The Carrion Eaters: Collection agencies in the 20th century


“Finance company,” is an almost archaic term for a company that lends small amounts of money to sub-prime borrowers, short term and at high interest rates. Exorbitant fees and frequent rollovers were the goals.

Their 21st century equivalents are so-called payday loan companies. Unlike most payday loan companies, though, finance company loans were usually collateralized by cars, 2nd mortgages, and even household furniture.

As in today’s credit-heavy/income-lite [sic] society, debtors who fell behind were often harassed encouraged to pay by collectors, who specialized in harassing motivating past-due debtors to bring their accounts current.

I wrote  the 1st draft of this song i n 1978 and have been updating it ever since—most recently yesterday afternoon. I could have told the story from the viewpoint of the debtor; instead I decided it would be more interesting to tell the tale from the collector’s point of view.

Since posting it on YouTube, comments have ranged from the sympathetic to the condemnatory. I fall into the first category; I’ll leave you to guess with whom.

And, if you, dear reader, have an opinion you’d like to share, well that’s what the little comment box below is for.

Two more reasons why you should tag and categorize your WordPress posts

google indexes tags and categories | roger scime | scribe site
Google's Indexing

Just as a matter of form, I’ve been categorizing and tagging posts on my blog, Scribe Site, assuming it would simply make it easier for visitors to conduct in-site searches.

Boy, was I wrong! It turns out that Google not only indexes content, but the tags and categories for each blogpost.

A short while ago I Googled myself (roger scime) and discovered a couple of surprises on the first page of the SERPs.

The first surprise:

google indexes wordpress tags | roger scime | scribe site
Google Indexes Algonquin Round Table tag

Wow! I hadn’t expected that. I clicked the link and this is what was returned:

wordpress tag | google | roger scime | scribe site
Returned when clicked

There’s the tag: “algonquin round table.”

I checked my SERPs again, and found this:

google category | roger scime | scribe site
Google SERP: category

which led to this:

google indexes wordpress categories | roger scime | scribe site
Google indexes "internet" category

That was something I’d posted just the day before yesterday, regarding the outage of Amazon’s server farm: the first page of Google’s SERPs. Is that cool, or what?

Now, this may be something that’s been known about in the blogging community for a while, but it came as a surprise to me.

If anybody knows of other Google surprises, please let me know via the comment box at the end of this post.

 

 

Flavors.me and About.me are down . . . Hmmm

Scribe Site | flavors.me and about.me |Roger Scime
Both flavors.me and about.me are down.

As of 10:56 this morning, both flavors.me and about.me are down, even though flavors.me is registered to Hii Def, Inc. in Florida, and about.me is registered to AOL. They are also hosted on different DNS servers.

The .me TLD (Top Level Domain) is administered by Montenegro, while Serbia and Yugoslavia also appear to have some interest in it.

Could there be a political or economic conspiracy at work somewhere?

I wonder.

Your thoughts.

UPDATE: It isn’t just those two, but several other major players as well. Here’s the story: Amazon EC2 troubles bring down Reddit, Foursquare, Quora, Hootsuite and more

Three show-biz autobiographies you shouldn’t miss

Show Biz Autobiographies: moss hart | john phillips | sammy davis jr

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to the arts—most of them, anyway. At one time or another, I’ve fantasized a career as a

  • movie director,
  • playwright,
  • author,
  • artist,
  • musician
  • TV producer

Unfortunately, the only career I was ever able to make a living at was as a professional musician (Well, maybe a little as a writer, but not the way I’d imagined). No matter, though: I lived out my dreams vicariously, through biographies and autobiographies. What follows are three autobiographies that had the strongest impact on me and informed me as the person I am today.

Act One: An Autobiography By Moss Hart (1959).

Act One by Moss Hart
Act One by Moss Hart

The name Moss Hart might not be familiar to most of you reading this today, but during the ’30s and ’40, the playwriting team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart was as well known as Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) are in the naughts. Together, the two of them wrote Broadway hit comedies that are still performed today, such as You Can’t Take It With You, The Man Who Came To Dinner, and George Washington Slept Here.

In Act One Mr. Hart tells the story of his early life in best-seller fashion: from his impoverished Manhattan childhood to his discovery of live theater and the lure of Broadway to his apprenticeship as social director at myriad summer resorts to his initial attempts at writing plays and his  first meeting with Mr. Kaufman—in prose that is infused with an unabashed affection for all things theatrical and free of any artifice—and ends as the pair’s first collaboration, Once In A Lifetime, opens to rave reviews on Broadway.

Interspersed with Mr. Hart’s own story are tasty vignettes of the period: The Algonquin Round Table, summers in the Catskills, the rewards of Little Theater—but most of all, the story of man who never lost his passion and his dream.

It was this book, above all other things, that provided me a sense of optimism, a passion for art, and a love of live theater that continues to this day.

Papa John (1987

John Phillips: Papa John
Cover of Papa John

If Moss Hart’s story represents a dream realized, Papa John, this autobiography of the John Phillips—founder of The Mamas & The Papas—is a nightmare of sex, dysfunction, and addiction. In a tale laden with 60s excesses Mr. Philips chronicles his ascension from Greenwich Village folksinger to his gathering the the rest of the group members forming them and directing them to the apex of their critical and commercial success—followed by his downward plunge (spiral is too moderate a term) into drugs and attempts at rehab, all the time dragging with him the other members as well as those with whom he came into contact.

 

Although Phillips tries to paint a sympathetic self-portrait, he fails and the sense of entitlement that informed him, both personally and artistically until his death, shines strongly though.

Although I admired John Phillips as an artist, Papa John provided me as good an explanation as any as to why I’d always been uncomfortable watching him perform.

Yes, I Can: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr. (1965)

"Yes I Can" Sammy Davis, Jr
Yes, I Can Cover

The life of Sammy Davis, Jr. could have been that of any Black man growing up in the 40 and 50s, except for his exceptional talent as a singer, dancer, and all-round entertainer.

Yes, I Can, opens as Mr. Davis is in a car wreck and, fearing an impending death, reflects upon his life from a childhood as the youngest member of his parents’ vaudeville act, through his success and discovery in his teens and early 20s, his marriage to Swedish actress, May Britt (then considered

May Britt, actress
Mrs. Sammy Davis, Jr.

misogyny), his friendships with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and eventual induction into the Rat Pack of the 1960s.

Through Mr. Davis’s recollections, we learn the reasons (and accompanying tribulations) behind his conversion to Judaism, his self-doubts, the racism he encountered in the Deep South, the loss of one eye, and finally his triumphs as a world-class entertainer.

Yes, I Can is an easy read and many will find it inspirational if not illuminating. As such, it reads as easily as a summer beach novel.

These three autobiographies—along with one other that will have to wait—are pleasant diversions, yet still offer—if not a glimpse, then a peak—into lives that are different from most of our own.

Image Credits: Respective publishers.

 

 

 

Have a problem? Chances are Cary Tennis Has a(n) answer

Since You Asked by Cary Tennis
Since You Asked by Cary Tennis

Cary Tennis has been penning the Since You Asked column for Salon.com, since 2001, offering sagely advice on such topics as:

  • Help! I’m falling for a fat man — Weighing in, in Washington
  • My wife quit shaving her legs and it turns me off — Worried in South Carolina
  • I’m a gifted high achiever who wants to be a flight attendant —Undecided
  • At what point can I just give up on my son? — Giving Up on the Kid
  • Should I stick with my girlfriend through here cancer? — Confused in Colorado
  • If my wife dressed better, would gay guys stop hitting on me? — Amused in North Carolina
  • I used to be funny, but now I’m boring and self-conscious — Self-conscious
  • I’m not sure I have a self. How do I get one? — Missing in action

Continue reading Have a problem? Chances are Cary Tennis Has a(n) answer

Here’s a way to limber up your right brain

Right Brain Limbering
Your Right Barin Neds Love, Too

Think of this as a way to get your right brain working when you’re stuck for a writing assignment.

I came across this “Equation Analysis Test,” by Will Shortz in the early 80s and was immediately taken by it: It was perfectly suited for my right-brainishness. I won’t claim to not be bragging when I—okay, I’m bragging!—say that I figured it out in about an hour and a half—ahem! — but, it’s a lot of fun.

When you think about it, it’s mostly a matter of pattern recognition sort of like in A Beautiful Mindwithout the schizophrenia.

If you don’t get them all the first or second time ’round, don’t worry:  just print it out and leave it someplace where you’re sure to glance at it in passing—that’s what I did. The answers will come to you when you least expect.

EQUATION ANALYSIS TEST

By Will Shortz

This test does not measure your intelligence, your fluency with words, and certainly not your mathematical ability. It will, however, give you some gauge of your mental flexibility and creativity. In the three years since we developed the test, we’ve found few people who could solve more than half the 24 questions on the first try. Many, however, reported getting answers long after the test had been set aside — particularly at unexpected moments when their minds were relaxed, and some reported solving all the questions over a period of several days. Take this as your personal challenge.

Instructions: Each equation below contains the initials of words that will make it correct. Find the missing words. For example:

  • 26 = L. of the A. would be:
    • 26 = Letters of the Alphabet. Get it?
  1. 7 = W. of the A.W.
  2. 1,001 = A.N.
  3. 12 = S. of the Z.
  4. 54 = C. in a D. (with the J.)
  5. 9 = P. in the S.S.
  6. 88 = P.K.
  7. 13 = S. on the A.F.
  8. 32 = D.F. at which W.F.
  9. 18 = H. on a G.C.
  10. 90 = D. in a R.A.
  11. 200 = D. for P.G. in M.
  12. 8 = S. on a S.S.
  13. 3 = B.M. (S.H.T.R.!)
  14. 4 = Q. in a G.
  15. 24 = H. in a D.
  16. 1 = W. on a U.
  17. 5 = D. in a Z.C.
  18. 57 = H.V.
  19. 11 = P. on a F.T.
  20. 1,000 = W. that a P. is W.
  21. 29 = D. in F. in a L.Y.
  22. 64 = S. on a CB.
  23. 40 = D. and N. of the G.F.

By the way, if you liked this challenge—or just want to do some Sunday morning calisthenics, without the Spandex® and sweating—Will Shortz hosts the Sunday Puzzle segment your local NPR station.

If anybody reading this would like the answers, you’re welcome to email me at rogerscime@gmail.com, or to post a comment in that little rectangular field below.

Getting the gig

Roger Scime | Scribe Site Content Creation | Getting the Gig
Yep, that's me, all right.

From my previous post, A good dance band is never out of work,  you may have surmised that once-upon-a-time I was a professional musician. For quite a few years, in fact. And, as a band leader, I learned a few things about business that I carried over to my website design company when I left the neon light of the Las Vegas Strip (Really!)

But, that will have to wait for another time.

The following steps apply to businesses, entrepreneurs, employees—and even musicians. Y’all are intelligent enough to make any necessary substitutions.

  1. Get your act together. By “act” I mean the literal meaning of the noun, as in “something brought about by human will”. In other words, what you’re gonna do. Here are some of the components: choose your material, rehearse and arrange it, decide what songs you’ll be playing as well as the order in which you’ll present them. Decide what kind of audience you prefer and choose, arrange, etc. accordingly.
  2. Research venues. Make certain that your music fits a venue that actually exists. If your kick is Nigerian toe-slapping music, make sure there’s a place where that kind of thing is appreciated. Or that there’s at least the potential for appreciation.
  3. Decide whether you must be paid (in some manner) or if you might be willing to play showcases, open mics, and festivals for the experience and publicity. Choose your venue accordingly.
  4. Approach whoever does the hiring and arrange for an audition.
  5. Choose the material you’ll perform at the audition. Because you’ve researched the venue, you know what will work and what won’t. Don’t play for yourself; play for the decision maker.
  6. Show up early. Set up quickly and unobtrusively. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
  7. Perform your audition set. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
  8. Tear down quickly and unobtrusively. Don’t chase out any customers who are already there.
  9. Unless the owner indicates that s/he wants to talk to you immediately, as soon as you’ve torn down completely, approach him or her and tell them you’ll contact them the following day.
  10. Then, do so.

So, until we meet again: Keep rocking.

A good dance band is never out of work!

Roger Scime | Scribe Site | A good dance band is never out of work
Rock on!

A good dance band is never out of work.

What in the heck am I talking about? and, what doe it have to do with content creation or business?

Here’s a hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with playing danceable music; but, then again, it has everything to do with it.

Break it down: People like to dance, even those who can’t. There seems to be some biological-neurological-physiological-psychological—something—that responds to certain rhythmic patterns and set one’s toes to a-tappin’. Don’t ask me, I’m in that second category.

But, just accept it: people like to dance. Think Studio 54. Think disco. Think house (the music, not the TV show). Think Saturday Night Fever. Do you know how much money the Bee Gees made off that soundtrack? I don’t either, but I bet it bought a shitload of Capezios and Angel Flights.

Corollary: People like to dance, so a band that plays music that people can dance to is going to be popular with people who dance (or would like to dance). That attracts them to your venue.

Corollary: Club owners, bartenders, and cocktail waitresses like people who are dancing, a/k/a customers. Why? Because dancing feet are thirsty feet and alcohol is the divine lubrication of happy-thirsty feet . . . which leads to more drinks being sold. Simply stated: Drinking = dancing. Dancing = drinking. The circle of life.

So, here we have the needs of both the audience and club owner-bartender-cocktail waitress being filled. And, yours, too. As the primary mover behind this miracle of symbiotic synergy (synergistic symbiosis?), you’re getting paid for your services . . . aren’t you?

Some bands look down on playing danceable music: They want to play sold-out concerts in mammoth stadiums. Or small, intimate coffee houses, where the lights are dim and the smoke is thick, and the audience listens rapturously to every nuanced lyric turn and subtle, muted note.

They’re allowed. Just substitute “crowd-pleasing” for “good dance band,” or “content creator,”  or “business owner,” or whatever else you’d like it to be.

That’s just one of the wonderful things about a good metaphor—which is exactly what “dance band” is.

How to write good . . .

roger scime | scribe site | content creation | how to write good
Make sur u get the werds rite!

This list of “rules” has been floating around since the days when photocopiers and faxes provided the social connectedness of their day and is usually attributed to one Frank L. Visco, Vice-president and Senior Copywriter at USAdvertising.

Was there ever a name for jokes and such that were photocopied—ah, hell, I’ll just say, Xeroxed® with the little ® symbol—and passed around the office or plastered on bulletin boards in the break rooms (usually off-color, almost always funny or clever)? How about “copy network” or “faxi-media”?

Something like that.

Ideas, anybody?

For those who might have missed it the first, second, or third time around, I hereby offer it in all its splendor—for good or ill-literate:

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos One should never generalize.
  10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  11. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  12. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  13. Profanity sucks.
  14. Be more or less specific.
  15. Understatement is always best.
  16. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  19. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  20. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  21. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  22. Who needs rhetorical questions?

If you’re reading the rules for the first time, enjoy! If you’ve chuckled over it in the past, I hope your remembrances are fond.

If you didn’t get the joke, well, there’s always MySpace.

Do you know of any similar rules that weren’t listed? If so, please take a minute and post ’em in the little box below, where it say “Comments.”

 

3 ways opinion polls (deliberately) get it wrong—and what you can do about it

roger scime | content creation | scribe site | polls
"Er . . . ?

It may be a little early for this, but probably not. As the political field begins to form for the 2012 general elections, we can expect to see more and more polling results released favoring one candidate or another for any particular office. And, it will continue to get worse in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day.

With that in mind, I think a short examination of how public-opinion polls can be manipulated to reflect whatever results the organization paying for the poll wants it to.

Over the years, three polling tactics have been proven to be particularly effective by providing misleading results; and, while the first of these could be attributed to sloppy preparation, the second and third can justifiably be considered deliberately deceptive.

The Unrepresentative Sample

The Loaded Question

The Push Poll

Let’s take them in order:

First, the Unrepresentative Sample

An unrepresentative sample is one that does not accurately reflect the population one wishes to survey. As implied by the illustration above, the man answering the door isn’t your typical, er, normal human being. So, if you wanted to know what normal humans (the ones who do not wear bird cages on their heads, for example) thought about something, this fellow would not be the one to ask.

The real-life example that is cited most often is a poll commissioned in 1936 by the Literary Digest regarding the presidential race between Franklin Roosevelt and Alf Landon. The sample names were selected from telephone directories and auto-registration lists. The results indicated that Landon would win easily, and events of the Landon presidency are discussed in civics classes to this day.

Huh?

As we all know, Alf Landon actually lost to Roosevelt in a landslide, which is why this particular instance of polling error is so well known. Remember where the sample came from? Telephone directories and auto-registration lists. Well, in 1936 few American had either, and those who did were mainly upper-class. But the less-well-off could vote, too, and there were many, many more of them. Literary Digest‘s sample was unrepresentative of the population, and the election results proved it.

Continue reading 3 ways opinion polls (deliberately) get it wrong—and what you can do about it