Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Post Mortem - Some People Suck!

There's a new post on our web site tonight. Please visit "" to read it. Also, if you're on Facebook, please visit "Society of the Aluminum Foil Hat" and join.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat?! No. Wait. Let me decide.

There's a new post on our website.

Please go to this link to check it out, and please consider joining "The Society of the Aluminum Foil Hat" if you're on Facebook.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

At Last, Another Excuse for Napping!

There's a new post to see.

Please visit our new web site to review the new and old.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ignorance Is Bliss

There's a new blog post, but it's on our developing web site.

Please visit "" and if you're on Facebook, please become a fan of our page: Society of the Aluminum Foil Hat.

Monday, September 6, 2010

If it wasn't for house guests, we'd probably live in a cave.

We had some friends over for a barbecue this weekend, and aside from thanking them for spending their time with us, I'd like to thank them for forcing us to prepare our home for guests!

Three years ago, we purchased some picture frames on sale from one of those big-box retail stores that stock everything from car batteries to potato chips. Our newly acquired frames languished neatly in a cabinet all this time, waiting for us to make up our minds about what to put in them, and where to hang them.

Suddenly, once we realized our walls would be barren whilst people walked through our home this weekend, we grabbed those frames from storage, cropped a few digital photos, got prints made at the local drug store and SHAZAM, we had chachka displayed for all to see.

Mind you, no one probably noticed the frames or their subjects, but that's not relevant. What is relevant is the fact that my children would have probably inherited those frames in our estate decades from now if we hadn't been motivated this weekend to do something quickly as the specter of visitors imminently loomed.

Why are we compelled to hold out for perfection when "good" is perfectly acceptable? Is it just us (please say no)?

It's not like filling pre-fabbed picture frames, or even hanging them is a permanent act. Those frames can be moved on a daily basis if we're so inspired, and the photos can be swapped-out in a matter of moments. So what's with all the consternation and hesitation?

That question, of course, is rhetorical, because it would probably require a qualified therapist and dozens of hourly sessions of psychoanalysis to actually answer why we do what we do, and the contrived answer would probably include some bull shit about my mother or that time that psycho locked me in a pit in his basement and planned to make a suit out of my skin before the FBI showed up and ... oh wait, that was a movie with Jodie Foster. Nevermind.

To me, our procrastination is the result of a societal conspiracy that has existed for centuries, but only over the past couple decades has been perfected by Martha Stewart and her ilk, requiring home owners to also be museum curators. Why did our home go from our place of residence to a showroom adorned with velvet ropes dangling from shiny brass stanchions? I hate living under the perception that my home and possessions are on display for scrutiny and approval, yet I find myself straightening picture frames as I stroll down the hallway, while yelling at my children for leaving clutter in their respective wakes.

Of course, our friends don't actually judge us. What sort of friends would they be if they did? Any pressure we feel, we put on ourselves. I think we actually recognize this, but still, we scrub our home from top to bottom and focus on every decorative detail whenever visitors are coming.

So, had it not been for our houseguests, we would have gaping vacancies on our walls, and empty picture frames in our closet. For that matter, the first floor windows wouldn't have been cleaned. The patio wouldn't have been power washed. The patio furniture would still be speckled with randomly deposited bird poo, and the patio dining table would have a large owl pellet in the middle of it. The garage would also be a shambles, and several pillows would be "un-fluffed" at this very moment ... heaven forbid!

Thank you dear friends for your unwitting prodding this weekend, for your camaraderie and, most of all, for not noticing the sparse furnishings in our master bedroom. Rest assured, that will be rectified before your next visit.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You're Entitled to Your Opinion, No Matter How Wrong It May Be

We have this goldfish named Fillet. At this very moment, he is in the aquarium next to me, swimming from one side of his tank to the other and back again, over and over and over. It's like he's an Olympic swimmer doing laps.

All I keep thinking is "Goddamn, Fillet. You're an idiot. Would you please relax?" Then I realize, there are a lot of people like Fillet, and sometimes I'm one of them.

Yesterday, a bright friend of mine brought an atrocity to my attention: a book was being used to brainwash seemingly impressionable children. Since I couldn't possibly reach all those children in time to fit them with aluminum foil hats, I dared enter the den of the brain washers themselves.

Before we go further on this blog post, it needs to be explicitly noted that I do not begrudge anyone their religious beliefs, or any other beliefs for that matter. I subscribe to the school of thought that everyone has a right to their opinions and preferences, and as long as no one tries to impose their lifestyle or belief system on me, my world is spinning in greased grooves.

My issue is when people try to manipulate easy prey, or are themselves intolerant. Case in point, the dastardly behavior of the zealots and lackies who were pushing their brain washing epistle on tykes.

The literary drivel in question featured a lovable dinosaur and a furry little monkey taking a guided tour through the Grand Canyon where they found the bible and its teachings. It hurts just thinking about it.

Since when did monkeys and dinosaurs start vacationing together, and why must they accept Jesus Christ as their savior? Is there a dinosaur hell and no one ever told me?

Attempting to patronize children with such brain-poison is ludicrous. Anyone who has children knows how intuitive they can be, and how suspicious they are of "lessons" being imparted with the subtlety of a flame thrower. Children are not going to read this book and think "gee whiz, I should go read the bible." If they're anything like my kids, they're going to read the book and be disappointed because, at no time did the monkey fling poo at an unsuspecting dinosaur.

I remember as a kid, someone gave me a stack of Archie comic books. We didn't have comic books at home, so this was a big deal to me. No sooner did I begin reading them, I realized these were not legitimate Archie comic books at all, but rather pseudo-Archie comic books trying to shove religion down my throat. I was a kid and I was appalled, not merely by the transparently offensive attempt to trick me into buying into some message, but also by the fact that now there was no way Archie was ever going to have sex with both Veronica and Betty, because he'd probably have to get married before he'd have sex, and therefore be forced to make an "either/or" choice. I was never able to look at Archie, Jughead, Moose or the rest of the gang the same way again.

Not only did I not fall prey to the author's mind control, but I actually had a strong desire to shun this and any other religious suggestion. Most children probably foster the same contempt for such manipulation, and will do the exact opposite of what is being suggested.

So why produce this book at all, if it's not going to elicit the desired result?

We entered an on-line discussion group to find the answer to that question, and we were greeted with hostility and intolerance.

Instead of debating the matter, or offering a logical defense for their tactics, the believers attacked us personally, asking how we could be so foolish as to not share their faith, and then instructing us to retreat back to the primordial ooze from which we had crawled. To this, we responded with requests for tolerance and an honest exchange of opinions, but were met flatly with contempt. This behavior was shocking, because at no time did we exhibit any sarcasm or silliness ... well, ... still, they were mean to us.

Fanatics don't do tolerance. Try convincing a staunch conservative to consider a liberal's agenda, or vice versa. Try enticing a militant vegan to taste a cheeseburger. Try getting a zealous Christian to consider an evolution that does not include god, a dinosaur, or a monkey traveling companion. You're suggestion probably won't be considered, discussed, or even tolerated. More than likely, you'll be dismissed as a fool, because zealots believe their opinions are right, and any dissenting opinions are wrong.

Even in the face of such rejection, though, I suspect I will, just like Fillet, continue to bang my head against the partitions that block me in, hoping to break through and find rampant enlightenment among my fellow man. Until then, I'll be drowning in frustration, and striving to protect young, fertile minds from the mind control of various oppressors. First, I need to get my hands on a boat-load of aluminum foil.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Brother, can you spare 10 million dimes?

What's the most addictive commodity known to mankind? Heroin? Meth? Crack? Chocolate? Well, if you ask me, my money is on ... money.

Anybody out there have enough money? I didn't think so.

All our lives we are taught that there are more important things in life than money, but once we leave school and start into our careers, what's the foremost motivator? Money. Oh sure, there will be some people out there who say the work itself is their reward, and that money isn't important to them, but if that was true, they wouldn't collect the salary at all. No matter what Human Resource studies say, money is the reason why people work. If they didn't need money, potential employees would pursue hobbies, or volunteer at clinics.

No one is immune to money. How could they be? Just ask Maslow about his hierarchy of needs. We need it to live, to pay for our food, shelter, clothing, recreational activity, etc. And it seems, the more we get, the more we spend, and then the more we need.

Remember your first car? it was probably a real piece of crap, but you loved it 'cause it was a means toward freedom and independence. As you began to earn money, though, that car was probably replaced with something better, and newer. Ultimately, as time went on, and your earning power improved, you began to buy or lease new cars, and progressively better ones. The same goes for homes, vacations and clothing.

It seems the more money we get, the more money we need, because we elect to purchase better, more expensive things.

Paychecks are most-addictive of all because, unlike win falls, paychecks are gradual, scheduled enablers, like a morphine drip. Gradually, pay-raise-by-pay-raise, promotion-by-promotion, we take on more obligations - mortgages, car payments, spouses, children, pets, the list goes on and on. No matter our intentions, rarely do we find the will to save the extra money we earn. Instead, we adapt our lifestyles to the new flow of cash.

Suddenly, decades later, once we've inflated our standard of living to stupid levels, we realize how precarious our lives have become, how dependent we are upon our current salaries, and how at risk we are if our jobs go away. We all know better-compensated jobs are more difficult to replace than lesser-paying ones, and once that reality hits us, and we recognize the tenuous predicament into which we've gotten ourselves, we start paying pharmaceutical companies for sleep-aids and ulcer medication.

If this economy has taught us anything, it's that excessive consumption is foolish, and excessive leverage can be fatal. But, like heroin dealers, banks and employers encourage us to voluntarily put our necks on the chopping block so they can enslave us. The more debt we assume, the more risk we take, but we seem to be oblivious to that when lenders (banks or credit card providers) throw money at us so we can buy necessities like bigger homes, or motorcycles, or trips around the world. Similarly, employers are always pleased when we improve our standards of living, because then they know we are less likely to leave our jobs.

One employer during my career spent weeks trying to convince me to have children. At that juncture in our lives, my wife and I lived in a humble home and we both worked. My employer saw me as a flight risk and actually told me they'd be more comfortable with me as an employee if I had a family. See? They're heroin dealers - "c'mon, take my product; I'll give it to you for free, for now, until you can't live without it. Then I'll own your soul!!!"

So where's the 12-step program for recovering money-holics? After the last two years of economic futility, how many of us look back and regret our frivolity of the past decade? And for those of us who recognize our problem, how many will remember this when the economy improves, and how many of us will forget and bury ourselves further in debt and insist on buying that 24-carat gold Mercedes Benz Convertible with diamond-encrusted door handles?

This is a conspiracy of the highest order, my friends, and not even aluminum foil hats can protect us when the enemy is within us.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Men and Women, together ... WHY?! Part 1

Why do men and women live together? Certainly, procreation is important (as are the acts leading up to it), but aside from that, why??? We're really incompatible beings. Case in point? Road trips.

This morning, my wife and I loaded the children into the family wagon and embarked on our 100 mile journey home after a week in the mountains. This trip can be made in anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two-and-a-half-hours, depending on weather conditions, time of day, traffic, and one's tolerance for collecting speeding tickets.

As a male of the species, any road trip in excess of one hour is a time trial - a battle between man, conditions and the clock.

No, there's no prize to be awarded for completing the journey in record time, nor is there any deadline to beat. Once the motor is running, the clock begins ticking, and getting home more quickly than ever before becomes a personal challenge - a chance to set the bar higher so that next time, the challenge can be even greater.

Automotive journeys require a combination of strategy and tactics. Any slower-moving vehicle ahead of us must be passed if it is impeding our pace. Passing requires familiarity with the road, knowing where passing zones are, and where visibility is optimal. Tactically, when the passing zones are at hand, maneuvering around the slower vehicles amidst opposing traffic requires deft moves and nerves of steel.

Fundamentally speaking, once a vehicle is successfully passed it can never be permitted to overtake you in the future. It must disappear into the rearview mirror, never to be encountered again. For this reason, our vehicle can never pull over for a bag of Slim Jims, a fountain soda or, heaven forbid, an impromptu dispensation of urine. Every pit-stop is an opportunity for those behind us to get in front of us; therefore, stopping must be avoided, except under the most-dire of emergencies!

My wife has been taking car trips with me for nearly three decades, and even though the rules have never been discussed, she has inferred from my behavior how such trips transpire - beverages and snacks must be pre-loaded into the cabin, and all human emissions must be dispatched before we depart. Based upon experience, the methods employed during these marathons should not be an issue, unless the free radicals occupying the back seats create some sort of disturbance.

Our youngest is rarely an issue. He can be a distraction, between his portable video games and the excessively loud Kids Bop tunes on his ipod, but all-in-all, he's an intrepid traveling warrior.

His older brother is the real wild card.

Our oldest has never traveled well. He's a human puke machine. Bulimics send him fan mail. Today, ten minutes beyond the mid-point of our journey, our boy loudly "ralphed" into a Wal-Mart bag (which we always keep handy for just such situations). This explosion marked the moment when our well-orchestrated, record-setting jaunt home began to unravel.

I had just passed a slow-moving vehicle, and was on the verge of passing another when my wife insanely suggested I pull over so she could attend to the boy, and secure our new vomitous cargo.


If I pulled over, I'd immediately surrender the two positions I had just gained after several minutes of plotting and scheming. Pulling over was not an option. By doing so, I would certainly forfeit my shot at the record, squandering the last hour-plus of strategic/tactical mastery. I couldn't accommodate her. There was no practical basis for doing so.

After pointing out two separate locations on the shoulder where I could have pulled off, my wife realized I was not willing to yield to her absurd request. Resigned to my resolve, she unbuckled herself, turned around in her seat and dealt with the issue at hand, wiping the boy's face, taking control of the bag and tying it off. All the while, she chided me for putting her at risk, and for hitting a bump which splashed a little bit of the yak onto her hands before she could secure the bag.

To me, this was all inconsequential. The situation was manageable, and didn't mandate any sort of detour. I offered encouraging comments to my son, and soldiered on, undaunted, never breaking stride.

The rest of the ride was eerily quiet. At first, I thought my wife had grasped the reality that we may be on the verge of setting a new travel record, and was maintaining cabin serenity so I could concentrate on heel-toeing through the curves, and accelerating when the traffic opened up, but then I began to suspect she was perturbed for some reason. Perhaps what gave her away was her muttering under her breath about smelling vomit, hoping the bag wouldn't leak, and what a juvenile moron I was.

Ultimately, we reached our final destination about twenty minutes slower than the record. Not to make excuses, but the conditions today were less than optimal, and the various distractions that occurred during the trip took their toll. Regardless, the trip was not a failure. I had made a few good passes, had managed some of the hairpin turns with notable acumen, and turned in, if not a record-setting effort, a respectable one.

Overall satisfied with the trip, I shut the vehicle down, closed the garage door, and everyone disembarked.

Once my wife and kids rushed into the house to relieve their bladders, I proceeded to relieve the car of its cargo. When I brought in the first load, I caught my wife's gaze. She was at the kitchen sink, feverishly washing dried vomit off her hands, wrist and sleeve. - fact is, upon reflection, I don't think it was so much a gaze, as a glare. She had stopped talking to me all together by this point, and was completely unreceptive to my titillating attempts to strike-up conversation.

See? There's the problem, incarnate. Even after three decades together, we're really not on the same page.

If my wife had a "y" chromosome, she'd have never suggested I pull over so the family could collect itself after my son's digesting detonation. A male co-pilot would have opened my son's window and instructed him how to throw up out of a moving car ( a lesson that would serve him well when he's college-aged). - no need for a bag, whatsoever!

Then, upon reaching the finish line, we'd reflect upon some of the more momentous incidents from the journey, and either strategize how we could travel more quickly in the future, or anecdotally rejoice over various passes or driving exhibitions.

Women are wired differently. They're just as likely to pull off to the side of the road to take photos of the scenery, or eat a picnic lunch as they are to scramble to manage a liquid belch. When put on the spot, they never seem to recall an individual car that was passed, or a precarious powerslide that placed the vehicle on the verge of plunging into the river.

Men are inherently competitive, and recognize such a trip as an opportunity to beat the clock and perform various feats of driving heroics. Women see it as a chance to spend time together and drink in the surrounding scenery, as if the destination is somehow less important than the journey itself.

There're infinitely more reasons why men and women are ill-suited for co-existing. For today, though, let's file car trips as just another obvious example.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Does the fact that we wear clothes and animals don't mean we're the superior race on the planet, or is it the other way around?

We think we're pretty special, right? After all, we have opposable thumbs. We innovate. We have created art, literature, philosophy, industry, consumerism and houses that big bad wolves can't blow down. We have created alternative means of transportation, and various systems to monitor our uses of it (ie: freaking traffic cops!!!).

Top THAT animal kingdom.

What have the animals produced? Oh sure, beavers create dams, and birds create nests, but monkeys fling poo for goodness sake.

Seems like a pretty open and shut case, but perhaps we're looking at this all wrong.

The animal kingdom is far from perfect, but with the exception of bovine flatulence, I really can't come up with too many ways animals are steering our planet toward an early demise. We, on the other hand, act non-sensically and have screwed this blue marble up beyond all recognition, and are threatening to obliterate it all together.

We produce emissions and waste that is defiling the Earth and the air. We voraciously consume artifical foods that make us fat, then exercise and diet to diminish our girth. We pay to plant grass and eradicate weeds, then we pay to fertilize and irrigate the grass, and then we pay to have it cut it down every week. And instead of going outside and engaging in activities, we turn on the television and watch reality TV. Worst of all, we have created incendiary devices that can vaporize the planet many times over.

Frankly, as the supreme beings on the planet, we're pretty shitty role models.

When's the last time you saw an animal stressed-out about making it's mortgage payment, or buying a new car to compete with the one the neighbors just drove home, or waiting in line for the newest iPad/Pod, etc? Come to think of it, when's the last time you saw one wearing clothes (excluding those poor miserable canines whose owners dress them in silly outfits), or plying a date with alochol and food to get sex?

No wonder the aliens are studying us so intently. They're not trying to enslave us; they're trying to alter our path before we ruin all the good fishing holes!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Your Eyelids are Feeling Very Heavy ...

There are innumerable occasions when sleep seems to reach a level of importance beyond necessity; however, two particular occasions over-ride all others – when one is in a hospital bed, or seated in an airplane.

A few years ago, my wife delivered our youngest child. He was bashful, and didn’t emerge until the wee hours of the morning. Of course, by that point, my wife had been awake for a particularly eventful and exhausting 24 hours, and although she felt compelled to handle her new bundle of joy, all she really wanted to do was kick everyone out of the room so she could sleep.

Since I had to work that day, I kissed her goodbye after the din of birth wound down to a routine hum and went home to shower and prepare for my day. I returned in the afternoon, only to find my wife sobbing at my arrival.

I don’t care who you are, no man feels any sort of ego boost when his mere presence is greeted with tearful bursts of dismay by his significant other.

Once she stopped hyperventilating, my wife informed me that it wasn’t my image that caused the crying jag, but rather the fact she had collected less than twenty minutes of continuous sleep since I had left several hours earlier. I was dumbfounded by that comment because it seemed counterintuitive to me.

What’s the best thing for most patients to do in a hospital? I would have assumed “sleep” would be the correct answer.

In reality, it seems hospitals staffs are downright maniacal about keeping exhausted patients awake. Nearly every half hour, or so, someone would come into my wife’s room and ask her some inane question (like waking her up to ask her if she needed to take any medication to help her sleep). Every time a doctor or nurse’s shift would end or begin, like the changing of the guard at the palace, the job-swappers would bid farewell or greet her, depending upon whether they were coming or going. It seemed there were around 6,000 medical employees assigned to that floor, and by all indications, shifts changed every 45 seconds.

Of course, legitimate reasons for waking her were also interspersed throughout the day – blood pressure checks, visits by breast feeding advocates, bringing the baby in periodically for feedings or to help with crossword puzzles, etc.

By the time I got there, my dear wife was fatigued beyond the point of insanity. I literally thought she was going to commit homicide when the haplessly well-intended maintenance employee woke her up to see if she had any questions about how the television worked.

The first decent moment of slumber she enjoyed was two days later in the car on the way home from the hospital.

This same practice, let’s call it “Slumber Interruptus,” is practiced 30,000 feet above the Earth in confining airplanes everywhere.

Being a passenger on an airplane is an incredibly uncomfortable experience, but that’s a rant for another day. One of the most-recommended measures for surviving the “air travel experience” is entering virtual hibernation – going to sleep as quickly as possible and staying asleep, ideally until the second before the doors open and it’s time to step off the plane.

The goals of the flight crew are quite different. Their actions prove their intent is to keep you awake by any means possible so you can’t help but consciously endure every single monotonous instant of flight.

Once you’re seated, if you nod off, you’ll be awakened by flight attendants reminding you to move your seat to an up-right position, or slide your bag under the seat in front of you, or turn off various electronic equipment. Moments later, as you feel yourself lulling back into a stupor, you’ll be abruptly shocked by the unnecessarily loud recitation of the plane’s many safety features, how to fasten your lap belt, and what to do when the plane begins plummeting toward the Earth and cups and hoses (and likely luggage) drop down into your lap from the overhead compartments.

Finally, story time ends, and as you begin your next futile venture into la-la land, the chipper pilot comes across the public address system to welcome you aboard, confirm your destination, share how long the trip will be and how high the plane will be traveling above the planet, and then thanking you for traveling with him and his crew.

This time, you don’t bother trying to fall back to sleep right away. You groggily wait several moments to be sure everyone has said their piece and you can finally be left alone.

Satisfied that the interruptions have ended, you successfully return to a state of placidity – eyes shut, dreams in full swing – when, suddenly, the drink cart slams into your kneecap, waking you with a start.

The words “I’m sorry” are replaced by a disapproving glare from the flight attendant and the phrase “you need to keep your arms and legs in”

At this point, you surrender. Between the oafish flight attendants, the territorial row mates vying for elbow and knee room, waling children, loud-talking strangers and the unmistakable odor of people who have fiendishly removed their shoes and freed their sweaty, stocking feet, you realize this trip, and every one like it, will be excruciating reminders of why man was not meant to fly.

All I wanted to do while I wrote this was sleep. Instead, the flight attendant repeatedly assaulted me with the beverage cart. She and the large man seated next to me spilled cranberry juice on my pants, and the pilot provided up-dates regarding our geographical location at twenty minute intervals.

130 years ago, to cross our nation, settlers pushed and pulled handcarts, livestock and grumbling spouses and offspring across hostile territory, for weeks or months at a time, enduring natural hardships and occasional native attacks. – lucky bastards.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Honey! Have You Seen the Broom???

July 19th has not always been kind to the fairer sex. Just ask Sarah Good who perished on this date in 1692 in Massachusetts after failing to convince a judge, a jury and a vengeful crowd of fickle townsfolk that she was not a witch. Fortunately for her, Monty Python was not there doling out sentences, and instead of being burned at the stake while wearing a carrot for a nose, she was hung. Of course, regardless the method, the result was still the same.

It's been nearly 320 years since that ill-fated moment in history, and now, Cathleen Miller of Chicago Ridge, Illinois has been arrested. Apparently, the 40 year-old mother has been accused of getting her 14 year-old daughter's young male friends drunk, high and laid. Testimony alleges she had intercourse with two of the teens, oral sex with another, and merely fondled a fourth.

Of course, the parents of the boys are outraged, and for good reason. As a parent of two young boys, I find her behavior reprehensible and would seek full legal recourse if my children were involved. However, if I was a 14 or 15 year-old boy, I would have been hanging out at Cathleen's house ... a lot!

Ironically, both of these July 19th events began as crimes against youths, though there is some skepticism about the whole witch saga.

Compelling testimony exists to support the young boys' claims against Cathleen, but back in the 1690s, teenaged girls provided nothing more than theatrics and fanciful stories to play upon the superstitions of the adults within their communities. Sarah Good was little more than a homeless wife, and mother of a 4 year-old daughter. She actually delivered an infant while in prison, but only after both her husband and daughter were forced to testify against her. Her infant didn't survive her time in prison, and the 4 year-old (Dorothy, AKA Dorcas) was imprisoned as an accused witch as well. She was released when she was 5, but displayed the effects of that psychological trama for the remainder of her days - go figure!

So what of this? Is there some sort of karma on this date of which women should be aware? Unlikely. The messages here are probably a little more mundane and sensible.

First of all, we all need to recognize the power of suggestion, especially when it is being convincingly shared by a cherubic young girl. No matter the story's basis in truth, if it is compelling enough, some people will tend to believe it. And if enough people believe it, they may act on it. And if, by some horrible twist of fate, the fictional tale accuses you, be sure you have some traveling cash handy and a quick escape route picked out.

The only thing worse than being caught doing something wrong is being convicted of something you didn't do. Just ask Sarah!

The second lesson is use your freaking head!!! When your child brings friends home for a playdate, don't seduce them.

Ann Bancroft was an incredibly sexy woman, and Dustin Hoffman was a lucky son of a bitch to be propositioned by her, but that was all just a movie, and besides, Hoffman's character had just graduated from college, not 7th grade.

Cathleen is a very disturbed woman, but she's not alone. How often do we hear stories of school teachers having affairs with the young boys or girls who have been placed in their care?

The weird part is, the teachers usually aren't physically repulsive. They should be able to find age-appropriate partners (like this guy), although, to be fair, those hypothetical partners may not be as interesting as the youngsters since I don't know many 40 year olds who still play Chutes and Ladders, or build LEGOs. Well, for the sake of clarification, I don't know any 40 year olds like that who don't still live with their mothers ...

The world is, and always has been, a very strange place, and after a span of 317 July 19ths, it appears we haven't made any progress toward restraint or sanity.

And to think, all this time we've been afraid of Alien anal probes and mind control, when the real threat was an administrative clerk in a small Illinois town ...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yesterday's Calendar is so ... "Yesterday"

Let us reflect, for a moment, upon the concept of obsolescence - when something is no longer desirable and is en route to being obsolete (ie: useless).

In 1970, my father ordered a "Granada Gold" Pontiac Catalina (exactly like the one Ron Burgundy drove). This was exciting stuff. During that era, cars were custom-ordered, so we waited weeks for the assembly line workers in Detroit to nap their way through the process of producing this land-barge. When the big day finally arrived, we took delivery of our shiny new leviathan, but only after we inspected it for defects, which took a long time, because the thing was as poorly produced as a closed-circuit high school news broadcast.

The windshield and rear view mirror were cracked. The rear bumper was lop-sided. The paint was chipped. Neither the electric clock, nor the gas gauge functioned, and the air conditioner compressor wouldn't kick-on. The list of deficiencies went on and on, and could have filled a college blue book.

We scheduled time with the service department to get all the punch-list items addressed, and then we piled into our new prize and drove home. That night, before retiring to bed, my older brother and I begged our dad to let us steal one last glimpse of our family's shiny new conveyance. Dad acquiesced, probably because he wanted an excuse to take another look himself, and we opened the garage door.

It was like we were slapped in the face with a wall of stench. Fortunately, neither of my parents were smokers, because if they were, I'd be writing this to you from the afterlife. Our new car's fuel tank had a leak, and purged its entire 27 gallon gas supply onto the garage floor.

The next morning, the dealership retrieved the behemoth with a tow truck, and for the next several months, that car resided in the dealer's garage more often than it did in ours. All the while, we were provided "loaners," which was cool for me and my brother, since my parents got to drive virtually every model in Pontiac's vast arsenal - all of it was complete rubbish.

Strangely, my parents took this in stride, because it was par for the course. This is what one endured when taking possession of a new car. Cars were practically hand-made, and the lack of quality was chalked-up to human error.

Although it was nearly ten years, and 80,000 miles before we parted company with that car, it began deteriorating pretty much the first time the key twisted in the ignition, and it qualified as dilapidated junk by 1976. That rolling street turd squeaked so loudly, it could be heard coming from a block away, and it evolved into a bottomless pit of embarrassment for us whenever mom would drop us off or pick us up at school.

Back then, this rapid deterioration was attributed to planned obsolescence (the assumed conspiracy that automakers intentionally made junk so buyers would have to replace one generation of refuse with the next generation in short order - 3 to 5 years). Whether planned obsolescence was intentional or not was irrelevant, because the end result was the one manufacturers desired - a predictable sales volume, year-in and year-out.

Then the Japanese came along and screwed everything up with their fuel efficiency and product reliability. Damn them right to hell!

After a couple decades of trying to swim up-stream, American automakers, through bankruptcies, near bankruptcies, and ever-diminishing market shares finally conceded to the tide and began producing respectable products. Now, it seems only cars produced from the former Eastern Block, or China are unreliable crap, and a new car can run forever if properly maintained and used.

Well, that created a whole new problem - if consumers purchased reliable cars that lasted decades, why would they replace them? Please welcome the marketer's new tool: functional obsolescence, where a product may still work, but it possesses few of the features that entice today's buyers.

How is that possible, you ask? Isn't a car, by its nature, merely a motorized box with wheels that enables one to travel from one location to another and back again (the back again part doesn't apply to French or Italian cars)? Well, sure, in its most-basic form that's true, but most-consumers now seek things like "crumple zones," and air bags, and anti-lock brakes, and back-up sensors, satellite navigation systems, MP3 connections, satellite radio, rear-seat DVD entertainment systems, heated/air conditioned seats and steering wheels, and blah blah blah ad nauseum.

And as if that wasn't devious enough, now, automakers have taken the next step and begun to entice consumers with an alternative to the revered internal combustion engine with hybrid systems that support the traditional motor with electric ones. Then there are the cars that eschew the internal combustion engine entirely and operate solely on electricity or hydrogen. Some cars retain the internal combustion engine, but replace fossil fuels with stuff produced from corn. As such alternative methods of turning a crank are adopted, more functional obsolescence will exist.

Where did the auto industry learn such diabolical techniques of consumer manipulation? From the technology sector, of course. Anyone out there still using an IBM with a 286 processor and Windows 95? Probably not. It seems every year or two, we are coerced into replacing our computers because the hardware isn't fast enough, doesn't possess enough storage capacity to operate in the current world, and is operated by software that is no longer either supported or capable of performing even the most-mundane tasks.

Case in point? In 2007, the first iPhone came to market. Three years later, Apple is selling the iPhone 4, and every prior generation of that product is considered to be nothing more than a doorstop.

Who's to blame for this? To quote Pogo:

If we weren't such chattel, we'd scream "no mas" and stop buying the latest and greatest gizmos and doohickies, but we can't control ourselves, and the marketing gods know this. They realized long ago that we are goldfish with feet - if it's shiny, we must have it.

Sadly, we are the architects of our own economic demise, and if we're not careful, we're going to buy ourselves straight into destitution. Beware, my savy cohorts, for there is poverty in them thar iPhones, and iPods, and Sat Navs, and 3-D LCD Flat Screen TVs that are only about a half inch wide.

Have you seen one of these things by the way? They're amazing. I just order two - one for each end of my Jacuzzi soaking tub. They came with complimentary Blue Ray DVD players, and an amusement park-style popcorn maker ...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Not Happy? We've Developed a Pill for That ...

Sir Isaac Newton is renowned for identifying three basic laws of physics. Not to take anything away from the importance of his first two laws, but today we're going to focus on his 3rd law, and how it applies to pretty much everything, especially the effects of technology.

According to Newton's 3rd law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction - a yin for every yang, if you will. In the case of technology, for every instance of improved efficiency, I submit to you there is something else in the queue waiting to consume whatever benefit has been created.

As an example of efficiency, let us contemplate the simple act of sending a note and receiving a response from a client.

Twenty-five years ago, when corporate dinosaurs roamed the Earth, faxes and "mobile phones" were novelties; e-mail and the internet didn't exist, and no one except Bill gates had a computer on his or her work desk.

Back then, if you wanted to send something to your client, you had to write a note on a piece of paper and place it in your communal, chain-smoking secretary's "in-bin." The paper would migrate down to the bottom of the stack, and would be returned to you, typed, three days, or six packs of cigarettes later, whichever came first. You would then review the letter and re-submit it with changes, realizing full-well it would take another few days to get re-typed and returned to you.

After two or three edits, and a week-and-a-half's time, the letter would be placed in an envelope and dispatched to the mail box. Three days later, assuming the envelope was properly addressed and the correct amount of postage was placed on it, your letter would arrive on the desk of the intended recipient. He or she would read it (you hope), draft a response, submit it to a secretary for processing, and you would receive something a week later. All together, the entire process would take about three weeks.

Today, even the most intellectually taxing e-mail can be composed, edited, proofread and sent in about an hour, and a response will be received sometimes within moments.

This is incredibly efficient, and equally frustrating. See? Newton's 3rd law in action.

Why is this frustrating you ask? Well, before this spectacular efficiency became common place, the world had a different pace. Expectations were more reasonable. When you told someone you'd send them a proposal, the intended party expected that proposal would arrive in a matter of weeks, not hours. Now, not only do your clients expect you to turn everything around in minutes, but every one of your clients expects that level of responsiveness all at the same time.

So if we're this much more productive, we must be incredibly effective, successful and happy, right? Well, I haven't noticed that. Have you?

I mean, sure, we get a lot more done in less time, but are we more profitable? I don't think we're happier.

Technological advances have always been sold on the promise of happiness - "instead of beating the rugs outside with a stick, m'am, you could purchase this Suxdeluxe vacuum cleaner and have your carpets cleaner, quicker. You'll be much happier with all the time you'll save."

Well, ask any haus frau, and you'll learn all that "saved time" got used up doing the dishes, or waxing the floors, or beating the laundry in the creek with a rock. The fact is we've just replaced doing one task with three tasks within the same hour, and productivity is not the same as happiness.

I remember the peace and quiet we would enjoy years ago playing golf. The links was a place of desolation, surrounded by nature and friends. It was five hours of disconnection from the rest of the world, where we could focus our frustration on poor play and the simple betrayal of the 14 clubs in our bags. That tranquility has been shattered, first by pagers, then by cell phones, then by smart phones.

Today, it's routine to wait for a playing partner to compose and transmit a text or e-mail before lining up a putt. Our sanctuary has been invaded and over-taken by the convenience of technology, and the simple joy of golfing with friends has been lost forever.

I would submit to everyone that technology does not always improve our lives. To the contrary, I think it creates angst. We're all so accessible, now, that we can never be away from work. Downtime is a lost commodity.

Today, more than ever before, we are at the world's beck and call every hour of every day. Clients feel no sense of compunction for e-mailing or calling us at all hours, any day of the week, and expecting us to respond immediately, because they realize we're probably reading e-mails in the check-out line at the supermarket, or while we're waiting for the traffic light to change.

Of course, I'm taking an extreme position, here. Not all technology is bad. Certainly, Mankind's discovery of fire, and the wheel, and breast augmentation have had positive effects on society, but where are we on the Bell Curve? Perhaps we've gone beyond the point where technology makes things better, and have entered the realm where change only makes things different.

To harken back to Newtown's 3rd law, what have we gained? In recent decades, through computer advances, we've gained better access to one another, at greater speed.

What is the equal, and opposite force? Since virtually nowhere is safe from work demands, it appears the yang is our profound loss of privacy and freedom.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Everyone who's funny, take one step forward ... not so fast, you.

Isn't it funny how everyone thinks they're funny? Honestly, have you ever met anyone who openly admits he or she isn't funny? In real life, though, some people are better at some things than others; no one is good at everything, and no single thing is done well by everyone. Therefore, it stands to reason that some people are mis-guided or delusional if they believe they're funny.

In the 1982 film "my Favourite Year," Peter O'Toole plays an aging movie star named Alan Swan opposite Mark Linn-Baker's Benji Stone; Stone has been assigned to keep Swan sober enough to perform on television. In one scene, the young Stone asks the aged and experienced Swan: "Do you think there are funny people and not-funny people?" To which Swan replies "Yes. Definitely. On the funny side there are the Marx Brothers, except Zeppo; the Ritz Brothers, no exceptions; both Laurel *and* Hardy; and Woody Woodpecker. On the unfunny side there's anyone who has ever played the accordion professionally."

Personally, I agree with Mr. Swan, on all accounts, and have an anecdote I'd like to share here to illustrate that exact point.

Back home, there's a local pasta company owned by two brothers, called "P&S Ravioli." The "P" stands for Primo, and the "S" stands for Segundo - that means "first" and "second" in Italian. Those are their names - Primo is the oldest; Segundo is second oldest. There are 8 siblings all together, and they are named ordinally.

We have two young sons, so for the sake of this blog post, and out of "rispetto" for P&S Ravioli, let's refer to our oldest as Primo, and our youngest as Segundo.

Our Primo is a beautiful child with a warm, gentle soul and a great sense of humor. My love for this child is boundless, yet he's about as funny as a technical manual. He tries. Honestly. He does. He laughs all the time, acts silly, and tries to relate funny stories, but in the end, the only person he cracks up is himself. He has a lot of other talents, but I'm afraid he's destined to be a professional accordion player.

Segundo is a different story, entirely. He inspires laughter with a look, or gesture. When he tries to be funny, he is, and even when he's not trying, he's still funny. Allow me to expound.

One morning before work, I was standing at the kitchen island, deciding whether or not to go back to bed, and Segundo, already dressed for kindergarten, walked into the kitchen with a stuffed penguin in one hand and a plastic Whack-a-Mole mallet in the other. See? You're probably already smiling. Anyway, he held the penguin up and said "Daddy, watch this." He then proceeded to knock the penguin up-side its head with the mallet, and the stuffed critter flew across the room.

I asked Segundo why he did that, and he replied that he was the penguin's chiropractor. I suggested that even the most inept chiropractor in the world probably wouldn't slam his patient in the head with a mallet, and Segundo replied that this was a special case, because "this penguin has (insert moment while he visibly searched his mind for the right word) ... TESTICLE difficulties."

My wife immediately left the room for fear he'd see her laughing, so I was left alone to fight back the guffaw and explain that the proper term was "TECHNICAL" difficulties. "Technical," not "testicle" ... big difference. Then I put my head down so he wouldn't see me convulsively containing my laughter.

This kid does this all the time. He's a natural, and is the embodiment of the difference between people with a good sense of humor, and people who are genuinely funny.

Steve Martin is one of those naturally funny people, and 30+ years ago, he said, when people asked him how he can be so f'ing funny, he'd reply that he'd take a slice of bologna and put it in each shoe, and then he'd just FEEL funny. Well, if that's what it takes, I'm afraid a lot of people are going to need to take a number at the deli counter, or they'll need to schedule accordion lessons.

I believe O'Toole said it best as Swan: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

What Van Gogh Didn't Know

For some strange reason, ears have played a memorable role in forming our social fabric. Take the 1888 severing of Vincent Van Gogh's ear; some believe he mutilated himself, while historians believe fellow artist, Paul Gauguin actually cut the ear off with a sword in an effort to protect himself from Van Gogh's attack (Van Gogh was upset that Gaugin was moving away). No matter how it happened, Van Gogh did present the liberated ear to a prostitute, who fainted.

Most people remember Van Gogh was an artist, but nearly everyone remembers his ear was lopped off.

More recently, an ear took center stage when, in Quentin Tarantino's cult hit "Reservoir Dogs," Mr. Blonde danced to Stealers Wheel, straddled a bound, seated "beat cop," whom he'd captured, and methodically vivisected the cop's ear with a straight razor. Mr. Blonde then tickled himself as he engaged in a brief conversation with the dangling appendage.

In every day life, ears face even stranger risks.

When I was a kid, only ladies pierced their ears, and even then, many preferred the "clip-on earring" alternative. Of course, those were the days when people wore suits and dresses to baseball games.

During my adolescence, defiant rock 'n rollers of both sexes began piercing their ears, and girls began getting a second, or even a third hole pierced in one ear or the other.

Today, piercings have evolved to a point where everything imaginable is being pierced, not just ears. Any more, it's almost common place to have a waiter or waitress lisp their way through the day's specials because they have a stud in their tongue.

Like tattooing, piercing has become a method for personal distinction, and I marvel at peoples' willingness to undertake such extreme measures to achieve uniqueness. A recent trend, though, makes me laugh. This would be the act of "stretch piercing," or "gauging."

Instead of merely piercing one's ear lobe with an 18-20 gauge hole (which is typical), devotees of stretching strive to grow the hole gradually. I assume they do this to accommodate larger and larger jewelry, but oft times, the hole is merely left wide open and the skin flaps in the breeze. As is the case with wire, gauges grow in size as the number decreases. For example, an 18 gauge hole is approximately 1 mm in diameter, while a zero gauge is 8 mm (1/3"). Gauges are measured up to "000" which is 11mm (7/16"), but the holes have been known to get stretched far beyond that size.

Of course, ear lobes aren't the only things to get stretched. Some people (like this guy)give the works to their septums, while others (like the lady below) expand their lips, but we're discussing ears, here, so I'll try to stay on point.

What strikes me funny about this is not the personal expression, or the whistling that can probably be heard as gusts of wind blow across one's shoulder, but rather the image it conjures in my own mind.

Back in grade school, while learning about the Spanish explorer, Cortes, we learned of a game call Ullamaliztli. As early as 1200 BC, the Aztecs played this game where teams attempted to send a heavy rubber ball (9-15 pounds) through a small (35" diameter), wall-mounted ring 8-10 feet above the playing surface. This is the epic game where it's believed the losing coach, or team, or even the fans would be sacrificed immediately after the match. Over time, though, that theory has come under criticism. Since being sacrificed was considered a privilege, it's believed the WINNING team (or fans or coach) was sacrified.

Can't you just hear the conversation at home before that game? "See ya, honey, I'm off to the Ullamaliztli match downtown. I'll either be home for dinner, or sacrificed, depending on how the home team does."

Because of my own personal life history, every time I see someone with gauges in their ears, I imagine little Aztecs on that person's shoulders, trying to kick a rubber ball through their hoop. I also imagine little poodles jumping through the hoops at the circus, but that's actually pretty disturbing.

Now, every time you see those gauges you'll probably have similar images. perhaps you should have worn your aluminum foil hat before you started reading this ...