Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That's One Big Loud Cha-CHING!

With all the discussion (i.e. arguing, finger-pointing, political maneuvering, etc) about the $700 Billion dollar bailout bill dominating the news, it got me thinking: What if the government gave me that $700B check? What would I do with all of that money to improve the prosperity of the country?

So, I put together a budget plan, seen below, that I feel will make this nation a better place for everybody:

$60 Billion: Fight Fire With Fire Investment
I would spend $60 Billion on the best lobbyists the world has to offer. I'd even buy up all of the lobbyists currently working in Washington on the behalf of oil companies, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies and other greedy corporations. I would then buy each of my newly hired lobbyist staff a plane ticket to a remote island and have them all stay there permanently. If a new lobbyist is hired by a greedy corporation, I would be sure to buy the new lobbyist out and send him to Sell-Your-Soul Island with the rest of them. I would recoup some of the investment by having a reality television show on the island where lobbyists have to balance on pork barrels.

$30 Billion: Health Care Reality Check Investment
I would buy out the companies or organizations responsible for providing the exceptional level of health care and insurance to our politicians. I would then run that organization just as poorly--if not worse--than the insurance companies the rest of us average Joes have to deal with. "Oh, you an illness, Senator? I'm sorry, you have a $50,000 deductible and can only choose from three non-English speaking doctors with offices that are totally overrun and more than 30 miles from you." Oh yeah, and if Congress votes to give themselves a raise when undeserved, I would raise their deductibles and insurance costs to offset the raise. Think that might give our politicians some perspective?

$500 Billion Tax Rebate (Sans the megarich)
Much has gone around about how the $700B bailout is the equivalent of $2,000 for every American. But if you adjust that number to show what it is for each taxpayer (the people who actually pay taxes every year not adding in children), the number rises to $6,000 per each tax paying citizen. I would offer a $500B Tax Rebate, but would omit the top 1% of earners...which basically includes Bill Gates and corporation CEOs (and accounts for a third of the total tax cut). It's not exact math, but each taxpayer would receive about $9,000. Imagine that! I wonder what they would do with that money? Perhaps pay their mortgages and buy property, in turn stabilizing the economy. Crazy idea I know!

$100 Billion Education Investment
New schools, better budgets and better paid teachers for all. We shouldn't have to trail a communist nation (China) in education. And we need better education so we don't get fooled again.

$30 Billion Real News Investment
I would create a new news network that would have a cable station and newspaper dedicated to providing actual responsible journalism. If a politician says something, my reporters will be there to research it and make sure it's not B.S. Not just ask a bunch of idiots in a room what they thought about what the politician said. Every bill that goes through congress would be researched by the news team and reported daily. If you need news about what the hot fashions are for the Fall Season or what Miley Cyrus is doing these days, you can tune in to the other networks.

That's my two--er--$700B--cents. I think I make some very valid points in my budget that are common sense solutions to our issues, which is exactly why none of this will come to fruition. Do you have some better ideas for how to spend some or all of the $700B? Let me know. Reply to this blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We Have Too Much Stuff

I'm planning to move soon and have come to the sudden--though not shocking--realization that I have too much stuff. I can't even give you all of the particular details or breakdowns of the stuff I have too much of, because my too-much-stuff-edness applies to just about every category of items people can own and it would take too long to write down, let alone read. But I do. I have waaaay too much stuff. And if I were to take a guess, I bet you have too much stuff too.

We all do. For some reason, Americans can't resist bringing stuff home and filling their homes with it until they have to invest several days or weeks riffling through it all to make space...for more stuff. For example, I have too many socks. Socks that I wear and socks that I don't. Apparently I treat them like collectors items. I even have too many loner socks--you know, the socks that lost their match because dryers presumably feed on them. For some reason, I save the loner socks up, hoping that one day the missing matches will be coughed up by the machines that devour them. And it never happens.

I have too many books. I have too many DVDS. I realize that I own both only so that I can loan them out to other people. Because when you think about it, how often do you reread the same book or watch a movie for the third or fourth time? Very rarely. Yet there they all are, lined up neatly on my bookcase collecting dust, just waiting for me to pack too many of them in a box and blow out my vertebrae while moving them. I suspect that some books may indeed may be made of iron.

I have too many forks and spoons. For some reason, I figured that having 20 of each makes complete sense, just in case I were to host the entire starting lineup of the Chicago Bears someday. And you know what ends up happening as a result of having too many utensils? Dishes. Because there's never a need to wash a fork when there's always a shiny clean one sitting there in the drawer beckoning me to succumb to my laziness. I swear my utensils use some sort of Jedi mind trick on me that forces me to avoid washing them until they are all completely dirty.

I have too many pens. When you think about it, it's so hard to throw away a pen. It seems wasteful. But yet I always seem to come home with them somehow. I forget them in my pockets or get caught without a pen at a time when needed and have to buy some. (This usually happens when I procrastinate buying a birthday gift until the day of the party and am forced to fill out the card in my car in the driveway of the birthday celebrater.) So on my desk sits enough pens to rewrite the entire bible by hand 47 times over.

I'm not sure why we all have this need to let stuff pile up and take over all of our space. I guess its the same reason why we can't pass by a free sample at a grocery store or why so many of us act like insane rioters whenever there's the potential to catch a free t-shirt that we'll never wear. Perhaps none of us likes to go home empty handed.

Time to go. I've got stuff to do, mostly involving undoing all of my stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How'a About'a a Kiss'a?

Today's entry comes courtesy of Seth McFarlane. Enjoy the video clip. You can also find more of these funny clips on the site http://www.sethcomedy.com/.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Next: Doing Laundry with the Stars!

Ranting against reality television is nothing new, so I'll spare you of the same old stuff you have heard a countless amount of times about how reality TV is scripted, casts narcissists exclusively and constantly pushes the limits of taste and morality.

But there is one aspect about reality TV worth ranting about that you may not have heard. For instance, last night, Dancing with the Stars premiered, featuring it's usual cast of typecasts (washed up sitcom star, retired NFL athlete, person famous but not for having any talent, old person who will likely break a hip, comic relief person and person who you have no idea why they're famous but they kind of look familiar).

I wonder, is there any real reason to find out who is the best dancer amongst this crowd? Why not instead reunite the cast of Cheers and see who is the best at bass fishing? Or gather the actors from the Facts of Life to compete in a rock-paper-scissors tournament? Point being, will it matter if one of the Golden Girls beats out a retired linebacker in a tango face off?

To me, reality television is only good if there is some sort of interesting outcome as a result of the show. American Idol gives its winner a record deal. The show lets you watch a career being launched. Top Chef gives talented chefs a head start to opening their own restaurant. Extreme Home Makeover gives a deserving family a better quality of living. Are all three of those shows great shows? No. But they aren't completely devoid of quality. You can watch them and have a rooting interest.

The shows that don't offer much of an outcome are the ones that really suck. For instance, any show featuring somebody picking a stranger to marry. Or shows that feature people backstabbing other people on their way to a prize. Shows that feature Donald Trump in any capacity. And the worst of them, shows that feature people sitting around in a house doing nothing. In the case of Dancing with the Stars, it's not like Emmitt Smith had a career in dancing launched and went on to star on Broadway. He went back to his normal life of being an NFL legend. So what was the point?

I guess there isn't meant to be a point. Cotton candy wouldn't exist if everything had to have a purpose. That's why they call it fluff. And, in case you wondered, I would put my money on Norm to take in the most bass.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Have Your 4th of July Fireworks Yet?

About three weeks ago, I made a trip to the market. (Geez, I sound like one of the little piggies...let me rephrase.) Three weeks ago, I went to the grocery store. And, there at the entrance of the building were mountains of pumpkins stacked high and wide like a proverbial utopia of gourds. A gourdtopia, if you will.

Inside, spread throughout the store: tables and tables full of trick-or-treat candy, an aisle full of plastic costumes and enough motion activated "spooky" home decoration noise makers to drive at least three of the grocery store employees to madness with their constant screeches and chimes.

Seeing all this threw me for a loop. After all, Halloween--at that time--was at least two months away. Yet, to grocery stores, pharmacies and strip malls across this country, selling holiday junk (even of the perishable variety) more than 60 days out makes complete sense for some strange reason. And for some stranger reason, people buy it up without a second thought.

But who in their right mind is buying and displaying this stuff so soon? Can you imagine somebody waking up on a warm, late August morning and thinking to themselves: "Oooh, I better start hanging faux cobwebs up on my porch now!"

During my trip to this particular grocery store, I even half expected to see (if one can "half expect" something) Easter decorations down the aisle next to the Halloween decorations. God forbid we don't start decorating our eggs now! Because, as we know, nothing celebrates the resurrection of Christ better than some chocolate bunnies and painted eggs! Let's get the eggs painted now so by Easter they will smell exactly like eggs smell after sitting out for half of a year!

Can you imagine what a pumpkin looks and smells like on Halloween after being purchased, deseeded and degutted of all of that slimy orange stringy stuff and carved...two months early? I imagine it would look like a cross between a half-deflated balloon and a Petri dish experiment that got out of hand.

Have we really become a nation that is so obsessed over instant gratification that now we can't even wait until the actual month the holiday falls in before rushing out and buying all of the disposable holiday junk for sale at the nearest corner store?

It makes me glad I've been blessed with the gift of procrastination! Sure, the trick-or-treaters don't appreciate the fact that I forgot to buy a bag of bite-size candy to distribute to them when they come around demanded sugar from me. But there's nothing wrong with finding whatever one may find stashed away in the house as an alternative to candy (when in a bind), such as a can of Lima beans, spare change, a coupon for $1 off on a pizza or other random crap taking up space in your home.

If the kids balk, just tell them that you opted to "trick" rather than "treat" and send them on their way. They'll get more candy soon enough. After all, Easter is right around the corner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Top Five Reasons Why I'm Sick of the Presidential Campaign

Number 5: Fashion over function.
I have been unwillingly informed several times of how I can too own the same pair of glasses worn by Sarah Palin. Or where I can buy the dress Michelle Obama wore on the View. You know, the important issues of the campaign.

Number 4: Overexposure to horrible campaign-selected music. The songs selected by these candidates are likely the same tunes used by the government to torture those at Guantanamo Bay. ABBA? Seriously! ABBA!

Number 3: Too much family drama.
Last time I checked, when one interviews for a job, he/she doesn't bring their spouse and kids to smile at the employer and later complain about how family shouldn't be factored into the hiring process.

Number 2: Unabashed and faulty justification overload! Example:
Interviewer: You said that your candidate is a complete idiot and frequently kicks puppies.
Candidate: But my opponent has said that I am insane and like to punch senior citizen war vets.
Interviewer: But you did say he is an idiot.
Candidate: But HE STARTED IT!
Interviewer: Go to your room!
Candidate: No FAIR!

Number 1: Change, Change, Everywhere with the Changing!
Both sides preach how they will change this, change that and change the other. I think both candidates misheard the voters. We were asking for change that we can deposit into our bank accounts...quarters, nickels, dimes, whatever...we stopped asking for dollars because we know those are all reserved for large greedy corporations who need bail outs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just Because You're Louder Doesn't Mean You're More Right

I tuned into the Today Show this morning at the start of the interesting discussion about how CEOs of major corporations are just one of many groups of folks sucking the economic lifeblood out of the United States like a bunch of dehydrated vampires. You know the story: ABC Corporation collapses, 20,000 lose their jobs, benefits and retirement nest egg, CEO gets $400M severance package.

Other than being quite annoyed with the fact that the news networks are just catching on to this story now (about 15 years too late in my book), I was quite bothered by the two "expert" pundits the show had on to "discuss" the topic. The problem: one of the said pundits did anything but discuss the topic. Rather, he decided to yell over the other show guest, cut off any dissenting statements made by any others people in the segment and throw out completely off-the-mark comparisons to make his point. You know, your typical news network format. (Yes, I'm looking at you Bill O'Reilly).

It was like adding an eight-year old to the discussion and asking him to say "I know you are, but what am I" over and over again over the others. The more adult of the two pundits couldn't get a word in edgewise before the other pundit...let's call him jerkstore...would cut in to say things like "well, why don't people complain about A-Rod making $200M with the Yankees! Why do CEOs get all this heat for getting paid so much money?"

DUH! Perhaps because maybe when the Yankees don't do well, it doesn't result in thousands of people losing their jobs and retirement funds as a result. But forgive me. That's a common sense statement that has no room in a discussion with a conversation bully.

These jerkstore pundits are everywhere now and it's usual they have little important to say, they have little intelligence and usually always stay true to their platforms no matter how dumb it makes them look. It has made news networks like CNN and Fox News almost unbearable to watch and now it's apparent they are starting to penetrate the big networks as well.

Sure, I have my opinion on the matter of CEOs making too much money. It's hard to restrict a salary in a capitalistic system, but I feel some rules should be in place that when a company folds, the people at the bottom get their cut first so that 20,000 have some security as opposed to one having a gluttonous payday. But it would have been nice to watch the segment on TV today and learn something new. Instead, I had to watch jerkstore engage in his jerkstore ways and maek the segment a complete wash.

At the end of the segment, they cut to the weather report with Al Roker, who started off by saying "wow, that gave me a headache." Words that I imagine millions of viewers--self included--likely echoed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Just Need them for a Run, Not an Expedition to the Moon

I remember as a teen being excited about buying new gym shoes--namely those endorsed by one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. At that time, gym shoe designs were already part of pop culture, inspiring several creative and unique shoe designs. People got excited about buying a new pair of gym shoes and anticipated the release of subsequent designs.

But have you tried to buy a pair of gym shoes today? The experience is quite different and it's quite apparent that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with gym shoe design during the last five to ten years.

That's because gym shoes are looking less and less like they are being designed for a game of hoops or jog on the treadmill and more and more like hi-tech, shiny and bubbly moon boots made for a trip to outer space. Colors to choose from back then were from your basic color palette: red, blue, black, grey, white, brown, etc.

Today's shoes use fabrics that mimic the appearance of aluminum foil and gold. Combine that metallic fabric with a few LED lights that light up upon every step you take, you have a shoe that looks like a cheesy robot from a 60's television show. What's next? A shoe that yells "DANGER! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!" with every step? Or perhaps shoes that are endorsed by the Jetsons?

It makes shoe shopping quite difficult because the shiny, sparkling, swooping kicks overwhelm anything else you are wearing. Have a nice pair of Adidas track pants on? Can't tell because your shoes are currently shooting laser beams into my eyes.

And here's some clever marketing for you: now every part of gym shoes are labeled with some faux hi-tech term. Don't believe me? Take a look at the soles of your gym shoes. You'll see things that are labeled with terms like "super torsion grip bar" or "flex system dual core abrasion bridge." You know what are some better names for those items: rubber, plastic or cloth.

So, please, gym shoe makers, stop making all of your gym shoes look like they came from the prop department of original Star Trek series. How about something simple, understated and less labeled? I think you'll find that people prefer shoes that look like shoes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Outtathaway Sir Lancelot!

There are many things that annoy me while driving. Some warrant my ire--cell-phone drivers, people who prefer to drive less than four inches away from my rear bumper, Chicago traffic. Some are unwarranted--red lights, bugs splattering on my window (it seems that between the bug and me, the bug had more right to be annoyed), kids who sit backwards in the car and stare at you the entire drive.

But almost nothing irritates me more than when I see a bicyclist riding down the center of the road, creating a dangerous bottleneck, brake-fast situation for the people who are using the road for its intended purpose: driving an automobile upon it.

It's even more frustrating when you look over to the side of the road and see a perfectly clear, neatly paved sidewalk lining a parallel path along the road that the cyclist could rather use. But heavens no! How could we expect a bicyclist to ever face the burden of having to deal with the occasional ramped curb? No, it's MUCH better to make dozens of drivers screech to a 10 MPH pace and attempt a dangerous maneuver to drive around the bicyclist instead!

I understand the need for serious bicyclists to ride on more road-like surfaces to train for professional competition. But if you look on a state map, you will find hundreds upon hundreds of miles of bike paths built exclusively for bicycling. Instead, these bicyclists choose to ride on roads made for cars. And they never just choose any road to ride on. Typically, they choose to ride on the most busy road in the area and seemingly cycle exclusively during peak traffic rush times.

Imagine if you or I took our cars onto one of those bike paths and tried to get around that way? Bicyclists would find our actions dangerous. Our car would take up both lanes, forcing cyclists to strain to get around the vehicle. Our rate of speed with differ greatly from theirs, causing dangerous situations. If you ask me, it's no different than a bicyclist riding down the middle of a lane on a busy road during rush hour traffic.

What's more annoying about these bicyclists: they all appear to believe that they are the second coming of Lance Armstrong. They wear tight spandex shorts and shirts that many have no right to wear in public and those goofy helmets with the aerodynamic point coming out of the back. They're dressed for the Tour De France for a bike ride through Arlington Heights.

But the worst part: these bicyclists have organized in some places and are actually complaining about safety issues on the road, pestering government officials to pass laws and provide means of making their cycling safer. It's the equivalent of a man going into a crowded room to practice his target shooting and later complaining to lawmakers that all of the people are getting in the way of his bullets.

I know that drivers can be unsafe. I'm not justifying dangerous driving. But these cyclists too ignore the rules of the road. I heard a great story about a woman in Chicago who works as a crossing guard for an elementary school located on a busy city street. She's seen it all during her many years of experience at that corner. Bad drivers, bad accidents and dangerous situations and she doesn't approve of any of it.

One day, a bicyclist stopped and asked her if she would start yelling at drivers who are driving dangerously because he felt like his life was in danger from all of the motorists not obeying the rules of the road. Her response was swift. She asked him why none of the cyclists obey the rules of the road themselves? She asked how come all of them zip through the four-way stop signs near her intersection, why they never signal when they planned to turn, why they don't pay much attention to their surroundings.

The cyclist rode away in frustration. A feeling many a driver has felt whenever confronted with bicyclists on the road.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bottom Line + Art = Crap

MTV is just awful. Just completely awful. And for the last 10 years or so, I have avoided it like the plague because its quality has been on a consistently rapid decline every year.

The running joke with MTV has always been that they don't actually play music anymore. And it's true. Now, the channel focuses on offering its interpretation of reality TV, which consists usually of throwing a handful of attractive people in a room (who need way too much attention) and either feed them scripted lines, lots of booze or artificial drama. (Somewhere along the way, the Real World changed from being a pioneering reality show that shed light on serious issues in our culture to a drunken orgy of the ignorant and vain.)

But I can't blame MTV's suckiness totally on reality television, given that every network has cashed in on offering low-budget, low-brow reality programs that suck. What I can blame their suckiness on is when they actually do have programming based on music.

The teen in me remembers the MTV Video Awards show for being the best in the business. Diverse, unpredictable and liberated from the usual awards show stuffiness. I remember watching a member of Nirvana having a guitar knock him in the head. I remember seeing the lead singer of Garbage have a wardrobe malfunction way before Janet Jackson's Superbowl incident. I remember seeing Run DMC dominating the stage with a great performance. So, every year, when the MTV airs the awards event, it sucks me back in and I find myself glued to the TV to see if MTV will ever regain its form. But every year it gets progressively worse and I'm left disappointed and annoyed that I wasted two hours of my life.

So, I thought I'd offer some advice to MTV on how to be less sucky when it comes to producing an awards show:

1. Stop Trying to Make Stars and Start Discovering Them
This last awards show dedicated 100% of its performances to Pop or Rap artists. No alternative music. No rock bands. No electronica. No decades-long rock idols. Apparently, the MTV music world stops at Rihanna, Brittney Spears, Chris Brown, the hottest boy band of the time (Jonas Bros) and whoever has the catchiest song of the year...in this case Katy Perry. In fact, they had not one, but two performances featuring Rihanna. What used to make the show great was seeing the best of the best in all genres...not just the two.

2. Cut Down the Shameless Self Promotion
Why must every awards presenter have a movie or album coming out within the next few weeks? This awards show gave time to LL Cool J...which would be great if it were 1984. But he spent some of his time pushing his album release. What's wrong with having interesting people at the awards show who aren't using their time on camera as a commercial ad? And are CDs now parachuted out of a plane to the nearest record shop now, given that every artist says his/her album "drops" next week.

3. Mix in Some Ugly People
Music is supposed to have some ugly people in it to give it that grit. Can you imagine the Sex Pistols looking like the Jonas Bros? Or the Ramones looking like N'Sync? Music represents the rare occasion that American's embrace ugliness in their entertainment. We have loved Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Michael Stipe, Neil Young and Steven Tyler for decades, despite them all resembling something more of an alien life form than a human being. But all MTV offers is shiny white teeth, runway model types with great smiles and even better record producers to hide a lack in talent. I'm looking at you Taylor Swift.

4. Nix Rap Artists Who Sound Awful Live or Feature 37 Back-up Rappers on Stage
This is not a dis to rap music, rather it's a dis to live rap performances, nine out of ten of which sound completely horrible. Whether the artist holds the mike up to close to his/her mouth, speaks to loudly in the mic or has a posse sloppily rapping along with the artist, it all just sucks. The only live rap performances that I've seen that sounded as good or better than the recording was Outkast, Run DMC and Eminem. If MTV insists on having rap artists who can't perform well live, I would recommend having them lip sync to their songs like Christina Aguilerra did this (yes the stinky one).

5. Even Retreads Get Old
How many years in a row do we need to see Brittney Spears? How many times can you award Michael Jackson for something? How about trying to get somebody with a real, significant contribution to music be your retread if you insist on having one. Is it really that hard to come up with a new idea?

I suppose that since MTV is more of a corporate entity than anything, it shouldn't be surprising to see them so blatantly sell out every year. But what they've failed to understand is that most of us have stopped buying. We all enjoy some empty calorie candy every now and then, but eventually, we grow up and prefer actual real sustenance.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Grumpy Old Man Column

This column is going to make me sound like a grumpy old man. Not just any grumpy old man, but the grumpy old man made famous by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live (remember back when SNL was actually funny). In the routine, Carvey played an old man who complains about all of the new and improved stuff today's youth have that he never had as a kid. He would say things like:

"In my day, we didn't have video games! We just sat around and watched a potata' bake!"

"In my day we didn't have hair dryers. If you wanted to blow dry your hair you stood outside during a hurricane. Your hair was dry but you had a sharp piece of wood driven clear through your skull and that's the way it was and you liked it! You loved it."

"Life was a carnival! We entertained ourselves! We didn't need moooovin' pitchurrrres. In my day, there was only one show in town -- it was called "Stare at the sun!" ... That's right! You'd sit in the middle of an open field and stare up at the sun till your eyeballs burst into flames! And you thought, "Oh, no! Maybe I shouldn't've stared directly into the burning sun with my eyes wide open." But it was too late! Your head was on fire and people were roastin' chickens over it. ... And that's the way it was and we liked it!"

But I must admit, kids today have got it made in many ways. I often joke about how I'll have to tell my grandchildren that most homes didn't have computers until I was about 10. I will even have to tell them that the first video game system came out when I was a kid. And it will be likely they will laugh at the images of Pong they find online and tell me that I'm "oooooold!"

Kids today have high-speed Internet. HD TV. HD Video games. TVs in the back seats of the cars they ride in. Portable gaming systems. Cell phones (I still don't get why a 10 year old needs a cell phone). They have hundreds of cable channels. Wireless everything. I could go on. In many ways, the youth of today are very lucky to have so much information and entertainment available to them so conveniently. Imagine writing a paper on Shakespeare with the Internet at your fingertips. Makes you wonder if they still use the dewey decimal system at all!

But in many ways, I feel sorry for them. Some of my best days as a kid were those days I was outside playing sports with friends or letting my imagination take me on an adventure with matchbox cars and other simple toys. But I mostly feel sorry for today's kids because all of this instant gratification around every corner has helped put them in the disposition to be little dictators of their households. And parents typically give in, rather than expose them to even the briefest period of a gratification void.

For instance, how many times have you gone to a restaurant and have seen a mother hunched over asking her child what he/she would like to order? "Do you want the chicken fingers? No. Okay, how about the hamburger? No. Okay, how about a hot dog? No. Okay, how about mac and cheese? No." So now, you have a waiter standing there waiting and the other patrons at the table held hostage until little Timmy decides on what he wants to eat...which inevitably leads to him asking to have ice cream for dinner.

I recall as a child being happy to have a limited choice and a short time frame in which to decide that choice:

"Hamburger or Fish Sticks?"
"Okay, you're getting a hamburger. Go sit down."

And parents do this to their kids with everything. The moment they demand something, parents respond to them with responses as if to convince the child of the logic behind a decision. They actually attempt to reason with a four-year old. For example:

"I want that toy."
"But I want it."

"We can't get you that toy today because Christmas is coming up and you might get it as a gift. Maybe if you don't get it for Christmas, we can come back to get it. Is that okay?"

Here's how that reasoning went when I was a kid.

"I want that toy."
"Why not?"
"Because I said so."

And that was all it took, because I knew if I kept asking, not only would I not get that new toy, but I could be grounded from playing with the toys I did have. It wasn't mean or heartless parenting back then. It was disciplined and taught me to value the times when I was treated with toy or a special meal. And it taught me that you don't always get your way. And many of my friends have parents who were the exact same way.

So, yes, this column probably makes me sound old and grumpy. And that's fine. Am I envious of the fact that a nine-year old literally has the tools to put together his own movie from his desktop? Yes. Do I wish I had cartoons to watch during our long drives down to Florida for vacation? You betcha. Do I wish I had exposure to information on literally any subject I wanted to know about by simply going online? It sure would have made school much easier. Am I completely happy with my childhood? Without a doubt.

Because I know, as an adult, that people say "no" all the time, and there are times when I don't get what I want. But at least I have had the experience to know how to handle it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Red Pill? Blue Pill? Try a Reboot First.

Just like the movie, The Matrix, we are all attached to the mainframe in our professional lives and are completely useless without that connection. Think about it. Have you ever experienced a power outage or a server crash at your work? Notice when it happens, everybody in your office seems to react as if they have just been released from a coma?

They rub their eyes, look around at the office as if to realize for the first time their surroundings. They stare at each other and back at the blank computer screen. They hear birds chirping, see the sunny sky out of their window, seemingly for the first time. Then, confusion sets in. And collectively, not one person can figure out an alternate way of being productive. They walk around aimlessly like zombies, thumbs twiddling and weather discussing.

Or perhaps you've been a customer who is depending upon somebody serving you in some way, when they say "I'm sorry, my computer is down." And then they stare at you with a look that says "there is no way I can possibly do anything for you now and none of it is my fault so leave me alone."

It's all because we don't just need our computers. We REALLY NEED them. It made me start thinking that our computers likely get more attention and interaction with us than do the people we find near and dear to our hearts. So who/what gets more of your attention? Your computer or your significant other? If you think about it, your significant other likely comes in a distant second. Here's why:

Hugging, Touching, Typing
Odds are, your fingertips caress your keyboards for as much as 8 hours a day. You stroke keys likely thousands of times. Now, how many hours per day do you caress or--gulp--stroke your significant other? If you say eight, I applaud your stamina...and call you a liar.

Longing Gaze
Eye contact is an important aspect of a relationship. You stare at your computer for so long, you can feel the burn of its glow in your eyes. You stare at your significant other a fraction of time. Ironically, the both of you likely spend time together not staring at eachother...rather...staring at another screen.

Emotions, Emoticons
Admit it, you've had passionate conversations with your computer. And, by passionate conversations, I mean passionately frustrated and anger-filled rants at a box that has no intention of responding. They usually go like this:

You: What the? Why is it doing this? Did it just freeze up on me?

Computer: (silent)

You: No. No. NO! I can't lose this file! Why are you doing this?

Computer: (slight beep)

You: Why the heck are you doing this to me you S.O.B.! You better CTL+ALT+DEL or I'm throwing you through the window.

Computer: (silent)

You: I hate you. If you were a person, I'd pour sand in your gas tank and punch you in the ear.

Now, let's see the conversation you have when you're significant other crashes (or takes a nap):

Sig Other: I'm gonna take a nap.

You: Okay. I'm gonna hop online an look for shoes.

Hmmm, one seems to have more dedicated emotions than the other.

DOS, Love and Understanding
You understand your computer more than your significant other. You may even know some of the many languages computers speak, like html or other codes. You know how to navigate your system software with ease. You know your computer so well, you can predict its reactions. "I can't run Word and Excel at the same time because it acts up." Your significant other should be so lucky. Sure, you may know how to press a few of the right buttons every now and then, but odds are, you still have completely no idea of how the opposite sex really works.

An Affair to Download
Your computer isn't even enough for you. You need a little something on the side. So, you cheat on your computer with other devices that offer many of the same features your CPU does, just in a smaller package. Perhaps its a web-enabled cellphone, a blackberry, palm pilot, laptop (talk about a double entendre) or video game system, odds are you've got your sweaty little hands all over a little side CPU action. When it comes to your significant other, you know that he/she is everything you will ever need from a mate (and you should). But, unlike your CPU relationship, you actually find times and reasons to get away from your significant other...a day of shopping, fishing, or out with close friends.

Almost all of us are guilty of having more CPU QT than we should. If you want to respond to this post, stroke your keyboard keys or get your hands all over your blackberry to send your response. Or, you can just tell your significant other about it...by email of course.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Best Thing I've Read All Week...

Today's blog entry will come courtesy of this protester who interrupted the McCain speech at the Republican National Convention. I couldn't have said it any better myself.

The protester is Adam Kokesh, a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization, who fought in Falujah.

You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQJWIBj0HB4

Notice the Homer Simpson-esque chants of "USA! USA!" by the attendees?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thank God for TIVO

Television commercials used to have some sort of diversity to them. One would be a straight forward breakdown of a product, the next a jingle-based presentation, followed by an ad based on humor. However, there is a new trend in advertising and it has become quite annoying, which has me counting my blessings that I have a DVR to skip past all of the 30-second eye-rolling, sigh-inducing clips.

The trend: feature a person who has an unreasonable, uninhibited obsession of whatever is being pitched and attempt to make it funny. And it seems like every commercial uses this premise.

For example, I recently saw an ad for a product that is supposed to deodorize and scent your home. But rather than focus on the benefits of having the product, the ad instead showed a woman shoving her nose into her carpet and inhaling the odor like a bloodhound. I don't know about you, but I'm not overly eager to buy a product that is suggesting that I will snort it like a coke addict for hours on end.

Or perhaps you've seen the Burger King ads that show people on the verge of threatening physical violence upon BK employees who tell them that they no longer sell the Whopper. Makes me want to go even more so I too can be an irate jerk over a greasy sandwich.

Beer commercials are the worst. Whether the guy has created some elaborate way of sneaking, storing or protecting his stockpile of beer, or is going through elaborate schemes to lie his way to getting more drinks, the commercials often seem more like a promotion for the value of Alcoholics Anonymous than an advert for a tasty brew.

A recent ad features a person going into the new AM/PM gas station shops and going on a shopping (and cholesterol) blitz on all of the "food" the store offers. The shopper goes in to buy $10 in gas (HA! $10 dollars buys a fume these days) and opts to instead leave with a horde of Funyuns, soda, candy and those hot dogs that roll on those metal bars all day long. And I wonder how anybody in their right mind would walk into a gas station market and think "OOOH, better stock up on all the grade A, high-quality food items in here!"

There are many more. And the shame is that the message of what they're selling often gets lost in a poor, cliche attempt at humoring the viewer. And that's why I love that little button on my remote with the two triangles pointing right. If there's anything worth obsessing over, it's pressing the FFW button to skip past those ads.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Dish Best Served Disgusting

If you've ever watched the original Japanese version of Iron Chef, you may recall that many of the foods that were featured in the competitions were not only things you have never heard of or seen before, but were also stomach turning. Things like raw sea urchin, roe and eel often made viewers squeamish at their (warning: highly technical term coming) icky qualities.

But it got me thinking. I'm sure to Japanese viewers, those ingredients were not only completely normal, but also hunger inducing. I imagine a Japanese man watching and thinking "Ooh, I could really go for some octopus tentacle stew right now!"

But what if the tables were turned? Although there is an Iron Chef America on television now featuring more Western cuisine, it does not feature some of the weirdest foods that we as Americans eat. Foods that Japanese would probably see and say "That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. How do they eat that!"

Here are some examples of food items that Japanese would think is weird or gross that would make for a great ingredient in an Iron Chef America competition:

Nacho Cheese -- I'm talking about that stuff you get at a baseball game that is called "cheese" but is more likely some combination of oil, thickening agents, food coloring, artificial flavoring and artery cloggers. It's really a mystery goop that looks less like a food item than it does an industrial-strength lubricant.

Hot Dogs -- I know, I know. Easy target. But hot dogs are really just casings of mystery meat. And the closer you look at them, the less they look like meat. Whenever the words "mystery meat" are involved, it automatically makes the list.

Anything made by Chef Boyardee -- Mmmmm, a thick ketchup-like sauce soaked in soggy pasta noodles and mixed with something that looks like some sort of beef, but may actually be dog food. I imagine if you served this to an Italian for dinner, he'd promptly stand up and punch you in the face.

Fillet O' Fish Sandwich -- Greasy, fried frozen fish. Warm mayonnaise-based condiment. And American Cheese. I know I've picked on fast food before, but I'm not sure this item technically counts as a real "food" item. It may be food-flavored product.

Movie Theatre Butter -- See Nacho cheese sauce entry above.

Meat Loaf -- Let's make a loaf of bread, but instead of using flour, let's use ground meat instead! Yummy! And better, because it's so thick, it will more than likely be completely dried out by the time it's cooked.

Cranberry sauce -- Not the stuff that has actual real cranberries in it, but that stuff you see at Thanksgiving that requires you to slice it up into serving portions. Some genius thought "I bet cranberry sauce would be so much better if we took all of the fruit out of it and substituted it with gelatin product!"

Chocolate-flavored Yogurt -- In theory, it sounds like it'd be great. Chocolate = good. Yogurt = good. Chocolate yogurt = instant stomach ache. It's like putting a dollop of sour cream on top of a bowl full of chocolate ice cream.

The list could go on to include things like deep fried candy bars, White Castle sliders, pop tarts and more. I guess the cuisine you enjoy is the cuisine with which you are the most familiar. Don't get me wrong. I won't be enjoying a bowl of tentacle soup anytime soon. But I may just pass on that order of nachos the next time I'm at the game.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Machine Wash Cold. Made of Evil and Cotton.

As election time heats up, it gets me thinking about something that we as Americans love to use obsessively. It's something we use to define anybody or anything that we do not have enough time or motivation to define for ourselves. And it's something that we use to help us not only make decisions, but also tells us how to think about somebody or something. What is it? Labels.

We love our labels. It makes tough decisions easier to make and gives us more time to catch up on important news, like what Gwen Paltrow is naming her next baby. (My bet is on the name "Pretentious.")

Let's face it. We're lazy. We're so lazy that we not only prefer to judge a book by its cover, but good luck getting us to spend time to even read the three paragraphs written on the inside of the sleeve. Nope. The colorful pictures on the outside...and the various fonts used...are enough to tell us all we need to know.

Labels are often used to decieve or twist the truth. And those who use those labels know we're too lazy to validate them. That's why you hear them everywhere you go, especially in the world of politics. (Anybody remember how Howard Dean got labeled with "BEEAAWHHHH!" during his campaign?)

To give you an example of how labels are used in the land o' politics, let's pretend that the Sun is running against the Moon for the Presidency of Earth. And, then, lets see what labels each foe would assign to the other during the campaign (and how the truth is so easily twisted).

SUN: I will provide you with 12 hours of nourishing daylight.

MOON: The sun will abandon you for 12 hours a day, leaving you to fend for yourself in the cold, dark night. He's no better than the French!

MOON: I will use my gravitational pull to regulate the ocean's tide, thereby preserving the Earth's delicate ecosystem.

SUN: The moon has killed countless amount of people due to its irresponsible gravitational pull, creating millions of deadly undertow situations. Gravitational pull or murderous waves? What do you think?

SUN: My rays will warm the planet, making it inhabitable for your species.

MOON: Don't get burned by the sun's rays! Not only does the sun make your air conditioning bills more expensive, but the sun's rays can also give you skin cancer. Warming rays or Deadly Beams? You decide.

MOON: I provide the light you need when the sun abandons you every night.

SUN: The moon uses a reflection of my light and claims it as his own. And he has the audacity to say he shows up every night when it's a fact that he is often only 5 percent there and is rarely ever there at night in full. Can you really trust the moon, when the moon can't even be trusted to show up 100% of the time and is guilty of light plagiarism?

SUN: I am a humble orb that came from humble means. Although I got my start from a supernova, I worked very hard for every bit of hydrogen I own.

MOON: The sun is full of gas. He has ties with hundreds of corporate solar energy giants and has a tons of stock in the sun-dried tomato industry. Humble Orb or Corporate Insider? You tell me.

MOON: I have welcomed visitors from your species. I have an open door policy for anybody to visit. The sun welcomes nobody.

SUN: The moon's open door policy has been a little too open if you ask me. Sure, he's had a few humans come visit. But he's also had several affairs on his Saturn moon wife Rhea over the years. He's fathered several illegitimate moon children along the way, including Selmeeb, Hocatoon and Rosie O'Donnell. Can you vote for a planet responsible for giving you Rosie O'Donnell? I think not.

MOON: That's because I believe in a right to life.

SUN: But you support the death penalty. Talk about a contradiction.

And so on. You get the point. I guess the best way to understand something beyond its title is to actually research it. Back to my Oprah Book Club book...now with more Oprah-y content. Or so the label says.