The funny disease.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Fee, Fee Everywhere a Fee

Fee, fee everywhere a fee,
Fining us to misery, crushing my knees.
Pay this! Don’t pay that! You must pay the fees.
--(To the tune of Signs, as sung by Tesla.)

I know that you, Dear Reader, cannot see my face, which is (in the larger scheme of things) a good thing for you, and cannot tell that I am entirely fed up with fees. Open any bill and the utility, cable and telecom companies have thoughtfully parsed out every little penny. Categorizing the funds they are demanding under such enlightening titles as “Federal Universal Service Fund,” and “Regulatory Surcharge.” How are we supposed to know what a “Regulatory Surcharge” is? They might as well be charging us for the care and upkeep of Jabberwockies. Every little tax, every little charge is passed on to you, the customer, in this backhanded manner. So AT&Fee can say they are can offer you phone service for the low, low price of only $25.99 a month and then not be held accountable for informing us that the final bill will be more like $35.76.

Floundering airlines are another prime offender of the backhanded fee. Airlines regularly arm and leg (it's like nickel and diming, only more so) consumers with fees such as “Passenger Facility Charges,” “Federal Segment Fees,” “September 11th Security Fee.” Northwest Air, which is facing bankruptcy at the moment, is now charging $15 for booking aisle or exit row seats. I say it’s discrimination of the vertically enhanced. Before you whip out the tiny violins and accuse me of crying into my $5 in-flight, mini-bottle of chardonnay, I’ll say that I need that extra $15 so I can afford to pay the premium on “tall” jeans. At least if one happens to be vertically challenged, their pants can be shortened.

Jeff Bernhardt of the LA Times, pondered additional fees the airlines could charge in the future, such as $15 fees for requesting a seat at least two rows away from children, $15 for using the overhead compartment and $1 for each trip to the impossibly small water closet. I say, thanks a bunch for giving them a battery of what they will surely see as good ideas, Jeff. Next thing we know airlines teetering on the bridge of fiscal insolvency will be piling those fees on, and we’ll be speculating on how much they will charge us for breathing their germ-laden recycled air.

It’s no wonder that people are unhappy with airline travel. Between the cramped seats, the mind-numbingly long delays and lack of refreshments the already grossly mismanaged companies within the air travel industry will undoubtedly fee themselves to death. Perhaps, instead of hiring overpaid consultants to come up with fees, and then punishing customers, airlines could do some internal soul-searching for things such as lost luggage. According to a report released by SITA, a company that tracks baggage information, airlines spent an estimated $2.5 billion in 2005 on mishandled luggage.

As for foiling other notorious fee-chargers, Sweetface wishes the U. S. would do things the European way. When you walk into a retail store in Germany the price on the tag is the price you pay. The taxes are already included. They don’t rear their ugly 8.75% heads at the cash register. I say Americans will never do this. They like to feel the pinch and then grumble about paying taxes. (I think it harkens back to the dissatisfaction colonists expressed at the Boston Tea Party.) But I believe the world would be a better place if we unite against excess fees and demand that companies roll the cost of doing business into the prices they charge instead of playing despicable, infuriating mind-games with consumers.

Friday Postponed Again

Due to a family emergency Cynical Sarah is on hiatus for the time being. Cursed Tongue sends good thoughts, prayers, and warm weather to Sarah P., the Cynic Herself, and hopes that she and her family are well.

In consequence, the Friday Editorial will also be on hiatus. This means I'll have time to get ahead of the game and write a few editorials in advance.

Pulling one’s own leg is difficult, but I manage.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Inflatable Rubber Dam in Tempe Sustains Sun Damage

The harsh power of the sun is difficult to comprehend for non-desert dwellers. And apparently the concept is difficult to grasp for some who do live in the desert.

Despite living in one of the hottest parts of Arizona (and I mean that in a purely climatological sense), it seems that the Tempe City Council of 1999 was unenlightened about the challenges of installing a couple of inflatable rubber dams in Tempe to create Town Lake, a colossal monument to the desert obsession with water. When the Tempe City Council hired Bridgestone to build the dams in 1999, they were told the inflatable rubber dams would last 20 years, but there is only a 10-year warranty on them.

Tires on cars and trucks do not last as long as they normally would, through our 100-degree plus summers. One would think that Bridgestone--which in addition to building inflatable dams, manufactures tires--would have been well aware of the proclivity of inflatable rubber objects to deteriorate in hot climates. In 2019 the City Council would have been composed of entirely new membership, repairs to the dam would have been Somebody Else’s Problem.

In 1999 Tempe installed two rubber dams around a flood plain, inflated them and filled the space in between them with 3,065 acre feet or 996,125,000 gallons of water, in order to give residents of Tempe more “recreational opportunities.” It took 42 days to fill Town Lake. The Western dam gets more direct sunlight than the Eastern dam and, in consequence, it is developing hairline cracks.

When I was a child, I remember having an inflatable Barbie armchair. This was a good idea, as it gave Barbie a nice place to sit and when I was done playing, I could deflate the chair and put it, and Barbie into her Section 8 Dream Condo (my Mom’s old suitcase). It was not holding back an incomprehensible amount of water. And when my little brother punctured it, I had a craft project on my hands. I wasn’t salting away $16 million in order to repair it.

To recap, inflatable Barbie furniture is a good idea. Inflatable dam under the unrelenting sun of the Sonoran Desert: notsomuch.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Bulk Savings, Bulk Mistakes

Friday Editorial at Cynical Sarah:

Bulk Savings, Bulk Mistakes


Monday, March 20, 2006

“What Happened Was...”

Friday Editorial temporarily switched to Monday at Cynical Sarah:

“What Happened Was...”

This week's Friday Editorial will, most likely, occur on Friday.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Cursed Tongue’s Guide to Dressing for TV Court Shows

It seems that the universe thinks that the Cursed Tongue is spending a little too much time watching day time TV, and is worried that I am this close to tuning into QVC, because last week I received a jury summons.

Am I pathetic for being excited about a jury summons, or what?

In preparation for said jury duty I have been viewing judge shows. (It’s still day time TV, I realize, but it’s okay since it's research.) And it seems that many litigants are confused as to how they should dress when bringing their case before the court. If a talk show host is ever in need of a makeover victim, they need only watch a judge show.

In my limited experience with the law, it seems to me that one would want to make a good impression on the judge. And court being a solemn and business-like venue, it seems more than appropriate to wear a sensible accountant-type business suit.

The first thing the judge notices about people before them is what they are wearing. But there is no end of T-shirts, sparkly-to-distraction vests, team jerseys, fringed-leather disasters, and furiously warped blind-knitter sweaters. (It’s really nice of people to keep the blind-knitter employed, but I don’t think even they would be offended if you decided not to wear their sweaters in front of millions of TV viewers. Besides, how would they know if you didn’t?)

In one episode of Judge Judy I saw a girl wearing what I swear was nylon slip. At first I thought she may have been making a fashion statement, but once she opened her mouth I knew immediately that she had simply forgotten to put on her dress. And while TV judges are intelligent enough not to let their impression of someone keep them from carrying out the law, I don’t know why anyone would want to start off on the wrong foot by wearing the hideous, painfully fashionable, brand spanking new outfit they bought especially for their appearance on national TV.

I once had a roommate who judged people by their shoes. Now, generally I frown on this kind of behavior, but I think it is stupid for someone to walk into a court situation in a tube top and neon pink vinyl mini skirt. A person like that is simply broadcasting that they are only in court for their 15 minutes, and probably did key their ex-boyfriend’s car and are certain that by wearing something flashy and inappropriate that Hollywood will discover them.

Court Show Apparel Dos and Don’ts

Do Wear:
  • A suit or khakis or a skirt with a blouse or button-down shirt
  • No more than 3 accessories
  • Wear a size that fits you
  • Something comfortable that won’t make you fidget (There’s nothing like fidgeting to make someone look guilty.)
  • Solid colors (A pattern that looks perfectly normal in real life could play tricks on the eye once it has been televised. The loyal viewers of the People’s Court might be hypnotized by the dancing stripes on a what may otherwise be a reasonable tie.)
  • A flattering color

Don’t Wear:
  • T-shirt
  • Jeans
  • Anything sleeveless
  • Pajamas
  • Anything that could be pajamas
  • Anything that could be mistaken for underwear or swimwear
  • Jewelry bigger than your fist
  • Sweats
  • Team jerseys
  • Animal prints
  • Excessive faux fur
  • Fringe
  • Neon
  • Feathers
  • Plaid
  • Anything sparkly
  • Sequins
  • Sneakers
  • Flip-flops
  • Any outfit you might regret reliving on the videocassette

As a final guard against a courtroom fashion blunder, ask yourself, “Have I seen this outfit on
Britney Spears?” If the answer is yes, do not wear the clothing in question.

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Friday Postponed

Due to technical difficulties the Friday Editorial at Cynical Sarah has been moved to an indeterminate day. In lieu of the Friday Editorial, I will be furiously scrambling to get an entertaining tidbit out to you, my adoring public.

I love you, Mom!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hound Heartbreak

There is a poor, pathetically sad dog that’s been in our neighbor’s yard all day every day for about four days. It has blankets, and a water bowl, but no grass and no toys, and the wretched thing spends most of the day barking its head off and staring through the sliding glass door into his house. Frankly, it’s been the sun-focusing magnifying glass on the ant of my current funk.

I saw a passive aggressive device in an unsolicited catalog that we received, which lets out “a sound annoying to dogs, but inaudible to the human ear.” You merely press the button on said device, while the dog is barking to teach it to be quiet. I thought it was amusing at the time. Why wouldn’t one just go talk to their neighbors? But face-to-face with this situation, it is simply too heartbreaking.

He howls bloody dog murder every time we walk into our back yard. I know he is not barking at us. He is usually facing the sliding glass door to the home in which he is apparently not welcome. Nor is he a bad dog. Indeed, I believe that the existence of a bad dog is about as probable as George Dubya admitting that invading Iraq was a bad idea.

While I believe they are abusing the dog, I don’t think there’s anything anyone would do about it. The dog appears to be fed, and looks clean enough for a dog. Why would people even get a dog, put it in a postage stamp yard and then ignore it like a misshapen furry mole the size of a quarter on cheek of a new acquaintance? It’s obvious to me that these people don’t get it.

Am I supposed to be happy that this dog has the proverbial 3 squares a day, water, blankets and a yard? That at least he isn’t in the puppy mill from whence he probably came, or wandering the streets, living off of slow birds and garbage? I’m this close to buying the neighbor’s dog a tennis ball, renaming him Barkley, telling him he’s a good dog and a handsome dog and feeding him Beggin Strips. Of course, maybe it would be better to dognap him, dye his fur and find him a good home.

Update: Those people have an air-conditioned cat! Infidels!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

WooHoo! It’s Raining…Rain…

Ok, so it sounds stupid to most of the rest of the world. But it’s been about 143 days without rain in the Phoenix Valley: a record drought. Yesterday it was knock-metal-tables-over windy and the temperature dropped and turned cold quickly. By cold I mean cold enough for a jacket, which means for me a sweater and a jacket, because now I’m a complete wuss. Last night I woke at about 3 in the morning, and there was this weird noise on the roof. And then I heard dripping, little splashing pitty-pat raindrop noises.

I had to get up and see for myself. The sky was a grungy orange color and our brand new patio was sopping wet. Of course, I had to undo the half dozen impediments that kept the door locked and slide it open so I could smell the rain. Had it been a little bit warmer, I would have gone out there in bare feet and pjs, but as it was I shut the door when my knees started to freeze.

Little did I suspect it would still be raining when I woke up for the day. And, it’s still raining now. The grass looks downright ecstatic. How do I know the grass is ecstatic? Because it looks extra green and content. Sweetface can blab all he wants about storm lighting, but I think our new lawn is happy. The fact that it’s raining at all is surprising, but the sheer amount of rain is like a godsend.

Sweetface credits the fact that he washed the car last night. Or Chandler’s 18th Annual Ostrich Festival could be to blame for the much needed rain. Attendees will undoubtedly experience the aromatic smell of wet ostrich. Personally, I think one of our good friends in the Pacific Northwest (who is obviously in good with a higher power) wished that the rain would go to Hell. And it did.

Thanks, Pacific Northwest! It was just what we always wanted.

Friday, March 10, 2006

“Spider, Spider on the Wall, Ain't You Got No Sense at All?"

Friday Editorial at Cynical Sarah

“Spider, Spider on the Wall,
Ain’t You Got No Sense at All?”


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tonya Harding: Get Over It Somewhere Else

This morning, in yet another vain attempt to get actual news from a morning news show, I tuned to Good Morning America. Charlie announced that it was the first International "Get Over It Day," and I knew immediately that he was just encouraging a bunch of lunatics who think they can invent asinine holidays to justify binge drinking.

(If you really want to make up a holiday bring an entire race the gift of smallpox or do great things for our country and die so we can at least get a day off in the deal.)

Further upsetting, he introduced Tonya Harding as the poster skater for “Get Over It Day.” It’s been twelve years since the old-fashioned knee-bashing, but frankly, I really don’t care to hear about malicious, icky people who built their celebrity by being an accessory premeditated battery. They made her out to be a victim on Good Morning America when she admitted to having advance knowledge of the infamous beating in a plea bargain.

On their website, Good Morning America quotes Harding as saying of her fans: "They look to me as a normal person who has gone through some horrible thing.” I sure hope she was talking about the pain of realizing how stupid it was to create a sex tape, because I have absolutely no sympathy, and wish she would disappear into the dark hole of anonymity—or move to Bahrain, right next door to Michael Jackson.

If I had wanted a "Good Morning" so repugnant and depressing, I’d have gone out for an Egg McMuffin.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Sexist Gore at Grills Galore: Time to Bring Back Asbestos

Yesterday we went to Grills Galore, in an attempt to find a fire resistant mat that didn’t resemble petrified vomit and would cost us less than $30 to put under our charcoal grill so we will not drip grease onto our drip-free patio. We found a fabric-like, vinyl-backed gray mat for gas grills, but Sweetface thinks it was not spark-proof. (I say, if you don’t try to set it on fire, how do you know?)

Unfortunately, they could not accommodate our wishes, as they carried only the $30 floor mats and only in Upchuck Brown. Seeing as how Sweetface had taken me to the craft store earlier in the day, I thought we should spend a little time perusing the tongs and Cajun fat injectors. The salesmen outnumbered the customers in need of assistance, so they were chewing the barbecued fat.

Sweetface was oblivious to their conversation, and was instead enthralled by the wide selection of wood chips and the mere existence of habanero pepper flakes. But I heard every word as the salesmen unabashedly discussed the lovely city of Santa Anna, Texas. Where, according to Salesman Steve, the streets are lined with hookers. Salesman Clem affirmed the existence of said open-air brothel, and the pair of them dazzled Junior Salesman Billy with tales of the allegedly unholy place. In the course of the conversation I must have heard the word hookers about 15 times. And we could have been from Texas, for all they new. Ok, I’m sure they knew we weren’t from Texas, but that’s not the point.

What piece is missing from the male brain that men think it’s okay to discuss hookers and my other favorite h-word topic of all time, hooters, in front of women they do not know, and perhaps hope to get a sales commission from? If I had a pig for every time I’ve been privileged enough to be the sole female witness to an in-depth analysis of the curves of the blond in the office across the hall, I’d be up to my three chins in bacon.

It leaves me wondering if any of my Dear Male Readers ever find themselves to be the only man in a room and feel uncomfortable because the women are discussing the contours of
Antonio Banderas.

Women discussing menses does not count. When a group of women discuss monthly bodily functions in front of a man, they are trying to get rid of him so they can talk about something much more important, like the contours of Antonio Banderas.

Today’s Cursed Tongue Life Lesson: On Curing Hiccups

Anger does not work as well as fear for curing hiccups.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chocolate Defies Odds By Reducing Risk of Death

Friday Editorial at Cynical Sarah

Chocolate Defies Odds By Reducing Risk of Death


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Teen Laughs Too Loudly at "The Pink Panther" and is Asked to Leave Theater

Last weekend it seems that, at an AMC movie theater in Florida, someone above the rank of Popcorn Monkey kicked a young man out of the theater for laughing too much.

Talking during movies absolutely irritates me to no end. I foam at the mouth when the candidate for a brain transplant behind me answers his cell phone and proceeds to have a conversation about where he is at. But annoying laughter, is another matter altogether.

Why, I myself have been known for laughing loudly and for laughing at inappropriate moments at the theater. There was X-Men, for example. Early in the movie, Rogue, the newest mutant to be folded into the protection of the a special school for mutants, runs away and Professor X uses Cerebro (a huge spherical room with a wheelchair accessible ramp in the middle) to heighten his psychic abilities so he can find her. His eye is scanned to confirm his identity, he rolls in on his wheelchair, asks everyone to leave and places a metallic device on his head. There’s dramatic music and high tech special effects visualizing the mental search of the Professor. At the end of a good two minutes worth of fanfare he emerges from the dramatically built-up, scientific-looking chamber and announces that Rogue is at the train station. Well, duh. I mean she could have been at the bus depot, I suppose, but who wants to sit next to someone who would ride the bus for hours on end?

So, a Theater Management Monkey in Florida, gets complaints about someone laughing too much during The Pink Panther, which is not only a comedy (and hopefully funny enough to be laughed at), but it is also a PG13 movie. Someone attending an R Rated movie could reasonably expect that it not be interrupted by the squalls, or pitter-patter of children. That reasonable expectation is one of mine, which is trampled to bits and spit on, almost every time I go to an R Rated movie. But no one attending a PG13 movie in the middle of the evening has a right to believe that the theater should be childfree.

The aforementioned Theater Management Monkey asks to speak with Susan Brown, the mother of the offending laugher, in the hallway. Brown and her son are in the handicap section. There is a wheelchair visible next to them. The mother protests, she can’t leave her son. The Theater Management Monkey then tells her that she and her son must leave. Brown’s son, Matt, has Angelman Syndrome, a debilitating neurological disorder that affects speech and balance. One of the characteristics of the disorder is excessive laughter.

The Theater Management Monkey must have been drunk on his own power and neglected to notice that Matt Brown was not being purposefully inconsiderate, and was severely developmentally impaired.

While I don’t believe that handing $8 to a Ticket Monkey entitles one to do anything they want during the movie, I do believe in accommodating the physically and mentally disabled, who have difficult enough lives without being ejected from a Steve Martin flick. If that means that a handful of people miss out on a few heavily accented words uttered by Steve Martin, alleged comedic genius, so be it.