Thursday, September 27, 2012

American Cheatings

There is a scam out there as old as the hills that has been cheating Americans (and probably other people) out of their hard earned money. Yes, I am talking about the greeting card industry. But no, I’m not talking about holidays that the greeting card companies invented just so they could increase their profits, like Valentine’s Day and Easter. I’m talking about the ridiculous prices they are charging for these cards.

According to the research I just did using some pencils, a computer, and a calculator which apparently has no batteries, the average cost of a greetings card is about $3.00 but many near the range of $5.00 to $6.00. This is outrageous!

But before we dive into this discussion I feel like I should disclose something. This is hard for me to say, so I guess I should just come out and say it. My parents owned an American Greetings card and gift store from the time I was about 10 years old until my thirties. So, yes, I come from blood money.

I’m not proud of this. But since then, I have learned about the evils of greeting cards and about the lives they have destroyed. They must be stopped!

Pat: Greeting cards? Can’t you just say “hi” to people in person? That’s what I do. Seems a lot easier than writing a card. And it’s free.

Christian: You don’t ever buy greeting cards? What about for Mother’s day? Weddings? High School/College graduations? Flag day?

Pat:  Well, I guess I do...sometimes. But, being from Eugene, I had one of those “crunchy” upbringings. You know...whole grain cereals, whole wheat flour, carob, make-your-own fruit leather. And part of that ethic included gifts and cards that you made yourself. I was taught to believe that such things meant more since they came from your own blood, sweat and lots of tears. Like this:

Feel the love?

So...I gotta’ admit, this whole greeting cards racket is kinda’ new to me. Tell me more! Or would it be better to stop telling me anything now, in order to ensure my safety from the card mob?

Christian: Well if you have ever seen “The Godfather” then you know what it’s like. Basically change whatever it was that the Corleone family did to make money with selling greeting cards and you have it. Now, I’m not saying that there is a lot of violence involved in the greeting card industry but I’m also not saying there isn’t. If you know what I mean.

Pat:  Okay, well, now you’ve brought up something else that’s kind of embarrassing. Umm...I’ve never seen “The Godfather”. Any of them (what are there, like six of them?). I know I’m Italian and should see it in order to understand my cultural heritage, but I guess I’m more “Il Postino” than I am mobster flicks. Sorry if I let you down (again).

So if I haven’t seen the movie, I probably won’t understand greeting cards, right?

Christian: Definitely not. But let me try and help you understand. First off, as I mentioned above, they are way too expensive. A greeting card is just some sappy writing on fancy paper. And they want $3 to $6 dollars for that? You could feed a family of four half a meal for that price.

Second of all, and I can’t stress this enough, the sappy writing. Yes it’s mentioned again. That’s how bad it is.

Here’s an example:

Happy Birthday!
My dear sweet friend,
I’m enthralled by your beauty, mesmerized by your charisma,
and spellbound by your love.
I hope your special day is blessed with
sunshine, smiles, laughter, and happiness.

Was I raised by a pack of Care Bears? Who talks like this?

Now typically, I never go for the “serious” cards that have heartfelt messages on them. Pee-yew! If you give someone one of those you might as well write the following message in the card:

“Instead of telling you how special you are to me in my own words, I found these words that a complete stranger wrote and sold for some money to a giant corporation while I was at the grocery store buying some ham. Luckily they describe exactly my deepest emotions about how I feel about you, and I got a great price on the ham.”

Is that the message you want to give a loved one? No.

And don’t even get me started on the ones that are labeled as “humorous”. The word “ladle” is light years ahead of the greeting card companies when it comes to humor.

Basically what I’m saying is that greeting cards should be abolished by society. Is that too much to ask?

Pat:  I’m no expert on our Constitution or the details of its legislative workings, but I don’t think the abolition of greeting cards is something our initiative and referendum system was designed to handle.

Unlike you, I am all for insincere hyperbole when expressing our feelings towards another person. When else are we going to use those words?

Christian: OK, fine we can keep these lame cards around. I agree that it is easier to just go buy a lame card then make one yourself. But there should at least be some laws on how much the greeting card companies can charge for them. They pretty much have a Monopoly on the market and I think they are taking advantage of it. They’re basically sinking our Battleship. Making it harder for us to win at the game of Life. It really Boggles my mind. They could at least get a Clue and say they were Sorry. I would like to feed them to a bunch of Hungry Hungry Hippos. It’s no Trivial Pursuit to.. uh....umm... OK, I’m done.

Pat: Hey! We agreed not to talk to any underwriters unless we were together...are you staying true to that? You better not be screwing me out of free board games!

Christian: Balderdash! I would never Risk our friendship by running some Operation behind your back just to get some free board games. Never.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Aren't Going to Steal My Shoes Are you?

The other day I took my kids to another kid’s birthday party at which I barely knew anyone, including the owners of the house who were hosting the party. It was pretty much me and a bunch of strangers. Which was fine except that after about an hour and a half I noticed that I was the only one in the house wearing shoes. Granted this is better than suddenly noticing I was the only one wearing clothes or that I was the only one on fire, but still bad.

I realized that this was one of those households where you are expected to take your shoes off when you enter, and then remembered that some little kid let me into the house when I arrived so I probably missed the opportunity to be informed of this by a knowing adult.

I could have walked over to the door and taken my shoes off but people most likely would have noticed me which would have been embarrassing so instead I quickly dove into the birthday cake knocking it over, and took my shoes off while everyone was distracted trying to get cake off of the walls and ceiling. Phew!


But it got me thinking about this no shoes indoors thing. It is rather common and I’m actually somewhat torn about the issue. On one hand, when I’m visiting other people’s houses I do prefer to leave my shoes on. On the other hand, we have somewhat recently remodeled our basement with new carpet and I cringe anytime anyone heads down there with their shoes on. Or if anyone heads down there at all. And for that matter, if anyone ever touches any of my things. It’s best if you just don’t come over.

Anyways Pat, how do you feel about the no shoes policy?

Pat: Great question, buddy! This has long been one of my frustrations, as the amateur anthropologist in me recognized long ago that our collective culture totally missed the boat on this one! Our forefathers were so intent on securing liberty and freedom and ensuring a three-branched government that would ensure limited power in order to avoid tyranny that they forgot to think about things like, “Hey, when we visit each other in this new, grand country of ours, should we expect that our hosts would prefer us to enter shod or shall we doff our footpieces?”

Remember that, should you ever think of starting up a new country!

Japan knew what they were doing. Not even a question over there. Take off your shoes or face immediate ostracization!

That clear things up for you?

Christian: Not really. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying you are in favor of having to take your shoes off when indoors because the US really blew it when we gained our own independence from Japan by defeating them in the Revolutionary War. Is this correct?

Pat: No! Jeez, man, how exactly do your synapses work?

What I’m saying is that we’re screwed on this custom, as a culture. Because it wasn’t set in stone from the outset--imagine our founding fathers taking off their shoes in Independence Hall as they ratified the Declaration of Independence, thus establishing the precedent of always removing your shoes in indoor spaces if you are to call yourself an “American”--we can never establish whether it is appropriate or not to lose the shoes! Simple as that!

Walk into any house and it’s a 50-50 shot you’ve got at either looking polite (shoes off) or boorish (shoes on), or normal (shoes on) or weird (shoes off). Got it?

Christian: So putting aside whether it was Japan or the US that won the American Civil War, if you could go back in time and have our forefathers decree shoes off or shoes on as the norm, which would you choose?

I’m sensing you are a shoes off guy.

Pat: Yeah, I think I’d go shoes off. But that may be because I spent a hefty sum to get our hardwood floors refinished and we have a tree outside our house that puts out an ungodly amount of sap (what would a godly amount of sap look like?), so we have little sticky spots all over our floor...spots that would not be there if people didn’t wear their shoes inside our house.

Shoes off, I say!

‘Course, then you have a party (which we do ALL the time!) and some people have stinky feet. Hmm...I might not be able to come to a decision on this one. Have I let you down again?

Christian: Only mostly.

But I do agree it’s a hard choice. Basically if I had my way I would say people should always take their shoes off at my place but when I’m at their place I’m leaving them on. But I know this is one of those things that people are always telling me “Is not fair”, like my proposal that all other drivers should be banned from the road while I’m driving.

I don’t know if I can decide either. It’s like trying to pick between two evils. Like trying to decide between finally giving up drinking bourbon or finally giving up drinking scotch, for the night. How do you decide on something like that!?!?

I tried going to that WebMD website and asking the question there but all I was told is that I need to exercise more and that I might be going through menopause. Obviously that site is no help at all. I don’t know why people rave about it so much.

I have an idea. Why don’t we leave it up to our dearest cherished readers. They seem smart and good looking. I’ll bet they’ll have the answers. What do you think?

Pat:  Certainly makes it easier than thinking of an answer myself! Let the comments begin!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

German Purity...What's Not to Love?

Christian and I, being consenting responsible adults, can be grouped among that small demographic of American males who like beer. That said...

Pat:  Hey buddy...what do you think about the Reinheitsgebot?

Christian: Oh... uh, yeah I love that stuff. So tasty and smooth. Goes great with just about any food. Mmmmm.... Reinheitsgebot. Yum.

Pat:   No...THE Reinheitsgebot, silly. It’s not a foodstuff. It’s the German purity law of 1516 that strictly dictates what may go into German beer (if it is to still be called “German” beer). Ringing any bells?



Christian: Oh that law of 1516. I see.

Actually, I don’t.

I don’t think I have ever heard of this law. It’s German you say? What’s the punishment if you break it? Because at some point in my life I may have stated that “This is the greatest German beer I have ever had!” while holding a bowl of rice krispies. Am I in some kind of trouble now?

Pat:  Yup, you’re toast! But only if you set foot on German soil.

I think about the Reinheitsgebot at least thrice annually, and this last time I had a couple of accompanying thoughts. First, you’d think the German nation would be a little wary of any laws containing the word “purity”. Whatever. Kudos to them, I suppose, for overcoming historical stigmas.

Secondly, though, I got a little jealous. The Germans have a law distinguishing their beer. The French have baguette and champagne. Italy has the DOC designation. Mexico has taco vans. What do we have? Wouldn’t it be kinda’ cool if we had a chicken nugget purity law?

Christian: Well, I’ve got some good news for you. The other day I was doing some research on Bourbon, for uh... science, and learned that to legally be called a Bourbon it has to have been made in the United States. So does that make you feel better?

And as an extra bonus, Bourbon goes great with chicken nuggets. At least according to my science.

Aaaah, Bourbon. So awe-inspiring and majestic.
It’s like a bald eagle made of alcohol.

Pat:  Yeah, I suppose that helps...bourbon and chicken nuggets? That’s what we’ve got? Perhaps not as steeped in tradition and national pride as the Reinheitsgebot, but I could get behind it. Imagine if every kid’s meal came with a seal ensuring that the nuggets they were about to eat were formed in accordance with the American Nugget Purity Law of 1979?

Mmm...government assured purity!

Christian:  Yeah that would be cool. We could model it after the legal requirements for Bourbon. For example, the nuggets would have to have an alcohol content of at least 40%. Oh wait, you were talking with regards to kid’s meals. Maybe 15% then. What else?

Pat:  No, I was thinking that the actual nuggets would have a stamp embossed in them. That way the fast food joints wouldn’t be able to sneak an imposter nugget in there. And I bet the alcohol would burn off in the frying, leaving only the delightful flavor and aroma of pure American bourbon for the kids to enjoy in their pure American nuggets! This is sounding really good!

Christian:  Pat, when you have a great idea you have a great idea. Now what kind of sauces are we talking about? I think there should also be some purity with regards to the sauce too.

Obviously it will also be made up of 15% bourbon, but should we go with BBQ? Sweet n’ sour? (I know sweet n’ sour is typically an Asian thing but I really like it).

Honey mustard? Or were you thinking we would just use bourbon as a sauce?

Pat:  Bourbon sauce sounds awesome! But you know what sounds awesomer? What about a Cherry-Orange sauce for an Old Fashioned nugget experience? Or a Vermouth-Bitters sauce for a Manhattan nugget explosion in your mouth? I am REALLY liking where this is going...”drinks you can eat”! People could gorge themselves, and what could be more American than combining a drinking problem with an eating disorder?

Christian: Nothing is the answer to that question. So are we thinking our nugget purity law will just require the sauce to be alcoholic? Doesn’t matter which alcohol as along as it contains alcohol?

What are we going to call this great nugget purity law of 2012? Reinheitsgebot is an OK name for the beer one but if you ask me it sounds a little too German.

Pat:  I’m no expert in deep fat frying, but I don’t know if there is a way to simultaneously cook the nugget AND maintain the alcohol in the bourbon. Maybe if we used some of that technology like in Freshen-up Gum™, where we could encapsulate a little shot of bourbon inside a digestible polymer inside the nugget meat...maybe then we could do it! Imagine shoving a whole nugget in your mouth, enjoying a few chews, and then--KAPOW!!!--a shot of flamin’ hot bourbon bursts down your gullet!

Uh-oh...someone might have beaten us to the concept!

Now it’s like we’ve combined a drinking problem with an eating disorder with a fraternity-derived means for dangerous living!

God I love our country!

A name, though? about the “Keeping It Gross and American Ordinance of 2012”?

Christian: Hmm... The KIGAO of 2012 huh? How about the “Keeping It Certifiably Killer, American Style, Statute”. Or KICKASS!