Tag Archives: Business

A Gander Ahead at 2019, the Year of the Goiter

5 Jan

by Roger White

 

Ah, my catatonic cohort, as we stagger forward into 2019, which I believe is the Chinese Year of the Goiter, allow me to gaze into my patented (Patent #4,448,923.e-7) Oldspouse Ball of Crystal-like Substance and render forth an inkling of what is on the horizon in the delirious days to come.

 

goiter dude

Right off the bat, as the mist clears in my little pearl of prognostication, I see, wait, there it is, I see the late Walter Matthau at a podium. No, wait, my bad, that’s White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She is announcing that there will no longer be an annual State of the Union address. This, she says, will be replaced by the president’s hourly Tweet of the Union, in which actual verbs and coherent spelling will be optional. But there’s more. Here we go, read along, if you will:

 

In the World of Business. In late April, in violence-ridden Chicago, two enterprising entrepreneurs come up with a safety-conscious version of the Uber ride-sharing initiative—this one utilizing surplus US Army tanks to ferry passengers from point A to point B. Tuber, the company is called, allows up to four people to ride in a WWII-vintage M4 Sherman tank to their desired destinations. For an extra charge, passengers may fire the Sherman’s 75-mm cannon at a Starbucks of their choice (although the cannon is armed only with yellow house paint and fifty-gallon canisters of glitter). The White House responds to this development by promising to build 20-foot-high walls made of baked knishes around every Starbucks franchise in the greater Chicago area. Press Secretary Sanders notes that the president will make the US military, primarily former US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, pay for the $250-million knish construction.

 

In Weather. In late August, following a record 147 days of 115-degree temperatures, the town of Lovelock, Nevada, spontaneously combusts, incinerating every building in a two-square-mile radius of downtown Lovelock. Fortunately, only three people are killed, as almost every citizen of the town of approximately 2,000 people departed to stay with poor lovelockrelatives until the unprecedented heat wave subsided. In response to the vast majority of world scientists explaining that the disaster was a direct result of drastic global warming, the White House imposes a national ban on world scientists and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of anthracite coal around the headquarters of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 

In Social Developments. The #MeToo Movement retakes the national spotlight in September, as no less than 25 prominent women in areas of endeavor from politics to show business, from sports to finance and industry come forward with personal accounts of harassment and inappropriate behavior leveled against mainly white men in positions of great power. In response, the White House announces a national ban on Gwyneth Paltrow and begins plans to engineer a 20-foot-high wall of ribbed latex around every white male American CEO, Congressman, movie producer, and member of the Catholic Church.

 

In Sports. In October, the surprising Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball’s American League Central Division complete their amazing 2019 season by sweeping the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals, four games to none, to claim the World Series trophy. After hearing that Tigers’ Venezuelan first baseman Miguel Cabrera earned the series Most Valuable Player award—and discovering that the Tigers lead the majors in Hispanic players on the roster—the White House proposes to end all shipments of bats, balls, gloves, and other baseball equipment to all Latin American countries and begins formulating plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of hot dog buns around Detroit’s Comerica Park.

 

In Trends. In mid-November, the makers of the plant-based meat substitute Beyond Meat announce the development of three more innovative concepts: Beyond Clothes (in which slacks, shirts, and dresses are replaced by edible dashikis made of tofu and soy pulp), Beyond Food (in which users’ desires to actually consume food are tempered by scented holograms of rotting whale carcasses), and Beyond Sex (in which users’ sexual urges are dampened by audio recordings of Gilbert Gottfried describing his genitalia in gilbertminute detail). In response, the White House declares an immediate national ban on all plants and vegetables and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall made of dried beef jerky around every Golden Corral and Bonanza steakhouse in the country.

 

And in Political News. By December, the political stalemate in Washington, D.C., finally ends as Congress announces it has quashed efforts to construct a gigantic wall along the wallnation’s southern border. This lifts the 352-day-long partial government shutdown, during which 4,500 federal employees perished from lack of food and medical care. The White House responds with a total national ban on federal employees and begins plans to construct a 20-foot-high wall around the partially constructed 20-foot-high wall currently in place on the nation’s southern border.

 

Roger White is a 20-foot-high freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely 20-foot-high spouse, a gas-powered dachshund, and a cat recovering from Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit www.oldspouse.wordpress.com.

And Now, United Airlines’ New Theme Song!

12 Apr

Announcer voice-over

“In light of United Airlines, shall we say, unique passenger accommodation policies, here with the company’s new theme, is United CEO Oscar Munoz:”

 

Munoz (with bat in hand)

(to the tune of “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller)

 

(verse 1)

“You’re leavin’ home, tickets in hand

But the plane is full,

We got the right to throw you out on yer can,

And we just might crack yer skull.”

 

(verse 2)

“Your home might seem so far away,

And you feel like a wrong has been done,

But you silly customers have to make way

Because United staff is number one.”

 

(chorus)

“Ohh, on United jet airliners,

Be careful which seat you buy,

You may end up with quite a shiner,

But be sure to fly the friendly skies.”

 

Here Comes That Damn Google Maps Car Again

16 Oct

by Roger White

I’m not what you call an early adopter. Nay, I am not the type who runs out to Best Buy or that ultra-high-tech Apple Store that looks like a futuristic antiseptically sterile lab from the movie Andromeda Strain to snag the very first model of the latest version of the newest, fastest plasma laser 4-D androbot doodad.

I figure if what I have works, why pay good money to buy another version of it? My 8-track tapes play just meat loavefine, thank you very much. Except when they don’t, but then I can use the miles of tape they spew forth to decorate my Christmas tree (the same detachable faux pine our family has enjoyed every yule since the Clinton Administration, mind you).

This mindset is surely why my buds call me Analog Man.

I used to wear the moniker with a grudging pride, but now I’m finding that my drag-me-by-my-heels-into-this-century behavior may be for the best. Our headlong lurch into the cyber age may be just what ol’ Mr. Orwell was warning us about.

Take the interwebs. It’s truly creepy how much they know about us. I was looking around on ebay the other day at electronic drum kits, just curious, ya know. So then I got on Facebook not long after, and, behold, there were several posts from various advertisers with photos and prices of e-drum kits. Some of them even said, “Still interested, Roger?”

Jinkies! I have to say, this gave me the willies. The jinky willies, even.

So I started doing a little investigating. On the interwebs. Cognitive dissonance aside, I found some juicy, disturbing factoids. I used to call them facts, but in the 21st century, we call them factoids.

For example, Google is, as you’re probably aware, the most popular search engine on the planet. About 70 percent of all net searches are done on Google. And, yes, they track all searches. The fact that I knew they were tracking me as I searched this information on Google put me in a temporary mental wormhole. A quick shot of Jim Beam snapped me out of it. A Google Maps car slowly crept by my window as I put the shot glass down, then a tumbleweed rolled by ominously—in my living room. Yeah.

Anyway, as I read on, I found that they’re getting better at these tracking procedures every day. It frightened me to read that Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently said the following: “If you have beeg brosomething that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

That’s it. No more searching for obese cartoon unicorns online in my underwear.

And it’s not just Google. The Wall Street Journal recently examined the 50 most popular U.S. websites and found that these sites placed 3,180 tracking files on the reporter’s test computer. Most of those tracking files were installed by 131 companies, many of which are in the business of tracking web users to create databases of consumer profiles.

What do they do with these profiles? They sell them, for big money. These guys are called data brokers, and they collect and package some of our most sensitive personal information and sell it—to each other, to advertisers, even the government—without our knowledge. This data broker biz is a multibillion-dollar industry. Billion, with a “buh.”

Just delete your cookies, you say? Welll … tracking technology is smarter than that now. Monitoring your use, which was once limited to simple “cookie” files that record websites, has been largely replaced with new tools that scan in real time what people are doing online.

Gadzooks. I’m a bit peevish to log in now. Will I get on FB soon and see, “HI ROGER!! Still wetting the bed when it thunders?? Well, try PEE-B-GONE!!” …or something.

helgaAnd, listen, Google people, that thing I had for Slavic barmaids with hairy legs was years ago, OK? No more photos of prospective Bulgarian brides, please.

Just remember this, my cosmic cadets: The word Google broken down is “go ogle.” I’m not sure if that really means anything, but it sounded profound at the time. Another shot of JB, please. Dag, there’s that Google Maps car again.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

Of Asian Delicacies and the Idiom Tedium

16 Mar

by Roger White

My mother-in-law loves authentic Chinese food, so when we treat her to dinner, she almost invariably chooses First Chinese Barbecue, way up on North Lamar in far North Austin. It’s so far north you’re practically in Waco. You can’t get much more dead ducksauthentic than First Chinese Barbecue; as you walk in you’re greeted by rows of dead, naked ducks hanging like John Wilkes Booth’s gang at execution. The aroma of spices and meats is practically intoxicating, and the menu’s mostly in what I presume is Chinese, with some hints about what you’re ordering in English. I’m never quite sure if I’m ingesting a pig, a chicken, or some other roasted creature, but I must say it is all quite scrumptious.

No, First Chinese Barbecue did not cut some sort of free-meal deal with me to write this, but I will tell you that the dried fresh squid with black bean sauce is out of this world. (Is that good, Mr. Run?) Again, that’s First Chinese Barbecue. Far North Lamar. Ask for the Oldspouse Special.

Anyway, the dinner is only half of the evening for our Bubbie. Dear mom-in-law then likes to head next door to the MT Supermarket. This store, if you’ve never been, is the Asian version of a Walmart Supercenter. It’s a 100,000-square-foot bastion of the most amazing and unbelievable foodstuffs any Texan has ever seen. I presume these yummyitems are foodstuffs. In this era of PC politeness and easily hurt feelings, I’m trying to tread lightly here, OK, but not in my wildest imagination can I conjure a gastronomical use for, say, pork rectum, pork uterus, or fresh chicken feet.

And on just about every aisle you’ll find small armies of robotically waving ceramic cats. Quite unsure of what a robotically waving ceramic cat has to do with Asian groceries, I looked it up and found that these are actually a Japanese thing. Called maneki-neko (which sort of translates into “beckoning cat”) these oddly friendly felines are considered good luck talismans. I don’t know. I have a real cat, and whenever he starts to wave at me like that it usually indicates an impending ambush.

There are also rows upon rows of sweets, too, both prepackaged and freshly made. These aren’t your typical kitty hellocandies and cakes, mind you. You have chocolate and strawberry Pocky Sticks, Green Bean Ice Bars, Purple Mochi Balls, and all sorts of squishy treats with names like Lychee Jelly Cup and Poo Poo Variety. Keeping the freshly rendered pork rectum in mind, I opted to pass on the Poo Poo Variety.

With this less-than-appetizing terminology stuck in my cranium, I got to thinking. How many other marketing words and slogans—perfectly appropriate and appealing in their native tongue—somehow fail to translate? So I hopped on my google horse, and here’s what I found:

  • It seems that the Pepsi slogan of some years back—“Come Alive!”—actually translated in a certain Chinese dialect into “Make Your Ancestors Come Out of the Grave!” That Pepsi packs a punch.
  • Coors once used the motto “Turn It Loose!” to ramp up sales, but apparently this hip saying translated into “Suffer from Diarrhea!” in some Spanish markets.
  • Pee ColaWhen good ol’ Coke was introduced overseas, some Chinese dialects rendered “Ke-kou-ke-la,” which was about as close to Coca-Cola as they could get, into “Bite the Wax Tadpole.” Yum.
  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken made the leap across the big pond, their slogan “Finger-lickin’ Good” came through in Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off.” Ouch.
  • The American Dairy Association, pleased with the hugely popular “Got Milk?” campaign, was flabbergasted to find when it exported the saying to Mexico, its initial translation appeared as “Are You Lactating?”
  • If Green Giant brand foods wondered why their first forays into the Arab markets didn’t go as planned, it may have been that the Arabic terminology for naughty soup“In the Valley of the Jolly, ho ho ho, Green Giant!” came across as “This is the Land of the Intimidating, uh uh uh, Green Ogre!” No Ogre Brand Peas for me, thank you.
  • Ah, and here’s a classic, from the days of the Ford Pinto. Seems that the braintrust of the Henry Ford folks couldn’t understand why they failed to move any of their hot, new Pintos in Brazil when they first put them on the market. Only after the fact did they discover that the word “pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Yoiks. The Ford guys quickly and as discreetly as possible switched the car’s moniker in their Brazilian dealerships to Corcel, which means “Horse.”

Knowing all this—and understanding that the term in question surely means something delectable in the Asian world—I still can’t picture myself biting into anything of the Poo Poo variety.

Fart BarRoger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Sorry, Kids: There Ain’t No Betty Crocker

2 Dec

by Roger White

So I was watching “Seinfeld” for the eleventy-millionth time the other night, mainly because there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching these days other than reruns of “Seinfeld,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I know, I know, you young whippersnappers will hold forth that there are some great new shows today, like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Big Band Theorem” or whatever. I’ll stick with the classics, thank you very much. Don’t you love the word eleventy-million?

not that theresAnyway, I realized that the shtick Seinfeld was doing was aimed right at me. He was talking about pretentious, faux-authentic-sounding brand names, particularly cars. Names like the Integra or the Impreza. They’re made-up names that are meant to sound like other meaningful words, like integrity and impressive. The punch line: Seinfeld simply hoped he hadn’t bought a Lemona. It hit me that the last three cars I owned before my current little Korean vehicle were just that: an Integra, an Impreza, and a Lemona. All true, I previously owned a 1986 Acura Integra (a great car), a 2003 Subaru Impreza (a fast but frustrating car), and a 1979 Lemona (a VW bug—a true bomb I never should have purchased).  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, buying a 35-year-old POS as my daily commute. Besides, that’s another story. A very sad, long story.

Again, anyway. Things then got cosmic as I sat pondering Jerry’s sage words. It struck me as I lifted a spoonful of my Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter flavored ice cream to my mouth. My ice cream brand, too, was a made-up name meant to sound exotic and luxurious. Remember when Häagen-Dazs first hit the haagen whatmarket? Ooh, we thought, super rich frozen goodness from some strange Nordic country where they surely make ice cream from virgin glacial streams, from milk of cows that graze only on Alpine truffles, and from melted gold flakes from Icelandic lava flows. Or something. Turns out, Häagen-Dazs is a nonsense word concocted by one Reuben Mattus from the Bronx. The name, which is not Danish or Swedish or anything slightly lederhosen-ish, doesn’t really mean a thing—except that ol’ Reuben was a marketing genius.

Same with Löwenbräu beer. Back in 1975, just about the time I started my prolific and illustrious drinking career, Miller Brewing of the US of A acquired the North American rights to Löwenbräu, which was originally brewed in Munich. Ya know, the real Germany. Well, when Miller got hold of it, they “Americanized” the recipe, and the original German version of Löwenbräu was no longer imported to our fair shores. Basically, the Löwenbräu we got was Miller swill in an umlaut-sprinkled wrapper. Of course, we young and impressionable drinking types had Millerbrauabsolutely no knowledge of this. We just saw a new, mysterious foreign beer on the market—in a green bottle, even! The name was obviously German, and if anybody knew their brew, it was the Germans. We was hoodwinked.

Same holds true with so many other brands, like bottled water types. I really never understood the billion-dollar explosion of the bottled water industry. It’s water. In a plastic bottle. Water! H2O. This is where brand-name marketing gurus have a field day. There’s one out there called, get this, Glaceau Smartwater. I kid you not. And I not you kid. Both parts of that faux moniker evoke good feelings, don’t they? Aah, a pristine glacier. And intelligent liquid. What could be better? An intellectual body of glacial ice—you can’t get more new-age trendy than that. You know who produces Glaceau Smartwater? Coca-Cola. I picture guys in the back of these massive Coke plants running tap water into these oh-so-fashionable containers of Water de Glaceau. And they’re probably smoking, too. Unfiltered Camels. And laughing.

And don’t get me started on Evian. Look at your Evian bottle in a mirror. Yeah.

uh huh

So. Cogitating on this unsettling realization that so many of the products we consume are purchased under false pretenses, I jogged in a mild panic from the den to the kitchen, where my lovely esposa was making a batch of Betty Crocker pancakes. Paranoia was setting in, so I had to check it out. I ran to the computer and googled “Betty Crocker.” Gads, sure enough. There was no such lady!! Say it ain’t so! I quote from Wiki-whatsis: “The name Betty Crocker was created for the Washburn Crosby Company, later to merge with General Mills, as a way to personalize the company’s products and customer relations. The company picked the name because it sounded warm and friendly.”

I was aghast. Agog. I needed comfort food. “Ah, pancakes. Thanks, dear. Pass the Aunt Jemima.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.

 

Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.

 

For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.

 

Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.

 

A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.

 

On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Just Chill: Most News You Can’t Use

29 Oct

by Roger White

You’re familiar with the old saying, “Don’t shoot me. I’m only the messenger.” To this I say pish and posh. This old adage doesn’t apply anymore. The messenger today IS the problem. The messenger—this insincerely smiling, hair-weaved, plastic-faced talking head—needs to be shot in the behind with a paintball gun, and his message needs to be torn up, stomped on, and burned to ash. Pish and posh, I say.

The messenger I’m pishing and poshing on, of course, is the media—namely, the national outlets: CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. Do you ever stop to wonder why your stomach is nervous and sour all the time now, why your heart beats out the bossa nova, why you fret and bite your lip bloody just sending the kids to the school bus stop? The media, I tell you. It’s the media. stop the pressesBecause of our nonstop over-exposure to the national news organizations’ sensationalistic babble, we have all come to believe, consciously or not, that our world has become a living hell. As each of us workaday folks tries so hard just to crawl out of bed each morning to keep food on the table, the electricity on, and our children on the straight and narrow, we have to combat that nagging, pecking sense of doom—that we’re only a mere happenstance away from grisly death, violent criminal mayhem, or worse, a government-led socialist agenda.

Two real, recent examples of headlines from CNN: “Weatherman Eats Cat Vomit” and “Teens Attack Mom; Plan to Eat Her Liver.” No lie. Did we truly need to know this? And did these teens plan this liver feast after watching the weatherman scarf cat puke? These kinds of “news items” are not merely useless—they’re harmful.

Every single cotton-picking day you have to digest (no pun intended) BREAKING NEWS of the latest multiple homicide, the most shocking tale of kidnap, abuse, and mistreatment, the most recent sordid instance of demented behavior (and sometimes this doesn’t even involve Congress) such as the headlines above. The thing of it is—and here is where you have to stop yourself and understand motives—the world really isn’t all that bad. Really, it isn’t. It’s the media’s job, however, to make you feel that way. It’s not CNN’s goal per se to give every man, moidahwoman, and child in America a massive case of peptic ulcers, but it is their job to make money. And gruesome, terrible, apocalyptic headlines mean more views, which mean more advertisers, which mean more money. With news on a 24-hours-a-day-eight-days-a-week cycle now, every second of the day we are fed the most grisly, horrific stories that these “news gatherers” can find—because that’s what they think we want to see.

But here’s the deal. We’re not going to hell in a handbasket; it just feels like it. Did you know, for example, that since the early 1990s, crime has actually declined in the United States and that current crime rates are no worse than they were in the 1960s? True, these stats come from the U.S. Bureau of Justice. The homicide rate in America has declined substantially since 1992 from a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 persons to 4.8 in 2010, according to latest figures. That’s still high, as far as the rest of the industrialized world goes, but, hey, in Russia it’s 13 per 100,000, and in Venezuela it’s 48 per. And nobody here commutes to Honduras, right? There, the homicide rate is 78 per. We’re practically a Buddhist monastery by comparison.

Here’s more: A research think tank known as the Millennium Project produced these eye-opening numbers in 2011:

• The average life expectancy worldwide rose from 64 years in the mid-1980s to 68 years today.
• Infant mortality worldwide has fallen from nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 people to 40 deaths today.
• Poverty, defined by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day, fell from 43 percent of the world population in the mid-1980s to 23 percent now.
• The percentage of the world population with access to water rose from 75 percent to more than 86 percent.
• Secondary school enrollment rose from 45 percent in the mid-1980s to nearly 70 percent today.
• The number of major armed conflicts declined from 37 in the mid-1980s to 26 today.


Unfortunately, these kinds of numbers aren’t found on your average national news site now. In yukkkfact, if you ask me, the best, most useful news you can find these days is in your local, community newspaper. The little weeklies and bi-weeklies that actually cover neighborhood news, civic involvement stories, and human interest items that have nothing at all do with cats in microwave ovens are where you’ll discover “news you can use.” As far as Fox and CNN and all the rest are concerned, pish and posh, I say.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Pennies from Heaven? How ’bout a Trillion Bucks?

23 Jan

by Roger White

I’m a bit of an amateur coin collector, so you can see why I might be all aflutter these days. By no means am I a serious numis— , numith—, coin collector, but I do have my box of old favorites: mercury dimes, Indian head pennies, Franklin half-dollars, Chuck-E-Cheese commemoratives. I even have a Word War II-era French franc from occupied France I picked up at a yard sale. This beauty is signed by a platoon of U.S. GIs who stormed through the countryside chasing the Nazis back to Berlin. That tattered old bill is a keeper.

The Big CoinSo when I found out that the U.S. Treasury was seriously considering minting a platinum trillion-dollar coin, I had to find out more. Can you imagine the things you could do with a trillion-dollar coin? “Why, yes, my good man, I’ll have those twin Ferraris, this condo, that basketball team, and, yes, that little island over there. Payment? Let me reach into my pocket here…”

First off, before we get into the “why” of the trillion-dollar coin, let’s consider the “how” of the trillion-dollar coin. Now, with gold and silver, coins and bars are usually valued at whatever their weight is currently going for on the gold and silver market—except for very rare coins, of course, which is a different matter, altogether.

“Which is a different matter.”

Never mind. Anyway, going by that standard, consider that platinum coins these days are selling for roughly $1,620 an ounce. So, for a nice trillion-dollar coin to contain enough platinum to be actually worth a trillion dollars, you would need 617 million ounces—give or take an ounce. That comes out to a shiny little coin weighing approximately 19,300 tons—one hefty chunk of change.

As a matter of fact, I looked up some other things on the planet that weighed in at about 19,000 tons, and here’s what I came up with:

• One of the heaviest trains ever to roam the United States, a Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore train pulled by a gigantic Yellowstone steam locomotive, totaled over 19,000 tons. It was so long that the front end of the train was often in a different time zone than the back end.

• The North Carolina Department of Transportation reported that it removed more than 19,000 tons of debris from state roads following Hurricane Irene. This, the NCDOT added, was equivalent to carting off 6,300 elephants. They didn’t say whether they were African or Indian elephants. I called NCDOT for a clarification, but they kept hanging up.

• Here’s another good one: According to the Los Angeles Times, the then-Soviet Union exported around $515 million worth of military equipment to Nicaragua in the 1980s, a cache of guns and bombs and nasty stuff that somebody figured out weighed—you guessed it—19,000 tons.

So, suffice it to say, the Treasury would likely have us all go on faith that their trillion-An Even Better Coindollar baby would be worth what it says on the coin, rather than build the thing out of a trillion dollars worth of precious metal. This is one coin I would bite into and inspect very closely before I accepted it on the street.

Another thing about the $1T coin: Would it be fungible? I mean, how fungible could a $1-trillion-dollar coin be? If it’s not fungible, then what good is it? Right? This doesn’t really enter into the argument, but I just had to figure out a way to throw the word “fungible” into this column.

I know, I know. The term sounds like the coin should be soft and spongy and grow in moist, shady forests. No, fungible means, and I’m quoting here: the property of a good’s or commodity’s individual units to be mutually substituted, such as crude oil, bonds, or precious metals. Ya know, fungible.

In other words, say Henry lends Olaf five bucks. Henry really doesn’t care if Olaf pays him back with another $5 bill, five ones, or 500 pennies. Okay, maybe not the 500 pennies. But the point is, the $5 is fungible, because it can be replaced with any other $5 bill or equal amount of currency. A bicycle is not fungible because if I loan you my bike, and you try to return another bike—say, your crummy piece of junk—to me, I’m royally pissed because it’s not my exact bike. Furthermore, I’m never loaning you my bike again.

Sigh. So, you see, a $1T coin would not be feasibly fungible, because if there is no other such coin in existence and I loan you my $1T coin, then you go off and lose the darn thing, you’re not going to be able to pay me back, even with a million $1 million-dollar coins. Yes, 1 trillion dollarsBecause, for one thing, I’m not accepting a million $1 million-dollar coins from you. What do you think, I’ve got a warehouse for all that? And that’s another thing, if you use the $1T coin to get a candy bar from the vending machine, you’re going to be waiting around about 100,000 years to get all your change. And who needs that?

Okay, so now the “why” of the $1T coin. Do you really wanna know? Congress. That’s why. It involves the decided lack of grownups in Congress, and the debt ceiling and projected outlays and legal loopholes and the fact that, apparently, our little old Treasury Department can create money out of thin air as long as the cash is coins and the coins are made of platinum.

The idea was to make the magic coin, announce that it’s worth a trillion bucks, and then deposit it in Uncle Sam’s bank account. Viola! Debt crisis solved. I wonder if I could do that with my checking account. “Pay to the order of CASH, 1 trillion dollareenies, signed….”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.