over 200 bucks. It was a hot day in the San Fernando Valley, so we wanted to get home quickly so none of the old-fashioned components in our new TV melted. But first we stopped with our coupons for a free chicken meal at KFC. Unfortunately, we were told they weren't accepting the coupons because the barcodes were printed wrong. We signed up for a rain check, which would be sent in the mail. We were told it will take a week to 10 days. I can't wait. We got the TV home and now I had to figure out how to get it into the house. I called my brother, who rushed over and we got the TV in the house and hooked it up. Luckily my brother is good with instructions, because the remote control has to be reprogrammed to synchronize with the cable box. Finally everything was working. But it's almost time for dinner, and I realized that my weekends are taken up with exciting events that don't include writing. So that is why my daily commentary will no longer be written on weekends. I'm just too busy. You will still be able to read up on my views on entertainment and politics Monday through Friday. The weekends will be used to recharge my batteries. Or as you can see above, doing things like running around town looking for TV's and dresses.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dr. Pepper Stars On 90210

The current TV Guide takes issue with the show "90210" for its use of product placement. The show is a proud sponsor of Dr. Pepper, and all the kids in Beverly Hills drink it. At least that's what they want you to think. Evidently, a can of Dr. Pepper manages to get a close-up two or three times an episode. Product placement in film and TV isn't new. In the 1980's, sales of Ray-Ban sunglasses went through the roof when Sonny Crockett modeled them on "Miami Vice". And just imagine what would have happened if "E.T." had featured Steven Spielberg's first choice in candy, M&M's, over Reese's Pieces. Would the delicious peanut butter flavored candies still exist today? Then there's "American Idol". The judges all drink coke. And Scott McIntyre, the blind singer who was recently eliminated, was featured in those annoying fake Ford ads featuring "Idol" contestants. I don't think Paula Abdul was drinking coke, and I don't think McIntyre really drives a Ford, but many people follow what their favorite stars are doing. What they are not doing is watching the commercials. The number of homes with digital video recorders keeps growing. People are fast-forwarding past the commercials. The advertising industry knows that the best way to market a product is to have our favorite character endorse it. Dr. Pepper beat Mr. Pibb to the punch. Oh, and I'm still wearing my Ray-Bans and packing a Smith & Wesson Model 4506.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Loneliest Pig

Afghanistan's only pig has been put into solitary confinement. In Afghanistan, pigs and pork are illegal for religious reasons. They don't believe in the separation of church and state, which we take for granted here in America. However, an exception has been made for one pig. Up until a few days ago, he was on display at the Kabul Zoo, along with the goats, monkeys and other animals. But then visitors to the zoo started expressing concern that they might contract swine flu from Afghanistan's one pig. Zoo director Aziz Gul Saqib told Reuters: "For now the pig is under quarantine. We built it a room." Saqib acknowledges that their pig is actually fine and that nobody is going to get swine flu, but they made the move anyway to calm a panicked public's ill-informed concerns. There is no word on how long the quarantine will last. As if being the only pig in all of Afghanistan wasn't a lonely enough proposition, the little fellow sits alone in a tiny room awaiting his fate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Schwarzenegger Sparks Marijuana Debate

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar has repeatedly said he would not sign legislation legalizing marijuana. Yesterday he changed course. The state's ongoing billion-dollar fiscal crisis is making the idea of taxing legal marijuana to raise revenue worthy of serious consideration. Yesterday he said "it's time for a debate" on the issue. The former bodybuilder and Hollywood star has acknowledged using marijuana in the 1970's and was shown smoking a joint in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron." In a 2007 interview with the British edition of GQ magazine, Schwarzeneggar said of marijuana: "It's not a drug. It's a leaf." He went on to say: "My drug was pumping iron, trust me." His lighthearted comments aside, right now this is a serious issue. Earlier this year, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. And it seems he's in touch with his constituents. In a statewide Field Poll, 56% of Californians support legislation. According to Ammiano, this type of legislation "would generate up to $1.3 billion in much needed revenue for the state." That's why Schwarzeneggar is now taking a long hard look at the issue, although he's not quite ready to sign any marijuana legislation into law. "Well, I think it's not time for that, but I think it's time for a debate," he said. "I want to study how other countries have approached legalizing and taxing marijuana." He said his native Austria is revisiting some of its marijuana laws. Last year the Austrian Parliament authorized the use of medical marijuana. In America, millions of people already use marijuana, so legalizing it would not change too many people's habits. California has allowed medical marijuana, but left the legal guidelines up to local jurisdictions. Because it could help balance the budget, the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use deserves serious debate. I mean, what's the downside? Lots of people think marijuana is harmless, no worse than alcohol and a lot better than cigarrettes. Of course that's not my view. My drug is riding an exercise bike.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

4th Grader Vs. Condoleezza Rice

"There is no way to view the people who ruled us these past 8 years as anything but monsters," said Princeton University professor and N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman last month. While Dick Cheney has been doing countless TV interviews lately defending the Bush Administration's torture tactics, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has taken her act on the road. Rice touched off a media firestorm last week when she told students at Stanford University that "we did not torture anyone." She went on to say that the Bush Administration's actions were legal because, "by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture." But that was just the warm-up. On Sunday, she played to a tougher crowd, the fourth-grade class of the Jewish Primary Day School, located in the nation's capital. Misha Lerner, a 10-year-old boy, asked Rice what she thought about the Obama Administration's remarks on interrogation methods authorized by its predecessors. Rice explained that President Bush was trying to protect the country after 9/11. "He was very clear that he would do nothing that was against the law." She was trying to backtrack form her Stanford remarks that echoed former president Richard M. Nixon's notorious statement, "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." Rice went on to defend President Bush, and to talk about our international obligations and the need to keep America safe, without making much of an impression on 10-year-old Misha, who was unimpressed. "Well, the answer, it didn't make sense," he said. At least he didn't describe her as a monster, as Professor Krugman so articulately called everyone high up on the Bush Administration torture squad. My question for Rice: "Did we really need to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times?" Rice's Magical Mystery Tour continues. Next stop, the Laugh Factory.

Monday, May 4, 2009

GOP Embarks on Listening Tour

The party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney is changing it's tactics. The struggling Republican Party is launching a new grassroots "listening tour" to polish the party's image. They will hold town hall meetings around the country and look to produce GOP ideas on issues like education and health care. The GOP rebranding effort is being called the "National Council for a New America". House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney kicked off the first "listening tour" in Virginia over the weekend. If they can keep Sarah Palin somewhere in the vicinity of the Russian border, if Dick Cheney stops his media tour defending torture, and the other Republican right-wing nut jobs can keep a low profile, the GOP can start the process of rebuilding. But there's no shutting up Rush Limbaugh. And the party's previous spokesman, Bobby Jindal, can't seem to shake the comparison to Kenneth the Page, that perpetually cheerful southern bumpkin in the TV series "30 Rock". Now, whenever Jindal talks, it's hard not to laugh. However, I'm all for listening, and the Republican Party seems to be taking it's "listening tour" seriously. Last week Sen. Arlen Specter bolted from the Republican Party, and the Democrats are drooling at the mouth waiting for the next big defection. The GOP knows it's time for a change. But you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a Republican. I'm all for listening, especially from the party with nothing to say. It's time for the Republican Party to become relevant again. Let the listening begin.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

100 Most Irritating People

People magazine announced it's "100 Most Beautiful People" in the current issue. This week's issue of Time magazine features the world's "100 Most Influential People". Here is a list of the "100 Most Irritating People": 1. Rush Limbaugh, 2. Kim Kardashian, 3. Kim Jong Il, 4. Dick Cheney, 5. Mel Gibson, 6. Dr. Phil, 7. Sean Hannity, 8. Rosie O'Donnell, 9. Bobby Jindal, 10. Lindsay Lohan, 11. Rod Blagojovich, 12. Octomom, 13. Kenny G, 14. Al Roker, 15. Hugo Chavez 16. Britney Spears, 17. Ann Coulter, 18. Danny Bonaduce, 19. Bernie Madoff, 20. Steven Seagal, 21. Hulk Hogan, 22. Paris Hilton 23. Christian Bale, 24. Mike Tyson, 25. Michael Jackson 26. Karl Rove, 27. Bill O'Reilly, 28. Ayatulla Ali Khamenei, 29. Mary-Kate Olsen 30. Mark Cuban, 31. Roland Burris, 32. Khloe Kardashian, 33. Donald Trump, 34. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, 35. Prince Charles, 36. Ashley Simpson 37. Barry Bonds, 38. Joan Rivers, 39. Spencer Pratt, 40. Nancy Grace, 41. Levi Johnson, 42. Don Imus, 43. Ruth Madoff, 44. Phil Spector, 45. John McCain 46. Ryan Seacrest, 47. Vladimir Putin, 48. Sanjaya, 49. Amy Winehouse, 50. Buzz Bissinger, 51. Ashley Olsen, 52. Rev. Rick Warren, 53. Glenn Beck, 54. Jamie Lynn Spears, 55. Richard Simmons, 56. Michael Steele, 57. Drew Carey, 58. Susan Boyle, 59. Todd Palin, 60. Joe Biden, 61. Howard Stern, 62. Rudy Giuliani, 63. Kathy Lee Gifford 64. Perez Hilton, 65. Newt Gingrich, 66. Fidel Castro, 67. Dustin Diamond, 68. Tom Cruise, 69. Mitt Romney, 70. Rielle Hunter, 71. Tom Sizemore, 72. Elliot Spitzer, 73. Rev. Al Sharpton, 74. Paula Abdul, 75. Bruce Jenner, 76. Michael Vick, 77. Tila Tequila, 78. Matt Drudge, 79. Queen Latifah, 80. Norm Coleman, 81. Jessica Simpson, 82. Sun Myung Moon, 83. Alex Rodrigez, 84. Kevin Federline, 85. Geraldo Rivera, 86. Madonna, 87. Tori Spelling, 88. Victoria Beckham, 89. Courtney Love, 90. Osama bin Laden, 91. Sean "Puffy" Combs, 92. Barbara Walters, 93. Mark Geragos, 94. Jacob Zuma, 95. Pamela Anderson, 96. Gary Coleman, 97. Howie Mandel, 98. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, 99. Clay Aiken, 100. Pervez Musharraf.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marc Mylar Will Now Take Your Questions

In the May 4th edition of Time magazine, teen country music star Taylor Swift answered 10 questions sent in by their readers. Today, we pose these same questions to 56-year-old L.A. music veteran Marc Mylar, a multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/songwriter and founder of Trigon Records, a small independent record label based in Canoga Park. Mylar burst onto the scene in 1985 as a producer and performer on the critically acclaimed album "Woodstock '85". Reviewer Michael Small wrote in the March 13, 1986 edition of People magazine, "Woodstock '85 is a clever, raucous collection of songs that parody today's rock music." That was 23 years ago. Mylar, who is still performing, never quite made it out of the mean streets of Canoga Park. He is a local cult favorite but has not caught on with the general public. Maybe he was ahead of his time. Now, Marc Mylar will take your questions:
How long does it take you to write a song?
"That depends on the type of song. For an instumental based on a riff or a loop, it might take five minutes in 'Pro Tools'. However, I've been known to spend years writing and revising lyrics."
What's the story behind "Love Story"?
"It's quite complex, but I believe it can be summed up in one sentence: 'Love means never having to say you're sorry'."
How do you manage to appear so genuinely happy when, according to your songs, you've suffered so much heartbreak?
"I'm laughing on the outside, but crying on the inside."
Who are you're biggest musical influences?
"Mozart, Coltrane, Beatles, Floyd, Gabriel, Lehrer, Cage, Devo, Rift, Pere Ubu, Tijuana Brass, not necessarily in that order."
Your songs are really catchy. What sort of music do you listen to?
"I listen to the music that fits into my 8 GB iPod Nano. That includes all of the above, plus many others that are too numerous to enumerate. Everthing from ABBA to Zappa, not including ABBA."
What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters?
"Whatever you do, don't give up. But if you do, I'd recommend a career in the bar code printer industry."
You have so many unrecorded covers floating around on YouTube. Do you think you'll ever make an album of just covers?
"Funny you should ask. As we speak, I'm in the process of recording an album of covers, some of which were written by other artists, and some of which I've written myself. I'm also designing the album cover."
Do you think you have influenced the younger generation to appreciate country more?
Yes, I believe I have influenced the younger generation to appreciate Turkey, Japan, and Slovenia, among others.
What other artists would you like to do a duet with?
"The Jonas Brothers. They are very popular right now, and I think that would be a big boost for my career."
Do you think it's right for people to pay so much attention to the personal lives of entertainers?
"It's not right, but it's a necessary evil. When you make the decision to go into the entertainment business, you give up the right to privacy. You owe it to your fans."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vice President Gives Travel Tips

The federal government announced this week that the swine flu will now be referred to as H1N1. Fear is spreading faster than the flu, but taking the word swine out of the name won't stop the paranoia. However, the pork industry is pleased, especially after it has seen a sharp drop in sales. Vice President Joe Biden did his part to stir up controversy by advising everyone to stop using planes and subways, and to stay out of confined spaces. So I'm not going to be going out anytime soon. And I'm not letting my pig in the house.