Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dealing With It

You know what’s annoying? I mean, other than getting lemon juice squirted in your eyes by an angry waitress? People who don’t look at the camera when they’re being interviewed on TV.

I think that all started with those local “news teams”, doing their commercials. You’d be watching them, talking to some camera, from the side. As if, you were just some bystander in a room where they were being interviewed. But, in fact, they were talking to you, weren’t they? OK. I admit it. It was kinda cute when it first started out. But now it has spread like “reality shows” and the flu. Now, I’m seeing TV commercials with people talking about all kinds of stuff – looking off in some other direction.

It’s like some prodigy TV director somewhere said “Well, that’s just fine, but next time let’s film it from over there, and you pretend we’re still here. That way the viewer will think they surfed into a channel where they’re seeing something they’re not supposed to see, and that will cause us to sell more of our merchandise.”

People imitate what they see on TV. That’s got to be obvious to purt’near everybody. So now I find myself trying to do group portraits of people at various events, and inevitably, there’s some goofus staring off into space as I count to three. That lady either thinks she’s on one of those stupid TV commercials, or she doesn’t understand the significance of a photographer counting to three. Like, “What’s he counting, birds? Let’s look up and see!”

You know what else is annoying? Of course you don’t. That’s why I’m telling you. No, I’m not talking about that guy with a heavily-pierced, tattooed face and flaming orange, spiked hair, handing you your breakfast at a fast food drive-thru as you come home from the casino at 4 am with just enough money left for the dollar menu. It’s too dark to examine that food for foreign objects while you drive and, more than likely, you’d probably eat it anyway after you took that off. (Who’s gonna know?) It’s those recordings you get when you dial a phone number, thinking it’s a long-distance call and it really isn’t a long distance call. “We’re sorry. It is not necessary to dial a one or a zero when calling this number. Will you please hang up and try again?”

Well, here’s my question: If that machine is smart enough to recognize that is a local call and I don’t need to dial a one or the area code, or whatever, why doesn’t the thing just go ahead and put the call through? What’s that gonna hurt?

I’ve tried to convince myself that there are just some things put here on this Earth that serve no purpose other than making folks lives a little more miserable. Ants, meth, and Ann Coulter come to mind. And software technical support, of course. But, try as I might to just go with it, understanding that everybody else has to deal with the same crap, sometimes it just gets to me, you know?

So I put my TV way over in the corner of the room, facing right along the wall, and left my easy chair there where it was. And, sure enough, this Ann Coulter interview came on and she was looking away from the camera, but it was as if she was looking right at me. I had outsmarted the director. I called the network to tell them about it, but forgot to dial one and the area code, and a recording came on, telling me that I had to dial one, plus the area code. Then I went to the refrigerator and got that plastic lemon and squirted myself in the eye.

That’ll show ‘em.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


#5. Cats are flammable. Who knew? I told Skinnykitty to stay out of my lap when I’m working on the computer, but it’s like he doesn’t listen or something. I know it’s a bad habit, but I like to have the occasional cigarette while at my desk. (You can do that when you work from your house….for now, anyway.) He doesn’t smoke, as a rule. A little spark fell off as I reached around him to get to the keyboard, and, next thing I knew there was that same smell as when Sheila sat Terry Horn’s hair on fire in the back seat of my Mustang in front of Ray’s Corner on Main Street. Skinnykitty got a little more excited than Terry did, but I got him put out OK before he bolted out of the room.

#4. That Oprah Winfrey must have some stroke. I don’t watch daytime TV since Bo & Hope sailed off to parts unknown with a newborn baby around 1980. It just made that whole show seem somewhat unbelievable. I do keep CNN on while I’m in my office, but I don’t consider that TV. Anyway, I guess I just wasn’t aware of the power a “personality” like Oprah could wield. Snatched a for-sure Iowa victory away from Hillary and gave it to a black guy with a Muslim middle name – in IOWA, of all places. Iowa folk are different, Ms. Gump. Has anybody noticed whether or not they’re all driving new Pontiacs? Personally, I have no problem with Obama, and I’m sure he’ll get my vote if he gets the nomination. But, did I mention that he won in Iowa? Iowa? Isn’t that the same place where the Huckinator won for the bad guys? Seems odd, that’s all.

#3. Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings. But it’ll sure keep a whole bunch of obnoxious drunks awake a lot longer than anybody else wants them to be. Seems this is the new thing – mixing alcohol with energy drinks. In the old days, it was sort of rule-of-thumb that when somebody got slobbering stupid, you just kept giving them drinks until they finally passed out and quit annoying people. Now, with our wonderful advances in science, we can look forward to hours of enjoyment from these hardcore partiers with amazingly bad taste buds. Thanks, food science people. Next New Years, is there anybody with your organization I can call to drive these folks home? My upholstery can’t take it again. Is that Red Bull thing, by chance, a trend in Iowa as well?

#2. If God intended for lights and decorations to be on trees and houses, they’d come that way. It might be different for you, but I don’t put those stupid things up because I’m overwhelmed with “holiday spirit”, or because I’m just plain fascinated with colored lights. As I’ve gotten older, it takes a little more than that to retain my attention. The only reason I do it is because the kids get ticked if I’m the only one on the block who doesn’t light up. And they don’t even live here. Putting them up is bad enough, but then – unless you’re a redneck girl – you have to take them down. Then, you’ve gotta box ‘em up and carry them back up to the attic on Sunday when you should be in your office, working on art prints and writing columns, trying to keep from setting the cat on fire.

And, the number 1 thing I learned over the holiday season? Global Warming is going to kill us all. I don’t necessarily believe that, but if I have to listen to some redneck Republican mocking Al Gore every time it gets cold outside, I can sure as hell give it back when I have sweat dripping down my nose as I take down the Christmas lights, in a tee-shirt, on January 6. Whatever it is – whether it’s caused by cows passing gas, or volcanoes, or burning cats – this just ain’t right. I mean, I dig it, but it’s strange. If it would stay 70 degrees until Spring, then turn off pretty, that would be fine with me. But they say storms are coming tomorrow. That means I’ll have to shut the windows and let the cats back in.

Happy New Year, ya’ll.

© 2008 Rick Baber