Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Big brother and the vandals

I heard this funny joke the other day.

Guy walks into a beer store ... and wants to get a keg for a party he's holding.

Stop me if you've heard this before ...

And he has to pay a $75 fee for the privilege of having his name tattooed to the keg of beer.

Why aren't you laughing?

Oh yeah, because this isn't a joke. It's real. It's law. And it will happen to you if you go to buy a keg of beer on November 1.

But where did this law come from? Why do we need it? And why didn't we hear about it before now?

All good questions. No good answers.

The acting superintendent of the New York State Police, Wayne Bennett, said the measure will give law enforcement officers the tools to be able to hold people responsible for buying beer for under age drinkers.

Let me set the scenario. Cops bust a party. Find a drunk 19-year-old ... we'll call him Tom. All they have to do is find the keg, which has YOUR name on it. And you get arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Excellent police work, I must say ... Too bad it was done by Consumer's Beverage ... not the police.

Oh, and of course, there is the possibility that Tom got his alcohol "legally" in Canada and came home to pass out ... just when 5-0 rolled up.

You got busted for a crime you didn't commit ... AND a local business helped point the finger ... whether or not they wanted to.

Of course, you could rip the tag off the keg so the cops don't know it's yours.

Unfortunately, if you do that, you won't get your $75 registration fee back ... and your local alcohol purveyor will also have to fine you $250 to $450 when you return the keg ... or if you don't.

In the end, folks this is Big Brother at its worst ... AND they're using business to do their dirty work.

Not that business is without blame, of course.

Just ask the folks over at UnbrandAmerica.org - a service brought to you by AdBusters. They'll tell you that Ronald McDonald founded Fascism, I'm sure of it.

These geniuses have started a "boycott" campaign asking people to put big black dots on corporate logos far and wide ... to show our disgust for said logos and the companies they represent.

There's a black dot that you can download from their web site - print out on paper - and then tape to your logo ... as a statement.

They even have a gallery of dotted logos - to show you how it's done.

Unfortunately (or maybe by design) many of the artifacts in the gallery don't seem to use the print and tape method of dotting. They use spray paint (visible here).

I'm sorry, that's not counter culture. That's vandalism.

And vandalism just isn't cool.

Then, let's look at the dirty dozen - the 12 worst companies ... in the eyes of those who frequent AdBusters.

McDonald's. Exxon. Nike. Wal*Mart. Disney. Coca Cola. Microsoft. The Gap. AOL Time-Warner. Starbucks. Clear Channel. Altria.

For the most part, these companies are guilty of A) Making money and B) Letting people know about it.

I always love the fact that McDonald's has become the poster child of all that is wrong with the world.

Many of you know that I worked for McDonald's for about three years.

I'm proud that I did. Best job I've ever had. And they're the best company I've ever worked for.

But some people - a little more radical than I - believe that the golden arches are the gateway to hell.

And they want to vandalize those arches.

Because somehow - for some reason - people feel bigger when they topple a giant.

What sad little vandals.

Go home and get drunk.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Fun with want ads ...

I think most of you know this by now, but for those who don't ...

I'm no longer employed by Greater Niagara Newspapers and the Lockport Journal.

And as such, I'm out trying to find myself a job - a daunting task for someone with a degree in Journalism and Political Science, and for the most part ... no real talent.

And while I'd like to stay in the media business, it's not like newspapers are drug stores and they're building new ones on every corner. So, it's a bit difficult.

In the mean time, I'm considering other ventures that I'm qualified for. Or at least think I can do.

Some of my skills or abilities include public relations, marketing, management, and other general duties.

And I've often considered a job in public relations ... something more normal than that of a news boy.

So when I found an ad in WNYJobs.com looking for someone to do marketing and public relations in an Amherst firm, I was rather pleased.

But I've seen job ads for "marketing" before and know that it often means "sales," something I'll be the first to admit, I'm none-too-good at.

That's why I called and made sure that it really was a marketing job ... not sales ... before I sent my resume in.

"Well, sir, we do have sales jobs, but we're really looking for someone for marketing and public relations right now," said the woman on the phone. Stephanie was her name.

Excellent - resume went out with the next batch of email.

Next day I got a phone call from Stephanie and scheduled an interview. Went in for the interview and met ... I think his name was Anthony.

  • "Hi William, I'm Anthony. How are you today?"
  • "Good, yourself?"
  • "Excellent. Now, I've been looking at your resume, William. And I notice that it's very journalism heavy. Why, all the sudden do you want to go into sales?"
  • (ARGHHHHH!)"No, not sales. Public relations and marketing. Definitely not sales."
  • "Well that's a shame, William. Because the job we have is in sales."
  • "Then I'm in the wrong interview. Have a good day."

And that was it. Three minutes tops. Shortest interview of my life.

I got a great offer from a national company ... whose name I won't say, but their logo is a bullseye. They wanted me to stock shelves ... for less than I made in high school. Don't think so.

And that company's application process was kind of a pain - all on computer right in the store. Funny questions, too. I highly recommend the experience.

Oh, but my new favorite was the application I put in at a local grocery store ... not one in Lockport, though. (that almost narrows it down, doesn't it?).

Anyway, there was a question on the job application that said, "Type of job desired."

What the heck does that mean? I put "Fun and exciting," although I don't think that's the answer they wanted. Who designs these things?

And why do these job applications want to know what elementary school you went to? And they always ask if you graduated. Who didn't graduate elementary school?

I tell you, it's a truly frustrating process.

I have one VERY good lead (I think) and a few other positive notes on some jobs that I wouldn't hate doing.

So for those of you pulling for me (I have gotten some emails from people who want to see me do well), thank you.

I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Oh, and would you like fries with that?

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Why can't we just be ourselves?

du·plic·i·ty 'Audio ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-pls-t, dy-)

n. pl. du·plic·i·ties

  1. The quality or state of being twofold or double.

  2. Acting one way while being, in actuality, another.

  3. Having two distinct - and opposite - personalities.

I believe it was William Shakespeare who coined, "To thine own self be true."

Wllly's a pretty bright guy and I have oft relied on his wit and wisdom.

He would have loved the saga of Harry Potter, I'm sure.

But that's neither here nor there ... I have to refute Willy's aforementioned statement.

Cause, see, here's the thing: Which self?

I have recently had a major shakeup in my life. For those who don't know, I'm now job hunting ... but more on that later.

As a reporter, a job that I've had for the past three years, I must admit that the job takes on a life of its own and it becomes more of a lifestyle than a job, per se.

I'm sure that other people in other professions would concur - your title becomes a part of you. Simon and Simon, for example, wouldn't have been the same people were they not private investigators.

And I'm not the same person now that I'm not, "Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal."

But with all the free time that I've had, I've reviewed my life as a whole ... and concluded that I was only "Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal" sometimes ... and to some people.

For others, I was "Scott Leffler, crazy liberal guy." Then of course, at home I was "Scott Leffler, husband extraordinaire," and "Scott Leffler, daddy." Still for others, I'm sure I was even more people.

I feel like Sybil.

Oh, don't go judging me on this one. We all do it. And of course, most of us do it on purpose to an extent.

Some people conclude that you're "that happy guy," and so you feel like every time those people are around, you need to be happy.

Some people remember that you were really crazy at the Bernstein Christmas party, so you feel like you have to be crazy when they're around.

And some people think of you in another manner ... or know something that the first two groups of people don't - so you're another person altogether.

And after a while, you forget which one of them is really you.

So you wonder which own self you're trying to be true to.

There comes a few times in one's life when they can step back and redefine life. And redefine themselves.

Like when you move ... or change schools ... or jobs.

I'm fortunate enough to have been given that opportunity.

Remind me of that once in a while if I start to get out of line.

Cause I assure you, it can be a frustrating opportunity.

Thought process continued next week ... Column 47

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Can you hear me now?

Some topics seem to stir debate no matter what.

Religion. Abortion. Flag burning. Language.


Yes, language.

Monday I got a phone call during my show from Joe in Tonawanda. Joe is an avid listener who unfortunately is moving from Western New York. He has but a few more days left to participate in Dialog and he will be missed.

But Monday, Joe and I were in disagreement.

You see, he thinks we should have a national language declared and it should, of course, be English.

Joe is certainly not alone, check www.us-english.org for instance.

But as happens now and again, I disagreed with my caller, thanked him for his time, and bid him a good day.

And the flood gates opened.

I got several more phone calls on the topic and have received a handful of emails in the few hours since I signed off from the radio.

A few people understood my point of view. Most called me names.

I talked with one gentleman for several minutes trying to simply explain myself to him - not even necessarily trying to get him to agree with me - just to understand where I was coming from.

A lot of problems in life come from people not understanding where other people are coming from. The ability to agree to disagree begins with understanding of what it is you're disagreeing about.

We could not see eye-to-eye on our disagreement.

After a brief commercial break, I joked that we were both speaking English and still didn't understand one another.

Then the emails ...

I think this one sums it up:

  • "I don't understand how you fail to see the importance of an official language for this country ... Common sense dictates that should you or I permanently relocate to another country, we learn the language of that country ... I think most Americans feel that it is grossly unfair that millions upon millions of tax dollars be used for expensive interpreters and extra printed materials for immigrants that simply refuse to learn the "common language" of this country."

    I don't disagree with this person's two points, but don't understand how that means we should have an official language.

    Common sense also dictates, for example, that we should neither drink alcohol nor smoke tobacco products as they are bad for us. But we rail when government tries to impose rules on us to prevent us from doing so.

    And at no point did I say we should require interpreters or create extra printed materials. I just didn't say it.

    See, there's a leap of assumption that because I don't want an "official" language that I want to allow special privilege for those who don't speak English. But I didn't say that. Sorry.

    The big problem in the end here is that it doesn't matter what language we're speaking in, if we don't listen to one another, it just doesn't matter.

    My main objection to designating an "official" language is that it does nothing but alienate those of us who do not speak English.

    I also think that language is a scapegoat for some people. They can't say what they really want, so they use language as an excuse.

    What many people really mean is that they want people to be like them - white, Anglo-Saxon, Christians - but they can't say that, so they say, "learn the language."

    I say, laissez faire.

  • Tuesday, July 01, 2003

    Out with the kings ...

    Ah, July 4. Independence Day.

    The time of year we Americans celebrate our ever-dwindling freedoms.

    You know the ones:

  • Freedom of speech, as long as it is in line with the administration.

  • Freedom of religion — but Muslims may be subject to search, seizure, deportation, and general harassment until they can prove they’re not terrorists.

  • Freedom of assembly — but just so you know, Rush Limbaugh and Ari Fleischer will say you’re a communist if your assembly doesn’t promote a hard-right agenda.

  • And freedom of the press, which will soon all be owned by Rupert Murdoch and his partner Michael Powell.

    I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    It’s been 227 years since we declared these truths to be self-evident. And in those 227 years, we’ve even made improvements upon those inalienable rights, with other rights and priveledges granted to us.

    But, oh, what a slippery slope we’ve been on these past couple years.

    Time and again, we’re exchanging freedoms for “safety,” or we’re signing off on having our rights trampled because we’re afraid to stand up to those “in charge.” Or we’re afraid that Rush, Ari and The Boys will call us “unpatriotic.”

    The Boys; John (Ashcroft), Paul (Wolfewicz), George (Bush) and Ringo (nevermind) are intent on giving Iraqi’s freedom — so long as they appreciate it, and securing our freedom — so long as we’re willing to trade our liberties for it.

    Look, folks, 227 years ago, we kissed King George goodbye, because we felt he ruled over us without our authority and was, generally, a bad guy.

    And now, 227 years later, we have three King Georges.

    There’s King “Just One Man” George of North Tonawanda, who is omnipresent but hardly-handy.

    There’s King “Where’s My Map” George of Albany, who shifted the tax burden from the state to the schools, then had his authority hijacked and had the tax burden added back to the state (but not removed from the schools).

    And finally, there’s King “Where’s Osama” George of Washington-by-way-of-Texas, who took out a loan on our future so his affluent friends could afford to bankrupt a few more businesses at stockholder expense.

    This, folks, is the leadership that we have.

    This is what we’re celebrating?

    I suggest that we celebrate our independence by telling the three kings that their days are numbered.

    Now, unfortunately King “Where’s My Map?” was just re-elected, thanks in part to his ability to pretend that the economy is A-OK and our willingness to believe him.

    And we’ll be lucky if anyone even runs against King “Just One Man.”

    But King “Where’s Osama?” can be voted out of office as early as next year. Of course, we could try to impeach his behind for the high crimes and misdemeanors of lying to us to get us into war with Iraq to avenge his daddy and create business opportunities for Republicans.

    Ah, yes, July 4th. Let the fireworks begin.