Wednesday, February 18, 2009

News from the Future

(Note: Living as I do near the Hadron Collider, I expected strange things to occur once they'd fired that thing up. And lo and behold, I have started receiving e-mail updates of news from the future, just like that show Early Edition except with a lot bigger audience. So I'm going to pass along to you my news updates from the future.)

Ford to Declare Bankruptcy

Ford Motor Company, the only automaker that is not part of the US Government Automobile Fabrication Corporation, announced today that its 2009 losses have driven it into bankruptcy and that it will likely have to lay off up to 40% of its workforce and may eventually sell all assets.

The move comes a week after GM unveiled its newest car, the Michelle, a sporty 3-seater made of 98% recycled parts. As all other models have been declared redundant, the Michelle is considered to be "the new standard" for GM and represents a conversion to all-green technology, getting 38 miles per gallon and capable of reaching highway speeds in excess of 48 miles per hour in non-headwind driving. Although the base cost is $36,000 per unit, after government rebates, dealer incentives, and buyer subsidies the cost is $1200, which after the New Car Stimulus Act of 2009 means that the consumer must only pay 1/3 of the sticker price, or $400.

Ford's truck line had already collapsed after the other member of the USGAFC, Chrysler, introduced the Kenyan, a sturdy two-seater with almost one and a half tons of pure towing power and a bed just over twenty square feet. The Kenyan gets eleven miles per gallon of 100% ethanol, whose $19.50 per gallon cost at the pump is reduced for consumers by 75% after the Renewable Fuels Subsidy Act of 2009. Though some have criticized its unique 3-axle design, its $750 price tag (after rebates and subsidies shave off some of the $62,000-per-unit cost from the factories) have had consumers lining up to purchase the unique vehicle.

In unrelated news, both companies have petitioned the government for an addition $62 billion, nine weeks after receiving an addition $78 billion from the government. The moves are necessary, say industry experts, because the stalemate in negotiations between Unions and Management are entering their fourteenth month. At issue is the desire of management to trim pensions for workers with less than ten years seniority by 1%, which according to a UAW spokesma "is tantamount to selling out future generations of workers forever."

Meanwhile sales of Ford's newest flagship automobile, the Daisy, have sagged after a promising start. The seven-seat "green" minivan has suffered from its excessive cost of $24,000 and criticism from environment groups, who say that its 45 MPG is unacceptably low for a vehicle that doesn't run on 100% ethanol blends. Also exacerbating the problem is the $4,000 penalty consumers must pay for the Daisy's excessive carbon footprint, as well as a $2,500 "sourcing fee" for buying outside of the USGAFC approved dealer network.

Ford has indefinitely postponed the release of the 2010 Hayek, which was designed to compete with the Michelle. The five-seat sedan would have been made of 99% recycled parts and in tests was capable of up to 70 MPH with an efficiency of 45 MPG, but its forecasted $18,000-per-unit cost was deemed "untenable" in the current market.

Former Vice President, Nobel Laureate, Oscar winner, and Pulitzer Prize author Al Gore said that the announcement showed that capitalism and environmentalism can work together to create a vibrant market. "Ford is paying for its decision to remain outside the USGAFC, and consumers are responding by choosing vehicles with a more environmentally sensitive production process. Once again the free market, guided by the benevolent hand of government experts, has proven to be the most efficient engine for effective social and environmental change."

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Night at the Ballet

As the great philosopher Moe Scyzlack one said, "we're all pigs, Homer. The difference is that every once in a while you pick yourself up out of the muck, clean yourself off, and show your wife that you love her."

With all due respect, Moe is an idiot.

Six months ago, Wifey informed me that one of my husbandly duties was that I was responsible for taking her out once a month without the children so that we could spend "couple time" together.

This was in the context of a discussion about my many failings as a husband. And by discussion, I mean that she spoke in a louder-than-normal tone of voice and I nodded vigorously.

Hey, I haven't been married for fifteen years on accident.

I did pretty good at it for a while. In August we went to see a movie that I loved and she hated (Cloverfield). Then in September we went to a one-night-only tractor pull, and the next month I got so drunk at Oktoberfest that I vomited down the shirt of one of the busty waitresses. Good times.

For some reason, Wifey didn't seem too upset that we didn't go out for the next three months, and I figured that meant I was off the hook.

With Valentine's Day coming up, though, Wifey decided that it would be a glorious idea to reaffirm our love and commitment. When I told her I hated Valentine's Day and that I didn't want to go anywhere, she offered to send me up Swan Lake with a Nutcracker I'd never forget.

Seeing her interest in ballet, I decided to see if there was a show in the area on Valentine's Day. And lo and behold, I found us boss tickets to Romeo and Juliet the Ballet, by Prokofiev, danced by the Moscow City Ballet.

Like I care, but she's into this kind of thing, so I figured it'd at least get her in a good humor, which is what 90% of marriage is all about.

When we went to dinner, I could see that she was really excited. She had a twinkle in her eye and a lift in her step that I hadn't seen in years. I began to get excited, thinking about the post-ballet entertainment that I had planned, and which by the Valentine's Code is required of any woman who attends an event where her spouse or significant other is forced by social protocol to wear a tie.

Hey, my tie may have read "I'm With Stupid" with an arrow pointing up, and have had a naked woman concealed on the underside, but it still counts, even if it was a clip-on.

We entered the ballet at promptly 7:50, in order to be well seated before the 8:00 curtain up. This was the first time I'd been to the ballet, and I learned three things:

1) It didn't start until 8:15

2) It takes at least 15 minutes for a ballet character to die, which is a problem in a show where half the characters are going to be murdered or commit suicide.

3) In the ballet, no one can hear you scream.

We were halfway through the thirty-minute "dance of love", where Romeo and Juliet roll around, kiss, dance on tip-toe, then repeat ad infinitum, when Wifey leans over to me and says "I have a secret."

"What? You have a secret bottle of poison stashed somewhere?" I ask.

She shakes her head. "I'll tell you later."

Then she kisses me on the cheek.

So I'm running through all the possible secrets she could have: she bought me a present, she's got polio, I have only minutes to live, she's willing to walk out at intermission, something. But I come up with nothing.

Finally, mercifully, intermission comes. Then, all too soon, it's over, and I march back into the Bataan Death Dance.

The second act starts with some sword fights, which of course culminate in Tybalt killing Mercutio, which sets off ten minutes of women in black shrouds dancing around and Mercutio staggering this way and that, never actually dying but not able to live out the rest of the ballet (although they do drag his corpse back and forth a few more times).

Just as Mercutio falls, Wifey leans over to me and whispers in my ear "I'm not wearing panties." Then she gives my earlobe a little nibble.

I now considered three courses of action:

Course #1: Do nothing.
Course #2: Jump on her like a trampoline.
Course #3: Verify whether or not this information was true before embarking upon Course #2.

You have to understand that in the entire course of our lives together, the only time Wifey has ever left the house without panties is, well, very much never. In fact, short of showering, I think she wears panties all the time. Oh, maybe not underneath the full-length circa 1860's flannel nightgown that she wears to bed. But I'd never know, since it's like +5 Plate Mail in terms of protection.

Besides, Course #1 seemed like an insult. If she's being honest, I figured she wanted me to show interest. And I was interested. Very interested.

Even in Europe, though, I'm pretty sure going at it like wild gibbons per Course #2 would get you arrested. Well, not in Amsterdam, but anywhere else it's dicey.

So I opted for Course #3.

Since I don't want this to turn into a Dear Penthouse letter, I'll just give you the broad brush stroke of what happened: I reached over under the coat on her lap and, a few opened buttons later, verified that I had received an accurate account of the state of her undergarments.

Course #2 was looking better and better all the time. In fact, I suggested it, but she rebuffed me to continue watching Juliet flail about as she tried to decide whether or not to drink the sleeping potion (total time required: 45 minutes and 22 seconds of toe-standing indecision).

In due time the ballet was finished. I think Romeo won, but I'm not quite sure, since I didn’t pay that good attention to it; I was distracted by other things. People started clapping, dancers started bowing, and I started drooling.

I jumped up from my seat, her coat in my hands so that I could help her into it like a true gentleman. My watch snagged ever so momentarily on something, but I ignored it, and I saw a shower of small white confetti bits fly out over the audience from behind us.

"Nice touch," I thought.

Wifey looked up at me in horror. I looked down at her in lust. The old lady in the row in front of us, who had turned to see what hit her in the back of her head, screamed and fainted.

There was Wifey, in all her commando glory, dress now torn open to her waist, looking for all the world like she wanted to murder me where I stood. And here I was, slobbering and shaking her coat at her and urging her to get up so we could go discuss politics and backgammon in the parking lot.

Yes, the full reality of what had happened had not yet sunk in. To be honest, I was doing most of my thinking in the southern hemisphere, where such concerns as morals and decency rarely see the light of day.

Fortunately, people swarmed to help the collapsed old lady. The house lights were brought up. I dashed into the aisle, urging Wifey to come with me, always capering a few steps in front of her and shaking her coat at her like some kind of crazed medicine man as I tried to get to the car, and paradise, as quickly as possible.

Behind me came Wifey, cursing and trying to hold her dress together and catch up to me. And behind her a group of people shouting for everyone to get out of the way, that the old lady needed to be taken out into the air, thus attracting the most attention possible to her as she tried to climb the stairs and not give everyone seated along the aisle a money shot that they'd not soon forget.

Judging from my angle, she failed miserably, and I think I saw one or two camera flashes as she came along behind me.

I was out the door quickly, an angry Wifey right behind me, now screaming curses into the night. "WOULD YOU STOP AND GIVE ME MY COAT, YOU MORON?"

I began to suspect that the night would soon take a somewhat less-than-pleasurable turn.

She didn't speak a word to me as we headed back to the parking lot, trying as she was to hold her dress closed, pull her coat down, and walk all at the same time. My Spidey-Sense was tingling, telling me that to speak was to die, so I kept my mouth shut.

The warm breezes of the Southern Hemisphere were extinguished, snuffed out by the sudden resurgence of the ice cap from Wifey.

When we reached the parking lot, it was closed with a big white gate. So we stood, and we waited. And waited. And waited. Slowly, other patrons began filing out and stood in line behind us, pointing and whispering, with the two of us standing at the center of a small circle now surrounded by gleeful onlookers, at least one of whom was kneeling and pointing a camera phone at Wifey.

"Did you have a good time?" I asked.

"Let's see," she said. "My favorite dress is ruined, I was exposed to half a theater, and I'm standing out here freezing my hoochie off waiting for the gate to open. Do you suppose I had a good time?"

"You've probably lost a little of your ardor, then," I said.

She glared at me.

"How about when we get home, I'll see if I can help you relight that pilot?"

She glared at me with death in her eyes. I knew all hope was lost, so I tried my trump card:

"Since I went through all this trouble to set up our night out, just to be fair you should still plan on having intense verbal negotiations with my silent partner when we get home."

Whereupon, to my great chagrin, she showed me the Nutcracker.

Have I mentioned how much I hate the ballet?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Letter from the US Economy

Dear US Populace,

Though in the past I have never directly addressed you, preferring to act either via unseen methods (the so-called "invisible hands") or through sweater-clad proxies, I am taking the exceptional step of speaking directly to you, the US taxpayer, during this time of our joint crisis.

I have taken this drastic measure because more and more of you are being misled by charlatans, fools, and gun-toting religious nuts who want you to believe that I will receive little or no benefit from the stimulus package that is currently passing through congress.

I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth, and I shall be stimulated more thoroughly than Ron Jeremy after swilling down a Cialis cocktail and dropping into the Playboy grotto.

Perhaps you live in a fairy-tale world where cat feces miraculously shape themselves into effigies of the Virgin Mary strangling Christ by his umbilical cord, or where bicycle paths spontaneously carve themselves in areas where they are patently infeasible and unnecessary, but here in the real world it takes tax money forcibly removed from your pocket to provide these valuable social services to the chronically unskilled and underemployed.

During your morning commute on the Interstate, where you see a large empty expanse of terrain beside the road, I see a place where an ultra-modern, high-cost light rail system could endlessly shuttle half-empty trains back and forth in an eternal procession of protected union jobs and hopelessly outdated railworker benefits packages, all taking people from a place they don't live near to another place they don't want to go.

Assuming, of course, that no tit mice or red-crested dungbombers would be disturbed by the installation of such a rail system, in which case it will have to be rerouted through a residential area.

I have read several economic "columnists" claim that there are legitimate concerns, but I can assure you that they are invalid. Even now sociology and performing-arts majors are flooding the rolls of the unemployed; don't they deserve a chance to be hired by a shoddy construction outfit owned by political cronies of the ruling party so that they, too, can have the life experience of constructing shoddy high-density housing that will crumble into disuse within the next 3 to 5 years?

To those of you who still feel that my stimulus is less important than your paltry tax dollars, which you will doubtless squander selfishly thinking only of yourselves, remember that when I am angry my wrath is terrible to behold. If you think that my boundless rage will be slaked by closing thousands of Starbucks and brutalizing the journalism industry, you are fooling yourself.

Inefficient car manufacturers are only the beginning. Unless I get my stimulation, I may turn my attention to other trillion-dollar operations that are poorly run.

Like your government.