Pravda

October 28, 2005 at 10:22 AM | Posted in Notes on Society | 2 Comments

This girl I had working for me one time, she was watching tv and she was convinced–convinced–that this was true what she was watching. After she told me what it was, a talk show with a live studio audience and a special feature where they were displaying inventions of the future, I had the dubious task of explaning the concept of "infomercial" to her.

It was completely beyond her, that a powerful media structure, i.e., television, would allow a less than absolutely honest portrayal on its airwaves. Where is the trust? People depend on the tv to speak the truth to them. This was before the internet. If it’s in the paper it must be true. The tv doesn’t lie. Of course it really happened, I read it on the internet.

Today, anyone with $60 per year can buy webspace. Anyone can take a class in web design, or as most people do, learn it on their own through trial and error. If you have a particular believe system that you would like to spread to the folks, the internet is the best way. You can plan and design your site in anyway you want. You can make it appear that you and your site are actually some sort of vaild news organization, when in fact you actually a high school drop out or Al Franken, living in your mother’s basement. There are programs–computer software–that can be used to take a picture and modify it to look like something else, or someone else.

On television, there is a degree of accountability, there are organizations and watchdogs and mechanisms in place, as well as some laws on the books, which force news organizations, at least in this country, to do the bare minimum of fact checking and verification, if indeed it is to be portrayed as actual news, and not entertainment. Jon Stewart, for instance, does no fact checking. HE KNOWS he is entertainment, and occassionally tries to remind his viewers of that.

On the internet, there is no such watchdog. The internet is the truest of all anarchy, at least until the UN gets their grubby, greedy, corrupt hands on it. With the internet, you have the freedom to publish WHATEVER YOU WANT. It doesn’t have to be true. You don’t even have to believe it. You can make a fake news logo and put it in the corner. You can fake a "dateline, AP, Washington."

YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT.

The drawback to this is, of course, it is hard to know what to believe. There’s a sucker born every minute may have been true in bygone days, but now that rate has increased. People, by and large, believe what they want to believe, and gravitate towards those sources which validate their believes. Therefore, no new information is passed along, no true data is disseminated.

I have chosen to use my webspace, my blog, as a personal journal and sounding board, and place where the essays I write can be displayed. The line between fiction and non fiction is blurry, but it exists. And I don’t try to portray myself or my site as something I AM NOT. I am honest about what I do.

I will not even tell you what conclusions to draw from this. I am only laying out the facts. Draw your own conclusions. Without political pretense. Without preconceived notions. In other words, without your conclusions already made. Try to think independently, and clearly, and, ultimately. . . . like me.

 

The meaning of the title of the article is left as an exercise for the student.

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Fraudstar Commercial

October 26, 2005 at 7:54 PM | Posted in Entertainment | Leave a comment

FRAUDSTAR COMMERCIAL

 

Cast:

 

Girl

Bad guy

Voice

Narrator

 

SCENE:

 

Overhead shot, stationary, showing a large, dark SUV sitting under a streetlamp.  It is night, the light is on.  Surrounding area is dark. Girl runs out from dark, panting, hits car with her body.  Frantically looking around while also searching for her keys.  Finds them, hits button to unlock door, quickly climbs in and locks doors.

Show interior shot or shot through windshield, as girl tries to start her car unsuccessfully, then girl searching vehicle for something. 

 

Girl (muttering): 

Phone!  Phone!  Where is my phone?!  Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!

 

As she searches, we hear a hard THUD!  Girl looks up, looks around frantically.  Shot of side mirror, dark figure with mask approaching from rear of vehicle to front.  Girl screams, ducks down, raises up quickly.  Fingers hit door lock, unlocks the door, short scream hits button to lock doors again.  Bad guy outside tries door, right after it locks again.

Suddenly girl sees the dashboard, heaves a short sigh of relief, and presses a button.  Presses button again when nothing happens.

While all this is happening, bad guy out side circles vehicle, tries all doors very methodically, including hatch, pounds on doors and windows, yelling maniacally.

 

Girl: 

Come on come on come on come–

 

Voice: 

Thank you for calling Fraudstar, my name is Devon, how can I help you?

 

Girl: 

Oh thank God!  Please, you’ve got to help me–

 

Voice: 

Please hold.

 

Girl: 

No!  No, don’t go!  No-no-no–

 

Girl watches Bad guy circle vehicle and watches as he leaves, searching for something.

 

Voice: 

Thank you so much for holding. How can I help you this evening?

 

Girl: 

I need help!  There is a man in a mask chasing me trying to kill me.

 

Voice: 

Ma’am, everything is going to be alright.  Can you give me your account number?

 

Girl: 

Can’t you just caller ID me?

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am, we have your phone number and other information, we need to verify the account number to make sure we are helping the actual subscriber, and not someone who hasn’t paid us.  That wouldn’t be fair now, would it?

 

Girl: 

Someone is trying to kill me!!

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am.  Your account number, please.

 

Girl groans and screams all at once, searches glove box, sits up with a card and smiles, then screams as she looks through windshield.  Switch shot to her POV, we see Bad guy on hood, about to hit windshield with a piece of wood.  Girl screams, presses button.

 

Voice: 

Thank you for calling Fraudstar, my name is Devon, how can I help you?

 

Girl: 

Please help me!  AAAhhhh!  Someone is trying to kill me!

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am.  Do you have your account number?

 

Girl:

Yes, it’s  4-5-3, 2—(voice trails as narrator starts)

 

Narrator: 

With Fraudstar, you are only one, maybe two or three button clicks away from help that is hardly ever outsourced to a country where you can’t understand the accent.  Whatever your situation, whatever your circumstance, within reason, we can almost always help.  As long as your account is paid up.

 

Girl: (fading back in)

3, A, z, 4

 

Voice: 

Did you say "8" or "a"?

 

Girl: 

When?  Where?

 

Voice: 

After the "3."

 

Girl:    (pauses, looking)

A, as in apple.

 

Long pause.  Girl looks around nervously.  Bad guy is beating on the windshield

unsuccessfully with the wooden stick.

 

Voice: 

So. . .. Not an 8?

 

Girl:  (squirming uncomfortably)

Right, not an 8.

 

Bad guy gives up on windshield, slides off of hood, and starts attacking random windows.

 

Voice: 

Ma’am, according to our records, you are not currently a customer.  Would you like to reapply for our service?

 

Girl: 

Please, someone is trying to kill me!

 

Voice: 

Yes ma’am.  Let me quickly get your credit card number.

 

Girl screams, searches purse for credit card.  She pulls out wallet, while Bad guy bangs on driver’s side window.

 

Girl: 

Found it! Found it!

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am, go right ahead with that number.

 

Girl: 

4-3-3-7– (fade out)

 

Narrator: 

With the safety and security of Fraudstar, you can rest assured in the knowledge that help is only several button clicks and five to ten minutes of confirmation away, with the only caveat that we may need a blood or DNA sample in the future to fully verify identity for security purposes, and to make sure we don’t get a charge-back on your credit card.  Whether it is your safety our financial security, you just can’t be too careful.

 

Girl:  (fading in) 

–Expiration is 02/09.  Can you call 911 for me now?

 

Voice: 

As soon as the credit card is approved, ma’am.  We’re almost there.

 

Pause, as girl skitters around in seat, Bad guy is up on the roof, banging it with a stick, and then back on the ground, banging on the doors and windows. He goes to the front of the vehicle, and starts hitting the grill and headlights.  Girl whimpers with each hit.

 

Voice: 

I’m sorry ma’am, we had an error with the card.  Can you repeat the number again please?

 

Narrator: 

Fraudstar is available on all AMC vehicles standard.  The equipment is, anyway.  The service, you still have to pay for.  Every month.  Forever.  We could offer it as included with the purchase of the vehicle, but we prefer to gouge the customer a little extra.  It’s called "customer service," and it’s what we do to you.  I mean for you.

 

Girl: 

Can you please Call 911 now?

 

Voice: 

Thank you for subscribing to Fraudstar.  Would you like to upgrade to our gold Fraudstar service?

 

Girl: 

NO!!  Just call 911!!  Please!!

 

Girl is sobbing.

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am.

 

Long pause.

 

Voice: 

It’s just that 911 service is only available with gold Fraudstar.

 

Girl: 

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Oh My God!!  Just do it!!  Do whatever it takes!!

 

Voice: 

Yes, ma’am.  Hold please.

 

Meanwhile, Bad guy continues to hit car with his stick.

 

Voice: 

There you go, ma’am, all signed up for our gold Fraudstar, the premier service offered by Fraudstar–

 

Girl: (screaming)

 JUST CALL 911!!!

 

Pause, then another pause.

 

Voice: 

Ma’am, may I ask what the nature of the emergency is?  Have you been in an accident?

 

Girl: (cowering on floor)

Someone is trying to kill me!!

 

Voice: 

There has been no collision that we can detect, no airbags have been deployed.

 

girl continues to sob

 

Voice: 

Ma’am, we noticed that your vehicle is locked.  Are you locked out of your vehicle?  One of the services we offer is remote unlocking of the doors. Please wait while we activate this service, it may take a moment.

 

Girl: 

NO !!  DON’T!!  WAIT!!! STOP!!!

 

Close up on girl’s face.

 

Girl: (whimpering):

No, no,   no. . . . no. . . .no….no..

 

Close shot of door, and lock unlocking, audible clicks in unison.  Show gloved hand of Bad guy, pulling on door handle.  Audible scream of girl, and shot pulls back and away, to original overhead 3/4 shot.

 

Narrator:

Fraudstar.  Helping people and saving lives.  It’s what we do.

 

Fade out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Like Starting Over

October 21, 2005 at 10:41 AM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
Tags:
I did a search for "Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Else." and saw thousands upon thousands of entries.  I was a little upset, because I thought I had had an original idea.  The same thing happened that one time when I invented the wheel.  It really burst my bubble to find out it had been done.  So I came up with something new and original.
Actually, it’s not that new; I had thought of this title a few years ago.  And it’s obviously not original either, it’s a play on the title of a book/movie, "Riding in Cars with Boys."
 
But it is alot about what my life is like, or what it was like.  I have worked in food service for close to 20 years, having only recently changed careers.  I have from 86 to 99, I worked for Domino’s Pizza as a driver, Assistant Manager, Manager, and back down and up again, a few times.  Also managed to squeeze in some time at Steak and Shake and Papa John’s, and a steak delivery restaurant owned by some friends of mine, where I still work part time. 
In the course of my delivery and food service career, I have seen virtually everything, and I had wanted to write a book about it.  Since I don’t have the patience or attention span to write a book (I may have AD- something.  I wasn’t paying attention.)–I was going to write it in essay form.  It’s a comfortable format for me, and life seems to happen like that, or at least, that is how you relate it to people, in episodic form.  So there will be that whole category, and then maybe I can compile enough of them to publish in a book. 
Some topic will just come up, and I will tell a relevant story.  I ‘ve told them so many times, I thought I should right them down so I can stop repeating myself, which will be a great relief to my listeners.  So, that will be the category I use, the same as the title.  Meanwhile I also have other stories and topics that come to mind, that I will put under other categories.
 
I promise to make them mostly interesting and at least mildly amusing, and not in any particular order whatsoever.
 
The first entry of the "Riding in Cars with Pizza" was called "Psycho Driver."  It happened somewhere between 92 and 94, I think.  From now on, on the Pizza related ones, I will add an approximate date at the top, and maybe create a list that is actually a time line, to help me keep straight where the hell I was, what the fuck I was doing, and how, in God’s Name, I ended up there in the first place.  I also hereby promise to keep the prefatory remarks down to one paragraph, just to set up time and place.  That will keep me from being overly redundant.  Plus I don’t want to repeat myself.

The Tilt-a-Whirl That is My Life

October 20, 2005 at 3:28 PM | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment
   I have been married for a long time.  17 or 18 years now.  Somewhere in between.  Less than twenty, I know that much.  It doesn’t have to be exact. Early on, it was 4 days, or three weeks, or six and half months. Then two years, three and half, then almost six, then over 8.  It quickly became at least ten, and remained thus for 4 or five years.
Oh, shit!  Did we have our fifteenth anniversary, and I missed it?  I don’t think we did anything special, other than NOT get a divorce.  So you need to know that of course I love my wife, our marriage is great, everything is wonderful, blah, blah, blah.
But I see that men and women need each other for several things, and one of the less obvious ones is, they both need someone to complain about. I mean, if my wife wasn’t married to me, she would have tremendous free time that is currently used to bitch at me, or about me, or to me about me.  What would she do?  She might have ended up a lobbyist or a cult leader.  Good thing I came along.
For her part, thanks to the loving intercession and constant insanity to which I have been subjected, I have many, many projects which remain unfinished that I can blame on her.  I am sure I would be a published, accomplished author, world renowned cartoonist, sought-after screenwriter, avant garde film producer, astronaut, explorer, scientist, magician, and street perfomer, maybe all of the above, if only—if only I didn’t have to
stop in the middle of something important and take out the trash. It just takes the wind right out of my sails.  Where the hell are the priorities, anyway?
But our initial nesting, or what-have-you, the period of time where we are trying to get to know each other as a married couple, was determined in large part by my wife’s pregnancy.  It is a lot to ask of a man, a young man–probably more of a boy–when a woman says to him, “Come with me, on this mystical journey, this roller-coaster of emotion that is my life.  And deal.”

We had been together for about a six months. In fairness, she was pregnant. We are in the drive-thru at McDonald’s, one car back from the speaker.  I turn to her and say, “Okay, what do you want?”
Apparantly, the wrong question.  “What do I want?  What do I want?  What do I always want?  How long have we been together?  What do I ALWAYS get?  You don’t even know me!”  She started to cry.
I turned to her, calmly, I took her hand, caressed it.  I looked into her eyes.  She looked up at me, eyes red and teary, searching me for understanding.
I said, “Look, I don’t even know what I’m going to get yet.”

Another time, crying over God knows what.  Kittens.  A telephone commercial. Who knows?  I ask what’s wrong.  She turns to me, displaying an unusual feminine vulnerability, “Oh, Bryan, just hold me.”
I go to her, arms up, ready to comfort.
She pushes me away and screams, “DON’T TOUCH ME!”

And the typical situation with one of the children’s schools is, we need to communicate with the teacher, or go to a parent-teacher conference, or something of the sort.  Or especially when there is a problem that we have to talk to the teacher about.  She will look at me in a very matter-of-fact matter and say to me, “YOU have to take care of this, because if I do, YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN.”
And I do know, too.  I don’t know alot of people who would get escorted out the school building, by police during a simple, seemingly non-confrontational middle-school parent-teacher conference.

So now, after something less than twenty years of this, it may have shaped the man I have become.  Early on, I realized the impact I was having on her.  I was keeping her just on this side of the ravine, this side of sanity.  I calmed her, helped her reason, helped her see the humor in her bizarre behavior.
But just recently, I came to understand what she has done for me.  I used to be a push over.  I would let people walk all over me, I would allow myself to be taken advantage of.  But seeing her not give an inch when she was wronged by a store or a business, or anyone, gave me courage and direction to take a stand.  And she would encourage me, as well, to be a man, stand up for myself.
So I started with who was closest to me:  her.  I wasn’t going to put up with her shit.  She was shocked.
I reminded her of what she had said, and she was aghast.  “NOT ME!  Everybody else!”

But I have become stronger, and oddly independent, and I do owe that to her. And now, after all this time, I have seen how our kids are.  They are both smart, and funny, and independent.  Stubborn as hell.  The oldest doesn’t put up with shit from anyone, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, has no patience for fools, and understands way more than I did at his age.  And I thought I was a genius.
My daughter is a social flower.  She knows everyone in our subdivision, and everything about them.  She is very friendly, and cares about them all, and hangs around with adults even.  It only recently occurred to me that it was much like me when I was growing up.  We lived in a very small town, smaller than most subdivisions are now, and I travelled around and talked to all the old German men sitting on their porches and whatnot.  I talked to them most days, listened to their stories, told them all of mine.  It was very Norman
Rockwellish.
And they are both very creative, very artistic.  It may come from both of us. I always thought of myself as an artist, but my wife is creative with–everything.  She sows, she bakes, she creates crafts–everything.

And the children know how we are, as well.  My son knows my wife’s mood swings, and plays her like a fiddle.  He knows he can only talk to me for three minutes before ADD causes me to be completely distracted.  It be seem like poor parenting, but it has taught him to get to the point.
Our daughter is younger, but she has learned the more subtle points of a family dynamic, and they have both come to appreciate that they live in a stable, two-parent family with relatively little disfunction, no alcoholism, hardly any abuse, and lots of love and openly displayed emotion, good and bad. So this is how our family has grown, and it includes our older daughter, her husband and two kids, and our older son and his kids.

In our marriage, there has been a lot of give and take.  Mostly give by me and take by her.  I am sure her perspective is the other way around, and that realization was one of the many epiphany I have had over the years.  I also know that I get away with a lot of stuff that normally I shouldn’t, but I have just worn her down.  (Victory for me!)  All of the little things, silent treatment, cold shoulder, passive aggressive battlings, in between the out and out arguing, number far less than all of the good times:  quiet times
together, the birth of children, going places, doing things, just spending time together. . . alone and dancing, and family functions–all the things that make a lifetime together.

One of my favorite stories about my wife and our marriage:  We were at home, alone, sitting on separate couches.  Baby was playing on the floor.  The two oldest, in their late teens, come home, or come over (I forget who was living where at any particular time).  Melissa sits next to her mother and berates us:  “What has happened to you two?  You’ve been married for less than a year! Here you are, sitting on separate couches.  Where is the love?  Don’t you sit together anymore?  Don’t you cuddle?  Don’t you spend time together?”
My wife answers, “We just got done having sex about half an hour ago.”  My daughter’s jaw drops.  “Right where you are sitting.”

And now, the emotional roller-coaster disembarks once more.  My wife is beginning that voyage of asinine helter-skelter known as menopause. Throughout the hot flashes, cold flashes, mood swings, erratic periods, et friggin cetera, I feel she actually relishes the change, because it gives her an excuse to be a complete nutbag.
Like she needs an excuse.
We are making the grocery list the other night, discussing what we need and what we have, and someone asks about the wrong item.  Who knows? And that is the trigger that sets my wife off on a small, gently obtuse tirade.
My son and I watch in amusement.Afterwards, she says,”It’s going to be like this for the next two years, so just get used to it!”
I said, “Really?  Just two years?”

As I dodged the various hangers, pencils, salt shakers, and whatever else was handy that she could throw at me, I mused that this is another situation where there is no “correct” response.

Mid-Life Crisis for a Theme Park

October 17, 2005 at 4:59 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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Kim, if this comes out the way I intend, you may appreciate this, so I will try to get it right.  Much of the time, writing takes on a life of its own.  I try to direct it, but sometimes what I intend and what happens diverge.  It’s similar in function but different in origin to someone trying to draw a picture.  What you want to draw and what ends up on the paper is different, mostly because you don’t have the talent or experience, or control over your hand.  But in writing, for me at least, it’s very stream of consciousness, where it flows I have no control.
 
Six Flags. .. ..
  The name itself, like Disney Land, evokes a set of images and memories.  I seem to recall Six Flags Over Mid-America opening in the early-to mid-seventies.  In fact, In 5th or 6th grade our WHOLE SCHOOL went on a trip there.  I was going to Collinsville at the time, and it was 1975 or 1976.  The park was still fairly new.  I dont recall if I had been there prior to that or not, but I definitely remember this trip. It might have been a Saturday, and up at the School, 20, maybe 30 buses lined up, and we ALL went.  This is the best age to go to an amusement park:  12.  You are young, you have lots of energy, everything is fresh and new and exciting.  The park was MADE just for you.  The sites and sounds, colors and smells. 
  The emerging interest in girls.
  Especially Donna.  My first crush.  She acted like she hated me, and I hoped she secretly liked me, because I really liked her.  I never found out, although on rare occasions we found a common connection. But the mind of a twelve year old girl is a mystery to most, and doubly so to a twelve year old boy.  In a way, I suppose, it was the perfect relationship.  I never had a chance to disappoint her, and she never had the chance to break my heart.
  At Six Flags that fateful day was when my interest went from casual to pointed, after a fashion.  Her and some of her friends had gone on the Log Flume (still a classic–I recommend you try it) and had somehow managed to tip their little boat, or whatever it is, over.  Her and her friends, dressed in shorts and t-shirts of the standard ’70’s flair, where completely soaked.  Her hair was wet and straight down, her clothes were wet and clinging, Her face was wet and glowing. She was beautiful.
  Also completely ignored me, too, but I didn’t care.  I ran into her a dozen times that day, in passing, and it just thrilled me. One of my personal best days in that decade. I managed to go to Six Flags several times over the next few years, but none were as good as day.  Going with parents, who lag behind, and a younger sister, who wants you take her with you. . . .I was completely shackled.
 
  Once I got my driver’s license, however, it was a different story.  I then discovered the *other* best age to go to an amusement park:  17.  Probably the main reason is girls.  Older girls.  Girls our age.  A buddy to go with makes the difference, too.  Nobody goes by themselves, unless they are freaks or perverts.  But a couple of teenage guys, middle of summer, with wheels. . .The world was OURS.  And Six Flags was several sorts of playground.
 Of course, we never got any further than chatting or flirting with some chicks, but we really thought we were the shit.  One time, there was going to be a concert there.  Old Glory Ampitheater.  It’s not there anymore, I think.  The band was called Head East.  They had about 2 songs, one was a hit.  "Never Been any Reason."  Album called "Flat as a Pancake."  After this, they became a metal band.  This was, after all, early 80’s. 
  They had aspirations of being a hair band.  Long wavy hair, shiny clothes, hairbands–they looked very cool.  I can’t believe that look is no longer in.  We saw the show, at least 2 or three songs worth, then continued with the park attractions.  But later, the park was about to close, and we were in line to ride the Screamin Eagle, the big roller coaster of the time. 
  We are about the last, and these two girls asked if they could switch with us so they could go with their friends.  We said yes, and they went, and then we realized, "Fuckin Aye! We are going to be the last to ride, and we get to ride it by ourselves!"  And then, as we are waiting, the band and their babes came up, led by a park employee.  They want to ride the coaster.
  So it was very cool.  We got to ride with the band, and with their hot, unattainable babes, and, because they wanted to, we got to go on it twice.  And we chatted with the band for a few minutes, and then got to walk out of the park, in the dark, the last people there.  For a couple of young dudes, it was a very
rebel kind of feeling.  We glowed with internal coolness. 
  As I grew up, went away to college, flunked out, came back, moved, moved in with some different girls, and experienced a falling out with Six Flags through no fault of my own.  Or, to be fair, Six Flags either.  I mean, I don’t blame them.  I had no more than a passing interest in the Theme park, it was going
through adulthood pangs, as was I.  I followed with a mild disinterest the changes in ownership, additional rides, rides that changed, rides that disappeared because they killed too many people. 
  (And just how many is too many?  I think they follow the rule where, if just one person at a time dies, every 2 or three years, then the ride is okay.  Percentage-wise probably better than the airlines, considering the volume of butts in the seats.  But if a ride kills, say, 4 to 6 in one fell swoop–"fell" being the operative word here, then ix-nay on the ide-ray.  I am speaking of course, of the skylift.  The tram car that went from one side of the park to the other.  Like the train on the ground that stops at half a dozen places around the park, the skylift’s only real purpose was as a shortcut to get from one side to the other.  Apparantly that is not good enough for some people.  People who want more adventure in their lives.  People who rock a tram car until it slips off the wire supporting it and it plummets 200 some odd feet to the ground.
  (Here is my PC disclaimer:  I’m sure there was screaming on the way down, and I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering felt by the families of the victims, blah, blah blah.  But if there was one person in there, with a personality like my wife, it wouldn’t be enough for the guy who rocked it to die with
you.  He was going to get the living shit beat out of him on the way down.  One person screaming, the rest of them beating him until they hit the ground.)
 
  And then, of course, I get married, and have kids.  Dangerously approaching adulthood myself, Six Flags has matured and grown.  Added a waterpark, changed themes around, added more rides, got rid of others.  With the kids we already had, and the young one we just had, I would be returning to the park.  Much like an old girlfriend at a high school reunion, it was exciting and awkward all at the same time, at first.  Then after the initial getting re-acquainted, the discussion was mostly about the kids.  And then the fun is more vicarious.  Watching your kids have fun.  Being in the role of MY parents, seemingly holding
my kids back from having to much fun.  Fun is meant to be regulated.  Not too much, not too little.  Too much fun, all hell breaks loose and pretty soon you have anarchy.  Too little fun and no one will come to the theme park, because it JUST ISN’T FUN.  In fact, that is why, I believe, they have signs all over each ride, "No gum or candy on ride."  Because, especially when you are young, gum and candy can be equated to "fun."  And rides equal "fun" as well.  Therefore, if you have gum ON A RIDE, it is conceivable that you will experience TOO much fun, and completely explode into an orgy of fun-filled anarchy and disrespect for authority and ride rules, and they will have to sweep you up with one of those broom and butler things..  It is imperative to maintain the correct fun level. 
  Probably the purpose of parents at the park, too.  So I fell easily into the role of walking slowly, sitting down alot, denying money requests, and just in general saying "No," whenever a question was asked.  Just doing my part.  But the trips to Six Flags became sporadic at best.  Once one year, then not for two or three.  Busy in adulthood.  Much like myself, Six Flags became busy and burdened as well.  And then they added the Fall hours and the the Halloween season, we rediscovered each other, like old friends.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  It is much cooler, and consequently, attendance is down from the summer peak.  Two BIG reasons why I like it more.  It actually seems more personal, and more personable, and the attendants could take a little more time with you when you need something.  But as the season so signifies in life, thusly, I suppose, it does with a park. 
  This last visit, this was the one that was like seeing an old flame from long ago.  We knew each, and both noticed that we had aged.  In some places, not well.  But we we both accepted each other.  I could no longer fit on some of the rides I used to fit on, the hills were long, and steeper.  The punks were more punkier, if that’s a word.  For Six Flags’ part, it seemed not as well kept, a little dirtier, a little run down, and the staff a little. . .lost. 
  But all in all it was a good time, and wistfully satisfying, like one last fling before I had to pick up my wife at the airport, and then get back to my regular life. . . .

Shave and punchline, two bits

October 13, 2005 at 2:25 PM | Posted in Health and wellness | 1 Comment
  I’ve always gone too long between haircuts.  When I was a teen, I had long, luxurious locks.  Or, as my dad put it:  That damn mop on my head.  My son now has similar long hair, even longer than I had.  He mocks me about my thinning hair and bald spot.  But I just kind of think silently to myself, Enjoy it while can, punk, enjoy it while you can. . ..
  But now, because my hair is thinning, when I let it go too long, it just looks stupid.  I like to get my hair cut short, like a quarter inch, the logic being the shorter the hair I have looks, the less noticeable the hair I don’t have will be.
  WHich led me to the barber college.  Instead of paying full price for a haircut, I pay about half price to let students practice on my head.  Logically, why should I pay full price for a haircut if I don’t have a full head of hair.  The regular hair salons failed to see it my way.
  But the barber college is fun, I get to know people there, and I get to experience the thrill of not knowing how inexperienced the person cutting my hair is–until they cut me and make me bleed.  I am ON the cutting edge. . .uh–yeah.
  And so whenever I come in to work the next day, you get the obvious remarks, and you have to think of a response, and so many of them are cliche.  You might think I’d be fond of that, given my last paragraph, nevertheless–
  I get tired of this:
  "Hey, get a haircut?"
  "Nope.  Got them all cut!"
  Et cetera, ad nauseum.  I had to think of something to stop them, so now, when I hear, "Get a haircut?"  I answer, "Yup.  Can you tell which one?"  which gives me a few seconds to make a getaway and avoid more inane conversation about my hair, or lack thereof.
  Along comes my son, gives me the same line:  "Get a haircut?"
  I reply, "Yup.  Can you guess which one?"
  He says, "Uh. . . number 4?"

Night of the Living Walmart

October 12, 2005 at 11:36 PM | Posted in Notes on Society | 1 Comment

  I feel the same way about Walmart that I feel about my favorite crack-whore:  sure, it’s cheap, and convenient, and it gets the job done, but I can’t help but feel that I am contributing to the decline of civilization by patronizing them, not to mention that insidious dirty feeling when I’m done.

  There are other similarities as well.   Just like crack-whores, Walmarts are fairly plentiful and easy to find, and most are available 24 hours.  At certain hours, it seems as though the clientel may be the same, also.

  Some things you can’t get from a crack-whore that are only available at Walmart are things like toilet paper, and—

  No, you can probably get that from a crack-whore.  Clothes?  Can you say “panties in a baggy”?  Cigarettes?  No, but she’ll probably ask you to buy some for her. . . . Uh, tools?  For some reason, crack-whores generally have some tools.  Like a pair of pliers, a hammer, and some wire.  It’s probably best not to ask.  Lots of Walmarts sell guns and ammunition. . . .I think that answers itself.

  Customer service?  If only Walmart would give me the kind of customer service my crack-whore gives me.  I think the training video would be unique in both its presentation and it’s effectiveness.

 

  But honestly….I went to Walmart twice today.  Twice.  And  I knew the first time that I would be going back.  I swear, when the dead come back to life and rise from their graves, they will all be up at fucking Walmart, loitering, and blocking the aisles so I can’t get to my shit.  It really is a love/hate thing.  They are close, they are convenient, they have more or less low prices, and they have a wide variety of shit.  But not everything.  There are annoying gaps in what they stock, and it seems to be on purpose.  Maybe it’s not.  Maybe it’s the reason I could shop elsewhere, if there were an elsewhere anywhere near that I could use as an alternate.

  So what are my problems with the place, really?  Well,

 

A.   . . . . .         . .      ………..   ………..

 

  I sat at that cursor for a long time.  It’s very subtle, I suppose.  No, not really.  It’s more like this:  There is a conspiracy, a New World Order, black helicopter thing going on in the world, and it is all very subversive, very low key—but you know it’s going on.  Then Walmart comes along and sells you the conspiracy pack at a discount with a smile on their face, and a knowing, accepting nod.  Come join us, they seem to say. 

  Once you enter, you become one of them.  The pods are in back.  The shelves are stocked with fresh ones every night.  Is it the end of the world?  Quite possibly.  But at least you can shop there for the supplies you need when it comes.  The mark of the beast bears a remarkable resemblance to the Walmart logo.

The Origin of Species. I mean the Name.

October 5, 2005 at 10:44 AM | Posted in Personal | 2 Comments
I have been using Oldestgenxer for a while, kind of a third
name, because I have a second name on the internet that I use,
but I like this one better.  But it comes from the fact that I
was born in early (february) of 1965, which is the first year
of the generation "x."  1964 and before is the baby boomer
generation, and before that, I forget what they are called.
The one after gen x is either gen next, or gen y, or whatever. 
Not sure.  All I know is, never trust anyone born in the 80’s.
I tell my son that, who was born in 88.  He still doesnt think
it’s funny.
But the term generation x comes from a song by Billy Idol, who
in the early 70’s was in a punk band, I think it was called
generation x, and they had a song ripping on the Who’s "Talkin
bout my generation," called "Talkin bout YOUR generation."  I
find it ironic that Billy Idol himself is not a gen-xer, but a
boomer, and now, like Pete Townsend, he is old.
Although I am an x-er, I am a boomer by marriage.
I took the name when I was trying to hang out with a younger
crowd, and thought I was out touch, but realized they were just
the younger gen-xers, people now in their 30’s.  I dont know
what the cutoff is for the start of gen y.  Don’t care, kinda. 
BUt I am glad that, once again, I was able to pick a name that
I didnt have to put stupid odd characters in, or use numbers
in.  I came up with a unique enough name that no one else
thought of it.  I am special.

Psycho Driver

October 4, 2005 at 10:15 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,
I have been in food service for twenty years, basically.  I just recently took a new position not in food, but those years, those experiences, are a part of me.  I feel the need to share.
I worked for Domino’s Pizza from 1986 to 1989, and again from 1990 to 1999. and then from 2001 to 2004.  I also worked for Steak n Shake briefly, Papa John’s even more briefly, and also for a friend of mine who owns a restaurant, I have worked there since 1999 through the present, although now I am just part time.
I have worked in over 2 dozen locations, for dozens of managers, and a mixed handful of supervisors.  I have worked with thousands of people, and I have had hundreds work for me when I was a manager.  I have hired hundreds, and I have fired or caused to quit several dozen.  In terms of food service, anything you have done or could think of, I have done twice.
So I believe I will start with this little story. 
 
I had just become manager of the Cross Keys Dominos. Probably about 94.  The previous manager had left the store a disaster in terms of sales, operations, inventory, and—crew.
He hired someone right before he left, knowing he was going to leave, the bastard.
THe person he hired was named Jim, but we all knew him as "Psycho-driver."  When most drivers were in their twenties or thirties, this guy was 44.  And he was short, and he had a complex about it.  He drove a beat up old van that he had to continually add radiator fluid to.
He always thought everyone was out to get him, screw him over, everything was unfair.  He claimed I treated him differently from the other drivers, denying him driving opportunity and runs.  I had brought him into the office several times to try to straighten him out, reason with him, get him to get over it, or whatever it took. 
Case in point about the typical problem we had was the one I fired him for.  You have dinner rush, lots of orders, lots of runs for the drivers.  They come in, grab, and go.  You give them as much as you can, going in a similar direction, because there are lots there.  Towards the end of the rush, the pies arent stacked up, you may just get one.  Slow but steady.  Then it tapers off. 
At the end of the rush, he is up, he has two that go together, and they are the only pies up.  I have six drivers standing there, soon to be just three, because you send some home after the rush.  As he is bagging his runs up, another call comes in, and he sees that it is in the general directioin he is going.  NOrth.  Well, half of our runs go north.  The two he is already taking are over twenty minutes, and I have standards.  He wants to wait for that run.
I said, no, of course not.  He wants to argue, he wants to know why.  He says I always let other drivers do it.  Which I did not, that is one of the things I changed when I took over, I improved service by not letting drivers take stupid runs, and it increased sales.
So we go in the office.  He was very manipulative, very conniving.  He could twist anything you said.  But he wasnt sublte about it.  You could see what he was doing.  It was obviously all my fault.  I had started to come around to his way of thinking and had been working hard on getting along with him, and getting over my obvious prejudices, but now it was apparant that I had backslid, and he wasnt sure if there was hope for me.  This is what he said to me.
I said, "Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.  But since this is my store and I’m in charge and I make the rules, and I am the one YOU have to get along with, you are going to have to leave.  I can’t have you working for me anymore.  You are a disruptive negative influence.  I shouldnt have to make special cases for someones personality, and I’ve done it for you long enough.  Get your shit and clock out.  You dont work here anymore."
You’d think that would be the end of it, in fact it was only the beginning.  It ended when I called the police and they came to the store to forcibly make him leave.
He called two weeks later about his check.  I said I had had it mailed to his house.  HE then, in the same breath, managed to have the balls to ask me for a good reference, tell me that I owed it to him, and blamed me for firing him.
I stared at the phone with my mouth open.  Unfuckingbelievable.
He did tell me one time, on one of the days we were getting along, that he had played saxaphone for the Ike and Tina Turna revue.  He was about the right age for that, but I wasnt buying it.  But he showed me proof.  He had photos with him and Ike.  Playing, and also backstage photos and the like.  A short, chubby white guy in the middle of all the tall skinny black guys.  Maybe they just looked tall compared to him.  Hell, maybe they just looked black, too.
He said to me, "You know, Ike Turner was the only person I ever let call me "Shorty.’"
"Really?" I asked.  "What did you call him?"
"Oh.  Mr. Turner."

Fermat’s Enigma for the Common Man

October 2, 2005 at 9:13 AM | Posted in Notes on Society | 1 Comment

I live in a .  . . .quasi-suburban area.  We are in what used to be the middle of the country, but with the metropolitan expansion it has become the rural edge of the area.  We have a Super-Duper Walmart, which makes everything better.  More on that another time.  Me and my seventeen year old son made our daily trip up to Wally-World one day, and there was someone having a fund-raiser BBQ outside.  We decided to get some after we were done in the store.
Several things about the whole setup aggravated me, but I was once again a helpless pawn.  We are standing in line behind one person, and she is BLOCKING the one and only little sign with small print containing vague references to what they have and alluding to the possibility of prices.  It is a very casual setup, like they had had the idea for a fundraiser earlier that morning while they themselves had been in line at Wally’s Supermarket o’ Fun.  So the woman in front of us orders all of these small items, hotdogs and brats and burgers, and they pile them on one big plate to cover with foil.  She asks the lady getting the food, "How much is that?"
  She answers, "Well, you have ten things here, and they are all $1.50 each."
  "Right."  The other woman responds. "What’s a dollar fifty times ten?"

The lady holding the meat  looks around, says, "We don’t have a calculator."  
    At this point I look at my son, and see the disdain for idiots boiling inside him.  He has little to no tolerance for stupidity.  I can’t wait for him to get his first job in foodservice.  I silently signal him to remain an observer.  

  The customer says, "Oh.  Wait."  She deftly starts counting to ten on her fingers as she says, "Dollar fifty, three, four fifty, five–no wait, six, seven fifty–" 
  After a painfully long time later, she finally arrived at the correct answer, where we had been sitting, agonizingly, waiting for her.  I guess it’s a good thing she had all of her fingers.
  My son said to me, "I feel sad."  The lady looked at him quizzically, then turned and got her food and left.  It was probably the expression she goes through life with.
  But I know what he meant.  "For humanity?"

 

I wanted to enlighten you as to the meaning of the title. Fermat (pronounced Fer-may) was a mathemetician several hundred years ago, and he developed a certain theorem, but no proof.  I won’t go into it here.  People have worked on this complex mathematical formula for hundreds of years. Some committed suicide, a few were committed to insane asylums. Whole new areas of math were created. It might not be your thing, because you either get math or you don’t.  Google it if you want more information.

(And I don’t mean simple math, counting, money, and algebra. I mean the higher stuff, that makes calculus seem simple. It really is not for everyone. I don’t even get some of it–hell, most of it–but I have an appreciation of it.  I am a fan of math.  I’ve had calc and differential equations, and studied non-Euclidean and Fractal geometry.  I’ve read history books about math.  It is a pretty geeky thing to do.)

But the situation, when it happened, made this thing dawn on me: I live in an area where I can rise to the top, and rule, as the smartest person in the county and make them all do my bidding.  If they don’t lynch me for witchcraft first, because I can use power tools and still have all of my fingers.


 

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