Congratulations From Governor Scott Walker

My wife and I recently received this in the mail from Governor Scott Walker and his wife, Tonette:

It’s a card congratulating us on the birth of our daughter. This is the inside: 

That was nice, we thought, but unfortunately Governor Walker asked us to return it when he found out that Nora’s birth was the result of labor.

Thank you! Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff! G’night!

Comments Off

The Three Secrets to Lazy, Sensational Journalism

This may come as a shock to younger generations, but there once was a time when we didn’t have 24-hour news channels. Things would happen, and then people called reporters would find out more about the things. Later, these reporters became “Journalists” around the same time that weathermen became “Meteorologists.”

Anyway, these journalists would assemble information, verify it, and ask pertinent questions. Then they would either write about it, or tell it to a man with a soothing baritone voice and majestic hair like the beating wings of an eagle taking flight. This man would, in turn, take a half hour every weeknight to tell us about it on television.

Occasionally, something really big would happen, and the man would interrupt “regular scheduled programming” to tell us about it. This was called a “Special Report” or a “News Bulletin,” and it usually had to do with an assassination or a moon landing or something.

The point is, when something was on the news, you could be fairly certain that it had gone through rigorous scrutiny and vetting, and that what ultimately came to you was fact. There were no advertisers, and no one cared about the ratings.

Thankfully, today, Journalism has evolved. Let’s face it; facts are boring and often get in the way of a perfectly entertaining narrative. And verifying facts is hard and unrewarding work. Here are three ways to deliver the news without the burden of actual research and in the most sensational way possible.

The Question Mark

Questions are the currency of Journalism, and, when used properly, the question mark is not only a brilliant “teaser,” but it’s also a “Get out of Facts for Free” card. All you need to do to legitimize the most absurdly fact-free headline is to raise your inflection ever so slightly at the end of the sentence. For example, take the statement:  “Eating Doritos will make you immortal.” Patently false; perhaps even worthy of legal action. But watch what happens when we add the question mark:  “Eating Doritos will make you immortal? We’ll be right back.” Of course, the answer to the question is “no, they won’t,” but by that point, the answer is not nearly as important as the question.

Now you try. Take these ridiculous statements and, using the question mark technique, turn them into legitimate headlines:

“House cats commandeer zeppelin.”

“Brewers yeast cures Cancer.”

“Scientists discover the Devil living in Valparaiso, Indiana.”

Some People

Let’s say you want to imply that actor Morgan Freeman is a transvestite. You may or may not actually think that actor Morgan Freeman is a transvestite, but, if he was, boy, what a scoop it would be! But it would be libelous to print that actor Morgan Freeman was a transvestite, and positing your transvestite theory to Mr. Freeman on camera would ruin you. What to do?

No problem; simply invoke “some people.” It goes like this:  “Mr. Freeman, I hate to bring this up, but, in light of recent rumors, I feel I must. Some people are saying that you are a transvestite. How do you respond to these allegations?”

Naturally, this would infuriate Morgan Freeman, but your defense is iron-clad. After all, you’re not calling him a transvestite; you’re just exercising due diligence and best practices and several other corporate terms, to get to the bottom of what “some people” are saying. You’re giving him the opportunity to set the record straight.

It absolves you of any and all responsibility for being a shallow, sensationalist ratings whore, while at the same time giving you just a whiff of journalistic integrity.

A great, real-world example of this “some people” method involved the recent shut-down of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. An anchor from one of the 24-hour news networks said:  “Some people are calling it ‘Carmegeddon…’” By saying this, they, too, were able to use the snappy moniker, Carmegeddon, while, at the same time, placing themselves above such a hackneyed cliché. 

Statistics

Mark Twain said:  “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But, then again, he’s dead, so a fat lot of good it did him. Nevertheless, statistics have the lofty air of science while being as flexible as a Chinese Acrobat after three margaritas. Take the following statistic as an example:

“In a recent poll, three out of five people, who considered themselves in the 90th percentile at least 1/2 the time agreed that there’s a 85% chance that climate change is a hoax. (Margin of Error: +/- 3%)”

Now, I’m not going to mention that the sample for this survey was 5 people sitting around a table at Applebee’s, and I’m pretty sure no one is going to ask because everybody knows that 100% of statistics don’t lie at least 50% of the time.

-Dylan

Hello Dear

I know this kind of spam is annoying to some, but I find it to be high art. And if the “Nigerian Phishing Scam” is art, what follows is a Monet. It is verbatim, and my responses are in (bold).

____________________________________________________

Hello Friend, Its me catherine Jasper, (Of course. Hello, Catherine) i want to donate what I have to the needy. (Good for you) You Could be surprised why i picked you. (I most certainly could be. Is it because I’m needy?) But someone has to do it. (I’m sorry. Do what? Pick me, or be needy?) I have been diagonalized (How horrible! That would explain the 45° angle) with Breast and Blood disease (Both?) which has defiled all forms of medical treatment (So it didn’t just defy treatment, it defiled treatment? That’s some serious Breast and Blood disease) and I have been told by my doctor that my days are numbered on earth. (How poetic) I have been touched to donate from what I have made from this World to charity through you (Oh, I see. I have to donate it for you) for the good work of humanity (I think I’ll donate it to the “Foundation to Prevent Email Scams”), rather than allow my relatives to use my hard earned funds inappropriately after my death (Those jerks. Now, you on the other hand…). Please email me with your contact information such as Your Full Names, (Including Aliases?) Address, Direct Telephone number and direct email address (You mean the one you just used to send me this message?) so i can tell you what you need to do and also give you more details about myself (I can’t wait to learn more about you and your Breast and Blood disease, Catherine) . Regards. catherine Jasper

It’s Alive!

So, my wife and the baby are both finally asleep. I should be sleeping, too. That’s what they tell you to do, sleep when the baby sleeps, but I have to read to her. I read to her in a whisper as not to wake her, but in hopes that the information will reach her somehow. (Sure she doesn’t even know what her fingers are for yet, and she still regularly punches herself in the eye, but I have to try).

I read the baby books that my wife and I read. The ones that say she’s supposed to sleep for 16 ½ hours a day. The ones that say she’s supposed to eat every three hours. The ones that assure us that she will eventually learn the difference between night and day. She needs to know this stuff or else the system, devised by two wonderfully analytical parents, will break down.

When we found out we were pregnant, my wife and I couldn’t have known that we would one day be inviting a 9-pound, manic/depressive, abusive milkoholic into our lives. And now we have to think only happy thoughts or she’ll blink us into the cornfield like that Twilight Zone episode starring the kid from Lost in Space. Or worse yet, she’ll poop stone ground Dijon mustard on us.

For being so immature, she’s devised a brilliant method of making us remove her diaper so she can freely loose her cannon-like bowels, unencumbered by any form of absorbent barrier.

Sometimes she’ll make a face, and my wife will say:  “Do you think she’s pooping?” Countless times she has lured us into removing her diaper right before she turned her changing pad into a monochrome Jackson Pollock. But we’re getting wise. Now we listen for that hearty sound; the sound of someone with a mouthful of cream cheese blowing it through a harmonica. That’s when we know it’s real.

I must go now; I hear her stirring and she will want to feed. Over and over again I tell her that Daddy can’t lactate, but still she sucks holes in his tee shirts seeking sweet sustenance. In that dark place, I know that she will not stop until she bends Nature to her will, and her beleaguered father weeps man-milk from his furry bosom.

-Dylan

The Magic Pool Noodle

As I write this, my wife is experiencing what’s called Pre-labor. This is the point where cramps, which sound benign and kind of cute, become contractions, which are anything but.

Even the word “contraction” is loaded with gravitas. A “contract” is a binding document; once signed, there’s no turning back. And we all know what happens when a “contract” is taken out on someone. Suffice to say that it doesn’t end well.

Right now, these contractions are just warming up. The uterus is doing some easy cardio, light circuit training, and maybe enjoying a smoothie before the main event where it will attempt to squeeze a baby out of an impossible opening like toothpaste out of a tube.

Believe it or not, some women find this to be uncomfortable, my wife included.

Thankfully, we’ve discovered the miracle cure for Pre-labor contractions. This thing:

The Magic Pool Noodle

The Magic Pool Noodle

It’s one of those flexible Styrofoam pool noodles cut to roughly 20 inches.

I first saw it when the instructor from our birthing class brought out a crate of various massage tools. Naturally, I was skeptical because “skeptical” is pretty much my default setting. But after using it on and off for 12 hours, both my wife and I agree that it’s the best $1 we’ve ever spent.

You use it like this:

The Magic Pool Noodle Doin' Its Voodoo

The Magic Pool Noodle Doin

It’s flexible for that coveted wrap-around effect, and it evenly displaces the pressure so the partner can really lean into it. I’m under no illusions that it will put so much as a dent in the active phase contractions, but for now, it’s making for a smooth start.

Comments Off

Midnight Pomegranate

My wife recently won some liquid soap at a Bridal Shower. Apparently, at Bridal Showers, the ladies play games right after the secret, ancient Fertility Rituals but before the cake. My wife won one of the games, and her prize was the soap. I asked her what the game was, and she just smiled. She knew better than to betray the Sisterhood.

But my point is the soap. It’s the color of Grape Kool-Aid and it’s called “Midnight Pomegranate.” It’s not massage oil; it’s soap. Anti-bacterial, in fact, and, in my opinion, “Midnight Pomegranate” is way too sexy for soap.

But I guess it did smell like pomegranate if someone, God alone knows why, made it into soap, and it certainly had the cleaning power of Midnight, but the name was odd to me. These two things had nothing to do with each other. Why someone brought them together for the first time as soap got me thinking, and, in the spirit of “Midnight Pomegranate,” I’d like to offer the following names for soap:

Ginseng Frost
Jasmine Underlay
Pinochle Forest
Cinnamon Contentment
Latent Vanilla
Adolescent Cranberry
Unconditional Pumpkin
First College Ex-Spearmint
Pepper Jingle
Radiant Lemon
Quality Thyme
Jesus Loves Nougat
Aching Loin Berry Blend
Brunch
Muskmelon on the Sheets
Paranormal Undertones Peach
Aroused Citrus Medley
Grumbling Sky Merlot
Cilantro Nights
Moist Chocolate Infusion
Banana Pajama
Coconut Freedom
Paisley Cherry Regards
Pineapple Exhaust
Fields of Apprehension
Hazelnut Buttocks
Summer Caress
Zesty Patriot Breeze
Quivering Lilac
Grandma’s Apple Island
Mango Steam Bath
Chai Latte Forgiveness
Awapuhi Sunrise
Uncle Cedar’s Pillow
Polite Pear Rebuke
Alternative Clothesline
Sugar Cramps 

Feel free to contact me regarding the purchase of any of these names. By the way, they also make excellent Ben and Jerry’s flavors.

-Dylan

Three Cheers for Technology

I’ll be frank. I’m writing this now because the television is out. Perhaps you, like me, remember a time when the only way your television would go out was if the actual station was hit by a meteor. Or if it was the end of the broadcast day, and, after the Star Spangled Banner, you got static because Roger’s shift was over.

But technology marches on, obliterating all of our “legacy” ways of life in a devastating swath of convenience. Sure, there’s the occasional abomination like Windows ME, but it’s all a part of the process as we approach the Technological Singularity as prophesized by Waukesha, Wisconsin’s own Vernor Vinge in a paper he wrote all the way back in 1993 (the year that Atari released the ground-breaking 64-bit gaming system called Jaguar). Read it here if you dare, and then good luck going to sleep tonight.

The Technological Singularity is also the plot of a new opera called Death and the Powers, composed by Tod Machover and developed at the MIT Media Lab. In it, the main character, powerful business man Simon Powers, upon facing death, decides to essentially upload himself.

The word awesome is thrown around a lot, but in the case of technology, it truly applies. But it does have a down side. Many American jobs were lost not to overseas outsourcing, but, in fact, were eliminated by technology.  

And, let’s face it, occasionally, technology fails. Like it did in the case of my television “provider.” And when it does, the appropriate response would probably be:  “Ah well, these things happen.” But we don’t respond like that, do we? No, generally, we drop to our knees like Willem Defoe in Platoon, and, in a dramatic, pull-away crane shot, cry to the heavens:  “Noooo!”

We fuss and fume like weaning babies, and we demand satisfaction.

To some extent, this reaction is justified. We pay a pretty penny for our technology. Once upon a time, the cost of television was represented only on your electric bill. Today, you could pay upwards of an additional $200 a month.

And even if you accept the occasional glitch, they never seem to err on our side, do they? We never accidentally receive a better picture or more features for the money. No, that would be stealing, and prosecutable to the fullest extent of the law.

When my television goes out, I’m supposed to “reboot” my receiver where “reboot” is defined as:  “Unplug it, and plug it back in again.” I’m an excellent “rebooter.” Yesterday, I “rebooted” on six separate occasions.

Much like you can’t keep someone alive by repeatedly defibrillating them, eventually, “rebooting” is bound to fail, too. And when it does, you need to find a source of technical support where “rebooting” is not the first 100 options. This usually requires a phone call.

The last time I was forced to make such a call, I was given the option of speaking to a “customer service representative” immediately by pressing “0.” Today, thanks to technology, I was thoroughly screened by a genial, baritone robot.

What followed was 20 minutes of speaking in common phrases and answering yes or no questions. My patience at an end, every answer contained a colorful expletive.

“What is your name?” he asked with concatenated politeness.

“Dylan (expletive) Bolin.”

“What is the nature of your problem?”

“No (expletive) picture.”

“Please wait while I run a few tests.”

“This is (expletive) (bovine waste-based expletive)!”

“Okay. I’ve run the tests. I’m going to need you to reboot the receiver.”

“Listen, HAL, (Aggressive expletive) you, you (adjective form of the previous expletive) (explative)! (Long-winded expletive that was technically frustrated gibberish, but actually might work as a good new expletive)!”

“Did you say you wanted to speak to an agent?”

I swear that conversation actually happened.

I don’t know if I said that I wanted to speak to an agent or not. I’m sure, in the course of spitting a 3 minute expletive, I said a lot of things, and it’s possible that something sounded a lot like “agent.”

Anyway, I was connected with Francisco. I don’t know if Francisco heard me or if there was a record of the previous conversation for him to reference, but he briskly skipped right ahead to:  “We can have a technician over tomorrow.”

So, here it sit, like an Amish farmer; an Amish Farmer with internet access.

(Expletive) yeah, baby!

-Dylan

Comments Off

Like a Good Neighbor

As you know, occasionally, I like to deconstruct television commercials. I admire how they can be both seductive and abusive. They have the power to flatter us while they berate us. They dare to illustrate what we lack, and, brother, you’re a mess.

State Farm Insurance has recently added another commercial featuring their willing, genie-like agents that wink in and out of existence at the whim of any policy holder who knows the password. It doesn’t matter what the agent is doing prior. They could be sleeping, building a bird house, scuba diving, whatever, but when a policy holder says the magic words, they must appear.

And now we’ve learned that they have the power to carry whoever they touch with them through time and space. God help you if you summon an agent when he’s, say, making love to his wife.

All you need to do to make an agent appear is say the following:  “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

Hang on. As I wrote that, I suddenly heard something in my living room. Oh my God! It worked. How are you? That must have been very disorienting for you. No, I don’t have a claim or anything; I just finished writing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” and…Wow, now there are two of you. Good Heavens, you’re bleeding! You say were donating blood? Good for you; what a great way to save a life. Let me get you a towel. Here you go; use it to apply direct pressure. So how does this work? Do I send you away again, or do you leave on your own whenever you feel like it? Wait, I wanna try something. “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary!” Gentlemen, meet Mary.

Now, while Bloody Mary is chasing them around the living room, trying to rip their faces off, let’s examine that jingle, shall we?

I won’t repeat it for obvious reasons, but the crux of it is that neighbors who are “there” are good, and since State Farm is also “there” although not a neighbor per se, by the transitive property (If A=B and B=C, then A=C), State Farm is also good. It follows that you should then purchase a policy (or several) right away lest you be unworthy of all that is good.

My issue with this assessment is that the commercial fails to accurately define “there,” which is crucial in substantiating the claim of “good.”

If by “there,” the commercial means “where my neighbor currently is,” then the neighbor’s mere proximity in a home adjacent to mine is therefore grounds for goodness, which, as those for whom Jeffery Dahmer was a neighbor will tell you, is patently false.

And does that mean that wherever the neighbor is (i.e. rifling through my garbage) it is a good place for my neighbor to be? After all, wherever my neighbor goes, “there” he is.

But perhaps the commercial defines “there” as something more esoteric. For instance:  “If you ever need to borrow a tool, talk about work, or require a kidney transplant, I’ll be ‘there.’”

In which case, the neighbor’s availability is, in fact, the source of the “good,” and not necessarily the neighbor’s location. However, clearly, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is available to you, albeit reluctantly” is not as rhetorically graceful.

Another assumption is that I like or care about my neighbor in the slightest. What if he was downright annoying? Then, his being “there” would be the furthest thing from “good,” and I doubt State Farm would want to be associated with those feelings. 

In conclusion, State Farm’s comparisons to our neighbors and their innate “goodness” by virtue of their displacement of space and time are risky propositions.

Please join me next week when I address the juxtaposition of talking babies and investing in a volatile stock market:  Hilarious or merely delightful?

-Dylan

Or Current Resident

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved getting mail. I loved it so much that I had several pen pals. Back in the mid-70’s, we were encouraged in school to write to strangers, mainly foreign children and shut-ins. Sure, I may have been writing to psychopaths, prisoners and Carter Democrats, but that never bothered me. Yes, I’d receive the occasional request for a soiled sock or a “Whip Inflation Now!” button, but I didn’t care. I was getting mail! It was very validating for a young man.

As a kid, an envelope with your name on it was almost always good news; it was a birthday card, Ranger Rick Magazine or Sea Monkeys.

As an adult, it’s almost always the opposite; a bill, junk mail or a restraining order. But at least someone took the time to put your name on an envelope and pay for postage.

Today, some of that wide-eyed, childhood altruism died when I received an envelope addressed to:  Dylan Bolin or Current Resident.

OR CURRENT RESIDENT? It seemed to me that this letter was casting a very large net. Besides, there’s a pretty big drop off from me, the intended recipient and, say, ANYONE ELSE.

It immediately identified the contents of the envelope as junk. I would be a fool to participate in any activity or purchase any product that was endorsed by this mailing. It’s like proposing to your girlfriend by saying:  “Honey, will you marry me…or, if not, do you know of literally anyone else who might? I’m good with that, too.”

I mean, would you chisel into a tombstone:  “Here Lies Edgar Beefwhistle. Or any of a number of other people who died around the same time?” No, you would not.

Now, in the past, I have been the “Current Resident.” This is actually kind of exciting. I felt like I was intercepting a Top Secret communiqué.

“Siding estimate, huh. What kind of sick bastard lived here before me?”

I wanted to follow this bit of mail further down the rabbit hole, and call the 1-800 number. Would the person on the other end be a Russian Femme Fatale? Perhaps we would arrange a meeting, and, when she found out I was “Current Resident,” she would threaten me with a tiny pistol she kept in her garter belt. Then, under the crushing weight of forbidden sexual tension, and with light, crisp dialogue, we would join forces to take down an evil international syndicate, but not before she died in my arms.

Or the operator would send a siding salesman by on Tuesday.

But I think I have a solution:  I’m going to change my name to “Current Resident.” This will effectively quadruple the amount of ego-sustaining mail that I receive. I will not fight it; I will invite it. If I am not the intended recipient, I will become the intended recipient.

This has worked very well in the past for receiving numerous credit cards when I changed my name to “John Doe, of 123 Every Street, Anytown, U.S.A.”

-Dylan

A Little Something for the Ladies

An incomplete list of potential names for a male exotic dance troupe:

Pasty Thunder
Generation Pecs
Crank Daddies
Plumber Butt
Junk Chuckers
Male Pattern Boldness
Filet Man Young
Slinging Thongs
The Loin Rangers
Rick Ribmeat and Motion Lotion
Glistening Visitor
Man Candy
Beef Whistle
Mandatory Staff Meeting
A Mouthful of Clooney
Dude Ranch
The Pool Boys
Pelvic Aggression
Cougar Bait
UPS Package Trackers
Tool Box
Firm Offer
Midlife Gyrations
3-D Steam Machine
It’s Raining Meat
Six-Packs and Marble Sacks

International

The Argyle Sweaters (Scotland)
Best of the Wurst (Germany)
Guy-kea (Scandinavia)
Running Bulls (Spain)
Cinco de Guy-o (Mexico)
Loose Nukes (Russia)
Studly Do-right (Canada)
Popular Uprising (Iran)

Comments Off