Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Importance Of 'Consequential Strangers'

I stumbled across this article a few days ago, "The Importance of 'Consequential Strangers" on the NPR site. The idea for the article actually came from another article written by Joel Stein in response to a Time magazine article in 2006 about influential people.

"When humorist Joel Stein, a regular contributor to Time magazine, read the proposed 2006 list of influential people, he decided his editors should "get out of the building more." Chinese businessman Huang Guangyu, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, and Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere meant nothing to him. "What about people who actually affect us?" wondered Stein in his annual sendup of the Time 100. And so, the Joel 100 was born."

"The fact is, each of us has a unique collection of consequential strangers like those on the Joel 100 — people outside our circle of family and close friends. They range from long-standing acquaintances to people we encounter on occasion or only in certain places. They cut a wide swath across our lives, and yet each is linked to us in some way and fills a specific need." Apparently, I'm not the only person inspired by this list.

"To read the entire (annotated) Joel 100, readers had to go online. Some did. A few weeks later, in fact, the magazine published a letter from Nelson Fellman, a seventy-five-year-old retired PR executive from Voorhees, New Jersey:

"Joel Stein's "Meet the Other 100" gave me a great idea: to make a list of the people who matter most to me. I wish I had started that list a long time ago. ... I never took the trouble to tell a high school teacher or a business mentor or a beloved grandfather what a significant influence each had on my life."

"If — until now — you've never thought about, or appreciated, these supporting players, in part it's because many of them skirt the edges of your social consciousness. You might even take them for granted ... until you begin to jot down names for your holiday card list. Scanning your social brain, you come up with people you don't necessarily think of as "important," certainly not compared to your loved ones."

So in the great tradition of stealing other people's ideas and calling it inspiration, I present The Amy 100...people I love and respect, that I need in my life for any variety of reasons, the people I like to spend my time with, or wish I could spend more time with, or even the people I barely know. I'd like to mention right now that this list is in no apparent order. It's random, just the way my brain spits out names.

1. My husband
2. My mom
3 and 3.5. My sister (and as a "half person": her yet unnamed, unknown gendered, unborn baby)
4 and 5. My mother-in-law and her husband
6 and 7. My father-in-law and step-mother-in-law
8-11. My brother-in-law, his wife and their two children (niece and nephew)
12. My other nephew
13-16. My friends, Michelle and Nicole, who are like a package deal, and Michelle's daughter and husband, Matt
17. My closest friend in life, Joel in San Diego
18. My oldest friend in life, Stacy from kindergarten
19. My friend from Wendy's that I haven't seen in 10+ years but still email, Tammy in Cedar Falls
20. My "book buddy" friend that I like to compare thoughts on whatever I'm reading, Crystal in Atlantic
21. My friend Tommie, who I'll miss when she moves to NYC but love her wicked sense of humor
22-24. The mailman, FedEx delivery guy and the UPS delivery guy, because I see more of them around this time of year when I start Christmas shopping online (today was the exception...FedEx came with something that my husband ordered).
25. Everyone involved with American Brittany Rescue (there's probably 1,000 of these people across the country)
26. Everyone involved with Va German Shepherd Rescue (there's probably at least 100 right here)...because I need like-minded people in my life when it comes to animals.
27. The woman in my neighborhood who walks her three Basenji's and however many foster dogs she currently has (through Basenji rescue, of course)
28-32. My friends from my last job at Operation Smile
33-37. The new people I'm meeting at my new job at S&K Sales
38. My friend and former co-worker, as well as my husband's friend, Bob in Norfolk, who likes to ask if I need gas money...and will try to offer me $2 to fill up my scooter, in case I can't afford it. (It's great to see a grown man giggle over something like that.)
39. The woman that helped me on the phone the other day at the Va Workforce Commission. I had heard it was so difficult to get a live person on the phone, and I got one on the second try.
40. The woman at Suzie's Grooming Lounge in Norfolk, who is willing to trim my dog's nails when he acts like a spaz and doesn't mind his weird behavior.
41 and 42. Nicole's friends Joe and Brandon, because they look like grown men but I think are really seven-year-old boys trapped in adult bodies.
43 and 44. My husband's friends, Matt and Dan in Norfolk, for allowing me to call them randomly when my husband is gone because I need something fixed
45. My husband's friend, Heath in Lynchburg, for the unabashed and public love he has for his dog, Storm
46 and 47. My own pets, Dixie and Cujo, for their company and love (I never said that all the beings on this list would be human!)
48. Nicole's cat, Odin, because he acts so tough and so sassy (even though it's fair to say he hates me)
49. Michelle's dog, Sissy, for acting like I'm so wonderful when I come over, because I think she's thinking I'm there to see her.
50-60. Our assorted neighbors, to talk about yards and gardening, and even to get in a little neighborhood gossiping
61. My friend Ginny in Va Beach, for seeing the termination of her position at work as being not only a new door in life, but for running through it at top speed!
62. My husband's friend and my former co-worker, Hal, because I know just as certain the sun is shining today, that each time I see him, I know I'll get a hug and a kiss from him, whether it's been 2 days or 6 months since the last time we saw each other.
63. The members of the American Legion Riders 327, because my husband just enjoys getting out on his motorcycle
64. My friend, Auna at VCU, for seeing good in the whole world
65. The staff at my local Walgreens, for just being dependable
66. The staff at my local Kroger, for just being dependable
67. The staff at my local 7-11, because they are so convenient and have a parking lot that's super easy to get in and out of, no matter what direction you're coming from or going in
68. The optometrist at the eye clinic I go to, for being the most thorough doctor I've ever been to, since getting my first set of glasses when I was five.
69. The receptionist at Dr. Marshall's dentist office in Norfolk, for remembering me and greeting me (only twice a year) like we are old friends
70. Dr. Marshall, for getting me in at the last minute to check out a hurt tooth and then not charging me for it when it turned out to be nothing
71. The service department guys at Sunrise Yamaha in Norfolk, for answering random questions about scooter maintenance
72. The staff at A.C. Moore in Va Beach, for just letting me shop and not randomly asking, "Can I help you find anything?"
73 and 74. The paint department staff at my local Home Depot and Lowe's, for always getting my paint right
75. The server I met at Sonic in Norfolk the other day when I stopped for breakfast. He didn't flip out when he saw my German Shepherd laying in the backseat of my truck, waiting for the cheeseburger I ordered for him. In fact, we talked about his sister wanting a shepherd but having a hard time finding one, so I gave him my email address and got in a plug for Va German Shepherd Rescue.
76. The woman I met briefly in Va Beach when I bought her Cricut from this summer. I've been having a good time with it ever since and I'm making Christmas cards this year.
77. Joan Steffend, the host of Decorating Cents on HGTV, and someone I'll probably never get the chance to meet. I love her as a host, and I find her and the designers she works with, to be so inspiring in my own home.
78. Stan "The Man" Lee...father to Spider-Man, creator of so many wonderful things Marvel, and another person I'll probably never get the chance to meet
79. Author of the macabre and wonderful, Stephen King, because I know I can usually count on at least two new books from him each year
80. Billy Joel, just for being the greatest at what he does. He had the greatest concert I had ever been to, in 2008 at the Va Beach Amphitheater. I've been a fan for so long and always figured I'd never get the chance to see him perform live. It was incredible. At the end of two hours, my face hurt from all the smiling.
81-85. The Barenaked Ladies (both with and without Steven Page) for making music I feel like I can relate to, and for having such fun concerts. At the end of the first concert I went to of theirs, the palms of my hands hurt from the clapping.
86-89. The Bangles, just because their music still seems relevant to me. Hey, come to Hampton Roads! I would kill to see you in concert!
90. The staff of Sajo Farm Vet Hospital, for patiently answering the same questions from me each year, "What does Cujo/Dixie need next? How much will that cost?"

Wow, this is really getting hard. I don't have any particular hang-outs to include, so I think I'm going to have to amend this list and now call it, The Amy 90. I just don't know how to stretch it out much further.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Disney Bought Marvel

Oh, to be a rock star...I'd totally have a Spider-Man guitar!

I'm a bona-fide, life long Spider-Man geek. I have been since I was about 3-4 years old and that obsession continues today at age 35. So you'd think I'd be happy about Disney buying Marvel comics because maybe it provides some more financial security for my favorite heroes, especially in a time when people are cutting back financially. It pains me that comics aren't required to live a healthy life.

"The surprise cash-and-stock deal sent Spidey senses tingling in the comic book world. It could lead to new rides, movies, action figures and other outlets for Marvel's 5,000 characters, although Marvel already was aggressively licensing its properties for such uses."

I don't know. I'm a creature of habit and I'm happy when things don't change too much. My fear is that Spidey and the X-Men will be "Disney-fied" or something. I don't want MJ Watson, Storm and Rogue becoming the latest Disney princesses, or worse yet, Wolvering becoming a Disney prince. Shudder.

Oh God, can you imagine the Green Goblin or Magneto being turned into a Disney villan? They really aren't that scary.

"The deal won't have benefits right away, and Disney stock sank on the news...The deal is expected to close by the end of the year and marks Disney's biggest acquisition since it purchased Pixar Animation Studios Inc., the maker of 'Up'." Now, that part does surprise me. Because Disney is such a huge corporation, I wouldn't have expected their stock to fall.

"Marvel would follow another storied comic book publisher into the arms of a media conglomerate. DC Comics - the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman - was bought by Warner Bros., now part of Time Warner Inc., in 1969." For me, DC has always been a part of Time Warner so that wasn't ever an issue. And let's remember, the late 70's/early 80's, Time Warner did some great things with the first couple of Superman movies and Wonder Woman series. (Marvel didn't really become known for it's great character movies until Blade came out in 1998, and it was like gangbusters.)

The corporation [Walt Disney] co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately U.S. $35 billion. As for Marvel, it was founded by Martin Goodman, which later became known as Marvel Comics, under the name Timely Publication, in 1939. Goodman, a pulp-magazine publisher who started by selling a Western pulp in 1933, expanded into the emerging — and by then already highly popular — new medium of comic books.

So I don't know...if you've got quite possibly the two greatest, most creative companies in the United States, that each have their legions of fans and fanatics (I myself fall under the "fan" heading, I think), that have, in a way, merged, maybe it won't be that bad. I've been able to survive just fine since Sam Raimi, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and David Koepp gave the movie-version of Spider-Man organic webshooters that were actually a part of his wrists.

And I just have to say this...the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and the Incredible Hulk cartoon from 1981 was the absolute SHIT when I was a kid! On Saturday mornings, I'd hustle my little ass to get my cereal and plunk down in front of the tv in time for this cartoon. I would guess now that at the time, I had a good hour to geek out and then go about the rest of my Saturday morning.

Okay so since I've just publicly outed my true inner geek, I just hope Disney doesn't let us down with their new purchase. They've got loads of fans who are hoping that Disney maintains the characters we've known and loved for so long.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Is Going Too Far, In My Opinion

This actually pissed me off when I saw this on CNN this morning: "Obama announces policies to encourage more savings." So it doesn't sound like much until you get into the meat of the story. And why am I amazed that I really had to search to find this story online?

Okay, so this is good: "President Obama said yesterday that the Internal Revenue Service would start making it easier for companies to automatically enroll workers in retirement plans, and that his administration would help individuals convert their tax refunds and unused vacation pay into savings." I know that at my current job, I have to be there for a YEAR until I can start up for 401(k) again. I can't even contribute to it myself yet. That's a bummer.

But this is what really pissed me off, as reported by The Honolulu Advertiser: "Another change will allow people who get tax refunds — more than 100 million families, by one estimate — to direct the IRS to directly deposit them into a savings plan." Yahoo! News reported it as this: "One initiative that President Barack Obama outlined in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday will allow people to have their federal tax refunds sent as savings bonds."

I think the reason this really had me so riled up is because CNN didn't make it sound like an option, but that it was probably going to happen. And you know what, I can't find it anywhere on the CNN site now.

I think doing our taxes and keeping up with receipts through the year is kind of a hassle but it is a necessary evil. However, the government DOES NOT NEED to start dictating how I receive my tax refunds (if I get one). Hopefully, if this option comes to fruition, it will remain just that: an option for saving money. I can only speak for myself, but I do feel like we do rely on our tax refunds each year. We might use it to pay off a credit card bill and then whatever is left over, we have some fun with. I don't need to have Big Brother Government telling me how to use my money, and I hear about this option now and it feels like a giant red flag.

And I do feel like if this is going to be an option, then Obama needs to carefully schedule this kind of tax refund policy changes (or whatever you'd call it). People across the country are already pissed off about health care reform. Do you want to throw something else into the mix? If he's not careful, he's going to wind up with a low approval rating and be a one-termer.

For an interesting daily take on Obama's rating, check out the Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. I don't know how accurate it is, but it is interesting.

Best Thing I've Seen In a Long Time

If you haven't had the chance to check out Russell Peters, then you need to check this man out! He is funny as hell and he needs to come to the Funny Bone in Virginia Beach!

I've only recently become a fan of Russell's and I can't believe I've been missing out on his comedy! Russell Peters was born in Toronto, Ontario to Eric and Maureen Peters, and raised in Brampton. He is of Anglo-Indian descent. His father was born in Bombay, India and worked as a federal meat Inspector and his mother was born in Calcutta, India. He has an older brother named Clayton who was also born in Calcutta.

Really pay attention to this clip, starting at 1:50. I was watching this last night and was laughing harder than I have in a loooooooooooooooong time. I was laughing so hard, I was almost crying. It was the kind of laugh that if the neighbors heard me, they would wonder what the hell was wrong with me.

This guy rocks, seriously. I was watching him last night on Comedy Central and on YouTube, and when I went to bed, my stomach was hurting from the laughing. In his Comedy Central Presents special, he joked about being Eastern Indian but not having an Indian name. He made a crack that if you didn't like it, you should talk to his parents, Eric and Maureen. I thought that was a joke too, until I looked him up on IMDB. His parents really are named Eric and Maureen!