Friday, May 22, 2009

Recycling IS for Dummies

I think by this point, if there is anyone out there reading this, you should now what to expect. For those of you who have stumbled upon my blog while searching for different ways to turn your used shopping bags into sandals or the efficacy of eating your dead skin, this could be painful.
First of all, let me say that I dutifully and loyally collect all my cardboard, beer cans and other recyclables and pile them into the car once a month and carry them over to the big recycling bins at the local SuperMart. It used to really piss me off when my dad would collect all this stuff and then expect me to help him dump it off, you guessed it, once a month, but now in my old age, I am doing the same damn thing. The environmental movement tells me to recycle and not kill baby seals; well, those are both things I can do without really l affecting my lifestyle, so hey, I'm on board.
First the obvious. It seemed like only yesterday when governments, municipalities and most importantly businesses where shunning the idea of recycling. "Its too expensive" they said, "what will we do with all that material" they said, "We don't have the technology to make this cost-effective" they said. Well, presumably, based on the fact that everybody, everywhere is now told, suggested and obliged to recycle, somebody, somewhere is getting filthy freaking rich. No surprises here.
But where is that money actually coming from? Well, lets look at cost savings to a municipality. By recycling, you are basically delivering your garbage directly to a central location, so your local government doesn't need to provide as many garbage trucks to the community as it once did. That equals pay raises and bonuses where I come from: "Hey guys, what if we actually convinced people that they should be responsible for their own garbage!". Now, we each obligingly drive our gas guzzling SUV's down to the bins so some brainy entrepreneur somewhere can recycle your pizza boxes into toilet paper. Now here is the genius of the situation: you actually pay MORE for second hand toilet paper! That's right, anything bearing the "recycled from" or "contains post consumer" whatever, will cost you roughly 10% more than the brand new, three ply that required 48 trees to produce. Well, that's okay, its for the environment, right? We don't mind paying a little extra....
Okay, so at this point, you've used your car to deliver garbage to the dump, you've paid a little extra for the product your garbage has been transmogrified into (Indian giver), and you've supplied, for free, a rich business guy with raw materials he needs to get richer. But it doesn't end there. You remember all those bottles and cans and jars and containers you have been collecting and cleaning in order to protect the environment? Well, guess what, you also had the privilege of paying for the water that was used to clean the items (which means the cigar chomping business tycoon just used your sink and your dollars to prepare his raw materials for processing) not to mention the fact that you have contributed to water pollution by using a non bio-degradable soap, because you spent the last of your grocery money on bio-degradable garbage bags!
BUT ITS NOT OVER YET!!! If you're lucky enough to live in a city or town that actually collects your recyclables, think about the extra gas that has to go into the specially designed trucks to pick up your jars and cans and bottles; and think of the factories, pumping out toxic waste while building the specially designed trucks; now think about the steel mills, belching out poisonous gases while producing the metals needed to build the specially designed trucks, not the mention the pillaging and raping of the landscape committed by the mining companies of the world, clearing huge tracks of land for the raw materials needed to satisfy your insatiable demand for recycling.
So instead of simply piling our garbage up into nice flat layers, and building low income housing on them (as has been done for generations, mind you), we now have become consumers of the garbage processing industry. And all to save our environment. Fat chance.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Gas Prices & Oil Companies - Not Evil at All...Just Misunderstood

Maybe someone can explain this to me: According the the little sticker on the side of every pump at your local gas station, the poor helpless oil companies are limited to a measly 2% profit on every litre they sell. At $1.30 a litre that works out to be about $0.026 or 3 cents a litre. Now interestingly enough, you'll also notice that 90%, if not more, of the gas stations in your neighborhood offer some sort of discount, ranging from 2.5 cents to 7.5 cents per liter, with some as high as 12.5 cents if you use the company's credit card. So I am trying to figure out, how the profits of the oil companies increase to records levels year after year, quarter after quarter. Not only are they discounting their entire profit (God love 'em, they just want to help) they are actually helping the pay some of the taxes we owe to the government. It just goes to show that what oil companies, their management and their shareholders are actually all that stands between between us and a hydrochloric enema at the pumps. Bravo, Petro-Canada, Exxon, BP, how could we survive without you....

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great-West Life Part II - The Sweet Smell of Success

On April 18th I recieved a wonderful letter in the mail from the customer liason officer at The Great-West Life Assurance Company. Although a full six months after my intial claim, the letter carefully and thoughtfully laid out how sorry the company was, first, for the delay in responding to my inquiries and second, for the frustration I experienced. I have been assured that this practice will not continue and changes throughout the company will be implemented to ensure that no valued customer of Great-West is troubled in this way again. In other words "God, quit your complaining, here's your stupid money; now get lost."


Okay, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. As has been pointed out many times in books, websites and other materials, in order to have a complaint resolved you must immediately speak to a higher official. This usually starts with "Let me speak to your supervisor" and now-a-days, because employees at high-complaint industries (e.g. cable, telephone, insurance, banks, etc) have been trained in this, that phrase must be followed by either "or else" (which will likely involve a visit from the police) or "Let me speak to the General Manager". As an employee at various retail operations during my lengthy blue-collar existence, this used to drive me up the wall. An organization puts policies in place and then caves for the first person to say "Let me speak to the GM". The thing that drove me out of my mind is when the complainer would get abusive and angry and some 19 year-old "supervisor" would come along and placate the asshole like the French serving tea to Hitler. Alas, this is proof once again that talking to the regular schmo (which I have been and still am) is a complete and total waste of your time. I attempted to go through the regular channels, certain that someone would realize the mistake they made and hesitant about making the above-noted "Get your manager or else" demand because I hate thinking I am going to make someone else realize they are nothing but a jober, answering phones for the "man". But I guess that is reality.

Anyway, Great-West immediately sent out cheques for the full amount of the claim (no interest, maybe I should have pushed for that too?). In total, this adventure cost us around $520 to get back $370, including my time, postage, interest lost and various other intangibles. Luckily, I only had to fork over postage.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that it took 6 months to get paid on a $370 claim. Imagine if the claim had been for several thousands. Think about the time it has taken from the lives of a half dozen people involved in this already for this ASSHOLE corporation to finally back-up its own policy. You want to make money for your sharholders, you pitiful, mindless, deviant frauds? How about not spending money fighting valid claims? It boggles my mind how anyone, who does not have the advantages provided by a $100,000 education and the resources of a large corporation, could ever deal with an insurance company like Great-West. A word of advice to the board of directors and executive officers of Great-West: stop being pricks; it will be far more expensive in the end (i.e. Enron, Worldcom, Nortel, Tyco, Bear-Sterns).

What have I concluded from all of this? How can Mildred the 84 year-old, retiree, get her claim dealt with in a fast and efficient manner? Four words, Mildred my dear...

"GET YOUR MANAGER....asshole"

Until next time, when once again I must face the forces of darkness with nothing but pen and paper.....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Great-West Life Assurance Company - World's Largest Assholes

Well, once again my belief that the most corrupt corporate organizations in the world are not oil companies or arms dealers, but none other than your friendly neighborhood insurance companies was completely verified. The depth of my hatred for these assholes knows no limits and burns with the firey passion of 1000 red-hot suns.

Great-West Life Assurance Company (herein referred to as "The Assholes")

I hate you. I hate you so bloody much it makes my blood boil. I once believed that only tele-communications companies could sink to the charm level of hemmoroid infested assholes, but you morons take the cake. Here is the story.

My significant other was covered under a very expensive health-care plan by The Assholes. Coverage ceased on November 9, 2007. She purchased a new set of glasses on November 4, 2007, paid with her credit card and was billed on November 4, 2007. We returned the following week to pick up the new spectacles, and we were simply handed the glasses and sent on our way. As you may be aware, when you receive new glasses they always give you several receipts, because they too have to deal with The Assholes, and are aware of The Assholes complete and total incompetance (and fraudulent shiftiness). We sent our claim in during the middle of December, with the original receipts. It was of course lost. Now, try to imagine how much profits These Assholes make by ensuring inadequacies in their mail collection and delivery. "Oops, sorry Mr. X, we lost your claim, but all you have to do is go around collecting new original receipts, and by the way make sure you get them in before your 90 day grace period runs out, or we won't pay you squat." And what a surprise Mr. X, has four kids and run down '92 Corolla and doesn't have time to drive all over town picking up receipts. A company whose entire customer service business is based on the correct and timely delivery of mail seems to lose about two out of every five things sent to it. This year alone, with two seperate insurers, I have had to send duplicate claims in two or more times, because The Assholes are so corrupt, that they have acutally calculated how much profit they can make, by "losing" every 100th or 200th claim. But that's not where the fun stops for These Assholes, who apparently run the business in the same manner as the Gambino's. No, you see, after the lost the first claim, we sent another. They sent it back, apparently, the were unable to read the date on the brand new orignal receipt which indicated the precise date the glasses had been paid for. Luckily, I also had the credit card receipt, which I immediately sent back. Okay, so imagine now this is the third letter I sent them and it is now February, a full three months after actually receiving the glasses. Ah, but they aren't done yet. Just last week, March of 2008, we receive a final receipt of our claim, indicating that since we picked up the glasses on November 11 or her coverage ended on November 9, coverage. Just so we're mean to tell me that even though I paid for them on the 4th and our coverage ended on the 9th, you won't cover the claim because, let me get this straight, you consider them purchased, when we pick them up? Are you friggin' kidding me? When we pick them up? What kind of Assholes are you? So, when I am in a car accident and have the vehicle repaired, I don't need to report to you until the car is fixed and back in my driveway, 'casue the accident didn't happen until I picked up the car fromt he mechanic? Did you freakin' moron, wak job, nerd number crunchers sit in a room with your pocket protectors and graphing calculators and figure out that people are likely to use their vision care credits within a week of their coverage ending, and you Assholes figured how much money you can save but making a slight adjustment to generally accepted accounting principles? Unbelieveable. And of course when you phone you end up talking to Ogla, the Russian, who doesn't speak English, except the few words needed to tell you to go F#$% yourself. Thank's Olga, you uncaring whore....

So, what am I to do. Well, the first thing I will do is spend some time looking for an insurance industry ombudsman on the internet. I have a feeling no such position exists and if it does, it is probably some overweight Asshole, with a cell number and a bottle of vicodin on his desk. Then what is next? It depends how long I stay pissed off, but right now, I plan on making this a very, very big deal.

Great-West Life Assurance Company - "we pay your claims, once you're healed"


Friday, February 22, 2008

An Obituary for MuchMusic

If you are over the age of 25, you probably haven't had MuchMusic on your radar for some time. If you bothered to flip by the channel while searching for a repeat of Seinfeld or The Family Guy, you would have noticed something very disturbing about a so called music channel: there is no longer music played on MuchMusic. In fact, even its sister station, MuchMoreMusic has given up on the music. No, now-a-days all you can see on these formally relevant television stations is endless reruns of various semi-celebrities attempting to market themselves as hip and cool. If you managed to make it through the "Jessica/Nick" years without wasting too much of your time watching the idiot box, I can only tell you that as an art form, TV is dead. From Scott Biao (who?) to Gene Simmons, our airwaves are clogged with arrogant, self-righteous so-called artists, pushing their idea of reality on us like corporate salesman, spinning their web of crapulence and over bearing Americanosity. I know that all one has to do is change the channel, and frequent readers (okay, I know its just you and me mom) of this blog will note the hypocrisy of me complaining about something I don't care about, but it is a further indication of the coming collapse of our cultural identity. Watching celebrities fumbling their way through sad, cold and filmed existences is somewhere between watching the execution of a puppy by lethal injection and one of those videos on of a guy getting whacked in the groin by an errantly thrown baseball.

MuchMusic began life, in my opinion, as a brash, charismatic and often controversial purveyor of culturally relevant pop, rock and sub-culture music, proliferating the belief that music alone, could change the very times we lived in. In its early days Much focused not only on mainstream, media friendly pop music (Madonna, U2, etc.), but had invested itself with a conscience that guaranteed its youthful vigour through three decades of change. Much showed us early in the 80's the power of hip-hop music to move mountains in terms of social awareness; in the 90's it was at the forefront of the grunge movement and even into the early years of this century it attempted to maintain some visage of relevancy with such forward looking segments as "The New Music" and "The Wedge". These things slowly died off as teenagers, taught to idolize celebrity heroes and believe that gossip was news, turned their focus from music to religious devotion to Britney and her ilk. I am not so stupid as to believe that MuchMusic, even at its best, was not a purely commercial enterprise, bent on selling cassette tapes and CD's, but I can't help but feeling that we lost something, somewhere on its winding road. Gone now is the pushy capitalistic tendencies of Moses Znaimer, City TV's founder and visionary; all that is left is hour after hour of some rich pre-teens rolling around swimming pools making Survivor look like the artful brushstrokes of Michelangelo.

But the larger question is why? Why has a once vast audience strayed from its desire to tune into music videos as a form of entertainment and instead, prefer the voyeuristic "peeping tom" existence of reality TV? The simple answer is of course the proliferation of alternative forms of media: UTube, Ipod, downloading and the like. But does the obvious significance of those forms of mass commercialism really explain the hedonistic cult-like following by our society of celebrities, most of whom are very poor role-models and many of whom are probably not even literate and more to the point, is the cult of celebrity the cause or result of something much more sinister. So what happened?

First, If you ask your average 20 year-old (or any female for that matter), why they follow celebrities with such interest, you'll probably get an answer like "I love to watch them screw-up and die". Sad, but frankly true. Watching idols fall has been a past time since the dawn of humanity and don't expect anything to change anytime soon. We have all witnessed the fall of someone we really felt deserved it, and somewhere deep inside, smiled. Who couldn't but laugh when the New Kids starting dropping like flies. But there is more at stake here than meets the eye. The problem is one of distraction: while we observe the rise and fall of some, irrelevant, washed-up 1970's celebrity, we are actually avoiding dealing with real issues and confronting real problems. Frankly, the way the media is now controlled by a few multi-nats, puking out corporate hand-jobs like its news, its hard to pay attention to anything that actually matters. So what happened is we now have 24 hour a day coverage of the rich and powerful, appearing to rise and fall with their own idiocy. I say "appearing" because as a sceptic, I am of the belief that the whole kit-and-caboodle is scripted for your entertainment. "Don't believe anything" is a good motto for interpreting print and television media. Media, thy name is Con-Job. Second, culturally active media, such as MuchMusic once was, creates two problems for their corporate owners: 1) You can't control someone whose job it is to be controversial; and 2) Controversy doesn't sell products, it sells dissent, and no CEO wants that.

Third, and inescapably, kids have lost interest in music, because it just doesn't provide the drama they are used to and kids are the biggest consumers of the products advertised on Much and MuchMore. Its undeniable, and probably a sad state of affairs at Much to be sure. Kids don't want music videos anymore, they seem to want, primped and preened, semi-nude, untrained, musically retarded, half-wits, performing for laughs. Don't get me wrong, listening to an interview with most bands now-a-days is hilarious indictment of the world's view of education, and full of giggles. But again, we sacrifice a more important value, in this case talent, for performance or laugh-value. Not a good trade in my books. One only needs to look at the never-ending series of high profile B.S. television shows imitating the 'American Idol' idea. People don't want talent, they want drama. Nobody is bothered by the fact that 99% of the these people can't write music, can't play instruments and in the case of at least one contestant, think Europe is a country.

So, what is the solution? Well, its hard to say because of the depths which music, and thus MuchMusic have fallen, but all we can hope for is another Kurt Cobain, another Axl Rose or another Lemy to save us from the continuous stream of under-talented, over-paid corporate spit-wads that stream through our computers and MP3 players. Aside from that, there is not much hope. Music has a way of exploding when things get bad, and given the economic and social problems that we are watching evolve around us, it won't be long before someone gets right pissed off enough to start singing about it. I laugh when I think of Gene Simmons announcing on the Henry Rollins show that downloading is stealing and will be the death of the music industry. I imagine the only person left (other than music industry executives themselves) sad to see the industry fold into the very bowels of hell, would be Gene Simmons, a consummate con artist and 24 hour commercial pitch-man. Gene, for Gods Sake, have some integrity, stand for something other than your own gratification, after taking so much from so many, don't you think you owe the world that much? Since when did the proliferation of an art form bring about its downfall? I am not sure what historical or philosophical point you are trying to make, but let's face it, for you, its all about the money. The music executive is dead. Nobody cares about coked-out losers, with high school educations and bad haircuts anymore. Its over, turn out the lights.

So, as Much and Muchmore slowly fade into that good night, I am forced to reminisce on some the great music moments in my life: the first time I heard Tool; listening to real blues music in a ATCO trailer in Massachusetts; seeing the Tragically Hip perform in a venue the size of my bathroom. Lost possibilities and lost dreams. Goodbye Much, you were a loyal friend to me once and it was a nice ride. You will be missed....but don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008