Monday, December 12, 2005

Dishonesty in Elevator Floor-Numbering

This bugs me more than you might expect. "Yeah yeah," you're saying - "So elevators skip 13. So what? Who cares?" Well dammit, I do. And you know something: if that's all it was, just the whole skipping 13 thing, I might, might let it slide. But oooooh no, elevator floor-numbering dishonesty doesn't stop there. It only begins.

The real problem is much worse. See, once it became commonplace for buildings to pretend that the 13th floor was really the 14th, all responsibility to truth telling in floor-numbering pretty much crumbled. Have you ever paid attention to the extent to which buildings will lie about what floor is what? Or to how common it is?

It's all about height. It's about pretending the building is taller than it really is. It's about inducing people to rent apartment space or office space from your highrise by tricking them into believing they're moving in to a higher floor. But they not! They isn't! They ain't!

For years, I've been sort of peripherally aware that this was going on. I'd be in an elevator in an office building, and I'd see that the floors started at 10 and went up to 50, and I'd be thinking "This building doesn't really have 50 floors, does it?" And then I'd forget about it. But things came to a head just recently here in Las Vegas. We have all these towering hotels here, and all of them are competing to be the biggest and the baddest. I was in an elevator at the Wynn not too long ago, and noticed that the floors went up to 60.

Now you have to realize - no way does the Wynn have 60 floors. 40... 45... maybe 50. That's it. So I went to the front desk and asked how many floors were in the building. "60." I was told. "But are there really 60 floors in the building?" I asked. "Or are you skipping some?" Two clerks went into a huddle, but they didn't know. Ultimately they brought in a security guy who was in the vicinity. The conversation went something like this.

Security Guy: "There are 60 guest floors."

Me: "But there aren't really 60 floors in the tower, right?"

SG: "No, there are only 50 floors in the building."

Me: "So how can there be 60 guest floors?"

SG: "Well, there's no floor 40 through 49."

Me: "Why not?"

SG: "The number 4 is very close to the Mandarin word for death. Or wait, no. It's the Cantonese word for death. It sounds the same as 'four'. Either that, or the written word is the same. I don't know. But the number 4 is very unlucky for the Asians."

Me: "Is there a 4th floor?"

SG: "Yes."

Me: "There are just no Asians on it then?"

SG: "Uh, I really don't know."

Me: "And there's no 13th floor either?"

SG: "Yes, there's no 13."

Me: "So there's actually only 49 floors then. 60 minus 40-49 minus 13."

SG: "No, there's 50 floors."

Me: "Has there been any concern that maybe you're giving people who use the elevators the wrong impression about the height of the building?"

SG: "No, I don't think that's come up."

At this point I was starting to get looks like maybe they wanted me to transact some actual business, or be on my way. Just as a side note here, I am more and more baffled by the stock the Chinese put in their dumb superstitions. Oh no, the color brown! I mean, we have our own superstitions: the cats and the ladders and spilling salt and all that - but no one's really serious about it right? If someone actually, seriously started panicking over a knocked-over salt shaker, wouldn't that be grounds to conclude that they were massively stupid? "It's all part of their rich, ancient culture" doesn't impress me at all. Grow up, Chinese.

So that's it, really. Like a short man padding his shoes, there's just a sad whiff of desperation in a building trying to fool you into thinking it's tall. It's not a bold or inventive lie, it's just pathetic. It's like a guy on the nautilus saying "98....99...." as you approach. It's just another deception that society feels free to throw at you for the simple reason that no one's bothered to call them on it yet.

Lying elevators: J'accuse!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

140 Annoyances

121. A weak dribble coming out of the water fountain.

122. The gratuitous, pointless, just-cause-we-can cussing that permeates every HBO show.

123. The Nokia Ringtone

124. Giving apples on Halloween.

125. Tee shirts boasting about superbowls from four years ago.

126. Unwanted Pavlovian responses - like when I take the occasional nighttime shower and it leaves me unable to sleep, or when I hear a song I normally listen to at the gym and it causes my heartbeat to accelerate.

127. That "Jumpin' Jive'n!" song. For the love of God, swing dance music, GET A SECOND SONG.

128. People who insist on their full first name.

129. Daylight Savings Time

130. The ability of wires and cords, all by themselves, to get tangled in knots of rubik's-cube complexity.

131. Dreams where I just can't find a bathroom.

132. The way that 9/11 is constantly cited, even years later, in corporate annual reports, in any industry, to explain virtually any financial shortcoming.

133. Dr. T and the Women

134. Lawn sprinklers in the pouring rain.

135. Airport security always "recommends" that I remove my shoes. When I choose not to, then they insist. So it wasn't really a recommendation. It was a requirement. Tell you what, let's make a deal. I'll remove my shoes, and you level with me up front and not treat me like a fucking five year old.

136. When you answer the phone and the other person says "Hi! Who is this?"

137. Menus that let me know that a certain entree "goes great with a Bud Light!"

138. How come whenever videogame playing is portayed on TV or in film, the player is always spasming violently with the controller, bashing buttons at high speeds and jerking their arms around?

139. Sucking a lemon seed up the straw and swallowing it.

140. Was it me or was Tracey Ullman never funny, ever? Not even for a second. Not once. Not for one moment over like 3 different shows, spanning deacdes? Never. Just not ever, ever funny.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Illegible Signatures

I've kept silent about this my whole life, but I think today is the day to blow the whistle on this bullshit. Why do people draw a lazy loop that vaguely resembles the first letter of their name, follow it with a wavy line, and call it their signature? That's just a load of crap.

Would I be wrong to say that the primary purpose of a signature is to be legible? So that someone else can see it and say: "Yup - that's Fred Johnson."Granted there are secondary attributes to a good signature, like being written in a distinctive hand and being asthetically pleasing - but do either of those things come before the need to be deciphered?

I make the one - ONE exception, where a person has some sort of job where they have to sign their name eighty times a day. Then okay, you can do the lazy squiggle. But even then, you'd want two signatures in your arsenal - a work signature and a formal signature.

I have this pet theory that the less legible your signature is, or the less it bears any resemblence to your actual name, the more of an asshole you probably are. Do you think Mother Teresa, when she had to sign something, just did some jerky, zig-zaggy pen motions and then whipped off a straight line like Dennis Miller at the end of a weekend update? Of course not! When St. Teresa signed off on something, I think you'd be treated to some beautiful cursive. I mean, the meaningless-loop-and-wavy-line guy clearly don't care about the person who has to look at the signature. Which is, after all, the whole purpose of writing a signature. A signature gets written for the express purpose of some other person looking at it at some point in the future. It has no other purpose.

Behold, the signatures on the declaration of independence.

Now those are some signatures! Not one asshole in the bunch. Not only are they legible, individually distinctive and nice to look at, but there's lot of little artistic flourishes. How about all those underlining designs? I never even noticed the one under John Hancock. It looks like he's bored in 4th period bio lab.

But we've sunk far since the declaration of independence. Nowadays any old squiggle, wavy line, or formless scratching is an acceptable signature. And here's the big question. If society no longer requires that your signature look anything like your name or be legible at all, why even make a halfhearted attempt at legibility? Why settle for an exaggerated loop followed by a line? Why not pull a Prince and sign something compeltely goofy as your signature? Why not just draw a penis? This could be my new signature:

At least that would be legible, distinctive, and it doesn't insult you with any lack of effort or sloppiness.

So that's really the honorable choice. Write your signatures so we can read them, or at least make a credible effort drawing some genitalia. I'd prefer the former. Look to the Declaration of Independence for guidance. This wasn't just a statement of principles and ideals, it was a guide to signing your own name and not looking the jackass. We can all learn from that.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Everything Should Be Open, All the Time

Businesses shouldn't close. Stores, banks, restaurants, supermarkets, the utility companies, government offices, the whole caboodle. Always open. Sundays? Open. 3 am? Open. Martin Luther King Day? Open.

That is the future. It's going to happen eventually - how could it not? I'm only arguing that it should happen now. I am tired of not being able to do some transaction at the bank because it's the wrong day of the week. I'm tired of not being able to get a decent meal because it's the wrong time of day. I'm tired of not being able to get customer service help over the phone because I've missed the office hours in central standard time.

Why is it that the places you need most urgently to be open right now, say your doctor's office - or the water company, or customer service for your PC, or the DMV, why are they the places most likely to be closed? You want some disgusting Del Taco at any time of day, no problem. But something you might actually need urgently? Come back between 8am and 4.

8am and 4? 8am and 4???? That's messed up.

One time I had a UPS pacakge that was sitting in the UPS warehouse that I had absolutely no way of picking up. UPS's hours coincided exactly with my work hours. They opened when I went to work. They closed when I got off. They were closed on the weekends. I had no way of getting this package. I argued with them. I pleaded. I tried to arrange some kind of under-the-table pickup, offering a nice gratuity. No deal. The day before it was returned to sender I ditched work to get it. I can't tell you if UPS has changed its warehouse hours since then, seeing as how I won't give them a dime of business for the rest of my life.

Society needs to take a big step back and reconsider its priorities. Now I've lived in New York City and Las Vegas, two cities noted for having a 24 hour culture. And if you can't get what you need in Vegas during off hours, what hope is there for everyone else? We're all screwed. The system as it stands just doesn't make any sense. Let's say we have errands to do at the DMV, or the post office, or a dozen different places. What's going to be the day we have free to do these chores? Sunday, right? What's the one day these stores are going to be closed? Yep, sunday.

So let's go briefly through the ostensible reasons why things close and explain why they don't hold up.

First of all, you've got this obsolete, holy Sabbath day mentality that just doesn't belong in our society anymore. If you think Sunday is holy, that's great. Good for you. You take the day off. But everyone else should get back to work. In the casino business here, it's common to hear people say "Today is my Monday" or "Tomorrow's my friday." Now that's the way it should be.

Think of the advantages. Overcrowded schools? What if I said I could give any school 40% additional capacity without adding one extra chair? It's called Saturday and Sunday. How about double capacity? Two words: swing shift. Get those kids to school in prime time.

So much of the way American society is time-oriented is based on some obsolete system. Kids getting the summers off to work the fields. Sunday liquor laws. It's time to shake off this notion that Sunday is America's day off. Let's see, what are the other objections...

Ah yes, money. It's not feasible to keep things open all night. Well, it's all a question of scale. Go into any 24 hour business and look around. Do they have a full crew working the Carls' Jr. at 3am? Of course not. It's two, maybe three guys. You don't need your full staff. For many of these stores, the only variable costs you have to worry about when staying open all night are the hourly wage of the one clerk and the power bill. A minimum stream of after-hours business is more than enough to make it worthwhile. And what about giving your customers the peace of mind of knowing that you're there 24/7, 365 days a year? That's worth something. That gets you respect and loyalty from your customer base.

If you feel, like I do, that nothing should ever be closed, then you definitely don't want to go to Europe. I was in England a few years ago and I couldn't believe it. Does no one in England get hungry after 8 pm? Restaurants there have "seatings". You can go for lunch or dinner, but they're closed in between. WTF? And I couldn't believe the sheer number of holidays over there. Every fifth day is a bank holiday or St. Ignacious day or something, and then everything closes. No wonder their economy is in the toilet.

Look, in the world of the future, everything's always open. How many movies have you seen about the future where the protagonist goes somewhere on urgent business, and his destination is closed? None! Nothing is closed in the future! That's what so great about it! We should just get started and do it now! I want to be able to turn to my grandkids and say "You know, when I was a boy, that place used to be closed." And they'll have no idea what I'm talking about. Anyone with me?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Black Licorice

Hoo boy, black licorice sucks. It's not just kinda-bad, it's not just mildly bad. It actually has a hostile taste. It's a flavor that has you groping for an emergency beverage. It's foul.

Now if I licked a car tire, that would be foul too. But here's the difference. The car tire isn't in the candy aisle. There are things that taste worse than black licorice I grant you, but there's nothing that exceeds black licorice in the disparity between promised taste and actual taste. Nobody thinks a handful of mouse droppings is going to taste any good. But if we bagged them and put them next to the Snickers and called them Mouseychews then I think you'd be setting unrealistic expectations.

See, that's how I feel every day when I'm in a store and see something like "Good n' Plenty" on the shelf. I want to shake somebody by the shoulders and say "They're selling mouse droppings as candy!" See, the marketers of licorice are brazen. They could try to call it health food or new age food if they wanted - that stuff is expected to suck. But they call it candy. Candy!

Maybe that label dates back to the age when there just wasn't a lot of candy. Was there candy in pilgrim era America? What did they have? Taffy? Sugar cubes? I'm guessing it was back in the colonial era, or the frontier era, or the robber baron era (I don’t know, I get my eras confused) when someone took a long swig of licorice-flavored, hallucinogenic absinthe and said: “You know, maybe it’s just the wormwood talking – but I think this would make a great candy!” And then he fell over and died. And so licorice was born.

Well, okay, that’s not true. I just looked up the history of licorice and it comes from the boiled roots of the licorice plant. For hundreds of years many cultures have used it medicinally. Whoop-dee doo.

To those of you who have given licorice as a gift, or offer it to guests, or give it to children on Halloween: how dare you. What the hell is wrong with you. Even if you've somehow managed to acquire the taste for yourself, what possibly makes you think it's okay to offer it to others? Are you trying to ruin a child's Halloween? To see licorice in the candy aisle is insult enough. To actually expect someone to eat it on your whim is disgusting. You should be forced to drink glasses of Clamato until you swear to keep your licorice to yourself.

P.S. Not a big fan of the carob chocolate either.

And you know, since this isn't a long entry, let me throw in my two cents about those milk mustache ads. (now in what, their fifteenth year?) Do they realize that the mustaches in these ads are grotesque and obscene and bear no resemblence at all to a genuine milk mustache? Do they not know that milk mustaches are unflattering and borderline repulsive to have to look at, particularly when the ad makes it appear you've been drinking heavy cream out of a bucket? Would you make a Hersheys ad showing a smiling person with chocolate smeared around the sides of their mouth? No, that would be disgusting. So why does milk get a free pass?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Default Burger

I think I'm going to do a trilogy of posts about food. Outdoor dining is one big problem, but another one is burgers. How do you serve one? Do you just throw on ketchup? How bout mustard? Pickles, lettuce, tomato? Mayo? Special sauce, relish, onions? Barbeque? Guac? And we're not even talking about the bacon and the cheese, or some of the more exotic stuff like hot sauce and egg.

Everyone likes their burger a little different. How many permutations of these toppings are there? Millions? Me, I like a cheesburger with ketchup and raw onions. Occasionally bacon - the flavor can be a little too dominant. And here's the real catch. I don't like pickles, but I also don't like no pickles. I like the faint, lingering residue of pickle that comes from finding pickles in your burger and removing them.

And I have several dealbreaker toppings. Mustard and mayo are two. They can be kinda scraped off, but they can't be truly eliminated. That burger is ruined. Same with Russian, or any unwelcome sauce.

And that's just me. One person in the whole burger consumption universe. Unless you serve me a burger with the cheese, the ketchup, the raw onion, and the freshly evicted pickle slice, you've left me unsatisfied. How can you serve a burger that will make everyone happy? You can't. It's not possible. Which leads me to this weeks' constructive suggestion for society. What I propose is a kind of hamburger bill of rights. We should enshrine these principles into law.

1) No condiment or topping should be served on a burger without the explicit permission of the burger consuming party.

2) One should never assume that they can act as a burger topping selection proxy for someone else.

3) When condiment preference is in any doubt, serve plain.

4) Serving the burger open faced, with toppings placed invitingly on either the heel or crown is not an acceptable compromise.

5) "Cheese" means cheddar or American. It doesn't mean jack, provelone, muenster or swiss.

6) "Onions" require clarification. They can be raw or grilled. If you intend to serve them carmelized, or a non-burger variety like Bermuda, this requires special consent. If you intend to serve an onion-ring on the burger, you are an idiot.

7) Saying that a burger contains 100% real Angus beef has never, once, impressed anyone.

A few burger establishments should be congratulated for being ahead of the curve on this. Burger King burgers, despite being bad overall, have always been open to full customization. Every other chain has since adopted the "Have it Your Way" philosphy. Fatburger, for instance, has signs at the register reminding you to identify your topping preferences. That's thoughtful.

What's less encouraging is the way a default burger is prepared, absent of an expressed preference, at many of these places. McDonalds will put mustard on the burger. Now this is just totally nuts. Very few people want mustard on a cheeseburger. Why is this automatic? Then there's Wendys. Unless you specifically countermand it, your Wendys burger will have lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo. Mayo, for Gods sakes.

When someone orders "pizza", does the restaurant feel at liberty to add whatever toppings they want? No. Does someone order "salad" and let the chef decide what kind? No. But apparantly we have all agreed to to just say "burger" and let the establishment slather it with mustard or mayo or whatever else they want. The default burger should be plain, and any additions must be solicited.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Outdoor Restaurant Seating

Sitting outdoors at a restaurant sucks. There are worse things, I grant you. It's not the gulag. But the indoor seating is just indisputably better. Don't argue with me. It's true.

I can see if there's a) no wind, b) no glare from the sun, c) no frequent passing car exhaust fumes, d) a high-70s temperature, e) no insects, f) seating that's comparably comfortable to the indoor seating (i.e. not just metal chairs), and g) no annoying ambient noise, then yes, okay - you have a case for eating outside. But, in the 99% of the time when these ideal conditions won't exist, don't give me the "It's suuuuuuch a beaaaaauuutiful day.... Wouldn't you rather be outdoors?" No. No I wouldn't rather be outdoors. Is there something wrong with that?

See, that's the thing about these people who always want the outdoor table. I'm not allowed to have an indoor-preference. There's this presumption with them that they are in sole possession of the one acceptable preference: eating outside - and anyone who disagrees with them is seriously wrong in the head, and/or is maliciously out to spoil their good time.

I don't get it. It's just not the case that outdoors is always better. "Oh Harold, it's such a beautiful day - let's take a shit outside!" There's this mindset that, I don't know, all indoor activities and indoor living is some kind of tragic compromise, that outdoors is man's natural state. That any experience or task or activity is nicer if it can be done outside. In my opinion it's just the opposite. I think the entire history of human civilization and human endeavor has been one long quest to get indoors. Not to discover truth and God and purpose, but to be able to say "Screw this shit, I'm going inside."

Eating in particular is something that's especially well suited for the indoors. There's just too much little stuff that can get on your nerves at an outdoor table. That glare. Man, the glare. Notice how the person who proposes the outdoor seating always chooses the seat facing away from the glare. They should be obligated to sit into the glare. That should be the price. I mean there's just this unspoken covenant that you can't talk about the glare. That you should just suck it up and be a man. Have you ever tried to eat a plate of pasta when the sun is low in the afternoon sky, square with your shoulders, aimed directly at your face? Do it right now. Go outside and stare at the sun and try to get hungry. It just doesn't work.

And the wind. Ever had to use the condiments or the sugar-pack bowl to weigh something down so it wouldn't blow away? Why am I doing that? Was it worth it to sit out here?

Very occasionally, the outdoor seating is nice. You're on a Caribbean island. It's sunset, there's a terrace overlooking the ocean. The air is fragrant and warm and you can hear the surf. Bring on the sirloin and the twice baked potato. But street level dining at a downtown Chilis? Ever listen up close to a braking bus as it approaches the red light? The ear-splitting whine followed by the high-decibel chugging of the idling carriage? There's a nice sequence of sounds and smells. Oh but I forgot - it's suuuuch a beeauuutiful day.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Letting Children Win

I say it's time for this to stop.

The argument is simple. In real life, you lose. When a kid plays with his peers, he will lose. The sports team he roots for will lose. He will play video games and lose. Even when he's doing nothing more than drinking a coke he will play the look-under-the-cap game and lose.

Since the kid is going to have to deal with losing anyway, wouldn't it be a good idea to teach him early on how to cope with it? Learning grace, manners, sportsmanship - learning to be proud of your effort despite losing, all of this should be a priority.

I have a few childhood memories about this stuff. My first memory of losing was when I saw a new box of cheerios in the kitchen. There was some fabulous prize to be won if the card inside the box had the magic number printed on it. I tore open the box and found the card. The numbers were different. I lost. I remember not comprehending it. I didn't think that I was supposed to lose anything. I wondered if my mom had bought the non-winning box by accident.

I also remember a family wiffleball game in the park when I was about 9. My team was far out in front. In fact, we needed just one more out to seal up the win. There were two men on, but my seven-year-old-girl cousin was coming to bat. A ha! The easiest out on their whole bench! She predictably hit a weak dribbler to the mound, and I knew it was all over. I waited on first for the throw. But then my uncle, aunt and parents went into this 3 stooges routine where they deliberately fumbled, bobbled and tripped over each other, failing to collect the ball or pass it to anyone, and meanwhile my cousin was circling the bases. I screamed in agony and shock. Somewhere during this game-winning, in the park wiffleball homerun it dawned on me that my teammates were throwing the game. This merely doubled my incoherent rage. "You're letting her win! You're letting her win!" My cousin and her little friends were jumping for joy and I was on the ground, apoplectic.

This was probably where my opposition to letting kids win got started. In addition to making sure that kids learn how to lose with class, there are other good reasons to bring on your A-game when taking on junior. 1) How is the kid supposed to get better? As a poker player, I can tell you with certainty that one of the best ways to learn is to have your ass handed to you by a table full of superior players. That's what toughens you. Now if you're trying to teach a kid tennis, or chess, or something like that - how's he going to develop his ability if you keep handing him the confidence-building wins?. What about strengthening his intelligence? His tactics and strategy? The only way you can do that is by challenging him.

2) Is there nothing more insufferable than a kid who has never been permitted to lose? Do you really want to be around this whiny load? God forbid something ever goes wrong in his world - out come the waterworks and the tantrum.

In my opinion, the personification of the impulse to let kids win is the Sesame Street character Guy Smiley.

Guy was the game show host muppet. He'd have games like "Name That Shape!" (Yes! A decahedron!) and no matter what happened over the course of the game show, the ending would always be the same. He'd say something like "Well, the judges have totalled the scores... and... YOU ALL WIN!" And at home, at age 6, I'd be sooooo frustrated. "NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!" Because I wanted, just once, to see a muppet contestant lose on the Guy Smiley show. I was so eager to bask in the schadenfreude of a distraught, crying muppet.

Well, yes, Mr. Hooper died and there were plenty of distraught muppets then. But that was sad. I wanted to relish in the misery of a muppet game show loser. Never happened.

Now you don't want to totally thrash the kid at the game or the sport. You don't have to go overboard. But you don't just give him the win either. If you want him to log in a few wins once in a while to build his confidence, try a game that's mostly luck. Like Yahtzee. The kid will win his fair share of those. (unless he's really a moron)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The "No Bullshit" Line

I have a class this semester on "Service Management", which is maybe one or two evolutionary steps higher than the kind of pablum BS that we had to learn in Management Theory. (Management Theory was the class where we learned how to... talk to people.) There are at least some marginally useful concepts in this class, like how to make lines move quicker.

Now that would be useful to society, wouldn't it? Making lines move quicker. I'm fully on board with that goal. The class is all about automating tasks, upgrading software, taking care of customer's needs at home via computer so that they don't even have to come into the bank, etc.

That's all well and good, but it doesn't get at the root of the real problem that keeps most lines long and glacially paced. It's the idiots, the bewildered and confused, the assholes, the non-English speaking people and their stuttering nephew interpreters, and the conversation-starved elderly. That's the problem.

You're at the post office. You're there to do one of a few quick tasks. Maybe buy a roll of stamps. Maybe have a package weighed and posted. Maybe you got a slip in the mail and you're there to pick up your parcel. Quick and painless. Nothing big. You're maybe fifth in line. But why is it that the line isn't moving? Why has that one woman been at the window since you came in, ten minutes ago? What postal transaction could possibly be taking so long?

Or maybe you're snaking your way through a long airport check-in line. And you just happen to notice that one of the 3 available check-in desks has had the same family standing there talking with the agent the WHOLE time you've been on the line. The whole time. What, like 20 minutes? Why? Isn't the idea that you just step up, present your e-ticket, confirm your flight, check your bag, and take your boarding pass? It's a 2 minute procedure. What else is there?

One more. You live in Las Vegas. You have a $25 casino chip that you want to cash out. You go to the cage. There's a line. The man currently being helped seems to have ID Cards, documents in triplicate, a passport, a credit history, and a paystub out and he's involved in some fiendishly complex negotiation with the cashier. What the fuck is going on?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my solution: The NO BULLSHIT Line. This would be a dedicated separate line, with an assigned staffperson, reserved for the exclusive use of people who have a bullshit-free transaction. Oooh oooh, and even if you had a bullshit-dense transaction and the NO BULLSHIT line was free, you still couldn't use it.

This is sort of a spiritual successor to the "10 items or less" line, or the "cash only" line, only it's applicable to virtually any business environment. Imagine the scene. You enter the airport. The check-in line is enormous, and what... only 3 desks open? You'll be there forever. But wait, there's virtually nobody waiting at the No Bullshit Line. You approach it. In front of you on the No Bullshit Line is a man, his fat wife and their three, fidgeting children. The family steps up to the counter, and my, do they have a long list of problems. Can they get a seat change on the flight? Do they have enough VISA miles to get an upgrade on the return leg? Speaking of which, we need to change that return day to Sunday. Is there a fee for that? Oh, and little Timmy will be taking a connecting flight by himself next week. Can someone meet him and help him get on the plane?

The agent listens patiently, and finally cuts in. "I'm sorry sir, this line is for No Bullshit transactions only. But don't worry, they'll be able to help you at the regular check in desk."

"But we're already here!"

"I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. May I help the next passenger with a bullshit-free transaction?"

Oh, the satisfaction. The joy. The justice. The look on dad's face as he turns around and contemplates the full line. The departing of what remains of his sprit. His acceptance of the suffering ahead of him. While I step up and conduct my business in exactly one minute - thirty, dad and family trudge off to the main line and get in place behind the man with the caged dog, and the old woman whose head never stops quivering in a circular motion.

And the guy at the casino cage with a limited command of english trying to exchange pesos for dollars. And the woman at the post office who doesn't understand when the clerk says that her box needs to be secured with more tape. And the dude at the ATM who seems to be milking every last drop of functionality out of the ATM's three choices. And the old man at the bank who never likes to get down to business until he's had a 5 minute conversation with the teller. And all the other millions of permutations of people who require special treatment and special attention, they can all step aside, and wait patiently for their turn to occupy someone's time with their bullshit.

The soup nazi had it right. Give me a line where something quick and simple can just get done. Give me a fast, convenient experience - one commensurate with the simplicity of my errand. Put me and those like me on a separate track.

P.S. We could at least start by enforcing the rules we already have. How often do you see a checkout person at the supermarket actually enforce the 10-items-or-less rule? Never. Wouldn't it be nice to actually see an offender kicked out into the normal line?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Saw my first Christmas commercial last night, October 11th. This may be a new record. It was for Carnival Cruises. Let's all do a good deed now and never take a Carnival Cruise.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Potpourri 4

Requesting an End to the Conversation
Here's a longstanding pet peeve I have. It's when you tell the person on the other end of the phone that you have to go because something is unexpectedly demanding your immediate attention, and the other person just doesn't get it and keeps the conversation going. Examples:

1. You: "Oh, hey - pizza guy's here. I gotta go."
Other person: "Oh yeah? Pizza? That sounds good! What kinda pizza?"

2. You: "Oh, okay - gotta hang up - the movie's starting."
Other person: "All right. But hey, before you go, what are we doing on Friday?"

3. You: "Oh, hey - that's my dad on the other line - I gotta go."
Other person: "Yeah? Hey how is your dad by the way?"

This really pisses me off. This is a simple cue to get off the phone. Obvious, perfectly commonplace, perfectly understandable. And your friend ignores it. More than once I've been tempted to just stop everything, ignore whatever it is that's pulling me off the phone, and just give my complete attention to the caller, confronting him squarely about his failure to let me off the phone, engaging him in lengthy conversation about it, refusing to change the subject, until I've reduced him to whimpering and tears.

There is only one response to "X just happened, I have to go." and it's "Oh! Okay! Talk to you later." That's it. You either say that sentence, or you are an ass. Maybe there'd be an exception if your caller could somehow trump your emergency with something even more important, but that would be rare.

Orange Juice Commercials Posing as Public Service Announcements
We're all familiar with ads from the Beef Board or the American Dairy Council, where they promote, uh, beef. And dairy. It's all good. I like a nonspecific commercial for "beef". "Beef, it's what's for dinner." That's nice. All commercials should be like that. "Slippers. Warm, comfortable - go out and get a pair." ... "Paper. You know you need more." etc.

But the orange juice people have gone too far. The one thing you're not supposed to do with these ads is get brand specific. What the juice people do is make it look like it's some kind of health department public service announcement. They have a smooth voiced announcer telling you about rising cholesterol and the risks of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. In the background are jogging people and heartbeat-monitor graphics and lab coat types holding test tubes, and it looks very official. And then they get to the point. "Studies have shown that drinking a glass of Minute Maid orange juice every day lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease."

Hold the phone. Who gives a damn what brand of orange juice it is? Were the "studies" brand specific? Did the studies show that if you drank Tropicana orange juice instead then you were "Screwed, man. Screwed."

Now if it was an explicit Minute Maid juice ad then I wouldn't care. But this thing is masquarading as some kind of objective health announcement. The first 15 seconds of this ad had me convinced that this doctor really cared about me and my cholesterol. I was ready to take his advice. But no doctor telling you to drink orange juice would mention a brand preference. He's giving the game away. He's not a doctor, he's a Minute Maid house monkey.

The Minute Maid ad is fairly new. For years it was "Pure Florida Orange Juice", leaving me wondering why it was so important that the oranges come from Florida. Trying to make it sound like there was no health benefit unless it was a Florida orange. Bah!

What the Hell is This Thing?

I mean, I've seen this object dozens of times in commercials my whole life. Apparantly its purpose is to gently apply small dollops of honey to things. Has this thing ever been spotted in real life? Does a person buy one of these when he's not satisfied with just spooning honey into his oatmeal - he feels the need to turn it into a slow, fetish-like ritual? I think we need Martha Stewart to settle this one.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The International Star Registry

Hmm.. it seems I'm a little late on this one.

I was ready to rip the International Star Registry a new one and call them all kinds of names, but a whole lot of people have beat me to it, it appears, and now the ISR has bowed in complete submission and surrender.

This was the situation. Back in high school, I heard about this great gift idea. For about 40 or 50 bucks, you could actually name a star. The are millions of catalogued stars out there, most of them with just numerical designations and coordinates, so the international astronomy community could raise a little money by selling people the right to name them. What a cool idea! How awesome would it be to name an actual star? I could just imagine some future colony in a spaceship approaching my star, consulting their ancient charts, saying "Captain, it appears we're approaching the Dagobah system, in the Asshat cluster..."

And of course let's not forget the massive points one would earn naming a star after your sweetheart. You wouldn't have to lift a finger for the rest of the day, I can promise you that.

So here was this great idea, and I was ready with my wallet open to start naming stars left and right. And then I found out the truth. The truth is that the International Star Registry is just a private commerical organization with absolutely no authority to name anything after anybody. No authority whatsoever. It's just a couple of guys in an office. Their website was a masterpiece of deception. They didn't technically lie. They said things like:

"The name of your star will be registered and copywritten."
(Well, if by register, you mean "written down", then yes.)

"It will be published in the annual journal of astronomical names and designations."
(It was some book that they published themselves. It carried no additional meaning.)

"You will receive a signed certificate and a star chart with the position of your star indicated."
(Yup. They certainly would send you those things.)

Every choice of word and phrase was calculated to make it appear that this was official and legit, while at the same time cautiously avoiding any outright falsehood. It was clear that the International Star Registry business model depended entirely on deception. People would only buy a Star from ISR if they could be made to believe that ISR was offering something that it wasn't.

This cuts right to the core of things I despise the most. This is as bad as Digimon. For a while I would rant to whoever would listen about the ISR fake-out and how they were preying on innocent sentiment to make a quick buck.

But apparantly there have been some developments. I googled the ISR and came up with a lot of warnings from consumers, astronomers, all sorts of people - cautioning people about the scam. I also found a cease and desist type letter from the city of New York.

So then I went and checked the ISR website itself. Whoa nelly has it changed its tune! It's totally different now. They're no longer trying to fake you out. Now they're explicit that it's just a fun, make-believe gesture. What a 180! Go and see yourself.

At the bottom is their little, sad disclaimer. "International Star Registry star naming is not recognized by the scientific community. Your star’s name is reserved in Internatnal Star Registry records only." (Internatnal?) On the "About Us" page, they make plain that it's all just for fun. Ha ha! Up yours, International Star Registry!

So that's a little victory for the good guys huh? On a side note, I found out while doing this research that Nicole Kidman bought a star and named it "Forever Tom". Jesus. If you really were under the impression that you were giving a star a permanent name, could you please not make future generations heave and puke? (I'm guessing also it was a really small star that hung around even smaller astronomical objects to look big by comparison.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Duke Nukem Forever

This is about Duke Nukem. If you don't care (and really, who does?) then skip.

DNF is a videogame that's been in production, full time, since 1998. It was sort of in production even before that - I know one magazine posted screenshots in December '97. DNF was (is / will be) the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, a popular PC shooter.

I was a fan of Duke 3D. The gameplay was tight. It had a blend of humor, action and scares that worked well. It had plenty of secrets. Most first person shooters are all about multiplayer; Duke's focus was on the one-player game, and the story and scenarios were crafted well to reflect that. ... Of course, we're talking 1996 here. You wouldn't play it now. Unless maybe you were bored and in a VH1-ey kind of mood.

Videogames generally take about 2 years to develop. From greenlighting the project to mass production, it's about 2 years. Plenty of games take longer, and some less time - and historically the process has been quicker. I speak as someone who worked for a console game publsher for 4 years and watched it happen. Two years is industry standard.

What this post is about is making the following case: 1) 7-10 years of development for a videogame is completely unacceptable, from the point of view of anyone - a good-faith fan, a developer with any self respect, a shareholder of Take-Two Interactive. (Duke's corporate paymaster) - anyone. 2) 3D Realms' (Duke's developer) lofty and dismissive and sneering attitude toward anyone saying "Where's the game?" is nothing but obnoxious jackassery. It's the worst kind of arrogance - unjustified arrogance. And 3) That Duke Nukem Forever (when we finally see it) cannot possibly be any good. It is destined to fail.

Let me start by mentioning a guy named Arthur Laffer. He's the economist who famously drew the "Laffer Curve" on the back of a cocktail napkin. The conventional wisdom at that time was that if the government needed more money, it had to raise taxes. Higher tax rates, more money. Let's look at a graph, shall we?

Laffer's insight was to realize something obvious. Once taxes got too high, they would start having an impact on the amount of time people were willing to work. The more government takes out of your pocket, the more they're responsible for providing for your needs. At truly high tax rates people wouldn't work at all. Why work if the government takes 90 cents from every dollar? Better to stay home and let government provide for you. Laffer drew this curve.

His point was that in a situation where taxes were high already but the government still needed more money, it might be better off lowering taxes to get more tax revenue.

It was a wacky concept, but today it's accepted as pretty much the truth. Now why am I bringing this up? I think Laffer would have had a lot to say about Duke Nukem Forever. Consider the relationship between the time a game takes to develop, and its eventual quality. I think the conventional wisdom might lead to a graph like this.

A straight line. Makes sense. The more time you invest in making a game, the better it gets. If you rush a game out the door early, it's going to be bad. Take longer, it gets better.

But then again, maybe that's not the full picture. Maybe it really looks like this.

A sloping curve. A curve with decreasing returns. This makes a little more sense. During the first year or two of development you make great strides. But after many years of development, you approach the limits of how good the game can get. The team is only so talented, there's only so much money, you can only have so much content and so much fine tuning and balancing. So in the long run, quality starts to flatten out.

But this curve is also wrong. I'm here to introduce my own curve, Laffer style. This is what game quality really looks like over time.

It eventually declines, and finally plummets. Now this has to seem counterintuitive. After all, nobody goes to work and makes the game worse. Nobody sabotages art and animation. They work on the game and try to make it better. The problem is that at some point, this becomes as hopeless a job as bailing out the sinking Titanic with a pail. There are other, powerful forces at work; forces that are working nonstop, 24/7, inexorably, to make the game irrelevant and obsolete. These forces cannot be slowed down. With every passing day, Duke Nukem Forever gets less innovative and less pretty. It's gets less technologically impresive and less exciting to play.

It's like some guy with a beard down to his knees bursting out of a basement door saying "Finally! It's done! My sequel to Gyromite! It's taken 20 years, but I wouldn't compromise - it had to be perfect! It's the best NES game of all time!!!" After a certain point, no matter how skilled a game developer you are, your work in progress will be overtaken by the forces of obsolescence and it will be ruined.

But it's more than that. With every day the fanbase shrinks, the number of people who remember Duke 3D in any detail get fewer, the number of people interested in Duke declines, the value of the overall franchise starts to crumble. With no new product, and a mums-the-word policy from the developer, people forget Duke.

Plus, doesn't an eight year delay suggest, just maybe, that these aren't the smartest bunch of guys? Am I supposed to think they can make a good game when they've shown staggering incompetence in the planning of the making of the game?

Now, Duke bought itself some time (staving off obsolescence) by restarting the project with the Unreal Tournament engine in 2001. It threw out what it had so far and started from scratch with a more powerful foundation. Maybe that was a smart idea. But it was an idea with a fatal flaw. The idea presumes that you have the team, the resources and the skill to actually complete the game in about two years. If you can't do it by then, then guess what? You have another game that's nowhere near done and is approaching technological obsolescence. What are you going to do now? Start over a third time?

And then there are the rising expectations. The more time the game is in utero, the more we expect from it. DNF has been in production, full time, for 8 years? What does a game that took 8 years to make look like? What wonders will it contain? Now, if Shigeru Miyamoto retreated to a mountainside cabin for 8 years, cutting himself off from the world, monk-like, and devoted the time to crafting some exquisite new game of his own invention, well then now THAT would be a game worth an eight year wait. That game would blow your mind.

But head-up-his-ass, God-complexed, Hostess-snack-eating pompous asshole George Broussard is not Miyamoto. And Duke Nukem is not King Lear. It's a standard FPS that uses T&A and one-liners to distinguish itself in the crowded FPS marketplace. Or, rather, it did. In 1996. This middling franchise has earned 8 years to make its next game? Why? On what grounds? And its crack development staff is so gifted that we must not disturb their genius? We're not allowed to ask how it's coming along? Who else gets this priviledge? Why Duke?

Oh, you didn't know about the 3D Realms attitude about handling DNF inquiries? No questions are allowed. Broussard answers to no one. Not even the CEO of Take Two, his publisher. The CEO, Jeff Lapin, was fielding questions during a stockholder's meeting and was asked what the story was with Duke. All Lapin said was that he suspected it wouldn't be done in time for a 2003 release. (A sensible statement, considering it's 2005 and there's still no sign of the game). Broussard's response (in an internet forum) was that Lapin needs to "STFU, imo". Consider that. Not only is George telling the CEO of his corporate parent to shut the fuck up, but he's doing so in his capacity as lead designer of videogaming history's most failed project. The game industry's perrenial laughingstock. The game that was given not just the Vaporware game of the year award, but a Vaporware Lifetime Achievement Award. Where does one get the balls? Perhaps from the same place one gets the ability to take a franchise like Duke and steer it down into a mountain.

Here's what's going to happen when DNF finally sees the light of day. It will temporarily benefit from the increase in buzz and attention that comes from being a game that was in development for 10 years. Duke's marketers will misattribute this attention as being a reflection of genuine enthusiasm for the game, which it won't be, and this will send them into an overdrive of superlatives - claiming Duke is the most covered game of the year, the most talked about, the most anticipated, etc.

The game will debut to reviews that will be unfairly negative. The urge to compare it to other delayed failures like Daikatana and to continue the 10 year habit of mocking it will be too strong. So it won't get a truly fair shake. But the reality is that it will be a passable next-gen Duke entry, not too weak, not too strong. But it will not blow any minds, and nothing about it will justify its gestation time. On this score alone it will be considered a great failure. Other shooters (made in normal spans of time) that are as good or better than DNF will come out both quickly before and quickly after Duke, further underlining how unecessary the 10 years were. The erosion of the fan base will have taken its toll, and this will be reflected in sales. Only about 5 guys worldwide are going to laugh at those scripted moments in the game that are tongue in cheek references to earlier Duke adventures.

The game won't recoup costs, and the franchise will not recover. And so now, finally, after years of patience, I say goodbye to Duke. I've been a fan all this time. I've waited. My hopes were high. But it's over. DNF will not deliver.

It's time to forget about Duke, move on, and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of gum.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Dr. Laura

I am so sick of this woman.

In Vegas, our radio afternoon-talk options are pretty limited. Dr. Laura is on the most prominent talk station, and she's on every weekday from noon to 3, which is the time when I'm most likely to be on the road. It's either her, a stock program or a sports program - slim pickings. Again and again, driven to choose one of these three choices out of boredom, I end up saying "Well, I'll give Dr. Laura one more chance." I always regret it.

Let me expose Dr. Laura's one trick. Becuase, it IS just one trick. Here goes:

People call in with personal problems: relationship problems and family problems. The problems range from fairly minor tiffs to "my children just died in a fire" and everything in between. Dr. Laura listens, diagnoses, and advocates a course of action. The caller wipes away a tear and says "Thanks, Dr. Laura." Goodbye. Next caller. Okay. Dr. Laura's technique is to take any situation and make it conform to a preconceived 3-act story of problem/personal growth/resolution.

Dudn't matter what the problem is! Could be any problem at all! She's performing a magic trick - the same trick, over and over. The thing about these callers is, their problems are usually fairly complex; they're layered, they have shades of gray, they involve years of relationship history, they involve deep-seated behavioral patterns and psychological turmoil. These aren't simple problems with simple solutions. But Dr. Laura will take this problem, interrupt the caller as soon as she has heard enough of it to put it in one of her standard pigeonholes, and perform the magic trick. The magic trick is that surprise! Your problem is really quite simple! See, in the Dr. Laura philosophy, there are only about eight problems. There's the woman who's getting stepped on and has to assert herself. There's the lazy, weak woman who's shirking her obligation to God and husband. There's the woman who's boyfriend has some bad habit and needs to be given an ultimatum. There's the man who needs a wakeup call that his childrens' welfare is paramount and all other concerns are secondary. And a few others I might be forgetting. Once Dr. Laura has established which of the eight problems she is currently dealing with, she can cut off the caller - his role is over. Now the story proceeds to its climax. The caller knows she is being stepped on / abused, she knows it! Furthermore, she knows what she has to do! Why are we even wasting Dr. Laura's time with something so obvious? All that's left is a tearful acknowledgement from the caller that Dr. Laura hit the nail on the head, and it's another one in the books.

Dan Savage, who writes Savage Love, also has this kind of kick-in-the-pants, tough love style of advice giving. He'll tell it to you straight and he won't mince words. There won't be any sensitive preamble, and he won't be delicate. But Dan Savage is also capable of changing gears and acknowledging a difficult, complex question with no clear answers. He'll sometimes change his mind. He'll post responses from readers and experts who weigh in with divergent opinions. He's quick to say "Dump the Motherfucker Already" but he's equally likely to see a gray area and seek compromise. When have you ever heard Dr. Laura talk about compromise?

See, Dan is thoughtful. Dr. Laura is a parlour show. The people who admire Dr. Laura do so because of the one trick: here was a problem that seemed terrifyingly complex, but as it turns out it was really quite simple. Only Dr. Laura could have cut through all that underbrush to expose the real problem. She's amazing.

Is it normal to listen to a relationship advice program and find yourself violently disagreeing with the expert advice? Here are a few standard Dr. Laura concepts that just seem dangerously wrong to me.

1) If you're not in love with your husband anymore, what you should do is pretend that you love him... go through all the motions of loving him... in every way act the same way you would act if you really did love him. Then, in time, the love will return.

Me: Huh? How does that work exactly? What if there's some actual *reason* that the woman doesn't love her husband anymore, beyond the possibility that she's lazy and weak and is ignoring her duty and promise to God to love him always? You know, what if there is some actual *problem* with the marriage? Do you think maybe that's worth exploring? Nah.

2) Even though you love him, you should dump your boyfriend. He's a drunk (or a liar, or a cheater, or a gambler, or whatever) and people never change. Time to move on.

Me: Of course people can change you miserable shrew. Don't want to get sidetracked here, but when Dr. Laura was making her moral argument against homosexuality, wasn't the idea that men are naturally beastial and weak and lustful and somewhat savage and that it takes the love of a woman to temper man's sinful nature? This argument was making the rounds for a while. So that's why homosexuality is ultimately futile - because a man without the guidance and temperance of a woman's influence will always be a savage. How does that jive with Dr. Laura's frequent conclusion that errant men are incapable of change and should be abandoned? If the woman loves him, can't she work on him? Can't she help him? Shouldn't she "temper" him like she's supposed to? Why the contradiction?

And how about Dr. Laura's supremely condescending manner toward every caller? Dr. Laura is never, ever happy until she's made it clear that you're five years old and gotten you to admit it too. I think this is tied in with "the trick". Dr. Laura is the great simplifier of problems. She needs you to admit that you've been foolish, carrying on as if your problem had any nuance to it, any hint of a third dimension. You child. You ass. Don't you see how black and white it really is? Why are you hesitating? Kick him out and change the lock. Of course you go pick him up from the airport. She absolutely cannot get an earring.

You know, Judge Judy can get away with an attitude like that. She's talking to people who have broken laws and and misbehaved in a variety of ways. Maybe they need a little Judge-Judy dose of stern authority. But the people who are calling in to Dr. Laura are good, decent people who are doing something difficult - reaching out for help with the most personal kinds of problems. Seeking help of this kind is itself a gesture of humility. These people don't deserve to be ridiculed and belittled. Like your low level supervisor always reminding you that he's the boss, it's cruel and cheap for Dr. Laura to always squeeze every last drop of superiority that her radio-doctor position affords her.

Here, for your convenience, is every on-air Dr. Laura conversation that ever happened, condensed into about one page.

"Hi Dr. Laura, thanks for taking my call."

"How can I help you Denise."

"Well............ it's my boyfriend. He's been living with me for about a year...."

"How old are you?"

"I'm thirty six.... He was injured on the job last March.... He works for the Coast Guard...."

"How old is he?"

"He's my age.... He lost the use of his legs..."


"And he gets around in a power chair....."



"Did I ask you if he was your age? I asked how old he was."

"I'm sorry Dr. Laura. He's thirty six."

"Okay, go on."

"He gets around just fine, and he hasn't really lost any of his independence. It's just that.... well... he's not the same man he used to be."


"He doesn't seem interested in staying active..."



"Denise, what is your question."

"Well... okay... see we used to do everything together, but lately he always finds an excuse..."

"Denise you haven't heard me. What is your question?"

"What should I do Dr. Laura?"

"Do you have children?"


"Denise, he is either going to have to change his attitude in a hurry, and I mean soon, or he is going to lose you."


"You know what the right thing to do is, don't you Denise."

"(sniffle). Yes."

"He is either going to rediscover his joy in life or he can be miserable all by himself."

"(sniffle). Yes."

"But he is not going to drag you down with him."

"(wipes a tear) Thank you Dr. Laura."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Naked Chicken

I saw this commercial for Naked Chicken. Go watch it and come back for discussion.

Okay. Naked chicken. I saw this ad and it didn't really register. My mind processed it and filed it the way it does for most commercials. It was stupid but it didn't seem too offensive. But the more time passed, the more I kept coming back to this ad in my mind. Naked chicken.... The more I thought about it the angrier I got. Why was I getting so steamed about this commercial? Finally I could no longer contain my rage and just shouted angry insults at the Naked Chicken, cursing the chicken, cursing Buffalo Wild Wings, damning everyone who had ever eaten a naked chicken and all their family members too.

I still can't get a full grip on why this commercial angers me so much, but I'll try to talk it out.

First of all, we have a guy holding a blurry piece of chicken, and he asks the waitress why it is blurry. Now, I have to point out, just for my own sanity, that things in real life can't be blurry and pixellated. So this is the first point where the commercial is asking for my suspension of disbelief. No problem. You got it. People talk to cartoon characters in commercials, they wink at a Mr. Clean who's come alive on the bottle, same with the Brawny Guy, okay fine.

But now, the guy asks why his chicken is blurry. This is a red flag. I, the viewer, have suspended *my* disbelief. "Chicken can be blurry." I've told myself. I've accepted that. It's weird and uncomfortable, but I've made peace with it. But now the guy in the ad doesn't quite understand it either. My suspended disbelief is collapsing like a house of cards if the guy in the ad is questioning blurry chicken. He's supposed to be on board with it. Now I'm back to square one: why does the chicken have some sort of computer effect on it that people can see?

The waitress comes over, all smiles, and helpfully clears up the confusion. But this is another request for suspension of disbelief. If I'm meant to question the nature of blurry chicken, as the guy in the ad did, shouldn't I be considerably more freaked out than he is? Wouldn't I be shook to my very core that the chicken was blurry? Wouldn't I be freaking out? That his blurry-chicken-crisis is so easily resolved doesn't ring true. This is a much more difficult request for suspension of disbelief. Buffalo Wild Wings is asking me to accept that chicken can be pixellated, but not immediately - only after some casual questioning. This challenges the very limits of my suspension of disbelief abilities. It's as if you saw a Mr. Clean commercial where Mr. Clean comes out of the bottle and congratulates mom on a clean kitchen, and you find it amusing, but then mom freaks out that Mr. Clean has come to life, and now you're confused and frightened, but then Mr. Clean says "Don't worry, I do this every Wednesday" and mom calms down immediately. Huh?

So as I struggle with this, the commercial doesn't get any easier to understand. The waitress explains that the chicken is censored because its naked. Now, further SoD is required because guess what? That doesn't make any sense. Even if I could pixellate things in real life and cause only mild, temporary confusion in others, chicken is naked to start with and doesn't need to be blurred. Shouldn't the guy in the ad say "Isn't 'naked', in this sense, only referring to the absence of breading? And since when have we been modest about chicken nudity?"

But, well, this is all a joke. Ha ha. Naked Chicken. Get it? Not really, no. It's not funny. No. Just not funny. Nobody in the ad is behaving like an actual human being. And note the fleeting look of distaste of the waitress's face as the ad ends. Is she annoyed because the whole "blurry chicken question" is something she has to explain 20 times a day and she's sick of it? Or because the one guy is waving his blurry chicken around like an idiot? An open question, I guess. There's so much groundwork that has to be laid for this lame punchline that the whole thing is just a confusing waste of time.

Again, I ask: remember when commercials were just "The Lincoln Towncar. Magnificently designed and appointed. Luxury you can afford." and that was it? There was no triple-layered irony and forced humor?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Auto Mechanics Adjusting my Seat Setting

This is a situation that just recently brewed to a boil. For a year now, I've been taking my car to this one Bridgestone garage here in Vegas. Mostly just regular tune-ups.

And every time I get the car back, the seat is a) scootched way, way up, b) brought up from its reclined angle, and c) vertically raised. Sometimes d) the rear view mirror has been readjusted, e) the driver's side mirror, and f) the steering wheel has been lowered.

Okay, I didn't even know you *could* lower the steering wheel. I had to hunt around for the switch that brings it back up. Aside from the fact that they seem to be employing Herve Villachez as a mechanic, there is absolutely no call, none, for them adjusting any of this stuff when they give me an oil change. And I've known this for some time; I keep making a mental note, everytime I leave the garage, to tell them next time not to change the settings.

To give you an idea. Here's what goes on. I park in the Bridgestone parking lot. I walk in. I request service. I give them my key. The mechanic takes the key, enters my car, and drives the approximately eight and one half feet to the interior of the body shop. Later, he makes the same trip, in reverse, back to the parking space. And for this he has to LOWER THE STEERING WHEEL.

Well this time, I finaly remembered to bring it up at the counter. This was pretty much the conversation:

Me: "Oh, uh.. hey. Could I ask for uh, one small favor?"

Bridgestone Guy: "Sure boss, what's up?"

Me: "Could you tell the mechanic.... not to change the setting of the seat. ... ... In the car?"

BG: "The setting? What do you mean?"

Me: "Well, it's just that, every time I get the car back, the seat is always scootched way up."

BG: "Oh no, we don't do that."

Me: "Oh I know you don't. It's just, you know, the guy always scootches it up."

BG: "Well, hey, sure. It's not a problem."

At this point the guy writes a note on the work order... "Customer requests... do not adjust seat." Now I know I'm screwed. Now I am ensuring that this mechanic will just hate my guts and do something awful to the car. I also really want to bring up the wheel adjustment and the mirrors, but I know not to press my luck.

Two hours later (they were replacng brake pads) I get back in the car. The mechanic left the floor paper inside the car. You know how they put a paper on the floor of the driver's seat to not get it dirty? Well, he left it in there. The seat? Not adjusted. The mirror? Way out of whack. The steering wheel? Lowered all the way.

Well I'm not going to seek any further justice on this. I don't think you want to get on a mechanic's bad side. But let me just pose the question. Are you so worried, during the 10 second drive from the parking spot to the garage interior that some reckless driver in the fast lane is going to ride up into your blind spot at 60 mph that you need to mess with the side mirror? You know, if I'm hiring a guy to drive my car cross country to some other city, by all means, adjust everything. In fact, if you want to leave some fast food wrappers on the floor, no one's going to say anything. But if the amount of time it takes to mess with all the settings actually exceeds the amount of time you're going to spend driving the car, maybe you should leave it the hell alone.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Registered Trademarks

One more thing before I leave the Starbucks topic. I occasionally buy a bottled fruit smoothie there; one of those healthy, alternative brand smoothies that they keep in the refrigerator case.

You know how all those little fruit-smoothie-in-a-bottle brands are all going for that hippie, Ben & Jerrys asthetic? The little smoothie with the rainbow on it, or the cartoon drawing - its very existence seems to be a rebuke to the cold, cruel, Minute Maid juice empire. This is a rogue, underground smoothie. A smoothie that doesn't play by the old rules. It's a new, hip, enlightened kind of smoothie, one made in a socially responsible, eco-friendly, diversity respecting sort of way.

Let me read you, verbatim, the text from the smoothie label. Note, this is an Odwalla brand, "Citrus C Monster" smoothie. Also note, the font here on Blogspot won't let me use the symbol for a trademark or a registered trademark, you know - the "r" with the circle around it or the tiny "TM". So I'll just indicate where they appear in plain text. Okay....

Citrus C Monster (registered trademark)

Easy to C. (trademark) This sweet, C - ferrying smoothie is a blend of orange juice, peach puree, apple juice, pureed guava, pineapple juice, acerola cherry juice, raspberry puree and passion fruit juice. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that you body needs. It neutralizes free radicals and plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system. With multiple sources of Vitamin C in a delicious multi-fruit smoothie, this Monster is a wonderful way to "C for Yourself"(registered trademark). To read some nourishing stories, visit our People to Planet (registered trademark) page at

All right. Do you think the happy, silly, whimsical intent of these phrases here is just slightly undermined by the constant legal reminder that those phrases are protected by trademark? You're trying (desperately, I think) to generate these warm, gushy feelings in your customer base, and at every turn, you are hinting that you will not hesitate to unleash your lawyers and sue their asses back to the stone age if they just try and use your whimsical phrase without permission.

Let's say I trademarked the phrase "I wuv you!". Now say I send you a bouquet of flowers and a card saying "I wuv you!" (registered trademark) Wouldn't that be a profoundly disturbing message? Wouldn't you put down the card and back away very slowly?

The r-with-the circle-around-it means only one thing. It means WE HAVE LAWYERS ASSHOLE. YOU WILL BE SUED.

And what gives Odwalla the balls to think so highly of it's stupid little trademarked phrases? Do you really think, Odwalla people, that there is a single person on this earth who has been tempted, even for a second, to steal the phrase "C for Yourself"? Has anyone, even for a moment, been impressed by naming your website "People to Planet" - like you and you alone are the first people to think of making a consumer-interactive website, or you and you alone understand the rich subtlety of how a website can unite people over great distances?

Or do you not care about any of that, and "C for Yourself" and "People to Planet" is just a desperate bid for whimsy, because that's what you think sells smoothies?

Okay, I just visited the website, and man does it reek of incense and unwashed feet. Apparantly, they have a unique process for making juice called freshalicious. No, wait a minute, let me go back and make sure... no, it's actually Freshology.

Don't you understand (and now I'm talking to the general public) that the very existence of the word Freshology means that someone, somewhere has taken you for an idiot? I'm not anti-whimsy here, I'm not anti-fun, but Odwalla, you HAVE to TRY... HARDER. Trademarking your warm-fuzzy slogans undermines their entire reason for existence, it's useless to trademark them anyway because there's not a chance in hell anyone wants to steal them (If your legal department says different you can fire them) and you need to scrap Freshology. How about Frooteloo! or Freshgasmic! Those are free, by the way. They're all yours.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Genius of Starbucks

Once again, my hat is off to the genius of Starbucks. These guys are good. Really good. I've commented before about my amazement that they were able to force their stupid size names on us with very little resistance on our part, and that they succeded so spectacularly that now food service businesses everywhere use the Starbucks size names.

But they've succeeded in a new coup as well, and this one's a lot more subtle. I admit I only just picked up on it. Let me share it with you. It concerns the frappucino and all its variants.

The Frappucino is a milkshake.

That may not immediately seem like earth shattering news, but just stay with me on this. I noticed this because the other day, I was getting my morning coffee at Starbucks when two dudes walked in. Two guys, early twenties, friends, just stopping in for a little summer refreshment. They both order venti chocolate chip frappucinos (one of them reassuring the other that there's nothing coffee flavored in it) and they both get these enormous drinks and sit down, facing each other, insert the big straws and start drinking their frappucinos and talking.

Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Well, it made me think. What if, hypothetically, you changed the Starbucks into an old fashioned ice cream parlour. It's got the candy colored decor, the friendly old man who scoops your ice cream, the black and white tiled floor... Now, can you imagine the same two dudes walking in, approaching the counter, buying a pair of chocolate milkshakes, sitting down opposite each other at a cozy table and sharing a relaxing conversation? Two dudes, drinking milkshakes. Together.

No, I really don't see it. It just wouldn't happen. Guys don't turn to other guys and say "Hey bro, you want to go down to the old ice cream parlor, get a milkshake and hang out for a while?" No guy would say that. They might as well get a couple of parasols and skip down the street holding hands.

But the frappucino thing goes way beyond tricking dudes into sharing a milkshake. The frappucino has single-handedly revitalized the milkshake business, which, let's face it, was not too strong. Peek your head inside a Baskin Robbins. (mmm, fresh waffle cone) Is there anyone in there? No. Even if there is, is anyone buying a milkshake? No.

No one wants to buy a milkshake because milkshakes are terrible for you and everyone knows it. It's easy to scarf down a burger and excuse it. To eat a cookie or a doughnut once in a while. But there's something about ordering a milkshake, I think, that just lets you know you've gone too far. A milkshake has to be preapared. You have to request its creation. It's not just sitting on a plate making you feel like if you don't eat it it will just go to waste. You need a special store or special equipment to get your hands on one. We as health conscious consumers have managed to reject the milkshake.

But suddenly, Starbucks changes the name to frappucino and it's open season. (I went and actually looked up calorie comparisons of milkshakes and frappucinos and they're basically equivalent. If you don't believe me, look it up yourself. I lost the link.)

People are actually drinking frappucinos every day and they're completely oblivious to the fact that they've got a daily milkshake habit. And if they knew they were consuming a milkshake every day I think they'd be horrified. And all this Starbucks-invented lingo... "extra pump", "no whip" etc. etc. I think the lingo exists purely so that the deception can be maintained. So that there's no mental connection between the beverage you just ordered and an extra-large milkshake, which is what it is.

Starbucks, basically, is a religious cult. They have an invented language meant to disconnect you from reality. They "love bomb" you with tasty forbidden treats to get you hooked. They play a non-stop patter of soothing, non-threatening jazz. And then before you know it you're dead broke and you've gained a pant size.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

End of the Line

This is it. We've had a good run here on Petty Annoyances, but I'm bringing this journal to a close. Not permanently, maybe, but for the forseeable future. When I started this thing I had a huge, out of control list of things that irritated me, annoyed me and just generally pissed me off. Thanks to the magic of the internet though, I've been able to faithfully report all these things, and have even thrown in a few new ones as they came up.

But now the well is dry, so to speak. It's time to go live life a little more and find brand new things to complain about. Perhaps in time, I'll be overflowing with rage again and will return to this trusted forum to spew the bile. One can only hope.

Some things I was planning to write about but could never really work up the umph for: the mighty badness of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the profound ugliness of a car door opening at a red light, a head emerging, and a thick loogie slowly descending - and the fact that although the movie Psycho featured arguably the greatest single performance of any movie, the finest direction of any movie, the best score and one of the best scripts, it was denied nominations for any of those things at the 1960 Oscars. But hey, The Apartment. We watch that Jack Lemmon classic allllll the time, right?

So I say thank you to anyone out there who's enjoyed these whiny essays, and, like the majestic hawk, must now fly away deep into the high, high mountains, where, being a hawk, I dwell exclusively. On the bright side, I've always wanted to be able to say I was putting something "on hiatus" for "retooling" and now I can.

I leave you with a look at the brighter side of life, because one can't be negative all the time.

20 Things I Like

1. When the dryer lint comes cleanly off the screen with a single snap of the wrist

2. Boolean modifiers

3. Removing your feet from ski boots.

4. Any commercial with William Shatner

5. Toilet paper with some bite

6. Porn DVD commentary

7. The names Launchpad McQuack and Judge Learned Hand

8. Pulling up to the parking space exactly as the song is ending

9. The funky, staccato, syncopated vocal cadences of CNN's Richard Quest. When the guy speaks it's like jazz improv.

10. Using the rare but grammatically correct "Sons of a bitch." when insulting brothers.

11. Dreaming about what you'd have done to the thief if you'd have caught him red handed.

12. The terms fracas, melee, brouhaha, hubbub, foofaraw, hullabaloo, and kerfuffle.

13. Rolling a hard eight

14. Barbershop chairs that face away from the mirror. This is genius! I never realized how relaxing a haircut can be when you're not staring into your own eyes for 20 straight minutes. Plus, no mirror, I can completely ignore the barber's craft. I go from unkempt to well groomed with absolutely no information about the transition. This is really how it should be.

15. Ben Stein

16. When you and another guy at the urinal start peeing at pretty much the same time. And you keep going, and he keeps going, and you keep going, and it's looking to be a real marathon, and you make an effort to pace yourself, and it gets to the point where you have serious doubts if you're going to win this one - but wait! He's wavering... he tinkles to a stop! You're still in the zone! Victory!

17. The laughable No U-Turn sign. Ha! No one enforces you!

18. Need a penny, take a penny. Have a penny, leave a penny.

19. Happy old toothless guys. Generally I don't like old people, but the happy old toothless guys who you find at the poker table are your instant best friends. They were crane operators for 50 years, or sanitation workers, or whatever, and they'll be glad to tell you how much fun it was. They have an endless supply of great dirty jokes, they'll drink all night, they bathe with surprising regularity, and they have that great smile that just makes you think "Yeah, I could pick up that spare." Happy old toothless guys, I salute you.

20. “He peppered in God’s lo mein.”

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Ice Cream Man

I hate you, ice cream man.

Every day, for two full hours, the ice cream man makes his rounds outside my bedroom window. He's there from 10 to 11 am, and then there again from about 3 to 4.

This guy isn't a Mr. Softee or some sort of national ice cream truck outfit. He's just a dude with a shabby looking mexican coyote van equipped with a loudspeaker. As a convenience to residents in my complex, the front gates are left open during business hours to keep traffic moving. In comes the ice cream man. He circles our little block endless times, the schreechy little synthesized song playing over and over in a 15 second loop.

We have plenty of kids in the complex, which is why he's so happy to be here. Our complex has a no solicitation rule, but it isn't enforced. At the end of my tether one time, having listened to this 15 second high pitched ditty for the 6 thousandth time in single day, I went to management and begged them to do something. They get lots of complaints, they say. They've told him to go away, they say. He agrees to not come back, they say. And then he comes back, right on schedule.

One time I woke up at 3am with the song playing loudly and perfectly in my ears. (The song is kinda like "Over There" except weirder and shorter) It was playing note-perfect in my head. It took me a minute to realize I was hallucinating it. My first thought was simply, "No!!!!!! Not now, ice cream man! Mercy! Mercy!"

Imagine the scene on another day. A frigid January morning. About 10:00 am. A steady splattering of freezing rain. The sort of morning where you huddle next to the heater with a blanket wrapped around you. And then... the ice cream man.... over therrrrrre..... over therrrrrre..... send the word, flip the bird, over therrrrrre...

Because the yanks are coming.
The yanks are coming.
The drums rum-tumming everywherrrre...

Repeat 50 times.

Mr. Softee would never hustle kids for a sugar fix on a day like that. He has better things to do. But not our ice cream man.

Sometimes I fantasize about visiting actual violence on the ice cream man. Pulling him out of his truck Reginald Denny style. Slashing his tires. Gouging him repeatedly in the face with an Italian Ice cardboard spoon.

If anyone can suggest some actual, feasable solutions for my ice cream man problem, or at least come up with some ideas for how to make his life miserable, I'd be interested and appreciative.

P.S. If there was really more to Acrobat than just the Reader, do you think maybe they'd stop reminding you after 10 or 15 years? You think? Just putting that out there.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

120 Annoyances

101. The insane difficulty of the average text adventure.

102. The black Chuckle.

103. Someone walking in front of you - just fast enough that you can't overtake them, just slow enough that you can't get into a comfortable gait.

104. "Professional driver, closed course."

105. People who use the "[sic]" convention of preserving a misspelling within a quote for no reason except to belittle the author of the quote. So often in printed debate you see someone quoting their opponent and throwing in the "[sic]" like it's some kind of sophisticated riposte. If pointing out someone's spelling mistake is important enough to be included in your argument, then you're on weak ground, in my opinion.

106. The FBI Warning

107. An ice cold, unspreadable chunk of cream cheese.

108. Edutainment

109. Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.

110. Children in a video arcade who desperately, pathetically try to glean a sliver of enjoyment by pretending to control a demo screen. I don't know why this angers me. I just want to smack them.

111. Fusion cuisine. Why are the portions so small?

112. Rhyming jail with bail. Also mad, bad, sad, and glad.

113. When you drop something - a paper clip, a quarter, a matchbook - and it's just gone. You look around, you look under the chair - everywhere, but it is just not there.

114. Fighting a losing battle for armrest real estate with a big guy on a plane.

115. When your loud turn signal really messes up the good part of the song.

116. Businesses with phone numbers that make you hunt around on your phone for the letters of the alphabet, and especially those whose spelled-out numbers exceed the 7-digit maximum. By the time you've realized it was a total waste of time to find the "E" and the "R", you've already done it.

117. Poetry in a foreign language that suspiciously still rhymes in English when it's translated. I'm no expert on poetry, but how can preserving the rhyme structure of a translated poem possibly be considered more important than preserving the authenticity of the text?

118. Warm, wet, spongy, undercooked pepperoni - the result of some pizzarias' moronic policy to cook the toppings under the cheese.

119. Eraserhead, Begotten and Tetsuo the Iron Man.

120. When you get on a really long line, and as you progress through it, no one gets in line behind you.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Potpourri 3 The Movie: Spell of the Unknown

Purchasing a Small Quantity of Toilet Paper
Why would anyone ever not buy the absolute largest package of toilet paper available in the store? If you're buying TP, don't you want to get the largest quantity you can? Why would you ever get the Charmin 4-pack? Do you anticipate not needing more than a 4-roll supply? TP doesn't go bad, it doesn't expire. You could fit a two year supply of it under the bathroom sink and still have plenty of room left in there. Why would you ever not buy TP in the biggest bulk you could carry out of the store? I don't get it. I recently lived in San Diego for 4 years and I think I bought toilet paper maybe twice.

The Da Vinci Code
Why is this so popular? What is the fascination? For years, this book has been a nonstop bestseller. I'm not planning on reading it, but I'd welcome an explanation. Many people have told me I *have* to read the Da Vinci Code. Oh my God, you have to read the Da Vinci Code! I don't want to be mean here, but have you ever known people that if they told you you had to read something, you'd be a little skeptical? I've gotten a lot of that with this book. (btw: I'm starting to think that "The Five People you Meet in Heaven" may also be heading down this road. Be wary of people whose literary judgement you don't entirely trust recommending this one.)

Stock Blurbs
How come, every day of the Iraq war, it was either "Stocks up today on war optimism." or "Stocks down today on war fears." Really, whatever direction the market was going that day they'd just spit out one of those two sentences, regardless of any actual news from Iraq. How does this make any sense? Can you cite war optimism, war pessimism and war optimism again as the driving force behind the market all within the same week?

Questions Asked by Pop Up Ads
"Should Bush have Won?" What kind of an idiotic, insulting question is this? Should Bush have won. Man. Well, if one believes that democracy is a just, fair process - and if one recognizes that Bush did win the popular and electoral college vote... well then yes! I guess he should have won! But wait, is the question really asking "Did Bush deserve his victory?" Ahhhh, a different question. Maybe I was wrong to judge the pop up ad so quickly. But correct me if I'm wrong, don't we already have an extremely accurate, nationwide comprehensive survey that addresses that very question, namely, the election? If the pop up ad really wants to get a sense of popular opinion on Bush's worthiness, do you think maybe the pop up ad should consult the official election results?

How about "Which one is Marge Simpson?" Ooooh I hate you pop up ad. Have you ever deliberately answered one of these questions wrong to see if the pop up ad has anything prepared for a wrong answer? Sometimes they don't, especially when a free DVD player or something is being offered for the correct answer. If you select Chief Wiggum the pop up ad goes through a bizarre hiccup and then returns back to the question.

I'd really like to see firsthand the person who squeals with delight when they see this pop up ad. The person who says "Wait a minute, I know Marge Simpson! I think I can win this thing!" I'm sure they're out there.

I think I'd like to buy a web ad to display on a random website, and the ad would say "If this banner is flashing, you've won!" and the banner wouldn't be flashing. And then if you clicked on it, you'd just get taken to a page reminding you that you didn't win, as the banner you clicked had not been flashing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Planned Community Street Names

I think I may be having a rare change of heart. I use to be an enthusiastic supporter of these monolithic, ginormous cookie cutter planned residential communities. The kind that dot my suburban southwestern landscape like so many prarie freckles. People may poo-poo them for the bland sense of conformity, the lack of flavor and imagination, the artificiality. But I like to think that I saw past all that. These communities are convenient. They're centrally planned. They're kid-friendly. They have round the clock maintenance staffs (staves?) They have tennis courts. Homeless don't even try to set up shop. And usually, there's a monthly community newsletter - complete with a crossword puzzle that is delightfully non-taxing.

I've lived in a few of these places now. Very few complaints. But just a few weeks ago I had a bit of a rude awakening. I was driving out to a friend's house in a different part of town. As I exited the boulevard and entered the well-manicured driveway of the residential community, I picked up my handwritten directions. Left on... Redwood Ash... Redwood Ash... not Crimson Clover... not Elk Lake.... okay Redwood Ash. Now a right on Pine Glen..... hmm, not Sprucedale.... not Jade Cliffs.... not Sleepy River....

Then suddenly, unexpectedly, the truth hit me. "Wait a minute! This is all bullshit!"

Elk Lake? There is no lake, and there are no elk! Jade Cliffs? Wrong and no! Pine Oaks Bluff? There is no scenic bluff! There is no oak! And my friends.... there ain't no pine!

(FYI, this is Las Vegas valley we're talking about. It's nothing but parched, level, featureless desert scrub)

If a street is called Emerald Vista, does a person have a right to expect that somewhere in the vicinity there might actually be an emerald vista? If yes (and that's my position), doesn't that mean that streets with names like Emerald Vista should be relatively rare, seeing as how naturally occuring emerald vistas are somewhat hard to find?

And if you have three consecutive streets with the names "Cedar Forest", "Summit Point" and "Sea Palms", doesn't that put the lie to the whole idea that the street is named after some kind of organic natural feature?

I mean, let's be honest here. There are some ground rules that go into naming streets. You can name your street after a person - that's always a good choice. I live close to Jimmy Durante blvd and that's fine by me. Back east you could always use some local Indian word. Or hey, just make one up. Tuscalanat, maybe. Or Scatiteegwa. Out here it's even easier; you got "mesa", you've got "verde", you've got "paseo" - throw in a few caminos and you've got yourself a street.

But if you're going to go the time honored route of picking some feature out of the environment and naming the street after it, then by God, don't lie to me.

Because now I see what's going on. I never knew it before my little epiphany the other day, but now I know. These street signs are ADVERTISEMENTS. They are a marketing tool! They don't just exist as a handy navigational aid, as they have for hundreds of years. No, they're doing much more. They're saying "Hey chump, wouldn't you like to live here... on Balsam Creek? ... We know you know there isn't a creek, and that there isn't any balsam wood for hundreds of miles in any direction, and yet... Balsam Creek! Yeah! You know what I'm talking about!"

The fake-0 street names exist solely so that someone will be marginally more tempted to purchase property. How f'd up is this?

Sometimes, as all greedy deceitful marketers do, the street namers accidentally tip their hand.
Every street name I've mentioned so far is an actual, confirmed street name from the particular community I visited that weekend in Summerlin, NV. But here are a few more that caught my eye:

Winter Teal - Shouldn't this be part of a description for a v-neck sweater? How is it a street name?

Knox Gold - Yep. Knox is actually an adjective. Bet you never knew that. You probably thought it was a noun. Specifically, the name of a guy from the revolutionary war for whom Fort Knox was named. No, it's an adjective. It means "a goldish, gold-like color".

Prime View - Here they just gave up. They couldn't be bothered to withdraw one more stupid name from the endless reserves in their asses and so they just put the selling point directly in the street name. They could just abandon the facade now and name all the streets "Perfect for Kids" or "Pets Welcome" or "Sunday move-ins must be approved".

So I think I've now realized the folly of my support for the giant soulless residential planned communities. From now on I'll treat them with the same suspicion and distrust I have for everything else.

Okay, one more: Hawk Bay

Cause you know how the hawks like to hang around sea level.

(Update: 10:50 pm - Well okay, I guess the seahawk does. Point taken.)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More Potpourri!

Let me try to make the case against camping as succinctly as possible. Imagine that you go to the zoo one day. You have a great ol' time. You see the primates, the reptiles, you even catch the 3:00 dolphin show. A fine day. Then, when the zoo closes, you don't leave. You stick around. For dinner you can have any snacks or drinks that you brought with you. If you need to go to the bathroom you go behind a bush. Then, at night, you find the most comfortable bench you can (probably next to the 25-cent petting-zoo food machine) and try to get some shut eye.

And as you're lying there, unsuccessfully trying to sleep on the wooden bench, you think "I had a great time today. Primates, reptiles... dolphin show. Good stuff. But, here's a question... why am I sleeping on a bench?"

Who Wants to be a Millionaire
The $100-$1000 questions. Is this not a complete waste of time? "According to the classic rhyme, Mary had a little... what? A. Goose.... B. Dog...." Wouldn't we all just rather watch color bars and listen to the Emergency Broadcast System's high-pitched tone for those two or three minutes?

Why do contestants always, ALWAYS use "ask the audience" as their first lifeline? This is your gimme! This is your sure thing! It's your ace in the hole! Why are you wasting it on the $2000 question? Wouldn't it be better to ask your friend the $2000 question? He ain't gunna know the $64,000 one, that's for sure.

Certain people can quickly identify an Avril Lavigne song from a sample lyric, and certain people know the atomic weight of sodium, but nobody knows both. Why does Millionaire require this impossible dual-knowledge from its contestants? Don't contestants on a trivia show have a right to presume that the knowledge they will be tested on is, at some level, knowledge worth having? Isn't is a cheap shot to ask someone who just correctly identified the poet Shelley to name the main bouncer on Jerry Springer? How could he possibly know?

The Uselessness of French
From 5th to 11th grade I had seven compulsory years of French. Why? What was the point? I never use this knowledge. Every day a little more of it slips away. I realize for much of the world, becoming a polyglot is an absolute necessity. But not here. And even if you want to make the case that learning another language is good exercise for the brain, why French? Wouldn't Spanish have been more directly useful? Wouldn't Chinese have opened up more of the world? Imagine if all of that class time had been used to teach, say, candle making. Imagine the great candles I could be making right and left, with total ease, after 7 years of grueling study.

The Apprentice
They're doing it again. They're taking a hot TV show, one that with proper care and nourishment could be a cash cow for decades, and they're running it into the ground through overexposure and oversaturation. See exhibit A: Survivor, exhibit B: Queer Eye, and hey, exhibit C: Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that the only reason Survivor became a megahit was because it originally aired in summer - a time with no other network primetime original programming. It had no competition. It was airing against reruns of sitcoms. It was the only game in town. It spawned the current reality TV revolution. Everyone thinks reality is a brilliant idea. It's an okay idea. Airing original programming in the summer is the brilliant idea.

And Millionaire. It had monster ratings for a while, spawned a lineup of imitators, and then died. People were expected to watch a whole hour of this show every single weekday. How long did they think they could pull that off? Isn't it fair to say that with a little moderation, they could have milked that phenominon for years and years? If they had made it, maybe, a twice-a-week show?

Now look at Apprentice. It's an honest to goodness hit, despite that it's not really that good. If this show had one series per year, it would run forever with stellar ratings. But that's not good enough, is it? Apprentice 2 ended and Apprentice 3 began immediately. No break. Apprentice 4 is feverishly in the works (the student body at my school were invited to audition just a few weeks ago). You realize what's going to happen. People are going to tire of this show and then it's going to die. Then there won't be any more Apprentice. Don't the people who make the show realize this?