Sunday, February 26, 2012

Other People’s Resolutions

I didn’t make any radical New Year’s resolutions this year.  I’m just going to keep working on the ones I had started last year, which can be summed up in 5 words, literally- “Sleep, Write, Socialize, Exercise, Organize”.   I’ve made some headway on them.  For instance, I just donated my old car to a veteran’s charity and the existence of this post shows that I’ve done some writing.  Also, poker counts as a social activity because I do it with live people and we discuss other things as well, like Scrabble words, sports, TV commercials, and current events.  I’ve been doing a lot of poker “socializing” lately which is why the resolution I’m failing at the most is sleep.  As for other people, right about now is when they start to reconsider their resolutions and make some modifications to them (and by modifications, I mean they dump them altogether.)  Since they have given up on the goals they set for themselves, I thought I would step in and give them new goals.  I’m going make resolutions on their behalf because these people, or groups, don’t seem to be able to come up with any plans of action on their own.  This is what they need to focus on for the coming year.

10) For all webpage developers: No more massive click-thrus on your websites!  If I go to your site because it has something cool on it, I want to see that cool thing right away.  I don’t want to get carpal tunnel syndrome by having to click through page after page where I see just one picture and two sentences per webpage before having to click on the next page and wait for it to load.  For instance, this site (  ) has an interesting idea- pictures of classic album covers with the deceased artists removed from the covers.  It is an unusual artistic statement that makes you reconsider the album in a whole new perspective.  When I go there though, there is no description as to what the page is about nor do I have any idea about how many pages there might be or even if there are any more examples of the concept.  Then I suddenly come to an end and think “That was neat, but kind of irritating to get through.  And where was the Traveling Wilbury’s revamped album cover?”
Then I go to another site, like this one ( ) which has Spin Magazine’s listing of their 50 best albums of 2011. Since I’m a music junkie and they are a professional music magazine, I want to see what they thought was the year’s best stuff.  So I click on the link and it takes me to several pictures of covers from albums like Britney Spears and The Foo Fighters along with some text talking about what made that particular album great. So I scan through that page and then click to go to the next page.  It takes 20 or 30 seconds to load up and then I have 5 more albums displayed.  This means if I want to see all 50, I’ll have to click on ten different pages and wait 30 seconds per page just for it to load before I can start reading.  After the third page, I figured my time was better spent on doing something else so I abandoned the website.
So that’s why this resolution is needed.  Just show me the whole list at once!  If I wanted to click a lot of things repeatedly, I’d be playing a video game.  Put everything on the same page.  That’s actually part of what makes it a list. If you spread it out over lots of pages, it becomes a book.  If I can actually read a physical book or magazine quicker than the electronic version, what is my benefit for investing the time in the electronic version?  Plus, if it is displayed all on one page, I can start reading the top part while the remainder of the page loads.

9) To all marketing departments and/or entertainment media outlets:  Stop hyping mediocre stuff!  Just because a book or a movie doesn’t suck doesn’t mean it is fantastic.  It just means it doesn’t suck.  Something that is well-made and entertaining is not a masterpiece so stop pretending it is and stop trying to convince me that I must buy, watch, hear or consume this product.  For example, the movie “Drive” had Ryan Gosling playing a professional stunt driver who moonlights as a wheel man for criminals in need of a driver.  In his down time, he tinkers with weapons and falls in love with the neighbor in the next apartment.  Of course, things go wrong and his life gets upended.  It’s a decent movie, characterized by good performances and solid directing but it is still just a high-end, artsy rehash of “The Transporter”.  I cannot fathom how critics are pushing it as “Oscar-worthy” or as one of the best pictures of the year.  It is a yeomen accomplishment.

Yes, Albert Brooks has a nice lively turn as a villain, but Ryan Gosling is in his usual half-asleep mode and Carey Mulligan remains as talented and unsexy as ever.  The violent scenes are well executed but predictable along with the rest of the script. So I watched and liked the movie but it is nowhere near my top 20 for the year.  Critics- please stop falling all over yourself just because you came across something that didn’t suck for once.  That is supposed to be the norm.  There are enough good things out there to push on people so don’t test their patience with stuff like Drive, Jesse J, Skrillex, the Hollywood remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, any book in the Twilight series and so on and on.

8) Banks- Don’t charge me for the privilege of accessing my own money.  I have money.  Not loads of it, but enough that I can’t keep it all in my wallet, not even if it was all in hundreds (unless by wallet I meant purse.)  I have to put some of it in the bank.    I have been conditioned by society and my parents and force of habit to stash it there.  When you get money, you are taught to put it in the bank, to save it and invest it.  Supposedly I will earn interest on my money by doing so and it is safer in a bank than it is in a can in the freezer.  Maybe I could put it in a book in my house since no one reads books these days and crooks probably wouldn’t bother to look through them, but I feel better with it behind big, heavy vault doors.  Yeah, I know nowadays it isn’t actually in the safe but being in the financial “cloud” is just as good- someone else is responsible for it and crooks can’t touch it.  Unless those crooks also own the bank, which could never happen, right?

The problem though is that I now have to pay the bank to be able to use my own money.  Let’s say I’m going out to dinner with friends and I want some cash.  If I go to the ATM, I have to pay a service fee to get my own money from the bank.  You might say there is only a fee if I don’t use my own bank’s ATM but why should that matter?  My money is in the cloud.  It’s not like the money is being shipped back and forth between the banks.  Why should it cost money to access it at a different bank?  The cost for them to maintain their ATM is the same as my bank’s ATM costs and it isn’t really determined by the incremental cost.  The people who use my bank should offset the times when I use their bank and have a net zero usage effect.  Plus, even if I only use my bank branches exclusively, it still costs me because the bank charges a $1 a month fee for a check/ATM card. 

In the olden days (the 1980’s and earlier, i.e. pre-Madonna), when my money was sitting in a bank, the bank gave me interest for it.  They would loan it out to people so those people could buy a car or a house or start a business.  My money was backed by tangible assets so the bank had low risk and they were happy to share their success with me.  I got a decent interest rate, something with a number in front of the decimal point instead of behind it.  As banks were deregulated, they started moving into other financial areas, ones that came with a bit more risk because what they were investing my money in was an intangible product.  Because of that extra risk and the danger of losing my money, the banks could no longer afford to give me much interest because that would cut into their profits.  Instead, I had to give them my money and only expect to get back basically that same amount.  I guess that is still okay, because isn’t there that saying “Higher risk means lower return”? 

Besides, it’s not like the banking and financial industries are posting record profits so why would I expect to get anything back for letting them use my money to generate income for themselves?  Goldman Sachs is struggling to make enough money to cover their annual bonuses.  (Yes, I’m being facetious because I think the banking industry is almost as big of a scam as the catering industry.)  On top of that, if I don’t have enough money in the bank, I might have to pay an under-the-minimum- balance fee.  Who determines how much money is too little?  I didn’t realize it wasn’t worth the bank’s time and energy to have people give them money.  I would be thrilled if people walked up to me and said “Here’s some money.  Can you hang on to this for me for a couple years, interest free?”

7) Stop giving away the secrets, surprises and twist endings of things.  I used to think that everyone loved a surprise.  Isn’t that why you jump out of hiding and yell “Surprise” when the birthday boy walks in to a surprise party?  I thought the whole reason for wrapping Christmas presents before putting them under the tree was so people didn’t know what they were getting for their gifts.  They would get a (hopefully) pleasant surprise when they gently unwrapped and/or tore off the paper to see what was underneath.  The reason I’m saying these things in the past tense is because all the evidence seem to point to the contrary, like I need to change this mindset.  These days, when I’m at the theatre seeing a movie and a preview comes on for an upcoming movie, after those two preview minutes I know the whole plot of the upcoming movie.  If it is a mystery, thriller or drama I know all twist endings and surprising revelations.  If it is a comedy, I have heard all the really good jokes.  If it is an action movie, I’ve seen all the fight scenes and explosions from multiple angles, plus I’ve heard the “hoping to become a pop-culture catchphrase” at least twice.

I want to be entertained and part of that requires that I don’t know exactly what will happen.  I almost never flip to the end of a book to see what happens.  The only time I do so is when I’m worried my favorite character is about to die.  Would you pay $100 to go to a football game if you knew the final score ahead of time, and you had already seen all the highlights and big plays on ESPN?   Would you even watch it on TV for free?  Probably not.  The whole fun of sporting events is that anything can happen.  The Giants can improbably, impossibly, win the Super Bowl against the Patriots on an unbelievable drive in the final seconds of the game.  Then they can do it once again three years later against the still-favored Patriots.   D.C. United can win the first MLS championship game on a wild overtime goal.   Michael Jordan can push off from Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz to hit a three-pointer that wins the Bulls another championship.  You want to see these things happen.  You don’t want to know the outcome ahead of time. 

So why do television shows end an episode with a cliffhanger, like someone getting shot or some other dramatic turn of events, and then thirty seconds later show scenes from next week’s episode that makes it clear that everything worked out fine?  You’ve just deflated my dramatic tension.  Instead of being on pins and needles until next week to see if Rick Castle got back together with his ex-wife or if Kate Beckett really is dead, I immediately see a scene of them laughing over a joke while investigating next week’s murder.  The suspense and gravitas is gone.  Back in the old days, although I always knew Jack Bauer wouldn’t be killed, at least not until the final season, I didn’t know how he would escape his captors or what unhinged torture scheme or daring plan he had in mind.  I was surprised! 

This next paragraph gives away a vital plot point so skip this if you don’t want to see a spoiler for The Hunger Games books.  I was enthralled with the book, a supposedly young adult mélange of the television show “Survivor” and the short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, where kids are forced to fight and kill each other to become the sole survivor of that year’s game.  (Have you noticed how the most entertaining books these days are Y.A. books?)  About halfway through the book, I knew I would want to read the next one in the trilogy.  I was pretty sure that the heroine, Katniss, would win because she appears in all three books but I couldn’t figure out how she could kill Peeta, the boy from her town who helped her family survive after Katniss’ father died.  As I’m reserving the second book from the library, I see a blurb about it that starts with this sentence “After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta…”.  What the hell?  They both win?  You just ruined a heck of a lot of the story’s dramatic arc!  Now I know a lot of her angst in the last half of the book is unfounded and the plot twists have been deflated.  I didn’t need to know that Peeta lived as well.   When I reserved the third book, Mockingjay, I made sure to hold my hand up in front of the description part in case the library tried to ruin it for me again.  I’m actually one of the few people I know who likes having movie adaptions of books take small liberties with the plot because it means I will get some surprises from the movie even though I’ve already read the book.

6) Everything in life is NOT free so start paying for things!  Let me tell you a little parable.  There is this kid who is good at playing guitar and writing songs so he decides he wants to be a musician when he grows up.  During high school, he plays in the school band to practice his musical skills.  On the weekends he jams with his bandmates, sometimes getting lucky and having the chance to play some gigs at local clubs where they earn $50 each for the show.  After graduating, the kid works as a bartender so he can play shows at night and still have a regular job.  In order to generate some buzz for the band, he records a couple of his original songs on his computer and posts them to his website.  One of the band’s fans makes a video of one of their shows and posts it on YouTube.   Several thousand people download the songs and watch the videos and they post really positive comments on the band’s website.   Their shows generate a small but loyal following so they have a steady gig on Wednesday and Thursday nights at a local club and they now earn $100 each.  Occasionally, they play shows in other cities but it is tough moving around all the gear and coordinating the band member’s schedules and the cost of gas and lodging can eat into their earnings.  They decide to sell t-shirts at their show to up their revenue at each show so they pay a guy $3,000 to produce their shirts. 

Because of the economy, the guy’s business tanks and he can’t pay them back their money.  About the same time, the kid’s girlfriend gets pregnant.  He’s happy about this because he’d always wanted to be a father.  The problem is that it will take a lot more money to properly take care of the baby.  The couple can’t afford day care so the mom will have to stay home and take care of the baby.   The kid, now an adult father, wants to keep playing and being a musician but he also wants to take care of his baby and have a place to live and save some money for the future.  How will he do this?  He doesn’t get paid by people downloading his songs for free from his website.  YouTube doesn’t pay him anything either.  It generates publicity but not enough to get a record deal; besides, record companies are on the way out.  Musicians are now expected to everything on their own.  D.I.Y. and all that. 

The club shows don’t pay enough to do more than cover rent and food and their fan base isn’t big enough to beat out the more famous acts when trying to book shows at the better venues.  He is going to have to invest some money to get the band to the next level but he never made enough money to be able to do that.  There is no way a bank will loan money to someone who’s business plan is “to be a rock star”.  The audition line at American Idol is impossibly wrong.  So how long do you think this guy will keep trying to make a living as a musician?  Probably not very long.  At some point in the equation, money needs to come into play. 

That’s what record companies used to be able to do- spend money on long shots because the ones that succeed will pay for the failures.  That’s how you end up with Modest Mouse and Skinny Puppy.  Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber and all those other mass consumption pop acts fund the misfits, the fringe acts and all the really good bands that don’t find their groove until their third or fourth album.  When the record label model collapses, musicians will be left to their own devices.  Not everyone will survive long enough to get the attention and money they need to produce the songs you love.   Less good music will get made and you will have a harder time finding it. 

You need to start paying for what you like.  Downloading and file sharing will not put money in a musician’s pocket and he will soon cease to be a musician.  He’ll become an accountant or an RV salesman.  Haven’t you ever seen an episode of Behind The Music or Bands Reunited?  People stop playing music because they stop getting paid for it.  It is not because they don’t like doing it anymore.  They need to eat.  I love Pandora but I have a hard time seeing how anyone other than the big name acts can make money from it.  The one that really scares me though is Spotify.  It is an incredible site- I can play millions of songs whenever I like.  It’s like having a radio that I can program myself so I hear exactly what I want whenever I want.  Best of all, it is free to do this!  Now if I can hear whatever I want whenever I want, why would I need to buy it?  Digitally or otherwise? 
 It is just as easy to click on my Kylie Minogue playlist on Spotify as it is to pull up the tracks I bought digitally from Amazon.  The ease of use is the same but one costs me money so why would I pick the one that I have to pay for?  If everyone starts using it, then Lana Del Ray will never get rich because people will do what I did this afternoon- listen to the “album” and see if it lives up to the hype/backlash/additional hype (since no one has yet read resolution # 9 ).  Outcome- I like it but don’t think I will buy it, so she gets no money from me.  Multiply that by the entire world, and Lana needs to find some other way to pay her rent.  Maybe modeling, since she is absolutely gorgeous.  That’s one of the reasons I still buy actual, physical CDs- I know that it puts money in the pockets of my favorite artists and they can continue making music I want to hear without having to resort to licensing songs to Katherine Hiegl movies.

This is the same thing that is happening in the newspaper and magazine industry.  All the content is online now for free so no one wants to buy a physical version.   Although I kind of disagree with that thought process, I certainly understand it.  The problem is that someone has to generate that content.  Someone has to write it; occasionally someone edits and proofreads it before it gets posted to a website that an IT person maintains.  Another person sells ad space on the website and collects the money for that and a purchasing department buys new computers servers and security software when the site needs to be upgraded.  I guarantee you that the people at Huffington Post are not volunteering their time and efforts for free.  They are getting paid for it and in a lot of cases, they might be making more than the originators of the content they repost.  If you are going to argue that advertising covers the expenses, then tell me what are the last five ads you clicked on when checking out a website? 

You don’t know because you don’t click on sidebar ads and you hardly glance at banner ads or pop-ups. You delete emails that you think are spam and you have stopped subscribing to Groupon and Living Social because they send you too many things.  If you don’t check out ads, then advertisers will stop paying to display their ads.  Without ads, how will websites generate enough money to pay for content?  How will television programs keep getting made if you watch shows commercial free on your DVR or Hulu and you no longer buy the shows on DVD?  Are the actors and cameramen going to work for free?  No.  Movie studios will have to stop making movies because people are not going to movie theatres as much.  They are staying home to stream them from Netflix instead and they make their own popcorn too.  The money Netflix pays studios can’t possible cover the billions of dollars they are used to making from movie theatres.  You only want to pay $12 a month to Netflix (remember how you got really irate when they hiked prices up to $16?) but do you think that will be enough to cover the $200 million (yes, $200 MILLION) budget for Transformers 4?   I don’t think so.  And that is just one movie.  No one wants to watch Transformers 4 once, much less over and over and over.  You have to make more movies so you need to spend another $150 million for Men In Black 3, $250 million for Avatar 2 and $75 million for Hangover 3 and so on and so on.  (Sequels are the most likely movies to turn a profit so that is what studios will produce.)  Do you think Netflix and iTunes and cable’s OnDemand programs can cover those costs?  Nope, not if you expect to pay next to nothing for the content, so movie studios will close up shop rather than lose money.  Count on it.    

Now let’s step away from the entertainment industry for a minute in case you are thinking they are just greedy moneygrubbers.  Let’s look at a different industry instead- the restaurant business.  You know how you criticize chain restaurants for being predictable and cookie cutter?   Well, they do that because it keeps costs down and allows for economies of scale.  That family run restaurant down the street that you like so much?  It shut down last month because you only went there twice a year, on special occasions.  It costs too much to buy food and maintain a staff for a place that only gets visited twice a year.  If it tries to reduce expenses by joining a food buying conglomerate and standardizing advertising and payroll processes and so forth, then they become a chain and you don’t even go there twice a year.  That’s why people need to start paying for things they like.  Yes, free is nicer but if it is free for too long, eventually it won’t exist anymore.  Buy music, books and magazines.  Eat out, attend live theatre and concerts.  Buy concessions at the movie theatre.  Donate to the library.  Vote for your taxes to go to charities and arts programs and school systems.  Do it before it is too late.

5) Stop writing checks in the grocery store!  If you want to talk about an archaic system that should actually disappear, look at the check book.  Why do you need to write a check?  Use your check card.  It has all the same advantages of making out a check (direct withdrawal of funds, no high interest rates, late payment fees or credit limits) and none of the limitations (time spent writing checks, logging the checks, balancing your account, carrying around a checkbook).  Or if that is too complicated for you to wrap your mind around, then at the very least start making out the check while the cashier is scanning your stuff.  You don’t need to wait to hear the total for the sale before getting started on this laborious process.  Is the date going to change between now and the time the cashier is finished?  Is the name of the store going to change?  No!  Just fill that stuff out now, sign your name and when the 16-year old kid tells you the balance due, write it in the dollar field and hand him the check along with your identification that you have already retrieved from your wallet.  Don’t you dare wait until the cashier is all done before you drag out a ratty checkbook and start looking for a pen.  And for heaven’s sake, hold out your food stamps ahead of time so I know not to get in your line.

4) Synchronize!  Originally, this one was going to be “Use your signal when driving!” but I know you all are likely tired of hearing me rant about people who don’t know their cars come equipped with a method of letting me know when they are going to swerve suddenly into my lane.  Or make a turn at a four-way intersection or when cutting in front of me to make a right turn from the left lane.  So I won’t talk about these things anymore.  Instead, I will ask the faceless, data-mining, privacy-invading Big Brother that people are so paranoid about to get finally get its act together and create some convergence.  So far I haven’t seen much of anything to prove this fear is a reality and I have actually been wanting this to happen.  I don’t mind having my consumer habits and personal information in some central database if it means it will make things less annoying for me. 

I want Amazon to know that I already bought the Party Down DVDs from Best Buy and to please stop recommending them to me just because I bought Veronica Mars DVDs from them.  I want Facebook to know that although I love played Zynga Poker and Words With Friends, I don’t want to play Cityville or Hangman.  They can remove that prompt from my notifications and suggested sites.   I like Lawrence Block, Steve Martin and Martha Grimes books and I want their publishers to notify every time they put out a new one.  I don’t want to have to troll a website or read a review to know that it has come out.  I will buy it regardless- just tell me it exists.  In the past, I have actually signed up at an artist’s website or on a retailer’s alert system for the express purpose of being informed when there is a new product they can ask me to buy.  Only once have I gotten an email telling me I should go purchase this item that is hot off the presses.  Juliana Hatfield is the only one to keep me in the loop about what she is selling and she is the sole employee of her business.  How can multi-billion dollar companies not manage their potential customer database better than one anti-social indie songwriter? 

This is why I don’t buy into the hysteria about the government tracking my every move.  No one is matching my library book rental patterns against my grocery store purchases and my cell phone location to see if I am a terrorist threat.  Big businesses are not buying my purchasing data to compile a profile of what I respond to.  If they were, they would know I’m not interested in growing my penis size, buying a Ford truck or seeing the latest Tyler Perry movie.  I would not get flyers in the mail for storm drain cleaning, church announcements or day care services.  TV shows would only run ads for things that appeal to me because the “black box” would know what I like.  There would be no ads for tampons because the box would know that my grocery buying has never contained such a purchase.  I would not see any ads for diapers because I have no kids.  I wouldn’t see class action lawsuit ads because they would know I was never prescribed the medication they are filing a lawsuit over. 

I would see the e-Trade baby ads though because those are hilarious and I do like to make sure my money is secure.  I would see the iPhone ads because I’ve bought songs featured in the ads (Grouplove’s Tongue Tied even made it on my 2011 Year In Review mix CD) and I also would see ads for movies similar to those I’ve watched before.  The online editions of USA Today and the Washington Post would know which articles to display for me and the comics section would only that show those cartoons that are funny- so yes to Dilbert, Speed Bumps, Pearls Before Swine and Non Sequitur and no to Mutts, Doonesbury and Six Chix.  It would make my life so much easier if corporate America really did know everything about me.
Assuming that this won’t suddenly happen, the least they could do is give me portability of the things I actually am buying from them.  For instance, I subscribe to cable television.  I watch quite a few shows but I can’t watch them simultaneously.  Some things need to be time-shifted.  My cable system lets me watch some shows on demand the next day but only some shows.  The service is only available for NBC and ABC so I can catch up on Community or Cougar Town if I don’t happen to be home or am watching something else during that time slot.  I can’t see Fox or CBS though which is why I’m no longer a viewer of NCIS: LA or American Idol.  Maybe I could watch them on Hulu or Netflix or Fox’s website but why would I want to watch something on my computers 12-inch screen when I’m used to looking at it on a 32-inch television screen?  Plus if I’m paying for cable and could have watched the show that way, why do I need to also pay for Netflix streaming services if I want to watch it later on?  I paid for a delivery system for the shows so I should be able to watch them when I want to, on the system I prefer.  If you force me to choose, then I will choose and your audience will shrink. 

I have bought a lot of CDs but when I want to listen to them, I might not be at home.  Why do I need to rip them to my computer so I can upload them to iTunes so I can sync them to my phone?  One purchase should carry across all mediums.  If I buy a book, I should be able to look at it on my phone, on my computer and on my television screen.  A picture should be viewable within any program and a song should be playable on any console- I shouldn’t have to figure out whether something is a jpeg, a bitmap, a gif, wav or an mp3 file.  They should all be the same.  Yes, I know why they aren’t- different companies developed them and they are proprietary products- but with any technology, people should get together and come up with standards.  Make the same power plug for Android and iPhones and Kindles and Nooks.  Don’t sell me different plugs for each device.  Make the memory cards for cameras work with any company’s camera.  Imagine how complicated life would be if electrical sockets all had different prongs.  If your hair dryer was a four-flat-prong plug and your computer was a two-round-prong plug and your vacuum cleaner used a 3 square pegs to plug in?  Every house could have different outlets and when you moved you would have to buy all new appliances or adaptor plugs for everything.  That would be a mess, wouldn’t it?  It doesn’t happen though because electrical outlets are standardized.  If it can be done for that, why not other things?  Facebook would integrate all things I want a social media site to do.  No mucking about with MySpace or Friendster or Salmon or Google Plus.  Flickr and Snapfish and Shutterfly wouldn’t exist as a stand-alone entity.  They’d be a part of the giant social site that did everything.  There should never have been a Beta versus VHS stand-off.  No Mac versus PC or CD versus DAT.  One thing to rule them all.

3) Come up with an actual agenda for Occupy Wall Street, Occupy DC, Occupy The Highway, and Occupy Denver/Atlanta/Las Vegas/Portland/Richmond/ Philadelphia/Nashville/Seattle/Anchorage (Really, Anchorage?  Why?) so I can decide whether to care about your “movement.”  I too am against corporate greed, political corruption, high unemployment and the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us 99% but what is your solution?  How should we fix things?  You have no agenda that presents a way to address these problems.  If a building is on fire, you don’t hold a protest in front of the burning building because you are deeply concerned about the fact that it is on fire and people’s lives and property are in danger.  You send over a freaking fire truck to put out the fire! 

What should we be doing to fix these issues?  Have you created a grass roots voter campaign to urge voters to pressure their Congressional representatives to enact specific laws to remedy these situations?  Have you asked the 1% celebrities that stop by the camps to use the media to address your concerns?  Have you sent newspapers and other media outlets some kind of manifesto or a list of actions you are taking?  No.  Right now you are just annoying me, inconveniencing me and wasting my tax dollars by requiring extra police presence and sanitation efforts.  In some instances, you have even broken the law and performed terrorist acts, like throwing smoke bombs at the White House.  That’s the way to get yourself shot, not to engender sympathy and support.  And stop with the ridiculous hand gestures.  If you want to vote on something, raise your hand either for or against it.  Better yet, count paper ballots.  That’s how a democracy works.  Wiggling your fingers is not voting.  It’s how fish swim around in the ocean.

2) Give me real discourse and real solutions this election cycle.  I want to know about the issues and how you plan to fix things, in detail.  I don’t want sound bites.  Nein Nein Nein to sound bites and generalities.  Educate me!  I too am worried about the collapse of our economy, the global financial meltdown, the resurrection of Russia, terrorism, disappearing retirement benefits and pension plans, healthcare costs, unemployment, government corruption, the influence of lobbying, national debt, engaging in multiple foreign wars, pollution, dependency on foreign oil supplies, etc…etc… etc….  And don’t let me hear the words “change”, “hope” or “liberal/conservative” this time around.  Let me hear facts and information and solutions instead of platitudes.  The personal attacks can stop too.  I don’t care if so and so cheated on their wife.  How is their fiscal policy?  As long as they haven’t done anything illegal (like dodging taxes, taking bribes, suppressing evidence, lying to Congress), I don’t care who they screw or who donates to their campaign. 

Limiting the viable candidates only to people who were never divorced, never made a mistake, never changed their mind, aren’t too rich or too poor, aren’t overly passionate and excited (a la’ Howard Dean), follow the “proper” religion and so forth is the same as limiting the election to those who prove their soundness to vote by passing a literacy test, own land and are white men.  Elections need to be about the issues and finding solutions to the problems, not about pointing fingers at who did what and who mangled a sentence in a hilarious and embarrassing way.  Some people feel Barack Obama is doing a great job and he is a rich, black, Muslim lawyer who held his first elective office for 100 days before running for president and he is friends with acknowledged radicalists (i.e. domestic terrorists).  He won the election because he convinced voters that he had a better grasp of the issues than his opponent did (and because he used the word “Hope” a lot.)  Take a lesson from that victory.  Solutions should lead the campaigns and I want to hear what those solutions are, in terms of real actions rather than generalities.  For instance, I want to know why Ron Paul thinks we should readopt the gold standard.  That will inform my decision a lot more than knowing he smoked pot in college. 

1) A final resolution, meant for everyone- Be nice to people!  Yeah, maybe that sounds a bit Bill & Ted-ish (“Be excellent to one another!”) but why not do it?  Do you know how many problems would disappear if people just acted nicer to each other?  First of all, there would be no more murder or war because homicide is the most complete opposite of being nice.  Then, stepping down a few levels in intensity, you would reduce greed and corruption because being nice to someone implies that you won’t steal their life’s savings in a pyramid scheme or embezzle company assets from stockholders.  You wouldn’t need the FDA or EPA because companies would take it upon themselves not to do anything to harm consumers or the environment.  There would be fewer traffic accidents because people wouldn’t cut off other drivers or drive in a reckless fashion (Yeah, I managed to get in a dig about traffic!) 

Hot girls would shoot down ugly people and geeks like me gently, saying something like, “That is so sweet of you.  I’m sorry that I don’t reciprocate your interest but it’s nice of you to flatter me with your attention.  I want to buy you a drink so we can talk for a few minutes before I go home with that handsome jock/underwear model over there.”  In stores and public areas, people would be alert to and considerate of the others around them, rather than stopping at the top of escalators, cutting to the front of bathroom lines and letting their kid tear apart the store.  They would not create a bright light in a dark theatre by text messaging and distracting everyone sitting near them, ruining the fantasy being spun onscreen.   They would not slack off at work and make others cover for them.  They would not have their boyfriend kneecap an opponent before a big skating competition.   There would never be a hit-and-run accident.  No one would abuse a pet. 
Don’t all these things sound wonderful?  Imagine if they really happened.  It’s possible, but it all starts with you.  Yes, and me too although I think you are more of the problem then me.  I’m not a rich lobbyist trying to get Congress to approve legislation allowing corporations to dump toxic waste in the last refuge of the sparkly-eyed newt in a pond next to the house of a poor factory worker who was laid off because the CEO of his company embezzled all the money in the pension fund and then sold the company to a pharmacology conglomerate who bought it just so they could get the patents to a technological breakthrough that they’ll exploit to decimate their competition and create a monopoly that charges exorbitant prices for a life-saving drug.      

So there you have it.  Some suggestions for people to follow in order to start the new year off on the right foot.  That doesn’t sound too complicated, does it?  New Year’s resolutions always turn out really well and make a world of difference pretty quickly.   If you promise to do your part, I’ll get to work on mine.  Since they are obviously so easy to accomplish, maybe I’ll even add some more, like learn to play guitar, grow hair, become a professional writer, marry Marisa Tomei and start a company that turns plastic and Styrofoam into grass seed.  That sounds like a great plan.  This is going to be a great year!