Monthly Archives: November 2011

Helpful Hint of the Day

It happens when you least expect it. Perhaps just as you’ve finally dozed off after wrestling for weeks with insomnia. Or just as you’re setting the final domino in place for your elaborate million domino “you tube” stunt. But then the phone rings. And you are startled out of a sound slumber or your hand jerks slightly destroying three months of careful work.

You grab the phone. Answer it. But no one listens to your angry “Hello.” Because it’s a recorded message from Rachel at “Card Member Services” or sometimes “Card Holder Services” with important information about your account.

She calls you day after day. Sometimes more than once a day. Even though you don’t have an account. And even though your phone number is on the federal “Do Not Call” list. And on the state “Do Not Call” list.  She calls everyone on the “Do Not Call” list.

And she calls even though she told you that if you pressed “3” she would stop calling.  You’ve pressed 3. Many times. She keeps calling. And even though you’ve pressed 7 to talk to someone about the special offer and asked that person to stop calling you. And even though you’ve pressed 7 to talk to someone about the special offer and asked to speak to the supervisor at which point the person laughed and told you to do something physically impossible before hanging up on you.

And even though you called the number shown on your caller I.D. and learned that it doesn’t really exist.

You’re at wit’s end wondering how to make it stop.

Well I’m here today to offer you some relief that will also make you feel better. All you need is a police whistle. That’s right, a whistle. An inexpensive yet invaluable tool in the fight against telephone tyranny. Buy one and keep it next to the phone. The next time Rachel calls, press the number to connect to a real person. Wait until they answer. Then blow a sustained, shrill, full-volume blast of the whistle directly into the telephone microphone before hanging up.

The odds are that they will stop calling. And that you will be disappointed when they do.

Newsflash for Guys

You can put breasts on a robot. But it’s still just a robot.

Rethinking Pygmalion

Once upon a time about 50 years ago, people who should have had better things to do decided to create the perfect woman. She would be shapely of form with prominent, dangerously pointed breasts, an impossibly narrow waist, and comely hips, all in unnatural proportions that no real woman could ever hope to emulate.

Her face would feature large, wide-set blue eyes, a dainty turned-up nose, rosy lips and a perfect complexion. Her legs would be long and slender, unblemished by saddlebags, cellulite, or spider veins. And her arms would be permanently thin and firm with no hint of either unsightly sagging flesh or unsightly masculine muscles. Her delicate feet would wear fetish stilettos without complaint.

The people worked long and hard, until finally they had sculpted and molded and immortalized the perfect image of woman in rubberized plastic, and when they were done they christened her “Barbie®, the Teen-Age Fashion Model.”

And the women of the planet knelt before this iconic vision of beauty and envied her perfection, giving her onto their daughters in all her many dazzling versions so that they could learn the heights to which women could aspire in addition to being a fashion model, including Princess, Fashionista, Mermaid, and Fairy.

And Barbie® went forth and multiplied: Barbie® begat Ken® which begat Midge® which begat Skipper®, Tutti®, Stacie®, Kelly®, and Krissy®, which begat a family of Barbie® friends and a line of Barbie® related products so that young girls would understand the significance of the color “pink” and could learn important life skills by playing with their Barbie® Hairtastic™ Styling Head, Barbie® Hairtastic™ Color & Wash Salon™, and  Barbie™ Princess Charm School.

And because human brains can sometimes malfunction, the adoration of youth unfortunately became the adulation of adults and Barbie® Collector was born. And lo, these many collectible dolls include the offspring of an unholy union between George Lucas and opera composer Richard Wagner and one from Cher and Marie Antoinette.

Yet many others are also available, for verily, the dolls’ numbers are legion  and include collectible Kens in versions most reasonable minds would never have contemplated.  But which might drive those same minds to wonder who bought this:

while being thankful it is no longer available.

And those same minds, curious about those who would cherish such dolls, might be driven to order a free catalogue or join the Barbie® Fan Club, a club which has caused Ken great mental anguish because no one has created a fan club to honor him and he’s starting to suspect that maybe he’s nothing more than just another Barbie® fashion accessory, although thinking back he realizes he has always suspected something was amiss, and he wonders if his missing man parts may have something to do with it.

But then he learns that Barbie® Fan Club members are adults who buy things like this created especially just for them:

Nighty Brights Francie Giftset is a fresh, fun take on Barbie doll’s cute cousin, in a new Silkstone® body! She’s all set for a slumber party in green baby dolls pjs with yellow, white and pink polka dots, matching bloomers and white slippers with pink pompoms.

For the adult collector.”

And thus he decides that having his own fan club where adult collectors could buy his cute, youthful cousins, maybe isn’t such a great idea after all. Although he isn’t really surprised, having survived the insufferably boring Teen Talk Barbie® who would never shut up even though she could only say, “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “I love shopping!”, and  “Math class is tough!”

At least until people started swapping her voice hardware with GI Joe’s, resulting in Barbie® yelling, “Attack!” “Vengeance is mine!” and “Eat lead, Cobra!” While Joe announced, “Let’s plan our dream wedding!”

Resulting in dolls that, for once, most adults who are not Barbie® Collectors might actually think were worth buying.

Will it never end?

It’s bad enough that women are valued for their looks more than anything else. (Don’t believe me? I have two words for you: Megan Fox. Even if she won a Nobel Prize,  you think anyone would ever mention it?) And if it’s not true, why do all the female police detectives on television walk around with their shirts open to your imagination? And why do we never see male “beauty pageants”?

But at least it used to be that once we hit the ripe old age of 30 we could put all that behind us because we were old and over the hill (unlike men, who improve with age, we just age). And then 30 became the new 20 and we had to put up with the nonsense for another decade before, with a blessed sigh of relief, we could blow out 40 candles, stop sucking in our gut and hang up our stilettos.

And then it got worse. Forty became the new 30. Then 50 became the new 40. And all of this kept happening as I reached each of the milestones so I’ve never caught a break and fear that soon 60 will be the new 50.

It’s not fair. Not just because maybe it should be about our talent and abilities and accomplishments  or being judged on one’s character instead of outer appearance, but because real women who aren’t genetic freaks of nature actually look their age. Gravity and time take a certain toll. And it’s even worse if you’ve had children.

Raising children ages parents several decades. Bearing children converts a firm, shapely female form into a deflated sack of sagging cellulite. Think of a new balloon. Fresh from the bag, it’s smooth and taut. Blow it up once. Let the air out. It begins to show sign of use. Blow it up again. Let the air out. And perhaps again. And dear sweet mother of god that’s exactly what happens to a woman’s body parts and exactly what those body parts look like after repeated cycles of inflation and deflation. And no amount of crunches or push-ups or squats is ever going to put it back the way it was.

“But what about all those images of sexy Hollywood mommas?” you may ask. “What about all those ‘People’ magazine covers showing all those ‘rockin’ post-baby bikini bods?”

I have three answers: 1) genetic freak; 2) unlimited funds; and 3) Photo Shop.

If one is not #1, one can use #2 to try to look like #1. Enter the personal trainer, personal chef and personal cosmetic surgeon (the last of which might not be such a good idea).

But those tools can only do so much. Without the help of #3, even Julia Roberts doesn’t really look like Julia Roberts. And if she doesn’t, what chance do the rest of us have?

I’ll tell you: none.

And if you weren’t already depressed enough by that, along come multiple media efforts conspiring to remind you that for a woman, it’s all about how she looks, no matter what her age. It started with More, the magazine targeting the over 40 woman, which launched a “40+Model Search” which became the “More Beauty Search” in 2010. By odd coincidence, the winners are all beautiful, thin, youthful looking women. And in case I was too obtuse to understand the importance of those qualities, the many stimulating articles offered in the magazine should enlighten me as to where my priorities should lie:

Forever Young: Expert Tips for Aging Gracefully
Key Pieces to Dress Younger
Keeping
Victoria‘s Secret: My Life in Catalogs
Chris Benz’s Tips for Dressing Younger
27+ Anti-Aging Superfoods
Editors’ Picks: 12 Activities That Keep Us Young

And if these intellectually challenging pieces by the brightest minds of our era don’t convince you, along comes a website called “fab over fifty.” That’s right, at www.faboverfifty.com you can learn the importance of being young and beautiful for at least another decade, if not longer. Offering in-depth cutting edge stories like “Does your belly fat make you crazy?” and “Affordable Anti-Agers That Really Work”,  the website allows you the freedom to focus on the really important things: trying to stay young and beautiful.

Of course that requires the right products. For example, “the new BMR Beauty Series System for Faboverfifty. This patented device uses medical-grade technology to firm and lift the muscles in your upper arms, tummy and tush.” Yes, you, too, can enter to be one of 20 testers of products which look remarkably like products in a fetish catalogue.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not all as shallow and sexist and controlling as it seems. Maybe there is no conspiracy. After all, More is “for women of style & substance” and Fab Over Fifty is “where women of substance share their style.”

Wait a minute …

Help Needed

I have to wonder if many of the ads on craigslist are a joke. Or if the people posting them are using high quality, mind-altering drugs. I’m not sure in which category the following ad should be placed. Perhaps both.

This person is looking for someone to clean house, seemingly because the family is incapable of any household task, including hanging up their clothes. But I get ahead of myself. You will understand when you see the ad. I’ve taken the liberty of composing a suitable response.

Dear Sir or Madame,

I am writing in response to your recent ad saying that you “Need Housekeeping Help.”

Your ad asks for applicants to provide a “bid, time required and three client references” without the rather essential step of a physical inspection and without knowing whether or not you are providing cleaning supplies.

Please be advised that it is highly unlikely that the tasks listed can be completed in “one 8-10 hour day.” For example, one of the “services” listed is “approximately 6 loads [of laundry] weekly including bedding.” Since you seem unfamiliar with the process, let me explain that the first load can easily take 2 hours to complete, so that the entire time for 6 loads from start to finish (including “folding and putting away” and assuming you lack a commercial laundry operation somewhere in your home) could be 10-12 hours.

I’ve included some pertinent comments below on the services you want completed (in addition to the 12 hours of laundry) in “8-10 hours.” Providing the additional details as noted would help applicants to better respond to your ad.

Need Housekeeping Help (Pewaukee)

Looking for housekeeping help in Pewaukee. Please provide your bid, time required and three client references in your response.

[This language may strike some as a little off-putting. An opportunity to view the house would help applicants prepare a reasonable bid based on actual conditions – assuming they still wish to after seeing them – as well as clarify who is responsible for cleaning supplies and materials.]

You will be providing the following services. My hope is that they can be completed in one 8-10 hour day. [Please see above comment as to time. You might wish to revise your estimate to something more realistic (such as 16-20 hours) so that people don’t conclude that you are completely insane and decline to respond to your ad.] Please confirm or advise otherwise. Services would be required weekly.

Kitchen

– clean stove top [Do you routinely wipe it after cooking or will the help be required to spend several hours each week  removing an inch-thick layer of rock hard God-knows-what gunk – and if so, do you supply the hammer and chisel?]

– load and run dishwasher if necessary [Do you do this routinely during the week or will the help be confronted with a sink and counter piled high with a week’s worth of eating and cooking utensils?]

– put away dishes [Do you mean the clean dishes after the dishwasher cycle has ended and, if so, do you care if they are put away wet causing damage to your cabinets?]

– sweep and clean wood floor 12’x18′ [In light of the numerous cleaning methods available for hard surface floors, what do you mean by “clean”?]

– clean 15 linear feet of countertop and sink [Is the countertop empty thus cleanable in less than a minute or will the help have to spend an hour cleaning and moving a dozen different specialty gadgets, gizmos and small appliances?]

– empty garbage [Do you recycle? If not, why not?]

– put away misc kitchen items as needed [This could include anything from a stray llama to leftovers from an Addams Family reunion; please specify what “misc” includes and “as needed” means.]

Living Room

– put away kids toys and books [Please reconsider this item as experts agree that requiring children to do this themselves is an important part of not becoming Lindsay Lohan.]

– pick up clothes as neccesary [I encourage you to explore the many features offered by your computer including spell check. And could you elaborate regarding the “clothes”? Do you normally use your living room as a clothing repository? Do you lack closets or are you unacquainted with the purpose and use of hangers? And what do you want done with the clothes once they are picked up? Should they be tossed into the outgoing trash?]

– vacuum floor 16’x18′ [What kind of floor is this? Carpet, area rug, hard surface, or dirt?]

– dust mantel [Are these areas cluttered with knick-knacks needing dusting?]
– dust 6 shelves             “                                   “
– dust entertainment center and TV    “                                   “

Guest Room

– Wash bedding and remake queen bed [Did you know that if no one has used the bed the sheets don’t need to be changed?]

– Dust two windows, 5 book shelves and dresser top. [Okay – so any time you want something dusted, assume you need to say if the area is open or cluttered with crap that needs dusting.]

– Vacuum floor 12’x12′ [Again – knowing the type of flooring is kinda helpful.]

Bathroom One

– pick up clothes and dirty towels for washing [Most rational adults place dirty clothes and towels into a container called a laundry basket or hamper. They also find it distasteful and a possible health code violation to pick up someone else’s dirty BVD’s.]

– clean floor, toilet, sink, tub and shower surround [Have these been thoroughly cleaned at anytime in the past year or will a HAZMAT team be necessary?]

– empty garbage

– dust window and 3 shelves [Once again – amount of clutter?]

– store toiletries [Dear lord, do you people never put anything away?]

Bathroom Two [Please see comments under “Bathroom One” above]

– pick up clothes and dirty towels for washing

– clean floor, toilet, sink, tub and shower surround

– empty garbage

– dust window and 3 shelves

– store toiletries

Master Bedroom

– Pick up clothes and do laundry [I am doing my best to be patient but I’m starting to lose it. Seriously: you can’t pick up your clothes? And what the hell do you want me to do with them once I’ve got them in my arms? The trash bin is looking better all the time.]

– Fold Clothes and put away [You really think people want to touch your BVD’s? And how do I know where they go? Can I just randomly shove them into dresser drawers?]

– Dust dresser top [If you’re leaving your clothes lying around all over the place then I’m pretty sure all the things you want dusted are covered with crap.]

– dust 4 shelves [see prior comments]

– dust 3 windows [see prior comments]

– Vacuum floor 12’x18′ [see prior comments]

– wash bedding and remake queen bed [Have you been doing the nasty because if you have I do NOT want to touch those sheets.]

Kids Bedroom

-Pick up toys and put away [Seriously: do you REALLY want your kids to grow up to be just  like you because I’m telling you that’s not doing them any favors.]

– Pick up clothes and do laundry [see above]

– Fold Clothes and put away [see above]

– vacuum floor 12’x14′ [see above]

– Dust 6 shelves [see above]

– dust two windows [see above]

– wash bedding and remake bunk beds [see above]

Laundry is approximately 6 loads weekly including bedding. [see above]

Okay, now I have lost it. Having someone vacuum and dust is one thing but you don’t pick up your stuff and you don’t make your kids pick up their stuff. You can’t be bothered to take 30 seconds to throw some dirty dishes into the dishwasher or hang up a coat.

You don’t “Need Housekeeping Help” – you need more help than even I can offer – and I’ve been called a miracle worker.

Sincerely,
Nanny McPhee

Six Degrees of David and Charles Koch

Sometimes I act. Several years ago I acted in a two-woman play with a talented young actor who, unlike me, was young enough and pretty enough and thin enough to go pro. A few days ago I saw her in a television commercial.

More recently, I was in a show that needed some additional male actors. I put out the word and a friend responded. He and a male friend of his joined the cast. A day after seeing the television commercial I learned that a female cast member from that later show and the friend’s friend who joined it have since dumped their spouses and moved in together. His divorce attorney is the husband of the young actress in the commercial. It turns out we also both had parts in different films that were screened at the Wisconsin Film Festival this year.

Some might attribute such odd happenstances to the quirks of fate. I tend to think everything is connected. Like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, nothing is truly chance.

We laugh at people who believe in conspiracy theories. We scoff at the idea, convinced it is no more real than the boogeyman. But who can prove the boogeyman isn’t real?

Look carefully in that closet, because the vast right-wing conspiracy may soon be coming to a neighborhood near you. Or more than likely it is already there. And closing the closet door will not help you. Information and knowledge might.

Without them, the entwined and interwoven forces behind far-right organizations remain invisible, snaring ordinary, everyday people who support and donate to them, unaware that they are being manipulated. And the trail always leads back to the Kochs and their cronies. The Koch brothers being the uber-secretive, uber-conservative uber-billionaires who are uber-intent on reshaping government on the local, state, and national levels to allow them to make greater profits.

Don’t believe it? Pick a group, any conservative group, and look who’s behind it. I’ll give you some examples to get you started.

The Wisconsin 9-12 Project  claims to be a non-partisan conservative grassroots movement and has not just one, but two Facebook pages.

1. Kirsten Lombard is currently running the “Wisconsin 9-12 Project.” Kirsten is half of a political consulting firm that promotes conservative Republican candidates by manipulating people at the local level, in part through control of social media.

2. “Wisconsin 9-12 Project” coordinates with the Republican Party and American Majority.

3. a.  The  Kochs funnel money to the Republicans, including $1.1 million given to the Republican Governors Association, which spent more than $3.4 million in support of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.

3. b. American Majority  is a right-wing group that trains Tea Party members. Co-founder Drew Ryun was a deputy director at the Republican National Committee. His brother and co-founder, Ned Ryun, was a writer in the George W. Bush White House.

4. American Majority is funded in large part by the Sam Adams Alliance.

5. Eric O’Keefe, the chairman and CEO of the Sam Adams Alliance, and who helps lead American Majority, has been a Koch aide and attends and also helps lead Koch strategy meetings. He sits on the Board of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a branch of the Koch connected Club for Growth.

The Rock River Patriots claims to be a non-partisan grassroots activist group.

1. Rock River Patriots self-identifies as a Tea Party Patriot Group.

2. Tea Party Patriots is a conservative group organized by FreedomWorks; the principal organizers of Tea Party events are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works

3. a. Americans for Prosperity was founded in part by David Koch (the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation) and his company funds Americans for Prosperity.

3. b. FreedomWorks was created from the merger of Citizens for a Sound Economy and Empower America. Citizens for a Sound Economy was co-founded by David Koch.

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin (USW) states that its mission is to protect the rights of and advocate on behalf of hunters, fi­shermen, trappers and gun owners in Wisconsin. Apparently that required it to send out misleading (possibly illegal) absentee ballot applications to Democrat leaning voters in the summer 2011 elections of  recalled Republican senators. The applications were designed to result in a invalid vote.

1. The USW website subscription page linked to http://jconnorsandco.com

2. J Connors & Company, founded by John Connors, is a Milwaukee political consulting firm supporting conservative Republican candidates.

3. John Connors has been a local Wisconsin leader of Americans for Prosperity. In 2008, Connors was listed as AFP’s “Students for Prosperity Director.” He has also been tweeting AFP events in recent months.

4. Americans for Prosperity was founded in part by David Koch (the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation) and his company funds Americans for Prosperity.

Connections. Chance? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Go ahead – you try it. Are you getting scared yet?

Attack of the Little People

I just survived an evening of being harassed by short people pounding on my door and demanding free food. And now have to wonder about many things.

My first thought is: why aren’t the Republicans all over this? As a group they’ve been enthusiastically attacking what they call “entitlements,” demanding an end to handouts (to people, not corporations). No welfare. No Social Security. No Medicare.

Really, what bigger handout is there than Halloween? Millions and millions of people across the country just showing up at doors with their hands out (literally). At house after house they shout the same intimidating demand: “Trick or treat.”

If the Republicans seriously think that entitlements are bankrupting our country, they need to jump on this. After all, have you seen the price of a bag of decent candy? Free candy is probably the gateway to a life of dependency on the public dole. Children are learning in their cribs that they don’t have to work hard and earn their own way, all they have to do is show up and people will give them stuff. That is not the American Way. And think about the cost of the health issues related to all that sugar! (Especially without a national health care system.)

So Cantor and Boehner can proselytize and look for photo-ops with kids gone wild while Paul Ryan gives a Power Point presentation which establishes once and for all that he really is a battery-operated Ken doll.

Meanwhile (and before they stamp out the tradition) I’ve learned that people who choose to participate need a refresher on the basic rules governing the process called “Trick or Treating.”

1. You must wear a costume. Merely showing up and holding out a sack is referred to as extortion or theft by intimidation.

2. Is a corollary of #1. If you think you don’t need to wear a costume then you are too old to be trick or treating. (Or if you are over the age of fifteen).

3. Dressing infants, toddlers, and pets in costume might be cute but it does not entitle them to candy, especially when it will likely choke them because they have no teeth yet. Age minimums apply (see #4 below which indicates probably at least age 4 – perhaps age 3 if sufficiently precocious).

4. Unless you are old enough to easily climb my front steps, ring the doorbell, and shout “Trick or treat!” by yourself, you are too young to be trick or treating. (And it is not all right for your parent or sibling to ask for candy for you as you sit in a stroller on the sidewalk unless you are disabled and my front door is not accessible.) Please note I did NOT say children  should not be escorted by an adult. So please don’t send me lots of angry comments telling me I’m a crazy person for saying so. I may be a crazy person but it’s not for that reason. In fact, I think all children require adult supervision on Halloween. It might prevent some of the things I mention in numbers 7 and 9 below.

5. Parents, please try to guide your children toward appropriate costume choices which are also not poor role models. “Hooker,” “Sexy Anything,” and “Gangbanger” come to mind. (Just so you know, real gangbangers don’t usually wear boxers covered with pink cupids. ) And refusing to drop $50 on a costume they will never wear again is not a bad thing.

6. Look for and use doorbells. Merely tapping at the door will reduce your take for the night. As will not waiting for more than a nanosecond for someone to respond. Grownups are not only hard of hearing, they are slow. It might take us 3 to 5 seconds to get to the door. Unless we have a butler. Who would open the door more quickly but you’d never know because if we were rich enough to have a butler you wouldn’t be at the door because the gates would be closed and the hounds would be out.

7. If the house is one where the adults are insane, meaning they left a huge bowl of candy on the porch with a “take one” sign next to it, only take one. Yes, I know the adults are insane but it’s probably because they had children. And yes, I know it’s unfair to a young child whose character has not yet been tempered sufficiently to develop the necessary strength to resist such an irresistible temptation. Resist anyway. Taking more than one is wrong. And you never know if the residents are hiding, waiting for a greedy child to grab the bowl, causing a trap door to open and sending the hapless victim to his or her doom because all those Grimm stories had to come from someplace.

8.  “Thank you” or “No thank you” are much better choices that “I don’t like that kind.”

9. Do not kill the pumpkins. You know who you are and you know what I mean: snatching poor, unsuspecting jack-o-lanterns off people’s porches and smashing them in the street. They aren’t yours. Leave them be, even if they are shrinking and turning black.

10.  Homeowners: this is Halloween. If you choose to participate (which is completely up to you but if not be sure to turn off all the lights so the kids won’t know you’re really home and just being a cheap bastard) for crying out loud get some decent candy. (I’m talking the good stuff not those bargain bags of Tootsie Rolls® and Sweetarts® – which, not surprisingly, is what our governor passes out.)