Thursday, January 31, 2008

Email Questionnaires

If you've been around the World Wide Wackfest for more than a couple days, you've no doubt received in your email inbox one of those questionnaires that claims to be able to tell you something about yourself and promises horrible things will happen to your relatives' neighbors' paper carrier if you don't answer it and forward it to everyone in your address book.

I normally delete these wastes of electricity faster than Eddie Murphy can say "I do--no wait--I don't."

But I recently got practically identical lists of questions from two radically-different sources, and it made me sit up and take notice...and what I noticed was a wee bit irritating. Here are the questions and the wee bit of irritations:

1. Which is your favorite color: red, black, blue, green, or yellow?
Are these my only choices? In an age when college entrance forms have as many as 18 options for filling the blank labeled "Gender" (factual fact), you're telling me I have to pick one of only five colors?

2. Your first initial?
Don't the last two words of that sentence mean the same thing? Saying "first initial" is like Maria Von Trapp saying "let's start at the very beginning." If you mean the initial letter of my first name, then say so.

3. Which color do you like more, black or white?
Are these even colors? Having grown up watching television that was in shades of gray, I believe I know the difference between black & white and an actual, honest-to-goodness color. And what do you mean "which color do you like more?" Like? Like? Am I in 7th grade again? "Well, if she likes me, then I like her, but if she doesn't then I don't."

4. Name of a person of the same sex as yours.
I'm pretty sure you mean "the same sex as you." Names don't really have gender. Or sex, for that matter.

5. Your favorite number?
And just what is it that a number (or numeral, for that matter) is capable of doing or not doing that would cause me to show it the least bit of favortism?

6. Do you like Cal ifornia or Florida more?
More than what?

7. Do you like a lake or the ocean more?
Hmmm...A lake...THE ocean. This sounds like there's only one ocean to choose from. And my answer will differ depending on what specific bodies of water we're talking about. I think I would prefer to spend time in Lake Michigan than the Antarctic Ocean, but perhaps the South Pacific would win out over Lake Erie.

8. Write down a wish (a realistic one)
I wish no one would ever send me one of these pieces of flotsom ever again. was supposed to be realistic.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Headlines Are Playing With My Head

Every once in a while, a newspaper headline will just hit me sideways. I don't know what it is...though I suspect the issue falls mostly on my side of the net...but sometimes I get the feeling that what the headline says to me is not what the article is really about.

Saturday's edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was a treasure trove of such finds:

3RD SUSPECT FACES CHARGES OVER MAN LOCKED IN TRUNK -- What a strange courtroom scene that must have been. And what was the purpose of having a man locked in a trunk and the accused standing on top of him?

MISSING ST. PAUL MAN FOUND OK -- Not only was the St. Paul man missing; so, apparently, was Oklahoma.

PIANIST, SPCO JOIN IN SPARKLING PROGRAM -- Wouldn't this have been more appropriate for the 4th of July?

FIRE FORCES GAMBLERS TO FLEE MONTE CARLO RESORT -- I guess the employees and people just enjoying the buffet were allowed to stay.

SENATE RESPONDS: NOT SO FAST -- This is news? Since when has the Senate ever responded quickly to anything?

WILL YOUTH RESHAPE '08 RACE? Young People are Voting in Droves and Could Have a Big Impact--If They Stay Engaged -- I'm all in favor of age requirements for voters, but this whole you-gotta-have-a-fiance thing seems a bit Big Brotherish to me.

FIRED BUILDER WILL GET ANOTHER SHOT AT WAKOTA BRIDGE -- We're condoning acts of violence against our infrastructure now? "Here. We know you went all postal when we fired you in 2006, but go ahead...lock and load and see what kind of damage you can do this time."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Are you sleeping, Brother John?

I spent 8 years, 9 months, and 16 days as a proofreader of financial documents – prospectuses (prospecti?) and annual reports for mutual funds – all on third shift. In that amount of time, I discovered why it’s called the graveyard shift: working at night and attempting to sleep during the day will drive you to an early grave.

Well, maybe not drive you.

More like send you crawling slowly over the broken glass of your social life into the welcomed peace and rest of death.

Do you ever get used to the hours? No. Doesn't the pay differential make it worth it? No. Isn't it cool being at work knowing the CEO is never going to slip in unannounced? Welllll...kinda.

In truth (almost), my schedule of coming home in the morning (opposite all the Surface Dwellers inching along the highway going into town), getting a few hours of fitful sleep, and being available for any after-school activities of the Fruit Of My Loins worked out in a way that was both okey and dokey: I was never late for dinner because of being stuck in traffic, the FOML probably saw more of me than those of the nine-to-fivers, and I always had the immediate sympathy of anyone who learned of my ungodly hours. ("Oh man, I can't imagine! How do you do it?")

And when I say ungodly, I mean it. There is a reason, beyond astronomy, why it is light during the day and dark at night. We were meant to sleep at night and work during the day...not the other way around. So for those third-shift heathens among us who are still fighting against the Lord's design for our lives: repent and be rescheduled, every one of you, for a return to sanity, and you will receive the gift of restful sleep.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If you can't stand the heat...

The pressure is on now. I've emailed all my friends, family, former co-workers, fellow church members, and a few dating services...telling them all about this venture in vanity called a blog. A few fine folks have even subscribed so that new posts are emailed directly to their anxiously-expectant inboxes.

Now I need to provide some content.

It's one thing to post a sample chapter of my book in hopes of generating a few orders. (See "Click this out" in the left margin...nudge, nudge.) It is entirely something else to keep originating warped observations on culture, current events, and Skyline Chili.

The good news is, I doubt that my supply of warposity will run dry very soon. And for sure, the world will continue to be a strange, strange place to live in...Master Jack. long as the much-fretted-over Writers Guild of America strike continues, the world will be clamoring for non-reality-TV entertainment. (Of course, I personally am always clamoring for something other than reality TV.) Methinks I'm striking while the iron is hot.

Well, actually...I'm not striking. Not a guild member, you see. Lucky for you and the rest the world, eh?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

First Church of the Frigidaire

It was fairly cold this morning.

Now, living in Minnesota, saying that it's cold in January is kind of like announcing that African-Americans were happy when Obama won the Iowa caucus...not real surprising news. (Although our local paper used the freedom of its press to actually run that shocking story...)

On a particularly cold Sunday morning, there are at least three choices a person has as to what to do:
   1)  A person could stay in bed under a down comforter, warm and cozy;
   2)  A person could force himself to get up, get dressed, and head to church; or,
   3)  If they wanted to remove all doubt as to their level of complete insanity, they could strip to the waist, paint themselves green and yellow and go to an outdoor stadium to watch football.

You may be surprised to learn that I am not recommending choice number three. But equally surprising may be my recommendation that, when faced with these choices, a person would be wise to head to a church building for Sunday worship.
Attending a Sunday morning service has all sorts of possibilities for warming you up:
  • Lots of people in the same room...hello?
  • There's always at least one terminally-joyful woman who will give you a hug guaranteed to spike your temp a degree or two.
  • If you clap along with the songs, circulation should return to your fingers.
  • Plenty of hot air coming from the pulpit.
  • If your church uses wine for communion, take multiple trips to the altar. It won't really warm you up, but you won't care.
And best of all, after the service is over, we crank up the heat in the baptistry and turn on the air jets: "Ladies and gentlemen, the holy hot tub is open!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Send out the clowns

According to Michael Holden of Reuters News, Bozo may be looking for a new gig soon. University of Sheffield (England) researchers took a poll of youngsters and teenagers and found that “clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening.” Apparently, even the older participants found clowns scary.

So what’s to be done? Can you imagine Winkie the Clown in career counseling?

What would you say are your strengths?
       Well, my aim with a seltzer bottle is pretty good.

Yes…and…of what use in the real world do you think that would be?
       Maybe I could open a car detailing shop.

Okay, I suppose that’s a possibility. What kind of experience in business management do you have?       I’ve managed to get 17 adults into a tiny car…and only one of them was a midget.

I believe the term is “little person.”
       Oh please. Political correctness really honks me off.

Speaking of honking, do you think it would be possible for you to stop squeezing that horn every time you answer a question?
       You need to lighten up. Wanna smell my flower?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thus ends another grand love story

It was a cute story; one meant to elicit an "awww" and maybe even a tear.

The television news featured it Saturday night, and it was on the front page of the Sunday paper. And who can blame them? Vernon had to ask three times, over the course of 68 years, but Rita finally agreed to marry him.

I find no fault in celebrating the happy tale...but it apparently isn't a "they lived happily ever after" kind of thing. At least according to the headline over the continuation of the story: LONGTIME ROMANCE ENDS IN MARRIAGE

How sad...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Three magic words

There's a scene in It's a Wonderful Life when George Bailey and Uncle Billy are comparing the three most exciting things they like to hear. Uncle Billy says he likes to hear "Breakfast is served, lunch is served, and dinner is served." George chimes in with "anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles."

I'm thinking my response might be closer to Billy's than George's.

What do I like to hear? The simple phrase "working from home." Few pieces of communication can bring as much comfort to me as those three magic words. There's no commute, no co-workers, and no scraping someone else's lunch remains from the company microwave.

My current employment situation allows me the opportunity to work from home (oh...there it is again...I love that sound) when there's a need. Do you have a dishwasher repairman coming sometime between 8 A.M. and 3 P.M.? Just take the company laptop home and do your stuff from the dining room table. Did the overnight ice storm drop a tree on your car? That's why you always take home the laptop. Did you get a Twilight Zone dvd box set for Christmas? Okay...that's a great reason to stay home, but be careful how you word your schedule change request.

I'm thinking the time is not too far away when I'll be wanting to limit my commute to a walk from the bedroom to the dining room a little more often. The more the price of gas breaks the $3 barrier, the more I'm thinking that way. The trick will be coming up with enough justifications for working from home (Gasp! I said it again!):

*I've got a hacking cough and don't want to infect my co-workers. (Oooh, that's good! Make them think that me working from home (*breathes deeply* Oh yessss...) is in their best interest!)
*My dog has a bladder infection and I need to let him out into the backyard every hour.
*I've got a bladder infection.
*I broke my leg.
*I broke my dog's leg.
*I broke into a sweat going downstairs to feed my dog. It might be a mild stroke.

I think I'm beginning to sound like MASH's Klinger, making up any excuse necessary to get sent home from the Army.

Yeah...that works for me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ya think?

You gotta love Dr. Phil.

Sunday’s big news was Dr. Phil McGraw’s visit to the hospital room of Britney Spears. Apparently, TV’s resident tough love guru felt the need to suck some publicity out of a bad situation and decided to do his famous 5-minute analysis (bring to mind Quick-Draw McGraw, anyone?) of pop culture’s current Queen of Self-Destruction. (A title hotly pursued by not only Britney, but also Lindsay, Paris, Nicole . . .)

And, man oh man, the insight this guy has is utterly amazing. Check out this quote that McGraw graciously shared with Entertainment Tonight:
“My meeting with Britney and some family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention.”

How many years of training and clinical experience did it take for Dr. Phil to be able to come to that conclusion?

Up next: The son of Jacques Cousteau appears on the Discovery Channel to announce that after careful study he has determined that the Pacific Ocean has a lot of water in it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

How much is that gator in the window?

Some albino alligators got stolen the other day.

According to the Associated Press: Seven albino alligators disappeared this week from Brazil's Federal University of Mato Grosso, and authorities suspect animal smugglers. The alligators are extremely rare and are worth about $9,700 apiece.

This brings several questions to mind:

1.  Why are we so interested in all things albino? Seriously, if this story was about green alligators (Cue the Irish Rovers: You gotcher green alligators and long-necked geese; some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees...) there wouldn't be nearly as much attention paid to it. It wouldn't have even made the papers, methinks. And think about The DaVinci Code. Would it have been half as interesting if the self-punishing hitman-monk wasn't an albino? NO! The mere presence of a melatonin-challenged individual ups the suspense exponentially.

2.  How does one go about stealing alligators? It's not like you can just walk through the aisles and slip one into the inside pocket of your overcoat. You can't throw a ball into the back of your station wagon and say, "Fetch! Go get it, boy!" And you've got to be careful once you get the things, or you could give the term inside job a whole new meaning.

3.  Who sets the price for stolen albino alligators? This is the aspect of the story that got me started. How does one decide how much an albino alligator is worth? Why $9,700? Who decided that $9,800 was just too much to pay? Is there a running black market on white gators that responds to supply-and-demand economics? Which leads to...

4.  Just what is the demand for albino alligators? Who wants a small supply of them so much that they would pay to have them stolen? Of what use are they after you gain possession of them? Would you even be able to "show them off" as exotic pets? I mean, the whole world knows they were stolen, for crying out loud!

"Mr. Bond, I am so glad you stopped by. Your visit has given me an opportunity to demonstrate the power of my albino alligators. Yes, I are filled with fear and dread far beyond the level you would have reached had they merely been normally-pigmented alligators...but don't worry, my minions will clean up the puddle you just made."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Headlines We're Not Likely to See This Year

The new year is traditionally a time for taking a hopeful look toward the future: How will this year be different from the last one?
Allow me to offer this short collection of newspaper headlines that I would eagerly welcome, though I sincerely doubt any of them will ever come to pass:
  • Al Gore Suffers Heat Exhaustion
  • Gasoline Producers Admit Price Gouging; Offer Rebates
  • Jay Leno Ceases to Repeat His Punchlines
  • Political TV Ads Banned
  • Watterson Restarts Calvin & Hobbes
  • Britney, Paris, & Lindsay--Nevermind...We Don't Care
Ahhh...a man can dream, can't he?