Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Jam: “Heaven and Hell” by The Who

On Palm Sundays, at the Episcopal church I attended back in the mid-to late 1970s, you’d get a little strip of palm leaf (or something like it) looped into the shape of a cross, with a stick-pin to attach it to your Palm Sunday best. You took it home and stuck it into a door jamb, or pinned it to your curtain. It was a nice little bonus for attending. 

Anyway, here’s a thunderously majestic hymn by The Who appropriate to the occasion, from what it considered by some to be the greatest live rock album of all time, Live at Leeds. Listen to John Entwistle’s manic bass, Keith Moon’s non-stop explosive drumming, and Pete Townshend’s manic guitar, and marvel at how three people playing solo at once come together into one hard-rocking whole. Enjoy this relic from the age of miracles, when giants walked the earth:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kafka Calls His Internet Provider, Silly, Weird and Depressing Hijinks Ensue

Another rant about poor customer service and corporate waste, but with cool pictures, two of them spooky, the other two sexy as all heck

Tuesday night, my connection to the Internet failed. This occasioned one of three calls to tech support. No outages showed in my area. Something had gone bad, though. Everyone’s first thought was the IP’s proprietary router. The first tech, whom I had to educate on the difference between a warm reboot and a cold reboot, all but had me torture my first router to death. We lobotomized the thing back to factory defaults. Even this didn’t seem to convince the earnest young man that my router was fine. 

He was, however, putting in a call to dispatch to send out The Guy™ when the battery in my phone died. That’s what he told me before the death beep.

I called again once my phone was charged. I was put in  a queue. After going through the infuriating automated menu a second time, I was put in a queue. I hung up.

It felt a lot like this. That poor alien, so stranded and so screwed.
In the Twilight Zone, no less. 

I sat down to watch my Tuesday double-header of The Flash and iZombie. Having received no follow-up phone call from the first support guy I talked to, I called tech support again. All I wanted to know was if The Guy™ was coming out. I couldn’t get a yes or no out of her. She wanted to know what was wrong with my router. Could I get a paper clip and press the reset button until the power light turned orange?

I asked for the fourth time, my voice raised, Did the guy I talked to earlier call dispatch and schedule someone to come out? That’s all I needed to know.

“We’ve got a checklist to go through before we call dispatch.”

“I’ve been through the checklist already!”

“Well, you should probably get a new modem. It sounds like your modem is bad.”

Someone I aspire to be on such occasions.

She mentioned a Century Link store that I remembered seeing along a well traveled avenue a few miles from my house. Before the woman could go through another round of scripted questions I thumbed off my phone and spent some quality time with a book I started reading the day before, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. I drank more beer than I should have, but my nerves were shot. I still can’t get over how that woman would not respond yes or no to my yes or no question.

As you might imagine, it was unsettling being unable to do my Devil’s Trapezoid of Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Novel Tracker. I knew this away time would do me some good. Still, I resented being forced into it. I also hate talking to people on the phone. 

Especially if they are almost willfully obtuse when it comes to basic troubleshooting. When you’ve wiped the old SSID and passkey out and taken everything back to factory-issue and the damned thing still won’t authenticate itself to mothership’s setup page on the Web, there’s a good chance this is something to do with a physical connection somewhere. And it’s not the modem, all right?

The next morning I got up early to purchase the new modem. The lady behind the desk at the Century Link place was kind enough to seek out a promotional rate for me to take the edge off of buying the new modem. I told her I’d likely be back. Having heard my tale of call center tech support woe, she understood. I took the modem and went home.

No connection to the Internet. So I call tech support. She said my modem was bad, and to take it back. If that didn’t work, she’d call dispatch, and send The Guy™.

I had no choice. They can see if you’re using the same modem on their end. I got back into my Jeep, and thank God it’s a Jeep, because the few flakes of snow I saw earlier had thickened into certifiable snowstorm. Fortunately, the Century Link store isn’t far from where I live, but I still resented having to go out.

Someone else handled my trade-in. I took my new modem, and drove back through the snow to home. Where you know what happened next.

But, satisfied that all hoops had now been jumped, they sent The Guy™. He swapped out the modem again, because it turns out that “they’ve had a bad batch of C1000A’s.” Of course, that fourth modem couldn’t connect to the Internet.

“Okay. I think I have an idea. I remember someone was telling me about something like this.”

God bless him, he finally went outside to look at the port where my house connects to the Internet. Lo and behold, the port was burnt. He replaced it. Rainbows, unicorns, and frolicking puppies all around.
Yvonne deCarlo reminds us that summer is coming soon.

I realize sending out the tech costs a lot so the IP will try anything to avoid it, but in this case I tied up several hours of tech time, got three modems marked defective when they were just fine—they charge $99 each for these—and they had to send out The Guy™ anyway. If they had simply said, hang in there, we’ll send the guy to check the physical connection to your house, it would have saved them an easy couple of hundred dollars.

The hell of it is the company probably doesn’t care. They already get away with overcharging for their services. They’ve got the money to waste. Me, where am I going to go? Comcast? I tried that once. The equipment was straight out of 1995, and I might as well have been using dial-up, given how slow and balky the connection was. That lasted all of two days.

At least I did get a year’s promotional discount. There’s that.

Steampunk Supergirl says, “Lighten up, grumpy bear.”

I suppose what rankles most in the here and now, days later, is seeing my suspicions confirmed before my very eyes and ears and Internet. Working in a call center, first for a credit card company, and then again for a cable and Internet provider, impressed upon me that everything in this gosh-wow smartphone 2015 is running on duct tape, baling wire, and good intentions. The infrastructure barely supports the strains put on it, so stuff breaks. A lot.

The company doesn’t want to invest in upgrading the equipment, and fixing it becomes more and more expensive, so they do everything to avoid fixing the thing. If it takes more money to avoid fixing it than it does to simply fix it, so be it. Procedure must be followed. They might save a dollar down the line, and that outcome would be optimal based upon the existing paradigm used in the current fiscal model. Something like that.

The Idiocracy is surely upon us.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Spock Is Dead, and He’s Not Coming Back

Jim Morrison is DEAD and he’s not coming back and that’s IT. Got it?” —a button I used to own in 1985 when having a bunch of these all over your backpack in college was a thing.

We knew this was coming as far back as last year. I scarcely recognized him as Old Spock from the Parallel Universe in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot; he more resembled a black-eyed, demon-possessed thing from the Supernatural TV series—and that was nearly six years ago.

Still, losing Leonard Nimoy hit hard. Of all people, it was Seth McFarlane, the reigning king of cruel humor for people who watch too much TV, who summed up Nimoy’s career best:

Yes, Nimoy was a poet, songwriter, director, zombie of the stratosphere, etc. But it was his creation of the character of half-human, half-Vulcan Spock that will define him for the ages (the one we have left, anyway). From his dry, droll manner to the neck-pinch, to the “Vulcan salute” he cribbed from a rabbi he watched during services in childhood, no one else can recreate that perfect counterpoint to William Shatner’s James T. Kirk.

The word that caught my eye in McFarlane’s tweet was “noblest.” You don’t see that word used often. About the only time I ever hear the word “noble” at all is in sarcastic retorts, e.g., “Well, that’s very noble of you.” In a mediascape of “loveable rogues” whose roguishness is excused by flashes of nobility demonstrated at proper beats in the narrative, Spock was simply noble.

There was a sweet spot in between external lack
of emotion and a mile-wide sarcastic streak that even
Nimoy lost the ability to portray by the time the movies
came around to stink up the canon.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a character like that today. So impossible, you can’t get a contemporary actor to properly reproduce Spock as he is known and loved in the original 1966-1969 television series. Nimoy himself lost his grip on the character in the movies. In J.J. Abrams’ Gold Key Comics-style adaptation/reboot of the series, Zachary Quinto, bless his heart, could only come up with a crude, Saturday Night Live-style approximation that went heavy on a bitchiness that was completely alien to Nimoy’s original portrayal.

Of course, that first, best portrayal was in the can before the year 1969 was a week old, when the last frames of the original Star Trek series were filmed. With Nimoy’s death, we’re reminded that nothing new is being created. That the old masters who brought us such great things in the past are old, if not dead already,  and there’s no one coming in to replace them.

Maybe when all the old TV actors and musicians are dead by mid-century something new will come about. Then again, maybe by mid-century there will be all kinds of yammering about the centennial of I Love Lucy, and which the latest Taylor Swift/Beyonce clone will go through makeup to give her best bad imitation of Lucille Ball.

I expect to be dead by then, too. I’m not all that curious to find out.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Nimoy. There are some things only one person can pull off, and you pulled off one of the all-time greatest. I feel privileged to have seen all that when it was really happening, when classic characters and stories and songs were being made before our very eyes and ears like just another Tuesday at the office.