Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Headline: Judge Falls for Bernie Madoff's Retirement Scheme

In case you have been hiding under a rock, Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to a 150 years in prison for his "evil" crimes. If the sentence sounds absurd to you, that is because Madoff will be serving the sentence on years he will be borrowing from people who don't understand how the stock market works. My guess is that Judge Denny Chin (whose name sounds like what you get from eating too many Grand Slams) assumed that the case was fictional when she read the amount Madoff is alleged to have stolen, and thus responded accordingly.

However, this sentence was a little on the conservative side for victim Burt Ross, who was hoping for Madoff to be sentenced to the inner circle of hell [as per the NYTimes article I cited earlier]. Though the sentence dwarfs the defense's plea of 12 years: with Madoff at 71, if he survives twelve years, he will probably be more of a financial burden than a threat. Admitting this the Honorable Chin, declined because it seemed absurd to give Madoff a sentence applicable to possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana.

So, finding herself through the looking glass, Judge Chin decided to eat the other side of the mushroom instead. My metaphor seems more appropriate with the language that was bandied about. In addition to references to Dante's inferno, Judge Chin claimed that, in addition to legal precedent, the symbolism of sentencing Madoff to a million years in prison was for "retribution," dismissing the acts as "evil." If you have ever watched a crime drama, you know this is a bad sign in a judge.

To be fair, nothing Judge Chin could have done would have satisfied me. White collar crime needs to be taken more seriously in this country, and to me (and the bottom line mentality of white collar criminals) whatever sentence would have come across as what it is: a life sentence to a prison where Madoff will receive better treatment than your granny receives in her old age home. However, booking him with a sentence that is usually associated with serial killers, after a trial filled with drama which would make Arthur Miller blush, sends just as bad of a message.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hmmm...-Worthy: You Make this Rockin World Go Round

My partner in crime has got me paying attention to the pictures that get include as the headline for news articles. Op-ed pieces tend to provide the best fodder — nothing betrays subtle bigotry quite like the picture you subconsciously chose to represent your works.

To this effect, my attention was drawn by this New York Times piece by Ruth La Ferla, about the "trend" which has "rotund" clothing designers putting out lines for "plus-sized" women. (How dare they!)

This photo which headlines the article is not quite as deliciously random as the BBC Gem Rageoline picked up, you understand why it's there. This picture is more like one of those 3D pictures, that looks like random noise until you relax your eyes, then you see a whole new dimension of questionable style choices.

I get that it is an advertisement for a Traget line of clothes, but did she have to be in the frozen foods section? Why, exactly, is she holding a bag of fried chicken? Was ice cream cliche? Bird's Eye peas too kink? I would love to have been a fly on the wall at this photo shoot. I picture the photographer saying:

"Stand more like a line backer. No don't clutch the chicken nuggets too your chest. Can you look hungrier? Random guy in the back! Don't move, that's good, look frightened! Now just let me get on my knees to give this shot that 'Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo' feeling.


I would agree.

* * *
I should take a moment to thank Annalee Schafranek over at Bitch for turning me onto this article. If for some reason you felt compelled to read the text in the NYTimes article, and are wondering why no one told Ms. La Ferla that "rotund" is not a nice way of saying "fat" you should read Annalee's article.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ghost Blogs and a Lack of Common Sense

Speaking of ghosts, I'm not dead. Still here. Yup. Miss me? Didn't think so.

Have you ever started a blog only to abandon it within a few months? Of course you have. But why? Either you got bored, got busy, or your (ex) BFF misinterpreted one particular post? In order to solve this grand mystery, the folks over at the NY Times (discovered here) have asked a few people to reveal why they've left all of these blogs to waste away on the internets.

The reasons for neglect boil down to:

1) Procrastination and, you know, life
2) Attempts at fame, money, and an established audience have failed
3) Distractions and new forms of expressing one's ideas such as Twitter and Facebook (What do you mean distractions? I always pay atten...what's that?)

My problem with the piece is that Douglas Quenqua, the article's author, as well as the bloggers he interviewed, all seem to overestimate the power of blogs. The last few years have made us question the value of print media and forced us to reassess whether we still need to print and bind books or whether we should digitize anything and everything. It's the new way andeveryone wants in.

Quenqua writes, "Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a little time and inspiration. So why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?" He answers his own question here. Something that takes "little time and inspiration" to "maintain" will hopefully be more readily abandoned than something which costs someone's lifeblood and savings to establish. A restaurant owner needs to find investors, staff, a chef, a location, and must have good business sense in order to succeed. Not just anyone can set one up. However, Teeny McTweeneyson can set a blog up for free within five minutes on many different sites. Now let's say that Teeny has a blog about her cat and her crush (Hottie o'Dreamyguy) but gets frustrated after a few months because no one ever comments and it just hasn't taken off. Maybe she'll come back to it every so often to rant about her life but it's no longer that vehicle she hopes will transport her to SuccessTown.

Why on earth would something like Teeny's blog fail? Is it the fact that she can't spell? Or the fact that she uses too many !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? Or perhaps because there are approximately 8 gazillion blogs already devoted to cats? Maybe. But there were probably about 8 gazillion minus one blogs devoted to cats before Lolcats came along. Teeny simply failed to do her research or put any creative effort into her blog. There are many Italian restaurants in the States, but that doesn't mean that new Italian restaurants will automatically fail. Americans will always love Italian food and surfers of the internet will always love reading about cats. But one day even Lolcats will bore us and we'll have to come up with a new feline sensation.

The point is, being a blogger will not lead to automatic success. In fact, the likelihood of a blog doing well is probably slimmer these days than that of a book getting published. Our thoughts are summarized in 500 words or less, we demand images and instant updates, and our hands shake when we hold a pen to paper for more than 15 minutes. The digital age, as awesome as it may be, should not signify the end of skill, talent, or perspicacity.