Thursday, October 14, 2010

Global Oil Demand Seen Rising...How Soon to $100 a Barrel, or Beyond?

The International Energy Agency has released new data, showing an anticipated growth in demand for oil, due to stronger-than-expected economic growth in developed countries.  I have already seen this first-hand at the pump; as of yesterday, the two neighboring gas stations in my town were at $2.96 a gallon, which is a 30-cent increase from just a few weeks ago.  If prices are to rise again, I think we will see another round of what is called "demand destruction", and prices will crash back down, albeit temporarily.  I do not believe oil prices will climb continously upward, for that one reason.  The economy will not be able to absorb them, so we'll see crashes, and with each crash, the fallout and damage will span further and further.  But on the other hand, another reason why we could see climbing oil prices could be due to the falling value of the dollar.  This would be a "hyperinflation" scenario, and if that's the case, well, then all bets are off. 

I do think the timing of this announcement is very interesting.  Imagine if oil prices continue to spike in the coming months, leading into the holiday season?  The tough economic times are going to make this a difficult season for retailers, as things are, but if you were to add climbing gas prices into the mix?  A possible recipe for catastrophe.  A lot of people believe that the climbing oil prices in 2008 (the price of a barrel of oil peaked at $146) were a key determinant in pushing our economy to the brink.  With the economy of 2010 in the weakened condition that it is, I don't think that oil prices would have to climb nearly that far for an even worse collapse this time. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Lucky Louie" and the Decline of Programming for Ordinary Americans

As I've said previously, I probably watch more TV than I should.  A show that I talked about recently on the blog was the comedy "Louie" that just finished its first season on FX.  "Louie" stars the comedian Louis C.K; he plays a divorced father raising his two kids in New York City.  I liked the show very much, and so rented a series that he'd done a few years before that, called "Lucky Louie". 

The two shows are very different.  While "Louie" is an atypically loose comedy, with a couple of short stories and stand-up vignettes taking up most of its 30 minutes, "Lucky Louie" is more of a traditional sitcom.  It's hard for me to say which is better.  I did enjoy "Lucky Louie" because of its similarity to another sitcom I enjoyed while growing up, "Married with Children".  This is even more cruder than "MWC" since it was on HBO.  A very odd thing to note about "Lucky Louie" is that HBO only gave it one season, which is not normal for them.  I assumed it was pulled due to low ratings, but then read elsewhere that ratings actually grew each week, outranking much more expensive shows like "Deadwood" (which I loved) and "Flight of the Conchords" (which I've never seen).  "Lucky Louie" even got an order for additional scripts for the next season, which in most cases would ensure a renewal.  But unfortunately, it's believed by some (including, reportedly, Louis C.K. himself) that the show did not fit in with HBO's programming.  Which is a really stupid rationale, and to clarify, watch the show.  Even if the show was a ratings loser, it would still have made some sense to renew it, because the show was freaking dirt cheap to produce.  The sets were simple to the extreme; every other HBO show either has elaborate sets or are filmed on location, and so cost a shitload of money to produce.  Forgive me, I'm just a little upset that a potentially great show had its life cut off prematurely because it was on a network who wanted to make programming for the affluent east and west coast "liberal" types rather than ordinary Americans. 

Which brings me to my point.  "Lucky Louie" was the first show of its kind that I've seen in awhile, and it was aired in 2006.  By "its kind", I mean a show that ordinary, working-class Americans can relate to.  "Lucky Louie" was about a part-time mechanic (C.K.) and his wife who works as a nurse, and they raise their 4 to 5-year old daughter.  They live in a seedy apartment, and struggle to pay their bills.  Sound familar to anyone?  I remember there were a lot more shows like that out there, like "Married with Children", "All in the Family", and all the way back to "The Honeymooners".  All very funny shows, and shows that people can relate to, even today.  So what happened?  Somewhere along the way, they were replaced by "reality shows" (and by reality, I don't mean the reality that most people face.  The "reality" in "reality television" is often total fantasy), or sitcoms about roommates living in some high-rise in New York City who just hang out and crack jokes all day, with nary a worry of paying bills or rent.  I think that this is Corporate America's way of phasing out voices from Middle America.  You have shows about rich people living in high-rises for the affluent viewers (and those of us who want to be affluent), and reality shows about, for example, a black tranny looking for love for the clueless masses.  Nothing for working people who are just trying to get by, and who have a clue about what is happening to this country.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

RIP Stephen J. Cannell

The famous writer/producer Stephen J. Cannell died yesterday, at the age of 69.  I remember a lot of the shows I used to watch as a kid, and Mr. Cannell was behind many of them.  The A-Team, The Rockford Files, The Commish, 21 Jump Street, Renegade, and many others.  Sure, not exactly Masterpiece Theatre material, but very enjoyable nonetheless.  In his later years, he became a novelist.  I read his debut novel, "The Plan", many years ago (probably when it first came out, in 1996) and remember enjoying it very much; I will try to make a note to read more of his stuff.  It's a real shame to lose him; I saw him on something not too long ago and he looked as vibrant as ever. 

I know anyone who's watched television has to remember the logo and theme of his production company that would come up at the end of one of his shows; very memorable, I remember it even being parodied in a "Family Guy" episode.  Here's a cool montage on Youtube of his logos over the years.  As the years progress, you see the awards and plaques becoming more numerous on his wall.  A real standup guy, may you rest in peace, Mr. Cannell.  You will be missed.