Monday, March 19, 2012

It's astounding the scams that people are still falling for.

We just got a letter from the "United States Achievement Academy", letting us know that The Kid, as a result of her high grades, has been included in the national "Who's Who Among Honor Students".  And she's eligible for as much as $10,000 in scholarship money.

And if we'll just fill out the attached form, she'll be included in the national Who's Who registry.

A copy of which we can buy for only $59.95.

At which paragraph did your eyebrow go up?

This is the latest iteration of Who's Who registry scams.  For only a nominal fee (A word which here means "More than you would ever pay for a book with your name in it, ever") they'll include you in this registry, and since it's such a big honor, you'll probably want to get a copy for the grandparents, and some other relateives and...well, you get the point.  It's right up there with the local chamber of commerce who awards any local businesses with accolades, as long as they can afford to buy enough tables at the awards dinner. It's not quite the Spanish Prisoner, but it's up there.
Here's the part that amazes me the most.  We got this from The Kid's school

Now in fairness, it was mailed to the school in care for The Kid, and was passed along unopened.  So it's very possible they don't know a thing about the organization, and just passed it along as due dilligence. 

But I have to wonder how many of the exact same letters they got...and if they get a cut.

Hey, schools cost money, and a sixty-dollar book is only slightly more usurous than the fifteen-dollar bags of pasta they expect us to buy this semester.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The crusade to end women's suffrage

It's International Women's Day today.  Websites like The MarySue are using the day to commemorate great women in history, like King Peggy, the monarch of a small African village, and Sara Blakely, the lady that invented Spanx.
I am going to go with what they call "counter-programming" and talk about the single greatest prank they pulled on the short-lived Comedy central series, The Man Show.  It was in the first goddamn episode, and if you want to take that to mean that they hit their peak in that episode, I will not attempt to disavow you of that opinion.

The show's hosts, Jimmy Kimmel (who has gone on to great things) and Adam Carrolla (who...not so much) set up a booth at some tochy-feely rally or something, with a big sign reading "END WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE".

I'll save you the time - "Suffrage" is the right to vote.  As opposed to "suffering", which is having to watch all those debates in preparation for voting.

The segment consisted of DOZENS of people, mostly women, coming over and signing a petition to end the right to vote. Proudly.  And for the one or two people who knew what the word actually meant, they got a good laugh out of it.

Well, one didn't.  As Jimmy and Adam were talking to a woman with a thick accent, a finery-clad well-meaning busybody came over and explained to the lady that they were "making fun of her".  The helpful woman did not grasp the irony that she was talking to the lady as one would to a child; speaking loudly and slowly, which is how you can make English understandable to anyone on Earth, including the deaf.  I am utterly sure she spoke the same way to her maid and gardener. It was a perfect example of how most whale-savers think of the rest of us - someone to be talked down to, to be guided, because they Know Better. She did a far better job of making that woman look foolish than the guys ever could.

This prank has been re-done by many people since then - a quick youTube search will find any number of examples...tho sadly, not the original.  It's just one of a larger prank category that shows that  people will sign ANYTHING, no matter what it says, without reading or understanding it, if they think it will Help.  Odds are you've heard about the dangerous chemical Dihydrogen Monoxide?

UNDERSTAND the causes you're supporting.  That's all I'm saying. 

I'll leave you with the words of Stan Freberg, the song "A Guy Can't be too Careful About What He Signs These Days"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Like everyone else in America, I have this Really Good Idea for a TV show.

I love game shows, and I love their history.  I was one of the few people who saw Quiz Show and already knew the events in question.  And for the record, John Tuturro NAILED Herb Stempel.

So I had this idea about a show that would be about the production of a (fictional) game show.  It would be set in modern day, and I wouldn't do any "give the contestants the answers" plots, cause there's no way it'd make the air, cause the networks would never want to give the impression that could ever happen today.  But they could go on about casting, try and convince contestants they like to get new haircuts, try and find ways to pump up or get rid of contestants they like or don't, while not breaking the S&P rules of the network.  I think a fictionalized version of how they tried to get Dr. Joyce brothers off the 64,000 question by asking her progressively more impossible questions (which she answered handily) could be fun.

The show would be called "The Big Question", and would effectively be two shows - the first half would be about the production of the show, adventured with the cast and crew, etc.  The second half, which would start on the half hour, would be the "actual" game show.  Utterly fake, no one's really winning money, but real within the universe of the show

There's been any number of shows based around the production of a tv show, as far back as Dick Van Dyke, and as recently as 30 Rock.  But you'd very rarely get to actually SEE the show they made, save for the odd scene or sketch.  Here, they almost could be advertised separately.  Yeah, you'd have to add all sorts of buzzkill "This is not a real game show, nobody is really winning anything" disclaimers and all, but I'll lay odds you'd get people tuning in just for the game show.

The format of the show would flow into each other - the commercial break between the two shows would be there, but you'd get a 30-second jump back to the show in the middle, cast prepping the show to go to air, bustle in the control booth, director cueing the next commercial - all intended to KEEP YOU WATCHING during the commercial break.  The networks LOVE that shit.  They started to do it on Ugly Betty; they'd edit the first commercial with a wipe like the previous scene used, so you were several seconds into a Maybelline ad before you realized you were watching a commercial. Alton brown was doing it for his live Thanksgiving event - they'd cut back to him prepping for the next segment, so you had to keep an eye on the screen for fear of missing anything.

You'd occasionally cut to the production team talking about the show, getting a look at how they keep things going, stuff like that - check out the opening to the aforementioned Quiz Show for an idea of what I mean.  But while the first half of the show would be more about the crew, the second half would all be to drive the drama to the game show, and the contestants.

There was a drama called (IIRC) Lottery! years back that tried to do that - three people would be told they were first prize winners of the state lottery, and you'd get to know them, and when they held the bonus round at the end, you'd be rooting for one or the other to win the big jackpot.  It was closer to a revamp of The Millionaire than anything else; the lottery aspect was intended to ride the trend of state-run Lotto games that were coming back at the time, with the first few big million-dollar jackpots making the news.

Game show, especially prime-time game shows are bigger than ever.  And believe me, if the networks could gin up the drama so there was the chance of a big jackpot every week, they would.  This would be a way to have the best of both worlds - have a big-stakes drama every week, while not actually having to give the money away.

The crazy part is, by having actors that would only PRETEND to win that money, a drama ABOUT a game show would actually be MORE expensive than an actual game show.  It's one of the reasons game shows and reality television are so prevalent now - it's cheaper to pay an amateur nothing (save for some Lovely Parting Gifts) and watch them sweat over maybe winning a million dollars than to hire professionals and give real performances.

And that's pretty much why I'm sharing it here, and not trying to find an agent to shop it in Hollywood.  Now if such a show appears in a year or so, I'll have a ready-made lawsuit all set.  I'll never forget how, walking down the streets of new York, I improved the plot of a show about a master detective who can't get work, until he begins to pretend he's a psychic detective, and the money rolls in.  And nine months later, Psych shows up on USA.  Now I'm not saying there was any connection...but this time I want documentation.

But the plot for my Christmas movie? NOBODY'S getting that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Exactly WHY is it considered bad to speak ill of the dead?

I mean, I get why it's considered bad to WISH someone dead, or to be actively GLAD they're dead, but if a cockneck dies, they were still a cockneck; the only change is they're now a dead cockneck, and shall engage in no new cockneckery. That seems like it could be considered a good thing.

Directly wishing ill on someone is a karmic boomerang - my sister-in-law somehow exchanged her soul for a small rubber ball some years ago, 'cause truly anything you wish on her bounces right back. And for all their holier-than-thou protestations, there were a lot of Christians nodding their heads knowingly over Christopher Hitchens.

When Nixon died, everybody went from calling him a thief, a liar and a shorts-wearing metal-detector holder and started remembering all the GOOD things he did. If these same things had been brought up a week before, the people who did would have been called "apologists" and voted off the island. Instead, the one guy who did a negative cartoon (a gravestone reading "Here lies Richard Nixon") was treated like he'd taken a dump in the flowers.

Yeah, you don't walk up to the wife or husband and say "He was an invenerate bastard, caused abject grief for millions, and I will be dancing on his grave as soon as the grass grows in".  I get that.  You either go with the means-absolutely-nothing "I'm sorry for your loss", or you just shake their hand and nod mutely.  I'd like to stress the part about mutely.  As the saying goes, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything, or hire someone to write something nice for you to say.

I'm hearing a lot of "I didn't like what he wrote, but it's a shame he's dead" today. In some cases, I'd not be surprised if the not-spoken-aloud next sentence was "because I had so much fun writing things that ripped him apart."

But if you thought someone was a pillock on Monday, and they die on Tuesday, they don't suddenly become a saint on Wednesday. Maybe a day or two truce, OK, but don't try to spin your hatred. Getting on camera and saying "Well, he was certainly dedicated to his cause"... come on.

Time was you'd go to the funeral and bring a mirror, just to check. Is that so bad?

But I tell you, right now... Anthony Weiner is allowing himself a moment, just a moment, mind you, of smirking. Perhaps a quiet chuckle.