A Whole New Meaning to “Reach Out and Touch Someone”

14 04 2008

Many of you have probably heard the big news story from the past couple of days, that a significant number of high school girls are sending nude pictures of themselves, via cell phone, to high school boys (who are no doubt sharing the photos with an even more significant number of friends).

My Public Response:

This is an outrage. As a good citizen and parent, I want this to be stopped immediately. It is immoral, and something must be done!

My Private Response:

Where the hell were picture phones when I was in high school?! The most my hormone-injected self could hope for was a cute girl in a skirt on a really windy day. Wait, let me think deeper here. For every cute cheerleader/homecoming court member, there is a not-so-cute algebra club member (I know, I know, there COULD be a cute girl in an algebra club. Heck, my beautiful wife was on some academic debate thing-a-ma-jig. I would have killed for a photo “call” from her back then. I mean, except that she is quite a few years younger than I am, so forget I said that.) I probably wouldn’t have gotten many of the Buffy’s, Keri’s, and Beth’s of my school. I would have gotten the Helga’s and Gertrude’s. Can’t you just picture boys comparing phone pics the way my generation compared baseball cards?

Boy 1: “Dude, I got an Amy and a Christie today!”

Boy 2: “Oh gross, I only got a Martha.

Further proof that we are the strangest “animal” on the planet.

(and we thought THIS was hot back in the day)

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Mary Ann or Ginger: A Valentine’s Day Survey

1 02 2008

My wife and I created a Valentine’s Survey. Use it if you’d like. We’d love to see your answers!

1. Describe your favorite romantic/love scene from a movie.

I’ll go with Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack in Serendipity. They spend a long time looking for each other and finally get to kiss outside amongst falling snowflakes when they connect. (There is always that Phoebe Cates scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but I’m going for “romantic” here.) I’ll give a runner-up prize to the band chick and the dork in American Pie. You can’t beat her taking charge and ordering him to “Say my name, bitch!”

2. What was your worst Valentine’s Day experience?

Hmm, probably a first date with someone I thought I might like that I worked with. However, she turned out to be kind of scary needy. She had set up a hotel room for the night, but it was shared with her friend. When we got there, her friend and a guy were making out on one bed. My date went into the bathroom and came out in lingerie. OK, for the guys reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking, “where’s the bad part?” I’m telling you, there was nothing “hot” about this as she was very immature and annoying. I found some excuse to get out of there after awhile. I remember her saying, “I blew it, didn’t I?” which made me feel bad.

3. What is your favorite restaurant for a Valentine’s dinner out?

One in my hometown called The Cork and Cleaver. It’s intimate and has great steaks.

4. List a hot/romantic line from a song that you like.

Even though I’m mostly a rock guy, I like this one from an old Sinatra standard:

Who Cares to define, what chemistry this is, who cares with your lips on mine, how ignorant bliss is….so long as you kiss me, and the world around us shatters, how little it matters, how little we know.

5. What is the cheesiest aspect of Valentine’s Day?

The Valentine’s cards that say things like, “You’re my every heart beat.” Just once, I’d like to see one that says, “You really help with my digestion, honey.”

6. Did you have any elementary school traditions for Valentine’s Day?

We passed out Valentines to each other. I think we included candy. I hope we did. It was a Catholic School so we probably went to mass as well!

7. What fictional character do you have a crush on and why?

The original Charlie’s Angels. When I was a kid, I could barely handle it when it came on. I think my parents tried to keep it from me, but we all have our ways! I actually liked Jaclyn the best.

8. How old were you when you had your first, real kiss? Was it good or bad?

6th grade. It was pretty good!

9. Describe the most uncomfortable crush someone has had on you.

High School. I had a lot of phone calls from a girl who always said she needed help on a homework problem. The phone calls would last forever, with me saying very little. I recall literally being able to set the phone down to go get a drink, and she would still be blabbing when I picked the phone back up. I should have been more assertive.

10. How long did your first heartbreak last?

First time I felt “heartbroken” was back in elementary school so I don’t think it lasted more than a day.

11. Do you prefer to give/receive: a) jewelry b) chocolate c) lingerie d) tools

I like giving a, b and c.

12. If you are male, do you prefer Mary Ann or Ginger? If you are female, do you prefer McDreamy or McSteamy?

Mary Ann.

13. Would you rather be broken up with by: a) phone b) text message c) in person d) email e) carrier pigeon

Carrier pigeon. I’d have to give the chick credit if that happened. (Plus, you could get dumped and dumped on by the bird…that’s like killing two birds with one stone. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

14. What is your favorite Valentine’s Day candy?

Peanut M&M’s (any color, even Valentine-colored.)





Food and Sex: Pure Marketing Genius

19 01 2008

Marketing and advertising, though admittedly garish and annoying, are also fascinating. I remember studying subliminal marketing in college. Supposedly, cigarette smokers are obsessed with fingers and holding objects in them. According to the professor, who was armed with numerous slides, marketers used this in print ads by picturing smokers who had one or more fingers “missing” by having them obscured behind an object, or curled into the palm, etc. I don’t know if this is actually true or if it made people buy more of that brand of cigarette, but it was a more interesting class than World History.

I am more certain of another technique. If you are over the age of 8, you are fully aware that sex sells, and marketers are not at all shy about using it. I find it most interesting when it is used in naming food items.

There are some obvious examples of this and some that are a little more subtle. Here are a few of my favorites:

HoHos. Who thought this was an appropriate name for a snack aimed at kids? Was the brand Floozy Hookers already taken? Someone should start a boycott. I’d do it, but I’m far too busy blogging while watching tennis on tv. (My inspiration for this blog came from allimac. Check it out.)

Bourbon Balls. Now this sounds more like a medical condition than a food. Don’t try to tell me that I am reading too much into the name. They could have just as easily called them bourbon ovals, but no.

Wieners. Please. Can’t we all just call them hot dogs? Actually, it might not be fair to other meats that these particular items are referred to as hot. In today’s society, you don’t want to offend anyone. The poor polish sausages in the meat case might feel unattractive if everyone keeps calling the wieners hot. (I don’t even want to think about the self-esteem issues of cold cuts.) As if the term wiener wasn’t blatant enough, someone thought it would be a good idea to sometimes put the word cocktail in front of it just to add a little more innuendo. Even better, someone else thought there should be foot-long wieners. This is very insensitive. Some guys out there are made to feel very inadequate around these things. Other items that make a guy feel he can’t measure up include: Green Giant, “Big Gulp” sized soft drinks at convenience stores, and LONG john donuts (cream-filled for good measure). While I’m on this subject, it’s just wrong to make a guy say “super size me” or “make mine a whopper” while standing in a busy line at a fast food restaurant.

Donut Holes. That is just plain dirty.

Cheese Nips. Are these snacks more noticeable when it’s cold outside?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil. How does something get to be extra virgin? I’m thinking there is no virgin oil used when making Easy Mac, Wild Cherry Life Savers, or Pop Tarts.

Oh Henry! candy bars. I’m not sure exactly what Henry is doing, but he should write a book so that we can all get such an enthusiastic response.

Lay’s Potato Chips. Sad, just sad. At least their slogan is not, “When is the last time you got LAYed?” (Not yet, anyway.)

Pound Cake. Is this a noun, or a verb?

It could be worse. That candy with the slogan “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” could have been called S & M’s with just one small letter change.





When Women and Men Collide in the Workplace

15 01 2008

(Disclaimer: This blog is not as serious as it sounds in the first couple of paragraphs; read on at your own risk).

Raging debate about women’s equality and their desire to work full time was a significant part of the early to mid 70s. I am (barely) old enough to remember this time, and it seemed, from a kid’s perspective, that people were in an uproar. For example, the television show, One Day at a Time, about a divorced mother of two who was struggling to balance family and career, was widely watched and considered controversial. I liked the show, as did my mom and dad, though my dad seemed uneasy about some of the subjects it tackled. It was representative of the time in which we were living.

I was probably about eight years old and, therefore, had very little say in the matter. Nonetheless, I did not understand what was so radical about these ideas. It seemed simple to me; women should be able to work the same kind of jobs as men (despite the fact that I had the greatest stay-at-home mom in the world).

I still recall mustering up all my kid wisdom and saying to one of my older sisters, “I believe men and women should be equal. Women can go to work if they want.” Her response was something like, “Yes, but women also still want men to take care of them.” This 1970-something statement served as my initiation into the conundrum that is the role of modern man. Ladies, this making sure we treat you as equals but still taking charge when you want us to is a tricky task. It is a lot like juggling with jars of sulfuric acid. Sure, we look like studs when we do it correctly, but when we mess up, we get severely burned. Balancing masculine/feminine duties is daunting. One can get a bit confused trying to talk about the big game with a guy at a store while holding the wife’s purse, a diaper bag and a pink sippy cup, but I digress.

Decades passed, and women are now all over the workplace. I want to say up front that I love and admire women, and it goes without saying that they are excellent workers and have made major contributions. This blog, however, is not so much about the serious debates, contributions, and rights of women as it is the daily life changes to the culture of the workplace since women became so integrated into it.

Some of these feminine changes at the office have been positive. For example, farting contests at work have been decreased dramatically. The workplace smells much better. I venture to guess there were no “Vanilla Nutmeg Forest” candles in offices in the 1950s.

Also, we don’t have to listen to as many “weekend conquest” stories from guys who are habitual liars. With women actually living and breathing at work, it becomes easily apparent which guys are NOT “lady killers.” This keeps the poor saps from even trying to lie anymore.

On the other hand, some changes to the office culture are a little more disturbing. Below are work scenarios and the most likely male and female responses to them.

Scenario 1: There is some sort of weird, low buzzing sound on one side of the office, possibly coming from a computer server or some sort of light. The buzzing is especially close to one particular cubicle.

Male Response: The guy thinks, “Hmm, that’s weird.” Then, he gets used to it in about 45 seconds and never really notices it again. Every once in awhile, a coworker delivers a memo and says, “what’s that buzzing?” The guy says, “What buzzing?”

Female Response: The woman gets very perturbed about the sound and complains about it to coworkers during most lunches and breaks. She asks that a subcommittee be formed to look into the sound, which is “like a freight train.” After nothing is done for a full month, she comes to the conclusion that her cubicle is the one closest to the buzzing because so-and-so colluded with the boss to place her there. She pictures so-and-so and the boss having a good laugh about it behind the closed door of the boss’ office. Henceforth, she no longer includes so-and-so when she forwards emails of various cute babies making cute faces.

Scenario 2: Someone in the office has a birthday.

Male Response: If a man accidentally becomes aware that it is a coworker’s birthday, his response will likely be concise. After slapping the birthday boy on the back, he will say, “45 years old, huh? Get a prescription for Viagra yet?” Then, they go about their day.

Female Response: Once someone (female) is appointed to run the birthday festivities, that person goes around the office asking everyone to chip in a few bucks to pay for the birthday worker’s lunch. Everyone is instructed to meet at Applebee’s (the birthday person’s favorite restaurant) at precisely 11:20 so as to beat the crowd and obtain a large table or booth with ease. Also, a few women huddle in a cubicle to work out who should drive and who should ride with whom. This is very complicated and delicate because Worker B is still angry at Worker F because Worker F did not order any candy bars when Worker B’s kid was selling them for a cheerleader fundraiser. This is especially troubling to Worker B because Worker B bought two tubs of “Extreme Mint Mountain” cookie dough when Worker F’s kid was having a soccer fundraiser. Charts are literally designed to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the riding-to-Applebee’s situation.

Scenario 3: Worker A discovers that his/her paramour used to date one of Worker A’s coworkers.

Male Response: There will likely be cursing and quite possibly a punch or two. Approximately 24 hours later, the two guys become friends and grab a beer at a nearby sports bar.

Female Response: After she severely scolds her boyfriend by phone for ever even thinking about that “fat skank” in a romantic way, she begins an all-out silent treatment against the “skanky” coworker who once went out with her boyfriend. The treatment lasts at least two months and is interrupted only by an occasional email, such as, “Trish, I would appreciate it if you would stop taking all the multi-colored post-its from the supply closet. I am stuck with the yellow ones, and they hurt my eyes. Thanks in advance, Caroline.” This goes on as long as the relationship with the boyfriend lasts. Once that ends, Trish and Caroline become fast allies and spend breaks talking about the various ways in which the boyfriend is inadequate.

Scenario 4: A client calls and tells off Worker A before proclaiming that he is taking his business elsewhere.

Male Response: He throws a paperweight across the room while stating that he is sorry the client “feels this way.” He then gives the “finger” to the phone receiver before hanging up. After a couple of audible “F” bombs, he regroups and decides to try harder with his remaining clients.

Female Response: She acts as though it does not bother her…for awhile. At the ten-minute mark, however, she breaks down in tears by the coffee maker. The other women in the office gather in the break room for support (no doubt after urgent “meet us by the coffee maker/something’s wrong with Trish” emails make the rounds). They remind Trish what a great worker she is. At some point, Trish sobs through her tissue something unrelated to work, such as, “I can’t believe I ate four Oreos last night. I’m supposed to be dieting!” There is agreement all around that Oreos are devilishly irresistible.

The workplace has certainly changed over the years. Despite some of the weirdness, the change was needed. After all, if women have to put up with discrimination and living in a society that has a need for battered women’s shelters, then we still have a long way to go. Plus, they have to wear pantyhose at least some of the time. I suppose guys having to put up with some strange female work culture is not that much of a hardship. You go, girl, and here’s $3 for the next birthday lunch.





Redneck Woman vs. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Or Apples vs. Oranges)

12 01 2008

Is it just me, or is it a bit farcical how differently we judge song writers and book writers. I realize songs and books are different entities (duh) and that some will no doubt complain that I am comparing apples to oranges or plums or dried apricots, but I still find it intriguing how different the standards are (not counting some of those awful, cheesy romance novels). Let’s take a peek at excerpts from a few popular books, some classic, some recent.

“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.” Paul Auster, City of Glass

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“Anything could happen when you were with Jimmy. If he was aware there were rules — in the subway, on the streets, in a movie theater — he never showed it.” Dennis Lehane, Mystic River

“This would be a slow death. Her father was right, she must have been the worst of sinners.” Jonis Agee, The River Wife

“What happened next transpired in seconds. Everything does, if you think about it” Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know

Great stuff. Now, let’s check out some lyrics from popular songs of different genres (with the artist, not necessarily the writer, listed for the sake of easy recognition).

“I’m attracted to ya ’cause you give me love, and sweetheart, Color Me Badd is gonna sex you up.” Color Me Badd, I Wanna Sex You Up

“In a second you’ll be wrapped around my finger
‘Cause I can, cause I can do it better
There’s no other, so when’s it gonna sink in
She’s so stupid, what the hell were you thinking?” Avril Lavigne, Girlfriend

“She can handle any champagne brunch
A bridal shower with Bacardi punch
Jello shooters full of Smirnoff
But tequila makes her clothes fall off.” Joe Nichols, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off

“Meat-eating orchids forgive no one just yet
Cut myself on Angel Hair and baby’s breath
Broken hymen of your highness I’m left black
Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.” Nirvana, Heart-Shaped Box

“Everyone’s looking to see if it was you
Everyone wants you to come through
Everyone’s hoping it’ll all work out
Everyone’s waiting they’re holding out.” Loverboy, Working for the Weekend

“Nasty put some clothes on, I told ya
Don’t walk out your house without no clothes on, I told ya.” Destiny’s Child, Nasty Girl

“You see I feel sad when you’re sad
I feel glad when you’re glad
If you only knew what I’m going through
I just can’t smile.” Barry Manilow/Carpenters, Can’t Smile Without You

Before I go any further, let me say that I like these a few of these songs. I know what some of you are thinking. Songs are just about having fun, being in a certain mood, or communicating plain old attitude. I get that; I love music. That said, come on people. Surely we can get some better lyrics without losing the fun and attitude.

Sex you up? This is an excellent example of a “music will have to do until I can get home to watch some porn” song.

Meat eating orchids? This brings to mind that weird kid in high school who liked to say nonsensical stuff because he/she was terrified to actually try to carry on a normal conversation.

Nasty put some clothes on. This one really needs no comment.

The Barry Manilow/Carpenters one? Did the credited writers really write that, or did they raid a stack of 7th grade poems from a teacher’s desk at Our Lady of the Divine Gag Me With a Spoon. Can’t you see a kid asking his dad what rhymes with sad?

I realize there are some really good lyrics out there, but you have to admit the radio dial is filled with drivel. Song writers of the world, I am pointing a finger at you and begging you to at least give an effort. I’m not asking you to hit the ball out of the park every time, but at least quit bunting.

What if our book writers had been allowed to live by the same standards? Would Romeo have said to Juliet, “I’ll take you to the candy shop; I’ll let you lick the lollipop?” Would Little Women instead be titled, Little Hos? Would those famous first lines of A Tale of Two Cities instead read: “It was fun, but it sucked at the same time. Some were smart, but some were just freaking numb nuts. Some people thought there was something to believe in while others were like, umm, I don’t think so.”

Maybe I’m asking too much, but I just don’t want to live in a world where an Anne Rice vampire sequel is called, “Oops, I bit it again.”





Ties Suck (Not the Kind You Wear…Well, Those Do Too)

8 01 2008

I really enjoy working with kids sometimes. Today, after a session of chess with a young teen, we were discussing the strategy involved and how it exercises the brain. We talked about how some professional chess players have matches that last a very long time. The kid said, “I think they can last a week!” After I agreed, we talked about the matches sometimes ending in a “tie.” At this point, the kid said, “That would suck. Playing chess for a week and ending in a tie is like working out for a week and finding out you’re getting fatter instead of stronger.” I whole-heartedly agreed. Man, they keep you young.





How Well-Rounded Are You?

6 01 2008

Don’t misunderstand the title. This is not a ploy disguised as a blog to get women to post their measurements (if you feel you must, I guess I won’t stop you. No guy measurements, please, though my wife might enjoy). Instead, this is a survey. How many of the following 40 things have you done? I’d like to see the answers of others, and feel free to copy this survey.

Have you:

1. Been to a play: Yes, many. This is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy professional plays, but I also enjoy seeing a high school play once or twice per year at my wife’s alma mater.

2. Bungee jumped or something similar: Only if climbing up on a garage roof is “something similar.” I’m more of mental thrill seeker than a physical one. Sports is probably the closest I ever got to “danger.”

3. Been a mentor/big brother/big sister: Sort of. I do this in my work, but I don’t think I ever did this on a volunteer basis. It’s an awesome thing, though.

4. Read at least one of the classics (War and Peace, The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Beowulf, Crime and Punishment, etc): Yes. Off the top of my head: Beowulf, Wuthering Heights, Gulliver’s Travels, and Macbeth.

5. Stood up for someone publicly: Yes. I remember coming to the aid of a kid who was being bullied a couple of times.

6. Been on a major roller coaster: No thank you.

7. Been to a drive-in movie: Yes, quite a few times. This is one of the best things to do on a nice summer night. They are really dying out so if you have one near it, give it some business.

8. Done something at a drive-in movie other than watch the movie: Sadly, I don’t think so. I guess I like movies too much!

9. Done volunteer work: Yes, but I am ashamed to say that I haven’t really done that much. A few things for church and once delivered Thanksgiving meals to those in need.

10. Given at toast a wedding, a eulogy at a funeral, or some similar, meaningful speech: Yes on the toast, and I think a yes on the eulogy. It wasn’t officially the eulogy, but that’s basically what it was.

11. Been to a major sports playoff game: Yes. St. Louis Cardinals game 1 of NLCS against the Mets (in 2000, I believe.) My Cardinals lost that game and the series 😦 Also some time in the early 90s, I think, I was at the sweet sixteen regional in St. Louis. I believe the teams involved were Kansas, Indiana, California (Jason Kidd), and Louisville.

12. Thrown a costume or theme party: Yes, my wife and I had a blast hosting several couples for a murder mystery party that had a 50s theme. I recommend this!

13. Been on or near the set of a major motion picture: Nope. I missed my chance in the 80s. A good portion of A League of Their Own was filmed where I grew up. Tom Hanks, etc were there for quite awhile. I never got in on being an extra, though.

14. Taken a compliment well: I think so at some point. This is difficult though, isn’t it?

15. Planted a tree: Yes, about a year ago (a river birch).

16. Been stung by a jellyfish or something similar in/near the ocean: Yes. Jellyfish got me several times on vacation last year. There was a major explosion of them where we were!

17. Quit a crappy job: Yes. I’m not the type to do this without some big-time planning and another job lined up, but I did in the 90s when I just could not stand to set foot in the place anymore. I’ll just generally describe it as an advertising sort of place. The morale and environment sucked there. I stayed way too long (several years). At some point later on, I got myself into grad school to try to avoid this same type of situation again.

18. Been on a blind date: Yes. Mine wasn’t great (probably mostly due to my own shyness), but it wasn’t a nightmare or anything like that.

19. Done something kind and unexpected for a stranger: My wife and I left a greeting card saying something like, “Have a great day” on a parked car one time. Hopefully whoever it was got a smile out of it. (Nowadays, it probably just freaked them out and made them look over their shoulder for the next week.)

20. Had a major surgery: Yep, kidney transplant. I plan to blog about this at some point.

21. Taken a car/truck road trip that covered at least 6 states: Yes. As a child my family drove to the Grand Canyon, which covered at least 6 (may have been 7). My wife and I just missed last year (and will again this year) when we were in 5 states on our way to Hilton Head.

22. Been in 4 or more countries: Nope, just the U.S. for me.

23. Spent New Year’s Eve somewhere special: Well, it’s obviously “special” to be anywhere with someone you love on New Year’s Eve. However, to answer what I think is the spirit of this question, I don’t think I ever have.

24. Visited an ancient landmark: If the Grand Canyon counts. I think it does.

25. Been face to face with a celebrity by chance: Yes. In St. Louis in church, we realized were were a few feet away from Steve Garvey. (For those of you under 35 or not at all into sports, he was a very famous L.A. Dodger who was charismatic and appeared on tv shows, etc). He was friendly and nodded, etc on his way out. It was a few hours before a Cardinals/Dodgers game. Come to think of it, we were in a famous, very old church at the time so maybe this sort of applies to the previous question as well.

26. Given to charity in the past two years: I’m sure we don’t give like we should, but, yes to the Humane Society and to a children’s hospital. (Let’s just say it was NOT an amount that would get anything named after us.)

27. Helped a stray animal: Yes! We possibly saved a cute stray dog and ended up finding the grateful owner a day later. Actually, it was the relative of the owner; the owner was gone on vacation, and the little guy had accidentally gotten out. We found him running down a major street.

28. Dated someone you met online: Yes, once. It didn’t end up being THE relationship, but it wasn’t a bad experience overall.

29. Won money on a long shot: I’ve done the horse races a few times, but I don’t think I ever won on a big long shot.

30. Won your office/family/friends NCAA tournament pool: Yes! That was fun.

31. Won an award/medal (even if something “small”): I received recognition for a short story I wrote in college (it was accepted to a national conference), and I won “Best Sports Writing” award at my small college paper once!

32. Driven a foreign sports car: No. The closest to that for me is riding in (not driving) my brother-in-law’s classic Corvette.

33. Been in the front row for a concert: I think I was for Joan Jett when she played at my college.

34. Attended a symphony orchestra performance: Yes. I enjoy that even though it isn’t the type of music you’d generally find in my cd player.

35. Caught a criminal in the act and did something about it (reported it, smacked them in the head, etc): Other than traffic violations, I don’t think I’ve witnessed anything like this.

36. Sung solo on a stage: Nope. Just school plays as a kid, but I wasn’t solo (thank goodness!)

37. Witnessed something supernatural: I don’t think so. I have a brother who saw a UFO or something weird like it one time a long time ago.

38. Covered for someone (who deserved it) at work: Yes, a great co-worker (and a hard worker) who needed a little nap one time on a third shift job.

39. Overcome a major fear: Sure. See my last blog about the spider.

40. Mailed a surprise care package to a loved one: Yep, my wife has gotten a candy care package in the mail at work a time or two. She has returned the favor as well.

Anyone else care to post answers? I’m curious!

Regarding question 33: