Monday, December 31, 2007

#670 Yer Moniker

What’s in a name?
Apparently a lot. I read an article a while ago about “what to name your baby” books being among the most popular bestsellers out there.
There are even baby naming consulting services available. Special name-ologists, armed with reams of data, purport to guarantee their selection for your child’s name will lead him or her to success or fortune, or maybe just help them avoid being teased on the playground.
Now if they only add the numerological equivalents of the letters, throw in a little horoscope, and check the bumps on the baby’s head, every contingency should be covered.
Sadly, I’m pretty sure the person makes the name and not vice versa. Aloysius of Gonzaga got the Saint nod not because of his sure-to-be-picked-on-in-the-locker-room name. He made the name worthy of affixing to a big church by what he did.
But names do seem to fall into certain patterns. The other day we were separating a bunch of mail-in coupons and three names popped up in succession.
I wonder if you can figure out which the oldest person of the threesome was—Brandi, Tiffany or Phyllis.
That’s right, Phyllis it is.
Do you know anyone under 50 named Phyllis? It ought to have worked its way around to cool again. It starts with a P-H- and all, like the fat that’s not fat, phat.
So here’s a conundrum for you—or should I say co-name-drum? Why is no one nicknamed Steef? Spelled like and sounded like beef.
You should spell it S-t-e-p-h. Because it would be short for Stephen. Except when you spell it that way, most people think its short for Stephanie and pronounce it Steff.
But no, we always shorten Stephen, spelled S-t-e-p-h-e-n-, to Steve, spelled S-t-e-v-e-. From whence cometh the V-? It’s not short for stevedore. It’s short for Stephen.
And even though we pronounce Stephen with a V, unless we’re French or German and pronounce it correctly with a F, it still ain’t there in the word.
So it should be Steef. A perfectly good word for a name but never, ever, used.
Nicknames are funny that way. Maybe we should just call everybody the universal nickname.
America, ya gotta love it

Saturday, December 29, 2007

#669 Yucky Shaver

The other day I was pretty upset.
I found out something that I didn’t expect to find out.
I got this fortune cookie and the fortune said, “Your luck has been completely changed today.”
It really worried me, because my luck’s pretty good.
I mean, I have so much to be thankful for, a great job, great friends and acquaintances, lots of positive projects and organizations to be involved in. And now my luck is going to change?
Stupid fortune cookie.
I thought they were only supposed to give out good, upbeat fortunes. I don’t go to a Asian restaurant to have my paranoia about an approaching cataclysm of providence inflamed. “Your luck has been completely changed today” indeed.
Well there’s one thing I know I won’t have to be worry about being lucky enough to ever get.
A $250 electric razor.
As a bearded fellow, my entire shaving experience is reserved for a small portion of my neck, but if I did get one as a gift, I’d take it back for the cash. $250 is way beyond my acceptable price point for a shaving device.
It’s just not that important for me to be smooth.
I can live with a little bristly stubble if the alternative is me or someone else shelling out 250 bucks. I don’t care if it is a “Braun Pulsonic.”
Yep, it appears to be made by the same people as the kitchen appliance Braun.
That’s why when I first saw the ad for this I thought it was a new coffee maker. Maybe injects pulses of super-heated water through a special filtration system to deliver the perfect acid-free brew.
$250 might be an acceptable expenditure for a good cup of coffee.
But even though Braun promises in their ad that “...pulsonic technology provides over 10,000 micro-vibrations per minute to help expose and shave more hair with every stroke” my penny-pinching neck still finds 250 bucks hard to swallow.
I do wonder a bit about the possibly defrocked scientists laboring through the night in some top-secret lab developing “pulsonic technology” in time for the Christmas season...
I mean, think of the implications of micro-vibration enhanced shaving to the establishment of peace on earth.
Talk about a change of luck.
America, ya gotta love it

Friday, December 28, 2007

#668 Yammer

Time to yammer and meander along the track of my mind again.
I’ve learned a few pearls of wisdom in my life, whether or not I ended up throwing them before swine, and one is that you should never, ever, bid on the grow lights at the police confiscation auction.
There are some things that are just plain dumb.
A possible corollary to this is, don’t drive around with the inside of your old Subaru wagon filled with smoke, a bumper sticker that says “Buy Hemp Products,” and not bother to notice you have a tail light as burnt out as you appear to be.
Of course, people like this are probably not going to follow such advice, they’ve already gone so far down that road of obliviousness the rest of us wonder if we share the same species designation.
Except insofar as, by and large, just being human means we are capable of an astonishing amount of self-delusion.
Take belief. It requires no grounding in reality or facts, although when the two occasionally coincide, facts and belief that is, the coincidence, while doing nothing to change the fact, makes the belief twice as strong.
At least so it appears from my own personal state of ignorance and self-delusion. I admit I have quite a few dim bulbs in the indoor farming operation of my brain.
Other people see lots of things I don’t. I’ve never been able to discern the fine line between a cult and a religion for instance.
Once you make the leap of faith how do you stop? Leaping is, by its very nature, an experience of leaving the ground. The control of if or when you come back down has been surrendered.
How do you suddenly say, okay, that’s too much faith—that’s just plain crazy? A goddess with six arms who’s in charge of both creation and destruction? Fire and brimstone blazing and a seven-headed beast destroying the world? Eight tiny reindeer?
Like I say, I’m not sure where the line is.
Then again, back in my track days, I never did well at the broad jump. I was always more of a runner than a leaper.
Cast out pearls are easier to find when you’re closer to the ground.
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, December 27, 2007

#667 Yummy for One

I’ve decided to challenge myself lately and go to all the restaurants I normally went to when I was married or on a date.
And go there alone.
Single people should not be condemned to fast food.
The biggest problem I see with the process is that nicer restaurants tend to be dark. And darkness makes it difficult to whip out a book and start reading.
Dark restaurants are designed for intimate conversation. Trading the secrets of one’s dreams and desires with someone you think might actually want to listen.
Dating is kind of like doing a mini-biographical essay in a one-on-one symposium. Or I suppose autobiographical is more like it.
Although if it’s auto as in automatic there’s often something sticky in the transmission.
In any event, those little novellas of intimacy are perfect for a dimly lit restaurant with tablecloths and wine and stuff. But hard to pull off without someone to talk to.
So you try bringing a real book.
If one were to bring a book to such a place it should be a hardcover, preferably with a sprung back so it stays open. Struggling with holding your paperback open, and reading, and juggling silverware, and eating, is not good form. Emily Post would surely have some advice.
But it would likely be “stay away.”
No singles and no babies, this is a “nice” restaurant.
A big hardback book may pass. But paperbacks definitely not, and God forbid you should bring a magazine.
I suppose a weighty periodical like the Wall Street Journal may convince some of your social worth despite the obvious ignominy of your singlehood, but large newspapers really don’t fit so well on tiny two-tops.
So I’ve taken the challenge and turned the tables on the whole process. Instead of sitting there timidly, I boldly look at the other sets of folk, observe their body language and amuse myself by predicting what they may be saying to one another.
And I don’t worry if I overhear interesting bits of conversation. The ebb and flow of conversation in the room always offers up disembodied, curious, and fascinating snippets.
It’s kind of like a book on tape.
America, ya gotta love it

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

#666 Yahweh to Hell

This is “America Ya Gotta Love It” essay number 666. So naturally, my thoughts have turned apocalyptic.
There was once a great thinker who said something like we would not be beaten into giving up our freedom we would volunteer.
The trade off would be security, he said.
I think the trade off will be nothing more than sacrificing freedom to the god of convenience. Kind of a Yahweh to Hell.
The Book of Revelation talks of the mark of the beast. It is widely thought to be some variation of the number of the beast, which is 666. By this mark will other minions of the beast know one another. These minions are not necessarily overtly bad. They are just the unthinking go-along-to-get-along types. Your basic fall-guys that always end up paying the price for the evil of others.
I’ve always maintained, at least since there was such a thing, that the mark of the beast will be a Universal Product Code. Perhaps tattooed on everyone’s forehead. We can “boop” our I.D. and get stuff charged to our life.
I underestimated technology.
I hadn’t expected the RFID. The RFID is a little radio transmitter with a number in it. It functions passively, and is only activated when a reading device is nearby. There is a glowing website dedicated to the wonders and convenience of RFID at
It’s scary.
They are implanting RFIDs in groceries and other products. The goal is for a person to be able to walk through a checkout line with an entire cart full of groceries and have it instantly and completely totaled. You then flash your RFID thingie—which you volunteer to carry with you—at a cash point, everything is deducted from your bank account and off you go.
Never mind that a central database now knows what private goods you bought.
The RFID is also used in “family friendly” amusement parks. Children are equipped with RFID wristbands. The child has only to wave his or her wristband at a reader, and get on rides or get an ice cream or whatever, and it’s charged to the family account.
So how many juniors are going to get the equivalent of junk food room service? Family friendly indeed. As Las Vegas casino comp chargecard people know, the less cash you have to actually drag out as cash, the more you spend.
Still, the RFID is touted as a “safety” device. Any parent or any older sibling can go to any computer in the park and find his kid or kid brother.
There may be a RFID in your cellphone right now. Your big brother may be watching out for you.
I feel so safe.
Cause, you know, I trust the government and all. They always make completely wise decisions...
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification Device.
Or possibly it really stands for Revelation Fall-guy Idiot Detector.
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, December 20, 2007

#665 Yoga Back Hair

My sister and brother-in-law sent me a page from a décor store mail circular the other day.
Does anyone say the word circular any more? It was one of those words that troubled me as a child. I couldn’t figure out why people called them a circular when they were so obviously rectangular.
In any event, the page from this flyer was for personal products. This décor store also has lots of personal grooming aids. There are the type that are not quite in the Sharper Image category but not as strange as in a Lillian Vernon catalogue.
The products ranged from automatic ultrasonic jewelry and DVD cleaners to hair removal devices. One of the hair removal devices was called the Emjoi tweeze. It promised to “easily” remove female facial hair with an automatic tweezer system.
At no point did they use the word painlessly. I think the name Emjoi comes from the sound you make when your lips are pressed together in pain and you’re trying to tell someone “I’m emjoi-ing this...”
Because it really looked like a variation on the old Epilady twisted spring, catch-your-hair-and-rip-it-out method of the 80s.
I always thought they should have a smaller version for your nostrils and call it the epi-nasal. It could just reach in with pinpoint accuracy and twist your nostril hairs out.
But the feature “gift for him” in the circular was a product called “Mangroomer.” It showed a picture of a guy holding a 3 foot wand-like thing to his back in order to shave off his unsightly man hair.
Have we come so far from our masculinity in the effete 2000s that we now shave our back hair daily?
Cause it would have to be daily. A five o’clock shadow on your lats would play hell with your clothes. You’d be sandpapering holes in your T-shirts pretty quick.
And most electric shavers I know require some pretty positive pressure. So how would you get the angle for the pressure?
Of course, if you’re shaving your back hair you’re probably taking yoga.
The rest of us would be embarrassed at the chiropractor. Sorry doc, I threw my back out using my Mangroomer...
America, ya gotta love it

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

#664 Your Opinion

The other day there was a survey on TV viewing habits published that said more American families watch ice-skating than NASCAR.
Why would a survey come up with that result? People watch NASCAR all the time. Millions of dollars of advertising goes into NASCAR.
And that’s just for the funny-looking jumpsuits the drivers wear.
I don’t remember the last time I saw an ice skater in a glittery skintight unitard with the brand name Fritos wrapped around it. Ladies and gentlemen, Brian Boitano, sponsored by Cool Ranch Flavor Doritos of course.
It briefly occurred to me that a lot of people’s only exposure to a triple salchow is the Winter Olympics. And most of the time that’s only because they force you to watch ice-skating while you’re waiting for the luge competition.
So, if your were honest in a survey, you would have to report that you watched, um, ice dancing even though the real reason you were tuned in was to watch some luge rider miss a turn and go flying wildly into the crowd.
You got to admit, luge dudes are every bit as crazy as NASCAR drivers.
So, that’s one reason results of American “family” viewing habits are skewed. But I think there’s a larger reason.
It’s that surveys aren’t ever of everyone. No matter how supposedly scientific the random sample, it’s still not a complete sample.
It’s a survey of people who responded to the survey.
And right there, that cuts down your accuracy. Because it’s only a survey of responsive people.
Now truth is, most people I know are unresponsive.
Not as in dead, as in busy.
Too busy to take even five minutes to take a survey of American viewing habits, eating habits, buying habits, or yes, even sex habits.
A profile of your average respondent may be this. They tend to have a lot of time on their hands. They tend not to be suspicious. They tend to want to talk a lot. And if you give them a coupon, they’ll fill out a buyer’s survey or a diary.
So far I have my grandma.
I wonder if she likes NASCAR?
America, ya gotta love it

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

#663 Yearbook Counselor

The other day I went through the new phone book to see if any of the lawyer’s pictures had aged.
Or the lawyers in the pictures had aged.
The phonebook sometimes make me think there’s some vast juris-not-very-prudence afoot whereby lawyers sell their souls to the devil to appear eternally young, vigorous and ready to defend your interests.
It’s like a high school yearbook, and they all kind of look the same.
There’s lots of lawyers. That got me thinking about high school counselors and what they recommend their student charges get into.
My high school counselor and I never got along. In fact, by carefully listening to every thing she recommended I was supposedly capable of doing, which she had scientifically determined by glancing at my grades, my aptitude tests, my IQ tests and my “permanent record,” I was able to chart a course through life that has been rewarding, fulfilling and successful.
I did that but listening to her and then doing the opposite of everything she recommended.
I was a contrary cuss in my youth, and more, I resented that the only reason she was my counselor was that my last name started with “F.”
It was like some brokered marriage in India or something.
Here was the person upon whom my destiny supposedly rested. The guide to set me on the path of my future. And the only thing qualifying her for the job was my position in the alphabet.
We didn’t hit it off instantly. Anti-charisma as it were. A sudden and unexplainable mutual repulsion.
But hey, in those days could you ask for another counselor that you might feel actually had your best interests at heart—or that actually had a heart—and wasn’t some timeclock-punching functionary anxious to move on to the students who started with G?
Nope. Not as many choices then.
Like in every picture in my yearbook, the hair on boys is all the same and doesn’t go down past the top of their ears.
They sort of look like a bunch of lawyers.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, December 17, 2007

#662 Yule be Glad

The Holiday Season is here and that means it’s time to find the perfect gift for those you love. This holiday season I’m happy to spread joy with the first inaugural Funny Guy celebrity gift list.
If you’re a celebrity there’s no greater compliment than for a manufacturer to name a product after you.
Years later, long after your celebrity has faded away, when Us and Them and People haven’t had your face grace their cover for decades, when the National Enquirer doesn’t want to know anything about your tired old facelift, then you’ll be glad you let your agent talk you into putting your name on a product or line of merchandise.
Just ask Jaclyn Smith. Her agent was the best guardian angel of all. Today’s young K-Mart shopper hasn’t a clue she had anything to do with an invisible guy named Charlie.
So, celebrity gifts for 2007.
This one from the currently popular Angelina Jolie. It’s a whole line of gourmet food products, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheeses, etc. The most interesting product in the line bodes ill for her relationship with her current paramour though.
The tabloids will certainly step up the gossip when they hear about the “Brad Pitt-less Olive.”
Hate mismatching your all white gym socks? Michael Jackson takes a tasteless turn back to the limelight with a new product designed to keep track of the ones he favors—the below the ankle socks known as peds.
Tired of losing track of your peds in the dryer? Use Michael Jackson’s filing system—The Ped-o-file.
I told you it was in bad taste.
I think one big box store is taking a smart turn though. Remember what Martha Stewart and Jaclyn Smith did for K-mart.
They’re updating their stodgy image to a sassy new style and renaming their home décor store, Bed Bath and Beyonce.
And this next one is a winner from the get go. Who wouldn’t want to mount a tiny cooking device directly to their teeth?
No more messy raw food ever again. Make panninis in your mouth and put bling on your choppers too.
With George Foreman Grillz.
America, ya gotta love it

Friday, December 14, 2007

#661 Yield Your Slot

I was walking downtown the other day and I chanced by the parking enforcement office.
Parking enforcement is one of those unsung hero type of jobs. If they weren’t there, people would bitch. And when they are there, people bitch.
Most people drive cars not cycles. So, as there is a limited amount of parking downtown, it is necessary to keep the parked cars cycling.
If I am looking for a parking place, I am only too glad that the guy with the place I covet has to yield it because he fears a parking violation enforcer. That same parking violation enforcer becomes my enemy once I occupy my slot.
Kind of a NIMBY thing. Now that I’m here, keep everyone else out before they ruin the neighborhood.
We are only human.
The Lord never said to Adam, “go forth and make sense.”
Parking enforcement suffers from what I call the tow truck syndrome. Most of the ads you see for tow trucks are the little signs on private parking lots saying you will be towed away if you park there.
Yet the signs have to strike that delicate balance between be stern enough to sound like they mean business and friendly enough so next time you’re in a ditch you’ll remember their name and give them a call.
A towing company who actually does tow your car away from a private lot will no doubt suffer your eternal opprobrium and can kiss you off as a customer for life.
No wonder tow truck companies always seem to be changing their names.
The downtown parking enforcement office has a fifteen-minute parking slot in front of it, by the way, so people can run in and out to pay their fines.
Why do I think it’s the one parking slot in all of downtown where they never write a violation?
In any event, as I went by, I saw this sign in the window. “In a hurry? Save time and pay your parking violation online.”
It was such a cheery and helpful sign. You almost forgot you could have saved even more time—if they didn’t write you the dang ticket to start with...
America, ya gotta love it

Thursday, December 13, 2007

#660 Yarr Ear Swabbie

The Q-tip company is the caretaker of one of the most pervasive polite fictions of our age. Kind of a Santa Claus for adults. Because we all know Q-tips are “not to be inserted in your ear canal.”
Wink wink.
Long before this litigious period of our history the Q-tip manufacturer, cautioned users not to stick Q-tips into their ear canals.
Yet, you know and I know, that’s exactly what they do. How else to wipe loose that errant piece of earwax?
Oh sure, Q-tips are great for cleaning the convolutions of the exterior ear as well. But we all know what they’re really for.
Still, it’s a limited use¾and one they actually tell people not to do¾so how does the company push more product?
The ad agency for the new generation of Q-tip purveyors, the ear apparents as it were, have given us a list of other things that Q-tips are good for.
Broadening the category. Establishing a more horizontal product presence.
Some excerpts from the new packaging: “Q-tips have more cotton at the tip than any other cotton swab!” Apparently the product in question’s official name is not Q-tip but swab.
As in “swab the decks matie.” Or perhaps “clear the decks swabbie.”
These “swabs” are now the self-proclaimed “...Ultimate beauty tool... for safely and precisely applying, blending, touching up, and removing cosmetics.”
Throw away the brushes Estee Lauder, bring out the ear cleaners.
Even more great Q-tip ideas: “Baby care: Delicately care for sensitive areas.” On this blurb they show a picture of a giant Q-tip heading for a baby’s eye. Disturbingly, no adult appears to be holding it.
“Electronics: Clean and dust even hard to reach areas.” A picture shows keyboard cracks. Finally, a tool to remove Doritos crumbs.
And lastly, perhaps to justify the swab name, they suggest you use Q-tips—in their words—“for all household cleaning”.
Yeah, next time I have a century to mop the floor I’ll bust out the Q-tips. And let’s not forget that stubborn toilet ring.
Sometimes rebranding is stupid.
You just want to tell Madison Avenue to stick it in their ear...
America, ya gotta love it

#659 Visions

You know how you wander through life and every now and then, something just jumps out at you like a vision or something?
I was in Seattle visiting my brother. He had flown in for a convention. We were walking downtown and chanced upon a little pile of rubbish.
Little piles of rubbish are unfortunately not uncommon in major cities and almost always include the detritus of the homeless, or at least the debris of the temporarily-on-the-street people.
Such piles usually include a candy wrapper or three, but are never without an empty booze bottle of some sort, often two, at least one of which will most likely be a selection from the fortified wine department of your downtown mini-market.
This pile was of three latte cups. Yep. A triad of Starbucks containers—lids, mini-straws, and burn-preventative cup sleeves included. There appeared to be crumbs from either a scone or a biscotto as well.
“Look at that,” I remarked to my brother, “A bum rubbish pile featuring premium coffee litter—only in Seattle.”
Not long after that, I saw an interesting pink car coming down the road. It made think that maybe Mary Kay has come on hard times.
You may remember that in the Mary Kay heyday the prize you could win for being a super salesperson was a pink Cadillac.
You benefited by scoring a fine luxury ride and the organization benefited by having everyone notice this huge pink testimonial driving down the road.
All and sundry instantly identified both your successes and how potentially successful they too might be if they sold Mary Kay.
The car driving toward me the other day was pink all right.
But is was a Hyundai.
Hyundais are, of course, fine automobiles, but the contrast of a sensible, economical, small pink Hyundai and a giant, self-indulgent, luxurious pink Cadillac was enormous in my mind.
But hey, what do I know?
Maybe Mary Kay now has different increments of success. And you work your automotive way up to a Cadillac.
Or maybe Mary Kay is now into corporate responsibility, fuel savings, and conservation.
So the pink Hyundai is actually green.
America, ya gotta love it

#658 Vaguely Sleetish

So the other day it was sleeting.
I think.
To tell you the truth, what sleet is has always been a little vague in my brain. Unlike the Inuit, I never had the opportunity to find a reason to have over 2,000 words for snow.
I was a desert boy and snow was a rare and remarkable experience in my early life, notable purely for its existence, never mind that there were different types and gradations thereof. The difference between snow and not snow was like the difference between food and, oh, say, hunger. I worried about types of snow no more than a starving man cares about his next meal being vegetable, fruit, grain, or nut.
So my experience with sleet is largely deductive. It doesn’t appear to be a flake, therefore it must not be snow.
This deduction is largely based on how it hits my windshield. Fine grains of snow tend to blow off. Large, wet flakes tend to stick after splitching in a tacky fashion. The occasional quick splotches mixed with raindrops are assumed to be sleet.
I think of sleet as being more icy, but that really is no description at all. Snow is, after all, ice crystals.
I know that sleet is not as hard as hail, nor as noisy.
But still. Just the word sleet makes it sound as if it’s harder and edgier than snow.
When I hear other people identifying sleet, what they are talking about appears to be slush. Slush is definitely softer—and splitchier on my windshield.
But for them, slush seems to be a word reserved for what’s on the ground, after snow has melted. It’s often hidden beneath a hard crust of apparently powdery snow. Only to be revealed when you step on it, break through the crust, and have your ankles suddenly identify with flash-frozen salmon.
When I read about it in books, I used to imagine sleet as being these miniature flying ice splinters. Like tiny icicles ready to puncture with pinprick ferocity those foolish enough to go out into the sleet storm.
But now it appears sleet is nothing more than flying slush.
No more intimidating than Slurpees on the wing.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, December 10, 2007

#657 Violinters

So lately, I’ve been performing with a musical group. Unlike the garage bands I used to drum for in the 60s though, this is the real thing.
It’s got 18 pieces and many of them are, you know, band instruments. Woods and brass and stuff.
As the emcee for this group I’ve had occasion, after a particularly blistering solo, to yell out praise and name the instrument in question. Or, more accurately, the instrument player in the context of his instrument.
As in, let’s hear it for Pat Jeffries, trombonist.
And it got me thinking. Not all instruments have a straightforward word that a player of that instrument can identify himself with.
Trombone players do, Trombonist. Still, the more lyrical tromboner is not used, although if I was using the telephone, I would be a telephoner, not a telephonist.
Perhaps “tromboner” is reserved for the trombone player who makes a lot of errors. As when my grandmother chided my Uncle Wally for “pulling a boner” when he made a mistake.
Saxophoner is also not used, as the term saxophonist has established itself over the years. Funny, because the word sax player is also used, but we never here the term saxist.
Even before the musical equal rights amendment.
Interestingly, musical instrument players have never had to struggle with and revise gender specific words like chairman and fireman and stuff. Although some singers did have a little issue.
The “Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board” designation would have sounded a little less macho rendered as “Frank Sinatra, Chairperson of the Board.”
Drums have drummer and not drummist, while clarinets have clarinetists and not clarineters.
Cornet players are tough. Corneter sounds like someone wearing a crown and a cornetist sounds like a foot surgeon. Or is that cornist?
Oh well. I suppose there’s always bugler.
Banjo players I can’t figure at all. Banjist? Banjee-a-dor? Maybe if he shrieks too, he could be a screaming banjee.
A friend of mine came up with the best one. Banjinista. I like it. Sounds like a banjo playing latte maker.
America, ya gotta love it

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

#656 Venture Capital

The other day we received a press release from a local police department that shows the hazards of relying on spellcheck.
A really advanced form of spellcheck ought to be contextcheck, in which the program checks words not just for the correct letter order that makes them a certain word, but also whether they appear in the correct context to make it the appropriate word to fit in the sentence.
These mistakes are always so much more fun when they come from an official document.
This one involves the word which could be loan, l-o-a-n, as in loaning you money, or lone, l-o-n-e, as in lone ranger.
The press release from the police said the following: “A male suspect entered the bar after closing hours, contacted the loan bartender and demanded the money in the cash register.”
Of course the whole point of this is that in the press release, the, ahem, information officer got the spelling of lone wrong. He wrote loan, l-o-a-n, instead of lone, l-o-n-e.
Which, instead of portraying the perpetrator as demanding cash from an individual who was alone, makes it seem as if the bartender was a special type whose job it was to actually lend money.
As in, give people cash when they ask.
So again, when the press release describes the event—the suspect demanding the loan bartender give him money—it sounds more like a transaction at the bank.
It’s what, I assume, “loan” bartenders are supposed to do. Hand out cash right? It’s just a loan though. The suspect needs to remember to pay it back, with interest.
Hey, maybe the perp figured it was some new spin on the payday loan business. With offices right in a bar.
Yeah, that’s it, get a little venture capital...
I can hear his defense lawyer now.
“Your honor, my client neither planned nor committed a robbery. As this press release makes clear, he was only engaging the loan executive at the bar in a lending transaction.
Perhaps the real crime here is that the bartender in charge of the loan failed to document it properly.”
America, ya gotta love it

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

#655 Vixen Vigaro

It’s the time of year for Christmas decorations again. Will they be mini-lights this year? Or will we return to old-fashioned big bulbs, standing anal-retentively up on the edges of roofs with perfect regularity?
The messy tumbling chaotic masses of icicle lights forgotten with the crazy self-indulgence of earlier times.
Who cares?
The newest rage in Christmas decorations is inflatable lawn ornaments. Big Frostys and Rudolphs, even sleighs complete with 8 tiny reindeer and that jolly old elf—so pretty at night with their internal lighting and full-blown joy.
And in the day, well, in the day, not so good.
Shapeless masses of limp plastic, noticeable mostly as blobs on the lawn.
A lot of Christmas decorations don’t look so good in the day. You got orange extension cords on roofs, wires dangling off bushes, and now, flaccid flaps of plastic. Like gigantic, colored prophylactics in need of a pharmaceutical assist.
Lawn ornament disorder? Drooping reindeer? Try Vigaro Viagra for your limp Vixen.
So I’m worried. You hear a lot about the tipping point lately.
“The tipping point” is the new way of saying critical mass. In the nuclear nineties critical mass was the way of describing when a thing finally hit the point where a chain reaction got underway.
The tipping point is like that. I think the reference comes from those Japanese garden things where a little bit of water drips into a hollow tube on an axis and when it fills up enough it tips over and the water all rushes out at once.
The point is, it only takes one little drop of water to send the contraption over the tipping point. Up until that drop, everything is fine.
So they talk about the tipping point in global warming being when we use that last little bit of greenhouse gas-producing power from a coal plant and the environment is finally and irrevocably, coastal flooded-ly, permafrost melted-ly, out of control.
And so I thought of the electrical power drawn by the little fans inflating flaccid Christmas lawn ornaments across the country.
And the tipping point the single fan that blows up the sagging Santa in my neighbor’s yard.
Merry Christmas.
America, ya gotta love it

Monday, December 03, 2007

#654 View to the Future

So I got this fortune the other day. As you know, I’m always amused by the key to my destiny being housed in a random cheap cookie but I figure, you know, it beats tea laves.
I suppose there’s nothing intrinsically crazy about cookie clairvoyance compared to viewing the pattern of sodden leaves remaining in one’s teacup as a guide to the future.
A fortune cookie seems no less superstitious than many of the friendly pieces of pagan behavior we employ. Even the most Christian among us occasionally knocks on wood. Or throws salt over his shoulder for luck before scratching that one last lottery ticket.
So I guess it shouldn’t have been completely unpredictable when a person at an event I attended the other day stepped in some dog poo and proclaimed it was good luck.
“Doesn’t look so good to me,” I offered, as he used a stick to scrape the gooey mass from his sole. I admit, it was fortunate he was wearing biking shoes and his treads were not too crenulated.
Still, one would have to go far to include the words “good” and “luck” in that sequence to describes the process it was going to require to remove the excremental deposit.
“Oh yes,” he said, “my wife is Chinese and she says stepping in dog crap is lucky.”
I suppose it depends on your perspective. If I was, say, offered the choice of stepping off a cliff or stepping into dog crap, I’m sure I would see the latter alternative as an incredibly fortunate turn of events.
Given the ordinary course of walking in America however, poop-free stepping is my much-preferred alternative. I, in fact, thank my lucky stars when I manage to barely avoid fecal piles when out on a jog.
But that’s me. I tend to plod along carefully in life.
As my fortune cookie said, “You are not one to make quick rash decisions.”
As opposed to slow rash decisions of course, or quick cautious decisions.
As my cookie illustrates, Chinese and English are not always on the same page word-wise.
Maybe the guy’s wife, just maybe, said stepping in dog poop is yucky.
America, ya gotta love it