Ding Dong, the Hostess is Dead

Well, it’s over people.  We will no longer have to face another menacing Twinkie, Ding Dong, Ho-Ho, or Cupcake again; because the company, Hostess, which makes these treats, is now officially out of business.

How did this 100 year old company meet its maker?  Was it because of the healthier eating habits of people?  Was it corporate mismanagement?  Was it just another repercussion of the economy struggling to get out of the ditch?

Well, the answers as follows:  No, No, and No.

The thing that drove this company out of business was a week-long strike by the Bakers Union workers for that company.  Despite repeated pleas and warnings by Hostess management that such a strike would cripple and eventually lead to that company’s bankruptcy and closure, the union decided that going on strike was the best and only course of action.

Well, here we are, across the Rubicon, and lo and behold Hostess has been forced into bankruptcy liquidation, and about 18,500 people will join the ranks of the unemployed in this country — including all of the union workers.

It kind of begs the question as to whether or not this strike was worth it.  I mean even in the best economy a job is better than no job.  Or am I sadly mistaken in that line of thought?

This all didn’t happen in a matter of days though.  No it started months ago when the still struggling Hostess went to union leadership and asked if they would kindly negotiate lower benefits in order to save the company from going into bankruptcy.  The union declined.  Hostess asked the union again, before a bankruptcy judge mandated those reductions in benefits.  The union again declined, and threatened to go on strike.  Hostess informed the union that if they went on strike that would certainly spell the end of the company.  The union then went on strike; and now Hostess is no more.

The assets of Hostess will be auctioned off through the bankruptcy proceedings, those assets will undoubtedly include the rights to the Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos, and Wonder Bread; which will probably be bought by some foreign company.  All of the bakeries will be sold at auction too.  The proceeds from this fire sale will be used to pay off Hostess’ creditors.  Little to none of the proceeds will go to any of those now 18,500 unemployed people.  Job well done Bakers Union; you managed to successfully cut-off your nose, in spite of your face.

 

Rogue Planet Discovered Near Earth

When I was a kid I was fascinated with all things outer space.  If there was a slight orientation towards space in something, then I was going to pay that something a modicum of attention — except the drink of NASA (back then) Tang, I thought that stuff was just awful.

To be honest though I think all kids go through their outer space phase based on my nephews’ and many of my friends children too.  It should be too hard to understand why; outer space is just so darn fascinating.  It is the one place where it seems like anything can and does happen, and for a child’s imagination, that is simply a fantastic playground to, well, play in.  Then of course there are the cool sci fi franchises out there, like Star Wars and Star Trek, which simply adds to a child’s enthrallment with outer space too.

Well, to further illustrate how fascinating outer space is, is this new discovery of an orphaned or rogue planet just floating along out there 100 light years away, not orbiting a star like good little planets should.  Speaking of little, this rogue planet is anything but little.  It is in fact 4 to 7 times more massive than Jupiter — that’s pretty big their folks.

It is the size of this rogue planet that leads some scientists to question whether or not it should even be considered a planet at all, and is instead perhaps a brown dwarf star, or a part of a group of very young stars that this object seems to be hanging out with.

Regardless of whatever, or however scientists wish to classify this planet/star/something I think it is just really interesting all of the things we things we simply do not know about outer space; which will certainly keep many more kids interested in it.

Cutting the Cable

It is no big secret that times are tough, financially, right now for many people in this country; sadly though it really doesn’t look like the times are going to see any dramatic improvement for much of these same people anytime too soon.

When our finances get stretched a little too thin we tend to start scrutinizing what all we are spending our money on — and some may also start look under the sofa cushions too.  We then start looking for things that we are paying for, but don’t need, and either cease paying for those things, or significantly cut back on them.  This only makes sense for us, and this then causes a snowball effect on through the economy at large.

If enough of us resort to cost cutting, then there is less money being spent on a myriad of things, which means that companies are seeing reduced revenues, which causes them to cut back on things like hiring, raises, production/workers hours, and they too start looking for ways to scrimp and save.

Take for example the cable/satellite TV industry.  For many people when they were examining their budgets, and looking for ways to cut costs and reign in spending, they saw how much they were spending on cable/satellite TV and decided that it was something that they could live without; so they did/are doing what is being called “cutting the cable.”

More and more people are doing this each year, and it is starting to have an impact on many of those service providers.  Satellite providers have threatened to drop entire networks from their lineups when those networks demand an increase in the amount of money they get from those providers.  Earlier this year Dish Network dropped AMC just before that network’s season premiere of its hit show “Breaking Bad,” and Viacom pulled ALL of its networks (parent company of Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, as well as others) from DirecTV due to a monetary dispute.  Eventually these issues tend to work their way out through some kind of negotiation and compromise; Dish Network eventually re-added AMC back to its lineup, and to the best of my knowledge Viacom has restored their networks to DirecTV; but it is an example of companies looking for ways to either make, or save, more money to maintain some level of profitability.

Nonetheless it does seem that we have reached the peak in how ubiquitous cable/satellite TV is, simply because it is something that more and more people are realizing that they can, in fact, live without; especially since most of our favorite television shows can be watched online now; and the fact that more and more TV’s are coming out of the box internet ready.  These factors, and more, should continue to lead an increasing number of people to “cut the cable;” which will continue to force more of the service providers and networks to engage in pricing battles and channel cancellations.

 

New Study Suggests Humans are Getting Dumber

One of my favorite movies is “Idiocracy.”  It is the comedic story about a man and a woman, who are of very average intelligence, participation in a military experiment on long term hibernation, but are soon forgotten about, only to be thawed out some 500 years in the future.

The thing about that 500 year future though is that due to various social issues, like intelligent people having very few children, if any, and the not so intelligent people having many children, then in that 500 years from now future people are decidedly dumber than even the two main characters very average intelligence.  They are essentially the smartest people alive.  Trust me, it is very funny in its satire, and I recommend those who haven’t seen it to check it out some time.

What’s not so funny though is that according to a new study published in the journal “Trends in Genetics” says that the human race may in fact be getting dumber.

Gerald Crabtree, a researcher at Stanford University, and the author of this study, believes that the drive for humans to increase their intelligence — evolutionary speaking — was pushed along by our need for survival.  However, once the human race began to settle into dense agricultural settlements, then that evolutionary drive for increased intelligence was diminished, if not outright stopped; and it has been downhill ever since.

Of course there are counter arguments to this study.  Psychologist Thomas Hills, says that the fact that there was no Stephen Hawking 200,000 years ago shows that we are in fact getting smarter.

I don’t know, all I have to do is look at what are the popular TV  shows, or have a conversation with some people every once and awhile for me to think both “Idiocracy” and this study might just on to something.

 

Bob Iger Says that Broadcast TV ain’t dead Yet

“I would say that it would be premature to either write the epitaph [of broadcast network television] or suggest that we’re seeing a trend,” that is a quote from Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co.  He goes on to say that the lack of any new “buzzworthy” shows is what is accounting for this early season weakness.  He then goes on to talk about NBC’s show “The Voice” as showing improved viewership, and then mentions ABC’s “serviceable” line-up of shows — FYI Disney owns ABC, so I don’t think we can call his comments about that networks shows as glowing.

He is right though, it is still far too early for us to be giving the traditional broadcast networks their eulogies.  There are still far too many people who tune into these traditional networks for them to be officially declared dead.  They are sick though, and while the illness hasn’t quite been declared terminal, the outlook sure as heck at that good.

There are many people who have already severed their cable, and satellite subscriptions, in favor of streaming content provided by companies like Netflix, Blockbuster (yes it is still around) and Hulu.  While this doesn’t necessarily spell the end of traditional television shows, it doesn’t help the traditional broadcast networks either.  The people who are opting for the above content providers over cable/satellite/antennae are supporting their favorite television shows, they aren’t tuning into ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, or any of the other networks; which cuts into those networks ad revenues.  So the television production studios might survive, but the networks are facing a bit of a dilemma.

There are more people who are also simply getting rid of their televisions, and choosing their computers as the source of all of their news and entertainment wants and needs.  Not surprisingly those who are going this route are of the younger set – college students and young professionals — and I can tell you that I have met about a half dozen or so recently.  So, yes Mr. Iger, broadcast television is still alive, but it isn’t getting stronger, it is getting weaker, and I dare say that its days are numbered.

BBC Nixed Search for Alien Life Television Show for Silly Reason

How many people know who Brian Cox is?  No, not the former football player, I am referring to the U.K.’s Brian Cox and not the English footballer there either.  The specific Brian Cox that I am referring to is a particle physicist and host of some scientific television shows.  Here in America some of us will be familiar with him as the host of the television show “Wonders of the Universe,” which has been shown on The Science Channel.  In the U.K. he has done a lot more television work — he was also in a couple rock bands back in the day too — one of those shows was called “Stargazing Live,” which was a live three day astronomy series in 2011.

Well, in a recent interview Brian Cox revealed his want to turn the Jodrell Radio Telescope towards a recently discovered planet during that three day live broadcast and listen for any signs of intelligent life by way of radio signals.  Sounds pretty cool huh?  Apparently the state run broadcasting company in the United Kingdom didn’t think so.  The BBC wouldn’t let the television show conduct this experiment on live TV because of — are you ready for this — “health and safety concerns.”  Forget that it could result in the greatest discovery in human history, the BBC was more concerned about the possibility that the alien life might swear on the air.

You gotta love government regulations huh?

Okay, first the odds are astronomical (pun intended) that any contact would be made by pointing a radio telescope at a planet light years away for just three days.  Second the odds are even more astronomical that the life on any planet is intelligent.  Third, the odds get even more astronomical that if there is intelligent life on another planet that we would be able to understand, let alone translate their language(s) immediately, on live television.

Time to Think of Others

The weather just isn’t helping those who live in the northeast, specifically coastal residents in New York and New Jersey.  First Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc throughout the region, and before all services, particularly electricity, can be restored along comes this nor’easter winter storm that is expected to bring more dangerous winds, more flooding, along with snow and plummeting temperatures, and even more power outages.  None of that is good news for an area still reeling from that superstorm.

Sadly there is little to nothing we can do to stop nature and the disasters that nature can bring; but there are things that we can do in the wake of natural disasters and those who are affected by them.

Obviously one thing that we all can do is donate money to any of a variety of disaster relief organizations.  There is so much truth to the statement that money is what makes the world go ‘round, and this holds true for charities too.  Without the generous donations of others no charities would be able to offer the services they are set up to do.  There are several post Superstorm Sandy relief organizations out there:

The most obvious one is the American Red Cross:  redcross.org/hurricane-sandy

Then there is the Brooklyn Recovery Fund:  connect.brooklyncommunityfoundation.org/brooklyn-recovery-fund

There is also the Community FoodBank of New Jersey:  community.njfoodbank.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=506

Habitat for Humanity:  habitat.org/cd/giving/one/donate.aspx?link=470

The Humane Society of the United States:  Humane Society of the United States

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City:  nyc.gov/html/fund/html/donate/donate.shtml

The Salvation Army:  donate.salvationarmyusa.org/disaster

Save the Children:  Save the Children

The United Way:  uwsandyrecovery.org

As you can see there are plenty of organizations that we can donate to and lend some sort of assistance for those suffering from Sandy, and now this nor’easter that is bearing down on them.  Of course we needn’t only donate to charities whenever there is a natural disaster.  These organizations can always need donations to carry out their missions, plus we must not forget that the holiday season is merely weeks away.

The End of Television as We Know it

I know I am not going to be the first, nor the last person to ever say this, but the days of what we call broadcast television are numbered.  The future lies with streaming audio and video content via the internet.

For those who are still skeptical about this future I can understand why, because even though I am a believer in this future, I still get my television through what is now considered one of the “traditional” means – through a satellite dish.  Despite that though, I still think that the internet is where the future of television watching is.

People have seriously talking about this future for about a decade now, and there are already services that we can subscribe to that will allow us to cut the cord, sort to speak.  Services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Blockbuster (yes they are still around), and with a combination of two of those you can watch much of your favorite television shows, and movies for less than what it costs for whatever form of cable/satellite service you might currently have.  Then there is the fact that many new televisions are now equipped to access the internet on their own, and many come with preinstalled aps, like Pandora, Youtube, and even Hulu.  All of that is well and good for many people, but there is a group of individuals who must stay tethered to some sort of receiver or another, and they are the sports fans.

Currently most sports broadcasts are only offered through mainstream television channels, like NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, as well as others.  ESPN does stream some games on ESPN3.com, but not all.  Once all sports are available to be watched online, then that will be the end of what we call the status quo for watching television.  We’ll have to wait and see if that is a good thing or not.

New Study Suggests the Media Doesn’t Like Either Obama or Romney

We’re in the waning days of this election season, and I know that many people are of the opinion that it can’t end soon enough.  I know I am ready for it all to be over.  If you really stop to think about it the Presidential election has really been going on for over a year now; what with the Republican Primary race that seems like it started some time in 2009, upon the inauguration of President Obama.

Throughout this campaign season though we the people have been hit over and over again with all of the negative campaign ads claiming that one candidate is going to be the worst person in the entire world to ever govern anything; while the one who “endorse(s) this message” is the only person in the world that can solve everything that is wrong.  Such is the nature of political campaigns though.  I doubt there was ever a candidate who came forth and declared their opponent was doing anything right.  If there was, I can guarantee that candidate didn’t win.  That’s the candidates though, but what do the media think?

There are many people who believe that the media is decidedly in the camp of those who have a more leftward leaning political tilt; and at times it might actually seem that way.  Then there are others who believe that with the now ubiquitous 24 hour news coverage, and the media outlets that provide that coverage that there are biases enough on both sides of the political spectrum.  This too seems to bear some element of truth.

However, according to a new study released by Journalism.org; a website run by the Pew Research Center; when all of the data is compiled from both left leaning media outlets and right leaning media outlets, the results show that in the media doesn’t think too highly of either of the two establishment parties.  The basic gist is this; on the whole, the media thinks both President Obama, and Mitt Romney aren’t great.

While this suggests a lack of bias in the media, we have to consider that the data is a compilation of media outlets.  It is not a result of any real neutral coverage by the media at large.  So, if you tend to tune into MSNBC, then you will hear nothing but how bad Romney is; and if you tune into Fox News, then you will hear nothing but how bad President Obama is.  Of course this study also looked at written articles that were written about both candidates, either in the affirmative, or the negative; as well as social media.  All of that data was then compiled to come to the aggregate result that neither candidate exactly gets a glowing review on the whole.

 

Mixed Emotions Over Disney’s Purchase of Lucas Films

Okay, by now most of us have heard about Disney buying Lucas Films Ltd. for $4.05 billion.  That is a whole heck of a lot of cheddar there folks.  This purchase almost gives Disney a monopoly on anything that is fantasy related.  Disney now has the rights to the Star Wars franchise, the Indiana Jones franchise, as well as other lesser known or popular films, like Willow, and Howard the Duck, through this most recent acquisition.  Disney also has bought Marvel Entertainment, giving them rights to all of those superheroes, and they have bought Pixar too, which keeps all of those characters, and the profits they bring, in the Magic Kingdom too.

As a Star Wars fan I have mixed emotions about Disney buying Lucas Films.  A part of me is kind of happy; with me hoping that maybe, just maybe Disney will release the original theatrical cuts of the original trilogy in a DVD set.  George Lucas has said many times in the past that the digitally “enhanced” re-released versions are the only ones that will ever be around.  If you are a Star Wars fan, then you know how those “enhanced” movies left a lot to be desired.  Just Google “Han shot first and you will see countless angry Star Wars fans airing their grievances over George’s changes to those classic films.  Then there is the ever so small hope that the newer Star Wars movies somehow get lost, or if nothing else remade with less painful dialogue and acting (Hayden Christensen) I’m looking at you — I know odds are neither will happen.

Then there is a part of me that is sad by Disney’s purchase of Lucas Films.  Mainly because Disney has already said that they intend on making more Star Wars movies.  Some fans hearing that would be unmistakably happy, but I for one, am more than a little gun shy of more movies, simply because of mine, and others, disappointment over the prequels.  Those movies did more to ruin my feelings of the original films than they did to make me a bigger fan.  Basically I am afraid that more Star Wars movies will just further dilute and cheapen the brand; but there is a possibility that Disney will do a far better job in protecting this franchise than George Lucas did.

Finally there will be many who are thinking that this is another example of the rich getting richer; what with George Lucas, who is already a billionaire, getting another four billion dollars to deposit into his checking account.  Well, everyone can relax, because George Lucas has gone on the record saying that he isn’t going to run out and buy a fleet of Bentleys with this money.  He is instead going to donate the money to charity.  See, not all rich people are greedy, evil, narcissists — even if they did trample over one of your favorite childhood movies.