Friday, February 11, 2005

Your Pal Mike Responds - Question #5

These posts are a series that started with this post. Questions are still being accepted, feel free to ask one yourself.

Question: Yes, I am in need of your help. I have a man, and I have kids, but I don't have Johnny Depp. I know he lives in France. Would it be wrong to mortgage the house, send the kids to boarding school, put my man on a cruise around the world and fly my ass abroad to hang out at the cafe near his house until he sees me and we marry? Also, I'm not all that fond of France, how can I overcome this?

Interesting conundrum Kim,

Your Pal Mike responds:

First things first, you need to get into the French way of thinking ASAP. This will help quell your distaste for France. Johnny’s never going to fall for you if you play the role of ‘Ugly American’. Lucky for you, the French lifestyle is easy to embrace.

*Here’s where to start:

  1. Yes, it’s true, don’t shower. Shaving is optional as well.

  2. As you walk down the street in your town, randomly spit on people. Make sure these people are American –depending on where you live, this might be tricky.

  3. Become hyper-sensitive about American policy. Frequently postulate about the ignorance of all Americans. Generalize, and use random nonsensical points like: They think the song ‘We are the World’ was just about them.

  4. Openly hate Bush.

*Again, these are tips for becoming French, not for becoming a Democrat.

Oh, and take up heroin, it’ll give you that sleek, urban look that Johnny finds irresistible. Don’t forget to hide the tracks!

Once in France and safely situated at the café of your choice, you’ll need that one last ingredient to reel in your fish. I’d recommend carrying a book like Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It says ‘I’m hip’ without being too blatant. You don’t actually have to read it, just open it up and place whatever issue of US Weekly you happen to be reading inside. If someone questions you as to what the book is about, slowly place it on the table while giving them a look down your nose – a small chuckle will do you well here. Ask them if they are American. Light up a Gauloises and stare off into the street. Don’t answer – this is common behavior in France.

It won’t be long until Mr. Depp notices you. Hopefully from then on you’ll make beautiful music together.

Good luck with the heroin addiction!

Your Pal Mike Responds - Question #4

These posts are a series that started with this post. Questions are still being accepted, feel free to ask one yourself.

Question: What are your recommendations for obligatory Father's Day/ Mother's Day gifts from one's children to one's ex-spouse, particularly when the ex-spouse is a supreme jerk? Generally, I have found it best to choose items that appear to be nice presents to the casual observer, but are calculated to offend or annoy the recipient. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for the question Mary in the Midwest,

Your Pal Mike responds:

Buying gifts for people you loathe can be a fun and rewarding experience. Books are the perfect gift, by all accounts they are nice to receive – but depending on your choice you can send a message that’s fun for the whole (dysfunctional) family.

How subtle you’ll need to be depends on how old the kids are, if they’re too young to read, try these:

Book 1
Book 2

These may be too blatant, or he may be a good dad and a jackass just to you. In that case, try this:

Book 3

And finally, here’s a present that will let him know exactly what you think of him (my personal favorite):


Hope one of these works out for you.

Your Pal Mike Responds - Question #3

These posts are a series that started with this post. Questions are still being accepted, feel free to ask one yourself.

Question: Here's something really boring, but I've been meaning to research it but have been too lazy to bother. So what's the deal with social security? They've been saying it's going to run out for years now so should I really be concerned (I'm 24) or is everyone simply blowing a bunch of smoke up my ass?

Tough question, Rebecca!

Your Pal Mike responds:

Whether you view Social Security as a problem or crises depends mostly on where you sit on the political fence. The word ‘crises’ is probably too strong a word, although it is a real issue that needs addressing.

First, how does the current system work? Social Security is mainly a pay-as-you-go system. Social Security taxes are taken out of your paycheck and used to pay the benefits of the current batch of retirees. Currently, there is a surplus held in the US Treasury, but by 2018, payroll taxes alone will not cover the amount of benefits required to pay out, and thus the surplus will need to be tapped. Depending on whose report you read, sometime between 2042 and 2052 this surplus will be depleted. At this point, payroll taxes alone will only cover around 75% of the obligations.

Blame the Baby Boomers and an increased life expectancy for this.

A person of the age of twenty-four (read as: you) can expect to retire around 2050, assuming the retirement age isn’t increased (it will be). Even with an increased retirement age, this would put you right smack in the middle of the reduced benefits stage of Social Security – assuming nothing is done to fix it. There are many ways to fix it, raising the retirement age is one, increasing the amount of wages that are subject to Social Security tax is another (right now only the first $90,000 is taxed by Social Security). Most likely it will be a combination of these and other options – possibly personal retirement accounts.

The US is not a trail blazer in this area. Many counties do quite well offering their citizens privatized Social Security. Chili, Great Britain, and Sweden are among the many countries that offer some type of individual retirement account.

Because of the fear-mongering that will take place over Social Security reform (read as: AARP-induced elderly foaming at the mouth – and at the voting booth) Bush’s reform plan will probably fail. From a selfish standpoint, I hope it doesn’t. Those of us willing to take the step will have a better retirement for it.

Now Medicare, that's a crisis....

Your Pal Mike Responds - Question #2

These posts are a series that started with this post. Questions are still being accepted, feel free to ask one yourself.

Question: There are lots of words in English that end in -eer, and you can tell the root pretty easily (thus establishing some idea of the meaning of the word). For example: engine/engineer; election/electioneer; puppet/puppeteer. You get the point. So anyhow, everybody knows what a pioneer is, but what the hell is a pion?

Good question Alex,

Your Pal Mike responds:

The word pioneer is derived from the French word pionnier, or in Old French peonier which means foot soldier. The root of this word – peon – comes from Medieval Latin and can be loosely translated to mean one who has broad feet.

Thus, following this path we can gather that the root of the word pioneer is peon.


Somehow I don’t think Davy Crocket would be pleased.

Your Pal Mike Responds - Question #1

These posts are a series that started with this post. Questions are still being accepted, feel free to ask one yourself.

Question: Why is life so screwed at times? When we're on top, it seems like we're never gonna fall but why when we do fall, it never seem like we'll be coming on top back again? Nothing that we do can make us say 'ahh.. I'm on the right track'. Most of the times, we'll end up saying 'darn.. I've been at this stage before and I'm falling yet again..'.

Deep question Hallaj,

Your Pal Mike responds:

I feel a metaphor coming on. Or hot air, I can never tell the difference.

*lights the incense

Imagine your life is a thread.

During youth, you are a thread in someone else’s pattern. As you reach adolescence, you begin to break free of this pattern, until you are a single thread, unencumbered by the pull of other threads. As such, you are free to move about in any manner. With this comes absolute freedom (late teens thru mid-to-late twenties). You are accountable to yourself, and only yourself. This produces wonderful highs, and disastrous lows - were you to place your thread upon the ground it would look similar to your favorite rollercoaster ride. Some people end up with the thread of their lives resembling a giant circle, doomed to repeat past mistakes in a viscous cycle.

As we age, we begin to intertwine with other threads; to build our own pattern. These interwoven threads constrict our own, preventing it from soaring uncontrollably to the highest heights, or the lowest lows. Life begins to take on the pattern of slowly rolling waves, a more consistent and fulfilling existence. Large waves may come, but they are buttressed by the weight of other threads, ensuring a quick return to the comforts of a life that is more predictable and rewarding.

Or, in a nutshell, buck up camper.

It gets better. Just make sure when you’re weaving the pattern of your life, you choose threading that compliments your own. Flimsy thread won’t provide you the support for those out-of-control moments, and thread that’s too firm won’t give you the freedom to live.

Choose wisely.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ask Your Pal Mike

Ok, here it is.

You (yes you) leave me a question. Any question at all, mind you. And I’ll dedicate an entire post to answering it. I’ll be like Ann Landers, except I’m still alive, which makes me only a little more qualified to do this.

Be clever, be inane, be sarcastic – I’m not smart enough to tell the difference. The good thing is, I don’t have to worry about the answer being ‘correct’, because neither are you!

That said, I’ll certainly *’give it my all’ to produce quality results for you and your query.

Some examples:

  • How do I seduce an overweight person?

  • A boy in my freshman Ethics class wants to “Mushroom Stamp” me. What does this mean?

  • What’s this whole Iraq thing all about?

  • I’m serving a Spam casserole for dinner, which flavor of Mad Dog 20/20 do you recommend as an accompaniment?

Be creative. If you know anyone in your life that’s struggling with a tough, life-altering choice, send them here. The best part about it is – if I’m wrong – they’ve got a built-in excuse for the disaster that ensues.

Ask away.

*To include – but not limited to – at least five minutes of serious googling.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Whopper - A Marketing Story

I remember once, as a 10th grader, descending upon Burger King with a growl in my stomach and a gleam in my eye. I had recently been exposed to their clever marketing campaign to ‘have it your way’ a compelling slogan that was accompanied by several images of flame-broiled Whoppers custom designed by the attractive customers/actors in the spot.

Talk about tasty!

  • Thick, juicy tomatoes.

  • Peek-a-boo pickles ensconced in a plentiful bed of tangy ketchup.

  • A veritable plethora of crisp, leafy-green lettuce.

  • A solid foundation of onions, set atop a burger so vast it could not be contained by the massive sesame-seeded monster of a bun.

Add to this the almost fluffy mayonnaise and (optional) cheese slice and you have a burger that had Ronald and the Fry Guys grimacing.

Can you say McSmackdown? Oh yes, I think you can….

So, I’m in Burger King – giving Lester, the subdued counter attendant, my Invention Savoureuse D'Hamburger*. I’m nearly bursting with excitement over the inevitability of tastiness that I would shortly be experiencing. I grab the tray, load up on ketchup packets, fill up my carbonated beverage product and head off to one of the variously uncomfortable dining cubicles.

The burger sits wrapped like a tantalizingly tasty tummy Christmas present; as I unwrap I give my thanks…

Thank you lord, for providing me with this tasty burger.
Thank you for the pickles, the onions, the light, fluffy, buuuuuu-uh? What the fuck is this?

Something is dreadfully wrong.

I scoop the dead, lifeless hunk of ‘not-my-burger’ into my hands and bob and weave my way back to the counter. Lester looks at me with the eyes of a lost soul.

“Umm, excuse me. I believe there is a problem, sir. I ordered the burger pictured on your menu up there, you know, the really yummy looking one. I seem to have accidentally gotten the one that was run over by a drive-through customer. I’ll wait here for my new sandwich.”

“Uhhh. That’s a Whopper.” he replies.

“Yes, yes… I’m sure it ‘was’ a Whopper at one time. But really it’s more of a ‘Flopper’ now – or a ‘Slopper’, if you will. Certainly nothing ‘whopping’ about it, I’m sure you’ll agree?”

“Ummmm...” Not much for words, this one. “I’ll get my manager”

I envision a highly ranking Burger King official, sweeping down upon me and rectifying my conundrum with but a snap of his officious fingers. What I got, was Billy from 3rd hour Science class.

“Billy! Wow, I didn’t know you were so high up in the food chain, so to speak. Heh heh…..” Billy wasn’t a member of my fan club. I had proven my Theory of Combustible Amphibians on his frog specimen in the prior semester, and it was clear that he still held a grudge.

“What seems to be the problem? Lester tells me you ordered a Whopper sandwich and are now complaining about it. Did you not ask for a Whopper with lettuce, pickles, onions, mayo, and ketchup, with the optional cheese slice?”

“Well… yes... but...” I started.

“Is that not what is sitting on the counter in front of you?” He picks up the rapidly decomposing bun to uncover the sad assortment of the items he just detailed.

“Come on Billy, you and I both know that looks nothing like the sandwich in the picture. Tell you what, you just skip on back there and produce a new Whopper, THAT Whopper” – pointing to the picture – “And we’ll call it a day. I’m pretty reasonable and at this point, you could even leave off the optional cheese slice. No big, really.”

Needless to say, I left that day with a soggy Whopper, a complimentary fruit pie, and a readjusted view of what marketing was all about.

*Tasty Burger Invention