100 Comedians (but only one professional)

The Senator from Saturday Night

Our long national nightmare is over (or just beginning, depending on your politics). Due to a decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court, there are now 100 U.S. Senators. The Minnesota justices decided that comedian Al Franken won the race between himself and incumbent Norm Coleman.  That means, that seat can be filled, which gives Democrats a 60-member majority in the Senate. Technically, it also gives them a filibuster-proof majority.

You remember, the election last November, the same one that chose the new president. The one 8 months ago!  Amazing that the race was close enough (slim majority for Coleman, then a slim majority for Franken, then a slightly larger, but still slim majority for Franken) that it would take this long to figure out.

The New York Times write on the results says, in part: “But in their 5-0 ruling, the court found that Mr. Coleman had failed to prove that ‘the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion.'” Shortly after the ruling, Sen. Coleman conceded the race, saying he respected the court’s decision.

It’s easy nowadays to believe that the votes of 2.9 million people could be split closely enough to even to force eight months of back and forth to determine a winner. Easy because of the mess between former Pres. Bush and former Vice President Gore back in 2000. I was in the CNN newsroom in Atlanta that night (and morning). Believe me, after witnessing that I can accept nearly any election result.  Nearly — I’m still having problems with the recent presidential election in Iran, but that’s an entirely different blog.

The Outgoing Senator

It’s got to be tough being a sitting U.S. Senator and losing the office. It’s pretty hard for any incumbent to be voted out of office, unless there’s some kind of scandal or legal proceeding.  Coleman, a Republican, wasn’t in any kind of trouble to speak of.  He just got caught up in the anti-GOP sentiment a lot of voters had last fall.

Still, it’s got to be particularly grating for Coleman. The onetime Democrat and former mayor of St. Paul also came in second when he ran for governor in 1998 — to former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura. You’ve got to hand it to voters in Minnesota, they don’t let people’s past get in the way of deciding their future potential.

Of course, you have to wonder why a sitting senator can’t use his record in office to win a race against a guy best known for appearing on Saturday Night Live.  Anybody remember the “Al Franken Decade?”

Doggone It!

One of Al’s more memorable characters was Stuart Smalley, the 12-step program advocate who was continually trying to convince himself of his own self-worth.

The Smalley skits were usually funny, but like many of the SNL skits expanded to movie length, it wasn’t a concept that was 90 minutes funny.  Now Al has the opportunity to prove that he’s more than a guy who was funny in the 1980s and some of the 90s. Much was made during the campaign of the poor taste of some of the material he did on Saturday Night, but considering some of the things members of the Senate have done in the past, the bad taste charge might not really work against Al.

Now there’s a least one true professional comedian in the Senate. I’m sure the rest of the crew will be able to generate laughs from the things they do every now and then. I’m just hoping that the newest senator will be able raise enough money to pay for the legal fight that got him into office. His people found my phone number somewhere and I get 3 or 4 fundraising calls a week.  Yes, I’ve asked the to stop, but this may be part of some elaborate joke on the part of the Senator-elect and his people. Dude, you got the job. Leave me alone.

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Say No More…

Eleanor as "Ahme" with John

Eleanor as "Ahme" with John

First off, let me say that while it’s one of favorite movies, “Help” is incredibly dated and more than a bit politically incorrect, what with it’s portrayal of a Thugee cult’s “filthy Eastern ways.” Still, it’s funny and goofy and Eleanor Bron was kinda cool when she kept trying to warn Paul that Ringo was in danger by saying “I can say no more…” to the point of Paul responding “say no more” every time she approached him.

I broke out my VHS copy (!) of the movie the other day when my cable was out and watched it again. I don’t think anyone remotely connected to the part of the world they were lampooning was cast in any of the roles of Eastern (Indian?) cultists… Probably for the best, although the film manages to make wicked sport of the British too.

Help Me Help You

So why am I referencing a 44-year old movie that almost never even shows up on TV anymore? It’s all about talking too much. Or writing too much. I was in a discussion today about the whole social networking phenomenon.

One of the people I follow on Twitter uses the screen name of “Key Influencer.” His job is to help businesses understand how to take advantage of things like Twitter and Facebook and blogs as non-traditional ways to reach consumers.

He made the news after coming to Memphis some months ago to talk to members of the communications department of a major corporation that’s headquartered in the city. After running into some rudeness when he got to his hotel, he went on Twitter and said: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!’” Of course that came out right about the time he was making his presentation. There was a lot of tap dancing around that particular incident.

Shut Up!

Shut Up!

Some places (such as ones with the company referenced in the preceding paragraph) encourage their people to take advantage of social networking. Of course, there are pitfalls, as mentioned in this About.com post concerning how it can impact looking for work. On the one hand, many experts recommend using any avenue to get out information on yourself when you’re looking for work. On the other, having the wrong type of information about yourself can color a prospective employer’s view. So you may not want to post that picture of you spinning around the stripper pole during that wild weekend in Cabo. The same article also points out: “Employees have been fired when their employer construed their blog posts as sharing confidential information, making inappropriate comments about the company, or both.” Although most places would be happy if their employees would use a good amount of caution before blogging or posting about potentially sensitive information.

Taking advantage of social networking can make the world a smaller place. You’re able to connect with people you might not otherwise come into contact with, as well as having the opportunity to reconnect with people from other times in life. It can be a great feeling to hear from someone you haven’t communicated with in 10, 20 or 30 years, simply because you’re both on Facebook.

Watch Out!

Watch Out!

Still, like anything else, it has to be approached with some level of responsibility. I haven’t always done that myself. But I know that it’s not a smart idea to swing ideas around cyberspace like a saber — too many opportunities to cut off your own head. Saying something directly to someone can be ephemeral; a thought expressed that’s here, then gone, between the two sharing the communication. Going online is like tagging the side of a building with spray paint; it lasts a lot longer and more people see it.

We “Heart” Kittens

Can’t go negative every day. Sometimes, even my mood isn’t dark enough to support another acerbic screed (even though I know you love them!). My horoscope at Yahoo puts it this way: “Your good vibes just keep going, making your world a peaceful and pleasant one.” Can’t fight the feeling.

Yes We Do!

Yes We Do!

This is spray painted onto a garage door on Mulberry Street, one block north of the Civil Rights Museum. I usually pass it when I’m out on the bike. So, even though tagging somebody else’s property is wrong, the sentiment is a good one. Cats actually give me a rash (I’m allergic), but who doesn’t love a kitty? Cute little balls of fluff with those little kitten eyes just looking at you… Awww.

And yes, by the way, Jackie Smith continues her vigil across from the museum. I’ve biked past at 7 in the morning and seen her… It was 7 Sunday night and she was there, talking to people about her reasons for continuing her protest. Endurance, your name is Jacqueline.

She's Got Good News

Anyway, I saw something on Facebook that made sure I’d be in a good mood all day. Daryn Kagan, formerly an anchor at CNN wrote “Really? Folks don’t like heat? I love it. Summer feels like one big hug.” Okay, at least one of her friends commented “a giant suffocating hug,” but it is certainly a nice sentiment.

Didn’t work with Daryn very often at CNN, but she’s making the most of her post-television time. Go to her website for inspiring and heartwarming good news stories. If you listen to Oprah Radio on XM or Sirius, her stories wrap around the news headlines.

Interestingly, while most of the anchors I worked around at CNN had outsize personalities (maybe it helps if you’re on TV), Daryn always seemed quiet and unassuming, but good at her job. I’m not sure why she’s not on TV right now.

Changing Times, changing places

Several friends of mine, two couples actually, are giving up downtown. Living here anyway. They still come out to that thing I do Monday evenings at that bar near where I live that I’m not going to be specific about because it gets on some people’s nerves that I reference it so much, so I’m trying not to mention it by name.

Kate with the spray paint!

Kate with the spray paint!

Anyway, one couple has already moved to East Memphis, where they’re doing a lot of work around the new home to whip it into shape. Ryan’s birthday was Sunday and it looks like his lovely wife Kate wanted to make sure everyone knew. Hopefully, he was able to take a break from working around the house to celebrate a little. It looks each of his several hundred Facebook friends sent him birthday wishes.

The other couple hopes to close on their new East Memphis home very soon. They’re good people, and I don’t say that just because we share ties to Central Ohio and the Ohio State University… but that certainly doesn’t hurt.

In fact, Mike and Sarah have seen their last name, “Cordonnier,” become a verb at that thing I do Monday’s at that place downtown that I’m trying not to mention because it cheeses some people off when I talk about it because they think its always about them, but it’s really not, so get over yourself. When another team employs the successful strategy of convincing you that they’ve answered a question one way when they actually answered it another way, you’ve been “cordonniered!” It comes with the exclamation point and there’s a hand and arm gesture that goes with the statement. It’s one of those things you’ve really got to see in person.

Oops!

Oops!

Even though it seems that I’m seeing more “For Sale” signs and hearing about people leaving the area, I still saw lots of people downtown for the monthly art trolley tour on Friday and saw more the next morning at the Memphis Farmers’ Market at Central Station. It almost makes me okay with the fact that places like the Horizon are going to sit empty for a while. I was going to be a little annoyed with myself because I think I dropped my insurance card when I got my phone out to snap this shot of the unfinished condo on the river. But it’s the extra card for my old coverage, which ends Tuesday. And anyway, I was feeling that big ol’ hug from the evening heat, so c’est la vie!

Dancin’ In the Streets?

After my lunchtime fiasco yesterday, I ended up rewriting the blog. I dropped an item saying I didn’t believe Mayor Willie Herenton would announce his resignation from that office to position himself for a run for the 9th District seat in the House of Representatives. I’m one day older and one day wiser.

Seriously?

Even as I watched him make the announcement, I wasn’t completely convinced, telling a coworker that I would believe he was leaving the mayor’s office for good unless I saw him carrying his boxes out to his car… His car, not the city-provided SUV with police driver.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m not particularly a fan of Hizzoner. Demanding respect for yourself and the office you hold is fine. But he has had a tendency to let that slip into base arrogance. This city has too many problems to be divisive, and he has certainly been that.

He's the Mayor?

Having said that, I find myself impressed with his stated reason for leaving office. Holding one office while running for another does present the impression of a conflict of interest. It always bothered me when U.S. Senators would run for reelection to their seats while running for president or vice president.  If you’re crisscrossing wherever to run, you can’t be paying enough attention to the office you’ve already got.

I watched Herenton confidant Sidney Chism tell a TV reporter today that he’s certain the soon-to-be former mayor could rack up a 2-to-1 margin if and when he faces Steve Cohen in a Democratic primary for Cohen’s Congressional seat. I wonder. He only pulled 40% running against Herman Morris and Carol Chumney in the last mayor’s race.

When Hizzoner beat Dick Hackett in ’91, I’d been reassigned at WREG to the Health beat, so I was one of the few local reporters not providing election coverage that night. So I got to stay home and watch the coverage on TV. I remember the video of joyous Herenton supporters spilling onto Union Avenue in front of the Peabody Hotel to express their joy over the first elected Black mayor of Memphis. Fast-forward to today: I heard several people call for more street dancing in response to his resignation notice.

As I’ve opined previously, it is my fear that a Herenton-Cohen face-off could quickly devolve into an ugly race-baiting campaign, with either the challenger or his supporters promoting his blackness as the main reason he should get this new job.

Send Me to Congress!

I also have to wonder why someone who would be 70-years old by the time he took the oath as a Congressman would want to start all over at that point in life. Heck, his pension from the Memphis City Schools is already more than most of us get in salary; that would be enough to keep a lot of people happy.

Still, he announced last year that he was going to resign, even gave us a date then too. When it came down to it, he kept the job. He went on say the reason he ran in 2007 was to protect the city from Morris and Chumney.  Chumney has pretty much said she’ll run in any special election, and there’s no reason why Morris couldn’t do the same. And if you don’t know City Council Chairman Myron Lowery, lemme tell you, he really wants to be mayor. Really. And his temporary stay in the job when (if) Herenton resigns won’t slake that thirst. Why doesn’t the mayor think the city still needs protection from people he didn’t think were qualified 2 years ago? I still won’t believe he’s going to quit until I see him carrying boxes to the car.

Needless Expense

Swung by the Apple Store in Saddle Creek. They’ve got one of the iKids directing people into the iPhone line. It amazes me how popular those things are… most of the times I’ve been in that store, there always seem to be another line of people at the Genius Bar because of the problems they’re having with their iPhones.

Anyway, I had been there a few weeks ago to buy a Mighty Mouse for work. They use Macs, which is great, but the one at my desk has an older single-button mouse. I had gone to a 2-button mouse at home two Macs ago.  Gotta have that right clickability.

The Mighty only has one visible button, but the Apple folks have engineered the thing to work like a 2-button mouse… and instead of a scroll wheel, they’ve put a little ball on top that lets you scroll side-to-side, as well as up-and-down.

Look Ma, no wires!

So, even though I have a perfectly good keyboard and mouse, I fought through the iPhone crowd to get a wireless Mighty Mouse… as well as a wireless keyboard. It doesn’t have the number pad on the right… so instead of being a foot-and-a-half across like my old keyboard, this one is only 11 inches across. And they work through Bluetooth, instead of radio signals to a receiver that I had to plug into a USB port, like my old set up.

Didn’t need it, but I’m a sucker for the elegance of design that Mac offers.

The Thing that Cannot Be Named

I really don’t understand. Monday was lackluster as far as blog visits. Every day since, everybody and their mama has checked in. Seriously, more than 100 visits Wednesday & Thursday. Of course, I’ve gone on about my trivia issues every day since Monday. Since I like watching the little graph that shows blog visits jump up — trivia, trivia, trivia! It’s probably not the reason you’re checking in, but why take the chance?

EDIT: as of Friday afternoon, very light traffic. It’s probably more the day of the week, not trivia, that’s drawing views. Particularly high numbers on the last two Thursdays. Hmmm.

The Death of Customer Service

The Day Customer Service Died

Those who have experienced good customer service in the past knew that it was the attentive wait staff, quality food and friendly surroundings that made it was it was. There has been a request for an investigation of the events surrounding the entry of 3 hungry customers into Neely’s shortly after 2 in the afternoon.

I'M HUNGRY!!!

I'M HUNGRY!!!

After several minutes, a seemingly disinterested waitress named “Adrian” arrived at the table to take a drink order. Even though it was later in the afternoon and the restaurant wasn’t crowded, it took the waitperson 15 minutes to make the 15-foot trip the drink station and return with beverages.

Several more minutes passed before she came back to take the lunch order of the group, who had to return to their video shoot across the street at 3pm, information that was shared with the server.

The group waited nearly a half-hour for the bread while watching customers who had arrived after them receive their orders, eat, pay and leave. One of the party receiving the poor treatment could not stand to bear witness to the demise of good customer service and left, expressing his displeasure over the situation to another server as he left the establishment.

Not Good At All

After nearly 50 minutes, most of the main order finally arrived at the table, including the order of the person who had left the restaurant.  The party was offered complimentary dessert for having to wait so long, which they could not accept because they didn’t have time to stay and eat it.

Management apologized, but offered no explanation for their brutal elimination of good customer service. Adding insult to injury, a check for the full amount of the meal was presented to the table, even after the manager had promised to not charge for the order of the person who left. It took another several minutes, and an increasing display of bad attitude from the restaurant staff to sort that out. No tip was left.  In lieu of flowers, you’re asked to no longer patronize the establishment responsible for this heinous act.

Speed Trappin’

GOTCHA!

I was heading up 240 East Wednesday morning. Taking in the car for 90,000 mile service. The upkeep on a 10-year old car can be expensive at times, but I don’t have a car payment to worry about.

I passed three or four MPD officers with radar guns along the instate from the exits of Third to Perkins. One was clocking people, the others already had people pulled over and were writing tickets. All this before 8 o’clock.

Do You Know How Fast You Were Going?

A couple of weeks ago, I got pulled over myself, on I-55, right before the construction zone near the refinery. As he was writing me up, the officer attributed the heightened enforcement to an initiative out of Governor Bredesen’s office (most likely the annual “100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T.” The acronym stands for “Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic”).

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with the police doing a little extra to keep our highways as safe as possible.  I know there are pretty much two speeds on 40, 240 and 55: parked or balls out. Both of which lead to more accidents than if most of us were driving closer to the posted speed limits.

Here’s the thing. If there were regular, consistent enforcement of the speed limits on the area interstates, it would be much more likely that people wouldn’t treat those roads as speedways. It’s possible to go months without seeing the Memphis Police doing any type of speed enforcement. I won’t question the way the department allots manpower; I would expect them to have a better idea of where officers will do the most good. Still, it shouldn’t take an initiative out of Nashville to get Memphis cops on Memphis roadways.

In fact, there is a special unit inside the police department that’s supposed to be doing that anyway. The Special Traffic Enforcement Unit, part of the Traffic Division, has a primary responsibility for enforcing traffic laws on the intestates.

So if you officers are keeping an eye out for me, I’m not in my regular ride. Like I say, it’s at the shop. The fine folks at Performance Toyota have me in a free rental (Oxymoron? Probably).

Boxy Love!

I’ve really gotten used to being low to the road in my Celica, so they put me in a Scion xB. It’s nice, but I feel like I’m driving a bread truck. High up and visibility out of the rear windows isn’t what I’d like it to be. Nice subliminal marketing tool though. They put you in a brand new loaner when you’re car is there for a while and maybe, just maybe, you enjoy the new car experience enough to start shopping. Sorry, my car is going to have to fall apart before I buy new. Even though I’m skipping having the car antenna fixed ($600). Skipping repairs to the seat belt ($900) too.

I know what I said about trivia…

I Ask Ya!

I Ask Ya!

I promise I’m not getting into this again. It’s just that, after a slow Monday, “my trouble with trivia” led to a big jump in blog visits on Tuesday and even more on Wednesday. Apparently some of you have a bizarre interest in the subject.

Part of me wants to keep beating this horse, which is every bit as dead as good customer service, particularly if it’s going to build this kind of blog traffic. But I said no more, so no more, blog hits or not.