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Friday, February 27, 2015

So Much Book Smarts.. So Few Survival Skills

The other day I was having a deep conversation with a colleague about the world and its ways and ultimately the discussion turned to education, and we both marveled at how poorly schooling prepares people for life.

Now we were not speaking of issues such as intelligence or the ability to translate all the knowledge acquired into a good paying and secure job..

The poor schooling we both spoke of dealt with how truly unprepared most people are to be able to survive in a world where the System crumbles, even briefly and to do so in a way that doesn't break the law such as stealing from others.
Think a moment about yourself..  No matter what your age or physical condition at this moment, imagine yourself healthy, virile and in the physical peak fitness of your life

Now compared to your ancestors a mere century or two ago (which in the great Cosmos is a mere blip of time), what do you really know in terms of survival?

If the supermarkets are barren and all the fast food restaurants have been ransacked, would you know how to feed yourself?

Do you know how to hunt an animal?

If you did not possess a gun, do you know how to make a spear?  Or carve a bow and make arrows?
Do you know how to fish and prepare it for eating?

Do you know how do do any kind of farming or gardening?

If in your vicinity there was a chicken or turkey and you were starving, would you know how to kill it and the steps necessary to prepare the bird for cooking so you could eat without getting salmonella?

Would you know how to create shelter if you were in an environment where man-made dwelling was not near by or accessible?

Would you know how to make clothing much less sew a hole or a button?
Everything schooling teaches a child from K through 12 is how to survive within the controlled construct of the System.  

The most important knowledge for basic survival in implanted in a small child's head in his/her early formative i.e. language, basic math, writing ability..  

Once these seed of information are planted in a small mind and begins to germinate, the rest of the purpose of education is about teaching young people to function socially and economically within the established societal structure and be responsible, controllable citizens.
And by the time young people turn 12 or 13, usually they either become rebellious with no cause or clue and try to find self-identity through tattoos, unique hair colors or experimentation with alcohol and narcotics...

Or they become conformists who focus their energies on socially approved activities like sports, marching band, student government or geeky pursuits like comic book collecting and video gaming .

But very very few become True individuals.

Does the education system really want young minds to question everything..  to countermand authority.. to say 'No' or 'Why?'

They already dealt with the consequences of free minds.. it was called the '60s
Does the education system really want people to think in life there is an "Option C' or 'D' much less 'E' to 'Z'... Or does it want people to accept 'A' or 'B'; to debate and discuss issues within a controlled prism of ideas?

Give you an example --  A news story mentions the price of tolls on the state turnpike will be going up starting on X date, and its presented with a smile as 'Well, whatcha doin to do?  Pay the higher toll filled with tension or just relax and go with the flow?'

Funny no newscast ever mentions even as an aside that if its at all realistically feasible for you to stop using the turnpike and find alternate routes, its a good course of action..
Nope.. They never present viewers with options or any information that stimulates thought and the reflexive need to be pro-active.

And the education system does not condition or train students to think outside the box

Minds filled with mush and minutiae and trivial tidbits

This is why subjects like science and mathematics are such an emphasized part of the student curriculum..  
No sane person can question that 4 x 6 = 24 or that H20 is two-parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.. Just memorize and move on..

You can question why the US Civil War was fought and was it even necessary in the first place?   Or was President Wilson a hero or villain when it comes to his conduct of running American involvement in World War I

Topics and degrees that do not provide simple answers or solutions are minimized and made insignificant by education and ultimately by employers

Try getting a job in any non-teaching field with a History degree..  You've a better chance being hired if you say you graduated college with a degree in Foreign Languages.
If and when the System breaks down, millions if not billions of people globally will be ill-prepared because they've been denied education in every facet of life that emphasizes Individual Independence of thought and action like our ancestors all possessed one time or another.

Not only is our knowledge of basic day to day survival gone but we've been stripped of our basic instinct to mistrust those in positions of power or who possess weapons; the natural instinct to flee or hide rather than willingly submit to Authority.

We are a society that over-emphasizes book-smarts while minimizing the value of street smarts and cunning.
We'll see how far knowing the Chemistry periodic table or reciting every word from Shakespeare comes in handy when you or someone you care about is cut bad and you don't know how to disinfect or sew up the wound

Or to try to repair broken machines when replacements are not so easy to find.

Two Thousand Three Hundred Forty days of schooling from Kindergarten until High School graduation and its truly amazing in spite of all the new technology, how little people really know how to survive

Can you survive with no television?

Or without Internet?
Or without your precious cell phone and all its texting/tweeting?

Or without your iPads and iPods once the batteries run dead?

Probably not..  Madness would ultimately ensue..  People would have to 'gasp' talk locally to each other..

And its all no accident.

Nothing in the Matrix-like system is an accident...  
Well.. maybe except the few who go through the brainwashing phase and can still think for themselves as adult  and who see things for what they are..

And who keep self-educating and becoming more and more self-sufficient as they grow in awareness..

They are called anomalies.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Pretend Democrat as Governor; A "Wolf" in Sheep's Clothing

When it comes to slimy, scummy politicians, there's really only one thing worse than a fiscally conservative Republican..

And that of course is a fiscally conservative Democrat.

Oh yes.. there really are such terrible people out there in offices of power, especially in various Governor's mansions across the country.

Pennsylvania has one such man; a corporate-loving wolf in everyday-person' sheep's clothing who just so happen to be named 'Wolf'..

"Gov. Wolf on Wednesday proposed cutting the state corporate net income tax rate in half by 2018, a step he said would allow Pennsylvania to move from the nation's second-highest rate to one of its lowest.

Unveiling pieces of his economic plan to Lehigh Valley business leaders, Wolf called for gradually reducing the corporate net income tax from 9.99 percent to 4.99 percent, and eliminating the already-expiring capital stock and franchise tax."

All under the guise of attracting businesses to flock to the state or in reality, a desperate move to prevent businesses already located there from carpetbagging to the South and West or abroad.
~ PA State Bird: Ruffled Grouse.. You'd be ruffled too if you lived there

But let's do simple math:  If you take 10 and subtract 5, that equals 5 remaining..  So what percentage of the 10 is now permanently gone?  


So let's say Pennsylvania which is the US' 6th largest state by population collects annually collects $500 million in corporate taxes..  50% less means $250m Less going to the state to possess in preparing its annual budget.

Now you must think this fiscally conservative bastard Democrat is presiding over a state with a huge windfall of extra money in the state treasury..
~ PA State Flower: Mountain laurel

Nope.. More like a budget deficit of $2.3 billion.

So let's see..  $2.3 billion in the hole + a plan to save corporations 50% in taxes = Huh?

The governor also wants to lower property taxes when Pa schools, especially in Philly are in such disrepair and decay..

~ Yes they do, and no political party cares about the kiddies..

And who usually makes up the shortfall when less tax revenue is collected by corporations and the well to do?   Obviously its we the people and usually done through what fiscal conservative dogs refer to as "fair" taxes

These are things like adding 10cents a gallon for gas here, and 20 cents a pack of cigarettes or beer there, or raising turnpike and bridge tolls or hell, just raise the state sales tax so every person rich and working poor and really-really poor can all pay the same..

Also, employees usually end up paying what we call 'thank you Master' taxes to cover the difference of what their employer usually saves.
~ warehouse in Lehigh Valley, Pa..  Prior to moving there thanks to tax breaks, Amazon strongly fought against collecting state sales tax; Now they Happily collect the 6% 

For example, a business is enticed to come to a state and pay a 50% tax reduction rate.  That company then hires 500 workers who each pay let's say 1.5 to 2% in state income tax...

Those 500 people are each involuntarily chipping in to cover the business they're forced to work for, come rain, shine or snow.  And if its a major corporation, that savings will go back to headquarters and profits used to buy more stock shares and enrich shareholders.

You see how truly evil and corrupt the system is?
Most people who vote Republican fully understand this is part of their core economic principle of 'trickle down' where those at the top get all the financial breaks and benefits and the common peed-on peon gets rewarded in dribbles

What many Democrats do not fully understand is often they vote for candidates into office who embrace the same faulty bullshit reasoning under the guise of being associated with a political party that until Clinton at least was diametrically opposed to such policy.

Now you have two kinds of Democrats-- Wall St soulless whores and what we at A&G call 'Real' Democrats who work and fight to represent the everyday person so he/she can get a fair shake
~ Amazing how many people wanting 'Hope' can turn easily into Dopes

Pennsylvania obviously is governed by a Democrat Wall St whore who believes corporations need a break and should be allowed to make endless profit while putting back as minimal as possible back to the communities they suck the money from...

How about your state Governor?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Hewlett Packard Campfire Chiller Story..

Happy Wednesday to you all..

Today we're going to tell a story that is a little bit scary and 100% true..

We know Halloween is a good 9 months away but still this should send shivers down your spines more than tales of ghosts and ghouls and goblins..

So gather around the campfire (pretend your in a decent temperature to allow outdoor camping even if not), and bundle and snuggle up...
Once upon a time there was this corporation named Hewlett Packard (HP) and they were successful at selling computers, printers and other electronics equipment for businesses..

Now HP as it became more successful in the 1990s and 2000's grew and grew..  For instance, back in 2005, the company had expanded to 58,000 employees in the US, 9,000 of them in the SF Bay Area alone.

By 2014, the number expanded to 314,000 employees worldwide.

Then around mid October, 2014 shares of HP stock dropped to $32.24 after seeing a continual rise from $12.44 a share back on Nov 19, 2012 to $38 on August 31, 2014.
So like all corporations putting themselves first, they fired 44,000 people..

When people are let go in bad financial times, they're called "layoffs" and when the economic climate is good, the moves are called "restructuring"

Tomato.. To-mah-to..

So then what happened was after the firings, the stock continued to climb as investors were more than happy with the riddance of the 'dead weight' upon their profits
And as of yesterday Feb 24, 2015, HP stock is valued at $38.49


And the head honchos were so happy over the continual growth in their stock that they celebrated..

By announcing another 58,000 people would be laid off by year's end.

Ta Daaa!!
Of course anyone who truly understands the markets know the growth of all Fortune 500 companies have little to nothing to do with business growth or increased sales resulting in growing profits..

It has to do with Fed sponsored QE allowing for very inexpensive stock buybacks which inflate the price of the stocks to keep investors happy and those on the sideline thinking they're missing out on a good investment opportunity.

By axing 58 thousand workers, HP can cut enough costs on top and continue to fund its now exponential surge in stock buybacks, which in the just concluded quarter was a record $1.6 billion, an increase of 178% from a year ago..
This makes its shareholders even richer while its management team get massive equity-linked bonuses.

And those fired.. well they get to enjoy being on welfare for up to 99 weeks then if they haven't found new work or maybe picked up an odd job here or there but not 40hr work, they get to be officially not counted as unemployed anymore which helps keep the national unemployment rate artificially low..

Meanwhile the CEO Meg Whitman got to see her compensation package increased to $19.6 million --- $1.5 million salary, a stock award valued at $8.1 million, stock options worth $5.3 million, a $4.3 million incentive award and $295,400 in perks, including $251,000 for personal use of private aircraft.
And the moral of the story kids:

Never feel loyalty to the company or business you work for because it doesn't matter the economic situation or the fiscal strength of where you are employed..

You can and will be discarded for any or no reason to save them a few dollars.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Box Office Tally for Best Actor Nominees

~ James Stewart and Ginger Rogers- both winners in early 1941

I got some interesting feedback on Monday's posting about wage equality in Hollywood..

Some thought I was 100% correct and spot-on in my assessments and a few others thought I was a bit off the mark because there were some actresses who actually do draw in more viewers than most male actors and thus would be entitled to higher salary..

A good example of this is Sandra Bullock where 4 out of her last 6 films have grossed  $100+ million including the very successful film 'Gravity co-starring George Clooney who it turned out has not had a $100+ million film that didn't start with the word 'Oceans' in over 15 years!
~ Sandra Bullock won in 2010 for 'The Blind Side'

In this case, Bullock would absolutely deserve to be paid more because statistically speaking, she brought in a larger audience.

Another argument I received was it was a bit unfair to lump all the Best Actress nominees together to show how poorly the films they starred in drew at Box Office without mentioning the men

So being in total agreement, today let us look at the Best Actor nominees and see how their films did at the Box Office in comparison to the actresses...

'American Sniper' -- Bradley Cooper was nominated for this film and so far it has grossed over $320 million domestically.
I have not seen the movie but from what others have expressed, Cooper's performance was terrific so I will give Cooper credit with drawing people to theaters.

Based on the fact that 4 out of the last 5 Cooper films have made $100+ million and how much profit 'Sniper' has made so far, Bradley puts butts in the seats.

'Birdman' -- Michael Keaton was nominated for this film and admittedly I was surprised by its box-office totals when looking it up for this piece..
In spite of the non-stop Oscar hype over this film and the fact it did win Best Director and Best Picture, the film has only grossed $38 million in the US...

I guess Michael Keaton doesn't have the drawing power he once had a couple decades ago..

'Imitation Game' -- 'This film starred Benedict Cumberbatch which always makes me think of Charlie Brown Pumpkin Patch but that aside the film has made nearly $84 million which is a testament to Cumberbatch's growing popularity
Normally British WWII era films at Oscar time are US Box Office duds so that shows even though Benedict lost Best Actor, he has a following of fans..

'Foxcatcher' -- The normally very funny Steve Carell plays a very serious character and is nominated for this film,..

Audiences for whatever reason did not wish to see this film and it only made $12 million and this was with box-office draw Channing Tatum playing the supporting role.
It shows how difficult it is to branch out to do other things because normally Carell is a bankable actor when playing silly comedies or films aimed at kids.

'The Theory of Everything' -- Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for this film..

As written yesterday, it only made $34 million in spite of the numerous acting nominations..

Its interesting...  If you take the Box Office of the films that each actor won for Best Actor, Actress and the 2 supporting categories, the total domestic ticket sales would add up to $78 million
If ABC-TV and the producers of the Oscars ever want to understand why people get so bored and turned off watching these 4 hour snooze-fests, its because few to none of the audience have ever watched these nominated films nor will they until maybe its on HBO...

But back to the gender debate..

It can be conceded to a degree that when it comes to award nominees, both male and female actors who get the critical praise can not draw people into to films that do not involve goblins, zombies, explosions and comic-book idiocy.
~ Vivian Leigh winning for 'Gone With the Wind'

But it is still a fact that overall actresses do not draw people to movies like their male counterparts do, so to blanketly state everyone should be paid equal as Patricia Arquette did Sunday night is very misquided.

And truth is, it takes a lot for an actress to have that success since as was pointed out to me yesterday, a woman is much more likely to go attend a male-driven film with her man than a male ever is to sit through a 'chick flick' with his girlfriend or spouse.

Well that's enough Oscars talk to last the year..

Tomorrow we'll be on something fresh and new..
~ Shirley Temple  :-)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Contrived Argument of Equal Pay in Hollywood

Last night was the 87th Annual Academy Awards and to be completely honest, yours truly was in deep-sleep throughout the entire telecast.  I had to find out the winners via a news site.

One thing that did struck me and felt was worthy of writing about was the acceptance speech of Patricia Arquette who won Best Supporting Actress for something or another..

And it seems she was on quite a toot, using her 60 seconds acceptance speech time to vent about the lack of pay equality between men and women, both in Hollywood and nationally..

She also didn't seem to like that the US Constitution was written by white men and other silly ramblings that caused all the ultra-liberal multi-millionaires in the audience like Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep to stand up and cheer loudly..
~ "I'm J-Lo.. Please stare at my breasts.. It mkes me feel younger.."

Let's put aside the stupid comment about the Constitution, the greatest and most important legal and political document in the history of the world and written by quite learned, honorable white men of great distinction in 1787..

Let's address the issue of equal pay...

In everyday life, should there be equal pay between men and women for equal work?

Yes.. Absolutely
~ "I Truly do not deserve to be here.. Mooo.."

Should there be equal pay between men and women in Hollywood?

Absolutely Not.

Truth is, in the business of movie making, women have not proven to consistently be the same box office draws that men are.

We're not talking about talent or ability-- this is an Important distinction...
For instance, even though I personally do not like anything Meryl Streep is in, she is obviously a very brilliant, acclaimed award winning actress, but she is Not a consistent box office draw

We will use the website for all the monetary statistics we provide below..

So let's look at Ms Streep's career the past 9 years an an example..

She has appeared in 15 films from 'The Devil Wears Prada' in the summer of 2006 to this winter's 'Into the Woods' and 4 of those films have grossed $100+ million -  'Prada', 'Mamma Mia', 'It's Complicated' and 'Woods'
Let's look closer at those figures

'Prada' was a big success because the paperback the movie was based on was a Huge best-seller.  Streep played a supporting role.. Anne Hathaway was the star.

The real star of 'Mamma Mia' was the ABBA soundtrack used throughout the film --  Everyone loves ABBA..  And 'Into the Woods' is an ensemble musical based on a work of Sondheim so its not accurate to say its a Streep picture.

The one $100+ million film that I will say Streep gets credit for is 'It's Complicated' because she is the female lead and her co-stars Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are not strong box-office draws any more.

Now let's look at the reality of Streep as a box office draw..
In 2013, she was nominated as part of an ensemble for the film 'August: Osage County"..The film domestically generated $37.7 million.

Two years prior to that in 2011, Streep won Best Actress for 'The Iron Lady' about Margaret Thatcher..  That film grossed just $30 million.

Sometime in 2014 she did a film with Jeff Bridges called 'The Giver'..  It earned $45 million at the box office..

Meryl Streep may be a great actress to many but she's overall a Terrible box-office draw and not worth the same pay check as someone like Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt who can get people's butts to the seats.
BTW, I tried looking up Patricia Arquette on BoxOfficeMojo but she's such a very poor audience draw and not looked upon as a movie actress (most of her success is based on TV), the website didn't even list her.

Now just to prove my point again, I looked up each of the films the 5 nominees for best Actress were in to see how much they've made to this point, especially with all the Oscar hype behind it:

'Gone Girl' --  Rosamund Pike was nominated for this film..  It has grossed $167 million since its release six full months ago but I will say straight out, few went to see this film because Pike was in it.  Credit more goes to Ben Affleck for generating ticket sales
In her career, Pike has appeared in 7 films (almost half the films she's been in) that have each made less than $10million and her only other $100mil film was a supporting role in a James Bond film (Die Another Day)

'Wild' -- Reese Witherspoon starred in it..  The film has made $37 million in the US

Not counting voice-over work for 'Monsters v Aliens', in Witherspoon's entire career she has only made 4 films that grossed $100+ million and the last film was in 2008 (the terrible 'Four Christmases')  
~ Psst Reese.. You're not taking your mug shot photo.. Smile..

Even the two 'Legally Blonde' films she made did not crack $100m domestically..

Maybe she was a box office draw 10-15 years ago but Reese is not one now..

'The Theory of Everything' -- Felicity Jones was nominated..  I've never heard of her either..
~ Don't feel bad, I had no clue what she looked like until I just keyworded her to find a photo

For this film, Eddie Redmayne took home Best Actor last night..  It's also made only $35 million.  Not counting 'Spider Man 2' which Jones is in but not the star, her highest grossing film prior to 'Theory' made $6 million..

Is she really worth the same salary as a man?

'Two Days, One Night' -- French actress Marion Cotillard was nominated..
 This film has only made $1.25 million in the US..    That's it!  

If the average movie ticket is $7.50, it means about 167,000 people in a nation of 315 million went to see it..

'Still Alice' -- Julianne Moore won Best Actress for this film.. It has made just under $8 million in ticket sales in US theaters.   Its budget is $5million so it still makes a 'profit' but no way in hell it can if Moore is paid what leading actresses normally make.
If you put aside her being in the latest 'Hunger Games' film, the last time something starring Julianne Moore grossed $100 million or greater was pre 9/11 ('Hannibal') and I bet more people went to see Anthony Hopkins reprise his role as Hannibal Lecter than go see Moore.

If you keyword her name on BoxOfficeMojo, you will see she's actually a Horrible box-office draw but she is a good actress so she gets Awards.

If you combine the box-office of all the nominees excluding 'Gone Girl' it adds up to around $82 million..
Show me a female actress other than Jennifer Lawrence who generates healthy box office receipts and I will show you someone who deserves if not equal, then Greater pay than her male counterparts..

Otherwise, its a contrived argument in Hollywood and Arquette should shut the Hell up...

Guess that also explains why Hollywood pretty much only makes prequels, sequels, remakes, spin-offs, comic book films and money-losing 'Oscar' pictures..
~ Grace Kelly..  A real actress