Back To Work

So I started driving for Uber about ten days ago, and I have to say that while it’s occasionally frustrating — e.g. dropping off a passenger at DFW Airport and finding out that there are 205 other Uber drivers ahead of you for your next fare — I find the thing rewarding, and not just for the money.

Of course, I don’t work that hard; I get up at about 4.30am so as to take advantage of the benighted business travelers who have to catch early-morning flights, then drive until about 11am, whereupon I come home for lunch (sometimes “dead-heading” all the way across town, no big deal). Then, if I feel like earning more, or I’m not too tired, I head out again and take fares until rush hour starts.

I prefer to pick up fares in and around Plano, because there are lots of them (especially around Headquarters Drive — Toyota, Frito-Lay, Hewlett-Packard, J.C. Penney, McAfee, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Ericsson all have large offices there) and because they tend to be executive types.

I prefer to ferry middle-aged people around because I can chat to them companionably and it relieves the tedium of driving on DFW’s crappy highway system. Young people (i.e. yoofs) are generally silent passengers, and spend all their time playing games / watching movies on their phones. However, two fares were eye-openers.

Case #1:  Some Black dude with an impenetrable Ebonics accent (“Little Elm” came out “Li-Ell”). Plus, he had serious body odor. However, it was one of the best drives I’ve had so far. He was on his way to Fort Worth to be with his mother — his brother had just been killed in a car accident — so after offering condolences, I started to chat with him about our families. What a revelation. This guy was a retired professional soccer player who’d played for West Ham FC in London. Even more astonishing, his kids were also headed for the same profession: the oldest (18) is already playing for FC Schalke in the German Bundesliga, his middle son (15) is in Crystal Palace’s youth team in London, and his youngest (13) is in Team USA’s development squad, and has a chance of playing for the US in the next Under-17 internationals. And lest you think this was all bullshit, it wasn’t. I know a great deal about European- and British football, and this guy was the real deal. We even talked about their business manager and agent, whom I’d heard of, and discussed how Spanish “fooball” today isn’t played according to the Spanish style, but in the Dutch manner, thanks to the influence of the late Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers ever and Barcelona’s manager in the early 1990s. When my passenger got out of the car at his mother’s place, he said, “Who’d a thought I’d get to talk football with an Uber driver from Souf Effrica?” (At least, I think that’s what he said; I’ve had easier conversations with ESL students.) Incidentally, he was using Uber — and getting me a $50 fare — because his BMW was broken “again!” and he warned me against ever buying the 440i. So much for that stereotype.

Case #2:  I picked up a kid named “Jesus” (guess the ethnicity) outside a gas station in Dallas. He was a little agitated when he got in the car, and was worried about being late for his “appointment”. Anyway, I reassured him — it wasn’t a long trip — and so I asked him how his day had been. “Pretty good” was his non-committal reply. He was your typical Hispanic adolescent, a little sullen-looking and taciturn, but reasonably well-dressed and had a short haircut. Still, there was something a little “off” — he looked nervous, jumpy even. I figured him as a potential problem, so I watched him carefully all the way. Then we arrived at his destination: a U.S. Army recruiting office. “You joining up?” “Yes, sir. Signing the papers right now.”

You may consider me suitably chastened.

More memorable tales as they occur.

Sexy Genarians

Oh good grief, here we come again:

Sex is best in your SIXTIES: Survey finds 66-year-olds are the most satisfied in bed – and sex therapists say it makes sense
The eighth annual Singles in America survey was taken by more than 5,000 single people in the US.
It found single women are having the best sex at 66 years old and men at 64.
Sex therapist Dr Madeleine Castellanos said lovemaking is more fulfilling for single men and women in their 60s because they are experienced, they know what they want and are free to explore the dimensions of their sexuality.
While many think younger people have a better time knocking boots, the recent survey revealed it actually gets better with age.
In fact, a study published by National Commission on Aging found women, in particular, said sex in their 70s was at least as satisfying or more satisfying physically than it was in their 40s.

As someone who’s in his sixties, I’ll let you know as soon as it happens. (Actually, that’s a lie: I never talk about my sex life, such as it is, because I can’t imagine anything more boring.) I would imagine, however, that having a little knee-trembler with any of the following sexagenarians might be quite fun:

Cherie Lunghi:

Lynda Carter:

Sela Ward:

Marina Sirtis:

Jane Seymour:

Dana Delany:

…and finally, Kim Cattrall:

Swinging sixties, indeed. And if none of the above caused at least some parts of your body to tingle, you’re in deep trouble, buddy, regardless of your age.

Oh, and just to be inclusive, a token trio of sexagenarian men for my Lady Readers:

Liam Neeson:

Chris Noth:

…and Kevin Costner:

Or did I get this last lot wrong, Ladies? (I have no idea what men are attractive to women, unless I know the size of their bank balances. Then, I’m infallible.)

 

 

#MeLikewise

Here’s one I can definitely get behind:

Ageing cinema audiences looking for intelligent dialogue are being let down by a male-dominated industry obsessed with blockbusters filled with violence and special effects.

My only quibble with an otherwise excellent sentiment is the “male-dominated” part, even though it might be true. The fact of the matter, though, is that male domination is irrelevant: Hollywood (and the movie industry in general) can’t rely on domestic audiences anymore because the real money is to be made in the vast Asian market. And dubbing is expensive, so instead they make action movies — and by resorting to comic-book characters and storylines, they get a double bonus because the US market can be counted upon to supply a large number of retarded neo-adolescents who are still reading comic books at age 30+. Hence the success of Transformers 27 , Fast & Furious 51, Spiderman Meets [Super-Villain #16] , and similar childish bullshit.

Aldous Huxley would be laughing hysterically right now, because his “feelies” have materialized — only instead of actual touching, movies’ audio tracks are cranked up to 15 so that the senses can be literally assaulted by sound.

And another thing, speaking of artificiality: CGI special effects should not be used for reasons other than logistical (e.g. CGI-generated fleets of C-47s ferrying paratroopers into Normandy in Band of Brothers: good; making CGI characters / machines the heroes of the movie: bad — no, awful). Given the trend towards the latter, it’s no surprise to me that movie directors are already talking about simply transplanting well-known actors’ faces onto CGI bodies and being able to make movies entirely in a digital studio as opposed to on an expensive studio lot — hell, that’s already started in the porno industry (always an innovator and ground-breaker in technology, by the way), much to the consternation of actresses like Meryl Streep, Scarlet Johannson or Kathy Bates.

Whenever I’m asked why I haven’t seen the new Masters of the Galaxy (or whatever it’s called) movie, I simply reply that I quit reading comic books at about age 11*, as should every adult. The storylines are boringly repetitive, the action equally so, and the characters’ emotions are, well, set at comic-book level (which is what’s required for a preteen audience who don’t have the mental software to appreciate or even recognize complex emotional issues). It’s fine for kids, in other words; but if someone age 50 tells me he’s still seriously into comic books and/or their movie derivatives, I actually start to wonder about his mental maturity. Love of comic books by adults, at best, signifies a lazy intellect and at worst, immaturity. (Yeah, I know. Sometimes the truth hurts, dunnit? Please spare me the lofty rationale why you still act hysterically like a preteen fanboi every time there’s talk of replacing Robert Downey Jr. with Will Smith in the next Iron Man. And don’t get me started on the Star Wars industrial complex.)

Small wonder that the SJW movement is so into simplistic entertainment like RPG online shoot-’em-up fantasy games, Marvel comics and Michael Bay’s crappy automotive transmogrification movies. It’s a logical extension of SJWs’ entire snowflake persona which is so easily seduced by bumper-sticker slogans and -philosophy.

And yes I know, it’s just escapism. I don’t care. Escaping reality into a sophisticated Billy Wilder or Ernst Lubitsch comedy is one thing; escaping into the latest Iron Man extravaganza, even with Robert Downey Jr.’s excellent performance, is no better than downing a bottle of tequila — you come out of it with your senses reeling and a faint taste of nausea, not to mention shame that you allowed yourself to be seduced into this nonsense so easily. (If you come out of the latter feeling spiritually enriched, then you’re beyond help.)

And speaking of seduction: I have no idea what women’s role is in all this, hence my dismissal of “male-dominated” as irrelevant, earlier. As a rule, women don’t do action movies (note, please, that NAWALT, but as a generalization, it’s true — just look at the attendance / fan base breakdown by sex). My guess is that younger women are being assaulted by the combined force of intellectual laziness and militant feminism (which I suspect considers romantic comedies as yet another manifestation of the Patriarchy — fuck, I am getting so sick of that trope). The outcome is just going to lead to an endless stream of 50 Shades Of Grey and Twilight replicas. The awfulness of the original 50 Shades wish-fulfillment fantasy and the vampire-struck Twilight in itself means that the sequential wannabes will be so dire that audiences and readers thereof will have to be issued barf bags. Anne Rice’s dreadful supernatural soft-porn novels of the 1990s were just a harbinger of worse things — and boy, are we seeing them now.

For myself, you can count me in Imelda Staunton’s “grey pound” (or in US terms, “grey dollar”) group. As she so correctly puts it: “There are a lot of people who want to listen to intelligent dialogue and see films that make you think, but also [with characters] that don’t just go around killing.” I agree completely. As much as I enjoy a good occasional killing in a thriller (book or movie), I can live without them — witness my affection for modern movies like A Good Year , Hope Springs and Midnight In Paris, to name but three that could be classified as romantic comedies, but which are actually stories of character development. No special effects, no CGI, no explosions or car chases: just simple themes with complex characters facing life-changing challenges.

So you’ll forgive me if I can’t converse knowledgeably about the latest Marvel movie which combines classical mythological figures like Thor and Loki with modern mythological figures like Iron Man and Captain America — good grief, the whole premise makes me want to reach for the single malt — because the chances are that I won’t have seen it. And as for the female type of fantasy escapism, this picture encapsulates my sentiment exactly:

Actually, you can substitute any of the current comic-book genre movie titles into that meme, and you’ve got my position.


*Not all comics are for kids. I’ve never quit reading Asterix and Tintin stories, for example, for the simple reason that like earlier Looney Tunes cartoon movies, the humor is not just aimed at children, but in many cases it’s seriously adult-oriented. And if you don’t understand Latin and Roman-Gallic history, a lot of Asterix is going to sail right over your head.

Worst Gun News Ever

So… bye bye Browning High Power?

Small arms manufacturer Browning has ended production of the Browning Hi Power semiautomatic handgun. The legendary pistol served in armies worldwide, from Nationalist China to the British Special Air Service and was one of the first high capacity pistols ever invented. An invention of prolific arms designer John Moses Browning, the Hi Power was the inventor’s last pistol design.

I don’t wanna talk about it. I just hope some company buys the tooling and continues to make it to the same standards of excellency, like they did with Llama. (Okay, they improved the Llama by using better steel, but you know what I mean.)

So good and beautiful a gun cannot be allowed to disappear.

(Thanks to several Readers who wrote to tell me about this.)

Safe To Eat

I’ve always been skeptical about health warnings on canned foods, especially as I’m somewhat familiar with the canning process (which basically renders food bacteria-free). Now my suspicions have been justified by SCIENTISTS:

Microbiologist Richard Page, of Alliance Technical Laboratories, looked for a host of nasties, including the potentially deadly bacteria E.coli, salmonella, listeria and Clostridium perfringens, as well as for yeasts and moulds, which affect food quality but aren’t necessarily unsafe to eat.
Then food technologist Brian Smith, of Booth Smith Food Technology, analysed the results — and reached a very surprising conclusion.

There’s a reason canning has been a popular way of preserving food for the best part of two centuries. Canned food is subjected to a very high heat process to kill bacteria, and once sealed the contents are effectively sterile.
Sterilisation means heating to very high temperatures, killing all microbes. In 1974, tins of food from the wreck of a U.S. steamboat that sank in 1865 were tested. There had been a deterioration in appearance and vitamin content, but scientists found they were safe to eat.

“All of the best before dates you are looking at would absolutely not be for bacterial risk. The reasoning behind them would be due to quality,’ says Richard Page. “It may be the manufacturer knows that after a certain period of time there is a certain degradation in the taste or the flavour, colour or smell.”
Or it might just be because they want to sell more pineapple chunks.
Meanwhile, Brian Smith says food manufacturers do give “quite a margin of error” when setting best before dates — in some cases as much as 50 per cent.
So while “use by” dates should always be adhered to, “best before” is more an indicator of quality than a health alarm bell.

I remember eating some of my Y2K canned goods nearly ten years later, and none — I mean not one — tasted any differently than if I’d bought them the same day. Ditto some of my SHTF Grab ‘N Go supplies, just a couple years back. Most of the warning dates are just in case some guy eats 30-year-old corned beef hash he found in Nana’s pantry, and keels over — but even then, while the fats in the food might have caused the taste to deteriorate, the health risk is close to zero.

Read the article for all the details. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen to make me some food:

Nom nom nom…