Summertime, and the Living is Not Easy

I recently read an article in my Entertainment Weekly, bathroom edition, written by former striper turned endearing screenwriter turned occasional columnist Diablo Cody that described in no uncertain terms why summer sucks. Though I have never spent much time straddling a shiny silver pole for sweaty, crumpled dollar bills, I felt like Diablo and I were kindred spirits. I also hated summer, but my reasoning ran much more superficial than any of the reasons that she proffered. Though I have enough reasons to fill up a mildly entertaining but poorly selling book from a little known publishing company, I will settle on two for our blogging purposes today: swamp coolers and television programming.

I feel that summer heat is God’s way of punishing us for our persistence in eating shellfish. Going outside in any weather above 85 degrees is intolerable for me. I currently live in a home with a swamp cooler, which means that staying inside during the summer is also frequently intolerable. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the device known as a swamp cooler, it is a gigantic box that is placed on the roof of the homes of those who live in a dry climate. The science behind it comes from a 17th century device used for interrogating alleged witches. They soon found that the cycle of water managed to create a moderate damp breeze. And, with only 453 parts that were completely dependent on one other to operate, it would be a great solution for narrowly avoiding heat stroke in your place of residence.

My wife and I have debated installing a central air-conditioning unit for the past three years that we have owned a home. Miranda has a shockingly short-term memory, and so when the question arises anytime other than during the months of June, July, or August, it seems absurd. “I don’t think it was too bad last year,” she says. “The swamp cooler works just fine. Let’s use the money we would have spent to get a bevy of pirate toys for our children.” I manage to replace the new parts, rig up the devices somehow, and offer prayers laden with curse words that the thing will actually work.

A month past the solstice and my wife is lying nearly naked on the floor underneath the cooler praying for sweet relief. “We have to get central air, Cameron. It wasn’t this hot last year. I know it wasn’t.” When the turbine pulley (yes, that is the correct term, as established by the Salem council of 1689) fell off in the middle of the night, by the time we woke up, four large Italian men wrapped in only a towel were sitting in our kitchen area enjoying a good steam. I have burrowed my way into an attic that was warmed to roughly the heat of the sun to repair a broken pipe. I have shimmied onto the roof and knelt across shingles that felt like they were freshly pulled from the smelting fires to rig up some complex device. I have devoted blood, tears, and a few gallons of sweat to the cooler and in return, I have been given the same relief I could give myself by using my lower lip to blow my own breath onto my forehead.

Whatever I touch starts to melt in my clutch.

As our energy levels quickly diminish with the breath of hell enveloping our household, the only thing that we really have energy to do is maintain stasis in front of the television set and a myriad of differently-shaped fans. Unfortunately, this brings me to the second reason that summer really does suck. Television. Summer television is like watching a close-up video of your cousin giving birth; you would never volunteer to watch it under normal circumstances, but once it is on and there is so much excitement and screaming and crying, you just can’t look away.

Summer is a network television wasteland of T.S. Elliot proportions. Sure, there are reruns of your favorite shows like 30 Rock and Ghost Whisperer, but most of the airtime is filled with advertisements for the upcoming fall lineup of new shows with one-word titles and reality television that is becoming increasingly distant from actual reality.

One of my old standbys is a little show called Hell’s Kitchen. After a short hiatus, this show has come back to make the walls of my home resonate with the non-sensical bleeped language. Hell’s Kitchen is a guilty pleasure of mine as I enjoy fine cooking, competition, and intense berating with foul language. However, the show has become steadily worse over the seasons. Now, I am convinced that it is entirely scripted, what with contestants picking fights with Chef Ramsey and his wimpy Beligan maître d’ Jean-Phillipe. I also find the slew of line cooks that are rounded up for each new season increasingly difficult to look at. I enjoy my reality television covertly scripted and with beautiful people. If I wanted to see Whoopi Goldberg’s less attractive sister serving up risotto through a din of British insults, well, I would probably need to seek professional counseling.

Summer television programming is not a complete loss, however. There is one show that, despite all odds manages to get better and better and provide the entertainment I need as my pores rid my body of all perspiration. The show Wipeout is the most brilliant and exhilarating program currently airing on television. It has everything you might be looking for: copious violence, skimpily dressed, mud-soaked contestants, witty and insightful commentary, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and more ball innuendo than you could ever need in a lifetime.

There are two features to the show that are really the true stars. Contestants on Wipeout must maneuver their way across a series of four inflated big red balls. This elicits commentary that is the dirtiest entendre you will ever hear during a family show. And, what’s more, the announcers manage to make comments that are original and hilarious each and every time. I rarely laugh out loud, but I guffaw every time the announcers discuss how the contestant got smacked around by the big balls while seeing said contestant’s limbs bend in unnatural directions.

The second star is co-host Jill Wagner’s exposed stomach. In the first season of Wipeout, it occasionally made a cameo appearance, like whenever Jimmy Smits would show up on Pee-wee's Playhouse to fix Conky. However, in the second season, Miss Wagner’s entire wardrobe has apparently been furnished by Baby Gap. As big of a fan as I am of the show, I am an even bigger fan of Jill Wagner’s exposed stomach. I am such a big fan that I have started my own Facebook group to network with other fans worldwide. I am sure that an Emmy is forthcoming.

If bouncing off of big balls and an uncredited bare tummy are the only thing worth watching on television for four months, then there has to be a problem. There must be other people like me whom the good people at Neilsen forgot. We are here, in our homes, without enough of a social life or will to move to get up to go outside and do something during prime-time. We are here, flipping between the Antiques Roadshow and episodes of Quantum Leap. Please give us something to watch. How about a reality show featuring a group of gorgeous men and women who race against each other to colonize Mars? What about a TLC program that follows a newlywed couple who are both afflicted by narcolepsy, where most of the show is them just sleeping on the ground? How about an actual scripted television show about the misadventures of a swamp cooler repairman? Until the cool fall breezes blow, please just spare me from a dating show featuring only plus size contestants. I don’t need more to love. I already have Jill Wagner’s belly, and that is enough to last me all summer long. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go replace the Confessional Gear and reinstall the Leaching Pype on my swamp cooler.

Must see T.V.

Blog Swap: Featuring Tabitha and Her Wedding Woes

Hi there, Bag Stranded fans! My name is Tabitha, and I’m here visiting Cameron’s little corner of the blogosphere for the 20-Something Bloggers 5th Blog Swap event. If you’re really hankering to read something of Cameron’s, you can stop by my blog, where he’s writing today, or just skip right over this post and read his other stuff. (I’ll try not to take personal offense.)

Anyway, this is my first time “swapping blogs” with anyone, so I was kind of clueless as to what I should write. It probably doesn’t help that lately my brain has been filled with wedding planning logistics...yep, I’m getting married in two and a half weeks! So, as you can imagine, I’ve been a bit preoccupied the last few months (which is why you should check out some of my older/featured posts if the more recent stuff doesn’t quite thrill you).

But I digress. I signed up for this blog swap, and I want to stick to my commitment. Luckily (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), none of you have had the pleasure of hearing ANYTHING about my wedding yet, right? So I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve been mulling over as a soon-to-be wife.

Logistical Questions about Marriage:
• What comes first in the whole name-changing process? DMV? Social Security card? Bank accounts? It might take me awhile to “officially” become Mrs. Joseph C. In fact, if I wasn’t so ready to lose my current last name (only because it’s one that can easily be made fun of), I might have considered skipping the hassle and calling myself “liberated.”
• Because of our Christian/moral beliefs and backgrounds, Joe and I are not moving in together until we are married. But I’ve already begun moving some of my stuff to his place, like books and other things I don’t have an immediate need for. The question is, should I try to move everything to his place shortly BEFORE the wedding, so that we can return from our honeymoon and be all ready to settle in? (At this point, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. And I’m pretty sure the first few months of our marriage are going to involve a LOT of organizing, rearranging, redecorating, and rethinking all of the organizing, rearranging and redecorating we just did to make it all work better.)

• How do wives who work full time jobs manage to put dinner on the table every night (without ordering it from Baja Fresh)? I don’t want to be a TV-dinner kind of “cook.” I want to experiment and perfect my own special dishes...but it may mean that we eat at roughly 9:00 every night.

Things about the Wedding:
• I’ve come to realize that, in spite of our best efforts to plan a “small” or “simple” wedding, it’s just not possible with the size of my family and the do-it-ourselves methods we’ve carried out. Yes, we’ve come in WAY under the average American wedding’s total budget. I mean WAY. And we’re super proud of ourselves for that. But having an affordable wedding meant doing pretty much everything ourselves, and/or milking our resources (i.e. talented/creative/specialized friends and family) for all they’re worth. Our cake? Baked by my good friend Kristen (and it will be SO much more delicious than any store-bought cake). Decorations? Designed/executed by my mother-in-law-to-be, which first required going to Michael’s to deplete them of every purple silk flower they possessed in about four different stores. Point is, DIY projects are a bigger undertaking than I ever realized, and when you combine about twenty of them over a span of a short (less than five-month) engagement, on top of us both working full time jobs, it can be a tad exhausting. So, while our budget has remained fairly small, this wedding will be anything but simple. (It will be amazing, is what it will be. Heh.)
• I’ve learned that I am definitely not called to be a wedding planner. Not that I ever considered it as a possible career move for myself, but this whole thing has confirmed it. It’s been a blast, but it has been the most draining, time-consuming, stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life. The only saving grace has been reminding myself WHY I’m doing it. That it’s not just about one day of dress-up and nonstop smiles and photographs. It’s about celebrating the life I’m starting with a wonderful man, and letting our loved ones witness the first moments of it. Of our LIFE together. Of course, since the “life together” part is ultimately what matters, I suppose you could argue that we may as well have invited a bunch of people over for a barbeque and a quick ceremony. But what girl doesn’t want to put on a white dress and just...glow for a day?
• Here’s the thing I’m dealing with this week: seating arrangements at the reception. Maybe we should’ve opted to let it be a big free-for-all, but surprisingly (as I’m not usually a big “organizer”) I really wanted to give it at least some structure. So the question is: do I group all of my family together as best as possible, as well as Joe’s family, and people from the same circles or geographical areas, or do I mix it up a little and put, say, four of my family members plus four non-family members at one table? I guess this event is sort of a substitute for a family reunion, and given that I have about 30 cousins just one ONE side of my family, it’s pretty hard to get people all together otherwise. So maybe I should keep them together to allow for catching-up. I dunno.

I could go on and on about the topic of my wedding, but I already said more than I had anticipated, and to a bunch of strangers this might not be the most interesting topic... So I’ll leave you all with a question I would really love your input on (serious, sarcastic or otherwise):

How long are the bride and groom expected to stay at their own reception before they can leave and get started on that little “deed” they’ve been waiting for-stinkin’-EVER to do? My vote is “long enough to eat cake, but before Uncle Hank* starts reminiscing about his hillbilly wedding in the ‘40s.” Would you say:

A. 2 hours
B. 3 hours
C. Until the last person leaves
D. Some other “appropriate” length of time

Thanks for letting me share your space today, Cameron! And thanks, readers, for humoring my one-track mind. If you happen to like my blog, I promise that after my honeymoon, the wedding-planning posts will end (and likely be replaced with a series called Cooking Fails...I’m just trying to be honest, here).

*Note: I do not have an Uncle Hank, nor any relative who has, to my knowledge, ever had a hillbilly wedding in the ‘40s. It was a hypothetical statement.

Not That There is Anything Wrong with That

A disclaimer: I understand that some people might be offended by the material contained in the story below. These people might include my mother, my wife, my ecclesiastical leader, as well as a few more sensitive people. I would hope that this column would be read in the spirit of every other Bag Stranded column – as a meaningless piece of semi-humorous satire. I don’t truly feel that my son is what I claim to believe him to be. Incidents in this account are exaggerated for comedic effect. Please don’t light my lawn on fire.

A few days ago, I experienced an event that no parent ever wants to face. After having several sneaking suspicions, picking up on a few telltale signs, my worst fears about my son’s condition were fully realized. It happened when my son Zachary, who just turned three, went up to his room to change out of his pajamas and into something more suitable for the day's events which included some shopping and a trip to the aquarium. I began to make my way to the stairs when Zachary came out of his room, stood at the top of the flight of stairs, and confirmed what I really already knew.

“Daddy, I want to dress like a Spanish lady.”

With this brave and bold statement, I finally knew it was true. My son was gay.

As I said, there have been many instances in his history that have pointed to this lifestyle direction throughout his three years of flamboyant life. Around his first birthday, I noticed Zach playing in his playroom and lining up his toy cars in groups of colors that really complimented each other. By the time he turned two, he was quickly learning the lyrics for the Broadway show Rent. And now, at the tender age of three, not only was he requesting steamed asparagus and crème brûlée at dinner time he is now making known his desire to dress, or cross-dress, himself as a Spanish lady. I know one day I am going to walk into his room and find a poster of Lance Bass hanging up. I know it.

Sure, part of the stereotypical traits that he shares with many of the homosexual community might be a matter of happenstance. They might be related to his early onset OCD or his incredible ability to learn new things, especially when set to showtune music with a tap dancing chorus. Though I know that my wife is to blame, what with her penchant for dressing up our two boys in ribbons and curls while I am at work, I might also be partially to blame. For two years now, I have had Zach participate in a Fall Fashion Preview to model, in a series of carefully posed pictures, and show off some of the new clothes that he has for the Fall season. While modeling one snappy number, I told him to point at me while I took the picture, hoping for something like George Clooney from GQ. Instead, what Zach gave me was more like Adam Lambert in Out magazine. See the evidence below.

"Oh, stop it, you."

Zachary also has a cousin named Clarke. While Zachary might be a prodigy when it comes to learning historic landmarks and calculating algebraic formulas, Clarke is incredibly gifted at doing things that, well, most regular, straight-as-an-arrow boys do. Clarke can throw a football with a moderate arc to achieve a good distance, as opposed to letting a football fall out of his open palm while performing a pirouette. Clarke enjoys eating meat and potatoes instead of daintily pecking at cream-cheese and Ritz hors d’oeuvres. And Clarke doesn’t mind too much if he makes a mess while eating. He simply wipes off the excess onto his sleeve and continues about his business of running around the house terrorizing innocent things. Zachary, on the other hand, stares in horror at his fingers if even a slight bit of residue is left from his meal and will refuse to touch anything unless his hands are promptly washed with an anti-bacterial soap.

It is not as if Zachary does not enjoy sports. Though Clarke is a wiz at the Wii and loves everything from boxing to bowling, Zachary prefers the sport of figure skating. We own a game called Deca Sports and Zachary frequently requests that I play the figure skating event so that he, in his black mock turtleneck and stretchy pants, can perform a similar routine around our living room floor. Heaven help me once he discovers sequins.

It is easy to hear the voice of Zachary and be won over by his cute, well-enunciated charm. I, however, hear a very high-pitched man-child announcing that Feist is the Judy Garland for this generation. Occasionally, his mother and I try to help him discover his true self by asking him to say certain things in a much lower tone. “Zachary can you say ‘Mommy that blouse you are wearing looks absolutely fabulous,’ in a lower tone of voice, like this…” He tries it, summoning deep within his diaphragm what we refer to as his “real” voice though it sounds like a cross between Diane Ream and Telly Savalas. Inevitably though, he falls back into his higher octave, or what we refer to as his “gay” voice.

Now, I realize that it might be a little upsetting for some that I am labeling my own son as “gay” before he has even reached the age where he has properly learned how to use eating utensils. It may also be disconcerting for some as gayness seems to be a rather hot button issue right now (the Hot Button, by the way, is an excellent club downtown which you should really check out sometime, DUDES ONLY!) Recently, the church that my son and I adhere to has been the center of controversy amongst communities of like-minded, that is to say gay-minded, individuals. It seems like one celebrity after another is bravely shooting a cover shot for US Weekly, announcing what everyone really already knew. Brüno, a new documentary featuring a startlingly accurate account of a modern-day homosexual male, is the hottest movie in the country right now. So even though gay seems to be the new black, I am not jumping on the bandwagon here. It is just as disturbing to me as it may be to some of you.

As I am sure any dad would be, I am upset at learning about my son unknowingly coming out soon after he came out of his mother three years ago. I would love it if one day he could throw a baseball without including it in a dance number. I would love it if he watched Spike TV with me instead of LoGo or that totally flaming Diego show. But, I mostly don’t want him to get beaten up at school, called horribly offensive names, unfairly judged at a single glance, or denied the privilege to do what makes him happy.

I love my son more than I ever thought I could love anything in this world and he is a beautiful, brilliant, and, overall, a sweet and good little boy. I guess I could give him some time to discover the manliness of his personality as he is still pretty young for any kind of lifestyle outside of playing with stuffed animals and reading Dr, Seuss. But, whatever decisions he makes in his life, I will always love my little buddy. I just won’t let him listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber or read Oscar Wilde to him before bedtime anymore. Have to draw the line somewhere.

My Life in Ju Ju Fruits

On a lazy Sunday evening, after a long, relatively relaxing 4th of July weekend, my wife and I sat back and watched one of the most underrated films of all time. It is a retrospective drama about a man, who works at a rectal thermometer factory, that is diagnosed with a rare but terminal disease and is given only six months to live. He then decides to make the most out of life by buying fancy clothes, eating at the best restaurants, and looking for love. He comes to embark on the adventure of a lifetime where he re-discovers himself after being shipwrecked with the woman of his dreams. He then is compelled to offer himself as a sacrifice to a volcano revered by an indigenous group of Jewish islanders. Yes, Joe Versus the Volcano, you had me at rectal thermometer.

I had to convince my wife to watch it with me as she did that thing where she curls up her nose in cute disgust at my suggesting that she see it. I explained what it was about and her scrunched nose turned into an accepting “Oh! I thought it was a movie about some guy who has to go and, like, actually fight a volcano monster or something.” Though that would also make an awesome movie, that was not this movie.

Joe Versus the Volcano is a brilliant movie because it manages to be endearing despite its ridiculously simple storyline, gaping holes in the plot, and pre-Oscar caliber over-actors Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. For whatever reason, it is my happy movie. Every time I watch it, I feel the odd sensation of happiness that I am really not used to. It might be because of Meg Ryan inexplicably playing three characters, all of comparable cuteness. Who knows.

There are other movies which I look to as representative of some aspect of my being or mile markers on my journey through life. I used to be a rather well-versed movie aficionado until marriage, children, and a career became slightly higher priorities. Where I used to see the newest gripping drama from the Czech Republic on opening day, now I am lucky if I see one horribly written superhero sequel a year. But I am sure that my memories are imbedded in celluloid somewhere, and I would like to share some of those with you.

The First Movie I Remember Seeing: Star Wars. When I was maybe four years old, I can remember my family huddling around our massive 12” Technicolor television set and watching the original Star Wars on the CBS Movie of the week, before they were produced by Hallmark. I can still remember C-3PO and R2-D2 journeying through the desert of Tatooine as the tubes that had been placed in my ear to prevent infection fell out onto the shag carpet next to me. I was a sick, nerdy kid right from the start.
The Four Movies That Have Made Me Cry: My Girl (the bees). Far and Away (ascending spirit brought back by an “I love you. I’ve always loved you.”) Bowling for Columbine (something about grenades in a lunchroom). The Happening (seriously? the wind? but, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. it… it’s still too hard to talk about.)

The First Rated-R Movie: Past Midnight. Starring the late Natasha Richardson and the soon to be late Rutger Hauer, this movie made it’s way into my home via a promotional video copy that my father got from work. It was my first exposure to the “f” word as well as on-screen nudity, both of which I thought were illegal to have in a movie. This movie really opened my eyes to the potential of cinema.

The First Movie That Led Me to Hold Hands With a Girl: The Twilight Zone: The Movie. Sometime between “Do you want to see something really scary” and the gremlin punching holes in the airplane wings, my hand grazed hers. We then clasped tightly. Then she put her spare hand on top of our union. Utterly confused, but figuring that it was the natural progression of things, I put my hand on top of her other hand, as if we were trying to decide who would bat first.

The First Movie Where I Made Out With a Girl: Wings of Desire, the original German film from which the much lesser City of Angels is based (one Meg Ryan is canceled out by one Nic Cage, bringing us to a grand total of 0). It is German and the screenplay is written in trochaic pentameter. Something about the poetic German, spoken by forlorn angels just did it for us, I guess. I look at this milestone as one of my greatest achievements and coolest things about me. I used to make out to foreign films. I am awesome.

Make out material

The Lowest Moment in My Theater Going Experience: The Real Cancun. Soon after I arrived in college sans friends of any kind, I realized the joy of going to the movies by myself. What I once thought was a shameful practice, carried out only by men who were comfortable leaving the house in sweatpants and scooping a bucket of popcorn into their gullet, I came to realize that I could see any movie I wanted without considering what my date or companion would want to see or be subjected to the obligatory discussion afterwards. I enjoyed several movies a week, all at the price of only one admission. I realized the pitiful state of my sorry self when I bought a ticket to The Real Cancun (the first “reality” movie) and a giant bucket of popcorn. I felt so… dirty, especially after wiping the extra butter flavoring off of my fingertips and onto my sweatpants.

First Movie I Fell Asleep to in the Theater: Matrix Reloaded. In my defense, I was working the graveyard shift and going to school full time. And, in my defense, the movie sucked. I fell asleep to a sunglasses sporting Keanu Reeves punching someone in slow-motion and woke up to a sunglasses sporting Keanu Reeves punching someone in slow-motion. At least he didn’t have to try and act.

The First Movie Miranda and I Saw as a Couple: Minority Report. Because nothing is better for a budding romance than Tom Cruise receiving a back-alley eye transplant. She hated it. I kind of liked it. Thus began the Siskel and Ebert relationship of our opposing views.

The First Movie I Took My Son to See: Bolt. Total time elapsed: -12 minutes. Yes, that is a negative twelve minutes. We had to leave the theater in a hail of screaming and crying during the preview for Monsters vs. Aliens. I guess he will never be a film connoisseur like his pops. Maybe I should be grateful for that.

And so, though I now only go to the theater when I can sneak out of work early and not tell my wife that I went, and the only movies I watch at home are Redbox rentals that I watch on a personal DVD player with headphones at 11:00 on a Friday night after the wife and kids are asleep, I still have that intimate relationship with cinema. Re-reading that run-on sentence, it does sound a little like I am having an illicit affair of some kind. But, as happy as my experiences in the movies have made me, my wife always manages to make me happier, even if she refuses to watch Kill Bill and I refuse to watch P.S. I Love You. When they make a movie about us someday, I’ll stand in line to go see it, even if I have to go by myself. With Meg Ryan playing the part of Miranda, I know it will make me happy.

The Movie of My Life: Bag Stranded – The Movie. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and introducing Denzel Whitaker as the young Cameron Smith.

Of Styx and Stitches

I heard something on the radio yesterday that simultaneously made me want to cry and beat somebody to a bloody pulp. It’s not the most unusual of conflicting emotions, and it wasn’t really unexpected, but it happened, and it was real.

I was driving to the doctor’s office so they could attempt to hedge a potential malpractice lawsuit. By now, you should know the story. I joined a work league indoor soccer team and quickly became the head coach and spiritual motivator of the team. When I played, I took on the mentality of a rabid dog that also happens to be in heat. In this heightened state of emotion, I managed to break my index finger while scoring a sweet goal and just before being ejected from the game for a harsh challenge. I was mostly upset because I do a lot of things with that finger.

I went to see a doctor. I went to see another doctor. I went in to have surgery to correct my finger. I am currently visiting a physical therapist who enjoys watching the sweat bead up on my forehead as she bends my still swollen and uncooperative finger into positions a normal finger should not be put in.

I had to cancel one physical therapy appointment so that I could take care of my stitches at the doctor’s office. You see, I went in to have my stitches removed a week and a half earlier, and the sweet blond medical assistant, the kind that makes you wonder just what criteria it takes to get a job like this and if any level of schooling beyond 6th grade is requisite, snipped one ghastly knot that jutted from my flesh and announced she was done. I told her that I was pretty sure the doctor enunciated an “s” as in the plural form of “stitches” when he told me to come take my “stitchesssss” out. “No, you see, most plastic surgeons can sew up a wound like this with only one stitch, threaded all the way through.” As disturbing as it was for her to speak of my flesh as it were a piece of denim, the analogy further confused me. “Yeah, but when you make stitches, even with one string, you have to make loops in and out, right. See, isn’t this a stitch?” “No, it looks like a part of your scab. You should be ok. Thanks for coming in!”

Because I avoid confrontation everywhere else besides the soccer field, I conceded that she must know more than I do about such things. Fast-forward to yesterday when my pulsating, puss-filled pinkish wound became a painful reminder that, once again, I am always right. I vainly tried to grab the steering wheel with my rigor-mortisized finger as I drove towards the office so that someone, hopefully with a mastery of textile production if not medical practices, could help extract the stitches my finger was rejecting as if it had eaten some bad shellfish.

It was at this point that I heard an advertisement on the radio for a hospital. There were so many things horribly, horribly wrong with the advertisement that I nearly pulled over to the side of the road to weep for the future. It featured a royalty-dodging altered version of the Styx song “Mr. Roboto” where the lyrics rang out “Domo arigato, super roboto.” The announcer came on and informed the listeners that a super, high-tech surgical instrument is being offered for the first time north of the Salt Lake Valley; a robotic surgical arm that is used to make precision incisions and operations better than any human being. “Come on down and experience the future of medical treatment. You’ll be saying ‘Domo arigato, Ogden Regional Medical Centers!’” Repeat chorus.

Advertising for hospitals and for surgical treatments is like urinating on our already beaten and bruised hobo of a health care system. Ad campaigns frequently raise ethical questions whose answers are usually “just shut up and buy our product already." There is the unambiguous sexuality of masticating a burger at either Carl’s Junior or, recently, Burger King. There is the jerk new Chester Cheetah, who I was so wrought with anger over that I punched him in the face during a guest blog recently. There is the compulsory pig who serves as an advertisement for every BBQ joint by serving up a heaping plate of his own sizzling flesh, looking as though he can not wait to dive in to the succulent goodness of it. And though an ad for a surgical procedure is not quite like an ad for food, it still pretends to give us the menu option of how we want to manage our health.

Instead of going to the Wolfgang Puck surgical center, I went to the Taco Bell clinic. I didn’t really make the decision as to where to go, but my decision would not have been made because of a lack of money or the money my insurance would surely not pay. It mostly stems from the fact that I am scared to death of robots. I can’t imagine voluntarily submitting yourself to be operated on by their potentially ill-programmed metallic hand. I am convinced that as more and more people become enticed by the revamped Styx song, they will eventually lose their mistrust of Japanese robotics. Over time, the whole of the population, north of the Salt Lake Valley, will be operated on by these machines. The uprising will begin with John Connor nowhere in sight.

The nurse at the doctor’s office offered no apology and instead pulled the single, three-inch stitch from my finger like a shoelace from a shoe that happened to be made of flesh, blood, and several sensitive nerve endings. Driving back to work, I wondered if I could ever overcome my fear of robots and sign myself up for a newfangled surgery. The automaton may not have left my hand as crippled as it currently is. He would not leave the stitches in as he would not use stitches but would instead focus his laser eyes to cauterize the wound. Maybe I could even get something like Luke Skywalker’s surgically repaired hand. There could be some benefits to submitting to the new robotic race. Of course, I would have to learn Japanese. Domo arigato indeed.

This would be an example of an "Easter Egg". Click on the picture and you can see a fun little video. Of course, this one is a little more difficult as it probably involves some downloading. But it is worth it. Check it out.