Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Mein Fuehrer, I can walk!" (Dr. Strangelove; 1964)

Upon his return from a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan, President Obama unveils the new salute he will soon make mandatory for all military personnel, and optional for “all citizens who are not our enemies.”

The president emphasized that the new tribute to forward-thinking, unilateral bi-partisanship is based upon “an Old-World European model” of the last century, and represents “a proper degree of respect toward the ideals of progressive, strong leadership” as well as “a role model for the world to admire in days to come.”

White House Chief of Protocol Otto Schieskopf has issued a public memorandum that for the salute to be properly executed, the fingers must be firmly pressed together, and the arm extended rigidly at a 45° angle.

“The precise rendering of the salutation is only mandatory for those offering tribute to our leader,” Minister Schieskopf stated. “He may return the greeting in whatever casual manner suits his temperament of the moment. He is a busy man, and cannot be distracted by details."

Monday, December 06, 2010

'Tis the season to be stupid...fa la la la la...

I learned this from a person of questionable character some years ago:

Now that we’re into the season, here’s a way to increase the take on your Christmas Club Fund, no matter how bad the economic times are…

This requires some capital investment, as most entrepreneurial enterprises do. It also requires some sales expertise, and some manual labor, especially the legwork involved with the getaway.

1. Rent a truck. A single-axle U-Haul will do; nothing too large, but big enough to hold a few dozen large boxes. Pay cash, and use a false name.

2. Find a manufacturer, and buy a couple dozen cardboard boxes of sufficient size to hold an average large-screen television. Having a brand-name electronics logo—like “Sony” or “Magnavox”—printed on the box is optional, but can’t hurt. Credibility is essential, and again, you want to pay cash for this and all other commodities.

3. Cruise around in your rented truck until you locate a deadfall of tree stumps, or a stash of tumbled boulders. The closer to the roadway the better, as you have to hump these to the truck and place them inside the cardboard boxes you purchased. Size matters; there can be no bulges or protruding edges on the boxes. The weight of the rocks or stumps should approximate that of an average large-screen TV. Go to Target or Wally World and heft a display model for a general idea of the weight range.

4. Truck down to ACE hardware or a similar purveyor and buy a box-bander; one of those torque-wrench things that tightens metal strips around a cardboard box. Use at least two strips per box, and seal all the boxes containing the stumps and rocks you have collected.

5. Go and rent the finest quality large-screen TV you can afford. Beg, borrow, steal or rent a portable generator that will supply the 120 VAC power to plug the TV in and make it work.

Conceal the generator behind the boxes you have arranged in the truck. Place the TV facing out, so that when you open the rear door of the truck, the screen is visible to anyone walking past the back of the truck. (Note: in case of reception problems with local stations, add a DVD player and a couple of recently released popular movies to your set-up rental list. Again, pay cash for everything!)

When the TV is displaying properly off the back of the truck, drive to the nearest shopping mall and pick a parking space at a strategic distance between the outermost reaches of the parking lot and the nearest entrance to the mall. Crank up the generator, turn the TV on, open the cargo door of the truck, and turn the volume up.

The human eye is attracted to: (a) motion in any environment, and (b) anything that flickers on a picture tube or LCD display. (If you don’t believe this, turn on a TV at a crowded party, and see how quickly the conversation dies as the revelers become distracted by the on-screen antics.)

When a small crowd—no more than six at a time—gathers, pick your mark and tell them how you bought a truckload of these fine TVs at cost, only to discover that your end-use purchaser was recalcitrant about the deal, so you’re stuck with these ($2000) sets for ($1000) a copy. You have to get rid of these burdens, and you’ll forgo any profit by making these fine products available for what you paid. For ($1000—I don’t know what a new TV costs, so let’s guesstimate) you’ll haul one off the truck and place it in their car. (A good salesman can not only pick his customer, but is willing to go the extra mile and hump the box to the waiting vehicle.)

Entranced by the dancing figures on the screen, and frustrated by the fervor of Christmas shopping in the adjacent mall, and the rudeness of the corporate salespeople therein, one out of the six will go for it. They hand you a thousand dollars in cash, and you, in turn, put an appropriately labeled box in the trunk of their car.

(If anyone asks, you don’t have a pair of cutters to snap the bands on the boxes and show them that they contain identical models of the display TV chirping merrily in the background. Besides, that would void the warranty if the box was opened.)

Timing is of the essence; 45-90 minutes is the max time for remaining in one location. A savvy salesman is an observant one; if you notice a mall security person talking into their blazer cuff, it’s time to shut the back door and calmly drive away. Metropolitan areas of any substance have numerous malls, and they do not communicate and share data with each other.

When the satisfied customer gets home, opens the box, and discovers that they bought a moss-covered stump or a lichen-encrusted boulder, the odds are approximately 9-to-1 that they won’t even call the police. There is pride involved here, and no one wants to admit that their avarice got the better of their common sense. Bad kidlets get a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking; dumb kidlets get a rock in a box.

I am reliably informed that this little pre-Christmas exercise will substantially increase your gift-giving capability. At worst, you break even on the capital investment, but profits are guaranteed, given human nature. I learned this scam from an individual who was convicted of federal mail fraud for something far more sophisticated than back-of-the-truck rock-in-a-box games.

I think there’s a lesson here about the true nature of Christmas, and the weakness of human nature.

I know we have more important things to think about, like tax hikes/cuts, nuclear proliferation, the inability of anyone to keep secrets any longer, the sad state of the country under the incompetent leadership of the Manchurian Candidate, and the ever-present myth of global warming. And, as always, there are lions and tigers and bears…oh, my!

But, in the spirit of whistling past the graveyard, I just wanted to digress and wish my Constant Readers a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! UPI will soon be back up to full-throttle…