Happy Columbus Day!

I’m a huge advocate of celebrating holidays in the spirit in which they were intended. Here’s how I celebrate Columbus Day:

I wander over to a neighbor’s house, tell him I’m lost, give him some blankets infected with small pox, offer to buy his house with a handful of driveway gravel, and, send him out to play Three Card Monte with the neighbor kids.

-Dylan

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Farm Aid and the Entitlement Culture

The 25th Anniversary Farm Aid concert was one that I was really looking forward to. I grew up on a farm in Indiana and, before that, my parents had a small hippie farm consisting of a garden and a chicken coop.

Each morning, it was my job to collect the eggs that would be eaten for breakfast and used for the day’s baked goods. On television, collecting eggs is a pastoral activity with a smiling farmer and generous chickens. My experience was far from that.

I dreaded the chicken coop because it contained the primary antagonist of my childhood; a cranky rooster that my father called Cogburn. Later, I learned that the name had something to do with John Wayne, but the wittiness was completely lost on me.

In real life, the coop doesn’t welcome the little boy who comes and harvests the babies. In real life, the poultry fights back. Each morning, in a cacophony of clucking and crowing, the hens pecked at my hands as Cogburn raked my flesh with his talons.

It was an epic rivalry; sometimes Cogburn would win. At other times, he wouldn’t win by as much.

One day, I saw my father remove Cogburn from the coop, take him to a stained stump and cut off his head with an axe. As his severed head squawked in the dirt, his body ran blindly in my direction as if in a final act of defiance, and collapsed at my feet.

We later ate my vanquished foe, and made a wish while we snapped his clavicle. Even a human child is at the top of the food chain. As such, we can use our power for good or for evil.

Farm Aid is a cause for the former.

It is the champion of the little guy; the family farmers toiling in their modest patches of soil. Let’s just say there are no Monsanto t-shirts and booths giving away Archer Daniels Midland key chains at Farm Aid.

I, too, believe in the family farm. Which is why I was so excited to attend.

My wife surprised me when she came home from work and said that, not only would we be going, but we would be watching the concert from one of Miller Park’s Luxury Suites. Poorly versed in the ways of luxury and the suites that accommodate them, I was woefully unprepared for the company I was to keep.

The demographic was late 20’s to early 40’s, men and women. I don’t know if they were wealthy or not, but I’m pretty sure that they all got cars on their 16th birthdays. Whenever the conversation came around to what I did for a living and I said “comedian,” it was like I had just told them that I was a chimpanzee. In their faces, I saw every thing from fear to amusement to pity.

Oh well, at least we got free beer. As it flowed, the tongues loosened. After earning the trust of one man, he confided in me how the stupid liberals were bringing down the country. I played along.

“Bastards,” I said.

“Right?” he said, and hit my arm a little more enthusiastically than was comfortable. “Damn Libs and their entitlements.”

“But,” I said, “The current administration has done a lot for veterans in this country.”

He eyed me suspiciously and went to get another beer.

Farm Aid was in full swing on the other side of the plexiglass, and, inside the luxury suite, the natives were skittish; nervous that a laborer had somehow infiltrated their ranks.

After the bar had been restocked a second time (3 total), the suite had the electricity of a hot fraternity party before a fight breaks out. There were a lot of sleepy, bloodshot eyes, raspy throats and bro hugs that were more about status than affection. The women were making their spine-shattering, interminable “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’s” with greater frequency.

Tavis Smiley introduced John Mellencamp, and when they pumped their fists in the air during “Pink Houses,” they created enough irony to power an entire neighborhood of pink houses for a month.

When the beer ran out, the mood got uglier. My partner from the earlier conversation said “Hey! Where’s the beer?! What kind of luxury suite is this?” And he spit on the floor.

He. Spit. On. The. Floor.

So here he was, free $100 ticket to Farm Aid, free booze and free food, private bathroom and yet somehow he had been cheated.

I guess he was right; I guess we do live in an entitlement culture.

-Dylan

Zoosk

I need someone to explain something to me; preferably the people behind the popular Zoosk commercial.

First of all, if you’re not familiar, Zoosk is an on-line dating site. In fact, according to its website, Zoosk is the “world’s largest social dating community.” Finally, an end to anti-social dating.

But if you’ve seen the commercial, anti-social seems to be the perfect description.

Zoosk Commercial

In the main character’s fantasy, she hooks up with a hunky guy for some romance but, unfortunately, everything goes wrong. They butt heads, she kicks the candles off the dresser, his back goes out, etc.

Then, we return to reality where the main character and her friends stare, horrified, at the laptop screen. Then, with the support of her friends, she opts instead for some simpler cyber-flirting.

My question is this:  Were her friends present in her fantasy? And how did she manage to bring them with her? Was having her friends act as voyeurs a part of her fantasy? Or did Zoosk provide a video of her hypothetical, sexual exploits? And if that’s the case, is Zoosk some kind of god?

Just wondering.

-Dylan

Milwaukee Beer Week

Did you know it’s Milwaukee Beer Week? If you’re anything like me, you figured every week in Milwaukee was Beer Week, but, as it turns out, there’s a Beer Week that’s more special than the rest, and it’s happening right now. A week-long celebration that, according to the website, is designed to “enhance beer knowledge and appreciation through a series of events…”

I’m glad I heard about it. For a guy like me, missing something called Beer Week would be like not finding out about Christmas until Presidents’ Day.* I guess what I’m saying is:  I enjoy beer.

Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy scotch, fortified wine and whatever I can squeeze from the bar rag. Whatever makes the shaking stop.

But beer was my first love. I remember my first taste of beer. Sure, I was younger than I was supposed to be, but I only took a sip. It tasted terrible. Probably because the Olympia can had been serving as my Aunt Gloria’s ashtray, but I didn’t know that; I just thought that that’s what beer tasted like…and that Oly cans were where cigarette butts came from.

But, when I turned 21, I remember the rush of walking into a liquor store fully legal. I bought a six-pack of Grain Belt, took it to the counter and threw my money down. I felt like James Bond betting on Baccarat. I stared the clerk straight in the eye and psychically challenged him to card me. He didn’t. Suddenly my smugness was rendered impotent.

Nevertheless, that night, I enjoyed a six-pack, by myself, in my one-room apartment. I danced, I sang, I had magical dreams. The next morning, I woke up, threw up, and tried to quietly sneak out of my own apartment.

When I returned to the six empty beer cans and the worst poetry ever written, I saw beer in a whole new light. I had a new respect for its power. Like a shark attack victim recounting his ordeal. The beer was just being beer, and I entered its domain. To quote the Milwaukee Beer Week website:  I had a new “knowledge and appreciation through a series of events.”

Click here for the full list of events.

God bless us, everyone.

-Dylan

*To my Jewish friends, please replace the preceding sentence with this one:  “For a guy like me, missing something called Beer Week would be like not finding out about Hanukah until Tu Bishvat.”

Office Surprise

If you’re anything like me, you never drink out of the bathroom sink immediately after flushing the toilet. You know that your house isn’t plumbed that way, but still, if something went wrong, it would be very, very gross.

But that’s not what this is about.

If you’re anything like me, you have a home office (tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law). And supplying your home office can be a pricey endeavor. Take ink cartridges:  An ounce of ink can cost $20 or more. That means one gallon of ink would cost roughly $2,560. Try claiming that on your Schedule C, and the I.R.S. will bypass the audit completely, break into your house in the middle of the night and execute you Gangland style in front of your spouse and children.

May I recommend we stop invading countries with oil, and start carpet bombing the ones with large quantities of printer ink.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that you could save a few bucks by refilling the cartridges instead of buying brand new ones; that is, until recently. It seems that the manufacturers of ink cartridges have caught wind of our sordid affair, and have decided to go Fatal Attraction on us.

I learned this after taking a couple cartridges in to get refilled at a local Walgreens. When I returned to pick them up, I had the following conversation with the nice lady at the photo counter:

“They didn’t pass the print test,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the color cartridge only prints yellow and the black just exploded.” She indicated spots of black ink on the counter.

“How did that happen?” I asked.

“Some manufacturers like to make their cartridges so they can’t be refilled.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yep.”

Then, not even bothering to recycle them, she chucked them in the garbage can.

So, not only are they making their cartridges so they can’t be refilled but, in the case of my black ink cartridge, they’re rigging them to explode. It’s like putting C-4 explosive in the cupboard to discourage midnight snacking.

I just thought you might want to know. I may be putting myself at great risk by revealing this information; these are clearly very powerful people. I also plan on forwarding the link to Hewlett Packard, so if you don’t hear from me in a couple days, it’s because they’ve turned me into a “paper jam,” if you get my drift.

-Dylan

I’ve Always Wanted To Be An Actor

I’ve been in a few plays, but I wouldn’t call myself an actor. I’ve been in a few plays with actual actors, but I wouldn’t call myself a fellow actor.

Actors are kind of like the Freemasons, and, likewise, you would never call yourself a Freemason until an actual Freemason does first.

I admire actors; even the ones that aren’t very good. By virtue of simply calling yourself an actor in normal conversation (“And what do you do?” “Oh, I’m an actor”) you’ve got moxie in my book, friend. Talent aside, you’ve made a choice, and I admire that.

So you may be wondering what it’s like to share the stage with an actual actor.

Well, I guess I can dish without naming names. Top off my Merlot.

It’s true what they say about the good ones:  They exude…something.

I don’t know if it’s pheromones, or “the Force,” or lasers made of bullshit, but it’s real. A good actor is one who has spent a lifetime focusing on presence, and has consequently made theirs perfect. Even when they screw up, it’s like watching the universe give birth to a planet.

I wonder if acting is like hitting a baseball; by which I mean:  Are there basics? “Tuck your chin, explode through the hips, quick bat through the zone.”  This might be a hitter’s mantra. Before their entrance, are actors silently repeating:  “Tempo, pick up the cues, don’t act; react.”

And do they swing the heavy bat before the show? He’s Oscar in Odd Couple, but he’s warming up with a Falstaff soliloquy to get his timing down.

If he acts the hell out of a play in his wheelhouse, does he slowly take a lap around the stage to show up the other actors?

No he doesn’t. But the good ones do.

-Dylan

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If You Ever Look For Travel Deals Online

Delete your Internet history each time before you visit the site (temporary sites and cookies).

If you’ve ever visited an airline or travel site, it was probably to get a price on a particular trip. You get the price and go about your business. Maybe you decide to sleep on it before you pull the trigger.

The next day you return to the site, and, wait a second (3 seconds metric), the price is $50 more since yesterday. What happened?

The website decided to employ a little psychology.

You see, the website knew that you had returned (like walking back into a store at the mall), and it assumed that you were back to make a purchase. Then, it used the sales technique known as “catching a flying knife.”

In the stock market, “catching a falling knife” is the attempt to time a stock hitting bottom in terms of price. It’s so risky and rare that it’s like “catching a falling knife.” In sales, the salesman tries to get you to “catch a flying knife” using price and time.

If you see the price rising and hesitate making the purchase, you risk paying more. And the time of a sale also has a habit of “running out.” Creating manufactured scarcity is designed to force your hand, hopefully into making the purchase. 

But how did the website know it was you? Because when you visited the first time, it gave you “cookie.” While this may sound like a reward to you for visiting the site, in this case, it’s actually a reward for them.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Internet cookies. They’re nothing more than little computer name tags that allow the site you’re visiting to treat you like a welcomed guest, which is nice.

But they do say to a travel website:  “Psst. This person was here yesterday.” Or a week ago, or a month ago. And the sales persons use that information to their advantage.

Hey, if you’re willing to pay $1500 dollars, maybe you’re also willing to pay $1595.

So deleting your Internet “cache” is like slipping the website a Cyber-Roofie.

With Internet Explorer, find “Tools” and then “Internet Options,” and you can delete from there.

I know that there are many other browsers out there, and if you have one of those, chances are you know this stuff already.

And if you own a Mac, you apparently don’t have to worry about “cookies” because, based on what I hear from friends who own a Mac, it’s too busy doing perfect and magical things like spitting out money covered in actual unicorn glitter so all the presidents look like David Bowie, and printing documents with “full release.” Honestly.

So to the rest of you…

Happy booking!

-Dylan

After the Apocalypse

December 23rd, 2012 (Apocalypse+2)

They did it; the bastards they finally did it. First, they crippled the internet with multiple DoS attacks. The electrical grid soon followed. Then, they jammed the satellites with sonar. They divided us, and then they conquered. I don’t know how many are left. The Dolphins were merciless. God only knows how long they’d been planning their take-over.

I’m in my Safe Room. I have adequate provisions, and my chest of gold that I purchased from goldline.com. God help those who didn’t buy gold. From goldline.com.

December 25th, 2012 (Apocalypse+4)

Merry Christmas! I know I am at great risk for mentioning Christmas, having been outlawed by the Liberals (who were surely propped up by our new Dolphin Overlords), but if I don’t say “Merry Christmas,” then the Liberals and Dolphins have won.

I’m very hungry. You’d be surprised how quickly one can go through a case of Pepperoni Combos. Thank God for the foresight to purchase several gold coins from goldline.com; I am the richest man in the land. I will now venture forth from my Safe Room and purchase all that I desire.

December 26th, 2012 (Apocalypse+5)

W.T.F.!? Came across a farm with several chickens and offered to purchase the farm. The farmer was incredulous.

“What the hell do I want with a bunch of gold coins?” he said.

“From goldline.com.”

“I don’t care where they’re from. What am I supposed to do with them?”

“But…they’re coins. Gold. From goldline.com,” I said. “They’re worth so much. You have to take them.”

“What are they worth? Can’t eat ‘em. Can’t kill Dolphins with ‘em. Well, I suppose I could plug their blowholes with ‘em, but I’d be dead before I got close enough, so… I said NO! Now get off my property before I shoot you.”  

 What do I do now?

December 27th, 2012 (Apocalypse+6)

Dolphins have entered my home. I’m watching them on the closed circuit television in my Safe Room. They’re riding Segways, and have attached prosthetic hands to their flippers. I’m going to try to bribe them. If they’re as intelligent as everybody says, they won’t be able to resist gold from goldline.com.

Dolphins! I surrender! I’m unarmed! But look; I have a chest full of gold coins from goldline.com. What do you mean “Eh-eh?” It’s gold for Christ’s Sake! Hold on a second. Hey, I’m sorry. Please don’t. Why won’t I stop writing and try to escape. Nooooo!

-Dylan

The Shuffle Merge

If you live anywhere near a road in South-Eastern Wisconsin, you know that it’s been a rough construction season. In the past, when someone said:  “Wisconsin has two seasons:  Winter and Road Repair,” you probably chuckled and said:  “I hear that.” This year however, when someone says:  “Wisconsin has two seasons:  Winter and Road Repair,” you chuckle to hide your facial tic and “1000-yard Stare.”

‘Cause this year, we’ve seen some s#@t, man. It’s everywhere.

You have to wonder if it’s a joke. Like somewhere in an office downtown, a disgruntled civil engineer is drinking tequila and prank calling the D.O.T.

Just the other day, due to a closure, I took a detour that funneled traffic onto a street THAT WAS REDUCED TO ONE LANE BECAUSE OF CONSTRUCTION! At the very least, I expect a detour to be an improvement over a closure. I was there so long that I literally started to panic.

Nobody was moving. The earth movers sat empty in mockery; their day’s occupants were already with their families. Meanwhile, I wondered if I was going to have to abandon the car and walk home.

D.O.T., if your detour leads into a Kafkaesque parking lot of futility and spite, please let me take a chance on the closure. I promise to take full responsibility for my Dukes of Hazard driving maneuvers.

My point is that we all have to deal with it, and we have to deal with it together. Therefore, I’d like to share a traffic technique with you that is used in other metropolitan areas to great results. It’s called the Shuffle Merge.

The concept is simple:  Let one car merge in front of you. It’s that easy.

But it’s only effective if everybody agrees to participate; every car merging and every car in traffic. Failure by just one car (generally a blue Chevy Corsica with lots of beads hanging from the rearview mirror and the license plate “TEXTGRL”) to comply, and the system breaks down into Lord of the Flies anarchy.

If a car in bumper to bumper traffic refuses to let another car merge, they’re just screwing the people behind them. Plus the car that they didn’t let in front of them will be right behind them for a very tense 30 minutes.

If, as a merging car, you wait until the last minute, you turn a crawl into a dead stop. And every orderly Shuffle Merger that you passed on the right, butting to the front of the line, wants to see you dead.

You’ve seen semis edge into a lane that’s closing, keeping the cars behind him from speeding ahead. In doing so, they’re setting up the Shuffle Merge, which, when executed properly, is as potent as the Packer Sweep.

Remember:  L.O.C.M.I.F.O.Y. Let One Car Merge In Front Of You. And trust that the driver behind you will do the same. Pay it forward.

We can do this. We just need to make it to winter.

-Dylan

New Shirt

I never noticed this before, but whenever I buy a new shirt, like I did today from Goodwill, I go through this strange ritual. First, I gently remove the tags like vestigial umbilical cords, then I wash the shirt with my detergent and fabric softener so it has my scent, and finally, I put it on a new plastic hanger. Then, and only then, is it introduced to the other shirts in my closet.

I don’t know why I do this. Perhaps I’m trying to assimilate it into my wardrobe as opposed to just throwing it into the mix. I know how difficult it is to be the new guy on the team, and maybe it’s just my way of cushioning the transition.

It’s quite possible that I’m sensitive to a fault.

-Dylan

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