18 November, 2011

Latest Display Tech Fail

You know I collect these...
Kiosk in Baneasa Mall

Technically it doesn't appear to be Windows this time...

On the highway somewhere around Predeal. Ish.

17 October, 2011

When Number One IS Number One

Every so often in the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet, a particular survey bobs to the surface, being the top things women hate about men. Putting aside for now the concerns that such a list is, at best, subjective because most answers are likely - and even admittedly - different depending on where in the month a woman is asked (yes I went THERE), and that such a list of complaints could even be narrowed down to anything needing less than infinite pixels to display, the majority of answers seem to do with hygiene, most often body hair or nail trimmings, most often being found off its body of origin, most often in the sink. But even beyond this most egregious and malevolent ...er, function of nature (do you beat Fido or Fluffy for shedding? Noooo, just Mister), is the consistent top Number One answer: leaving the toilet seat up.

Surprisingly, I got nothin' for this one.  I quite agree that it's not our best feature. Mostly because it seems permanently partnered with lousy aim. Men place tremendous value, to the extent of lifelong training, on their ability to throw, bat, kick or putt various small objects into equally small places with nanometric precision. And these same men can't aim their own built-in equipment with a fraction of that accuracy. Maybe toilets need points-tickets dispensers like skee-ball machines. Collect enough points via good aim, and redeem them for dinner.

I can joke about all this because I rarely pee standing into a regular toilet. Not only is my aim NOT better for having avoided all that nasty sports training in my youth, but because of my height, there is about an extra meter between me and the bowl. Thus, after the stream in question has left me but before it hits the porcelain pool, the rotation of the Earth has swung the toilet sufficiently eastward to throw off my aim even further.

So, cry the multitude, this leaves the basic question as unanswered as it is eternal: why do men do it?

I believe I have the answer.

At the very least, I have AN answer. And there's nothing theoretical, hypothetical or even far-fetched about it.  I LIVE it and I'm sure I'm not alone. And what's most stunning?  The deviously sinister evil genius behind this motivation for men to pee standing may lie with none other than WOMEN, possibly the very same ones who bemoan men who pee standing! And I now expose this travesty for posterity and the vindication of masculinity for generations to come.

Let's cut to the chase: we're talking about toilet fresheners. Whether they're dropped in, stuck on, hung or sprayed, a universal truth is that no man worth his gender would buy one, much less install one. These devices are right up there with potpourri and lace doilies as items which only females would deem necessary in a domicile. A man could be set on fire before admitting to the possible point of furniture, or forks, let alone items of higher bodily function.  Guaranteed, the only time a man encounters a toilet freshener is if his significant other put it there.

This in and of itself is not so horrible. Any attempt to make us males smell better is laudable, if usually doomed to fail. Certainly, as any midsummer city bus ride will attest, men are quite unable to odorproof themselves, so the ladies might as well take a whack at it. But to introduce a solution that only SEEMS like a solution, but in reality only perpetuates the problem, takes a level of shrewd craftiness that no mere male intellect could brew up. THIS:

...could only come from the mind of a woman. An evil woman at that. And before you wags ask me if there's any other kind, let's just stick to the facts. This toilet freshener releases a dark blue dye with every flush.  You can't hang it on the sides of the bowl, as it won't extend down to the water stream.

Nope, it only works front and center. Perfectly out of the way when a woman sits down.  This is a good thing, as this is usually their only option. Now, on the other hand, your average male has some dangly bits that would line up just about exactly with this blue dye-soaking device if he sits down.  Did I say "would"? Well, I meant to say "damn well surely do"! To be fair, I'm not talking about my normal home situation (and yes, the oxymoron is not lost on me). The photos above depict what awaited me at an otherwise splendid hotel during a recent weekend trip. But because I don't usually expect sabotage in my commodial consultations, I parked myself as I always do.  So, when I got up, ...well, I can't be overly explicit, but here is a reasonable visual representation of my subsequent status:

Admittedly, I may have, once or twice in my younger days, suffered from the condition known as "blue balls", but in this case, as the internet memes say, "UR DOIN IT WRONG". And did I mention that this cerulean crap doesn't wash off right away? Noooo! So, I ask you, which gender stands more to lose by inventing such a savagely subversive atrocity? Or, better put, which gender would derive infinitely more secretly evil glee from it, passively-aggressively ensuring that their number-one complaint about men will remain ever-unsolved and therefore fertile bitching ground?

Yeah, I thought so.
So, even as a reasonably considerate and enlightened example of the species, if I am to be faced with the choice of risking the recrimination of a vertical-stance aqueous dispensation, or to tote a turquoise-tipped tallywhacker for a week, then of course that lid is going up and the cards (and everything else) will fall where they may. Me personally, I'll probably remember to put it down again when I'm done, but I obviously can't promise the rest of my gender to follow suit. Which guarantees our collective place at the top of the survey for the foreseeable future.

Maybe I can learn to clip my nails in the sink instead.

24 August, 2011

Copyright Crusade Continues

The most-addressed subject in this blog?  Surprisingly, not bad drivers, parkers, or license-tag forgers.  Less surprisingly, neither the pitiable details of my futile personal life.  Nope, by my count, it's copyright infringement... my personal pet peeve, one that really should have been considered in my original decision to move to Romania so long* ago.  As a graphic designer, each instance I encounter is like fingernails against the chalkboard of my creative palette. While it's true I've encountered fewer examples as I go on, it's mainly because I've stopped looking for them.  But odds dictate that sooner or later, an egregious example will come to me.  And so it has, in the form of a FaceBook ad.

So there I was, minding my own business on Facebook, doing any old thing except flirting with young women of course, when the page refreshed and changed, as it does, the string of ads running down the right side of the page.  Against all odds (and self-training), one caught my eye by making me wonder "hm, what's my bank doing in Romania?"  You see, Facebook targets its ads geographically among other factors, so I'm used to ads about Romanian businesses, which are blissfully easy to ignore with my limited grasp of the language.  But this time it was the graphics, not the words, that jumped out at me, combined with the unexpectedness of seeing them apparently involved with Romania. 

So let's cut to the chase.  The ad turned out to be for a particularly lame cellphone retailer, or perhaps broker, as they provide no contact details whatsoever and just generally give every impression they don't want you to find out who or where they are. But here is their page:

and here is my bank:

You see what they did there?

One could argue that the graphic is so simple that odds are many artists could come up with it. But what are the odds they'd also replicate the same gentle curve and the same changed color portion? But of course, flipping it mirror-style and adding nifty 3-D effects makes it all original, dunnit? Oh, I give up. About the only take-aways from this entry will be: 1. I have, with deep shame, provided highly-regrettable evidence that Facebook ads do occasionally work... expect a new onslaught any time now, and 2. I've revealed my account is at Bank of America, narrowing the parameters for the horde of hackers eager to relieve me of my personal fortune.  You know what?  For the average $30.00 in my account, knock yourselves out, kids.

*long, long, LONG

17 August, 2011

Curent Events

Today's rant is one of those things that got put on my "to-do" list ages ago, and only seemed to come again to the forefront when I was least able to sit and type about it. So back on the shelf it would go, nestled against other permanently postponed items of my mental itinerary such as success and wealth. But today the happy coincidence occurred, and the subject came up at an office where I am well-equipped to type about things.

I don't spend lots of time at this office, but when I do I like to breathe air not so choked with days of second-hand cigarette smoke from the staff or skin-dissolving chemicals from the cleaning crew. So I open the window when I can, common sense permitting of course. During a January blizzard, I probably wouldn't. But today was a typical Bucharest summer day, meaning the air outside was already 30 degress C and climbing. But it was also a good deal fresher than the air in the office, and when you consider the former is metropolitan Bucharest city air, you get an idea of just how bad the latter must have been. So, as I said, I opened my window. Immediately, the chap across the hall jumped up from his seat and apologetically closed his door, explaining that I had created "curent." And thus we come to one of the few remaining (of an admittedly shrinking list but I think this one will stay forever) phenomena of the culture that consistently blow my mind (pun, of course, intended). The Eastern European mortal fear of the breeze.

This concept has already been surprisingly well-documented in several other blogs and forums, so as usual I'll cut corners and just quote them:

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, among my personal experiences, my Romanian acquaintance who swore that the frequent earthquakes in the Vrancea area were caused by high winds, and gusty days would find this individual waiting seriously and anxiously for the inevitable tremor to follow.

Granted, views on breezes are universal between East and West up to a certain degree, literally. Opening a window in winter is usually silly. Freezing air, while not carrying pathogens itself, does distract your body's resistance to them and thus the link between cold air and sickness is perceived. But in mid-summer? Common sense and Eastern Europe clearly go on separate holidays. To consider hazardous a calm breeze containing air of 35 degrees C is not only incredible, but irresponsible, particularly when the preferred alternative is to sweat profusely at your desk, risking heat fatigue or at least true sickness from breathing in the same cigarette-smoked air that just came out of someone else's lungs along with who knows what else.

And this last bit may seem like a cheap shot until you've experienced it first-hand: As reported in The Bucharest Herald in April, a Romanian consumes an average of only two tubes of toothpaste and four bars of soap per year. Virtually all the Romanians I know seem (smell?) to be well above that average, which means for the average to be what it is, others need to operate well below it. A short trip on any Bucharest public transit will instantly reveal their whereabouts. And if that's not an argument in favor of opening a window, especially in warm weather, then I truly don't understand it.

EDIT: Just thought of this last bit, which is almost certainly a cheap shot but funny nevertheless.  If Romania is so intolerant of hot wind, then how do you explain Parliament? Har har har.

30 March, 2011

A Study in Modern Exorcism

A bit ago, Romania made world news in an amusing-but-sad way (any other kind?) by deciding to start taxing witches on their income. Initially, witches responded by attempting to curse Romania's top politicos (by throwing poo in the Danube, as I recall), but this faded quickly as these old dears realized they couldn't compete. Not only were Romania's top politicos already cursed so much that they had plenty to spare which they were only too happy to pass onto the rest of us, which they did, daily, several times a day if possible, but witches were also rank amateurs in terms of experience in polluting the Danube. So, Plan B was simply to state in interviews that their incomes were so small, tax made no difference.  But this got me wondering: Romania is still so deeply rooted in superstition and mysticism, why aren't witches in Fat City, ala Rasputin? This morning I got my answer in the (as usual) least likely of places: the back end of a taxi.

Now, growing up around Manhattan, I knew that one often finds life's answers from taxicabs, sometimes because of really pithy bumperstickers, but mostly because the near-death experience that is a typical NYC cab ride just puts you that much closer to God. But this morning, my taxi-related revelation was as subtle as it was sublime.

I dunno about elsewhere, but Romanian taxis aren't painted yellow. They're rather covered in yellow adhesive vinyl. This probably facilitates selling the car once it's usefulness as a taxi is done (but who would buy a car too beat up to even be a taxi any more?). Equally possible, it allows a cab driver who has been so surpassingly reckless and/or (emphasis on "and") offensive to finally bring down the threat of imminent death upon himself, to scamper into the nearest tunnel, forest, or other deserted area such as the "Romania Anti-Corruption" office, and with a hasty peeling session (think "Johnny Dangerously" Shelf Paper), slink back past their pursuers in a normal-colored car. But I digress.

In most cases I've seen, when it comes to the raised make and model logos on the car, the vinyl-appliers cut a hole in the yellow plastic for them to show through. This is a crude-enough look in itself, but as I now know, quite the lesser of two evils.  This morning's cab had had the individual letters of "PEUGEOT 207" pried off the painted surface (leaving what damage? I'd rather not know) and then stuck back on top of the vinyl. And this was my revelation at the red light.

My graphic-artist eye instinctively knew something was wrong in the scene, like hearing one voice off-key in a choir. Eventually it focused on the taxi, and the bile rose in my throat like a tsun - no, too soon - it just rose, ok? The letters had been reattached with all the care and accuracy of a toddler's magnetic refrigerator alphabet.
Part of me still insists that it's been done so incredibly badly that it had to be deliberate. But I've thought that before about work done in this town which obviously couldn't be so - from street repair (both instances), to bathroom tile installation, to building a shopping mall, you name it. Any and every job you can point to in Bucharest, and probably beyond, of any size, is invariably completed to about 90% and then abandoned. Or as they say around here, "finished." Attention to detail is non-existent to the point of being a negative value.

And THIS is why witches are out of work.

The key is the well-known and proven proverb: The Devil is In the Details.

If you don't bother with any details, in any job, ever, then you have no Devil.  The good witches have nothing to fight, and the bad witches have no source of power. And there it is. Contemporary Romanian workmanship is not criminally shoddy by accident or laziness, but by the realization that foregoing any details in your work is key to protecting your soul. To insist of a Carpathian craftsman that an edge be straight, a corner be 90 degrees, paint be at least one coat, a door meet its frame, or water spring from the tap instead of the wall, is to insist he risk eternal damnation in the hereafter.

Many cultures still suffer civil turmoil caused by their inability to reconcile modern society with ancient superstition. We've got it beat here, for sure! Most Romanians still harbor a reasonable concern for the fate of their souls, and know that periodic sacrifice to their god helps ensure it. Self-denial, pilgrimage and slicing open farm animals are so last century. Today, if you can manage to avoid the surfaces of any door, window, or flooring from fitting properly, or keep any straight edge or corner from any measurement ending in a zero, or reassemble something in nothing approaching its original completeness, preferably "how many pieces broken/missing" in proportion to "how much you were paid to fix it," then your place in Heaven is all but assured.

15 March, 2011

More Pedantic Fun with Language...

Or, "How to Reduce A Poor Innocent Waitress to Tears."

You see, the Cheese Soup (supa de branza) is made from cheese.  The Bean Soup (legume) is made from beans. The Onion (ceapa) from onions. The Broccoli, from broccoli.

All I did was ask what the German Soup is made from...

Well, it's a disaster to ME...

Lately you don’t hear the word “Japan” without the word “disaster,” and rightfully, if unfortunately, so. The country has endured a recent catastrophe on many levels, and the major disasters are so sad and horrible, and so far overshadow the tiny, barely significant disasters that only a callous, sociopathic pedant would choose to focus on them. And here I am (wave).

I won’t reiterate the specifics of the Japan quake and tsunami, you can find complete coverage on any news channel. It is what you will also find that compels today's rant. Specifically, the news coverage of the damage to several of Japan’s nuclear power plants. More specifically, the apparent inability of an alarming number of newscasters to properly pronounce “nuclear.”

If, now that you know what I’m on about, are not willing to read all the way through: just promise to say “nu-clear” instead of “noo-kyu-lar” and you may be excused from the table.

I’ve given up expecting the USA to say it right, because of its educational paradigm since the late ‘80s: “it’s more important to feel good than to know the right answer.” Learning by repetition and giving failing grades were eliminated because “self-esteem” was deemed more important to our nation's youth than actually being correct. The country is now run by the first results of this “discipline;” a generation of functional illiterates awash in their own sense of entitlement, but which can’t spell the word “entitlement.” For proof you need look no further than the functional (?) illiterate who ran the country for two terms, my pal Dubya. And therein lies the problem. The man mangled the simplest English on a daily basis, so who could be bothered to notice “nookyular” among his avalanche of other mispronunciations and malapropisms? It just didn’t stand out. Clinton did it also, but, I’m forced to admit, he was as hilbilly as they come so again, folks tended to let it slide. Carter? Georgia. I’m just sayin’. I’m told Eisenhower, another Texan, mispronounced it as well, but he’s before my time, and before Eisenhower’s time everyone just said “atomic” which doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say correctly. Apparently “nuclear” does. In fact, I believe we’ve just uncovered a presidentially-supported correlation between saying “nookyular” and saying “y’all.”

And of course, for the past few days and probably many more ahead, you won’t be able to swing a cat without hitting the word “nuclear.” The only worthwhile English-language news channel I get, Euronews, is saying it an average of twice per minute, which is not surprising. What is surprising is to hear this pinnacle-of-proper-broadcast-English say the word wrong just like us peasant Yanks. Unlike Bubba or Dubya, to hear a prim and proper clipped British accent say “nookyular” is one big fingernail scratching one big chalkboard to anyone with sense and care for the language. Which is what I would expect Euronews to have.

Cunning linguists explain this away as “metathesis,” the switching of two adjacent sounds. They example I saw is “iron,” which almost everybody pronounces as “i-urn.” But this is pretty weak because the two pronunciations differ via vowel, not hard consonant, sounds. These can be, and often are, mutated simply by dialect. “Pennsylvania Dutch” is actually “Pennsylvania Deutsch” - people from Germany, not Netherlands. Speaking of Dutch, their “Sinter Klaas” became our “Santa Claus.” In these examples, it’s only vowel sounds that are changed. Nowhere have the discrete hard consonants been rearranged, as they have between “nuclear” and “nucular.” And in any case, this mangling has nothing to do with exotic dialects of foreign languages, it’s simply English speakers unable to speak English.

You see, this particular word is, for better or worse, a make-or-break of perceived intelligence. Say it right and people will wonder if you’ve ever written a book. Say it wrong and they’ll wonder if you’ve ever read one. As presidential linguistics indicate above, “nookyular” equals “redneck.” If that’s the image you want to project, that’s your call. I wouldn’t have thought it was the choice of the Brits, though, and certainly not of their top news presenters. But between them, US presidents, and who knows who else in “authority,” I’m reminded of the Lenin/Goebbels quote, “a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.” It would be very sad if enough "authoritative" people say a word wrongly often enough that we come to believe it to be the right way.


About an hour before I posted this, I visited Euronews' website and made a plea on their "Feedback" page about this.  It's a moderated page so I'm not surprised that my comment wasn't released to the viewable stream of posts. However, I just checked Euronews while I was having lunch and in their repeated-hourly report entitled "Japan Fears," ONLY the two 10-second-long segments with announcers who said "nucular" have been removed. Coincidence?  Maybe...

09 March, 2011

Asshole Parker of the Day

It's not often that someone parks badly enough to block TWO directions of traffic, but here's genius for you. Lanes on both sides of the divider have to swerve. All I can hope for is that he/she really scraped up the underside of their car getting on and/or off of the island.

08 March, 2011

Asshole Driver of the Day

 No. Brake lights. Whatsoever.  

There are two cars in my daily sphere of reference, and they both have some way of telling you when a lamp is dead.  One car does it by a fancy console screen message, which, OK, I can see where all cars wouldn't have that.  But the other car tells you a bulb is out simply by doubling the rate at which the turn signal blinks. Dead simple. But obviously some people are even more simple. Or has the irony not yet hit you that the defective vehicle in question is not only a company car for a security company (feel secure now, do you?), but it's their Technical Service response van.  What kind of technical service can we expect from someone who can't change a light bulb, let alone three (both tail lights and center stop light)?

And as always, this photo adheres to my 10:1 ratio.  For every one of these dorks I manage to catch in a photo, there are about ten more that go by without my getting the chance.  So be careful who you tailgate!

07 March, 2011

Charlie Sheen? Amateur.

The question is not if some public figures are out of touch with reality. No-brainer. Sometimes it seems to be a job requirement. The only question is the style in which a particular individual disconnects. There's "entertaining" crazy, like Gary Busey and Charlie Sheen, who make you want to laugh, if a bit nervously. There's "dangerous" crazy, like Mel Gibson and Dubya, who make you want to run away or move to Romania, respectively. And then there's "offensive" crazy, thankfully a much rarer variety, but apparently personified in a local yokel named Ion Tiriac. And that makes you want to (insert excrutiatingly diplomatic restraint) slap the guy upside the head for further proving (as if needed) how jerks get rich while decent people remain broke writing angry blogs.

First, I'll preface this rant by admitting that while many of my diatribes are reasonably researched and referenced, this isn't one of them. This is me reading the Romanian news, where this guy is reverently quoted from TV as if he were the Voice of God, and thinking "OMG WTF?" because I'd just previously read stuff that, with the tiniest mental leap, exposes some serious stupidity and hypocrisy. This time, I'm just calling it as I see it.

So, here's my take on Tiriac. Described as a "former tennis star turned businessman," I don't know what that's supposed to explain. Romania's other former tennis star also turned businessman, actually more politician, so maybe it's an injury inherent to the sport. Like "Tennis Elbow," except here you get "Tennis Megalomania" "...Yes, I used to bounce some little furry balls around, so I'm qualified to run a company, perhaps the country. Oh, and I also used to play tennis." The only problem with this theory is that US former tennis stars generally know their place, sticking mainly to endorsing painkillers and breakfast cereals. Okay, in the case of Kellogg's Honey Smacks maybe it's the same thing, but still, it's a far cry from endorsing an entire country.

So, here I am reading the local news, which admittedly is not guaranteed to be as objective and accurate as, oh, say Fox News, but still, the hot topic is Tiriac's Tirade on a TV show. Clearly the financial power players hang on his every word, of which some were (translated) as follows:

"Please tell me where half a trillion, 500 billion went, to mention only part of the GDP of the last 20 years. I should see this money somewhere. Where is it? I don't know."

At first glance, it seems a legitimate concern of a respectable businessman. Except two months ago, the same news site ran this story:

"Ion Tiriac was up to a most unpleasant surprise at the end of 2010, when a private investigation proved him that his son took almost 6 million Euros from the accounts of his companies."

So, Ion may not know where 500 billion Euros went, but he can find 6 million of it in his criminal son's pockets. Earlier news had the little angel arrested for drugs, and then, as now, Daddy's solution was to dodge the press, and oh yes, the law too for that matter, and settle it "privately as a family matter," undoubtedly meaning a stern lecture to Junior on not doing such stupendously stupid things... like getting caught. The son is obviously a bad apple, and they say apples don't fall far from the tree. But I digress. The moral of this story should be "people in glass houses" or "the mote in your brother's eye" or any number of hypocrisy proverbs, but instead it seems to be "If I call enough attention to others' ineptitude, maybe nobody will notice my own." A classic Communist tactic, I'm told by the way.

So, moving on to the next gem: In the same TV show (titled "After 20 Years" ...of what, they didn't say) Ion is flabbergasted that Romanians aren't taking advantage of the depressed housing costs and snapping up flats left and right. The small fact that all Romanians aren't billionaire former tennis stars turned businessmen with boatloads of dubiously-acquired cash for collecting flats as if they were comic books shouldn't stand in the way of this noble vision. 99% of the population isn't equipped for an increase in petrol prices, let alone the speculation business. Ion's answer? Mosey on down to your local bank, which is apparently dying to give loans. At what interest rate, I wonder, and with the average Romanian owning little more than a Dacia and a few potted plants, for what collateral? But never mind all this... the winning quote here was: "in Romania, there is a deficit of two million apartments."

Anyone with even the merest hint of the housing situation in Romania, would have their bullshit detectors explode at this one. But don't take my word for it, a survey by Ziarul Financiar revealed that in three newly-constructed complexes in Bucharest offering almost 1200 flats, 80 percent remain uninhabited.

Multiply that by at least 3 other such complexes in town that I personally know of, and how many more I don't, and also by the half-built complexes that may or may not even be completed for lack of demand (Planorama anyone?), and my very rough count indicates about 5000 brand new flats in Bucharest standing empty, right now. Now, in Romanian "nou" means "new" and "nu" means "no" (you have to say it out loud to appreciate it), but I'm pretty sure that "deficit" doesn't mean "surplus." What I am becoming sure of, is that the large deficit Tiriac speaks of may be between the ears. The absence of logic in his "advice" and the disconnect with his intended audience are insulting to the intelligence and, to say the very least, slap-worthy. And yet this is Romania's financial golden boy, the success story, the role model, E.F. Hutton the Carpathian.

Come to think of it, he didn't get there by himself did he? So who deserves the slap more, him or the sheep who empower him by worshipping at his feet? All of it is crazy, and most definitely the insulting kind.

I'll choose Charlie and his tiger blood any day.

22 February, 2011

It All Started With A Leaf...

(NOTE: hyperlinks and other embellishments coming soon. I just wanted to get this poor languishing mess out there before it got any older.)

No, this is not a documentary about marijuana addiction. That would probably be more entertaining than what you've got here. Certainly more educational, no question. I don't purport to write anything here with the intent to educate, and in reviewing the fine print, it appears I don't even promise to be entertaining. Not that neither of those things never happen here, to be sure (work your way through THAT string of negatives!), but it's almost always by accident. Maybe some find me entertaining because the things that happen to me are usually the type that are always funny when they happen to someone else, and so by definition you should be amused. Perhaps I'm educational in that people learn how to reach success by watching me and doing the opposite. Whatever, it's all bonus. By and large, this blog is only about things I observe and find to be excessively absurd and worth exposing as such. My quixotic hope is that shining the light of reason onto idiots may compel them to rethink their stupidity, or failing that, at least to shrivel and burn like an ant under a magnifying lens.

What I have concluded is that the term "quixotic" could not have been better chosen. What I call "attempting to fight stupidity," pretty much everyone else calls "banging your head against a wall." Ineffective to the point of being pointless.

Case in point, as it were: as a graphic artist, I notice when a design is pinched from somewhere else. In Romania, this is rampant, especially with logos. I've pointed out incidents of blantant copyright theft on local, regional, and even national levels. Has my ranting had any effect? Definitely, if you believe someone took it as a challenge to go even more criminal. Hence, Romania now proudly flaunts its penchant for artistic fraud at the international level.

Its latest tourist campaign sports a leaf design which was revealed to be freely-available clip art already in use by several other companies around the world. On one hand, Romania technically isn't the thief in this case because a third-party PR agency created the logo, and the leaf clipart can be purchased for use by anyone. But on the other hand, the agency was paid nearly 100,000 Euro to produce an original custom design. The PR agency claims that by altering the leaf's shade of green, it's now custom. The sound of rolling eyes was deafening.

I'm not going into any more details of this as I had originally planned, for two reasons. First, this is now old news from last autumn and has been covered with far more detail and objectivity elsewhere on the Net, and can be found with a simple search. Second, by virtue of it being old news from last autumn, the hindsight and retrospect afforded by this has revealed the truth of the matter: nobody cares. There was the usual media fun for a week or so while everyone involved blamed everyone else, but then it faded into the background noise, eventually replaced by news of the new tax on witches. Was anyone held accountable for this farce? Was anyone penalized? Even reprimanded? Damned if I know, or can find out. The country simply shrugged its collective shoulders and went back to really important things, like the cost of cigarettes and who took their parking spot. And Romania continues to present itself to the world with a purloined leaf. And everyone's just fine with that. So it goes.

And with that, I give up.

It seems cautionary tales just don't have the value they used to, faded instead into worthless, if mildly curious, anachronisms like 8-track tapes and phlebotomy. I still believed that there were certain times when advice was preferable to experience. Not all the time, of course... admittedly most things are better assimilated into our learned response because we go through them ourselves. Especially pleasant things... would you rather take someone's word that the cake is delicious, or try it yourself? No-brainer. But now consider the live wire dangling from the utility pole. If someone tells you it's best not to touch it, perhaps the words should be good enough.

The relevance of all this is as follows: how a country is viewed by the rest of the world is mostly, if not entirely, up to that country. The remarkable thing about this is that said international perception is quite often the result of the efforts of a very few people, if not one person altogether. Germany in the 1930s is one example, of course, but my native USA is a more contemporary and relevant example. I grew up reasonably proud of my country. For the most part, the world saw the US as a "benevolent superpower," mighty and prosperous and largely fair in its treatment of the rest of the world. Occasionally stuck its nose where it didn't belong, but even then it's because someone asked us to. But overall, we were "live and let live" and a country worth your being on its good side. Over the past decade I watched one man (which one in particular, is sometimes debatable...but I digress) transform the virtually-unanimous planetary perception of my country into that of an arrogant, reckless, morally and finacially-bankrupt joke, neither giving nor deserving respect of the rest of the world. So maybe when I see the same warning signs popping up in my current adopted homeland, I felt compelled to help them avoid making the same mistakes.

So far the general feeling I get in response seems to range from screaming indifference to "who the hell are you to say?" So be it. So when the latest taste of Romania to hit the global consciousness is its new income tax on the practice of witchcraft, I simply watch as the leaders cry indignantly because the world laughs at them. For you see, clearly the issue isn't taxing witches, it's the audacity of the world news to report it. I doubt the idea even thought of forming that the news pretty much reports only what it sees, and maybe the answer is to give the world something better to see about Romania. But now I'm delving into territory which I know has been explored by those far more capable and experienced than I.

As of this writing, the idiots appear to have won, if for no other reason than their sheer staggering superior numbers. Rather than continue killing myself swimming upstream against the circus, I'm going to crawl ashore and join the collective shrug, watching the insanity rush to its own destiny without me for awhile. What that means for this blog is uncertain at the moment. By swearing off stupidity, I've just shed pretty much the whole reason for writing here. But I never say "never," so who knows? Check back from time to time.