Saturday, December 31, 2016

Coming Attraction

(GRAPHIC: The following PREVIEW has been approved for APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. The year advertised has been rated PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some events and personalities may not be suitable for children under 13, or anyone who craves a middle ground. Intense sequences of partisanship, non sequiturs, distortions, simplifications, villainization, violence, stereotypes, sexual content, language and graphic nudity are likely to be included. Note: Final rating not yet confirmed.)

(SOUND: Relaxing Music)

(VISUAL: Small town activity mixed with urban everyday life. Shots of people going about their daily lives: shopping, working, playing.)

VOICEOVER: It looks peaceful. Moms and dads raising their families, going to jobs and activities. Kids having fun, heading to school. Factories running, stores selling, offices working. But it's about to change.

(SOUND: Hyper music: loud, frenetic scary.)

(VISUAL: Frantic cuts of Congress, wars, attacks, rallies, White House, planes, marches, newscasts, hospitals, guns, etc.)

VOICEOVER: In a world turned upside down, nothing is set in stone. For some, 2017 will be the beginning. For others, it will be the end.

(SOUND: Brassy, triumphal music, rally crowd cheers.)

(VISUAL: Bold pictures in color: factories humming, people dancing, doctors and smiling patients, politicians backslapping)

VOICEOVER: One vision is bright and shiny. A new day is dawning, with more jobs and better healthcare, with more security and better opportunities for all. A government that encourages people to do more, and then gets out of their way to let them try. Where the most successful, most well to do bring their talents to bear for the average Joe and Jill, freeing them to soar to heights they can't even begin to imagine. A world where we stand at the apex, a bright and shining symbol of strength once again!

(SOUND: Tense, scary music: Angry crowd jeers.)

(VISUAL: Black and White pictures. Violence, confrontations, factories idle, wars, deportations.)

VOICEOVER: The other vision is disaster. A dark, hopeless place, where anyone different is threatened, where disease and persecution are common, where only the privileged few have rights. A place where the government is bought and sold, where gigantic corporations run amok, profiting off the backs of downtrodden workers. A world where we are hated by all, a small and insular country that cares only about itself!

(SOUND: Discordant music, unsettling.)

(VISUAL: Split screen, person on right side, person on left side, each talking to camera in turn. As one finishes, the other begins, the first is replaced, then the second etc.)

PERSON 1: It's gonna be great, I tell you. Finally, someone who gets it!

PERSON 2: A demagogue, a fascist. There's no other way to describe it.

PERSON 3: We'll have jobs again! We'll be respected! No more apologizing!

PERSON 4: It's a joke. Jobs aren't coming back. And he's dangerous besides!

PERSON 5: Enough with this political correctness. Finally we can say what we really think!

PERSON 6: Boorish, crass. No role model. I don't want my kids acting like that!

(SOUND: Calm, relaxing music)

(VISUAL: Dawn in towns and cities, the beginning of a new day, but split screen. Vibrant color on one side, gray and grainy on the other. Dissolve to title graphic.)

VOICEOVER: Same world, two outlooks. Which will it be? There's no middle ground, no place safe. With an all star cast of those you know and those you will know. Buckle up for the year they'll be talking about forever! Or at least until 2020.

Live it. Like It. Dread it. And you won't how it will really turn out until it's over.

2017. Opening everywhere on January 1. Be there.

(SOUND: Music up and out.)


Marc Wollin of Bedford can't wait to see how the ending turns out. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Of The Year

One week to go. As you read this, 2016 is winding down, and all that’s going to happen this year has probably happened. Absent an earthquake or a terrorist attack or Beyonce releasing a new song on iTunes, the chances of something occurring which changes the established order of things is diminishing by the hour. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen. But even in a year that all but defines "changing the established order of things," the rankings and judgements are in, and the cream has probably already risen to the top, whether you consider it fresh and sweet, or curdled beyond all possible consumption.

Of course, the most notable of these judgements is Time’s Person of the Year. To no one’s surprise, the pick was Donald Trump, or as the magazine called him, "President of the Divided States of America." Like him or hate him, he was the obvious choice. After all the criteria is "for better or for worse, the person who has done the most to influence the events of the year." Yes, Hitler got it (1938), as did Ayatollah Khomeni (1979), but so did Kennedy (1961) and Truman (1945 and 1948). By any measure, it was an easy call for the editors, certainly as opposed to 1960 when they gave the title to "US Scientists," 1966 when it went to "The Inheritor" or what we now call Baby Boomers, or 1982 when they gave up on people all together and bestowed the title on "The Computer."

But "person" is not the only thing that is "of the year." Whatever interest you have, there was a panel of experts that has surveyed all that has happened since January 1, and decided what merits special distinction. Books, movies, plays, music: for each there is no shortage of top ten lists, often several variations in the same publication. And subjective is the name of the game. For instance, in film, some lists have "The Lobster" on top, a movie about a future society where a single man checks into a hotel where, by law, he must find a mate within 45 days or be transformed into an animal. Others list "Moonlight," a movie about three stages in the life of a gay drug dealer. And still others name "La La Land," a love story/musical that takes place in LA. Divided states, indeed.

As to Word of Year, Daniel Patrick Moynihan is likely rolling over in his grave, as his famous admonition to Richard Nixon has been thoroughly debunked. For it was he who said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." And so in a year when facts mattered less and less, the editors of the Oxford Dictionaries selected "post-truth" as the standout. The official definition: "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief." Sorry Dan, seems you do get to pick what you want to believe in.

There is no shortage of other superlative items as well. InStyle has selected Butter London’s Mum’s the Word tone as "Best Nail Polish for Medium-Dark Skin" for 2016. The Statesman-Journal of Salem Oregon has picked named Adam’s Rib as the "Best Barbeque in the Mid-Valley." And has given its coveted Mom’s Choice award for "Best Diaper Pail of 2016" to (drum roll, please) the Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail. Sorry, Playtex fans, but the Diaper Genie Elite with Carbon Fiber was only a finalist.

However, these are all about the past. Pantone is looking forward and has announced its Color of the Year for 2017. It’s 15-0343, better known as Greenery and described as a "tangy yellow-green often seen in foliage.".  Asked why, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said, "We know what kind of world we are living in: one that is very stressful and very tense. This is the color of hopefulness."

One admires her outlook. That’s said, her track record is suspect. For 2016 she and her compatriots actually selected two colors, one a gentle pink, the other a baby blue. The first was called Rose Quartz, and was described as a "persuasive yet gentle tone that conveys compassion and a sense of composure." As for the other, it was meant to be "weightless and airy," and called Serenity.

Either of those sound like 2016 to you?


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes colors with one syllable. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Missed it By THAT Much

It can happen in any category; almost any product or service runs the risk of being left behind, obsoleted or scaled out. It doesn't matter where it is in its lifecycle. Kodak had the market for film all but monopolized. Then along came digital cameras, and it seemed like overnight yellow went back to meaning sunshine as opposed to film boxes. Or one day everybody was buying standalone GPS's and marveling how we lived without them. Then they put the same chip into cell phones, and we lived without them quite easily, thank you very much. And My Space was THE place to go online. The place, that is, until a startup run by a Harvard dropout caught fire and left it in the dust. Perhaps you've heard of Facebook?

Of course, the chance of being eclipsed like this is more prevalent in technology than anywhere else. By its very nature, it's constantly being updated and reinvented. It's not quite the same with a pair of pants or a shirt. Sure, there may be new styles, new form factors, but you can still wear your old ones. You may look a little out of touch in your bell bottoms or your peasant blouse, but they work just fine. Not so with your Apple Newton or your floppy discs or your 8 tracks. Still, you usually have some warning, some heads-up, an off ramp wherein you can migrate to the next new thing.

In this instance I was close. Very close. But this time I lost the race.

It's not like I was using cutting edge technology. Yes, I'm a gadget geek, but I'm not usually first to the table. I like to see something come out, stabilize, get established, and then join the party. It's a running gag that I buy my wife some gizmo for a gift, to which she responds that it really is for me. But after she lives with it a bit, she learns to like it and makes it her own. It was that way with the Tivo, the Fitbit and the Amazon Echo.

However, in this case I plead guilty: this one was indeed for me. I wanted a smartwatch, one of those devices that sits on your wrist and connects you to your phone. Believing they were still in early days, and not sure of their utility versus their novelty, I shopped and read and finally opted for the low cost way in. Called a Pebble, this basic watch may have been a Kickstarter crowd funded startup, but it did all that the more expensive models did at a much lower price point.

And indeed, after using it, I was convinced that it did what you hope technology will do: make things easier. It had some limitations, but the practicality outweighed the shortcomings. I was hooked, and was keeping my eyes open for the next generation, where the price and features both made more sense. I just had to get to that inflection point. But then my unit started to fail.

I read some tricks online. Try this menu sequence; no dice. Push these two buttons; that fixed it for a while, then it went wonky again. I tried a full reset; good for a bit, then back to sorta working. Since it was under a year since I got it, I wrote to the company. Indeed, they responded toot sweet, asked for some info, and said we're sending you a new one. Amazing! Customer service as it was meant to be.

And then they went out of business.

Somewhere between the time they issued a tracking number and UPS picked up my new watch, the company sold its intellectual assets and ceased functioning as an entity. No support. No service. And no replacements. Had I started the process just a week earlier, I might have beaten the clock. But if ever the term can be said to apply, I was literally on the bubble.

Sigh. It was fun while it lasted. It was a good idea, but I guess it still has a little more growing up to do. Until the price comes down on the other entries, I guess I'll go back to a regular watch. And so if you see me fiddling with my wrist, it's not that I'm responding to a text; I'm scratching an itch, in more ways than one.


Marc Wollin of Bedford really liked his Pebble. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

First Responder

Quincy was up front about it. No "I wanted to help people." No "I couldn't wait to get out on my own." No "I really looked up to him and wanted to be like him." Yes, all have a kernel of truth to them. After all, he was a teenager with a neighbor who was a fire captain, and the sixth of eight siblings, so any of those rationales could have been ones as to why he wanted to be a volunteer fireman. But he's nothing if not honest. His reason for starting down the path he's on? "There were girls at the fire house, and I wanted to drive like a maniac." Worlds have been built on weaker stuff.

But that was how it started. He got his advanced training, worked as an EMT and continued with his local department. For sure there was driving fast and showing off for the ladies, but it had its much more difficult side as well. He recalled how in the early hours of a Sunday in 1996 he responded to a head-on collision. He climbed into a mangled car past one lifeless body, and helped pry a still breathing one from the back. He helped get that one to a chopper, but he also died from his injuries. It took several hours to clean it all up, and Quincy started home just as the sun was coming up. Though it had been a while since he had been in church, that morning he felt the need. He pulled into one near his house, sat in a corner pew and cried. He was just 18.

He dropped out of high school in his senior year, but kept home schooling to get his diploma. He worked a succession of jobs, including professional EMT and bartender. When his girlfriend dumped him via cell phone, he spent the night drinking, then drove the next morning to the Coast Guard recruiting office and asked how fast they could sign him up. After ascertaining that he wasn't wanted by the cops, the recruiter asked for the name of the girl and completed the paperwork. Two weeks later she called, and they got back together. The next day he left for boot camp.

His first post put him in the Caribbean looking for drugs and illegal aliens, as well as doing humanitarian work. "But I did learn to drive a boat fast, and got lots of sunburns." That girl turned into his wife, and with his first kid on the way, he transferred to a station on Staten Island. When his four-year hitch was up, he left to join the NYC Fire Department, and was assigned to Ladder 42 in the South Bronx, arguably one of the busiest and most dangerous posts in the city.  

He kept his reserve status. "But let's be real, this was the CG we are talking about. How likely was it that I'd be recalled?" Likely, as it turns out. Three years later, in order to help prevent another attack like the one on the USS Cole, he was sent to the Middle East to do port security. A year later he was rotated back with a medal. Wanting to use all his skills, he was accepted as part of the FDNY Marine Division for their busy summer season. I asked him if the pressure ever gets to him. He laughed. "I have the best job in the world. Half the year I am assigned to the best ladder company in the FDNY, and half the year I get to drive a boat around New York City. So no, I don't want out."

For a guy whose day to day involves working in some of the toughest environments there are, he's relentlessly upbeat. "I don't do it for the thanks. I've established that I can get paid to do work that I enjoy that just so happens to be helping people." And when he gets tired of all that adrenaline rush, there's his other sideline: "I'm also an ordained minister, with 30+ ceremonies under my belt." I asked him what was the common thread of it all: "I just love seeing people happy."

Final tally: he loves what he does. He gets to help people. His girl is his wife. And he still gets to drive fast. As far as Quincy is concerned, that's a win-win-win-win.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to meet people. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Plug It In

It's that time of year when the talk is all about gifts: gifts to wear, gifts to eat, gifts to play with. There are discussions as to which you should give, and which you want to receive. Reams of paper and a universe of electrons has been dispatched telling you which is the best one for your spouse, your office mate or your child whatever the age. As I sit here, 8 emails have come in in the last 10 minutes, each offering a different take on the best thing to consider. And while each has their own suggestion for gifting perfection, I can definitively report that the common thread is that it is better to buy-one-get-one-free, get 20% off or get free shipping for whatever you select.

However, with all the lists that are published purporting to guide you, there are two magic words for whatever you buy. Doesn't matter if its clothing or food, something for the house or the car. In today's universe any gift worth its wrapping has to fit on either side of a simple Venn diagram, with the real winners being those in the overlap in the middle. For just as every firm today is an information company regardless of what physical thing they make or service they provide, any present that will wow the recipient has got to be either mobile or tech, and preferably both.

For some things, this isn't too much of a stretch. Stuff related to your phone or your tablet fits the bill nicely, being it charging stations, Bluetooth accessories or cases with keyboards. That said, not all are necessary or even useful. At a recent event I was at they were giving out mini robotic screen cleaners. About the size and shape of a flattened marshmallow, you placed it on your phone or pad, turned it on, and its vibrating motor caused it to move about the screen on its felt bottom. It was supposed to remove fingerprints; it just made noise.

Just as it used to be that anything that had a handle was portable, anything is considered mobile if it fits in your pocket, regardless if you want to take it with you or not. In that same vein, anything with a cord for charging is considered tech. To be clear, plugging something in doesn't make it any more advanced than the non-electrified model, it just makes it more power hungry. There are tech gloves, tech socks and tech jackets, each purporting to keep you toastier by carrying a power pack that feeds a network of heating wires. Long before portable phone and home computers were a common thing I had a similar pair of socks with an attached battery pack. I didn't get warm tootsies; I got burnt toes. They were no more high tech than an electric blanket.

But even when something nominally is both mobile and tech, it can merely be novel without being cutting edge. Advertised this season as a "Futuristic Find" is a 3D pen. Filled with a meltable plastic filament, you plug it in and then slowly drip melted plastic layer upon layer, kind of like dripping candle wax on your dining room table. Yes, it has a cord. Yes, you can use it anywhere. Yes, it enables you to create multi-dimensional structures. And yes, it will be impossible to get the goo off of your clothes when you drip it on them. Hi tech? No. High chance of injury and disappointment? Yes.

There's almost nothing that can't be said fit the bill even if it doesn't. There's a brush with LED lights in it, supposedly to help grow and nourish hair, but which really just allows you to groom in the dark. There's a cordless wine bottle opener, because twisting is so analog. And an electronic S'mores maker is really just a high temperature hair dryer with a graham cracker sized holder attached.

As they say about many things, if you haven't seen it it's new to you. So go ahead and give your husband a grill-cleaning robot. Or maybe your mom would like an aroma alarm clock. And someone you know needs a Bluetooth-connected toothbrush, though I don't know why. Or as Douglas Adams said, "We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works."


Marc Wollin of Bedford wants simpler stuff. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and Online, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.