Posts Tagged ‘commentary’

I conducted a scientifically valid survey and found that at least one of these two conversations occurred today in 100% of all American households:

  1. “I am not going anywhere near a store tomorrow.”
  1. “I can’t wait to get my hands on $1 DVDs and $4 HDTVs at Big Box Retailer tomorrow!”

Social media, for all that it’s good for, has been extremely vocal in the Thanksgiving Is For Families movement; please pardon me if I omit the requisite hotlinks to individuals decrying the commercialization of every sacred moment that Could Be Spent With Family. You’ve seen them. Yet despite all that spit and anger, stores still open whenever they want. Why doesn’t Big Retail get the picture?

Please stop posting these.

Please stop posting these.

RadioShack opened at 8am Thanksgiving Day. Stores that opened at 8am closed at noon to allow their employees time to go home and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner before returning to the store at 5pm and working until close (midnight).

Dear RadioShack,

Have you ever prepared a Thanksgiving meal (in under a few hours)? Why don’t you just tell your employees to have Thanksgiving at Denny’s? The message will certainly be clearer.

Love,

Superfan Rick

In a statement, RadioShack spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said: “Given the customer demand for store hours on Thanksgiving last year, we made the decision to open on Thanksgiving.  It gives us the opportunity to stay competitive.”

The same article notes that level of demand: RadioShack lost $137.4 million dollars last quarter. RSH is trading under a dollar. Its market valuation is $85 million (if you had $85 million dollars lying around with absolutely nothing better to do, you could buy the entire company, all 4,400 stores, or approximately $19,400 per store). Rabid shoppers will clearly bombard them this holiday season. Just a suggestion, RadioShack: you might want to keep doors in stock since America is about to bust ‘em down.

For every one (1) person who posts something about Families and Thanksgiving and The Sanctity of Employee Respect, there is one (1) nonvocal person who will be crashing the gates at your local mall, receiving 50% doorbuster discounts on all the crap they can grab at The Gap.

Don’t forget to pick up half-price yoga pants. Half-price yoga pants are very important. Looking good while wearing them is irrelevant.

Happy Thanksgiving. Now get ready for Christmas.

When I log into Facebook, I have a certain expectation of what I am going to see on my newsfeed or who I am going to interact with.  You know, the usual: someone’s mad at so and so, new love is in the digital ether, Bobby Smith thought of something really witty to post and did a favor to everyone by posting it, the Red Sox won, the Red Sox lost.  Recently, that expectation has drunkenly fallen down the stairs.  I have seen more cinnamon roll pancake recipes and tributes to nieces and siblings on Facebook in the past week than poorly written status updates and adorable cat pictures.

It was a rapid change; abrupt enough to jar me out of my mindless morning Facebooking session to think to myself, “what in the blue hell is going on?”  Why am I seeing a pepperoni pizza casserole recipe at 6AM?  Why the hell would I want a pepperoni pizza casserole anyway?  Has pizza become so boring that we need to casserolize it?  Why does everybody suddenly adore every family member, organic or removed, that they’ve ever been related to?  Why am I seeing religious propaganda?  If I want to be told that I’m a Godless heathen, I will go to Downtown Crossing and listen to the Angry Jesus Man for three seconds.  And above all, guns don’t belong on Facebook, because it’s a goddamned website.  You can’t even shoot people there.

So far, I know this: I did not change.  I’ve gotten a few years older, read a few more books, and even shave more often than I used to, but I have not undergone a large enough paradigm shift to warrant noticing drastic sociological changes on Facebook.  On the opposite side of the keyboard, Facebook did not change.  While Facebook does abruptly change the way it appears with either organizational changes or site redesigns, the fundamental identity of Facebook did not change.  It is still the Internet town hall where the world’s masses gather to publicly urinate on each other and swear loudly while others are watching.

That leaves only one culprit: its user base.

The collective we changed.  I truly believe that we are devolving as an intelligent people.  The always on, everyone has a voice culture of Facebook has encouraged anyone and everyone with a working mouth to open it whenever the hell they want to.  If pepperoni pizza casserole is on the mind at 6AM, well, why not just shout it out to the whole world?  Here’s a picture of my dinner.  Here’s what I did for my workout.  Here are the intimate details of my life that previously only me and my mirror knew.  Check out my new abs!  Here are my likes and dislikes;  in fact, you are one of them and I will passive-aggressively let you decide to which list you belong.

Here’s the issue that I have that precious few people understand.  Facebook isn’t an intimate setting like your home living room where you and five of your friends are sitting around shooting the shit.  It’s a public space, like a mall or a stadium, and when you open your mouth a lot of people will be listening whether they want to or not.

To wit: if someone walked up to you while you were shopping for a pair of pants at the mall and handed you a recipe for peanut butter cheesecake scones, you would probably have more than a small problem with it.  The same goes with religious propaganda and the gun debate – while there is a small targeted audience that will receive the message, the larger part of the audience will go around the crazy town crier and into more comfortable spaces.  Such as continuing to scroll until seeing something far more interesting or entertaining.

That isn’t the solution, though, even though it’s what I do now to cope with it: when I see some crazy on my Facebook newsfeed intimately telling me how to prepare goat curd yogurt from expired milk to avoid spending an extra 12 cents at the evil grocery store or why banning 50 round mags is unconstitutional and everyone in Congress should be thrown in jail, I keep scrolling, because I wouldn’t entertain it for even a second in a public space.

Facebook has taught us to become extremely comfortable with telling everyone exactly what is on our minds and in our hearts to the point that normal discourse with fellow human beings has been irreparably affected.  “Did you see on Facebook” has become a standard lead for a sentence.  We should be ashamed of that.  “Did you see on Facebook that Bobby posted a picture of a man in American flag underwear holding an AK-47?”  Currently, human intelligence has no problem processing that thought.  Let’s change the locale: “Did you see at the mall that Bobby was showing people a picture of a man in American flag underwear holding an AK-47?”  Why does it become reprehensible when it occurs in an actual public place as opposed to a “fake” public place?

When Mormons, Unitarians, and Jehovahs come knocking at the door, we run and hide and pretend that we’re not home.  You can’t do that on Facebook because it is the most public place that has ever been invented by man.  Let’s change that by cutting the bullshit.  Let’s go back to posting pictures of our cats waging war on bottle caps and posting our celebrity doppelgangers and posting witty things that will make your fellow man laugh rather than break the last political straw he has left.

tardkids

Tard the Grumpy Cat endorsed this post.

ADDENDUM: Bill Gates is one of the most philanthropic people the world has ever known.  He is not going to give you $500.00 for sharing a picture.  Get a grip.  You’re embarrassing the rest of us.

A couple of winters ago, Domino’s sent me a flyer advertising that they would deliver gooey-hot pizzas in “ALL” snow storms.  What an interesting proposition.  Here I am, gawping lazily out the window, watching snow pile on the sill, unwilling to risk injury or accident on unreliable roads, but for as little as twelve bucks I could force someone else to do it for me.

Boston hasn’t received a major snowstorm since the Halloween Nor’easter of 2011.  That is a pretty significant drought for a city that averages 43” of snowfall per year.  Just months before that, I job-hopped from the retail industry (stays open in the event of snow, the apocalypse, 9/11, etc) to higher education (presidents and trustees get together with a Ouija board to determine whether to close).  I was very excited for nostalgic throwbacks of winters in Maine – snow days – but, an absence of snow compels an absence of snow days.  We did get a day off when Hurricane Sandy blew ashore, but chasing the grill cover down the road and wondering which blast of wind is going to shatter the window just doesn’t compare to watching snow banks rise and cars slide into each other.

Because of the uncooperative mien of Mother Nature, Ill Nino, El Nino, the jet stream, or whatever modern day blame is assigned to the lack of snow, I have yet to test Domino’s claim.  That could change tomorrow with, what, the 102” of snow we’re supposed to get.  The self-serving asshole in me wants to call in the delivery minimum and set an egg timer.  The compassionate retail-scarred wimp wonders why this service is offered to begin with.  There’s always a cutesy news story after every tempest about heroic pizza slingers delivering pies in the drifts three hours after they’ve been ordered and getting a nice tip for their troubles.

How much would the tip have to be to make a run worth it?  This guy seems to think that any tip will do, as long as the thought is there, but his basis of comparison is no tip at all.  Shouldn’t the thought be – I mean really, do we need pizza right now?  How about a can of Chef Boyardee – that’s almost pizza.  Or an English muffin with pasta sauce and a slice of American on top?  If I don’t want to go out, should I make someone else do it?

I don’t think I will test the all-weather delivery.  It seems like an insult to the poor bastard that has to work in those conditions.  Several years ago I opened my store in the midst of a true walloping – a foot on the ground with more on the way.  My car did a front wheel burnout trying to climb the slight grade into the parking lot, and where it stopped is where it parked.  One bushy-tailed customer bought an MP3 player right after the doors opened at 9am.  That lonely sale sat in the till well into the afternoon, and I sat twiddling my thumbs wondering how to excavate my car after it was walled in by the plow.

Nope, I’ll go pizza-less.  In true New England fashion, I stocked the booze cabinet, also known as the spot where I stash the bottle I’m working on.  No snow storm is complete without it.  If I get a raving case of the drunchies, there’s a 24 hour 7/11 next to my house.  I’ll be interested to see if they abandon ship on Friday night when I stumble over for a Slurpee.

Americanized Chinese food is readily available three hundred and sixty-three days out of the Gregorian year.  Nom nom nom, kung pao chicken and moo goo gai pan for all.  The other two days require a little patience and even some strategy to munch on shrimp and lobster sauce in a timely fashion.  Even more impressive is if you get your order at all.  If you would like to witness the slow devolution of the human race in a controlled environment, look no further than a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.

I had the pleasure of picking up the family Chinese food order on Christmas Eve.  It was handed to me in a cardboard box, a box I might have used to put personal belongings in on moving day, making that the happiest and most depressing evening of my life.

I'm very hungry.

I’m very hungry.

While I was waiting for my thirteen pound order to be wokked, an old man wandered into the restaurant and started a fight with the woman manning the counter.

Several gray hairs earlier, I worked at McDonald’s to bring in some extra cash, and the single most annoying thing to happen near the end of my greasy shift would be a soccer bus pulling into the parking lot.  Aside from despair and suicide, two thoughts would roll through my mind:

1)      It is imperative that I leave on time regardless of food safety;

2)      I don’t care about who orders or gets what.

That established, hamburger buns would fly, patties would splat on the tile floor next to the bun it was supposed to be on, and food that didn’t belong in the fryolator would boil into the fryolator.  A good chunk of the storeroom freezer needed to be cooked that very instant with no delicate way of doing it.  There was a period of time when I wouldn’t even look at a McDonald’s knowing what I knew after I left.  Time heals all greasy wounds.

This old man ordered something with something else, hold the annoying, with a side of gross.  His wife called in the order; where is it?

“Number thirty-three,” he said, “number thirty-three.”

Broken English with a few exaggerated hand motions.  “No thitty-thee.”

My attention was screwed to an enormous fish in a very small tank.  I couldn’t place it – was it a Chinese eel?  Or just a disgusting eel?  I nodded amiably, sarcastically appeased by my fishy answer.

DAYUM!

DAYUM!

“This must be a joke.  No thirty-three?  I ordered a thirty-three!”

This nasty eel turned hard to port and did his best to lap the goldfish bowl, scraping glass on his way by.  I bent over and mimicked its undulating mouth.

“No thee-thee,” she snipped.

“This must be a joke,” he repeated.  He nosed up and threw his hands into the air.  I thought it a little dramatic that he did so after he made his objection.  The eel charged the glass with what little room he had, realizing that I was ceding my attention to some other dope in the room.

“No joke.”  Stern.  Like telling a child that he forfeited dinner for behaving badly.

“Give me a phone,” he decided.  “I’ll call my wife.”

“No,” the woman said.

I sidled up to my wife, ready to take in the shit show.  The eel watched with a special gnosis.

“Fine,” the man grumbled.  He pulled an antennaed dinosaur from his pocket and stared down the bridge of his nose.  The woman directed traffic around the wreck, handing out bags of food in exchange for plastic swipes.

“Do you think—”

My wife hushed me.

“Yah hallo?” the man was saying.  “Hallo?  Yah.  I’m here and they don’t have the order.”  The man cocked his shoulders.  “Yah!  They don’t have the order!”  He suspended his free hand in the air away from his body, palm out, waiting for his meal to fall from the sky.  “Yah.  It’s a thirty-three, right?—thirty-three?  Yah, that’s what I told them.  They don’t have a thirty-three.”

The woman cleared out the line behind the old man.  I counted about a hundred and fifty in receipts.

“Okay.”  The old man pocketed his phone.  “Yeah, my wife said she called in a thirty-three.”

I sighed.  My wife sighed.  The eel sighed.  A few bubbles wiggled to the surface.

“Okee.   We cook now.  Okee?”

“No!” He pounded his fist against the particleboard counter.  “I called it in like I was supposed to!  I want it now!”

“Thee-thee?” a cook called from the back.

“YES!” the old man hollered, lunging past the woman with his index finger.  “Thirty-three!  That man has my order!”

“No no no—” the woman urged, backed hurriedly by the kitchen staff.

“Ahhhhh,” the old man huffed angrily.  He threw his palms into the woman’s face and shook them pinky to thumb.  “This is a bad joke, a bad joke,” he chanted.  “A bad joke.”

“We cook—”

“Forget it,” he interjected with biblical importance.  “I’m leaving.”

The man ruffled the collar of his faux leather jacket.  He turned, pushed open the door.  The bell attached to the hydraulic swing-arm clattered against the glass.  He shot one last forlorn look back at the woman before the door eased shut.  The woman pounced on other orders piling behind her on the stainless steel prep counter.  I turned to my wife.

She smiled.  “Do you think he’s at the right restaurant?”

“Nope.”

I am watching television.  A commercial appears, and I dutifully watch it.

The commercial is for Western Sky Financial.  Note the official name, because it will bite you in the ass on the way back.  The Name says some things, followed by some numbers.  The Name is offering money to desperate people.  The Name is going to solve your monetary woes with a loan.

This particular company is in the business of lending money at 116.73% APR.

I’m not even sure what that APR looks like on paper.  It is probably going to bankrupt you for the rest of your life.  But helpfully, Western Sky Financial provides a single figure with which you can calculate your indebtedness.  If you ask for a $5,000.00 loan, you will have to make eighty-four (84) payments of $486.58, which equals $40,872.72 over the life of the loan.

I watch a lot of television these days, so I am a skeptic by nature.  I went over that advertisement several times, and read the fine print on the pixelated bottom of the screen, before I decided that anyone who applied for a loan through Western Sky Financial was supremely screwed.  The loan repayment would be over eight times the principal amount.  How badly do you need money?

It’s sad that this type of predatory lending exists.  Desperate people are going to call Western Sky Financial and receive loans that they will never be able to pay off.  It’s sad that this type of contractual binding is legal.  Desperate people will accept the loan terms without reading or listening to them, and will end up in financial slavery to a company that carelessly charges 116.73% APR.  If this company had any regard for the sanctity of human life, the APR would be slightly lower – 50% maybe – which would make it easier for those entering financial serfdom to eventually exit.

There is money to be made in America.  If you have no moral conscience, this is the way to do it.

Facebook is either very good at connecting human beings and their opinions or very bad at convincing me that I should remain in contact with them.  To wit, I saw this parked on my newsfeed this morning:

Commenting or otherwise arguing in favor of space exploration in this situation is as useful as convincing rabid wolves to become vegetarians.  I’m more concerned about the argument that “$100 billion” can be better spent helping ‘us’ poor people.  Let’s run with that for a minute: the CATO Institute, a liberal think tank full of people that get paid to analyze things from too many angles, estimates that the US spends nearly a trillion dollars a year to fight poverty (includes all spending on both the federal and state levels).  That’s a one with twelve zeroes after it.  Is that number right?  It’s probably close to the truth, but to be safe, let’s give it a generous margin of error of +/- 10%.

The Curiosity program came in at a whopping $2.5 billion (go ahead, ask), which falls insignificantly within our established margin of error, but exactly 97.5% off from the cost suggested in the horribly pixelated JPEG above.

I can Google a bunch of things to come up with numbers that can say whatever I want them to say – the US is sinking under its own debt, poor people are starving, toilet paper consumption is through the roof – but the takeaway is that I took the time (<= 2 min) to Google both the cost of social spending and the cost of the Curiosity program, and whomever created that thumbs-up uninfographic couldn’t be bothered.  I might be less annoyed if the graphic said the same thing, but the number was right and the source was in size 4 font in the bottom left.  That would establish it as an opinion based on fact, but 100 is too nice of a round number to pass up and searching for correct information is too hard.  I’d be willing to bet that the person who created that picture, and the people who pass it on, aren’t aware that there are folks in other countries who cannot find information that they are looking for.

That brings me back to ‘us’ poor people, who repost things using the computer they bought with the internet they paid for under the roof they rent or own.  It’s a tough life to sit around all day and identify with poor resolution JPEGs that attempt to broadly define all that ails you.

James Holmes is a huge asshole.  The people who are trying to speculate whether he was mimicking violence in the movie are a bunch of assholes too.  But who is the biggest asshole?

All of these little parroting douchebags who think it’s funny to start hero-worship pages on Facebook.  Go ahead, click one.  You’ll be appalled.  Somewhere in the world, a sixth-grader thinks he’s King Shit.  The rest of us aren’t laughing.

I look through Amazon’s best seller list several times a week to check out what’s new, what’s free, and what people are reading.  It’s mostly full of paranormal romance novels and I usually leave disappointed.

This is what I found today:

crap with a side of crap

Fifty Shades of Grey is outselling dozens of other titles despite being unavailable for purchase.  How is this possible?  Is A Game of Thrones experiencing negative sales?

Later on in life, I will start a blog to soil the name of E.L. James, but the helpful Amazon product review pundits are already on the case.  The most helpful negative review gave us a little shading on the book: “Then there’s the use of “shades of”. He’s “fifty shades of @#$%% up,” “she turned 7 shades of crimson,” “he’s ten shades of x,y, and z.” Seriously?”  Ah, yes.  I finally see where the title comes from.  The most helpful positive review was a lot nicer: “I found it to be very addicting which is really disturbing for me.”  It’s high praise to say that a book captured your normally dull, listless attention.

Amazon’s Top 100 can be found here.  Good luck finding a freebie that doesn’t involve sex, werewolves, or a combination of the two.