Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How Is Your Economy?

How Is Your Economy? I’d like to be a fly on the wall to hear how half the people answer that question. How is the overall economy in this country? Well, it sucks. So I thought I’d share a few thoughts. First of all, I think I’m going to follow this post up with a few thoughts later on about the economy and about investing.

However, let me get this little tidbit out of the way first. I am not an investment advisor any longer. Most of my background is in investment advising. I started out in the 90’s with an Edward Jones office before moving on to work for Fidelity for a number of years. After that I went into the business with a colleague and was an investment advisor for a Virginia company. Yes, the economy sucks and I no longer do that for now. I decided to chase some other opportunities such as trying to promote my novels and currently my web store.

I’m watching T.V. last week and this commercial comes on to advertise for an investment company. It first addresses the fact that the economy is still bad, but it goes on to ask how the economy is in your home. It’s a pretty clever ad and makes the overall economic question a very personal one. So I thought I’d take a few moments to ask you…How is your economy?

When you think about it, that question can be answered from very different points of view. Someone who watches that commercial will think of it in terms of how their 401K is performing or their other retirement and non-retirement investments, or that variable annuity they have that will help supplement their income in a few years. Someone else may hear that question and consider the answer in terms of job security or if they have enough benefits offered at their job to help the family with insurance or medical costs. Still yet, another person who is reading this and between jobs may consider the local job market and their particular skill set when they ask themselves this question. Maybe their economy isn’t so good and they need additional income to pay the bills and hopefully have a few bucks left over.

I thought about some of the different ways that people would answer this question. A growing number of analysts are suggesting that our country is edging closer to slipping back into another recession. If you ask me, I didn’t know we ever really got out of the last one. Now for you folks out there who follow the markets and the economy closely, I’m well aware of what the definition of a recession is and yes, the economy has been growing. But it hasn’t been growing at the rate needed to replace the jobs lost during the recession and for many people out there, slow economic growth feels about the same on the wallet as no economic growth.

So with the economy still disappointing many people who are unemployed or under-employed, I was a bit taken by surprise when I recently read an article stating that the growth rate in new entrepreneurs was slowing down. In America we are surrounded by opportunity. We only need our imaginations and a little bit of hard work to actually become a business owner. America has always been robust with people taking advantage of their own abilities and becoming their own boss.

One would expect that with so many people out of work for so long we would see an explosion of small at home businesses. After all, not a day goes by that I don’t hear the same ad on the radio telling me to go to go to a web page for Income At Home to be my own boss. I checked it out and had a couple of phone calls to discuss selling Herbalife vitamins and products. It wasn’t for me.

The point is, if your economy is lacking there are opportunities out there to become your own boss and even work from home. Do you love reading books? Did you know that there are companies out there that will pay you for a book review? Are you a new student in college needing a few extra bucks and are good at math? Why not tutor high school students two or three times a week. Maybe your time is worth $15 an hour. A small group of 5 students for a two hour session just made “Nichole’s Tutoring Service” an extra $150 for one session. I personally set up an online Amway store called J.C.’s Place as something to do on the side to supplement my own economy. My sister did the same.

There are any number of things we can do to help out our own economies at home and improve our lives and lifestyle. If you are interested in improving your economy and want to be your own boss then do some web research and come up with some ideas. One place to start looking is Entrepreneur.com. There are numerous websites that will offer you a free website for a year for trying them out. So don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. If you do something very well the chances are that there are some people out there who would be willing to pay you for your knowledge and time. I’d be interested to know how you answer the question in six months from now. How is your economy and what are you going to do about it?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 10 Dead Comedians

There’s nothing like sitting down on the couch and watching a funny movie or some stand up comedy or improvisation. A classic Saturday Night Live episode or someone tearing up the crowd on a Comedy Central half hour special or Roast. Some of the greatest comedians have graced us with some classic lines, amazing movies, and video footage we’ll never forget and that will never see the likes of again. Some comedians are just so genius at what they do that they are truly one of a kind and we should feel grateful that we got to witness the best these comics had to give before they passed away.

Although there are a lot of great comedians out there, this top ten list is to pay homage to the greats. There should be many more on this list, but this is just a personal list of my favorite comedians that are no longer with us. So let’s get on with it. Feel free to let us know who your favorite dead comedians are!

Top 10 Dead Comedians:

10.Greg Giraldo--Who the heck is Greg Giraldo?? That’s a good question! And one that many of his fellow Roasters busted his balls about the entire time he was a Roaster for Comedy Central. However, for those that have seen him on the Roasts or doing a stand up special on TV, this guy was pretty unforgettable. He was the very one who asked the same question that every struggling comedian asks, but only he asked it at the Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. “You’re Larry the Cable Guy. How did that bit make you $50 million dollars???”

Giraldo checked out way too young and before most people got a chance to laugh at his act. But I don’t think it was an act with Giraldo. The guy was a natural. He died in 2010 at the age of 44 by an accidental overdose of prescription medication.

9. Richard Jeni--The thing about Richard Jeni is that his stand up comedy specials will never get old. His mannerism and delivery of a joke or story was such that it drew an audience in. I have watched the same stand up specials at least a dozen times each and find myself laughing every time and stealing those jokes to tell to others. Jeni died in 2007 at the age of 49 by a self inflicted gunshot to the head.

8. George Carlin--Carlin delivered his humor with a bit of anger and angst. Although he had a way of being offensive to some, they way he told a joke or made a comment about a controversial subject still kind of had to make you laugh. One of my own personal philosophies I learned from this master of comedy. I remember watching one of his HBO specials and hearing him say that he had two major rules in life. He never trusted anything the government said, and he never trusted anything the media said. They were both equally full of s**t. Well said, Mr. Carlin. I’m still laughing at your wit and wisdom.
Carlin died in 2008 at the age of 71.

7. John Ritter--Ah, one of my favorites of all time. Ritter was never into stand up comedy, but if you have every watched his movies or Three’s Company, you’ll get the reason for John Ritter being on this list. His list of comedies include Real Men and Skin Deep.

Actually, the reason I call this blog The Ritter Files is because of this comedian and classy guy. When I set this website up I wanted to be clever and witty once in a while and since I’m a writer, all I could think about at the time was the movie Skin Deep. Ritter’s character was also a writer and struggling to find his place in life and write the next great novel. Hence, The Ritter Files.

John Ritter passed away in 2003 at the age of 54.

6. Gilda Radner--Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. She was on the show from 1975 to 1980 and created such classic characters as Roseanne Roseannadanna that would tell gross stories about celebrities on the show’s Weekend Update segment. Another hilarious character was Baba Wawa (a spoof on Barbara Walters). Remember the character Emily Litella, the hearing impaired woman that gave news updates on the news segment! Hilarious…”flea erections in China.”

Who could forget her role in the movie Haunted Honeymoon! Great film. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at the age of 42.

5. Johnny Carson--Carson was a master of his craft and entertained America for decades before retiring from The Tonight Show. Since his departure, late night television has never been the same and his two heir apparent to the throne of late night (Leno and Letterman) have failed to live up to the standard that Johnny Carson set.

However, with such a high bar did anyone really expect late night TV to ever be the same after he left? He was a once in a lifetime comedian that wore shoes that will never be filled in the world of comedy. To say that Johnny Carson is a legend would be a gross understatement.

Carson died in 2005 at the age of 79.

4. Richard Pryor--Pryor thrilled audiences on stage as well as in films. But it wasn’t just his “colorful” language that set him apart at the time, it was the way he told a story and the appeal that he had to a wide audience in the 1970’s. I think proper credit has to be given to Pryor because if it wasn’t for him paving the way for a lot of other black comedians we very well might have never seen the rise of stars like Eddie Murphy or even more recently Chris Rock. Pryor could deliver a clean joke just as easily as he would a joke about drug abuse or racial issues. You had to laugh.

Pryor was in some classic movies such as See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Moving, Critical Condition and Harlem Nights. Pryor also wrote for the television shows Sanford and Son and the Flip Wilson Show. Pryor died in 2005 from a heart attack. He was 65 years old.
3. Sam Kinison--Most of America was introduced to this former preacher turned comic when he had a short role in the movie Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield. He played the part of a psychotic history professor that took his job a bit too seriously. However, Kinison quickly rose to the top of the A-list of comics with his loud and abrasive act, and his angry comedic style. It was a role that fit his perfectly. He even went on to have a hit video on MTV with the remake of Wild Thing. The video featured Jessica Hahn dressed scantily and dancing and rolling around the star studded cast of rock stars. Leave to Kinison to throw fire on a controversy involving a church.

Kinison was killed in 1992 by a 17 year old drunk driver. Kinison was married 5 days before his death. He was 38.

2. John Belushi--Belushi is still considered one of the greatest comedians of all time. To see why all you need to do is watch the Blues Brothers or Animal House. Even though he didn’t have many lines in Animal House, he showed just how important physical comedy is in making a good movie or skit. He is still considered the ICON of the Saturday Night Live alumni and was multi talented in more ways than just his alcohol and drug consumption, which is what many recall when they think of Belushi. I prefer to remember the Samaria Chef, Bluto, and Jake Blues.

Belushi died in 1982 at the age of 33 by a combined injection of cocaine and heroin, also called a speedball.

1. Rodney Dangerfield--I put Dangerfield at the top of this list because the guy deserves nothing but respect. His stand up acts were riotous and his movies (although he considered himself a piss poor actor) were hilarious. Look up some old YouTube clips of Dangerfield and hold on to your hat. Even his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were rip roaring. You could tell that he was a crowd favorite.

However, although I he was a master of comedy, I think Dangerfield should be remembered for his efforts at giving other comedians a chance at the stage. He owned a comedy club called Dangerfield’s where he would give chances to little known comedians and help them along with their careers. Maybe you are familiar with a few of the comedians he helped along the way: Jerry Seinfeld, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Leno.

Dangerfield died in 2004 at the age of 82.

Final thought: It sucks that so many great comics are gone. Whew, I’m glad the Dice Man is still around. I’m holding out hope for Ford Fairlane Part II!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MTV Killed Rock and Roll

Since this blog is supposed to be a bit about fun and opinion, I thought I’d ask the question many of us rock music fans have been asking ourselves and scratching our heads about for years. Why the hell did MTV kill rock and roll?

I have read a few posts on the web that are nothing more than apologies for MTV, claiming MTV did nothing of the sort. In fact, they claim MTV promoted every kind of music and helped a lot of bands and musicians, etc… Well, that’s true. MTV was my favorite channel when our little town finally got it added to the list of cable networks available. And MTV promoted ALL kinds of music. They were fresh and innovative and had a lot of programming that was right up the alley of our youthful generation. But then something happened, and those that defend MTV now are just full of crap. Seriously.

I actually read a defense of MTV not showing videos on Answers.com. I’m not picking on the person that wrote it, but they said MTV doesn’t show videos because the majority of music these days is so full of vulgarity that they try to protect kids from hearing the foul language. That argument is about as stupid as the Jersey Shore. First of all, watch MTV for a day and see how many times the F-bomb gets bleeped out. Also, kids hear this kind of language at school all day. And third, MTV is not a protector of morality. If they were then they would avoid all things controversial that deals with morality such as the heated moral debates about homosexuality and abortion/teen pregnancy. They don’t shy away from those issues, so I’m pretty damn sure that MTV could care less about kids hearing some foul language.

MTV stands for “music television.” When was the last time you saw a music video on there? Maybe at 3 or 4 in the morning…I don’t know, I’m never watching television at that time. Other than some obscure hour in which they perhaps show a video (I have no proof they do), then I’m guessing the last time MTV showed a video might have been in the 1990’s or something. Who knows. And at this point, who cares! What MTV originally was compared to what they are now is about the same difference as night and day.

MTV used to have great shows, including the daily call in request show called Dial MTV. They would show the top 10 most requested videos of the day. That was cool. Then they changed the name of the show until it eventually became called “Total Request Live,” later shortened to TRL hosted by lame ass Carson Daly. MTV decided that it would be better to only show brief clips of the videos that were requested and replace it with Carson Daly trying to act like the cool heart throb he was not and packing the small studio with kids off the street so that all we heard before we got twenty seconds of a top video was, “Hi, my name is Amanda and the number four video today is Backstreet Boys. Whoooo, whoooo, whooooo, arrrgghhhh, ahhhhhh, whooooo, ahhhhhh!” Continue the useless psychotic screaming and the rest of the small crowd joining in so that you actually couldn’t hear the first five seconds of the twenty seconds they gave you of the song. The show sucked and eventually if was in existence no more.

MTV brought out a show called “The Real World” way back in the early 1990’s or thereabouts that was their first stab at reality TV. It took complete strangers with nothing in common and put them in an apartment to see how long it would take them before all hell broke loose and it was a dramatic argumentative soap opera for kids. Well, the first season was entertaining so they made season two with all new people. It was a popular show but after a while they were all just the same, just like every other reality TV show. However, I guess the powers that be at what used to be the coolest channel on the dial decided it was cheaper to produce shows like that than to actually work with artists and show videos.

So, from the perspective of the viewer, MTV killed rock and roll in order to become a reality TV network for high school kids. Also, they appear to be a political partisan network during years of presidential elections with their “Rock the Vote” garbage. Of course they claim to be non-partisan as they parade celebrities back and forth that encourage young first time voters to vote for the democrat. It was the same when I was 18 and they obviously favored Bill Clinton. And they have favored one party ever since.
Personally I don’t care what party they favor. I just wish that they would admit it and file “Rock the Vote” as a political action committee. However, that is just my opinion. I don’t do politics on this blog, but I don’t mind pointing out the obvious.

So why would MTV sell out the same music fans and cool-ass artists that made them what they are? Well, if you could produce a much cheaper programming model (reality TV) and get mind numbed 15 year olds to watch and think that you’re still the cool channel you used to be and pack each hour with way too many commercials----yep, MONEY. MTV is no different than all the other “greedy” corporations out there. They just don’t want the angry 15-25 year old crowd to know it.

MTV killed rock and roll for a new programming model to make more money. That’s fine, and who doesn’t like to make a buck. I’m all about capitalism. But it flies in the face of their fake fa├žade and makes them a complete sell out to what made them all successful in the first place. That’s not what the rebellious spirit of rock and roll is all about. You guys can rock and still make tons of money. Instead, you’re just a bunch of sell outs with about fifteen different music channels. Even VH1 is just as bad. VH1 Classic…I’ll still watch that channel until it sells out, too. At least you can see some videos on that channel.

So my suggestion to MTV. Change your name. You don’t show videos. You have little to do with music, so it just seems like false advertising. And why bother having the MTV Music Video Awards. What videos? Drop the show.
Could someone out there please borrow MTV’s early business model and bring back rock and roll? Kids everywhere would appreciate seeing some new music videos. It’s sad that so many music fans have to go to YouTube to find the latest videos of our favorite artists.
MTV, you suck. And there are millions of rock fans, rap fans, grunge fans, R&B fans, and alt rock fans that would like to tell you exactly what they think you do suck. Of course, this is all just my humble opinion.