Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Joan Rivers said it best, “comedy is about everyone laughing to deal with issues.” That always resonates with me because we have honestly forgotten how to laugh. We have become so politically divided mixed with safe spaces that I fear that comedy is officially dead. Where is the freedom of humor and expression? Other comedians have mentioned similar negative cultures at the way we dissect comedy or simple jokes. Not all of us are born to be comedic. However, we should be mindful that having some laughter is critical towards our survival of dealing with pain and issues.

I watched a recent comedy show by the talented Lewis Black. During his appearance, he mentions that telling a joke about President Donald Trump isn’t funny anymore. Lewis went on to say that simple jokes have become toxic and divisive. There was a time where we could openly joke and speak without becoming a headline of misinterpreted hatred or labeled as discriminatory. This is where comedy and the ability to laugh has become a secret society or deemed not appropriate because it may affect someone. Folks, we must become a bit more thick-skinned than taking everything personal or literally. Humorous stories have been replaced with hurtful gossip and accusations where only the professional comedian is allowed to tell the joke; not before feeling the audience reaction. In some cases, the joke may be bleeped or edited for a broader audience. Based on that path we have censored laughter or regulated it. This is sad as an American in that should be living in a free speech world. Instead, our national comedic value has become an innuendo or suggestive setup where we are supposed to understand the punch without actually saying it.

Perhaps Joan Rivers was right to say we have become uptight assholes. Her brazen comedic talent was in your face like a therapist forcing a patient to deal with the core issue. George Carlin also tacked the same attitude values of comedy, Carlin pointed to nervous laughs because of how others may judge us. The point Carlin stressed, was to laugh and move past the problem. We have become ultra sensitive and critical of anything. Safe spaces do not facilitate or help to deal with issues. Safe spaces are no different than those suffering from PTSD that refuse to immerse themselves in situations. Therefore safe spaces only foster isolation and depressive behaviors.

It is time for us to laugh again and stop attempting the utopian society of false free expression. Naturally, there is a time and a place for humor, but sometimes it is best for us to relax a bit and become human rather than preprogrammed and neutral. You won’t find honesty in that value statement. If laughter is known as the best medicine, then we certainly have run out of supply or the ingredients to help heal the world.

Fake or Credible Internet?

Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared today before Congress to discuss issues of possible Russian election interference. What I learned from that discussion was that internet providers are not as transparent as they claim to be. It has been a long-standing unwritten policy that the internet will not be controlled by anyone or any company. What we perceptively learned today was that the big internet giants have an interest in revenues and public image. Naturally, they do not wish to be labeled as “controllers of free speech.” But what about television, mail adverts or newspaper media flyers. They are regulated by many rules and regulations, and the deliverables of that particular irregularity or false product could be held liable for distribution not to mention investigators will be serving search warrants and filling up evidence boxes for later court dates. Such false advertising or false production is similar to snake oil pitches. Eventually, the salesman and the product can be banned and criminally charged if it causes harm.

The internet can be a dangerous place. It does have a unique mystique about it, and the data it collects and shares can be compared to a diamond mine depending on how one desires to implement a plan. But the internet today is not the porn hub central that once was deemed the 1990’s deviant playground. Today, the internet has become a part of our connected world with ala carte news and home appliance device connectivity. This is a differing contrast to European and foreign markets that protect user information. The internet has become dangerous because we have created conditions for it to be hazardous. Without fundamental enforceable law and boundaries, we have allowed the internet to be policed by not companies and people but instead analytics and software. This is not to imply a conspiracy theory of artificial intelligence taking over the world. Alternatively, the implication is that software is not human enough to determine what is real versus what is not. But to take that argument a bit further, many Americans have difficulty in distinguishing between fake or credible.

Based on that little snippet of discovery it will be hard-pressed for any prosecutor to effectively rule on the Russian election hacking issue. Not because of evidence, but because of the complexities of election laws differing across state lines and internet data servers that typically reside outside the United States as a form of redundancy and backup qualities. Let’s not mix up collusion with election tampering. Collusion is a secretive path to data where tampering is a physical adulteration of data. But I think it is equally important to ask tech giants to disclose to government or a branch of oversight how it maintains its secretive or propriety paths. For example, today I performed a random search of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp separately. What I quickly discovered was that Spacey had all the press information while Rapp had similar linkage. There was not one negative search story about Rapp to include alternative viewpoints or discussions. Why? Is it that analytics immediately point to what is deemed credible or is it what tech giants want us to read?

Overall, it is very complicated, and any legal ramifications about internet tampering will ultimately set a new precedent of how we or others police credible data. Another question to ask ourselves “does metadata exclude opposite viewpoints on purpose because it deems them as false?” This would be the argument I would introduce because not one blog or publication raised issues with Rapp. I am not attempting to slam Rapp. I am only using this as a prime example of how information seems adulterated and selectively scrubbed while searching for it.

The bottom line is that tech giants have an agenda and we the people are its product. Naturally, there won’t be much transparency from tech giants because that would remove a large slice of income and data collection from its grasp.  Google, Facebook, and Twitter currently monopolize our data where we do not own ourselves or our privacy any longer. Until someone breaks up the monopoly or peels back the onion of these companies, we will continue to witness distortion and snake oil pitches that seem all too real. Perhaps the internet and another nation adulterated our recent election by creating emotional harm. At what point will it become perilous where many people die or are harmed because the internet has succeeded credible standards seemingly no longer used because it’s not technical or high speed sufficient?

America’s Failed Obsession With Sexual Assault

The recent barrage of sexual assault claims and allegations do nothing more than demonstrate how disproportionate the powerful are over the unknown. If this had been Joe Spacey and Mark Rapp from Anywhere, USA there would be a formal criminal investigation because little or no power is utilized. Anthony Rapp waited thirty years to come forward however allegedly told his friends and others about the encounter. Rapp is not sharing a story. Instead, he created a situation by using his status as power. This is no different from others that commit sexual assault and their quest for power or dominance; should that be the motive. Using a dangerous platform such as social media and networks to share a story rather than a professional therapist, doctor, or legal counsel is not a conversation. It is merely an attempt to seek power and reinforcement of control by others. Rapp seems to lose his credibility when he says he was the last person at the party watching TV in Spacey’s bedroom. I find it highly suspicious where any 14-year old seeks to spend time at a party by watching TV alone in a strangers bedroom. I am unsure what excuse Rapp told his parents about his whereabouts? However, I am sure there is another trail of lies and deception. Similar to the trick Rapp initiated by these almost seemingly “fresh” allegations.

There will always be a sexualized charged pop culture. The hordes of girls (and guys) waiting backstage at rock concerts of the past were almost a rite of passage. Band members, groupies, and stagehands were all equal participants in the sex scene. It still happens today. Data supports evidence that sexual curiosities are often peaked at events where high profile or famous people are. However, Hollywood is the first of a tumbling wall of skeletons in the closet and other entertainment or popularity based headliners will eventually be mentioned, accused, or investigated. What we are witnessing today is an adulteration or adaptation of the facts of past culture versus current culture allowing power and influence based on new policy or regulation. Kevin Spacey and others that perhaps made poor choices years ago are on public media trial today because others want or desire to abuse power based on their celebrity status or introductory profile. Surely others will throw their own spin of accusations with minor infraction but create major implications. However, the modern oligarchist society wants to identify behaviors from the past to rectify in the present based on power creating a false majority. If Rapp had a drunken man perform the same actions at an NYC subway station would the situation be immediately reported or thirty years later? Again, its nothing more than constructive abuse of power and a rush to absolute judgment. Our rush to judgment, especially about a past incident where no physical, sexual contact took place has become nothing more than the modern day Salem Trials where any form of mistake or interpretation endures no forgiveness or apologetic closure. If this had been nobody we had heard of then the story would have been shut down well before it began.

Sexual assault, rape culture, and other sexually driven motives should be a conversation on how to move forward. If there is a criminal element, then naturally there is a course to deal with that particular set of conditions.  Instead, the conversation has turned into gang warfare tactics and hatred where only one side is doing all the yelling and finger-pointing. At what point do we return to the conversation which becomes an educational tool for all? As long as social media and unqualified social justice warriors shift the conversation to a single platform based on power, then free societies will become a presumption of guilt until proven innocent. Lives can quickly be destroyed at a whim of allegation or misinterpretation of the facts. That is not freedom and fails to follow in the footsteps of our ideals of “justice for all” standards. Let’s return to the discussion without the name calling. Let’s fix and discover ways to heal and educate everyone fairly and openly.

Gone Are The Mega Malls

When was the last time you visited a shopping mall? It appears that the icon of American retail has officially started to feel the pinch of shoppers. The convenience of indoor sprawl mixed with every brand retailer known to the public eye may have winked its last time to the typical consumer.

 

It was reported that Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot are performing solidly. For all the hype about Nordstrom’s and other retailers such as Victoria’ Secret, it appears an ending is about to come sooner than excepted. Today’s shopper has become lean and fiscally conscious in an economy that nearly a decade ago felt an economic collapse. That feeling still resonates with today’s buyers. In fact, large grocery stores are starting to feel the pinch too. Large chains are beginning to take notice with no frills shopping German grocer Aldi’s and Lidl.

 

While big box stores appear to have stability now, it is safe to assume that the future of shopping mixed with smartphone apps will become a bit more frugal and competitive. Super sized Walmarts are already feeling a decline in individual sales because of marketing designs. A typical consumer may enjoy the low-cost benefits of a particular retail item but complain heavily about how giant Walmart is to locate it. Instead, Walmart appeals to the add-on purchase. It hopes while you are shopping that you will buy something else. However, consumers are beginning to catch on, and it will only be a matter of time before consumers revolt. The supply and demand curve may need reexamining.

 

Amazon’s performance may be at an all-time high. However, I would argue that postal delivery may do more harm to Amazon as the company’s growth expands. Walmart is in the beginning stages of reducing its storefront size and introduce shipping options to compete with Amazon. Other retailers are catching on to add local and same day deliveries. The future of retail may be reverting back to a time when there were actual home visits such as the milkman and vacuum salesperson. Forget about junk mail and telemarketing calls today. I forecast a new sales vision of door and delivery salesmen combined. The new shopping mall may be actually your home and smart device.

 

update: JC Penny released in a statement it will close 140 of its stores effective immediately. Sears and Macy’s have closed a significant amount of stores already. 

Grammy Prediction Results

Okay, I did watch the Grammy awards. Over twenty days ago I made my predictions. Based on my assessment and choices I apparently do not qualify to have a standing voting record with the Grammy academy. I got a few correct winners out of perhaps eighteen categories. Oh well, at least the Grammy’s had its entertainment moments. Clearly, Adele was the winner sweeping everything in sight. I think if Adele had a country song she would sweep that category too because she couldn’t go wrong.

 

Katy Perry performed her new single and presented the audience with what seemed was a politically motivate presentation with an armband and large screen displaying the United States Constitution. It was, um, so-so.

 

Lady Gaga performed a heavy metal duet with Metallica. However, most of the lyrics by lead singer, James Hetfield, were silent due to microphone issues. Clearly, Hetfield displayed his disappointment after the song by tossing his guitar at the stage staff and walking off the stage. Gaga did do an excellent crowd surf and back on stage without missing a note. Overall, it was different for Gaga but felt like a Hedwig Robinson moment from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The verdict is still out on how that performance rates.

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The best highlight was when Twenty One Pilots went to receive their Grammy; minus the pants. Apparently, when they were younger and watched the Grammy’s at home, they would watch in their underwear. Therefore, they made a commitment that if they ever won a Grammy, they would appear on stage in their underwear.

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Another good moment was when the host, James Corden, did an impromptu Carpool Karaoke with a star-studded musical cast with the legendary Neal Diamond. The entire arena sang Sweet Caroline.

 

Adele had a pitch problem, which led to a start over for her live song and tribute to the late George Michael. I’m glad she started over because it was a beautiful tribute and song. The audience seemed to agree. But when Adele received her Grammy joined on the stage with the co-writer the microphone was cut off due to the time and the audience booed in a deep displeasure to the Grammy stage management.

 

It was good to see The Time perform a tribute to Prince. Everyone seemed to be dancing in the isles. But Bruno Mars managed to capture the ghost of Prince in full costume; minus the high heel shoes. But his guitar abilities were as if Prince was in the auditorium alive and well. It was a beautiful tribute.

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Here are my predictions and outcomes from a previous posting:

 

Record Of The Year

I predicted: Adele

Winner: Adele

Album Of The Year

I predicted: Adele

Winner: Adele

Song Of The Year

I predicted: Justin Bieber

Winner: Adele

Best New Artist

I predicted: The Chainsmokers

Winner: Chance the Rapper

Best Pop Solo Performance

I predicted: Ariana Grande 

Winner: Adele

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

I predicted: Twenty One Pilots

Winner: Twenty One Pilots

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

I predicted: Bob Dylan

Winner: Willie Nelson

Best Pop Vocal Album

I predicted: Sia

Winner: Adele

Best Dance Recording

I predicted: The Chainsmokers

Winner: The Chainsmokers

Best Dance/Electronic Album

I predicted: nobody

Winner: Flume

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

I predicted: Herb Albert

Winner: Snarky Puppy

Best Rock Performance

I predicted: David Bowie

Winner: David Bowie

Best Metal Performance

I predicted: Korn

Winner: Megadeath

Best Rock Song

I predicted: Twenty One Pilots

Winner: David Bowie

Best Rock Album

I predicted: Weezer

Winner: Cage the Elephant

Best Alternative Music Album

I predicted: Radiohead

Winner: David Bowie

Best R&B Performance

I predicted: Rihanna

Winner: Solange

Best Traditional R&B Performance

I predicted: Fantasia Barino

Winner: Lalah Hathaway

$15 for Popcorn at Superbowl?

During our educational years, we may have learned about supply and demand. However, when do supply and demand become price gouging? It was mentioned that the NRG Stadium in Houston where Superbowl LI took place had bottled water priced at $6 each and a cup of soda at $11 each. Popcorn was listed at $15, and a scoop of ice cream was $11. Yes, we have perhaps witnessed an event where prices are so out of control or bizarre that we avoid concerts or supporting the arts altogether.

It is bad enough that our supply and demand needs currently have us paying an average cost of a movie ticket at $10 or more only to be punished by having to watch a barrage of movie trailers and commercials just to get a decent seat. The snack bar at theaters is no secret to a majority of us that already see skyrocketing popcorn prices and basic drinks starting prices as if we are at a Superbowl event. The sad part is that we pay those ridiculous prices.

There was a time where people would come together and enjoy events without such unreasonable prices. Concert or event tickets are controlled by ticket companies that levy additional fees. We are merely left at the mercy of either paying for it or hopefully watching it later on an HBO special or DVD. Personally, I do not mind convenience, but I do mind being exploited. Exploitation of supply and demand methods eventually harm the intended purpose. For example, Circus prices became so expensive as well as souvenirs that it crippled its business model and became bankrupt. Some states have price gouging laws. However, it is hard to prosecute and enforce.

I support for free enterprise and competition. However, I am wary where supply and demand become exploitative and diminishes an event that has an ability to bring people together. A bucket of regular standard unflavored popcorn should hardly cost $15. A basic cup of soda should not cost $11. Then again, parking at an event should not cost $20. We should reassess a fair market system where supply and demand in a public setting are equitable and reasonable for all. Otherwise, stadiums and certain events create a culture of black marketing where we lose focus on the actual event.

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