I Can’t Wait For My “The New Built To Spill Album Kind Of Sucks” Check!

People often complain that they don’t know what Democrats stand for. Thankfully, there is no such ambiguity regarding the Republicans. Today they again reminded the nation of the bedrock principle that their party was found upon: giving voters $100 each in an election year.

They are calling the swag “gas rebate checks,” because it’s supposedly to reimburse citizens for the high gasoline prices they have been subjected to over the last year. Never mind that subsidizing the purchase of gasoline will increase demand and lead to yet higher gas prices.

But there’s no obligation for the recipients of these checks to actually spend the cash on fuel. In fact, as near as I can tell there is no connection whatsoever between the money and gasoline prices — I presume that bicyclists will be getting the same amount as truckers — except that the checks will probably have the words “Republican sponsored gas rebate” in the “memo” field.

Frankly, I think Congress is missing an opportunity for a more targeted approach. What they should do is ask each American what he or she is most unhappy about, and then label the checks accordingly. There could be “gas rebate” checks and “cable rebate” checks and “dadgum Mexicans taking our jobs” checks and “dudes kissing dudes” checks. That way, Americans will know that Republicans care exactly $100 worth about whichever issue concerns them the most.

The whole thing would seem kind of silly if the government were just giving us back the money we paid in taxes; it would like a bank touting their generosity every time you withdrew your own money. How fortunate, then, that the United States has long since exhausted its cash on hand. Now the cost of funding the program will get tacked onto our already obscene national debt, and it will be the poor saps down the chronological line that will get stuck with the bill. In other words, it’s 100% completely free money!!

In fact, they should just call this the “Five Dollar Bill in the Birthday Card Preimbursement Program.” Here’s how it works. First, we give you $100 now. Then, after your grandchild is born, you include $5 in every card you send them on their birthday — iIf you stop sending them cards before they turn twenty, you get to keep all the extra money! Then your grandchild joins the workforce, gets burdened with astronomical taxes, and struggles to pay down the gargantuan debt we saddled him with. It’s like your adult grandchild is sending $100 back in time to you, who is then sending it forward in time to your adult grandchild’s younger self. How totally awesome is that? It’s pretty much exactly like The Terminator!

All in all I think the “giving voters $100 each in an election year” program this is the greatest things to come out of Washington since prohibition. It’s so clever that I can’t help but wonder where Republicans got the idea. Lord knows no one has ever given a Republican a bunch of “no strings attached” money in the hopes of influencing their vote.

Pretty Sneaky, Cyst

I started a new job on Monday. Halfway through the New Employee Orientation I glanced down and noticed that my ganglion cyst had vanished, despite being there as recently as the evening before. Man, the health benefits at this place are fantastic!

Anyway, updates may be a little sporadic for a while.

Take Your Best Shot

Conversation with a fellow dad over drinks:

Me: How old is your son, now?

A: Five and a half.

M: Going into kindergarten next year, then?

A: Yeah. That’s kind of a hot topic of debate at our house these days. He’s currently going to Montessori, and we have to decide if we’re going to put him in public school.

M: Right. And you, bleeding heart liberal that you are, are advocating public schools. Because you want to give your child a ruinous education and score a few cheap political points.

A: Exactly. In fact, that’s kind of the problem: the Seattle school system is actually pretty good, so it’s not even like we’re throwing him to the wolves. It’s more like we’re throwing him to a bunch of puppies. It doesn’t burnish our liberal credentials at all.

M: That’s rough, man. Well, look at the bright side: the way things are going, I’m sure the “Indeterminate War On Terror” will still be in full swing 13 years from now. So you can always encourage your son to enroll him in the military after high school, thereby proving some sort of political point or another.

A: Hmm, that’s a thought. Of course, if we don’t put him in public school he’ll probably wind up in a specialized military academy for Montessori graduates. They’ll be all, like, “We’re not going to tell you who to shoot. Just get out there on the battlefield and express yourself.”

You Are What You Antique

My Farrell recollections (see previous post) came to me while watching Antique Roadshow the other evening. I presume you’re familiar with Antique Roadshow. It’s that program on PBS where a bunch of people from the Dakotas bring their junk to a big convention and a Antique Roadshow expert will look at it and drone on and on for a hundred minutes about how the brand of lacquer on the frame was only used in 1867, and finally he announces that this particular hunk of useless would probably fetch “in the two thousand to three thousand range,” and the owner gasps and says “rilly?” half a dozen times before announcing that, while she no idea it was worth so much, she would never dream of selling it because it’s been in the family for years, but later, after taking it home and deliberation for three days, she lists it on Ebay, whereupon someone from the other Dakota buys it for thirty-five bucks. That program.

Anyway, I was watching Antique Roadshow and doing what I always do — namely, wondering why the hell I was watching Antique Roadshow — when someone got an appraisal on some Ye Olde Tymey Ice Cream Parlour paraphernalia, and, bang, just like that I was thinking about Farrell’s. One of the greatest things about Farrell’s was their “Pig’s Trough,” a two-bananas, six-ice-cream-scoop sundae so large that, if you finished it, the entire Farrell’s staff would come out and sing a song about what a pig you were. It was every kid’s dream to one day earn the Pig’s Trough ribbon of completion.

Now that Farrell’s is out of business, I think Antique Roadshow should adopt the “Pig’s Trough” model. I mean, occasionally someone must bring in worthless crap, and they desperately need to do something to break up the monotony of that show.

Appraiser: … and, see this shoddy worksmanship? You don’t see that kind of indifference to quality until the late 20th century. I’d estimate this was made in 1977, maybe early 1976.

Owner: Oh …

Appraiser: It’s also worth noting that the “up” button doesn’t work at all, and the lower switch is permanently jammed in the “Pro 2” position.

Owner: Yeah …

Appraiser: Taken as a whole, I’d estimate this Mattel handheld electronic football game would sell somewhere in the neighborhood of nothing whatsoever.

Owner: Aw, nuts.

Appraiser: But, I’m willing to make you a special Antique Roadshow offer. If you can eat the entire thing in one sitting, we will give you this huge and ridiculous-looking blue ribbon.

Owner: I’ll take it!

{Forty-three minutes later.}

Owner: I can’t do it … I can’t …

Appraiser: C’mon now. Just one more swallow.

Owner: I can’t …

{Owner swallows. Antique Roadshow staff members spring from everywhere, clapping and singing.}

Antique Roadshow Staff: Oh, he’s a certain special someone! Oh, he’s just so darned unique! He’s a piggy, piggy, piggy! And he ate his whole antique!

Sundae Drive

When I was but a wee lad, the coolest place in town was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, a deserteria that featured a number of obscenely gargantuan sundaes that they literally dared you to eat. I attended countless parties at Farrell’s, and my folks would take my sister and I there on occasion. I remember the place as perpetually packed full of kids and families, with bells ringing and sirens wailing and gongs forever being stuck, all in recognition of some momentous event (a girl’s sixth birthday) or another (someone ordering one of their famous “Zoo Sundaes”).

All of the local Farrell’s abruptly vanished in the late 90’s. Apparently the founder left, the chain was sold, and the new owner’s plan to turn the franchise into nondescript family restaurants (rightfully) ended in disaster. But I didn’t care. By that time I was in High School, and Farrell’s no longer held the appeal it once had. Still, I had fond memories of the place, and vividly recalled how exciting it had been to go there when I was younger.

Shortly after graduation my friend got a job at the local mall, in a store adjacent to where the local Farrell’s had resided. Both his store and the new business that occupied Farrell’s old building had entrances and windows facing the parking lot, so, as he worked, he could see people arrive in their cars, park, and walk toward the mall.

This was two, maybe two and a half years after Farrell’s had gone under. But about once every other month, he told me, he would see a car park nearby, the doors fly open, and a gaggle of insanely happy children tumble out. They would race to where the Farrell’s used to be, their smiling parents ambling behind. The kids would eventually leave my friend’s field of vision, though he could still see the laggard parents chatting amicably as they moseyed toward the entrance. Then, inevitably, one of them would glance up — perhaps in response to a shout from of the children — and the smile on his or her face would falter and fade. Then they too would disappear from view.

A minute or two would pass. Then the family would reappear, the children slouching and crestfallen, the mother anxious and apologetic, the father perhaps carrying a sobbing youngest on his shoulder, as they solemnly trudged back to the car.

I Like Me

I’m totally hooked on Brandon Hardesty’s re-enactment series. The Battle of Wits from The Princess Bride was widely circulated in the blogosphere, but my personal favorite is this scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. His impersonations of Martin and Candy are so spot-on it’s downright eerie.

Hardesty says he is no longer taking requests, but I suppose he might be open to suggestions. Can you think of any well-written, dialog-heavy scenes involving two actors who display a range of emotions but don’t interact physically (thus making it possible for Hardesty to perform both)?

The Buddy System

I don’t think the government should get involved in gay marriage. But, on the other hand, I don’t think the government should be involved in straight marriage either.

That might sound like a strange sentiment coming from a happily married guy like me. But The Queen and I, not religious in the slightest, got married only because it was the only option available to us. If we could have gotten civilly unionized, we probably would have gone that route. Instead, we just made it as secular an affair as possible, with a retired judge as the officiant and a ceremony held in the Seattle Aquarium.

The fundamental problem with “marriage” is the word, not the institution. It means different things to different people, which largely accounts for the acrimonious debate over gay marriage that grips the nation every election year. For some “marriage” is a religious arrangement, where two people are joined together by God; to others it refers to the purely secular tradition of pledging fidelity to one another in the hopes that your friends and relatives will give you DVD players and ice cream makers. Until the two sides in the gay marriage debate agree on a common definition — something unlikely to happen anytime soon — we’re going to just go around and around in circles on this issues for decades to come.

The gov needs to get out of the marriage business altogether, ya’ask me. Separation of church and state, yo. It should relinquish claim to the word “marriage” altogether, let it revert to its original, religious meaning, and wash its hands of the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong — I still think there should be a secular equivalent. Just don’t call it “marriage.” And don’t call it “civil unions,” either — that term is sullied by those who have been trying to pawn it off as some kind of bargain basement matrimony.

I think the United States should adopt the Buddy System.

Here’s how it would work. When a citizen reaches Buddying age, he or she will receive a charming, hand-written note in the mail from the government. This is what it will say:

Hi there! Welcome to adulthood. You've had it relatively easy so far, all things considered: what with the parents, and the no job, and the not paying taxes, and the ability to eat an entire Italian sausage and black olive pizza without feeling like crap the following morning. Sure the whole puberty thing sucked, no argument there. But by and large life has been pretty sweet.

Unfortunately things get a little trickier from here on out. You might have to work a job you don't particularly like, or find yourself with all kinds of obligations you'd just as soon avoid. Maybe you'll feel your idealism leech away, and your patience for the status quo dwindle. Perhaps the people who signed your yearbook "2good + 2b = 4gotten!" will move away and 4get you, and your opportunities to meet new, fun people will become increasingly limited. And -- trust me on this one -- no TV show will ever seem as cool as the ones you enjoyed when you were 13.

Yeah, adulthood is a drag sometimes. And that's where the Buddy System comes in. At some point, you may find it useful to Buddy up with another person, someone you will watch over and who will, in turn, watch over you. Like the earlier version of this system you may have used at school or at camp, your Buddy's job will be to make sure you don't get lost. But less a literal "don't get lost in the forest during a dayhike" and more a figurative "don't get so lost working at a crummy job that you forget how much you like gardening." Or, you know, whatever.

So, at some point, feel free to take a Buddy. Or don't: whatever works for you. But iIt's a scary world out there, and sometimes a Buddy is just the thing you need to make it seem a bit more manageable.

Also, couples wishing to Buddy would be required to have their ceremony somewhere awesome, like a waterslide park or a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert or the Seattle Aquarium. And an open bar would be mandated by law.

I think this is a compromise the whole nation could all get behind, don’t you?

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life


Guy One: Today is Good Friday.

Guy Two: What’s “Good Friday”?

G1: It’s the Friday before Easter; the day Jesus was crucified.

G2: And it’s called “Good Friday?” That doesn’t sound very good to me.

G1: I guess “Bummer Friday” didn’t have the same ring.