The Cheeseburger Perspective

“It’s music that makes people come together. It’s like this, if we see the world in cheeseburger perspective, if the world didn’t have any music it would be like a cheeseburger without the cheese. That’s what I think.”

These were the concluding sentences in a student’s essay about the power of music. To me it sounds like the end of a Mark Base blog post.

A wandering liturgy of sorts…..

And now is when it’s supposed to happen
Open the book, and spill myself out onto the page,
Explain my hypocrisy,
Write away my rage,
Offer up my innocence, insist upon my innocence,
Try to explain my innocence,
But not in a defensive, not in a defensive way,
Just trying to be factual,
Let you know what actually happened,
What I was thinking, what I was thinking,
What was I thinking?
Oh mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy me,
Help me to be, help me to be myself,
At one with myself,
Not trying to please everybody else,
Not trying to do what’s expected, don’t want to be rejected,
But I’ve got to learn that sometimes it’s okay,
A little rejection never hurt anyone, never hurt anyone,
Never killed anyone,
It’s good, it’s good, yeah it’s good
It’s good for the soul

Shipping and Handling

My new furniture came yesterday!
From IKEA to me, hip hip hooray!
Well, actually, not right to me.
To the closest pick up place, you see,
Which is far away, or pretty far,
At least if you don’t have a car.
I could get a ride off of a friend,
But alas, it’s closed on the weekend.
It’s not a tragedy, but I’m annoyed.
This is just what I wanted to avoid.
Furniture’s here but I can’t get it.
Paid for delivery. Now I regret it.
Learn from this, folks. Having it sent,
Just way too bloody inconvenient.

WOTD: priggish

After a looooooong pause, here at last is a Word of the Day. I’ll see if I can get back into the normal routine of posting one word per day. Mostly. I took a break during summer vacation.

Anyway, today’s word was inspired by Shark’s previous post about the fallacy-ridden letter to the editor. He sent me the link to a previous letter he thought was particularly amusing. Someone writes about how offended they were after seeing a photo of a “half-naked” woman used to publicize a local stage production. Well, it turns out that the woman in the photo can hardly be described as naked or even “half-naked” since all of her offensive parts are covered up. She might be considered scantily clad, though, as she is pictured wearing shorts and a bikini top.

There were a few comments submitted by readers advising the writer of the letter to lighten up, but the following comment is by far the best:

This priggish prude should crawl back into her convent. This is 2011, for *****sake!

This brings us to our word, priggish. It’s the adjective form of the word prig, which is defined as, “a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.”

The word itself seems to have come straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Maybe that’s because it describes so many Jane Austen characters. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is the perfect example.

CUBAN MISSIVE CRISIS

Statue at Cayo Coco, Cuba

We hit the tarmac at Jardines del Rey Airport at about 8:30 pm. After the normal jostling to get off the plane, people who have sat for 3 hours now acting like they will explode if they don’t get off in 5 minutes, we began to shuffle off the Canjet bird. Making my way to the exit the wall of heat that greets me immediately fogs up my glasses, but peering over them I can see my fellow passengers doing some odd squirming dance on the way to the terminal. Many of them have indulged heartily in alcoholic beverages on the flight, despite the hefty 6 dollar price tag for something that is about two gulps. 3 bucks a gulp. But what the hell, it’s vacation time, and even a small amount of alcohol mixed with the standard blend of pre-flight tranquilizers and mix of fear and adrenaline is enough to get the juices flowing, which is why I presumed my dancing fellow passengers were just aching to get to the toilets, given as there was a queue in the double digits to get into the ones on the plane when everyone was ordered back to their seats for landing. Only a moment is needed however before the assault on my face makes it clear that they are all actually dodging the massive mosquito population. Evolution must be alive and well as these vicious bloodsuckers have learned that the big metal thing means fresh meat.
Scurrying into the terminal we are met by a wall of small individual white cubicles which we will be entering one by one. I’m flying with 12 of my family members from Canada, but I am flying as a Swedish citizen. Having dutifully paid my 585 kronor to the Cuban Consulate in Stockholm, and my trusty all-purpose EU passport in hand, I am not worried. I know everything is in order. When I’m ushered into my cubicle though the guy behind the window is not so convinced. Our conversation, one-sided on both our parts, starts off with my smashing a fat mosquito on the tip of my index finger, splattering a good deal of my blood which thankfully misses my white shirt, and my documents. Documents which I’m feeling quite superior about because everyone else has visas that they have had to handscribble themselves on the plane ride, but mine is splendidly typed by some Cuban diplomat’s flunkie back home, or perhaps the diplomat himself. I can’t imagine they have a large staff. This gentlemen however, impressively dressed in his dark military greens, clearly has no regard for the authority of the typed word and has some questions. Not for the first time during the trip I regret the fact that my command of the Spanish language is limited to “hola” and “agua”, neither of which is going to help me now. Unfortunately his command of the English language is even less than mine is of his, and I’m pretty sure there is no point in my trying Swedish. Still, I realise he is probably asking me why I have a Swedish visa when I am flying in from Toronto. He frantically tries to find a colleague who speaks English, but no one is available. In the end, my calm demeanour and slight smile, while constantly repeating “Family – Toronto – Cuba, Me – Stockholm, Sweden – Toronto – Cuba” is enough to trigger his gut reaction that I am relatively harmless. Of course he couldn’t have foreseen the barfight that was coming later in the evening, but then again, nor could I.
After we all manage to samba through the cubicles, we go through to pick up our luggage. Several uniformed security personnel wander around, apparently aimlessly, although in hindsight I realise that the women officers, who wear very short skirts, with stillettos and patterned stockings are probably meant to be a minor diversion from the airport staff who is removing all of our bags himself from the conveyor and placing them in a row. Initially I think this is perhaps meant to be a pleasant gesture, or even just practical. It turns out it is practical, for the two sniffer dogs who wander around meticulously and check each and every bag. I know my bag is okay, but I don’t know about everyone elses, and as the bags disappear the drama heightens. For some reason I figure that it’s just a matter of time and the fewer bags remaining the more chance one of them will be the one that gets nailed. I try to nudge the rest of the group of 13 towards the exit smoothly but quickly before all hell breaks loose and the place is shut down. We usher ourselves out and through the haze of mosquitoes try to spot which bus is headed to our resort. I am shielded somewhat because I make a habit of always travelling in dress shirt and jacket, but I’m sweating buckets. We find the bus and scramble on, greeted by Junior! All happy little travellers now feeling closer to their destination, we are immediately charmed by Junior’s smile and downhome Cuban style. He almost immediately offers everyone beer, which we first think is free and a lovely gesture. Even when we learn that he is actually selling it, 2 for 5 pesos though, we think it is okay. Only later do I find that the same beer is sold for 1 peso a can in the souvenir store at the resort. My first indication that opportunistic capitalism is alive and well in Cuba.
After a timeconsuming check-in process, largely just due to the number of people arriving, we make our way to our rooms. I am staying in LosCocos 1, a long walk from the main building, but I later find it is closer to the beach. A good thing. It’s still dark out, so we can’t see much of the resort yet, but we change and wander off back to the main building because we know there is life there. In fact there are three different bars there, and soon my Spanish vocabulary is expanded to include “cerveza” (beer). One learns quickly that there are certain survival techniques needed to deal with the crush of people attempting to make the most out of their all-inclusive experience. I’m no different of course and dive confidently into the fray, tip visibly shown in hand, and ordering two beers and a large dark rum each time, to limit the number of times I have to return the masses worshipping at the bar. Of all the things that may have been exagerrated sightly, the availability and freeflowing of rum is not one of them. When I ask for a dark rum the bowtie guy simply starts pouring and asks me when to stop. I know it’s bad form to fill redwine glasses more than two-thirds full, so I figure what the hell, the same rule must appy to rum as well.
After a short while observing the lifeforms on the upperlevel, I wander to the bar downstairs, Vida Loca. Music is pumping loud, and the place is packed, but I immediately spot the two small pool tables located near the front entrance and visible through the windows. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love to play, and so does the rest of my family. One of the joys of the last couple of years in Toronto was playing pool in a league with two of my sisters. These tables are almost ridiculously small, smaller even than the coin-operated tables standardly found in bars, but who cares? They’re free, and we’re just here for fun, not for serious tournaments. Both tables are occupied, but I stand around watching patiently, just waiting for someone to tire. With a cointable the accepted practice is to put a coin on the table and play the winner of the ongoing game – winner keeps possession of the table. We’re all here for a good time though, and I figure it would be poor form to do such a thing. I mean the table I am watching has two parents and their children playing. So I wait, and eventually they do tire, and hand me the cue and in only a matter of moments, an example of said poor form comes up and sets a coin on the table. I immediately point out the obvious fact that it is not a coin table, however I’m also new on the block, so I ask if that’s the custom here as well. He replies that it is, and so the two of us end up playing. He heads straight to the table to start the game and is irritated when I stop him to introduce myself and to make clear what game we are playing, and with what rules. He grudgingly says his name is Juan Carlos and when I say 8 ball he nods in affirmation. When we start to play I realise that there is actually no 8 ball on the table. It’s not a complete set of balls, and the table is even worse than I imagined while looking at it. In fact there is also only one cue per table. Oh well, it’s just for fun. He then proceeds to win rather handily though, and later in our stay I find out that he has in fact been to this same resort 6 or 7 times in the last three months, and knows the table well, including that there was no 8 ball. Hmmm. Multiple trips to the same destination within a three month period. Curious, and many possible explanations, but back to the evening in question.
After having waited a good hour to play, and then getting beaten in my first game, I wander off for a bit, enjoying the club and having fun with family, though always keeping an eye out for the tables waiting for one of them to open up again. There are many people who want to play, and after a time Juan Carlos, and his sidekick Bobby, also wander off. Soon one of the tables is open, and so I start playing 9-ball with my fourteen year old nephew Cody. We’re having a goodtime, and play a few games. At one point, while Cody is taking his shot, I turn my back for a moment to ask the people at the next table a question, seeing as I’m rum-friendly and all. When I turn around again, Juan Carlos, who is in his early forties, has taken the pool cue from my nephew! I immediately step up to the table and say Hey! We were in the middle of a game here! Before I know it, his sidekick, Bobby, who with his little black moustache bears a resemblance to Robert DeNiro in The King of Comedy, has me up against the wall, and is quickly joined by Juanie. Bobby has grabbed my shirt at the collar and has stretched out the leather band I have around my neck to its fullest, and in his best “You talking to me?” voice he keeps repeating “What game? What game? What game?” In hindsight I realise he wanted me to back down and somehow say I was mistaken and that we weren’t actually playing, but that thought doesn’t strike me, as I keep repeating “The game I was playing!” Now we all know time is relative, and so it is in this kind of situation, when everyone is fuelled with alcohol, and the lights of the club are pulsing, and the music pounding, adrenaline rushed to its peak, so I’m not sure how long it was before my brother-in-law, a Harley rider with a group called The Bastards and not shy about stepping up, had joined us. From the back of the crowded dance floor it may have looked like a foursome having a grouphug up against the wall, but it didn’t feel that way from my spot. I gather however that someone realised it wasn’t a grouphug, because in a few more minutes two security guys arrived. My family and I left the club, not wanting any trouble, and pretty dumbfounded over the first evening’s events.
Not long after our leaving Vida Loca, Juan Carlos and sidekick Bobby found my brother-in-law and I, and offered repeated apologies. I don’t know what security said to them, but as they were obviously well known there I presume they were told to somehow make nice. Bobby, who is 36, assured me that if he was sober he would never disrespect his elders in that way. Little shit. Sort of missing the point. Juan Carlos was apologing profusely as well, but I could never escape the thought, for the rest of our time there, that he was the type of guy who could smile and shake your hand with one hand while stabbing you with the other one. Nonetheless, they both spent the rest of the week being uber-polite to us, and we spent the rest of the trip wondering just what kind of illicit activity they were actually up to with their frequent visits to the resort and the fact that they clearly knew all of the staff very well. They were taking the same flight back to Toronto as we were, and on the last day Juan Carlos told me that in two weeks he would be coming back again. Hmmm.

…Alasdair Thompson

…may be the biggest shitheel in the world.  The only fitting response to this story is to fling bloody tampons at the man.

Many thanks to the BBC for sharing this with the world.

NZ sexism row: EMA boss Alasdair Thompson sacked

New Zealand women are paid about 12% less than men, recent figures showed

The head of a major New Zealand employers’ group has been fired after he caused public outrage by linking women’s productivity to menstruation.

Alasdair Thompson of the Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association made his comments on a radio show last month.

Mr Thompson said women were paid less than men because they took more sick leave and “have children they have to take time off to go home” to care for.

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Thompson’s dismissal was inevitable.

“I don’t think it’s surprising,” Mr Key told reporters. “In the end that’s a matter for EMA, but I’m not shocked by it.”

Asked if the decision took too long, Mr Key said employment matters were often complex and it was as matter for the EMA.

“But in the end this situation he got himself into didn’t look like it was sustainable.”

‘Brain explosion’

Mr Thompson’s comments were made during a NewstalkZB interview on 23 June, during a debate on recent figures that showed New Zealand women were paid about 12% less than men.

“Who takes the most sick leave? Women do, in general,” he said.

“Why? Because once a month they have sick problems. Not all of them, but some do.

“They have children that they have to take time off to go home and take leave of. Therefore it’s their productivity. It’s not their fault.”

He continued: “I’m sorry, I don’t like saying these things because it sounds like I’m sexist, but it’s the facts of life.”

Mr Thompson later apologised for his comments.

Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson described the comments at the time as a “brain explosion”.

Women’s Affairs Minister Hekia Parata said on Wednesday that people would be pleased there had been a resolution.

“I think that it’s been pretty clear from the response that the remarks made were unacceptable to a wide range of people and my own experience of talking to businesses and across the country is it was a generally felt view that they were unacceptable,” she said.

The stupid. It hurts.

Ah, Facebook. As much as I enjoy using it there are definitely times when it’s more trouble than it’s worth. ‘Tis the season, it would seem, for passive-aggressive “post this as your status” updates. A case in point:

PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

MY GENERATION GREW UP RECITING THIS EVERY MORNING IN SCHOOL WITH MY HAND ON MY HEART. THEY NO LONGER DO THAT FOR FEAR OF OFFENDING SOMEONE!

LET’S SEE HOW MANY AMERICANS WILL RE-POST THIS AND NOT CARE ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE!…

Note that it’s not grammatically correct, and it’s written in all caps, for FUCK SAKE. This was posted by one of my more embarrassing red-neck American relatives, and true to form, it sparked off a comment war. I know I should have just left it alone but I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut when someone posted, ” If people don’t like it ,they should move to a different country!!”

*sigh* How boringly predictable.

My step-father, who happens to be the older brother of the person who posted the astonishingly ignorant update, posted the following:

That is a big problem with many here in the US, people forget that we have the right not to conform, to choose, now some people think that if u don’t like something you should leave! Sounds like someone doesn’t understand the Constitution Or the bill of rights. As for the one nation under god, that was added in the 50,s during the McCarthy era, a terrible time for the country. The country was founded on freedom of religion which means also freedom from religion. So of you need to lighten up & learn the law & be a bit more accepting.

Hear hear. I added the following two cents:

Personally, I don’t think it’s right to insist that children recite a symbolic oath of allegiance every single day. Just about everyone I’ve told about this over here has been absolutely horrified. They thought the United States was supposed to be beacon of freedom, and yet its children are made to recite these words over and over like little automatons without understanding what they are saying.

It smells very strongly of totalitarianism. So does insisting that anyone who disagrees with you should leave the country. In the United States we don’t oppress or deport people who don’t share our personal beliefs. Maybe in other countries they do that but America and Americans are better than that, right?

Of course I realise that my eloquently-worded comment will fall on deaf ears, but I meant every word of it. This got me thinking about the Pledge of Allegiance in general and I did a little bit of research. My step-dad is correct in that the “under God” part was added in 1950s as part of Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist campaign. He wanted to make sure that those godless dirty red scum understood that We the People are God-Fearing Americans.

Anyway, it turns out that the original pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist. That’s right. The Pledge of Allegiance, recited millions of times by millions of American school children was written by a Socialist. Oh bless.

I wonder what those jingoistically patriotic if-you’re-not-with-us-your-against-us Americans would have to say about that…

WOTD: bureaucracy

Unfortunately, today’s word is something that has become a fact of life for most of us living in the modern world. Dictionary.com defines bureaucracy as, “government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.” Hehehe…I love how they used the word “petty” in their definition.

Additionally, bureaucracy can be associated with all large organisations and not just with government. Thus it is further defined as,  “administration characterized by excessive red tape.”

Ahh…red tape. That’s a colloquial synyonym for bureaucracy and is defined as, “excessive formality and routine required before official action can be taken.” Much of this red tape is manifested in the form of letters from large organisations such as insurance companies or banks. Since so many must be sent out daily, such letters are automatically generated and sent out by computer. At no time are these letters seen by human eyes. This must be the case, otherwise why would dead people continue to receive letter after letter despite frequent and repeated attempts to inform the sender that the recipient of their letters is in fact deceased?

The following exchange is a classic example. It’s a bit long but definitely worth reading to the very end:

My father died on Jan 02, 1995. He left no forwarding address.

Therefore, it fell to me to collect his mail. I didn’t expect much really, since my sisters and I had been careful to notify his bank, insurance agent and a host of other businesses that one of their customers was no more. You would think a death notice would cut down on the amount of correspondence from those firms. Quite the contrary. Instead — for months, mind you — my deceased father continued to receive mail from companies that had been told of his passing but pressed on, determined to contact him anyway. The first to hope for a reply from beyond the grave was my father’s bank.

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Our records indicate payment is due for overdraft protection on your checking account. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Therefore, we are automatically withdrawing your monthly $28.00 service charge from you account. Please adjust your records accordingly.

Sincerely,

The Phoenix Branch

Dear Phoenix Branch,

This is to notify you once again that Mr. Hanson died Jan 02, 1995. It is therefore unlikely he will be overdrawing his account. Please close his account, and adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Later that same week, I receive this note from Dad’s insurance company. Again, this is a firm that had been told in no uncertain terms of his death.

Dear Mr. Hanson, It’s time to renew your auto insurance policy! To continue your coverage, you must send $54.17 to this office immediately. Failure to do so will result in the cancellation of your policy, and interruption of your coverage.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent

Dear Insurance Agent, This is to remind you that Mr. Hanson has been dead since January. As such, the odds he’ll be involved in a collision are quite minimal. Please cancel the policy, and adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson.

The next day, I went to my mailbox to find this:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Let me introduce myself. I am a psychic reader, and it is very important that you contact me immediately. I sense that you are about to enter a time of unprecedented financial prosperity. Please call the enclosed 900 number immediately, so I can tell you how best to take full advantage of the opportunities that are coming your way.

Sincerely,

Your Psychic Reader

Dear Psychic Reader, My father regrets he will be unable to call you 900 number. As a psychic reader, I’m sure you already know my father is dead, and had been for more than three weeks when you mailed your letter to him. I sense my father would be more than happy to take you up on your offer of a psychic reading, should you care to meet with him personally.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

P.S. Should you be in contact with my father in the future, please ask him if he’d like to renew his car insurance.

A few months of calm passed, and then these arrived:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Our records indicate a balance of $112 has accrued for overdraft protection on your checking account. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Please pay the minimum amount due, or contact this office to make other arrangements. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving all of your future borrowing needs.

Sincerely,

Your Bank’s San Diego District Office

Dear San Diego District Office, I am writing to you for the third time now to tell you my father died in January. Since then, the number of checks he’s written has dropped dramatically. Being dead, he has no plans to use his overdraft protection or pay even the minimum amount due for a service he no longer needs. As for future borrowing needs, well, don’t hold your breath.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Dear Mr. Hanson, Records show you owe a balance of $54.17 to your insurance agent. Efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Therefore, the matter has been turned over to us for collection. Please remit the amount of $54.17 to our office or we will be forced to take legal action to collect the debt.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency

Dear Collection Agency, I told your client. Now I’m telling you. Dad’s dead. He doesn’t need insurance. He’s dead. Dead, dead, dead. I doubt even your lawyers can change that. Please adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

A few more months, and:

Dear Mr. Hanson, Our records show an unpaid balance of $224 has accrued for overdraft protection on your checking account. Our efforts to contact you have proven unsuccessful. Please remit the amount in full to this office, or the matter will be turned over to a collection agency. Such action will adversely affect your credit history.

Sincerely,

Your Bank’s Los Angeles Regional Office

Dear Los Angeles Regional Office, I am writing for the fourth time to the fourth person at the fourth address to tell your bank that my father passed away in January. Since that time, I’ve watched with a mixture of amazement and amusement as your bank continues to transact business with him. Now, you are even threatening his credit history. It should come as no surprise that you have received little response from my deceased father. It should also be small news that his credit history is of minor importance to him now. For the fourth and final time, please adjust your books accordingly.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

Dear Mr. Hanson, This is your final notice of payment due to your insurance agent. If our firm does not receive payment of $54.17, we will commence legal action on the matter. Please contact us at once.

Sincerely,

Your Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency

Dear Insurance Agent’s Collection Agency, You may contact my father via the enclosed 900 number.

Sincerely,

Scott Hanson

It has now been a couple of months since I’ve heard from these firms. Either the people writing these letters finally believe my father is Dead, or they themselves have died and are now receiving similar correspondence. Actually, there has been a lesson in these letters. Any one of them would be cause for great worry, if sent to a living person. The dead are immune from corporate bullying. There’s nothing like dying to put business correspondence in its proper perspective. Perhaps that’s the best reason not to fear death. There’s no post office there.

Until next time…