Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rock Star: Martin's Closet: The Reality Series

I can't remember how long ago Lora mentioned it (hence, I can't find the post to link to) but she mentioned how guys tend to hold onto clothes too long whether they wear them or not. I'm very guilty of this and my closet is full of clothes I've received during Christmas/birthdays and have never worn. Which gave me an idea that I alluded to on her blog. There are some of the offending garments in the photo there ---->

Anyhow, I've put it in my head that this is the premiere introduction episode for the new monthly reality series Rock Star: Martin's Closet. Yes, during this month, I will choose 12 items from hundreds manufactured from all around the world in their chance to win a position in my closet. This will be very difficult and there will probably be tears but I will let YOU make the final choice. All 11 of the items that don't make the final cut will be donated to charity (and if they don't take them... a thrift store or yard sale.) I promise to see this competition to a successful end and if all goes well we may have a second season. At the end of next month, you will meet the contestants. My guess is that China will have many entries.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Insensitive Me

I was watching something on television yesterday and then my Tivo kicked in a suggestion. This happens often as I like to see what it thinks I'm interested in. Anyhow, it started recording a special titled Why Does College Cost So Much... And Is It Worth It? The show walked through the normal issues of rising tuition costs countered with the lower teacher to student ratios, the expensive classrooms and even a college with a 52 person capacity hot tub. Since, I'm returning to education, of course I found it interesting to see the reasons for increased tuition. It seemed to make a lot of sense until about 20 minutes or so in. You see, they gave two different viewpoints (one prior to going in and one after.)

One soon to be student comes from a family that earns $100,000 a year which was over the limit to get assistance yet the parents hadn't considered putting any money away for their daughter's college. They were upset with the system. The father urged her to consider community college for the first few years and the mother would not allow it. The journalists followed the family around as they toured schools for a few months.

Perspective #2 was of a woman who just finished 4 years of college (tuition and fees paid were $135,000) and now owed $80,000 in college loans. (Yes, this means that either she, grants or scholarships paid off the other $55,000.) When asked why she chose such an expensive school she replied, "I was told that I'd fit in better there." She proceeds to talk about how hard it is now after finishing school. The graduate had been at the mall with her friends looking at dresses for their formal and (she sniffles and tears up) she has to look in the clearance rack for her dress. (Tears are now streaming down her face as she looks at the camera.) She then says that she doesn't know when she'll be able to buy designer clothes again.

I laughed so hard that I had to watch it again (this time showing it to Kerry.) Kerry herself has been putting money away for her son David's education while earning much less than half of what the first family mentioned. Sometimes it hurts having to save but it is necessary. Sure, things can go wrong and that happens but making an attempt doesn't hurt. Leaving community college out as an option is also rather petty. The post-student irks me the most. Now that you've graduated, nothing has changed other than the height of the ceiling as you enter the working class and what floor. Yes, you owe student loans and you will for quite some time but to see someone cry over not being able to purchase designer items... boo friggen hoo!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Martin In A Strange Land

The phrase "stranger in a strange land" has been around since the early biblical translations into English began (Exodus 2:22.) Growing up, I'd heard of the book often and of course heard of the songs of the same title by Iron Maiden and Leon Russell. Recently, the text was placed in my hands (ok, it was a bag stacked full of books) by Teri and Lloyd, I was just an egg.

You see, the book's main character is a human male named Valentine Michael Smith who was born on Mars under the supervision of Martians and has returned to Earth as an adult. In the early part of the book, Smith becomes the perfect vessel to examine the human condition through the eyes of someone just learning (or who is "just an egg.") We've seen this type of situation used often with Star Trek: TNG's Data, Star Trek's Spock, Tom Hanks in Big and Darryl Hannah in Splash (well, that's more of a fish out of water tale.)

Another point that I find fascinating at the start of the book is Heinlein's view of the 'space race' in the early 60's. The book was published in 1961 during the same year that President John F. Kennedy said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...." We hadn't reached the moon yet but Heinlein saw us hitting Mars. He also believed the Russians would get there before us.

The first half of the book deals with Smith's becoming accustomed to Earth, his "rights" as a human, his money (as sole heir to a fortune) and to the correct uses of his extraordinary abilities. The second half makes a jerky right turn and proceeds into making Smith a pseudo-Christ character as he creates a cultish 'church' in an effort to educate the masses. Of course, problems arise with rival factions, organized criminals and a frenzied media. I really started losing touch with the book when they brought angels into it and then revealed Smith's true character...

No more for spoilers but if you haven't read the book, it is worth it as he creates some great characters whose interactions are absolutely hilarious at times (had me laughing out loud at work.) Most of these involve the character Jubal Harshaw (an educated older eccentric millionaire and reclusive writer) who will remain a favorite. Also worth noting is that Heinlein coined the word "grok" in this book which means to drink, to understand and to be one with.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


It seems that I'm on an unusual streak of posts dealing with things said to me by co-workers. This can be a bad trend that will end it with this one. I was asked last week, "Are you an only child?" There was no preamble, no "hey, how's it going?" but straight and to the point. I told her that I wasn't and proceeded to say that I'm the oldest of 4. I don't think she even heard me as she didn't say anything after that even when I asked her why she asked. Very odd. Even though I heard her ask someone else the question moments later. So, I just chalked it up to her taking a poll.

I bumped into her later. Sarcastic person that I can be, she was within earshot when I turned to another co-worker and asked, "Are you an only child?" She didn't get my making fun of her previous question and I asked her again, why she had asked. After saying "it's nothing" a few times, she said, "... because you are spoiled." That wasn't what I was expecting. But, she said little to say why she thought that.

Anyhow, I'm one of those people that take those little moments and mull them over and over and over until I have burned the gears out. What makes me seem like a spoiled brat to her? I mentally came up with a list of 15 to 20 things that I have, may do or might not do that may imply it (yes, the iPod is on the list.) Everyone is entitled to their own evaluation of other people. But, how is it that you define spoiled? And does being an 'only child' automatically imply you are spoiled?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Goal Tending

I was approached with a question by another co-worker about 3 days ago (this seems to happen often, huh.) I tend to be the person that people come to when they have a song in their head that they can't remember the artist or title. Sometimes they just remember the music video. I plead ignorance to some of the 70's and current hits but can usually nail my decade of study (the 80's.) This co-worker has a sister that used to be a local DJ at KUNV (where I trained as a DJ much later) who now works for Rhino Records. After answering his question, he asked me one that I haven't heard before. "Martin, why haven't you written a book?"

That's a darn good question. I had two goals (formed when I was in high school) that I wanted to attain by the time I turned 30. Goal #1 was to record an album. I sort of conquered that one by 1996 but that's a whole other story. Goal #2 was to publish a book. I didn't get to that one in time. Early on, the idea was simply publishing a collection of poetry and short stories that I'd written during my high school years. That goal evolved over time yet my focus jumped to different arenas while goal #2 gathered dust... until 3 days ago.

I recently mentioned my re-entry into college. Doing so, I'll need to spend some time in English classes (pesky core requirements.) This will give me some time to refine an outline for a possible book about... squirrels. No, of course it will be about 80's music. There are so many books about the music of this time period out there that just throw names about (Madonna, Springsteen, Duran Duran, etc.) but I'd like to show the decade for what it was. It was a time when charting pop music was disco, country, rock, dance, reggae, synthpop, rap, punk, jazz, metal, R&B and even T.V. show instrumental theme songs (think Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues theme songs.) It was a time of musical tolerance before each genre needed a radio station for itself. So, here I state that goal #2 has been given a 10 year extension with hopes to finish something in the next 5 years (as I try to juggle everything else.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Probing Job Applications

Sick of seeing New York yet? I figure you've seen it up there longer than I spent there. So, off to another item that has been rolling around in my head since before the trip: credit checks.

A co-worker of mine approached me a few weeks ago. (Seeing as I have my head in a book most of the time, it seems that I'm always the one to ask unusual questions.) He asked me, "Why do you think that companies are now running your credit when you apply for a job?" He felt really uneasy about the idea that an employer gets to poke around in your personal history.

My first response to him was "because they can." My second was that it makes sense for an employer when it comes to a skilled field. If my credit was horrendous and it shows that I was lucky that I haven't been evicted from my home yet, why would an employer want to invest money into training me for a position? If I've already shown that I'm not responsible with my bills and that homelessness is a future possibility, what would keep me from not showing up to work, overcharging a customer or stashing a $20 bill from the cash register in my sock? Sure, they could take a risk on an underdog but when it comes to a small business you want to take as few risks as possible.

He then asked me, "What about those young kids that have just come out of school or are in college?" Sure, many of them find their way into credit debt but debt doesn't usually exclude you from a job (or we'd all be having problems.) Showing a continuing trend of credit issues screams that there is a current problem that should be resolved before more responsibility is given. Some of the bigger problems stems from not having a strong job history (while attending school) and now telling someone that you want to redirect your focus to the job market. This is also a great reason for entry level positions as each of them shows your willingness to work as well as gives the employer someone to call and ask, "Did Martin have a problem showing up on time?"

So overall, I don't see an employer having access to credit information as a bad thing. Do I think that it should play a major role? No. We already give out an amazing amount of information on an employment application in the hopes of being hired (former addresses, former employers, educational summary and even the names, numbers and addresses of people that can vouch for you.) Letting them see that I don't change jobs every week and that I pay my bills isn't going to kill me.

As an employer, would you use all the information available to you a prospective employee to make your decision?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New York Vacation - Day 3 - 4

My last few days have to be lumped together because they were just fun lazy days. We pretty much wandered around town and were still letting the event the night before sink in.

The only real plans we had for day 3 were dinner plans at Campagnola that night on 77th and 1st. In all honesty, this restaurant knocked me off my feet and has become one of my favorite dining experiences...if not the best. Why would I say such a thing? I think it's because I really threw caution to the wind and tried some things that I would never have put in my mouth. When we walked in and met our server (really nice gentleman from northern Italy), my father requested two pizzas as appetizers. Oddly enough, Dad wasn't kidding. He really wanted pizza but our server took it as a joke and smiled saying, "I'm gonna take care of you!" I ordered a glass of their house chianti. We were served an immense amount of food that early on could have been seen as a sampler plate with gnocchi, ravioli, calamari and a scallop (never had a scallop before but it will have to be as amazing to get me to try it again.) Next came a few other items and Chilean sea bass (which again, I had to try and found tremendous.) Then came a gigantic T-bone steak which had the meat cut from the bone and sliced in strips. I could only eat a little of that as I was already pretty full. Then came dessert: a platter with 6 different gellatos, slices of ice cream between them, little pastries in between those and a sundae in the middle containing black coffee beans. Tried out their moscatto (dessert wine) at this point. I was stuffed but really felt like I had toured Italy without eating Italian fast food.

After returning to the hotel, Dad walked with us back down to the Tonic Bar & Grill. I guess it was Beck's night or something because we got the last free round of them as well as key chains. This was the first time we were all able to have a drink together during the trip and Dad left after his bottle was gone. I stayed out a bit longer, had a few more drinks and walked back. Last minute, I decided to look into the Hooters across the street from where we were staying to see what it was like. I then called it an evening.

We were hoping to take a tour of the city the next morning but Matt and Mike (pictured there on the right) were recovering from their night out. While waiting for them, Dad and I noticed a fair going on outside the hotel (running all the way down 7th.) I slept in a bit longer and went to the gym with Dad. Then we walked around the fair. It seems they do this every 2 weeks where they close down the street and put little vendors with everything from luggage, t-shirts (bought a few offensive ones,) reggae CDs (possibly RIAA infringement,) Mexican food (wasn't going to risk it,) sunglasses (bought a pair,) fortune tellers (I'm sorry but I don't expect much when they charge $2 to $5 per reading) and much more.

After walking the length of the fair, we got a call from my brothers (who desperately needed coffee.) We walked back, walked the street again and returned back for a trip to the deli. That was when we figured that we only had a few hours left before we needed to get ready for our flight. Having packed our bags, we decided to walk past the fair and go further into the city towards Top Of The Rock. It seems the GE building (owned by NBC) has an observation deck on top called Top Of The Rock and our best chance of seeing the city would be from 70 stories up. So, I took a bunch of photos from there and as Dad, Matt and Mike walked in. We ran through the tour to save time and went straight up. Pretty amazing view. We then ran back out, took a cab back to the Manhattan Club, picked up our luggage and flew back home. Upon later reflection, the timeliness couldn't be better (seeing what happened with flights the following week.)

As you can tell, I'm throwing as many pictures up here as possible but pay close attention to the last photo. Imagine owning a company with that name (or even just being a driver.) Don't be afraid to click and zoom in. I just wonder how many people keep signing him up for Cialis and Enzyte samples. Thank you for sharing my vacation with me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

New York Vacation - Day 2

Our second day in town was a little more normal. Having unwound from the flight and settled in for the night, we scouted the surroundings. Dad and I headed over to the gym for a workout while my brothers recovered from checking out the local pubs (this would happen all week with myself and at one point Dad joining.) While the boys slept, we found a supermarket and picked up some goodies. We brought Mike and Matt there later to pick up some lunch. We would later find a deli on 7th that we'd keep going back to because of the service (and they made fresh juices which Dad would pick up... carrot, beet and celery.) Pictured is the back of Mike's head.

It was time for us to get ready for Tony Bennett's 80th birthday party held at the Museum of Natural History. Yes, I know a few people would like me to post photos of myself. You are in luck. I actually let my Dad handle the camera (which he really seemed lost doing.) This was taken with you in mind as I was getting ready for the night.

So, off we went to the party. Right before it started, I had the munchies and tried a slice of Ray's Pizza. I was told this was the best pizza in town and had to try it, so I did. Not bad. Ok, anyhow, the party was attended by 250 people. Many of you would know the names: Robert DeNiro, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Bruce Willis, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Donald Trump, Katie Couric, Alec Baldwin, Congressman Charles Rangel... lets just say there were a lot of them. Matt and Mike spent quite some time with Travolta and Preston. Very nice people. Dinner was amazing (ok, the appetizer wasn't as it was an antipasti plate) as it was my first taste of veal milanese and saffron orzo followed by an assorted gelato and sorbet plate dessert. Here are a few pics from the party (one with Elvis and one with Dad.)

Yes, I tend to avoid taking photos of myself but I couldn't resist getting one with the creator of one of my favorite albums, Spike. After leaving there, Dad returned back to the hotel and I went to join Matt and Mike for a few drinks. It seems they have more than one place called Tonic (Tonic Bar & Grill and Tonic -- the nightclub.) I wound up spending $40 in a cab going to a very seedy part of town only to find out that the were at the much closer Tonic Bar & Grill to the hotel. The telephone directory only listed the nightclub. We walked back, grabbed some food and turned in for the night.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New York Vacation - Day 1

Ok, this is going to get edited a bit more as we go due to time constraints. Finally unpacked all the electronics that I brought on the trip with me (iPod, digital camera, electric razor, cell phone and really new iPod player) and now, having hooked everything back up, I can look at what photos I took. I also figured that this area has gone empty for too long so here are a few photos and notes.

We stayed in two rooms at the beautiful Manhattan Club (on 200 W. 56th near 7th) which is right across from a Hooters. Amazing location (and not because of the Hooters) which is just a block or so away from Ed Sullivan Theater (yes, where they tape David Letterman.) The photo was taken from the window in our room. The brown building you see over there? That's Carnegie Hall.

Trash day is really odd in New York. Not much area for dumpsters, so they stack everything on the sidewalk. No smell was more overpowering during our first few days than that of black trashbags full of refuse in hot humid weather. And here I thought all the jokes were about New Jersey.

The first weird sign that I saw on my way via taxi to our hotel said 'Siamese For Retail Only.' My first thought was... you can rent people from Siam? Or were they privy to a special ordinance allowing only them to rent this part of the wall? Later reflection had me thinking that it meant both of those had to be used at the same time but I'm still lost on the use of the word "retail." Very odd.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Did I Leave The Iron On?

So much to do, so little time. Just sent out a bunch of things that I sold on eBay, got fitted for and picked up a nice suit, got a haircut, hopped in the shower, paid some bills and yet... I still haven't packed for my trip tomorrow. So, I might have to leave work early to do so. We'll see. Anyhow, I just wanted to pop in and wish all of you a great week and feel free to leave a few ideas of New York sights that I should see while I'm there in the comments. I might be able to sneak on and check while I'm out there. So much crap to pack!