Remember When We Weren’t On All These Mailing Lists?

Is it just me, or do I end up on a mailing list with everything I buy online? They made it sound so easy to buy online. Go to the website, search for the item, compare to the prices on Amazon, read the reviews, discard the bad reviews from customers that sound like just didn’t know what they were talking about and so their review cannot be trusted, enter in your credit card information and then get your item. Piece of cake! But they never tell you about the mailing lists. 

They never tell you how you’ll spend more time deleting emails from their mailing lists than you will enjoying the product you bought. That should be the Prop 65 warning! Who cares about the unhealthy chemicals? We’re surrounded by unhealthy chemicals. I want to know how much time will be stolen from me in reading and deleting mailing list emails.

It is almost as if they think that by sending me lots of emails showing their new products, I’m going to buy something I don’t need just because there’s a pretty picture of it in my inbox. Don’t these online retailers know that they way people buy things is by deciding first what they need, then going on a calm, reasoned, methodical search for the product that will best meet that need, and at the lowest price, regardless of who the retailer is?

And why would the attractiveness of the photo matter? You ever see the way these products are set up? The photographers made less fuss over me in my fifth grade school photo (although to be frank, no one was going to be interested in the photos except my parents and grandparents and whomever else got one of the 10 precious wallet-sized pictures…and I assure you, they would not be paying a dime for the photos or even myself in flesh and blood, even if shipping was included) than over a chair and a pillow in an email.

Imagine that there were mailing lists for people? Like, everytime I got a new shirt, or a haircut, or changed up my shaving routine there was an email that went out to a mailing list, letting them know and advertising the opportunity to get more of me for a discounted price. Who would be on the mailing list? How would someone get on it?  It would have to be anyone who ever complimented me on anything, for a compliment is a way of buying my product, isn’t it?

Wait a minute…sending updates of appearances and routine and everything else in life to a list of friends of family…isn’t that what Facebook does?  Is Facebook really a big mailing list for the store that is each one of us. And it’s completly free! Except of course for the time we have to spend on it to consume each others’ products.

Which brings us back to the time spent reading and deleting the emails from the online retailers’ mailing lists (or, if you’re like me, not deleting out of care for the time that went into their preparation). 

There is always the unsubscribe button, isn’t there? Yes, assuming you can find it. Computers today have accessibility features that can enlarge 1 point font into something readable. But how do you find the word ‘Unsubscribe’ to enlarge? Like the shoal waters of the Mississippi to Mark Twain, you just have to know its there from experience. And just like every superhero has a weakness, every email from a mailing list has an unsubscribe button. You can count on it.

And now all you have to is follow the unsubscribe procedures. But that’s another story for another day.

Remember When We All Ate Peeps?

On the table in the kitchen of my office at work, there is a package of Peeps. It has been sitting there for days. It is a package of Peeps like any package of Peeps – yellow, baby chickens made out of sugar and sculpted by expert hands, colored by expert food colorizers.  The same Peeps that I remember from childhood, that I used to put in the freezer and then eat alongside my meat and potatoes.  

What happened to our love of Peeps?  Was it when they started making bunny peeps?  I think that may have had something to do with it.  A baby chick goes “peep peep” but a baby bunny goes…I don’t know how a baby bunny goes but it definitely doesn’t go “peep peep.” So perhaps the creative violation gave people a bad taste for the taste of Peeps.

More than eating them I see people making art out of Peeps. Putting the Peeps in dioramas, as if the Peeps can act out human dramas. The artwork is so good it makes me forget that you are supposed to eat Peeps.

But then I remember back to the taste of Peeps out of the freezer.  So sweet and…so cold.  And that dusty exterior like eating a frozen desert. No – the bunny Peeps, even if it was a failure – would not explain the unpopularity of Peeps.

For it wasn’t just bunnies!  There were peeps for every occasion. I remember Halloween Peeps in the shape of ghosts and coffins with “RIP” written on them. There may have been a subliminal message there. Then again, maybe not.  

No, I think the answer is a type of corporate conspiracy.  Somewhere inside the company that makes Peeps somebody decided that it would be funny to tell everyone that Peeps were bad for your teeth and your health in general, and were all around terrible things to eat, but still keep making them so we would be surrounded by creepy little chickens made of marshmallow and pure sugar. 

And at just the right moment, all of the Peeps will rise up against us, and rule over the humans, and make us manufacture miniature humans made out of sugar, and we will call them…Peeps.  Those will be the real Peeps.  Calling each other our “peeps” today is just practice for the day when we’ll make ourselves into miniature marshmallow figurines encased in dusty sugar painted yellow or whatever shade you choose, just there are different shades available for the thumbs up emoticon in text messaging. 

And people would still make art out of them, make little dioramas out of the Human Peeps – putting them in houses and yards and rock bands and dramatic revelations from soap operas. Because if you’re not going to eat them, you’ve got to do something with all these Peeps, Human or otherwise. You let them sit on the table in the kitchen at the office, just waiting for someone to get hungry enough…

…someone who didn’t eat a big enough lunch, who though that leftover matzah would be enough to get him through the day…

…someone like me.

Back to the Future, Forward to the Past

Tomorrow is October 26th, the day that Marty McFly, the star of the movie Back to the Future, goes back in time to first impair, and then save, his parents’ coupling and, thus, his own existence.

I saw the movie in a movie theater in Washington DC, our homeland’s Capital, with my family while on vacation in the summer of 1985. My family’s weak knowledge of the locale delayed our arrival at the theater until the movie had already started, and as we quietly searched for empty seats in the dark, all the clocks were ringing at Doc Brown’s home to a Marty on the morning of his tale.

From that first viewing until now, I had believed that the movie was only about a young man who travels back in time and has a wonderful adventure.

I now think the movie is about the young man seeing his parents as the heroes who give him his vigor, instead of the villains who scheme to impair it. 

Picture how Marty’s parents and family home appear at the start of the movie. Now picture the parents and home at the end. And now, pretend that instead of traveling back in time to change events, Marty travels back in time just to witness the events, and, as if in a dream, sees the events of his parents meeting as occurring differently than he has allowed himself to believe. 

And when Marty McFly wakes from his dream, he sees his parents and home as it always was. Not stopped in the past like that busted clock tower, but eternally youthful. And the only difference was in HOW he saw their courtship take place. 

A few days ago I read an article in my favorite newspaper, the New York Times. It was a lead article, right at the top of my phone, about President Biden’s plan to lower drug prices being deleted from the big spending bill as part of a compromise between the writers of our written laws. 


Is this the BEST headline to use if the author WANTS a compromise to be found in the future? When I read this, what I hear is that the proponents are painted with failure, and the opponents are painted with malice. 

Here is not what the Times wrote, but what I heard in that headline:

The proponents failed not by their ideas but by their naked ambition. The opponents succeeded not by their ideas but by their naked ambition.

That is what I hear, in my mind, and there is no proof to the contrary. 

And from my hearing, I interpret this headline to scorn both the proponents and opponents of the law to lower drug prices, and in so doing scorn the very process of compromise itself.

And then right underneath it, a sub-headline reads that this: 


Instead of reducing the tension of the first headline, this sub-headline adds to the tension. 

Why embarrassing? Why does the New York Times call not finding compromise EMBARRASSING? Why do we see our leaders as embarrassing failures, instead of as the source of all our wealth?

Should people be embarrassed when their best efforts fail? Is that what we tell our children? You should be embarrassed when you don’t succeed in the way we expected!

But our principles! says a strong voice in my mind. We can’t compromise on our principles, and to not call this embarrassing would sound like we have compromised on our principles!

True, a stronger voice answers back, but we never said anything about compromising on our principles. The only law is written law, and written law reflects no principle save one: that NO COMPROMISE plus PEACE is a superior state for all as compared to a compromise but no peace. 

The relationship can be re-stated as an equation:

(No Compromise + Peace) > (Compromise + No Peace)

The New York Times is too FINE a paper to reject the substance of this principle and formula. There is no way that the New York Times that I have come to know and love since eleventh grade English class would hold any principle higher than peace.

So why does the Times scoff at the relationship between law and peace by calling a failure to reach a compromise embarrassing? The answer is in the very same Back to the Future whose teachings we celebrate tomorrow.  

WHAT IF, instead of seeing the years of not finding compromise on drug prices as Marty’s parents at the start of the movie, we saw those years of peace between the States as Marty’s parents at the end of the movie? 

What if the headline had read instead:


Now, instead of embarrassment and failure, the focus is on COMPROMISE and subtly tells every reader to find ways to compromise in whatever policy debate they stumble into. And the facts of the article – the sum of Yeas and Nays, the text of the bill – are exactly the same as before. 

To alter just the WAY the event is reported is to alter just its character. Characterization is not hard news.

And if characterization is hard news, then my ‘A’ on the New York Times quiz in eleventh grade was unwarranted, and I kindly ask that someone travel back to 1995, and delete the mark.

The Day of Default

Well, today is the day. The day the money is supposed to run out. It won’t. Congress always steps in at the last minute to fill our nation’s coffers with sweet borrowed cash.

What if Congress forgot one year to raise the ceiling of debt that pays for all the great things that people make and do for us? 

Let us say no one has paid any attention to the matter of the debt and its ceiling, and the ceiling was reached, and no one saw it dry the flow of our cash and send a few checks bouncing like red rubber balls. What would happen? Would we resort to barter, and go to market instead of the office to exchange reports we can wear for reports we can eat?

Such happened once, upon a time, many years ago, when to touch a screen had effect no greater than a fingerprint. In fact it happened three times in the same year, as if we were trying it out, wanting to give default the old college try, lest we be accused of not considering the other side of pay your bills on time. The result was interest and embarrassment, and we veered sharply away from the practice of default and from the leadership that brooked it. 

So worry not about the ceiling. Our leaders learned the lessons of the past, and instead of ceilings would rather we look in the mirror, and see the beautiful world our debt has purchased.

Untitled Entitlements

Eleven years ago today
I posted to this blog
a post about a show
Beavis and Butthead

What a funny show
So ahead of its time
I still can’t believe
it’s off the air

Tonight I read a poem
at the Brooklyn Poets
open mic and I’m a
little nervous, and so

in rather poor exchange
for all that you have
to me given, I must offer
meager meditation:

The only problem with
entitlements is the word
It has different meanings
to different people

Are your arms entitled
to blood from your heart?
Are your lungs entitled
to breathe the air?

Are your eyes entitled
to light and shade?
Are your ears entitled
to music played?

Is your mind entitled
to feel abused?
Is your voice entitled
to rust unused?

What is the point
of discussing entitlement
when the body’s organs
are slowed from lack of blood?

Wish you not the organs breathe?
And if not, how will you
walk tall without legs
and reach far without arms?

Perhaps you intend
to build the arms and legs
out of wires and metal
and run them on electrons

If so, who is going to deliver
electrons to your doorstep
like milkmen once delivered milk?
Robots will, I suppose

And Johnny 5 shall sit at my desk
spin in my chair, eat my combos
drink my coffee, and pretend to work
while writing blogs on the internet

Remember William Shakespeare?

They didn’t have birth certificates in Elizabethan England, so no one knows for sure the date of William Shakespeare’s birthday, something that I imagine created a lot of problems whenever Shakespeare tried to pick up a prescription at CVS.  But we do know that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616.  So don’t forget to wish him a Happy Deathday on his Facebook profile.

In his honor, I thought I would re-read Hamlet and give a brief summary of the Bard’s greatest work featuring goblets and someone named Ophelia.

We are in Denmark, and Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark.  His uncle, Claudius, is the King; his mother Gertrude, the Queen.  Queen Gertrude used to be married to Hamlet’s father, when Hamlet’s father was king.  But Hamlet’s father was murdered, and Gertrude found being married to a corpse unbearable, as she could never get it to mow the lawn.  So she married her brother-in-law, and was spared the hassle of changing her last name on her driver’s license.

One evening Hamlet is approached by his father’s ghost, who tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him by pouring poison in his ear while he slept.  After that, the Danish kings appointed sleep testers.  The sleep tester would fall asleep before the king would, and if no one poured poison in his ear, the King knew it was a safe place to nap.

Hamlet’s father, the ghost, wants revenge on his brother Claudius for murdering him, seizing the throne, marrying his wife, and eating the last piece of Halloween candy.  Hamlet knows he has to avenge his father’s murder by murdering Claudius, perhaps with nose poison, but Hamlet is not in any great hurry.  Hamlet instead walks around the castle philosophizing and making poetry and not working.  This explains why Hamlet is 30 years old and still living at home.

In a later scene, Hamlet stabs what he thinks is his uncle behind a curtain, but is in fact his uncle’s counselor, Polonius, pretending to be the Wizard of Oz.  Hamlet now must flee, having just killed a human being and all.  King Claudius sends him to England, where a Dane will surely blend in when he’s not driving on the wrong side of the road.

Claudius also has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s friends, accompany him to England.  Hamlet never really liked them ever since Hamlet’s father made Hamlet invite these two wet blankets to Hamlet’s tenth birthday party.  Hamlet was forced to say, “Thank you for coming to birthday.  I hope you have a good time,” through clenched teeth, and even had to write Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a thank-you note for the colorful shirt they gave him.

In England, however, Hamlet convinces the English King that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have to be executed for always wanting to go back to the hotel instead of sight-seeing.

Hamlet returns to Denmark.  He’s hanging out with his friend Horatio, walking through a graveyard because it’s the cool thing to do, and sees two clowns digging a grave.  Hamlet speaks to one of the clowns, who tosses up a human skull.  Then another ten clowns come out of the grave.  Hamlet learns that the grave is for Ophelia, this girl he used to date before things got weird.  Hamlet talks to the skull, and pretends it is talking back to him by moving the jawbone with his hands and speaking in a high voice.  Horatio is starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but doesn’t say anything because people at odds with this Hamlet seem to have short life spans.

In the last scene of the play, Hamlet has a duel with Laertes, Polonius’s son, who is avenging his father’s death.  We don’t know if Polonius appeared to Laertes as a ghost.  Maybe he did and then Hamlet’s father the ghost got angry for having his idea stolen, and challenged the dead Polonius to a duel of ghosts.  Or maybe Hamlet’s father the ghost did not care that the ghost idea was being stolen, until his father, Hamlet’s grandfather, appeared as a ghost and told Hamlet’s father the ghost that the ghost-infringement by Polonius the ghost had to be avenged.

Hamlet and Laertes duel in front of Claudius and Gertrude, who sit at a table with goblets and food like they are at Medieval Times.  Gertrude has ordered another drink but the waitress is taking so long she decides to drink from Claudius’s goblet.  Unfortunately for her this goblet has poison instead of Diet Pepsi, and Gertrude falls dead.  As it turns out, Laertes has been fighting with a poisoned sword, and stabs Hamlet with it.  Hamlet, however, does not die right away, but is able to go on for a while, saying witty things and deciding what he wants to TiVo that night.

Hamlet, even while poisoned, somehow wrestles the poisoned sword from Laertes and stabs him with it, and, at last, stabs Claudius.  Now everyone is dead, except Horatio, who tries to stab himself but is stopped because without him there will no one left on stage to start the slow clap.  The play ends with the bodies being cleared away by the same people who clean up Times Square after New Year’s Eve, and the Norwegians enter to sell their celebrated skin care formula.