Are we (Bus)ted ?

     

Shown above is the Chinese Super Bus concept that straddles traffic in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion. The buses are powered by electricity and solar energy and don’t take up any additional road space. These buses can hold up to 1,400 passengers. The Chinese are in the process of rolling out these types of buses by year end.

Yesterday the President spoke about America’s infrastructure and rightfully so as ours has been neglected for years. I heard a statistic the other day that China is spending approximately 10% of their GDP while we are spending only 2%.

Is it just me or does anyone else get the feeling that while we have been spending alot of money on two wars we are in the process of falling behind and might be able to catch up ?

When I’m Feeling Blue

Okay we all have days when life just doesn’t go our way. Yesterday a cranky old lady was giving me the business about how our lights at the restaurant are too dark and she couldn’t see. I’m not sure if she came to eat or bitch. She tried to ruin my day, but I wasn’t going to let it happen so after work I turned to my new best friend YouTube.

I was surfing around and came across this skit from the Carol Burnett show which aired back in the late sixties or early seventies. The sketch includes Tim Conway who was playing a dentist who just graduated from dental school and Harvey Korman was his patient.

Needless to say after watching Harvey Korman try to keep a straight face I found myself laughing out load and had totally forgotten about the cranky old lady. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did !

All in the Family: The Potential of Network TV

Last week I watched the first season of All in the Family. I hadn’t seen the show in years, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I liked comparing the debates between old-fashioned Archie Bunker and the liberal Meathead to those between liberals and conservatives today. Who in 1971 would predict that the political debates of 2010 would be even more bitter and unconstructive than those between Archie and Mike?

An even greater shame is how far the quality of network television has fallen since 1971. In an era when Charlie Sheen’s opinion of a woman’s cleavage qualifies as a suitable plot for a top-rated network show, it’s astonishing that the most popular show from 1971-1976 was one devoted to discussing the issues of its time.

The majority of TV has always been a fetid swamp of melodrama, stereotypes and cheesy one-liners, but at least back then the networks gave some of their time to shows like All in the Family that analyzed our society. Even less political programs like the Mary Tyler Moore show and The Cosby Show offered unique perspectives on society that could be dwelled upon. Today, there are no network shows with thoughtful agendas, not even the clever ones like 30 Rock and The Office. In our perverted time, it’s the news networks that have the agendas.

We have thoughtful shows in the 2000s, but they are hidden on subscriber networks like HBO that only reach a small segment of the American public – a segment that is, for the most part, affluent. The Sopranos and The Wire had plotlines that dwelled on crime, the drug war, the economy, women’s issues, class, race, immigration, terrorism, and many other issues of today, but those aren’t the shows that millions of American families watch together on weeknights. They don’t infiltrate the public consciousness and spark the amount of discussion that a prime-time network show would. We could use a popular show like All in the Family to present national issues to a broad, diverse audience.

The sympathies of All in the Family’s producers were obviously liberal, with Archie coming off as somewhat of an ignoramus, but Mike, the slouching hippie, has his flaws too, lacking a work ethic and often showing naivete and unrealistic idealism. And Archie isn’t without his good qualities – he is hard-working, never failing to provide for his family. No matter how much he complains about Mike leeching off him, he never kicks him out. The show offers a critical but also affectionate portrayal of both men and their beliefs. Its format allows viewers to examine both sides of the issues. This quality is lacking from the political-themed shows of today.

Another good quality of All in the Family is the way it presents issues humorously. The shows that discuss issues today are nearly all partisan ones that take themselves way too seriously. When Glenn Beck weeps on television, he’s not being funny. He’s saying that our country is in a crisis worth crying about, and his performance is designed to rile up fellow conservatives. In contrast, All in the Family made fun of the shrillness of the arguments between Archie and Mike. There might be less tension in America today if we had popular shows that made fun of our cantankerous political debates instead of intensifying them.

Maybe All in the Family’s time on the throne of prime-time television was a fluke, and the way it is now, with popular shows rarely even acknowledging the existence of national issues, is the natural order of things. Still, I can’t help but think how nice it would be if we had a hit show that offered a humorous, thoughtful, well-balanced examination of what’s happening in our country today.

Japanese Robot Creepiness

The Japanese seem to be leading the world in robotics, and in particular in attempts to develop an android — that is, a robot that possesses human features.

One of the latest ventures in that regard is the Telenoid R1, created by a professor at Osaka University.  Oddly, it is marketed as a kind of telecommunications tool.  The concept is that people will respond to the eye and head movements of the android and communicate more effectively and naturally than they would by staring at a teleconference screen of a distant conference room full of people.  It’s hard to believe that anyone would really relate to a bald, legless, armless, herky-jerky machine that looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost, but that is the professor’s hope.  (In fact, he is developing an even more bizarre hand-held device that looks like a stress-relieving squeeze toy.)  I found a video of the Telenoid R1 on YouTube, and it is pretty creepy to watch.  Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to find yourself talking earnestly to this thing?

We’re clearly moving closer and closer to android technology, but one of the big hurdles for me will be the sheer alien strangeness of a human-looking machine.  Even if the device was an animated as Max Headroom, how could you get beyond the understanding that you are talking to a bunch of nuts and bolts?