Monday, December 26, 2005

Don't Get: Guns as Toys

Us WASPs had a big week this week. We celebrated the birth of our savior by giving lots of gifts to each other. We don't have enough electrons here to discuss the commercialism of Christmas (Christmercialism?) so I won't get into that whole scene but it was through this transaction of gift-giving that my five year-old son ended up with his first gun - two guns actually. Yep, five years old and the proud owner of two guns. Along with his remote controlled Jeep Grand Cherokee, some Lego stuff (how rich is THAT guy?) and a nifty telescope, Jack received a dart gun and some other plastic contraption with all kind of sounds and noises and a laser sight! Yes, these guns have orange tips on them so the cops don't think they're real, but it just doesn't taste right for a kid to receive a gun as a toy.

I live in the beautiful state of Michigan where hunting is pretty serious business. Every year on November 15, all kinds of folks head out into the woods to shoot deer. The preparation for this day begins immediately following the last day of the previous year's season and involves lots of camo, pick-up trucks and guns. I have no problem at all with this activity but, in case you hadn't guessed by now, I'm more into blogs than guns. I'm not into it but, if you are, by all means enjoy your time sitting in the woods. As a matter of fact, I'll be glad to eat some of the venison that you bring into work or family gatherings.

I have plenty of friends and family who participate in the whole November 15 ritual. I've shared my feelings about guns with a few of them and they assure me that they teach their kids to treat guns with the utmost respect. Always assume the gun is loaded, they say. You're darned right, you better be afraid/respectful of a gun! Gun as hunting implement, I get.

And as much as I know that I would totally curl up in the fetal position if I was ever sent off to fight in a war someplace, I also get the idea of gun as diplomat. My brother-in-law did more than his share of time in Iraq and I really respect him for doing his thing over there. I haven't quizzed him too much about what went on but I don't think he was in the fetal position. It's hard to spread democracy with your head between your knees. Crap goes on in the world that requires the diplomacy that only an M-16 can bring and I'm cool with OTHER people taking care of business. I think that George has a hard time admitting he was wrong or even adjusting the game plan but now that we're messing around over there, I'm behind the guys 100%. George didn't get my vote in either election, but whatever...

But hunting and war are different than toys under the Christmas tree. Jack now jumps out from behind the recliner and shoots. He crawls on his 5 year-old stomach under the kitchen table and shoots. He sneaks up on stuff and shoots it. I guess my concern is that if would ever somehow get a real gun in his hands, he wouldn't be able to separate the pretend shooting from the real thing. Believe me, he gets an earful from me if he points the gun at a person and I'm happy to say that he's learned that lesson mighty quick! Suffice to say that Jack isn't copying this behavior from me and believe it or not, I'm not dumb enough to think that I can shelter him from all this stuff. For that matter, I didn't just throw the guns in the garbage either. I think the jury is still out on whether completely hiding guns from a kid is better than having them around the house, so I guess the best thing I can do is to not promote it but also not treat guns like they're completely forbidden. This is really testing my parenting skills!

Don't worry, this is NOT the place where I get on my soapbox and prattle on about violence on TV or XBox games and try to blame society for somehow teaching my kid how to "cover" his buddy. All of that is true, but this isn't the place where I will be doing that. (How is it that so many of us aren't active gun users but we "know" so much about guns?) I'm not necessarily a big fan of Michael Moore, but I AM necessarily not a big fan of Charlton Heston.

So you see, I don't really have a problem with guns, per se. I have a problem with a gun as a toy. It just doesn't make sense! In what way is a gun a toy? Toy = Legos. Toy = Skateboard. Toy = Train Set. Toy does not = Gun. How is shooting a gun something that I would want my little kid to think is fun? Guns are very powerful and demand the respect that my hunter friends say they have. Legos only hurt when you step on them.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Hate: Bad Service

Perhaps you've been able to tell by now, but I'm an impatient sort. I don't want you in my way at the grocery store and it bugs me when my wife digs around in her purse/steamer trunk for the car keys. I don't have enough time in the day to do all the things that I want, so waiting for other people isn't something that I enjoy. I've become especially impatient and intolerant of bad service because, in the end, it means that you are just sucking more time right out of my watch and that just takes away from being able to do the important stuff in my life like, you know, sitting around.

This topic was prompted by a trip to the mall with my lovely bride last weekend. I know what you are thinking. Yes, I went to the mall a week before Christmas. Yes, I should have been more patient and tolerant in light of the whole Jesus thing. Yes, I should have known that everyone in the entire world would be at the very same mall bothering me. Anyway, I experienced some pretty crappy service and I just had to share my feelings with you . Can't a brother just expect the lackies earning their $6.50 per hour (plus a 10% discount from the store!) to do their jobs?!

We were looking for a gift for her dad. Some kind of goofy things that you strap on your shoes to prevent you from slipping while you walk. We could debate whether this gift was going to be any good or not (Amy has the very same thing and has yet to use them but she wants to get a pair for her dad?) but that would take time away from talking about the Employee of the Month at Dick's Sporting Goods.

So we're kind of wandering around looking for these things. We have that look about us that just screams "I hate everyone here and if you could just point me in the right direction, I'll be happy to spend my greenbacks on your overpriced crap so I can then stand in line with the rest of the sheep". Finally, I make eye contact with Skippy and ask him if they carry these stupid things. I knew I was in trouble when he kind of scrunched up his face like he had bitten into a bug and repeated what I asked him. I could hear the little gears turning in his little melon and then grind to a halt as if someone had poured a bucket of sand in there. With great confidence, he announced that, despite the enormous catalog of inventory that Dick's carries, they do not have such an item. While unfortunate that I would have to traipse off to another store, it was even more unfortunate that I saw an entire rack of these goofy things not 50 feet from where Junior had just told me that they weren't! (If that didn't make sense, it means that Dick's really does carry these things and the high school punk had no clue but lulled me into a false sense of security by speaking "confidently".) So off I went to buy the boot traction things and Sporto no doubt went off spreading more bad information. I know that I shouldn't expect much from a chump making $6.50 an hour but come on! If that's what you signed up for, at least do your friggin' job! Maybe Dick's is a little overwhelming for him. Perhaps a place like Hot Topic would be more his speed where the junior high girls aren't as demanding as impatient bastards like me .

Here's another example - and much shorter! I was at Starbuck's (imagine that!) in Meijer's the other day. As we all know, my VentiNonfatNoWhipMocha costs $3.76. Because I didn't want to get a whole bunch of change back, I gave the chick a fiver and a penny. The problem was that I gave her the penny AFTER she had already rung up my mocha goodness. Good God, you'd think I asked her to perform some sort of calculus right on the spot! See, normally her nifty little cash register would have told her to give me $1.24 but now I had given her the extra penny and she froze up like she had stepped on a rusty nail when she was a little kid and the lockjaw had just now set in. She kind of made that bug-biting face and let me know that she "isn't very good in math" and looked pleadingly at me to take back my penny. Standing my ground, I gave her the penny and let her know that the change should be a buck and a quarter. "Not very good at math", she said. She should have said "I'm pretty stupid and I can't think for myself so please don't mess me up by giving me money after the cash register tells me what to do." Again, this transaction took valuable seconds away from watching another video of a guy getting hit in the nuts by the fat kid on his little league team and who wants to miss that?

OK, last example. Most of my monthly bills are automatically deducted from my vast fortune every month insteading of mailing them in. One of those bills is from the evil cable company. Don't get me started on these guys but one month they screwed up and didn't get their grubby mitts on my money. So what do you think they did? They took twice the usual amount the next month. So I got on the horn to the idiots at Charter Communications and asked them what the deal was. It seems that they had a software upgrade that went awry and they weren't able to take their money in the first month so they just helped themselves to my loot in the second month. Huh? What? Does that seem fair to you? You snooze, you lose, man! Let me just say here that you don't want to screw me in the money department. I don't have that much in the first place so I get pretty protective of it. I proceeded to chew on the ear of the Charter person until I thought I was going to have a grabber - all for about $100 that they were entitled to in the first place. Yes, I fully acknowledge that it was no big deal for them to delay their debit a month and the mortgage company wasn't going to change the locks on my house, but that's not the point. The point is that all this crap is done electronically and there is no reason why my little life should be affected by your electrons going haywire. If you have a software "upgrade" (now they can play solitaire and minesweeper online!) have a backup plan, you dolts! People do this stuff all the time. That's what IT nerds are for.

For those of you who think I'm just a whining pain in the ass, allow myself to explain.... myself. This country is becoming more and more service orientated (love that "word" almost as much as irregardless!) and yet I get crappy service! What's up with that? I work in the automotive industry so I see plenty of manufacturing jobs moving to our amigos in Mexico and our (whatever the Chinese word is for "friends") in China. This is done usually because the labor is cheaper and, if those folks can make the same widget with the same quality, then more power to the capitalists who want to reduce their costs. If the punk at Dick's was smart (of course, by definition, he isn't) he would strive to be the best darn flunkie he could be or we might ship his service sector job over to India like Microsoft has done.

Please stop before you try to explain global economics to me. I don't care about the globe. I'm mostly interested in me. Please improve your math skills. Please improve your knowledge of the company for which you work. Please program your software so that it does what it's supposed to do. And, for the love of Pete, quit sucking the time out of my watch!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dig: America's Funniest Videos

What a concept: Put out the word out to the American public that you want to make an entire TV show out of their home videos. Genius! Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame, right? Even better if I'm the producer of my own little film! After collecting countless hours of video from countless family gatherings, and stupid pet/human tricks, I'd be glad to send it straight to your living room so you can share in my glee! I'm sure you'll enjoy movies of my grandma's bridge tournament as much as I do!

So what does it take to produce such a great addition to American culture? As it turns out, not a whole lot. Get a B-List (C-List?) host, a set with lots of "video" related items (monitors, "film" on the wall, old TV sets), an audience of 100 nice folks visiting Hollywood on their summer vacation and a check for $10k and you're good to go. When Friends was on the air, each cast member was getting like a zillion dollars per episode or something like that and there were multiple sets, so each episode cost a good chunk of money to put together. How much can AFV cost? Including the $10,000 for the winner, the budget has to be about $10,005.78 per episode. And most of that comes from the extra garbage cans they had to buy to throw away those big old bulky VHS tapes! The version of the show with Daisy Fuentes might cost slightly more for her outfits but I would argue that getting Daisy into a slinky little number to introduce the next video of Uncle Bob splitting his pants while bowling is worth it.

So while we're comparing this stroke of genius to Friends, I gotta tell you that I laugh out loud a lot more at a little kid hitting his mom in the head with a stick when he misses the birthday pinata than when Joey makes yet another inane comment about his next audition. I've heard actors and writers say that a comedy is much harder to produce than a drama. And certainly, a lot of it depends on the delivery. If you tried to write a script for the little kid to hit the candy-filled donkey twice and on the third time whack his mom in the head, it just wouldn't work. But when Junior is swinging for the fences (or the Jolly Ranchers) and clocks mom in her melon, you can't fake the humor when mom drops like a ton of bricks and Skippy goes back to the pinata for the candy. You just can't write comedy like that! The only thing that Friends has over AFV is the babes - unless the now-unconscious mom happens to be a hottie but that's rarely the case.

Sorry to throw another list at you, but allow me to expand a little on some of my fave types of videos that are presented on the show:

Guy Getting Hit in the Nuts: You can't go wrong with this one, folks! And there are so many variations. You got your basic "dad teaching kid how to hit a baseball and the kid hits one back to dad right in the nuts", the ever-popular "dad wresting kid on the living room floor and kid kicks dad in the nuts" and of course, the "golf/billiards/softball game with ball somehow hitting guy in nuts". The reaction is always the same, though: guy drops everything that he is doing, grabs his nuts and drops to the ground. Every guy in the audience winces and does a sympathy nut-grab but they're all laughing because it ain't them that feels like their stomach is bing pulled out sideways. Now that's rich! If there was an All Guy-Getting-Hit-In-The-Nuts channel, I'd pay $9.95 a month for it! AFV is good at stringing together about 20 of these videos together and setting it to music, often Yakkity-Sax (you know, the theme to Benny Hill). Funny saxophone music and crotch shots? That's pure gold!

Cool Sporting Feats: These have quite a range to them. Anything from buzzer-beating half-court shot to a multiple-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown (a la Cal vs. Stanford) to a dragster bursting into flames as it races down the track. Those things are just sweet and the reason I dig them is because they don't happen all the time. Yet, for some reason, somebody had their nifty little Sony out and captured the whole thing on video for me to enjoy in the comfort of my living room. Ever see the clip of the homerun ball that hits a dude right on his head as he is riding by on his bike? What's up with that?! That's your basic bad luck, people - thanks for sharing!. How about all those nut-jobs doing crazy stunts on their motorcycles a million feet up in the air? That's messed up - yet so cool! Lastly, two more words for you: Joe Theisman. How many times have you seen that nasty clip of his leg getting bent the wrong way? It's so nasty and yet if it were to come on in the middle of whatever TV show you are glued to, you know damn well you'd watch it. Joe would totally have won the ten grand on AFV if he had submitted the tape.

Wedding Videos: I'm not talking about the videos where everything goes right. I'm talking about the ones where the groom passes out at the altar. Or the ones where the mother of the bride leans over to light a candle and her hair catches on fire. And who can resist the bridesmaid who gets all boozed up and gets all out of control on the dance floor and ends up wiping out with her light blue prom/bridesmaid dress over her head! This is quality entertainment at its finest! Sorry that you spent a million dollars at your wedding and the only thing that people remember from it is the divorcee' throwing elbows to catch the bouquet! Even better, it's all on video! On a recent episode of AFV, the bride forgot that she was wearing a microphone and leaned over to the poor sap who was marrying her and announced that she wasn't wearing underwear. Underwear itself is funny. Letting the world know on your wedding day that you're going commando is a riot!

Wipe-Outs of One Type or Another: Guy makes birthday cake. Guy lights all 68 candles on cake. Guy steps on cat. Guy falls face first into cake catching hair on fire. Kid puts out fire with with pitcher of Kool-Aid. How is that NOT funny! Give that man $10,000!

OK, so maybe it ain't Shakespeare. It probably ain't even Aaron Spelling (of Melrose Place fame). And I certainly won't comment on the hosts (except to further stress the hotness of Daisy Fuentes). But you want to make me laugh? Forget about Chandler Bing. Give me a fat guy (fat guys are always funny) doing bellyflops in his above-ground pool causing the sides to collapse flooding his kid's birthday party! Now THAT'S funny!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Don't Get: Fantasy Football

I have a few friends who do the whole fantasy football thing. I don't. Mostly because I don't get what the attraction is. There are fantasy leagues out there for just about every sport, I'm sure. You could maybe talk to me about a fantasy hockey league for a few minutes and I could get a warm feeling in my heart for the Red Wings, but do NOT waste my time on a NASCAR fantasy league. Other than admiration for the marketing genius who somehow got NASCAR into the mainstream, I have no interest in NASCAR. Again, nice work on building an empire out of driving in circles, but don't let me interrupt your pork rinds and PBR.

Maybe you're like my friend Warren who is a huge sports fan. Doesn't matter what sport. You want to know Bill Buckner's lifetime batting average? Warren can hook you up. He even knows who came in second in a given sporting event. I had to type "super bowl 23" into Yahoo to find out who played, but Warren could tell you that San Francisco beat Cincinnati by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the win. So he's a big sports fan. I got it. He's also about the world's nicest guy. He's the kind of guy who would jumpstart your car for you at 3 in the morning and even bring treats from home for you. Thanks, Warren!

But does being a big sports fan mean that you are automatically a big fantasy sports fan? One of my other friends (who is an idiot) says that this fantasy football business is just a big male bonding activity. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with football, he would say. At that point, I would say to him that he is an idiot (mostly because I just like calling him an idiot). He digs the coming together of a sport that he digs and the internet which he also digs. That's fine. If you dig two things and you dig it even more when those things come together, then I say be my guest. I guess I just don't dig something over which I don't have any control (the NFL) enough to worry about it. I do dig the internet but its usually related to stalking people and the penalties are getting pretty stiff for that kind of activity. Want to bond with me? Let's skip the football talk and get right down to drinking beer! Can't drink as much when you're blathering on about Tom Brady's completion percentage.

I'm sure my manhood will be challenged by those of you who enjoy fantasy football. Be my guest (again). And while you're at it, you can kiss my ass. I just need to know why it is fun to create your own football "team", compare how they do against other "teams", trade "players" for other "players" and then celebrate a "victory". Please note the quotation marks. I've placed them there to emphasize that these are not real players, teams or victories. It's pretend, people! Just like my son pretends he's Zorro. Or Darth Vader. Darth Vader is cool and all, but until Junior gets his own light saber and can demonstrate his use of the Force, I'm not falling for it.

If you're really into football, maybe you should PLAY football, not just fantasize about it. If you tell me that the reason you are into fantasy/pretend football is because you are old like me, that's fine. I'm down with that. Your body can't take the punishment that comes along with a chop block or an open field tackle? Then maybe fantasy football IS for you. I'm just not sure where to draw the line. Why football? Work can sometimes dish out some mental punishment. Why not have a fantasy work league where you write a fantasy resume, accept a fantasy job and cash a fantasy paycheck? Might be a little tricky to pay the bills with those fantasy dollars but it's a good way to avoid doing actual work.

Or if you're like Warren and just generally a big sports fan, why not collect baseball cards? Maybe you will stumble onto a Honus Wagner rookie card and sell it for a boatload of money. I suppose you can gamble with fantasy sports to make a few bucks, but there's always the chance that you will have to resort to volunteering for medical experiments if you pick a bad "team".

Maybe I need to find something to be that passionate about. I'm pretty passionate about sitting on my ass. I also dig watching TV - while sitting on my ass. Are there fantasy Watching-TV-While-Sitting-On-My-Ass leagues?

Could it be that I am in the wrong here? Could be. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. I just don't get it. Looking forward to your comments.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dig: Taking the Day Off

So my wife is a teacher. For most of the day yesterday and a good part of last night, it snowed and blowed ("blew" doesn't rhyme) so she was rewarded with a phone call at about 5:30 this morning with her two favorite words: Snow Day. For those of you folks in Arizona or Africa or someplace who aren't typically eligible to receive a ticket in the Snow Day lottery, a Snow Day happens when the superintendant of the school system determines that the roads are too dangerous for buses to be out and about and therefore the future of our country gets the day off from learning. My wife would tell you that if you see "blowing and drifting" in the forecast, you're golden. Well, there wasn't much snow to drift, but it sure was blowing so the roads got pretty slippy, as my grandma used to say. It was really crappy driving home from work yesterday so I was pulling for her to get the day off. Mind you, she's stuck with our three brats all day but she can put them into SpongeBob-induced comas if necessary. So that brings me to something that I dig - a day off.

I've never been to prison or held hostage in a 7-11 robbery gone bad, but I am a middle-management corporate suck-ass father of three and husband of one who seems to get more work thrown at me with not enough time/people to do it. So the freedom that comes at the end of the day prior to taking the day off is the kind of freedom that I'm sure Martin Luther King was talking about. Assuming you aren't taking the day off to get a root canal or an audit from the IRS or a visit to the proctologist, you can petty much just take that big old weight that you carry around on your shoulders, hand it to the poor sap who has to be a contributing member of society while you turn into a slacker for the day and just skip on out into the sunshine. Yes, the sun always shines on the day off. You could be living in Seattle, where it rains all the frickin' time or here in Michigan where it snows half the year but the clouds will part for a brief moment allowing the sun to shine through and the angels to sing. As soon as you go into day-off mode, life is good and you are untouchable.

Again, as long as you don't have anything to do relating to gloved fingers and Vaseline (unless you're into that sort of thing), you have the whole world in front of you. Want to stay up late watching stupid shows on cable? Go for it! Booze it up so much that you do a little drunk dialing during David Letterman? Be my guest, 'cause you don't have to work tomorrow! Just don't get so drunk that you forget to turn off your alarm, because if you get up at the same time on your day off that you do on days that you go to work, you need counseling. Days off are for sleeping in. I recognize that there are people out there who enjoy getting up early. But those people clearly have issues that we simply don't have time to discuss here. Sometimes I have grand plans to get up at 6, run a quick 10 miles by 7:30, re-shingle the roof by 10, feed the poor by noon and then spend the rest of the afternoon working on my doctoral thesis. However, this doesn't usually happen and I am content to spend my day off only getting so far as to use the oven instead of the microwave to cook dinner.

Having a day off is like finding a $20 in your pocket that you thought you lost the last time you went to the casino. That's free money, baby, and a day off is free time. Time that is normally given to someone else. If you're like me, you spend most of your life at someone else's mercy. Work, kids, wife, bills, and just generally The Man. Well, The Man won't get me down on my day off! You want something out of me on John Day? Tough luck, Junior, I'm not punched in today! Don't try to call an 11:00 meeting, because that's when I'll be playing Plinko with my friends on The Price is Right in hopes of getting to the Showcase Showdown! And I hope you don't expect me to go someplace that is offended by unshaven people in sweats and old baseball caps, because I don't get all dolled up on my day off. If you need me to do some research on the Great Wall of China, you might be in luck if there is something on the National Geographic channel. If not, you're S.O.L.

Appropriately enough, one of my fave movies is Ferris Bueller's Day Off. There is a scene when Ferris, Sloane and Cameron are at the Cubs game and Ferris says to Cameron something about normally being in Phys. Ed. at that time. They both give a little laugh like they have totally gotten away with something. Certainly, they HAD gotten away with skipping out of school, but even for us yahoos who have to have our vacation time approved by HR, there is still that feeling of "everybody else is at the salt mine being good little worker bees and here I am in my favorite sweatpants scratching myself while I watch reruns of those reality show whores on Road Rules vs. Real World." The ONLY natural response to that feeling is that cheshire-cat, smug little Ferris Bueller kind of chuckle to yourself. You've been making deposits into that bank of time all your life and now it's time for a little withdrawal. Hand over my time, little Banker-Man, I'm going to piss some of it away! And don't even think about judging me for "wasting" a day off by doing nothing. This time is mine. It's bad enough that I don't get to earn interest on it, but I'll do whatever I want it with it, thank you very little.

And that's the bottom line here. My time is valuable, people, and there's a lot of crap I want to get done. One of the things that I want to do is sit on my arse. Yep, I go to work and meetings and stuff. Yep, I do the dad and husband thing. Sorry, I haven't gotten around to my Ph. D. yet. All I'm saying is cut me some slack and allow me to enjoy that feeling of sweet freedom that Tim Robbins felt at the end of Shawshank Redemption. The rest of you schlubs keep making those little hash marks in your cells/cubes. If you need me, don't call, because John Day ranks right up there with fishing out the secret decoder ring from a box of FrankenBerry cereal.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hate: Women's Purses

Ladies, I apologize if you don't carry around a purse the size of Montana stuffed with lots of crap like my mom and wife do. Also, if you have just a couple of purses, then this post isn't for you. I haven't had a lot of experience with different women's purses so I'm basing my hate on a sample size of two. Because I like to make broad, sweeping generalizations, however, I'm going to include all females over the age of 16 in this discussion. If you feel like you are being wrongly accused, feel free to go watch a movie on Lifetime or watch Dr. Phil or admire your Longaburger basket collection while I vent.

Being the good husband that I am, I was cleaning out our front closet recently. In addition to the various hats, mittens, jackets, shoes and backpacks stuffed in there, I found TWELVE purses. One short of a baker's dozen! Innocently enough, I suggested to my wife that she had too many purses. She looked at me, blinked a couple of times and then walked away. Having a lot of purses must make you deaf because she obviously didn't hear me. Either that, or she finds nothing wrong with having that many purses and did everything but say "I find nothing wrong with having that many purses. Shut up. Go make yourself useful by taking out the garbage."

So we have the issue of just the sheer number of purses. We also have the issue of their size. Certainly, the size of the purse is related to the amount of crap that is stuffed into said purse. We'll address that next but I'm going to write to my congressman (if I knew who it was) suggesting a tax on any purse larger than twice the size of a man's wallet. I think I'm being generous here. There really is no reason for chicks to carry anything bigger than my leather tri-fold but I didn't want to appear insensitive. (Just between you and me, though, I AM insensitive but I don't want to APPEAR insensitive. Big difference.) Similar to the "sin" taxes on cars that get crappy gas mileage, I'm proposing that a purse that is deemed too large will carry a $100 tax that will be used to build more golf courses. Girls, if you would like to carry around a big-ass purse, that's fine. The consolation for me is that every time you do, I'll be that much closer to enjoying a little pasture pool with my buddies. It's a win-win! Some people might suggest that the money be used to fund something stupid like schools or roads or blind people or hurricane victims. I'm going to take a strong stance on this one, though. Just don't tell the blind people or the people living in squalor in Louisiana. Or is "living in squalor" and "Louisiana" redundant?

The thing that I hate most is the amount of useless crap that is found in a given purse. Archeological digs don't turn up as many ancient artificacts as what you might find in one of my mom's purses. Just last week, the FBI stopped by to look for Jimmy Hoffa in one of her purses! It's a bottomless pit, people! In addition to the paper money (all singles, in our case) is a forest of receipts. I can assure you these are receipts for stupid stuff. Nothing cool like ipods or plasma TV's. These are receipts for pillow shams, decorative figurines and groceries for the family. You know, dumb stuff. If I have a receipt in my wallet, it would be for beer or a new transmission for the car or something manly like that. After I drink the beer, there is no reason for the receipt so I dispose of it properly. My wife, however, has receipts from 1983 in her purse! She will have the receipt for the slippers she bought in 1994 but do you think she has the receipt for the crappy plastic kids toy that broke after the first day so we can take it back to the store to get our money back? If you said, "ain't no way", you are absolutely correct.

My wife's purse and my mom's purse both smell the same. Due to the large amount of gum wrappers, wadded up dollar bills and the leather from the purse itself, the smell that wafts out of the purse when it's opened up to buy another pair of shoes or man-bashing book is enough to bring any man to tears. Imagine the smell of a cow rubbed all over with dollar bills handled by coal miners, ditch diggers and outhouse cleaners then "freshened" with a million wrappers from Trident Cinnamon gum or Wrigley Big Red. Throw in the smell of lint and old lipstick for good measure and you have the makings for something that Sadaam would feel guilty about using against the Kurds. My wallet, despite resting on my right butt cheek all day long, smells better than the purse from hell!

While I'm in a pissy mood, let's talk about the idea of me carrying your purse for you. I know there are men out there who carry purses. I also know there are men out there who prefer Ken to Barbie, if you know what I mean. I honestly don't care which team you play for but please don't carry a purse. There is no good way for a man to carry a purse either his own or his wife's. What am I going to do, sling it over my shoulder? Carry it by the handle where it will inevitably clash with my shoes? I don't think so! The best way to do it is to tuck it under my arm and kind of carry it like a football. Obviously, the whole time that I am in possession of the "football", I will have to avoid eye contact with anyone. Every once in a while, I might get a knowing look from another poor sap of a husband but usually I'll just get stares from small children as they are whisked away, eyes shielded, by their concerned parents.

So there you have it. Ladies - it's time to man-up and start carrying a wallet in your back pocket. All you really need is your driver's license, $50 and a credit card (No, that does not mean you can rack up a huge balance on the credit card!) The rest of the crap that you carry can be strewn about your minivan for all I care.

There, I feel better now.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hate: Overpriced Things

Many of the things that I will be sharing with you in this whole blog thing will probably be painfully obvious. I'm guessing that this is one of them. Just like Beavis (or was it Butthead?) said: I don't like things that suck!

As I said in an earlier post, I am addicted to mocha latte's from Starbucks. I love them. If I could, I would marry a mocha latte'. I would buy it a ring, walk down the aisle with it and exchange vows with it. After a nice reception and dancing to the chicken dance, we would jet off to the Mediterranean for a week and then settle down for a nice little life. However, besides that I hate the frickin' chicken dance, I couldn't afford it. I've already resigned myself to the fact that my kids will be going to community college because I spend so much money on VentiNonfatNowhipMochaLatte's. Imagine how much I would spend if I was married to it! If those things weren't so damned overpriced, though, my kids could still attend a good college. Which brings me to today's silliness.

I work in the auto industry, the most screwed-up industry in the world. Understanding and reducing cost is a big part of my job and one of the things that I've learned is that cost and price don't have anything to do with each other. Boys and girls, how much do you think it costs to make that beloved mocha latte' of mine? Let's just make some big broad guesses, shall we? For the purposes of today's discussion, we'll leave out the cost of the herion. Milk = 25 cents, mocha goodness = 50 cents, cup = 10 cents, lid = 5 cents, java jacket = 5 cents. According to my cypherin' that adds up to a cool 95 cents. Ok, maybe I have to add in 25 cents to send to Mecca (that would be Starbuck's HQ) for various marketing and overhead crap. Now I'm up to $1.20. MSRP on this stuff is $3.55. That means that Mr. Starbuck is getting $2.35 in profit for every one they sell! Good God, people!! Perhaps the UAW wokers at Delphi should start making mocha latte's instead of poorly-designed, poorly-manufactured widgets for the overstuffed, backwards-thinking, fat-cats at GM! Imagine a whole factory churning out mocha latte's with 200% profit margin on every one. Mind you, Delphi would surely screw it up given enough time, but for a while that would be a sweet gig!

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of capitalism. This is true despite some graffiti that I saw in Ann Arbor way back when I was in school that said simply "capitalism, schmapitalism" that still makes me chuckle today. I also understand the whole concept of supply and demand but I'm not prepared to pull a Rosa Parks and boycott Starbuck's. She is a bigger man than I am in that regard and she's dead and a woman besides! If you can make a buck or two or three, my brother, you just go right ahead. I just don't like it when it's so obvious. If you're going to screw me, at least turn out the lights so I don't see you doing it!

What's worse than getting hosed by overpriced stuff is when the price of really overpriced stuff goes down so it's only overpriced instead of really overpriced. I have one word for you: gasoline. It's a great day when gas is ONLY $2.25, isn't it my fellow sheep?! Hey, everybody,I got a great deal on gas today - it was only $2.19! Huh?! What?! Exsqueeze me?! Since when is that a good deal? I'll tell you when - When you compare it to the hosejob we were getting when it was $2.99, that's when! Our European friends have no sympathy for us because they've been getting hosed for years. I'm sure Jean-Claude is having a laugh over his croissant at us Yankee dogs having to pay that much for a gallon of petrol. Bite me, Jean-Cleaude!

I actually went to to understand the price breakdown of gasoline. According to this highly informational website, the two big components of gas PRICE are refining and crude oil. (Please see above where I mention that cost and price don't have anything to do with each other...) Makes sense. A couple months ago, those poor bastards in New Orleans had to dodge flying oil rigs which cut into the daily production of crude oil - I understand that. Apparently, though, the big oil companies are able to still eke out a little money at this game because both British Petroleum (BP) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) are back to trading at the same price as they were prior to the Hurricane-o-Rama. As a matter of fact, for the first month after Katrina hit, both stocks increased in value. If you're a stockholder, you'll be happy to know that both are trading about $20 higher than where they were 2 years ago. If you're just a schlub like me driving a bunch of miles to work every day, you might not care so much.

I'm convinced that the CEO's of the oil companies got together and created those hurricanes themselves. I can just picture them setting down their brandy snifters just long enough to wring their hands together as they discuss ways to create an "emergency" so they can drive up prices:
Oil CEO #1 (while wringing hands): I need more money. $1000000000000 isn't enough!
Oil CEO #2 (in full hand-wringing mode): I'm as rich as God! Too bad I can't control the weather like God does."
Oil CEO #1: That's it, by Jiminy! I'll have one of my minions create a few hurricanes!
Oil CEO #2: Great idea! Just don't let that punk George Bush screw it up! He'll have everyone out buying hybrids. That boy seems to have forgotten how he got his money to buy his presidency!
Oil CEO #1: Good point. I'll make sure that it hits New Orleans. Lots of Black people there and you know how George hates them!
Louis Farakhan: Yeah, and George blew up the levees too!

Believe me, I don't know what the "right" price is for that delicious mocha latte' that I drink or for the gasoline that my car drinks. There are some things that are priced correctly, I think. I just can't think of any right now. Maybe something that falls off the back of the truck or that your friend gets for you through his brother-in-law's cousin's girlfriend's step-father. I have a friend who hooks me up for seats to the Detroit Pistons games. I could give a rat's ass about the Pistons but when it says "Comp" where it usually says $37.50, I know the price is right! I have another friend who is a bartender at the Rosebud in Grand Haven. He usually throws a beer my way when I come in. Do I think that the tasty Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is worth $3.50 out of the tap when I can get a six-pack for $7 at the grocery store? No sirree, Bob. Do I think that it's worth free? Damn skippy!

Let's review: I hate overpriced stuff. I like capitalism. I hate getting hosed. I like taking advantage of my friends when they give me free stuff. If you own an oil refinery I'll be your bestest friend! In the meantime, I'm going to load up on a bunch of plastic bottles that cost 5 cents, print some labels that say "John's Water" for 2 cents, fill the bottles at my kitchen sink for a penny and sell it to Louis Farakhan for $1.25 a bottle. If he buys a gross of them, I'll knock it down to a buck apiece. Due to this dramatic loss of revenue, I'd have to skip the week in Aspen this year but I'm willing to cut old Louis a deal because I'm just a hell of a guy!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dig: T-shirts With Sayings On Them

Love t-shirts. I'm a t-shirt kind of guy. As much as I am a middle management suck-ass and wear plenty of "dressy" shirts to work, I am Mr. T-Shirt Man on the weekends. In addition to being a suck-ass, perhaps you've noticed that I'm also a smart-ass. And since I am wasting your time writing about not becoming a dentist (even though my "friend" Mark thought it was too wordy), I also dig manipulating the English language. Thus, I am a big fan of funny, sarcastic, t-shirts with well-written messages on them. I'll provide a few examples for clarification:

I'm With Stupid. A classic. Short and to the point. Of course, without the arrow pointing to the sorry sap who happens to be next to you, the whole point is lost. Hilarity ensues when two people are walking down the sidewalk, one of whom has the t-shirt on pointing to his hapless sidekick! Back in the day, this probably wouldn't be on my list of faves, but now it harkens back to a simpler time when only girls had pierced ears. Next time I see Mark, I'm going to make sure I'm wearing this shirt and stand next to him all day long.

Frankie Say Relax. Not so much. I love the '80's. In fact, I love the VH1 show "I Love the '80's". Loved the song even after I understood all the homosexual references. However, the neon, oversized t-shirt hasn't made the translation well. Maybe in another ten years, this will be a classic just like the I'm With Stupid shirt but, for now, it's best used for wiping out the cupboards one last time prior to moving out of your basement apartment.

Anything Really Old With The Date On It Telling The Reader How Old It Is. I have two examples for you. The first is my own t-shirt celebrating U-Michigan winning the basketball national championship. Anyone remember that? That was prior to Chris Weber and all of his shenanigans. 1989. Yep, 16 years ago. I was in my fourth (not to be confused with "senior") year at Michigan and have fond memories of the riot that took place after Rumeal Robinson made the winning free throws. Still have the shirt. Don't wear it anymore but I still have it, doggone it. I'll break it out for the right occasion though. Like when Michigan wins another basketball championship. Or when monkeys fly out of my butt. My second example is also sports related. I once saw a guy wearing a Cleveland Browns t-shirt celebrating a divisional championship in 1981. This is significant because the year was 1996. This die-hard Browns fan was wearing a 15-year-old t-shirt. Nice! That's dedication, people. A shirt that age just screams "Even though the Browns suck now and are leaving Cleveland under the dark of night to move to Baltimore, I'm going to hold on to the glory years of 1981 and, for that matter, I'm going to compare everything in my life to how good it was 15 years ago when all the cars had V-8's and you could work on them yourself before we got all these damn rice burners on the road!" Yes, I realize that it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue to scream a sentence that long, but you get my point.

The Such-and Such 5k/10k/Marathon, etc. T-Shirt. I mention this category of t-shirt because I have about 15 of these myself. These shirts are "given away" to anyone running in one of these events. Since they are supposedly freebies, the price is definitely right because they are pretty nerdy. Each one has a logo showing some guy running and a list of the various causes or sponsors. They may have a different picture and different sponsors, but they all fall under the heading of "ran the race, got the t-shirt". I'm working my way up to a marathon so maybe that one will have some sentimental meaning to me, but otherwise these are worth as much as you paid for them. If I wear my "Susan Komen Breast Cancer Awareness 5k, Grand Rapids, Michigan" t-shirt with my gay-ass Timex Ironman digital watch and my running shoes and shorty socks, I look like a real dork. Some people might say I'm a dork no matter what I wear, but I just tell them to shut up.

Pseudo Gas Station/Surf Shop/Bar T-shirts. Don't waste my time with fakes. American Eagle Outfitters has a bunch of these and so does Old Navy. A t-shirt from Bud's Amoco in Wichita is sweet but only if Bud has one himself so you can look like Bud. And who doesn't want to blend in with gas station attendants?! In Grand Haven, we have a bar called the Tip-A-Few Tavern. If you're looking for a fight, that would be the place to go. They make really strong drinks and the air is so thick with smoke, you chew it more than breathe it. Great place. Their t-shirts say something about having really good burritos, which is true - their burritos kick ass. That makes their t-shirts cool. However, if the marketing department at Old Navy printed the very same t-shirt, it would suck. Part of having a cool t-shirt is visiting the place so you can tell people about it when they ask you if the burritos are any good. Same thing goes for the Bad-Ass Coffee Shop in Destin, Florida. Yes, they have cool t-shirts by virtue of their name. And I can vouch for their mocha latte's too.

Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts. This is a toughie. The Hard Rock has gotten pretty corporate and has kind of sold out to The Man. Anymore, one HRC isn't much different than another. All of them have impossibly small purple jumpsuits from Prince, bustiers from Madonna and guitars from Ratt (speaking of the 80's). I think that the farther away from the actual Cafe, the cooler the t-shirt is. I have two HRC t-shirts right now - one from London and one from Stockholm, so those might be a little cooler than one from Chicago or Detroit (please see a map of the US to confirm that I live closer to Chicago and Detroit than London or Stockholm). Maybe I'll work out a little deal with the other white-bread people in the suburbs of Stockholm.... For what it's worth, I also have a t-shirt from the now-defunct All-Star Cafe. Myrtle Beach. Got it in 1998.

Concert T-shirts. Another classic. Cheesy, yet classic. Again, I've had my share of these over the years, but the only one I own right now is from a Jimmy Buffett concert outside of Chicago. I saw Jimmy at Wrigley Field this summer and thought about buying a shirt. Cooler heads prevailed, though. Similar to the 5k genre, the only thing that changes on these t-shirts is the artist and the list of dates and venues. Oh, and the price. Better stop off and apply for a loan on the way to the concert so you can buy a t-shirt because these things are way overpriced. Generally, I'm going to say that concert t-'s are out unless you have one from when The Ramones played CBGB in 1972 or something. That would be sweet.

Obscure Things/Sayings That Are Just Out There T-shirts. Perhaps my favorite t-shirt is a mustard yellow shirt that shows how to open a Presta bike tube valve. On the back of the t-shirt is a regular (Schraeder) valve next to a Presta valve with an arrow pointing to the Presta with the word "unscrew" next to it. I'm sure you're saying "Huh?" right about now. You might also be saying "Who would want a t-shirt with stupid stuff on it?" Further, you might say "That dude is a nut job!". My point exactly! An instant favorite! That's why the Old Navy fakes suck - they don't mean anything to the wearer. It's just Mr. Old Navy being a poser.

Got a favorite t-shirt? Let me know.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Don't Get: Wanting to be a Dentist

Yes, I get why we need to have dentists. No, I don't get why anyone in their right mind would want to be a dentist! Why would you ever want to fish around in someone else's mouth scraping away tartar and using words like absess, bicuspid, plaque, gingivitis, and molar? OK, "molar" isn't so bad, but the only dental-related word that even has the slightest positive connotation to it is "oral"!

So, let's review the possible reasons why you would want to be a dentist:

Money. This is the first thing that came to my mind. All doctors are rich, right? And dentists are a kind of doctor, right? Well, if you think that an annual salary of $116k makes you rich, then you just go right ahead and deal with bleeding gums all the way to the bank, my friend. (I got that number from - a painfully simple name for a website that deals with salaries.) Suppose you see 10 orally-hygeine-challenged people a day. Five days a week. Forty-eight weeks a year (because just like "real" doctors, it seems like dentists are always on vacation). That would be 2400 nasty mouths that you have to look into each year! Good God, that's only $48 per pie-hole! Even if I'm off by 100%, that's still less than a C-note to be getting up to your elbows in someone's face! You ain't going to be knocking Bill Gates off his perch that way.

You dig Fixing Teeth. Dude, if you get off on this stuff, I don't want you near my choppers because obviously you are not right in the head! There is no way in the world that anyone can enjoy this job. Maybe someone is holding your family hostage and the only way they will live to see their next Christmas (or Hannkah, if you prefer) is if you go to dental school for a bunch of years, open up your own practice, build a regular clientele, attend the laugh-a-minute dentist conventions and proceed to work on people's mouths. Only after buying your first boat with money generated from root canals will your family be returned to you. That is the only reason why you might actually like wielding those instruments of death. If you say you enjoy it because you want to help people return their choppers to good working order, you're just a lying sack of shit.

Addicted to Heroin-Laced Mocha Lattes. Possible, but might be a stretch.

Chicks. There have been a few cases where dentists have been, how you say, "inappropriate" with their female patients. Probably a few male patients too - especially from the guys who couldn't quite make it as Catholic priests. I can just picture those first heady days of dental school:

Dentist Wannabe #1: "I can't wait to be a dentist so I can get lots of chicks!"
Dentist Wannabe #2: "Really? Dentists get lots of chicks?"
DW #1: "Sure, my brother! Get the babes horizontal in these sweet chairs with a little laughing gas and you're good to go!"
DW #2: "Uh, isn't that kind of illegal?"
DW #1: "Illegal, schmillegal! Bring on the sedated chicks with dental issues!"

This theory is flawed in that, just like hookers, you can only be so selective in who you choose as customers. You can wait for Pam Anderson to bring her dental business to your little practice but it gets hard to make the payments on your nifty dental chair without working on a few people who look like the female Phys Ed. teacher in Porky's. Sure, you can always use the laughing gas angle, but the authorities kind of frown on that.

As you can plainly see, there is no logical reason to become a dentist. Next time you are in The Chair (note the capital letters), ask old Dr. Dentures why he got into the field. I'll bet you dimes to doughnuts that there was some sort of head trauma involved. At the same time, remember that Dustin Hoffman wasn't being tortured by a podiatrist in Marathon Man. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dig: Venti Non-Fat, No-Whip Mocha Latte from Starbuck's

Sweet baby Jesus, that stuff is wicked good! I never used to drink coffee - and I still don't consider myself a coffee drinker. What I am is completely addicted to the friggin' VentiNon-FatNoWhipMocha (you have to say it like that - kind of like JudgeLanceIto back in the days of the OJ murder trial). Don't ask me if I want coffee because I don't drink coffee - I drink VentiNonfatNowhipMocha. I don't even know the ingredients of this thing except that there has to be herion in it so that anyone who comes within 10 feet of it gets addicted to it. Damn those people at Starbuck's for making such chocolately goodness!

Yes, I realize that there are approximately 12.8 coffee joints per capita in the US and I have punch cards from the 12.8 assigned to me to prove it. However, Starbuck's - ubiquitous, corporate Starbucks - is the monkey I choose to have on my back. Every morning, my monkey and I get in the car and drive to one of FOUR Starbuck's on my way to work. (Yes, I always put the seat belt on the monkey - I'm addicted, not irresponsible!!) Sometimes I go through the drive-thru where Sarah gives me my daily fix. Other times, I go into the grocery store to see my other source. Mr. Mocha (the monkey) hops on my back wearing his little Starbuck's hat and t-shirt and off we go to get our VentiNonfatNowhipMocha.

I do have one decision to make every day regarding my morning mocha: to save a few minutes by going through the drive-thru and NOT receive a punch or take the extra couple of minutes and go in the grocery store to take another step closer to a freebie by receiving that coveted star-shaped punch in my card. Let's just say that no one at work has said anything about being three or four minutes late most days....

I am more than happy to part with my $3.76 every day to feed my habit - except when my punch card is full. What a happy day that is! Free herion?! Yes, sir! Sign me up! Not only am I an addict, I'm a cheap addict and when I can get my "shit" for free, it ranks right up there with the birth of my kids as the happiest moments of my life.

Do NOT come between me and my VentiNonfatNowhipMocha! Picture a mama bear and her cubs. Now picture a hunter-guy wearing flannel camo coming between the two. Now picture lots of blood and guts with pieces of flannel camo mixed into it. Same thing with me, except I'm not all hairy like a bear.

For the love of God, people, if you don't want your life to go into a downward spiral, stay away from this devil-juice! Besides, that leaves more for me....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Starting with something I hate sets such a tone....

.... and yet, I find myself hating more things than I dig/don't get. So, let's begin, shall we?

Today's hate is brought to you by the people who like to stop and chat in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store, mall, etc. Hate that. Meijer's (my local grocery store) is not the place to hang out and chat with your little friends. You go in, get your damn cart, load up your damn food and you get out, dammit. You need to stay out of my way while I am doing same! Keep to the right except to pass and sure as hell don't stand in the middle of the aisle talking about Junior's upcoming birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's or anything else unless it can somehow benefit me.

Sunday after church is a big time for this.
"Hey look, honey, it's the VanSomethingorothers."
"We haven't seen them since our fondue party in 1979"
"Let's discuss what our families have been doing since then."
"Great idea. I have the Powerpoint slides right here in my purse."
"Super! This display of 2-ply toilet paper will make a great backdrop to show our kids' resume's"
Meanwhile, I have to use that last little piece of TP that is actually glued to the roll to take care of my needs because these dolts WON'T GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!!

I don't mean to stray too far into the Things I Don't Get category, but I don't get the whole idea of standing in the middle of the aisle completely oblivious to being in other people's way. Hello?! Don't you see us giving you dirty looks? "Accidentally" running our carts up the back of your ankle? Giving you a little hip check as we pass by? This little act falls under a broader heading of hate that I like to call "Being Inconsiderate of Me" (the rest of you are on your own) and bugs the tar out of me.

And that's really where I'm coming from here, folks. I don't really enjoy being at Meijer's. It's a pain. Don't make it more painful for me by prolonging my shopping experience. Mind you, if there were girls in bikinis standing next to you in the aisle handing out chocolate chip cookies and CD's of my favorite bands, I might actually find great pleasure in waiting for you to get out of my way. However, Meijer's has to keep their overhead low so the only girls they could afford to hire to dole out treats are girls that I wouldn't really want to receive treats from (sorry about that preposition at the end there)!

You being in my way benefits me not. You being in my way discussing a hot stock tip or how you accidentally left $10,000 behind the third oak tree from the left benefits me much. So that's the only way I'll cut you any slack on this issue. You want to make me push my stupid cart around you while I debate over Cap'n Crunch and Lucky Charms? You'd better make it worth my while by helping a brother out in some way. Otherwise, get thee out of the aisle!

And now I'm all pissed off!!!