Friday, April 22, 2011

The Plot to Perturb Plane Passengers

My partner, Erich, and I recently flew to the East coast to visit my parents. On both the trip there and the trip back, we had to change planes. Every gate was as far as it could possibly be from the security line or from the connecting flight, requiring extensive walking (and even more grumbling) to get to. This might have been tolerable if we hadn’t been carrying all our luggage as carry-on, to save fees. In each airport, we would pass well-rested people reclining in comfortable chairs in uncongested seating areas at convenient gates, and our jealousy of these passengers increased as our fatigue did.

At one point, Erich remarked that these people were not really passengers at all, but decoys set there to make us *think* that others didn’t have to walk as far as we did. In fact, all the real gates used by legitimate passengers are far away and require lengthy trudging to get to. The primary function of the complex computer systems run by airlines is not to coordinate flight schedules and ticketing, but to choose a gate for each flight that is maximally distant from security and from all of its passengers’ connecting flights. When gates are changed at the last minute, this is because one or more passengers had been added to or removed from the flight, and the algorithm has determined that a different gate is now required to maximize average walking time.

Unanswered question: what do the airlines gain from this? Why do they prefer to board sweaty, fatigued, angry passengers? Entertainment value? (Much greater than the shitty movies the stewardesses have seen a hundred times, I’m sure). Preparation for the indignities to come? (Hey, after you endure a multi-mile hike through throngs of people, maybe you’ll be too tired to complain about the sardine seating). Part of the War on Terror? (Uh, I can’t really think of how this would help with that, but then none of the annoying obstacles put in place by the TSA under the guise of fighting terrorism make any sense either).

Erich suggested that next time we fly, we go up to one of those lucky “passengers” waiting by a convenient gate and quiz them. Ask them what flight they are waiting for. Whatever they respond, say, “Oh, good, that’s my flight too” and sit down. The confused look on their face should be ample evidence to support his theory. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rejected Song Titles

Non-creative people often misunderstand the creative process; they assume that a work of art, literature, or music just plops out of an artist fully formed, much like a good bowel movement. But it doesn't work that way. Producing great art requires long hours of hard work and many revisions. Below, I've listed some preliminary draft titles of what are now famous songs, to help illustrate this point.

Written & performed by: Ashford & Simpson
First Draft: Solid as a Gummiworm
Second Draft: Solid as an Old Rickety Chair
Third Draft: Solid as a Soapstone Statue 
Final Title: Solid as a Rock
Written by: Kipner/Shaddick
Performed by: Olivia Newton-John
First Draft: Let's Get Emotional and then Blame it On Our Period
Third Draft: Let's Pretend That I'm Going to Get Physical, But We Both Know I'm a Tease Who Will Pull Back at the Last Second
Ninth Draft: Ok, Let's Get Physical, But You Have to Get Me Drunk First
Final title: Let's Get Physical
Written by: Bob Dylan
Most famously performed by: The Byrds
First Draft: Salutations, Electronic Bagpipe Person
Second Draft: Hello There Euphonium Dude
Third Draft: Hey Mr. Harpischord Guy
Final Title: Hey Mr. Tamborine Man
Written by: Prince
Performed by: Prince & the Revolution
First Draft: Chartreuse Precipitation
Fifth Draft: Aqua Snowflakes
11th Draft: Violet Sleet
Final Title: Purple Rain
Written by: Otis Redding
Most famously performed by: Aretha Franklin
First Draft: Grudging Tolerance, With an Almost Imperceptible Tinge of Condescension
Sixth Draft: Basic Acceptance, With a Few Minor Reservations
Tenth Draft: Unconditional Positive Regard
Final Title: Respect
Written by: Whitfield/Strong
Most famously performed by: Marvin Gaye
First Draft: I Discerned It Through My Powers of Telepathy
Seventh Draft: I Accidentally Saw It Through a Crack in the Ladies Room Door
Eighth Draft: No, Really, I Wasn't Looking On Purpose
Final Title: I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Written & Performed by: U2
First Draft: You Know, I Still Haven't Figured Out What in the World Bono Has to be Arrogant About
70th Draft: I Still Haven't Found the Street Corner with the Best 'Hos
113th Draft: I Still Haven't Found My Wallet That I Lost the Other Night When I Was Drunk
Final Title (written by ghost writer hired by distraught record company execs): I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Sometimes--very rarely, mind you, but it does happen--songwriters get lucky, or receive divine inspiration, and nail a song title on the first try. Such was the case with a track by the Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want, Unless You are a Rock Star, High-Level Politician, or Corporate Executive... Then, It's Pretty Much All Cake".

However, the Stones' A&R man insisted that the song title be cut short so that it would fit onto record labels and radio station playlists. So, even when inspiration strikes, artists still have a tough time getting their unadulterated work into their audience's hands and up their ear canals.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Epidemic Sweeps Country

It started out subtly: A decrease in maternal attendance at middle school soccer games. A few mysteriously empty shelves in supermarket cleaning aisles.

Then, things started really getting out of hand: Formerly well-groomed women began appearing in public with accessories that clashed with their outfits. They were less available to serve heavily processed snack foods laden with preservatives to their children after school. They were more frequently seen furtively ducking into bathrooms and linen closets.

And the most telling sign of all: Car detailing services report that they have seen a 300% increase in the last year in client requests to remove chemical spills from minivan upholstery.

The American public can no longer afford to ignore the burgeoning epidemic of Febreze huffing (known as "fuffing").

Fuffers come from all walks of life, but are predominantly middle class, middle aged women whose rage, formerly safely channeled into vigorous house cleaning, is now threatening to froth over and drown their families and communities in a pleasant-smelling chemical flood. What were formerly termed "soccer moms" are increasingly being referred to as "motherfuffers".

Signs of fuffing include:
  • Suspicious pastel staining around the mouth and nose 
  • Breath that smells strongly of chemicals 
  • Increased attendance at "special" Tupperware parties 
  • Overly-vigorous cleaning that damages furniture and upholstery. 
  • Adding the prefix "Fe" to words that begin with "b" Rage that seems inappropriate to the situation

Watch for the warning signs in your significant other, friends, relatives, coworkers, and female pets.

Law enforcement officers advise that you should not directly confront a person you suspect of fuffing, as they may be dangerous. Instead, report the suspected fuffer to your nearest donut shop or other law enforcement agency.