The Value of Planning Ahead

[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for alohawolf, who wanted a rant on “Transportation Planning in the State of California” Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

I drive the 405 every workday. Yes, “the 405”. I’m from Southern California. Deal.

Right now, I get to deal with one of the biggest planned traffic jam ever: the widening of the 405 between the Santa Monica Freeway and the Ventura Freeway (that’s I-10 and US 101 to those of you who don’t know what real freeways are) to add an HOV lane. In doing this, I am treated again to the failure of Caltrans to plan properly.

A number of years ago, the 405 southbound was widened to add an HOV lane between the Ventura Freeway and Wilshire Blvd southbound. There was also major construction to rebuild the Ventura/San Diego Interchange. Back then, they knew that eventually the NB HOV lane would be added. But did they plan ahead? Did they think about positioning the new sound and retaining walls so the wouldn’t have to be torn down in the future? No.

They were building new retaining walls. There was no reason not to anticipate the widening, as the hills involved were already owned by Caltrans.

This isn’t the only example. There have been similar problems with median construction on the Garden Grove as well as the 605. I’m sure those of you living in the other Bay area could come up with loads of examples regarding construction on the Bayshore.

Planning ahead actually saves the state money in the long run. It is this idiotic short term planning that is one reason for our financial problems.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]


Didn’t You Read The Fine Print: It’s Your Responsibility. We’re Depending On You.

[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for gyesika, who wanted a rant on “people that propagate memes but don’t follow them” Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]


Yes, you.

I’m looking at you there, on the other side of the monitor. You know who you are. You’re the one that didn’t give a subject to rant on.

Perhaps I should start with an explanation. When I started on Livejournal back in 2004, I learned about this thing called a meme. A meme was someone that sort-of became the in-thing, and spread from person to person to person to person. All sorts of things became memes: search for “your name likes” on Google; what songs are on your iPod; quizzes; post your screen background; post a paragraph from the closest book within reach. All sorts of stuff. You see these occasionally on Facebook with status updates, and occasionally notes.

However, for a meme to work and be successful, it must be propagated. Without that, it dies. So, it is up to you, yes you, to take a minute and propagate the meme on your Facebook or Livejournal or Myspace or whatever. Save the memes before they go extinct.

So, when I posted “the rant meme” in, I asked you to do two things: (1) give me a subject to rant on. Out of the 124 friends I have on LJ, and the over 230 friends I have on Facebook… five replied. Only two of them passed on the meme. That’s really a poor showing folks. I want more topics to write on—writing these rants are fun. I also want to share the fun and see how you think. Post the rant meme on your blog or journal. See what folks want you to rant about. Exercise those writing skills. Get out that anger—surely society deserves it.

Just remember: you are vital to social networking. Wait a second. Let me try this again: there is no “u” in social networking. However, there is ‘A costlier knowing’ in “social networking”. I have no idea what that means, but the anagram generator is fun. Hmmm. There is a “u” in Livejournal, but there is also ‘Evil journal.’ There is no “u” in Facebook, but there is ‘Book cafe.’ Oh, right, where was I.

Memes. They are a significant social diversion and time waster. If you don’t respond to the memes, then millions of people will have to do productive work. Society will become efficient, putting even more people out of work. Your responding to the rant meme can prevent our whole economic system from collapsing.

Do you really want the failure of our economic system on your back, just because you couldn’t be bothered to propagate a meme, and give me a rant?

I didn’t think so.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]


Safety and Security

[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for satyrlovesong, who wanted a rant on “Israeli/Palestinian relations, past, present and future.” Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

שלום. Shalom.

سَلاَمٌ. Salaam.

You would think that two cultures with words for “peace” at the centers of their culture would figure out how to get along. But they won’t…. or they can’t…. and its stupid. What we need is a Solomon… oh, right, there’s that pesky שלום again.

For peace to be a reality, it has to be more than a word. Wikipedia says it best talking about the word: The root itself translates as “whole, safe, intact”. We won’t be able to get past the impasse in the relationship until both sides feel whole, safe, and intact.

Let’s look at this. Probably, feeling safe is the most important thing. Israel will not feel safe until there is clear recognition that the Israeli state has a right to exist, safe and secure within her boundaries. The Palestinians want the same thing: a right to exist, safe and secure in their boundaries. Yes, both sides have owned the land in question, and both want all of it. שלום. In the days of Solomon, the approach was to divide the baby. That sort of test won’t work here because the belief in the land is too strong—and there is no appropriate judge. Further, the boundaries are artificial, and thus not accepted.

Safety is a key factor in another sense. To feel safe, there needs to be a rest from bombings and violence. But when groups feel that is their only voice, that is what they resort to. Why do you think teens are the way they are? Of course, when someone is attacked, they must defend themselves with appropriate responsive force as well. Think about how parents react to their kids.

In looking at this metaphor, we have a potential way forward: respect. How do we get the parties to respect and listen to each other, instead of thinking just of their own agendas. It’s not as if they haven’t walked in each others shoes—both groups have been persecuted, both groups have been driven from homelands. But in the end, it is just like parents and teens: the only solution may be time, with the prayer that both sides survive to adulthood. If both parties can figure out how to work, for now, on just respecting each other, perhaps in time that trust can build. Then, and only then, can a true compromise be reached and the healing begin.

Do I think this can happen? Yes. We’ve seen it happen before—Northern Ireland now is not the Northern Ireland it once was. But it takes time—a lot of time—and courageous leaders, and the recognition of slow but steady progress. I look forward to that day when it arrives.

As this is a rant being written on the 4th of July—Independence Day in America&mash;let us remember that the U.S.A. was forged on a spirit of compromise. No founding father got 100% of what they wanted in the wording of the Declaration—they settled for what they could live with. Both sides need to recognize the right of the other to exist within reasonable boundaries. Once that is achieved, the rest should be much easier.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]



[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for jumbach (James Umbach on Facebook), who wanted a rant on “Kids these days and their lack of respect for elders. Like, OMG!!”. Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

In the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”, there’s a song called “Kids”, with the refrain, “What’s a Matter with Kids These Days”. In the musical “Flower Drum Song”, the adults sing about the problems with “The Younger Generation”, while the kids complain about “The Older Generation”. You don’t get what I’m talking about do you?

Hmmm. Let me try another approach, and quote Rodney Dangerfield. I get no respect. No respect at all.

If you look at kids these days—and I’m not just talking about teenagers—you’ll find there is a distinct lack of respect for their elders (I’ve made it to over 50; I think I’ve earned the title “elder”). Whereas when we were growing up, adults were always Mr. or Miss/Mrs…. or if you knew them well, Aunt and Uncle. Today? You’re lucky if you get called something that isn’t four letters. What adults said was respected and given due consideration before it was ignored. Today, it is just ignored.

Adults are taken for granted. We are the taxi, the restaurant, the cleaning staff, the laundry staff. We supply the technical toys and the Internet access that makes a kids life possible. We pay the cable bills and the phone bills. We provide them with clothing and field trips and with food. Boy, do we supply them with food! Yet do we get any appreciation for this? No. We even have to buy our own cards for Fathers Day and Mothers Day.

Now, when I was a kid, we knew how to respect our parents. We listened to them. We did what they said. We feared and respected them. Of course, that’s because we knew if we didn’t they would be the crap out of us. Ah, the good old days. Respect built from fear.

But kids today. How do we gain that respect back? Fear isnt’ the answer. Respect out of fear is meaningless. We want respect out of love.

Let’s look at this another way. One big item in the news this week was the release of the entire series of “Leave It To Beaver” on DVD. Eddie Haskell was polite… but was he respectful? No. The Cleaver boys were more respectful, because they listened to what their parents said. Respect is built not on the things we do, but on how we say and act. We earn our respect by giving respect back, by giving good advice, and by being parents—being there to listen, being firm when necessary, and providing that safe harbor. Ultimately, kids aren’t respectful to their parents because they know they can; because they know home is a safe place where they don’t need that respectful facade.

I’d rather have the respect where my child knows they can talk to me about any problem. That’s more important than any card.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]


Just Because You Can Do It Doesn’t Mean It Is A Good Idea

[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for fauxklore, who wanted a rant on “Musical adaptations of television shows”. Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox and his lunch. He sets both on the ground. He climbs up on the soapbox, and speaks…]

I’d like to take a few minutes while I eat my lunch to talk about crutches. I don’t mean the medical device, although those are handy to beat people with. I mean metaphorical device; something you use to provide additional support that may or may not be necessary. Perhaps I should clarify what I mean.

We’ve all heard that the theatre is dying. Usually, this is a code phrase meaning attendance is down and we’re not making money. The way one addresses this problem, as a producer, is to come up with something that gets people into the theatre.

The best way to do this, of course, is to come up with a new original product. This is difficult to do, and there are very few cases of truly original successful theatre. If one looks at Broadway today, you’ll see very little original product—”Next to Normal” is one of the few successes that comes to mind. “The Drowsey Chaperone”, “Urinetown: The Musical” or “Curtains” are perhaps other examples.

The next level is product adapted from another medium, and this is where the crutches come in. For adaptation, there are many choices. The first tier of these are written material and plays. Books and short stories are great; they are often not as well known, and are close to original product. Great examples of this are things like “Green Grow the Lilacs”, which became “Oklahoma”, or the short stories of Damon Runyan, which became “Guys and Dolls”. Straight plays are also good sources, as demonstrated by translations of “The Four Poster” into “I Do! I Do!”. However, the translations in this tier have one problem: they don’t appeal to the mass audience—they appeal to the well read. This worked in the 1950s and 1960s when people were educated and took the time to read and know about drama. It doesn’t work today when the bulk of the populace has been force fed the pablum from Hollywood.

The second tier of adaptations are movie adaptations. These draw in the audience that is familiar with the movie, and provide familiar characters and situations. But they also have a large problem: if they are just the movie acted out on stage, they tend not to excite. The familiarity with the property breeds contempt. We can all name examples here: “Sunset Blvd.”, “Legally Blond: The Musical”, “The Wedding Singer”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. As “[title of show]” might put it, these are “donuts for dinner”: they sound like a good idea, but they ultimately don’t provide long term satisfaction.

Then there are adaptations of TV series into musicals. These are the equivalent of stunt casting. They draw the people into the theatre from the familiarity, but they frequently involve into parodies of themselves. They are the equivalent of casting Rosie O’Donnell as Rizzo in Grease. I can name many of these: “CHiPs: The Musical”, “Gilligans Isle: The Musical”, “A Very Brady Musical”, “Happy Days: The Musical”, “Avenue Q”. Unless the parody is spot-on (as in “Avenue Q”) or appropriately sentimental (as in “Happy Days”), they just serve to make fun, and are at the level of some of the worst meals you can eat. Not only do they leave you feeling empty, but they leave you feeling sick. I should note, by the way, that “The Addams Family Musical” is not an adaptation of the TV show, but of the original Charles Addams drawings”.

As for things like “High School Musical”—don’t go there. Music that won’t stand the test of time, and a story that belongs in high school. If I want a High School musical, give me “Grease” or “Zanna Don’t”.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t have adaptations. No. Just as the occasional film star turns out to be a damn good actor, there are properties that would make great musicals, given the right artistic team. In terms of movies, I still believe “Up” would be a great musical. TV show? You need one with emotional moments that call out for music, and these are rare. They certainly aren’t found in the run-of-the-mill sitcom. You might find them in the dramas, but even then you need ones that aren’t the run of the mill medical or crime dramas. Thinking back on recent TV, there aren’t many shows that I think would truly work. Perhaps specific episodes of Quantum Leap might work…. and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We really do need a Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical.

Of course, there’s a reason for this. Look at any truly successful musical. Not only do they have good music and lyrics, but they have a good book—and what makes the book good is typically character growth. The Tevye at the start of Fiddler is a different man from the Tevye at the end. Princeton at the start of Avenue Q is different from the Princeton at the end. The characters grow and change by the end (this, by the way, is why “Up” would be perfect). However, a successful long running TV series doesn’t have that growth—in fact, what makes such a series successful is that the characters are the same from week to week. You can drop in any time, and you know how the characters act. What makes books, plays and movies good for the stage are precisely what makes your typical episodic TV program bad. “Happy Days” ‘is probably the rare exception to this, because the characters did grow and the musical looks at that growth over the life of the series.

So, to you budding producers, book writers, composers and lyricists out there, I say: think before you write. Don’t just choose a property because it was successful in another medium. “Rosanne: The Musical” is not a good idea. In fact, as Penn and Teller would say, it is “Bullshit”.

Hmmmm, Bullshit. Now that would be a good musical….

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, gathers the remains of his lunch, and walks offstage.]


And You Thought The Terrible Two’s Were Bad

[Want your own rant? See the Rant Meme: This rant is for whalejudge, who wanted a rant on “Teenagers”, but this can’t be rant on how they don’t respect adults, as jumbach requested that. Remember: the rant meme is a great creative writing exercise. Just follow the instructions and post it to your own journal.]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

When you become a parent, all your friends give you the same advice. Watch out for the “Terrible Twos”. They then walk away chuckling. There’s a reason for that. They know that two-year-olds are easy compared to teenagers. I’m sure you’ve heard the line: God made babies cute and cuddly so you want to keep them when they cry all night. God made teenagers the way they are so you want them to move out after high school. Look at the news about Abby Sunderland. All these folks are saying that Lawrence Sunderland shouldn’t have let his daughter go sailing around the world alone. Let me let you in on the real reason he did it: she’s a 15 year old teen age girl. Is it any wonder he wanted the peace and quiet the comes from having her on the other side of the world!

So, what’s so wrong about teens? They’re just little adults. As Bill Cosby used to say in his comedy routines, “……right”. They just look like little adults. But they crack under the pressure.

Let me explain. Take a teen that’s in high school. One of two things will happen: either they will be a slacker, and make your life a living hell by not doing anything and making you believe you will have to pay to feed and clothe them all of their lives… or they will be an overachiever. You know the type: they take four AP classes in 10th grade, and 6 in 11th. They have so many extra-curricular activities they have no time to do chores. Of course, they can’t drive, so you drive them everywhere. How do they respond to this pressure? They whine at you for not treating them right. Of course, they then get the good grades and expect you to pay for them to go for 10 years of college.

But lack of respect for their parents is just one problem, and I’ll go into that in another post. There’s also the opposite sex.

Remember when we were teens, and had to walk in the snow 30 miles to get to the beach? Remember how we juggled multiple boy/girl friends, and nothing was serious? Forget that. Today, they find their one true love, and when dumped, take it out on the most convenient target. Yup, you guessed it. Still think two year olds are easy? They just say, “no”.

But, of course, you can’t talk to your teen. Conversations are dead in this day and age. No one talks on the phone for hours. Remember the Telephone song from “Bye Bye Birdie”? Wouldn’t happen today. You would have a square of teens, all busily typing away on their cellphones or on Facebook. Who needs words and proper spelling when LOL works so well. Why pass notes in class when you can text. Dating today is going to a restaurant and texting each other. Or should I say sexting.

Where do they get these technological toys today? That’s right: mom and dad. For in today’s economy, the teen doesn’t get the job. The local McDonalds is filled with ex-Bear Stearns executives. Folks from Countrywide Mortgage ask you if you want fries with that. No one hires teens to give them spending money.

The teenager that we grew up with—the teen from Happy Days or the Brady Bunch—is a television myth. They are all just older Bart Simpsons. As for us parents, even though they are teens, we still love them and are there for them. That’s what it says in the parent contract.

Disclaimer: This is a rant. It has no resemblance to reality, even though I’m the father of a 15½ year old teen who is about to start learning to drive. My daughter is the perfect child.

…… right.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]


(meme) The Rant Meme

The meme:

1. Comment with almost any subject that you would like me to rant on, with possible swearing involved. Any subject – I don’t even have to agree with it.

2. Watch my journal for your rant. It should be propagated to FB as a note, unless it is friends-locked.

3. Post this in your own journal (or your Facebook), so that you may rant for others.

The small print:

  • I reserve the right to publically rant about some topics, so depending on the topic, the rant might be restricted access.
  • Facebook users: You may also comment on the FB note or my status.
  • If you want to see some past rants, look here.
  • Credit for this meme goes to patgund, who first posted it in 2005. I last did the meme two years ago.

Now, while you go come up with subjects, I’ll go find the soapbox in the closet, and get it cleaned.


(rant meme) Y’know… I get the feeling there’s a lot of faces out there… watching… me!

[This rant is a result of a request in response to my rant meme by jumbach. He asked for a rant on “televisions in public places, especially those where they’re really not needed such as above checkout lines in supermarkets.” Do you want a rant? Then reply to the rant meme… and follow the instructions and post it to your own journal. It is a wonderful creative writing exercise. ]

[He walks out, with a soapbox. He sets it on the ground. He climbs up on it, and speaks…]

My generation has been called the TV generation. We were the first generation to grow up with TV: Children’s TV show hosts, sitcoms. Yeah, it was black and white. Yeah, the screens were small. But we’ve been sucking at that electronic teat all our lives.

But this time, they’ve gone too far.

I go to the market, and there’s a TV screen on my cart (well, actually, I don’t see that, but I go to Trader Joes… but I have seen it). I go to pump gas… and the pump has a TV screen. I go to the restaurant, and there’s a TV on. There’s one at the car dealer. There are screens everywhere, hawking this and hawking that. Further, whereas there used to be entertainment everywhere, it is now ads. Sell this. Buy that. We advertise via TV for folks to buy stuff 24 hours a day (we even advertise on the Internet)… and then we wonder why debt is so high, and our society is so consumerist.

Perhaps this is why I prefer stage production: live actors, entertaining the audience, in the theatre, in a central part of town, where everyone has paid for the entertainment. No ads. Just talent.

But I digress. This trend of TV everywhere: it’s just wrong. When I shop, I want to shop, from my list, not your ad. When I buy gas, I don’t need your stupid ads. TV has its place: as one form of entertainment in a home. If we keep this up, we’ll be in the world of Max Headroom, with TV ssss-sss-sss-set every-every-every where. If you recall, that wasn’t a very nice world.

[He carefully climbs off the soapbox. He picks it up, and walks offstage.]