Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stooge Impersonators, Dollar Dumbasses and Not-So-Fair Bradys

Is anyone still out there. . .There. . .THERE (echo effect)? If so, thanks for sticking with me. I truly appreciate your loyalty.

Here are a few scraps from the sluice box of my mind. I would’ve written full-length posts on these topics, but for two reasons. First, I’m a lazy bastard. Second, every writer currently using the English language (or its modern facsimile) has already done so. These horses begged me not to kick them, since they had already been dead for awhile. Being an animal-lover, I agreed.

So like hungry guests gathered ‘round a fondue pot, you’ll ask, “What the hell is this shit?” Then you’ll have to make the most of these pieces and bits I’ve offered you. Sorry. It’s the painkillers.

HURRICANE KATRINA: There is nothing more I can add to the accounts of the devastating losses suffered by our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast. What more can I say about the heroic rescue and recovery effort that hasn’t been already said? May God bless and help them all. And please, friends, give whatever you can to your local Red Cross or Salvation Army.

I do have something to say, however, to certain politicians connected to this disaster. Having no desire to shame them any further, I won’t mention their names. I’ll simply identify them by their job descriptions: the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of Louisiana and the President of the United States. While I was aware of Elvis impersonators, I didn’t know that the Three Stooges had imitators, too. What an act! First, you sleep through a hurricane. Then, you take turns kicking each other in the ass for doing so. Moe, Larry and Curley couldn’t have done a better job themselves. Nyuk, nyuk, YUCK.

Spread out, you political numbskulls. Quit playing the Blame Game. You each own an equal part of this catastrophe. And Democrats in Congress, can the righteous indignation. You’re the Shemp, Joe and Curley Joe of this routine. Human life is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans alike, that red stuff on your hands is blood. Red blood spilled because of red tape. Like Lady Macbeth, you will find that it never washes off. True, you can’t undo what has been done. But instead of finger-pointing, you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

MONEY: I don’t mean to be judgmental. When I’ve got a few extra bucks to spend, I also like to have fun. Wine, women and song are just a few ways in which I blew significant parts of Ye Olde Paycheck. When I had one, that is. But I’d like to take this opportunity to note a certain phenomenon that has become difficult to ignore. A whole generation of Americans seems to think that money grows on the proverbial trees. Instead of nurturing those trees, these Americans are using and abusing them down to stumps, like that idiot kid in Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. It’s time for Uncle John to fetch these younguns out to the woodshed and give ‘em a talking to.

I’m no economic wiz, but then, you don’t have to be to figure it out. Recently, I haven’t had a paycheck. So guess what? Wine, women and song have been put on indefinite hold. The only luxury I allow myself is porn, and that’s only because the ‘rents have HBO. What money I have goes for necessities which, at this time, include medical bills, physical therapy and a boatload o’ meds. I’d rather spend it on wine, women and song, but I can’t. At least, not right now, because—here’s a term that’s passed out of the language—I can’t afford to.

Let me translate that last phrase for those of you wearing question marks on your faces. It means, “first things first.” An alternate definition: “Never spend more than you earn.” American kids used to learn these concepts in grammar school, in “educational” films they’d watch on squeaky, fuzzy-lensed projectors manned by retainer-wearing dorks from the A.V. Department. Now, these concepts seem as dated as those films. “Dick has his eye on a nifty Cub Scout knife at the hardware store. It sure would come in handy, he thinks, at the next campout! The Scout knife costs $2.00. But Dick’s in a jam. He invited Jane to the drugstore after school tomorrow for a 25-cent chocolate soda. And Dick finds that there’s only $1.50 in his piggy bank! What should Dick do?” The camera would zoom in on the puzzled face of a preteen wearing way too much Brylcreem in his hair. At this point, Miss Crabtree would have A.V. Dork stop the projector for a class discussion. “What, boys and girls, would you do if you were in Dick’s jam?” she’d ask innocently. Then, she’d send the fat kid to the principal’s office for giggling at the question.

In those days, the answer was obvious. Dick would’ve told Jane to enjoy a glass of rich, chocolatey Ovaltine at home, while he collected pop bottles to earn 50 cents for the Scout knife. To get what you wanted, you had to cut corners, work a little harder, save your money and wait patiently until you could afford it. Back then, you would’ve filed this idea under ‘d’ for “Duh!” Not anymore. The thought has become so foreign, I could have written it in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. If that “educational” film were made in 2005, Dick would charge the Scout knife and the sodas to his Discover card, maxing it out in the process. And in case you didn’t know it, yes, kids Dick’s age now have their own credit cards.

TV commercials provide proof that some of us have forgotten these concepts. There is a chain—a chain, mind you—of payroll advance stores called “Check Into Cash”. From their ads, you’d think they were giving money away, no strings attached. The actual product they’re pushing, of course, is debt. Debt is now a product advertised on American TV. Following “Check Into Cash” are ads for umpteen strip-mall lawyers who promise to dig you out of debt (lawyer's fee = more debt). These commercials are trailed by ads for car dealers who will sell you that Lincoln Navigator on a payment plan so easy, you’ll forget that you’re broke and your credit rating’s destroyed. “Worry about it,” they seem to say, “when the bill comes due. Figure it out then.” So you’re in still more debt. Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare? The tortoises have disappeared. We’ve become a race of hares. Only now, we’re running from bill-collectors.

But don’t fret younguns, Uncle John has the answer! It’s called the Dollar Dumbass Club. Anyone who’s consistently ass-deep in trouble for careless spending could join. A judge would send them to a certified Dollar Dumbass class. All D.D. classes would be taught at night at local grammar schools. D.D. teachers would be former Army drill instructors or Catholic nuns age 60 and above. Typical spendoholics are overgrown children who can’t say no to their impulses. In a Dollar Dumbass class, they would be treated and taught like children, (re)learning the money management skills most kids have absorbed by the 5th Grade. During their stint in the D.D. Club, members would be strictly limited to a court-determined monthly allowance. Access to bank accounts and credit cards would be restored following members’ successful completion of the Dollar Dumbass course. Yes, there would be a Final Exam.

When it comes to money, friends, we should remember something good ol’ Ben Franklin once said. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” We should also remember that Ben Franklin died a wealthy man.

REALITY TV: I could write a book about this horse-pucky. In the interest of space, I’ll focus on just one new show. Thank you, dear VH1, for bringing us “My Fair Brady” (Sunday, 9:00p.m. CST). Sing along, won’t you?

This is the story of the man who played Peter Brady. His acting career crapped out three decades ago. But he craved another taste of the spotlight and a young chick to bone.

This is the story of a girl named Adrienne Curry. She won “America’s Next Top Model” because she’s really, really fine. But because she’s also talent-free, she latched on to this old fart to keep her name in the headlines.

“My Fair Brady” is a train wreck waiting to happen. This flower of love first bloomed last Spring, when Adrienne Curry and Christopher Knight (Peter) hooked up on VH1’s “The Surreal Life 4”. According to “inside sources” I don’t care enough about to cite here, the 47-year old Knight initially resisted the 22-year old Curry’s bulldozer-like advances. But VH1’s producers, in the interests of true love and higher ratings, convinced him to pursue the relationship. Curry first admitted her feelings for Knight during an on-camera phone conversation. With who? Her mother, her best friend? No, with her manager and with the same passion she might muster in discussing college football stats. The only things missing were Oprah Winfrey and a couch to jump on.

In actuality, what Curry and Knight had was a vacation fling. It was like all vacation flings—short, intense and fun while it lasted. Sadly, the couple didn’t split up when “The Surreal Life 4” ended. They moved in together. And as anyone who has ever had one can tell you, trying to extend your vacation fling past your vacation is like wearing your Halloween costume all year ‘round. If you enjoy such silliness, it’s on full display here (at this writing, only episode #1 had aired). “My Fair Brady” is the chronicle of two otherwise cool-seeming people who are forced, for contractual reasons, to continue playing at a relationship that’s clearly played out. Unfortunately, the viewer will find that Curry and Knight’s undeniable frustration with each other makes for rather uncomfortable viewing.

Throughout episode #1, the stars engage each other in a desperate tug-of-war. Curry wants to marry Knight and have his children. Twice divorced and childless, Knight wishes Curry would slow down and give him breathing space by moving into her own apartment. She bitches about his hyper-neatness. He grumbles about her habitual sloppiness. “Brady Bunch” mom Florence Henderson, a licensed couples therapist (when did that happen?), drops in to visit and advise the embattled lovebirds. In a private moment, Florence tells Knight what every alert viewer already knows—that this relationship is as doomed as Jessica Simpson’s husband’s solo career. In between the soap opera histrionics, there are plenty of PG-rated sex scenes; the most memorable one features Curry dressed in a black leather dominatrix outfit. While fun, these segments fail to serve their true purpose—making the viewer forget the diminishing chemistry between Beauty and the Brady.

VH1’s producers must be sadistic. Why else would they so eagerly inflict this sorry trash on the public? They clearly intended the conflict between the two stars to serve as a cliffhanger of sorts, as if the spectacle of a disintegrating romance would keep us tuning in each week. Will Curry, who has apparently settled for marrying a celebrity instead being one herself, break down Knight’s defenses? Will Knight, who seems to feel so trapped he’s all but blinking an S.O.S. to the audience, convince Curry to back off? Will Knight finally tell Curry that she’s the only one who thinks her continuous burping is funny? Will Curry finally recognize Knight as the old horn-dog he is (in episode #1, Knight tongue-kisses singer Jane Wiedlin at a party, directly in front of Curry)? Will she at last dump him for someone her own age? After watching one episode, I didn’t care. I don’t suppose many other healthy-minded viewers will, either.

They say an audience gets the entertainment it deserves. Is this what we deserve, friends? “My Fair Brady”, like most reality shows, is a mere variation of a stale joke. You know the one. Invite someone to sit down next to you. Pull the chair out for them. Just before their ass touches the chair, pull the chair away and watch them hit the floor. Over and over and over, live on videotape. The joke has been refurbished enough to be palatable to the MTV/VH1 generations, most of whom weren’t even born when “The Brady Bunch” was on the air. But it’s still stale and it’s still a joke. A pitiful one, if you ask me.

We’ve had at least five years of this joke called reality TV. How many more times can we watch washed-up actors, has-been models, over-the-hill musicians and other glory hogs hit the floor? All that’s left is one simple question that you can only answer for yourselves. Why are we watching this shit?


Blogger Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Excellent comparison with the Stooges!

Yay for the money lecture! You're so right. Oh, and am I the fat kid who got sent to the principal office, because I too giggled? "What would you do if you were in Dick's jam?" Sorry, I'm still giggling.

Reality TV is all about shamelessness. Be glad the whole Flavor Flav/Briget nonsense is finally gone. I can still heave up my lunch when I think of that coupling.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Cardman said...

Two excellent posts! Glad the meds are in full effect. How will you possibly come up with topics so grounded in today's world without the aid of the painkillers?

Looking forward to the next installment, in the meantime, I have a doctor's appointment.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous chitty said...

Haha... I like where you are going with this. Great perspective.
Will be back soon.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Rae said...

Yes! That "My Fair Brady" is a sign of the lengths tv creators are willing to go to to get viewers. I watched an episode of that where Mrs. Brady came back to "check out" the girlfriend. What a nightmare. It saddens me really. Are these people that desperate for air time?? Thanks for the great post.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

For all three subjects: AMEN, brother.

1:10 PM  
Blogger kats said...

Great Blog. Greetings from the North West Highlands of Scotland.

Therapy is expensive, blogging is free.

:) Kats

6:38 AM  
Blogger jayne d'Arcy said...

I love the lecture on the dollar dumbasses. Because my parents and my hubby's parents taught us the value of a dollar, and working for what you want, we're the first in either of our families to own a home not co-owned with the bank.

11:31 AM  

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