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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bridge on the River Teen

I knew it was coming, but it still took me by surprise when war broke out. It being 1996 instead of 1966, I thought I could avoid the bloodshed and misery that my parents and I went through, but I was fooling myself: what is old is new, and what is new is old.

The war between the United Federation of Father and The National Liberation Front of Daughter (NLFD) started with a treaty dispute. The treaty was: curfew was 9pm on school nights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday. Since I had crafted and negotiated the treaty myself, I thought conflict could be avoided.

Of course, I blame the NLFD for starting the war, but their leader, my daughter, claimed that the wording of the treaty was unclear, ambiguous, and unfair.

When the NLFD broke the treaty, words were exchanged: sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly through my ambassador, my wife. I often responded to treaty violations with sanctions such as an earlier curfew, border closings, and travel restrictions. Since the leader of the NLFD valued her social life, sometimes a blockade was used to bring the NLFD into line.

There were many battles during the Teen War: The Car Clash, The Trip to Florida with Underage Friends Skirmish, and the final battle: the Most Expensive College I can Find Conflict.

Hostilities were greatly reduced when the leader of the NLFD left on a mission to obtain a higher education. In fact during this four year mission, the leader of the NLFD called upon my ambassador, my wife, and me for aid or assistance time and time again. Sometimes we helped with food because of some apparent famine. Other times, we acted like the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and provided funds that we knew would never be repaid. And for some reason, the NLFD didn't seem to have the technology to do laundry.
Eventually, hostilities ceased between our two countries. In fact, the United Federation of Father and The National Liberation Front of Daughter are allies now, and the NLFD was recently awarded favored nation status.

The truce came after certain milestones and understandings were reached. The Federation of Father gave advice only when the Liberation Front of Daughter asked for it. We were no longer propping up the NLFD financially. And the NFLD became truly independent in every sense of the word.

The Teen War lasted about three years. It was a time of sacrifice, hardship, and danger. At the beginning of hostilities, I was afraid the war would end badly, but we were lucky.
For those of you in the middle of a teen war, I have several suggestions. No matter what, be diplomatic and don't escalate the war. Tough love, not extreme punishment or retaliation, must be the basis of your foreign policy. It's helpful to have an effective ambassador (spouse). And remember, even the Hundred Years' War ended eventually.

(If you're a parent, you might enjoy some of the other titles I came up with for this article: A Father's War, Where Parents Dare, Teen! Teen! Teen!, All Quiet on the Teen Front, and The Longest Day).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Economic News You Can Use

Below is a collection of news stories which I hope will be helpful to you during these hard economic times.

Starting tomorrow, traffic lights in Los Angeles will be turned off every other hour and will be completely off from 7pm to 7am. City officials are hoping that this new policy will help cut the city's electricity bill by 20 percent. In the same announcement, it was revealed that street lights will be turned off at sunset.

Burger King has announced that starting next Tuesday they will only give you either the top or the bottom of the bun, not both, when you order a burger. Burger King hopes to create and publish a bun schedule within thirty days so that their customers won't be unpleasantly surprised.

In July, the city of Milwaukee will be raising sales tax by 30 percent on all items except cheese, beer, bratwurst, and football tickets. Alderman Ima Cheezhead stated, "We're not crazy, you know."

On June18, the city of Chicago will be doubling the cost of parking ticket fines. And parking tickets must be paid within 30 minutes or the fine is tripled. Payment will only be accepted in person and must be paid in sixth century Samurai tokens.

In related news, due to a budget cut, the Department of Motor Vehicles is closing all Illinois DMV offices except the one in Cairo, Illinois.

Starting at 2pm today, Countrybank will be charging you rent for keeping your money in their bank. Countrybank also said in a press release that in order to avoid creating a hardship for their customers, it will offer low interest loans which can be used to pay your bank account rent.

Financially troubled cable company Convic Communications will be raising prices in August by 50 percent and limiting the number of channels you can receive to three. The three channels will be The Classical Music Channel, The TV Guide Channel, and QVC.

Due to budget cuts, NASA's primary mission in 2010 will be to explore Las Vegas. Astronauts will spend five days and four nights at Whiskey Pete's Hotel and Casino. Keeping with tradition, the astronauts are expected to gather samples and conduct experiments. A secondary goal for this mission will be to recruit more astronauts. Requirements and qualifications for becoming an astronaut will be reduced. NASA plans on using communication satellites and the Hubble telescope to locate the best buffet prices. If the Las Vegas mission is successful, NASA plans on exploring Bangkok, Thailand, in 2011.

In an effort to reduce production costs, the TV show Survivor is changing next season's filming location from Tahiti to Detroit. Survivor: Detroit will begin filming in December. Upon arriving in Detroit, the first thing the contestants will do is record a goodbye video just in case their family and friends never see them again. It was also announced that host Jeff Probst will be replaced by Heidi and Spencer Pratt.

Some fine dining restaurants in New York City are offering three-ounce Dixie cups of wine for those who can't afford glasses of wine or bottles.

In an effort to reduce costs, airlines will replace federal sky marshals with former mall cops. Copilots will be replaced by a special Wii program and a 12-year-old. And if an airplane exit door, window, or windshield breaks, it will be replaced by some duct tape and a sheet of plastic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mental Lapse

Perhaps the most difficult human condition to understand is mental illness. Lots of movies and TV shows have tried to paint us a picture. The newest creation to try this is the TV show Mental (Fox).

British actor Chris Vance as Dr. Jack Gallagher leads the cast of Mental. You may recognize Vance from Prison Break where he played the character James Whistler. Other cast members of Mental include Derek Webster, Annabella Sciorra, and Jacqueline McKenzie.

The pilot episode follows newly hired director Dr. Jack Gallagher as he shakes up the staff at a Los Angeles hospital specializing in treating the mentally ill. Dr. Gallagher is part detective, part rebel, and all around miracle worker. Dr. Gallagher's hospital staff is extremely rigid and somewhat institutionalized themselves. The plot of this pilot focuses on Vincent: a talented patient who has gone off his meds. It's Dr. Gallagher's job to figure out why.

My first impression of this show is that it is very stiff. The characters, the patients, and the plot are as rigid as an icicle in January. And except for the first incident with Vincent, this is the most orderly, quiet, and sterile psych unit in the world. I'm thinking that the producers, the director, and the cast of this show are over medicated.

My second impression is that, intentionally or not, the producers of Mental have cloned the TV show House. You have a British actor portraying a brilliant and rebellious doctor. You have a smart, dark haired woman who is the hospital administrator and romantically linked to the good doctor. The doctor had a rough childhood. The rest of the staff is cute but clueless. Sound like House?
What makes me an authority on mental illness? I worked on a psych ward for over five years. This TV show doesn't successfully project the chaos and energy of a psychiatric unit (think ER). Most of the patients I met were extremely interesting people. And the staff I worked with was the most oddball group of people I've ever met (think M.A.S.H.). And the stories I could tell you.

Mental could get better if several things happen. The writers of this show have to develop more interesting characters and stories. The producers have to develop a show that is not a clone of the TV show House. Mental has to become edgier. The reason the TV show ER is edgy is that the show's patients are not from Beverly Hills and the ER is always understaffed.

Prognosis: Mental has a very flat affect and is nearly comatose. But with the proper care, the patient may get better and eventually may even thrive.

Treatment: 500mg of edginess (PRN). 1,000mg of originality (QID) and no bed rest.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gossip Guy


Jon and Kate Plus Eight producers are secretly having graphics made up for the show which will read: "Jon and Kate Plus Nine." This is just in case the rumor about Jon having an affair is true. If it is true, scientists are predicting that the drama index for this show, based on a scale from one to ten, will grow from a five to an eight. Rumor has it that the producers also created a second set of graphics that read: "Jon and One Equals Two."
Medium writers are upset that the script for next season's finale has been leaked to the press. According to one source, Medium’s psychic character Allison discovers that she has sleep apnea. Once she starts using a CPAP machine nightly, her psychic powers disappear. And her husband, Joe, becomes a much happier guy.
A secret Escape to Chimp Eden source tells us that all the chimps have escaped and the producers are frantically switching the focus of the show. An elderly woman in Stratford, Wisconsin, will be starring in their new show called Escape to Cat Eden .
Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment filming for the third season stopped today because of a tragic accident. The producers flew into the show's wilderness campsite to check on things and discovered that the four remaining contestants had eaten the camera crew and some of the equipment bags.
The Celebrity Apprentice producer Mark Burnett fired Donald Trump today after it was discovered that Melissa Rivers, Clint Black, and Dennis Rodman are Donald Trump's illegitimate children. If Annie Duke's DNA test proves that Donald Trump is NOT her father, she will replace Joan Rivers as the new celebrity apprentice.
Grey's Anatomy actor Katherine Heigl revealed today that producers wanted to kill every character on the show in this year's finale and start over with a new cast, but because most of the actors' contracts were still in force, the producers' lawyers wouldn't let them. In a private meeting with Entertainment Tonight , the producers said they will try again next year.
According to a source close to Survivor winner, James Thomas, after being in the wilderness for 39 days, James will be using his winnings to buy a grocery store, a liquor store, and the affection of some women in Mobile, Alabama.
Hollywood studio heads are declaring that the drought is officially over and are predicting a heavy rainfall of great summer movies this year, which may cause flooding in some small, low lying theaters.


McDonald's Corporation has announced a new value menu featuring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But be forewarned, you will be expected to bring your own peanut butter, jelly, and bread to the restaurant and then make your own sandwich. Prices will vary depending on the quality of the sandwich.
Emeril's in New Orleans announced today that they will be offering a new value menu that will be more in tune with our economic times and their customers. The new dishes featured will be very similar to the items listed on the value menu at the McDonald's located two blocks away. And in the spirit of this new value menu, the wait staff will no longer ask you what kind of water you prefer.

The Economy
Because of the recession, sales are down for most store items. However, some items are selling quite well. According to the American Institute of Important Statistics, the average American is now buying five pounds of chocolate, three cases of beer, and two adult films every three days. The institute admitted that the statistics are probably being skewed by the unemployed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Texting Pandemic

Recent studies have shown texting is out of control and may eventually have a bigger impact on the planet than global warming. An emergency phone message was left for Al Gore, but as of this writing no response has been received.

Last Tuesday, I sat down with Dr. Gutenberg at the American Institute of Scribbling to discuss the results of his new research.

We’re all familiar with how texting is causing car accidents. How else is texting affecting our society?

Dr. Gutenberg: Here is just one example - unplanned pregnancies are on the rise. Our studies show that when people are heavy texters, they sometimes forget to use birth control or may not even notice that they are engaged in intimate relations.

A real surprise was that there were even a few women who didn’t realize they were pregnant until their labor pains became so severe they had to put their cell phones down. There also have been a few cases where the babies of heavy texters were born with freckles or spots on their foreheads that formed the letters “L-O-L.”


Dr. Gutenberg: And we are now convinced that Swine Flu was probably caused by texting. We have evidence that a pig farmer was eating a sandwich near a pigpen when he suddenly thought of a new pork product: bacon Twinkies. We believe he put his sandwich down on a fence post in order to send a text message to his branding consultant. An unidentified pig then licked or took a bite out of the farmer’s sandwich. After sending his text message, the farmer continued to eat the sandwich and became infected.

What about the entertainment industry?

Dr. Gutenberg: One of our scientists observed an audience at a local theater texting instead of watching the movie. This certainly explains why the new Star Trek movie got such rave reviews. And recently, the Fox cable network has canceled the show Sit Down, Shut Up. What more can I say?

How has texting affected professional sports?

Dr. Gutenberg: We have inside information that Brett Favre, who played for the Jets last year, injured his shoulder texting, not by playing football. That explains why Brett didn’t tell his coach. We’ve heard some leagues are talking about randomly testing athletes for texting, and NASCAR is considering taking the severe step of banning all texting.

Has texting affected our economy?

Dr. Gutenberg: We poured over our satellite photos from last year and discovered that last fall’s presidential election created a tsunami of texting, which affected many of our low-lying areas. The surge from this perfect, texting storm kept people from spending, which plunged our nation into a recession. The exception to this, of course, has been cell phone sales.

Why is texting more dangerous than global warming?

Dr. Gutenberg: At a recent conference in Las Vegas, scientists from all over the world shared their findings and data. This sharing led to several discoveries.

First of all, every cell phone generates a small magnetic field. As more and more people on the planet buy cell phones, these small magnetic fields could combine and become one large magnetic field. This huge magnetic field could pull a large asteroid into a collision course with our planet and kill us all. Our last text message might read, "Oh, $***!"

How much trouble are we in?

Dr. Gutenberg: We need to make the American people and the world aware that we are in the middle of a texting pandemic. This disease -- graphic interruptus -- is spreading rapidly. We don’t know yet if it is spread through contact or is airborne. It will take years to develop a vaccine. Abstinence programs have proven to be ineffective.

What can we do to stop this pandemic of texting?

Dr. Gutenberg: New solutions will have to be established. For example, thick gloves that prevent you from pressing individual cell phone keys will be mandatory attire. Polarized glasses that prevent you from reading cell phone screens will have to be issued and worn. Some areas, like Starbucks and Wynot, Nebraska, will have to be quarantined. Most importantly, we will have to stop teaching our children to read and write.

Thank you, Dr. Gutenberg. It’s been an honor.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

No Country for Old Trekkies
Time and/or distance can make a person homesick. After watching the new Star Trek movie, I was very homesick.
I was homesick for directors who could actually direct, actors who could actually act, plots that were actually plotted, and science fiction actually based on science.
A friend of mine, a truck driver by trade, sums up the typical plot line for many modern movies:
Fight scene.
Car chase.
Fight scene.
Roll credits.
JJ Abrams’ new movie, Star Trek, doesn’t follow this pattern exactly, but pretty damn close.
Before this movie, I enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s performances but I never thought of Leonard Nimoy as a great actor. But compared to Zachary Quinto, Nimoy is a genius! I’ve liked Quinto’s performances on the TV show Heroes. But in this movie, Quinto’s voice is more like Mike Tyson than Spock.
And Chris Pine just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t expect him to imitate William Shatner’s characterization of Kirk. But Pine just didn’t project the Kirk I had hoped for: an overconfident, rascal of a star captain.
I loved Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Also, Eric Bana, who I’ve enjoyed in the past, just wasn’t menacing or evil enough to me. And what was up with Nero blaming Spock for the destruction of Nero’s home planet? Spock was supposed to stop a supernova??!!
Science fiction is the greatest transporter device of all time. Science fiction movies like Jurassic Park, Soylent Green, and Planet of the Apes (1968) have transported me to places far, far away from my home state of Wisconsin.
I expected the same take-me-away experience from Star Trek. But during this whole movie, I never left my theater seat. I was painfully aware of where I was. As a Star Trek fan, one would think I would find comfort in the old familiar faces, alien races, and conflicts, but I didn’t. Yes, the special effects were spectacular, but the rest of the time, I was bored. The time travel plot has been done to death.
Science fiction takes new technology and projects its impact and influence on our world. Every day, I see how technology is changing our world, and yet I saw little of this in this movie. Why weren’t the characters wirelessly linked to the ship’s network through some kind of implant? Why do the shuttles, which have to enter a planet’s atmosphere, still look like Kleenex boxes? Why wasn’t Uhuru sending tweets to Twitter? After all, this movie does take place on stardate 2233.
I was shocked at how bad the fight scenes were. After years of military training and bar fights, Kirk and Sulu couldn’t fight their way out of a room full of tribbles. I can’t believe Abrams has never seen any of the Bourne movie fight scenes or some of Steven Seagal’s early movie fight scenes. And why would you let your main character, Kirk, get his butt kicked in every fight scene?
It was interesting and boring that Abrams chose a very sterile Star Trek environment. Every set looked like a hospital room. The lesson to be learned from Battlestar Galactica is that space can be an incredibly dirty, smelly place, which can be much more interesting. And speaking of Battlestar Galactica, that show’s writers were the best on the planet Earth.
Out of curiosity, I watched a JJ Abrams interview on Youtube. He said that he and some guys got together in a room and just wrote the script. It really, really shows.
And the lesson to be learned here, Mr. Abrams, is: if you find drug money or a bad script in the desert, don’t even think about taking it home.