Monthly Archives: September 2011

One Million Dollars….

The hikers’ release

For half a million a piece

Brings joy to our nation and friends;

But my logical fear

Which should loom loud and clear

When viewed through a pro-Israel lens:

Iran gained global cred

Just one day ahead

Of Mahmoud’s scheduled UN address;

He’ll use his goodwill

To slander Israel

And help out with Palestine‘s quest.

So congrats Josh and Shane

For an end to your pain

But your freedom is reason for pause;

The million we spent

Almost certainly went

To fund an undeniable cause:

To buy ammunition

And deadlier weapons

To point at Iran’s Jewish neighbor;

And the ransom, you see

Came from taxes and fees

Paid from American labor.


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Five for Fixing, Part III….

1) Multiple person restrooms (those without locking doors) located in public venues, such as restaurants, shopping malls, casinos, amusement parks and movie theaters, etc., should be required by the NIH and OSHA to engineer their entrance doors to open as a pull door from the outside and as a push door from the inside…ALWAYS. People entering a public restroom will not care that they are forced to touch a door handle on their way in, but we all loathe any situation requiring us to touch the obviously germ-infested handles on our way outs, particularly those of us who make a habit of actually washing our hands after using the facilities.

2) Be it white collar, blue collar or maximum security prison, any person who serves time in jail during their lifetime, gets out after serving their sentence, and makes more than $100,000 per year (maybe less, but that would be a good starting point) at any time following their release, should be required to first repay the full cost in tax-payer dollars to keep them in prison throughout their sentence, and then pay a “prison tax” above and beyond their traditional tax requirements on a sliding scale, based on income.

The scale could ensure all moneys are repaid in full over the same period they were imprisoned, so for example, Michael Vick, who served nearly 2 years, would need to repay the full cost of his imprisonment over a two-year period, and since Vick earns a ridiculous salary, he would also need to pay the “prison tax” on top of said repayment, and continue to pay it for as long as he earned 6+ figures. Someone like Vick would be taxed an additional 25 to 30% over and above his tax bracket, making his total tax percentage somewhere around 60%. His ridiculous $100 million contract, if paid in full, would therefore net Vick around $40 million, minus whatever his total cost of imprisonment turned out to be.

It is totally ridiculous that people like Michael Milken, Martha Stewart, Plaxico Burress, Wesley “Demolition Man” Snipes, Michael Vick, Lindsay Lohan, Mike Tyson, myriad Mafiosi, drug dealers, ponzi schemers, inside traders, embezzlers, DUI killers (like Donte Stallworth) and repeat offenders (like half of Hollywood), tax evaders, sex offenders, arms dealers, insurance fraud perpetrators, robbers et al are 100% free to make egregious sums of money without repaying the cost to taxpayers their crimes and others like them cost us every day.

I know. I know. They all pay their debt to society when serving their prison sentence. And I agree, in a moral sense. But financially I completely DISAGREE. There are costs to our society to have a criminal element among us. Police departments, prisons, auditors, and our entire court system to name a few spend billions in taxpayer dollars every year dealing with criminals of all types.

Compare this to our health system, which I agree is broken, but still helps make a case here. All of us who have health insurance are forced to pay even higher premiums and co pays to basically cover the costs of all the people who refuse or cannot afford to get insurance. Similarly, those criminals who will earn 6-figure salaries after serving time will be “covering” (or at least defraying) taxpayer costs for themselves as well as all the criminals who will not (and there are a lot more of them) as well as all the criminals who will never be released.

3) People (and by people I am generally referring to females, and possibly bottoms) need to stop referring to every milestone in a relationship or marriage as an anniversary. There is no such thing as a 5-month anniversary, or a 3-week anniversary. Anniversary is a word which derives from the Latin root word annus, which means YEAR, and versus, the past participle of vertere, meaning to turn. So while everyone is certainly entitled to celebrate 8 months together or 2 weeks together, please stop referring to the event as an anniversary. It completely dilutes and belittles true anniversary celebrations, and is frankly infantile, reminding people of early childhood when most of us referred to our ages in fractions. Moreover, our youth does not engage in celebrations upon turning 4 ¾ or 8 ½.

4) I think movie studios should raise their own stakes for cop-out decisions to remake a movie, whether it was a classic or not. With the pending release of an “updated” Footloose, and the atrocious recent performance of an updated “Arthur,” I had a pretty great epiphany. I am fine with ambitious updates of movies that market great stories to new generations in original ways. Last year’s release of True Grit by the Coen Brothers was a perfect example of re-releasing a classic movie with sharper writing, smart casting choices all while still honoring the original film with a modicum of deference and respect.




With Footloose, however, I am a bit skeptical. So, here is my recommendation, guaranteed to increase the stakes of releasing an updated film and generally heightening the experience for everyone. Every studio or producer that intends to update a previously released film should always have an addendum to their contract with the original studio/owner of the film when purchasing the rights. And if the same studio or owner of the film’s rights decides to update a film on their own, they still must be subject to this same addendum:

If the updated film fails to earn more than the original, when converting original box office receipts to present day dollars, all proceeds must be yielded to the original studio, cast and crew. If the updated film fails to break even, all future revenues attached to said update (including but not limited to international box office, DVD sales, television rights and merchandising) go to the original studio, cast and crew.

Recent releases “Fright Night,” and “Conan the Barbarian,” both updates of 1980s films, are not faring too well at the box office. Were my recommendation enacted, perhaps the Governator would have been right all those times he warned “I’ll be back.”

5) Why do armored truck companies like Brinks and Dunbar insist on emblazoning the sides of their trucks with the company name and the words “armored vehicle”? This is a clear signal to criminals to target that particular vehicle for a heist. I understand the advertising value inherent in name recognition, but there has to be a better, safer way. Banks put their name on the outside of their buildings because they NEED people to be able to find them, walk in and make deposits or secure loans. Armored trucks do not need or want people to find them.

The same principal holds true for police officers. Uniformed officers wear their uniforms and drive clearly marked police cars so that everyone around knows there is an officer of the law in the vicinity. It makes the innocent feel safer and deters criminals from committing crimes. But undercover police officers and detectives drive UNMARKED cars and wear civilian attire so they attract no attention. This allows them to perform their detective work and gain access to places and sometimes gangs or drug cartels unnoticed, to uncover massive injustice and illegal activity. It also allows some police officers and U.S. Marshalls to make our highways and airplanes safer by patrolling the roads and skies unbeknownst to other drivers and fliers. Similarly, unmarked armored trucks would be free to engage in their primary responsibilities without a blatant bulls-eye on their sides.

So to all armored truck companies, please rethink your strategy. Advertise on television, in periodicals and on-line. Put your name on billboards and in stadiums. This may not completely eliminate robbery attempts on your trucks, but it will certainly decrease their frequency.

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WY SP, WY? Say it isn’t so….

As Philadelphia’s once undisputed FM radio king of the ratings, 94.1 WYSP, sets to close its doors, ending its nearly 40 year run in a now anachronistic era of terrestrial music radio, I feel it imperative to give the station its due.

Having come of age in the Philadelphia area during WYSP’s heyday, I have very fond memories of the station.

I suppose you could say I have always been an old soul regarding my musical preference. From a young age, I generally have preferred music dating from before my time with very few exceptions. Sure, I loved MJ, Madonna and The Police as much as most every other adolescent girl and boy of the 1980s did. In fact, I was a fan of most 80s music, which helped shape my generation, for better or for worse, and still love most songs from that decade to this day.

But the music that truly shaped my journey through puberty and that I must credit (along with my father and various camp counselors) for my vast musical knowledge to this day mostly dates from the 1960s and 1970s. From Aerosmith to ZZ Top and all things Motown, I couldn’t get enough. I was sure from a very young age that I had been born at least a decade too late.

This was before MP3s. This was even before CDs. Exchanging music was done through mix tapes and copies of albums. My first album collection was an incredible stack of 8-track tapes that included Billy Joel’s The Stranger, Steely Dan’s Aja, Simon and Garfunkle’s Bookends, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.

My father made brunch on many a Sunday as I grew up with the melodious tunes of Liverpool’s Fab Four echoing throughout our house. Breakfast with the Beatles, a Philadelphia staple since 1976, was an actual event, not just a radio show, in my household for most of my youth. My father’s vinyl collection was an impressive sampling of all the greatest artists of the 1950s through 1970s.

When 94.1 WYSP went to a “Classic Rock” format in 1981 (and WYSP invented “Classic Rock,” becoming the first station in the nation to adopt the format), it seemed to be catering to my personal musical preference. Except for the Motown, all of my favorite artists and songs were played on this station – and the best part was, I wouldn’t become sick of the same two or three tracks from each album that they would play over and over again for quite a few years.

Sure, WYSP expanded its playlist over the years, adding late 1980s and even 1990s music to its repertoire (and making me and my generation feel old in the process, as music from our youth became “classic”), but the lions’ share and most significant and beloved music the station had to offer dated from the preceding decades, tacitly acknowledging that all music created after those decades, even if attaining classic rock status, owed everything to the pioneers of the genre, the golden age of rock, the 1960s and 1970s.

Furthermore, in 1986, WYSP became the first station on which Howard Stern syndicated his incredible and controversial morning show and ratings monster. 94.1 became a force to reckon with on the airwaves, destroying its local rival 93.3 WMMR. I loved Howard Stern and listened and laughed as I got ready for school (and later drove to school) each morning. And when school let out, I listened to WYSP’s music on the way home.

But for me, what I will always remember about WYSP is how it basically built my vast music collection overnight.

For many years, the station featured Classic Rock’s Top 500 Countdown over Labor Day Weekend. Listeners would help determine the list and rankings by voting for their favorite songs of all time. WYSP hosts would ask listeners to mail in a postcard ranking their top 3 songs of all time, from which various station employees would cull and order the ultimate top 500. In 1991, my senior year of high school, I mailed three such postcards to the station.

One ranked the following 3 songs: 1) Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin; 2) Deacon Blues, Steely Dan; 3) Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd

The second listed these songs: 1) Sugar Magnolia, Grateful Dead; 2) A Day In The Life, The Beatles; 3) Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, Billy Joel

And the third listed these songs: 1) Funeral for a Friend, Elton John; 2) After the Goldrush, Neil Young; 3) Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan

I left for college that August, never getting to hear the countdown that year.

Tuesday after Labor Day I got a message in my dorm room from my father. I returned his call and he asked me if I was sitting down. I lied and said yes. He then asked if I happened to have sent any postcards to any radio stations before I left for school.

I wracked my brain, and told him I had. “Why?” I asked.

“You are amazing,” he informed me. “Remi [your cousin] called me first. She was pretty sure she heard your name announced on WYSP as the winner of their Labor Day 500 contest.”

My heart was in my throat and I got a little dizzy from excitement. It was already hot in my non-air conditioned dorm in early September North Carolina. I was sweating.

“Ok,” I managed to reply, hoping to urge my father to get to the point.

“Well they called the house and left a message today.  I called them back and sure enough, your postcard was drawn. You won.”

“Did they say what I won?” I asked, fairly sure I already knew the answer.

“Yup. Every song on the countdown, on compact disc, and a Yamaha rack system with five CD-changer and six speakers. Pretty serious prize. Just wanted to let you know the goings on back home and keep you up to date. I will let you know when and how they want you to claim the prize.”

“Me? Dad, I am in college 500 miles away. Can’t you pick it up? I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Well I don’t know.  Your name was on the card. If they let me claim the prize, I will be happy to. Otherwise, maybe you can get it over Thanksgiving.”

“Holy shit.”

“Holy shit is right. Congratulations. This should make the transition to college a little better, no?”

“I am speechless. Thanks dad. I love you. Say hi to Mom and Mel.”

“Will do.”

My CD collection grew by 341 discs. The sponsoring music store even allowed me to exchange my doubles for anything in their store, even exchange. The new stereo was too big and expensive for the college experience, and thus did not make the trek to Durham. Sure, some of the songs overlapped on compilation and greatest hits albums. I even got a couple box sets. But the vast majority of songs came on unique, original albums with colorful and playful cover artwork.

I received every Beatles and Rolling Stones album ever released, as they were the two bands with the most songs on the top 500 list.

I still remember sampling the goods with my buddy Marc as he drove us to and from school a few times a year. The rest were unveiled at my own pace and became a significant part of the soundtrack of my collegiate years. Deep tracks on many of the discs yielded musical gems never played on stations like WYSP. I devoured them eagerly.

So thank you WYSP for playing the soundtrack of my formative years, and for providing that playlist to me in the form of an incredible prize, which allowed me to continue to revel in some of the best music ever created for years to come. I will always remember you as my favorite terrestrial radio station of all time and the left-most button (preset number 1) of every car I drove in the Philadelphia area.

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