Morning all:

Quote Of The Week:

“There is enough gold in 200 cell phones to make a gold ring.” The Secret Life of Cell Phones (I don’t believe that they have looked at the ‘gold’ in my phone bill)

Marcia regularly complains that I talk to the television set. Should you think this to be somewhat strange, don’t worry, I only do this while the set is on. Join me with my morning coffee and I’ll explain.

My ‘outbursts’ are more remarks aimed at myself and deal with the many absurdities that stream into our living rooms via that medium. Absurdities such as displaying 500-words of ‘fine print’ on screen for 2 seconds; all as part of the disclaimer for a pharmaceutical ad, done in white lettering positioned against someone who just happened to be wearing a white lab coat—give me a break! This stuff is part of a much larger pattern.

I have come to realize that over the past few years many of our assumptions regarding the cost or functionality of a product have been carefully buried in fine print. This ‘fine print’ is then placed in front of us in a manner that has been specifically crafted to be obtuse, unreadable, and unintelligable. Can you tell me what is meant by the ”administrative cost recovery” fee on your phone bill (phone company charge for posting your payment—think of an extra charge appearing on the bottom of your grocery receipt for the clerk checking you out)? The bottom line is, companies do not want us as consumers to read or understand much of what is really being applied or offered.

While walking the other night I was listening to a podcast of NPRs Fresh Air. The specific show had Terry Gross interview a consumer reporter who had just released a new book “Gotcha Capitalism.” Just think why your cell phone bill, or hotel charges, credit card fees, cable charges after the “introductory period”, or car rental fees, are 30+% more than you originally assumed it was going to cost. Why is there a $5 ATM charge or a $39 ‘over the limit’ credit card fee? It just goes on and on. He calculates that the average person pays well in excess of $1,000 per year in fees and charges that are the hidden unexpected add-ons. This show confirmed that my occasional ‘discussions’ with my TV are not so far off the mark and probably well placed.

In 2002 a struggling commercial photographer was sentenced to prison for taking some art photographs of bodies posed with differing objects at our city morgue. The charge was desecration of a corpse.

This week, amid much hype and gushing praise, our museum center opened the exhibit “Bodies…..The Exhibition”—as an educational event.

Museum leaders are ecstatic with the prospect of a financial windfall.

The exhibit takes 15,000 square feet of the museum to display about 250 various body parts. However, the main focus is on the 20 polymer preserved cadavers, skinned, splayed, carved, and posed so as to show the various workings of the human body. The show advertisement quotes the “Today Show”: “An anatomy textbook come alive!” A bit of a strange use of the word “alive”, unless the reference was to the one corpse, cut in half, where one half is ‘high-fiveing’ its own other half.

I have struggled whether or not to visit the exhibit. On the one hand is a fascinating opportunity to see what it’s like on the inside of all of us. On the other is the fact that playfully displaying 20 cadavers is, at minimum, unseemly.

But, there is more.

Great pains have been made to explain that the cadavers, obtained from China, died a natural death and were unclaimed. That their $25 million five-year ‘rental’ has the full approval of the Chinese is troublesome. I don’t think it happenstance that these bodies came from China and not from nations such as Canada, Sweden, Australia, or the United States. China, a country rife with human rights abuses and demonstrating minimal respect for human life, is carefully avoiding any mention that these were individuals who gave their own consent. These could have been starved political prisoners as readily as the ‘unclaimed’ body of some itinerant peasant farmer.

In the big world it’s money that usually wins out. In my case ethics wins out, it’s a ‘no go’ for me. I’ll skip this event.

Last month the annual office football pool was held. I should have just handed in my money and saved the time entering team names in the various spaces. The Green Bay Packers playing the Red Skins is not how the Super Bowl XLII will be staged tomorrow. Can you explain why I am therefore looking forward to the game? Oh yes its not the game, it’s the Super Bowl party; happening while some game is playing in the background. Make it a great week everyone.

Cheers,

Dirk

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