Wednesday, May 23, 2018

46 at 46

I am turning 46 years old tomorrow, which is hard for my brain to accept, since it regularly tells my body I’m still 25. My elbow, my knees, and my right Achilles tendon, however, agree with the calendar.

They say with age, comes wisdom. I wish that were more true. Nonetheless, in honor of living through another trip around the sun, I have added to my list of thoughts, observations, and acquired “wisdom.”

Here it is - one for each year. You’re welcome, America.


1.  There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who prefer the toilet paper to come off the top of the roll, and those who prefer the bottom. The people who like it to come off the bottom of the roll are wrong.

2.  If beds were advertised the same way as tents, a queen-size mattress would “sleep nine adults comfortably.”

3.  The three-second rule has almost infinite extensions depending on how much you like the food that dropped.

4.  You never fully appreciate how crazy your family is until you have to explain all of them to your fiancĂ©.

5.  I don’t understand why disappointed is not the opposite of appointed.

6.  Pi and the circumference of a circle have a similar relationship to pie and the circumference of a person.

7.  Here’s the main difference between men and women: Men can look at an ad for women's underwear and get excited. Not women in underwear, just the underwear itself. Women do not get excited looking at pictures of boxer shorts.

8.  You are wholeheartedly fooling yourself if you think the government is efficient at anything except taking your money.

9.  The clearest evidence that capitalism beats communism is that the Red Bull beverage company put a man in space. Take that, North Korea. Anheuser-Busch can probably shoot down your nukes.

10.  If you give enough money to the right charities, you will never have to buy address labels again.

11.  I am far past the electronic tipping point. I would much rather lose my wallet than my phone.

12.  You cannot use the phrase, “To be honest with you...”  without giving the listener the impression you aren’t always being honest.

13.  Life without beer, wine, and cheese would be horrible, but life without bacon would simply be pointless.

14.  When packing thirteen suitcases into the car for your wife, is it impossible to have ten of them be “on top” so she can get to them easily.

15.  Never get a woman personalized license plates like "HOT QT" or something like that, because eventually you, the boyfriend or husband, will have to drive the car and you will be mercilessly ridiculed by the rest of us.

16.  You can ask someone to do something, or you can tell them how you want it done, but you cannot do both.

17.  A good indicator of where you are in life is this: Does the advertisement of free food still affect your decision making?

18.  Fabric softener sheets go in the dryer, not the washer. Just FYI. I’m not saying I didn’t know that.

19.  There is no “t” or “t” sound in the word across. There is no “b” or “b” sound in the word supposedly. Please pronounce accordingly.

20.  Men are far more likely to clean things with spit than women are.

21.  Money and toilet paper have something in common – They’re both easy to take for granted until you run out. Also, in totally opposite, but equally dire situations, they can be substituted for each other.

22.  Everyone should drive while driving. Always.

23.  If you ask any guy to tell you a story about a time he almost died, he will have four stories just off the top of his head, and one will be from this year. If you ask women the same question, most of them will look at you like you’re crazy.

24.  One sure sign of getting old – When you start sitting down to put on your pants.

25.  Children and ceiling fans are simply incompatible. It’s science.

26.  In life, it is very important to remember where you are and why you're there. That way, when your podiatrist tells you to drop your shorts, you’ll ask some questions first.

27.  The hotel alarm clock - You can either take the time to figure out how it works before you go to bed, or you can figure it out in the dark at 4:30 A.M. when it unexpectedly goes off. Your choice.

28.  One of the funniest things ever written is this: “We’ve upped our contribution. Up yours!”

29.  People who don’t use their cruise control on the freeway should be pulled over and water-boarded.

30.  There are 21 words in the English language that need to be used more. They are: bailiwick, hootenanny, skullduggery, scofflaw, ballyhoo, shenanigans, donnybrook, catawampus, chicanery, cajoled, hullabaloo, besmirch, boondoggle, haberdashery, melee, befuddled, flummoxed, hoosegow, wiseacre, tomfoolery, and kerfuffle. Please begin immediately.

31.  Nothing is more interesting to a small child than what you are doing, provided that what you are doing is easier without small children involved.

32.  You cannot claim to be a grown woman, fully capable of taking care of yourself, and also claim that you do not know how to operate a toilet seat.

33.  We, as humans, all share a universal reaction – the automatic flinch when the driver hits the button and starts rolling up the car window under your arm.

34.  A carsick child and a blender without a lid or an off button have a lot in common.

35.  To be or not to be is not the question. The real question is, which towel in the guest bathroom am I allowed to use to dry my hands?

36.  Give a boy enough time with any object, whether it be a stale Cheerio, a bouncy ball, a doll, or a book, and he will eventually turn it into a weapon.

37.  "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys" is a pretty accurate saying, but it leaves out the other major difference: the speed at which they heal when they fall off those toys.

38.  New parents - The best thing to do when your infant cries at night is to set a timer for ten minutes. If the timer runs out before the baby stops crying, then you may get up and reset the timer.

39.  The yahoos who wear their pants down below their butts and have to waddle with their legs spread to keep their pants from simply falling to the ground are also the yahoos who are most likely to try to run from the police at some point. That is hilarious to me.

40.  As I get older, I find myself dividing the world into two categories: People I would let watch my kids for five minutes, and people I wouldn’t.

41.  The person who invented the hotel shower curtain rod that curves out away from the tub so the shower curtain doesn’t stick to your arm should receive the Nobel prize.

42.  If you want a good example of unbridled optimism, look at your smoke alarm. They all have "test weekly" printed on them. Yes, smoke alarm company, I’ll get right on that.

43.  Guys, do you ever have trouble figuring out if you’ve had too much to drink? Here’s a handy guideline:
“There is no way I can scratch that itch on my ankle while I’m standing here peeing, so I will not try.” – You’re still OK
“I can totally do it without peeing on myself.” – You are drunk

44.  A kid’s definition of “pool toy” is different than an adult’s. We think of pool toys as something designed to be played with in a pool. They define “pool toy” as anything they own, if it happens to be brought into the pool. Like a bike or a sandwich.

45.  No matter who you are, no matter where you're from, there is one shared experience that binds us all together as one people: The sheer horror of the ketchup or mustard water falling from the unshaken bottle and contaminating your food forever. I feel your pain.

46.  If you have to choose, it makes more sense to become a strong swimmer than a strong runner. You don’t automatically die when you stop running.


See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


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Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We Put the "IT" in School District

It seems our Rocklin, CA teachers are currently at odds with the school district over some aspect of their contract. I would have to assume it’s about salary and/or benefits, because, honestly, if you’re getting all the money you want, you don’t tend to argue with your boss too much. Anyway, they seem to be at a stalemate in their contract negotiations.

I have mixed feelings about the issue of teachers’ salaries. Before I became an author with flexible hours and an unnervingly flexible pay scale, I had real jobs with steady paychecks, and we only got two or maybe three weeks of vacation each year. Teachers have the only job I know of where you get sixteen paid weeks off every year, so on the one hand, I think, pipe down!

On the other hand, I think all teachers should make ten times more than what they are being paid, because besides parenting, they are doing the most important job on the planet. (And in many cases, they are doing the parenting and the teaching, because many “adults” tend to outsource the parenting job by default in favor of malt liquor.)

(I also tend to think teachers should be paid more because my wife is a teacher, and I want a boat.)

I don’t know the particulars of the stalemate, but I do know one thing: based on the metric ton of property taxes I pay, along with the regular taxes, our school district should have more money than Uruguay. I don’t know where all the money goes, but I certainly know where the money is not going. It’s not being spent on the district’s IT department.

If any money was going into IT, they would certainly be able to afford someone who could fix their communications department. Even someone with the tiniest bit of knowledge about computers and one or two iotas of common sense could fix what is obviously broken.

Here’s my problem:

Last week the school district wanted my opinion on their new English Language Arts curriculum. (That’s what they call English now. I assume they have long-term plans to eventually drop the “English” from the title and just call it Language Arts. That way we can stop being so insistent on it always having to be taught in English. Time will tell.)

Anyway, they sent me an email with a link to a survey. That’s where a normal IT department would have stopped. Not at our district!

Moments after the email arrived, they called me and left a voicemail about the fact that they sent me an email.

Mere seconds after the voicemail about the email hit my inbox, they sent me a text message - to the same phone number that they left the voicemail on - to tell me that they left a voicemail about the email. I am not making this up.

Then they sent me another email (again, I’m not making this up, I swear!) to tell me that they just left me a voicemail to let me know that they sent me an email.

Twice.

They do every single one of those things twice because I have two kids at the elementary school. The same elementary school! Last year I got all of them three times, because all three boys were there.

Three separate emails. Three separate voicemails alerting me to the emails. Three separate text messages alerting me to the voicemails regarding the emails. And three separate follow-up emails alerting me to the fact that they left me three separate voicemails about the original three separate emails.

But they only let me take the survey once.

If they can’t come up with the money for a new IT hire, maybe they could look into a sixth-grade internship. Even the kid who sits in the back of the class and eats his boogers could do better than this.  

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The All-Cake Diet

I’m developing a new diet with the help of Son Number Two. It’s called the All-Cake Diet, and it’s mind-blowing. I’ll probably write a best-selling book about it someday.

Here’s how it works:

You start with a middle child who is the epitome of growth mindset and creativity. Make sure that child can play two or three instruments, is good at sports, can crochet blankets and sweaters, likes to shop for plywood and 2x4’s to build better-than-third-world-quality forts and structures, enjoys outdoor recreation and whittling, is good at puzzles, can rewire household electronics to make ad hoc surveillance equipment, enjoys blacksmithing and soldering, has a strong entrepreneurial streak, and isn’t afraid to make a working blender out of a water bottle, flattened nails, and a 3000-RPM DC hobby motor.

When you have that child in place, have them somehow develop an interest in baking cookies. Encourage this delicious new hobby as long as possible until the natural escalation occurs to cupcakes, and then finally, to full-scale cake baking.

At this point you will need to have shifted at least half your monthly grocery budget over to the flour/sugar/butter/cake mix line items.

Eat his practice cakes and tell him they are delicious, because they are.

When it’s his birthday, buy him books on cake decorating and a vast assortment of cake decorating tools. (At least enough to start one or two mid-sized commercial bakeries)

Be prepared to watch countless hours of Cake Boss and Next Great Baker, actually enjoying them, but at the same time marveling at how far down the spiraling vortex of entertainment we’ve traveled that these two shows even exist, and trying to imagine, if you had traveled back in time, how you would explain to your then-young grandmother that we now have multiple television shows about baking cakes.

Eat more practice cakes.

Take him to the craft store to buy something called fondant, which is, apparently, flat cake icing that does not need to be refrigerated and comes in a very expensive cardboard box, because there is no way anyone could justify charging that much for flat cake icing.

Eat more practice cakes.

Marvel at the volcano cake he decided to make for his little brother’s birthday, complete with an interior dry ice chamber to create “smoke.”

Take him to the store to buy dry ice. (And, obviously, more cake supplies.)

Eat a volcano cake.

Take a delicious one-day detour into the world of apple muffins, then return to cakes.

Learn, one morning, as he is measuring the driveway, that he plans to make a cake model of your house.

Spend the next few days cleaning up the kitchen non-stop as sheet cake after sheet cake come out of the oven and into the freezer in preparation for the big project.

During the build, hover in the kitchen to collect the cake scraps that get discarded during the house shaping process.

When the project is complete, invite the neighbors over to eat your delectable model home, which comes complete with the garage, backyard, pool, play structure, and even the dog.

The next day, thank the good Lord the house was too big to finish and there are leftovers.

Eat your garage for lunch.

So on, and so forth.


I’ve got to tell you, this new diet is amazing, and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re as big a fan of cake as I am. I’m loving this, and I’m really seeing the results.

I am, of course, using the term “diet” in the sense of “what you eat,” and not “a way to lose weight.” Cake makes you fat.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat my front yard for dessert.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


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Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Accra-phobic

You’ve really got to hand it to the Ghaneze (?) The Ghanans (?) The Ghanites (?)
The folks from Ghana, anyway. They seem to be following the lead of the Nigerians, looking to better their presumably ridiculously weak economy with some good old-fashioned internet scams.

The honorable banker Mr. Charles Emmanuel got ahold of me yesterday vie email, and I gotta tell you, Chuck, your act needs some polishing. I’m obviously not going to give you my banking information for this grammatically chaotic once-in-a-lifetime offer you’ve presented me, but since I’m such a nice guy, I’ll give you some pointers. You know what they say – Fall for a man’s scam, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to scam, you feed him for a lifetime.


Dear Schmatjen,

 I have been in the search for someone that bears the name "Schmatjen" so when I saw your name I was pushed to contact you and see how best we can assist each other. I am Mr. Charles Emmanuel

Banking head of the company with a reputable bank here in Accra Ghana. I believe it is the wish of God for me to come across you on search now. I am having an important business discussion I wish to share with you which I believe will interest you because, it is in connection with your  name and you are going to benefit from it.


OK, Chuck, first off, let’s talk about American last names. I’m not sure how common a name Emmanuel is in Ghana, but Schmatjen is very rare, so right out of the gate you seem to be doing OK. Just remember, this probably won’t work with Smith, Johnson, or Hernandez. And by the way, if you made up Emmanuel for this scam, then I applaud you for invoking the name of God into your own to garner my trust. Well played.

Secondly, the terms “reputable bank” and “Ghana” don’t really go together here in America. No offense, but third-world countries such as yours don’t foster a ton of trust with us as far as fair regulatory oversight, and whatnot.

By the way, I had to look up where Ghana actually was. Turns out you’re not far from Nigeria, which makes sense. I have to ask though, what’s with the two little countries in between you guys? Togo and Benin? Have those always been there? I really don’t remember those from high school geography, but I went to public school, so who knows? And when did “The Gambia” show up, tunneling their wormy little way into Senegal from the coast? I’ll bet those guys are a pain in the ass at the cocktail parties, am I right? I mean, how pretentious do you have to be to name your country “The Gambia”? Anyway, back to your letter.


 I have a suggestion urgent action and a highly secret for you. On March 15,
2004, an Iraqi foreign oil consultant / contractor with the oil company
Chevron, Mr William Schmatjen, had fixed deposit with my bank in 2004
calendar year, valued at 18,500,000.00 (Eighteen million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars)  The date for this contract and deposit is January 30, 2010. Sadly, he was among the victims of plane crash and for more about the crash you can visit the BBC web news for the tragedy. http://newswww.bbc.net.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/oxfordshire/4537663.stm which killed

more than 2,000 people. It was  on a business trip, and that is
how he met his end.


Seriously, Chuck, I don’t even know where to start with this “urgent problem” section of your compelling email. Let’s just dive right in with your really believable-looking BBC link to a plane crash that killed 2000 people. Seriously? You’re going with 2000 people? Did the plane crash into nine other planes simultaneously, or did it spiral into a soccer stadium on my man William’s final business trip?

And thanks for telling me the exact day, month, and year of our wealthy Mr. Schmatjen’s sizable bank deposit, only to reiterate the year in the same run-on sentence, and then add a completely different date in the next sentence to confuse me.

Astonishingly, the link to the news article doesn’t seem to be working, but I see it mentions Oxfordshire, England. I actually have relatives who live in Oxfordshire. I sure hope they weren’t at that soccer game at some point between 2004-2010 and now!


 My bank management is yet to know about his death, I knew about it because he was my friend and I am his account officer. Mr.William  did not mention any Next of Kin/ Heir when the account was opened, and William  was married and no children. Last week my Bank Management requested that i should give instructions on what to do about his funds, if to renew the contract.


I’m glad to hear you were tight with William, but obviously, sad for you at the loss of such a good friend. How is his wife taking all this? I know you said he never mentioned any Next of Kin/ Heir when he opened the account, but as Banking head of a reputable bank in Accra, Ghana, I’m sure you have figured out by now that his wife would, of course, be his Next of Kin/ Heir. Pretty much the first person in line, actually. You don’t have to look any further down the old Next of Kin/ Heir chain once you find the wife. So you could just text her or something, I guess.

And why do you keep mentioning a contract? Do banks in Ghana work differently than other banks? Here in the U.S., we just deposit our money and it stays in there until we take it out. There’s no time limit, as there apparently is in Accra.


 I know this will happen and that is why I have been looking for a means to handle the situation, because if my Bank Directors happens to know that William  is dead and do not have any Heir, they will take the funds for their personal use, so I don't want such to happen. That was why when I saw your last name I was happy and I am now seeking your co-operation to present you as Next of Kin/ Heir to the account, since you have the same last name with him and my bank head quarters will release the account to you. There is no risk involved; the transaction will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of law.


Well, first of all, let me just breathe a huge sigh of relief that there will be no risk of “breach of law” involved for me perjuring myself in a foreign country by claiming to be someone I’m not in order to snag a cool eighteen million bucks. Whew! For a minute there I thought this might be shady.

And I thought you told me you were the Banking head? Why are you letting these Bank Director idiots push you around and steal our money for their personal use? You’re the Banking head, dammit! Tell those Directors to pound sand. Or you could simply direct them toward Dead Bill’s wife. Either way.


 It is better that we clam the money, than allowing the Bank Directors to take it, they are rich already. I am not a greedy person, so I suggested we share the funds equal, 50/50% to
both parties, and will help me to start my share of my company, which was my dream.


Those rich sumbitches! Why are they always trying to take the cash that neither of us have any rightful claim to, either? I am not a fan of the Directors.

By the way, you might want to review what the word “reputable” means in the dictionary. You started this communication using that word to describe your bank, but I’m not sure all this conspiracy and shenanigans from the Banking head and the Bank Directors really qualifies your organization for that distinction.

And for Pete’s sake, Chuck, don’t use the past tense when telling me about your dreams. Never give up, man! I might not be falling for this ill-conceived train wreck of a plan, but someone out there might. And when they do, you’ll finally be able to start that GhanaBurger franchise you’ve always wanted. That is your dream, not was. Chin up, old boy, as they say in Oxfordshire.


 Let me know your opinion on this subject, please deal with this information
and the highest
Secret ballot.

Please get back to me with my email address private (charlesemmanuel00@gmail.com) and we will go over the details once i receive
your reply soon.

 Have a nice day, and I am waiting for your contact.


Regards,
Charles Emmanuel
charlesemmanuel00@gmail.com


Here’s where I have to apologize, Chuck. I don’t really know what “deal with this information and the highest Secret ballot” means, but I’m guessing my nationwide weekly column wouldn’t qualify under your definition. Sorry to betray all that trust we’ve built up over the years of you being fake friends with a pretend rich guy with my same last name who had a wife but no next of kin.

I wish we could have split his 18,500,000.00 (Eighteen million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars) equal 50/50% to both parties, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

I just don’t feel like you’re as “reputable” as you’d like me to believe. Although, there might be one thing that would change my mind… Since you were such pals with old Iraqi Oil Bill, get back to me and tell me how Schmatjen is pronounced. Then we’ll talk.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Laugh Track

Raising kids is hard. There’s no getting around that fact. And these days, I think it’s safe to say we have a more challenging job raising kids than our parents did, with the added pitfalls of the internet, smartphones, social media, and mind-melting video games lumped on top of all the age-old problems associated with trying to mold quality adults out of little idiots.

At the end of most days, we’re left exhausted on the couch, still dumbfounded by their apparent inability to co-exist even on the same planet with their siblings, let alone two different rooms, and annoyed by the attitude we received regarding the dinner we so graciously provided them.

And especially as they get older, it seems they give us less and less to smile about each day, let alone laugh about. But the silver lining to this change, as they become older and more annoying, is when they do give us that gem to laugh about, it’s all that much sweeter.

Case in point – the other week I got a call from an unfamiliar number. The word is out on the streets of India that I have a website, and as a result, I have been getting mercilessly spammed by phone calls from friendly website hosting and design firms, so I have been a little gun-shy about answering my phone. But this was a local area code, so I picked up and cautiously said hello, ready to demand to be put on the Mumbai telemarketer’s do-not-call list.

But low and behold, it was a familiar voice on the other end of the line. Son Number One was calling from the middle school front office.

“Hi Dad.”

Uh oh, I thought. What happened? Is he sick? Did he get hurt? Did he burn down the science building? (Based on his track record, I was obviously leaning toward arson.)

“What’s up, buddy?” I asked, ready for the bad news.

“I forgot to bring my gym clothes this morning. Can you drive them over here real quick before gym starts?”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

“No. Good luck in gym class.”

Oh, man. That was a good one! Thanks for that, buddy. I really needed a good laugh.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Don't be Foolish, it's Tax Time

Your taxes were due yesterday. If you didn’t get them filed in time, fear not. Agents will be knocking on your door momentarily to take you to your new home, where you get three meals a day and don’t have to pay for anything. Sweet!

A few years ago, I thought I would try to make those of us not in prison feel a little better about our tax bills by calling attention to some of the wonderful government agencies that our hard-earned dollars go to fund.

So I went to USA.gov (motto: “Please don’t ask a lot of questions”), and looked up the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. After reading for a while, I realized there was no way I was going to make anyone feel better about paying taxes, so instead I bet myself that I could click on every letter of the alphabet and come up with a ridiculous agency that should never have been started in the first place.

I failed to find an insane waste of money under each letter of the alphabet, but that was only because there were no agencies that started with the letters Q, X, Y or Z.

I have updated the list of current agencies for you again this year. Here’s the fun places your 2017 tax dollars are headed:


Administrative Conference of the United States (motto: Leave us alone. We’re still conferring. Offsite.)

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (motto: Buyer beware. And seller, too. We’re coming for all of you.)

Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (motto: It goes in the upper right corner, dammit!)

Delaware River Basin Commission (motto: Getting paid to stare at water since 1961.)

Economic Adjustment Office (motto: Please be patient. We’re redistributing your money as fast as we can.)

Federal Geographic Date Committee (From the website: An interagency group that promotes and coordinates the production, use, and publication of geospatial data. Well, thank God someone is doing that!)

Government Ethics, Office of (motto: We can’t even fit all the irony into one building.)

House Office of the Clerk (Main functions include running the offices of deceased and retired representatives – I am not making that up.)

Inter-American Foundation (From the website: Provides grant support to Latin American and Caribbean grass-roots groups and non-governmental organizations with creative self-help ideas. Can’t we just send them Tony Robbins?)

Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (motto: We will sue you in as many places as possible.)

Kennedy Center (motto: Please stop asking about Marilyn.)

Legal Services Corporation (motto: That might be legal now. There’s been a lot of changes.)

Marine Mammal Commission (We’re investigating the narwhal. He seems like a troublemaker.)

National Agriculture Statistics Service (motto: Still excited about that 1957 bean crop!)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (This is not where we hide all the bribes and kickbacks and stuff. We swear.)

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (Just kidding, we spent it all. Here’s a third of what you were promised. We borrowed it from social security. Shhh!)

Risk Management Agency (motto: We manage our risk with your money. No problemo!)

Surface Transportation Board (We don’t trust those Department of Transportation guys to handle the surface. There’s just too much of it. It covers the whole country, you know?)

Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (We changed our name from “Taxpayer Advocate Service” because too many people thought we would actually help. You’re still screwed.)

U.S. Election Assistance Commission (motto: Helping you get crappy officials for generations to come.)

Veterans Day National Committee (We’re thinking November 11th again this year.)

Washington Headquarters Services (We are here to serve headquarters. In Washington. Don’t ask a lot of questions, OK?)


It really bothers me that we don’t have Q, X, Y, or Z agencies yet. We’re only four more ridiculous money-wasting agencies away from having the whole alphabet covered. Just off the top of my head last year, I suggested the Quicksand and other Swamp Dangers Mitigation Exploratory Committee, the Xylophone Standardization Council, the Yo-Yo Injury Prevention Task Force, and the Zeppelin and Lighter-than-Aircraft (Unmanned) Aviation Standards Advisory Board, and not one of them has been added this year. It’s as if Washington isn’t listening to me at all.

As far as the current agencies go, keep in mind, folks, I limited myself to only one department per letter of the alphabet. This list of agencies whose only concern is to justify their funding for next year could go on for days.

Even more disturbing than the fact that the lists grow each year, is the fact that not all the agencies are listed under the “Complete A-Z Listing” of government agencies. In years past, if you dug a little deeper on USA.gov you could find the rest of the disheartening lists – a list of Independent Agencies and Government Corporations, a list of Boards, Commissions, and Committees, a list of Federal Advisory Committees, and my personal favorite, a list of Quasi-Official Agencies. I can’t seem to find any of those lists this year. Hmm… I’m sure that means they all got shut down because they were unnecessary or borderline illegal, right?

Sure.

If that isn’t scary enough for you, then I invite you to forget all the agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and departments, quasi-official or not, that we may or may not be allowed to know about and simply ponder this:

According to Congress, it takes around $5.3 billion per year just for them to turn the lights on and run the show. Not all of Washington, D.C., mind you. Just Congress. Not the White House, plus the Supreme Court, plus the Pentagon, plus the army and stuff. Just Congress. Five and a third billion dollars. Billion with a “B.” Five thousand millions.

They “work” about one hundred seventy-five days per year. That means we’re talking $30 million a day.
Even if we generously assume they work twelve hours per day, that’s $2.5 million an hour.
That’s $42,000 per minute.
That’s $700 per second. For Congress to keep the doors open.

(And, let’s keep in mind that it was Congress themselves who told us how much they are spending. So, in reality, it’s probably a much higher number, since they have a tendency toward keeping some of their agencies and stuff off the main list.)

In the time it will take you to read this sentence, the U.S. Congress will spend $8,500 of your money (or probably more) on nothing more than working hard to dream up even more hidden quasi-official agencies to help spend the rest of it.

Holy crap.

The real April Fools’ Day is not April 1st. It’s April 15th.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Different Waze to Die

During Easter break, now popularly known as the-completely-coincidental-break-in-the-spring-that-has-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-a-major-Christian-holiday (see also, Winter Break), we traveled by car down to the LA area.

For those of you unfamiliar with the LA area, that’s sort of like saying we traveled by plane down to the place where all the planes just sit there and can’t fly.

For most of our travels we knew where we were going and didn’t require any electronic navigational aids, except for one destination. We took the boys to Universal Studios one day and needed some guidance to get there.

Earlier in the trip my wife had been experimenting with Waze and Google Maps, comparing which app gave us the most accurate arrival times. But we were driving in the LA area, and consequently hearing all the arrival times became so depressing we kept shutting the apps off before we arrived.

When it came time to use one of them, she chose Waze, and we were off. We left early in the morning, knowing we had at least an hour and a half of driving, and wanting to get to the park when it opened. The early hour may have been the only thing that saved our lives.

Unlike Google Maps, which sticks to freeway routes and just relays the depressing news to you about how late you’re going to be, Waze actively attempts to avoid the red sections of the freeway by using neighborhood streets as shortcuts. That’s just dandy, except for the fact that the people over at Waze are not taking everything into consideration.

In their corporate headquarters, somewhere in the shiny Silicon Valley no doubt, they are simply seeing available streets for use on a nice, cartoony map of the USA. “Hey, look, it will save this nice LA commuter two minutes if we jog them over on I-710 and down Hermosa Avenue to I-10 instead of staying on I-5. Hermosa Avenue – that sounds lovely, doesn’t it?”

Well, let me tell you, Waze employees, Hermosa Avenue may look like a wonderful shortcut on your screen, but in real life, it will scare the hell out of you. In the first four blocks we saw two chop shops, a crack house, a drug deal in progress, three good places to get murdered, two places to pay to have someone else murdered, three liquor stores, four hookers, and an entrepreneur named Skinny T offering crazy-good deals on ammunition and gently used car audio components from a table on the sidewalk.

Not really what we had in mind for our family drive to the amusement park.

I’m sure the early hour of the day was our saving grace, since it appeared to be a shift change. All the really bad guys had no doubt just retired to their comfy beds after another hard night of felonious skullduggery, and the daytime thugs weren’t up yet.

You folks at Waze may not believe this, but this was not my first near-death experience with computer route-mapping software. In the early days of the internet, MapQuest actually tried to route me down a boat launch ramp in Stockton once. Fortunately, I realized the error before finding out how floaty my car was or wasn’t. All their software engineers are probably retired from their careers in the fast food industry by now, but I assume you learned some valuable lessons from their ground work, as it were.

And of course, I realize that your Waze navigation system operates on continually-updating algorithms that are simply trying to get me from A to B in the shortest time possible, and the area of map software as a whole has vastly improved, but I’ll make a few minor suggestions if I may.

For starters, you might try getting some crime statistics uploaded to your databases. Your app did a nice job of alerting us every time there was a police officer up ahead of us on the side of the highway, but I’m guessing that feature was designed to warn speeders. You probably don’t want your users thinking, “Oh, thank God!” when they hear the police alert.

If you were to gather crime data and start overlaying the street names in the police reports onto your maps, you could form a risk model for each route.

I, as the driver, could then input my acceptable level of risk for my trip, and you could route me accordingly. If I was unsure of my personal risk profile, you might even be able to give me options, like showing me two or three different routes and telling me important information about each, such as, “This route will get you to your destination 7 minutes faster, but you have a 57% higher likelihood of being caught in the middle of a gang war than with Route A.”

You might even be able to give me a Murder-Free Routes Only button, for when I’m with the family. A No Hookers button could also be a nice option.

I realize you meant me and my family no harm, and to your credit, we never saw any boat launch ramps. Nevertheless, I sure found myself wishing there was a Stop Trying to Get Us Killed button that morning.

Food for thought.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

House Cougar

It happened last Friday. The moment I lost all remaining faith in our general public and our education system. If you want to document the date and time for historical purposes, it occurred on Friday, March 23, 2018 at approximately 12:15 P.M.

That’s when the call came into the Rocklin Police Department’s main board. “There’s a mountain lion roaming around near Rocklin High School.”

“Holy crap,” said school officials, probably. “We can’t have a cougar on campus. That could be dangerous. We have no idea where it might go. I mean, we know it will steer clear of the cafeteria, because, seriously, have you tried the food? But it may eat one of the students. They’re sitting ducks. They never look up from their phones.”

The school went on temporary lockdown, enacting the standard wild animal intrusion protocol. First, all the students were moved to the gymnasium, the teachers and staff forming a human corridor to guide them so they wouldn’t bump into walls and doorjambs while concentrating on their phones. Once the kids were secured inside, the teachers and staff went to work emptying the cafeteria kitchen, stacking the school lunches to form protective wildlife-repellant barriers around all the entrances.

With everyone safely behind the impenetrable walls of rubbery chicken strips and rock-hard gluten-free corn muffins, the administrators monitored the situation as Rocklin PD and animal control arrived on the scene.

After a thorough search of the campus came up empty, including inside the cafeteria, just to be safe, the police cleared the lockdown. While all the officers on scene said they were not particularly frightened about the possibility of running across a mountain lion, many of them reported negative phycological effects from their search of the cafeteria, apparently having flashbacks to their own high school histories with the Friday chef’s surprise.

As the students got back to class and the cafeteria officers sought counseling back at the station, animal control officers stayed behind to review the surveillance footage of the campus and the surrounding area.

The video search results were made known to the media, and later in the day the following was released by a local news outlet:

Officers and animal control couldn’t find any trace of a lion.

Video later revealed that the animal was just a large house cat.

Police say they encourage residents to continue to report sightings so that officers can properly determine any potential risk to the community.

A large house cat.

I am not making that up.

Someone in Rocklin, CA, which is located in America, saw a house cat and thought it was a mountain lion. The caller had to be an adult, because if it was one of the high school students there would have been thirty-seven selfies with the cat in the background prior to reporting the sighting, and the lockdown would have been avoided. Plus, most high school students are unaware that their phones have a phone feature. They would have tweeted the selfie to the Rocklin PD’s Twitter page. “omg r u kidding? cutest mountain lion photobomb!”

So an American adult saw a house cat and decided it was a cougar.

I really wish I was making that up.

“Police say they encourage residents to continue to report sightings…” Yes, I guess that’s what the police have to say to the public. I guarantee what police say in the privacy of their own patrol cars is, “A %*^$# house cat!? What the $%##& has happened to #@%&% common sense?”

I am hereby proposing a new rule that should make the police happier: Anyone who looks at a house cat (large, extra-large, or even jumbo), and calls the police thinking it’s a mountain lion gets tazed.

Or they have to eat lunch at the school cafeteria. Either way.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


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Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Have a Nice Autumn

We as a people need to figure out how to be nicer. Specifically, we need to solve the problem of “Have a nice day.”

I think we can all agree that we need more nice in this world and less mean. We need more love and less hate. More sweet and less sour. More good and less bad. More pizza and less kale. You get what I’m trying to say.

One good starting point for that effort would simply be for everyone to be more pleasant to each other. To that end, like many of us, I try to wrap up most of my interactions with the tried and true, “Have a nice day.”

In the spirit of needing more nice in the world, occasionally I’ll step it up to a “Have a great day,” but even that isn’t going as far as I’d like. Now, don’t get me wrong – having a great day is what I wish for everyone, but it’s simply not as far-reaching as I’d like to be.

What I mean is, I don’t just want people to have a nice day. I want them to have a life-long series of nice, or even great, days. Expressing that, unfortunately, is where the problem lies.

We should all be wishing that stranger on the street or behind the counter a lifetime of nice days, but saying “Have a nice life” does exactly the opposite of that. If you say “Have a nice life” to someone, you’re basically telling them to go jump in a lake. Nothing says, “I never want to see you again,” quite like “Have a nice life.”

If you wanted to try to step up your interval of wished happiness just a little from the standard one day, you could tell someone to “Have a nice week.” That’s nice and all, but it gets confusing to the other person, because it implies that you will see them again in seven days. You’re trying to spread happiness, not confusion.

You can tell someone to “Have a nice weekend,” which is perfectly acceptable and non-confusing, provided you do it on Friday, or possibly even Thursday. If you try to get away with it on Wednesday, people will only envy you for your ridiculously short work week, which completely takes away from the nice sentiment. If you say it on a Monday or Tuesday, they’ll just think you have no idea what day it is and might start to worry about you, again, defeating the purpose.

“Have a nice month?” Same “Am I supposed to see you again in thirty days?” problem as “Have a nice week,” but with the added issue of possibly bringing unwarranted worry into their lives. What’s next month? Is something supposed to happen that I don’t know about? Taxes? Holidays? Is my mother-in-law coming to visit? What did he mean by that??

Out past a month, your only options left are seasons. If you wish someone a nice spring, fall, or winter, they’re just going to look at you funny, or ask, “What the hell do you mean by that?” The only one that really works is “Have a nice summer,” but it has a big problem. It’s only good for teachers and students. If you say it to anyone else, it will backfire. You’re just reminding them that all the teachers and students have the summer off and they don’t. Not cool.

So there’s the problem, America. We want to spread more good in the world, but we’re largely unable to do it any faster than one day at a time. How do we speed this up? How do we extend the time interval of good wishes?

“Have a nice year?” Probably not.

At this point, it seems like we’re stuck with wishing each other one nice day at a time, so maybe the answer is simply adding something else nice and complimentary on top of it?

How about “Have a nice day, you magnificent bastard!”?

You guys try it out and let me know how it works.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ask Smidge - Week Two

Last week’s advice met with such a tremendous amount of ambivalence that we couldn’t wait to answer more of America’s burning questions. Ask Smidge is back for another round.

As always, you are encouraged to send your questions to our new email address – asksmidge@gmail.com

And remember, Ask Smidge is open to any topic. This kind of wise and thoughtful advice just shouldn’t be limited to one area of your life. Open up, America!

Let’s get to the questions, shall we?

Smidge,
My dog is shedding like crazy. We have dog hair on every inch of the house and ourselves. What can we do?
Signed,
Hairy in Harrisburg

Dear Hairy,
There is nothing you can do to stop your dog from shedding, short of a full shave, and you don’t want your dog to be naked at the park. It’s embarrassing for you and the dog. Lint rollers can’t keep up, so there’s really only one option: camouflage. You should always buy a dog that’s the same color as your pants. Shedding is no longer an issue when the hair is invisible. Since you already have the dog, you’ll need to get new pants. Happy shopping!



Smidge,
I’m fresh out of Boise State and looking to get one of those sweet California Bay Area tech jobs at a start-up that has bean bag chairs and pays me only in stock options so I can retire by the age of 27. Any advice on interviewing strategies?
Signed,
Believing in Boise

Dear Believing,
Tech start-up people love corporate buzz words, so use a lot of them. You need to say things like, “I actualize and cloudify all the backend bandwidth to effort our cross functional client-focused future-proof network models.”
But you also have to be hip and cool, so finish with something like, “I leverage synergistic outcomes like that in my sleep, yo.”
Oh, and always have a cup of $11 coffee in your hand. And a beard.
Happy interviewing!



Smidge,
We need some potty advice. Our oldest two are girls, and we didn’t have this problem with them. Our son, the youngest, just potty-trained a few weeks ago, but he’s having trouble with his aim. I’m really not sure if any of the pee ever gets in the toilet. Any suggestions?
Signed,
Scrubbing the Floor in Scranton

Dear Scrubbing,
We have three boys, the oldest of whom is 13, and he still misses the toilet regularly. Our 9-year-old even occasionally manages to pee on the wall behind the toilet. There’s no hope. All you can do is buy Scrubbing Bubbles by the pallet for the volume discount and encourage them to pee in the backyard as often as possible. At least you only have one!



Smidge,
I work in middle management at a large consulting firm. I started my career with high hopes, but these days I feel pretty expendable. I want to make an impact, but I honestly feel like I’m just lost in a sea of other nameless, faceless employees, toilingly meaninglessly until five o’clock. What can I do to get the spark back and be noticed?
Signed,
Depressed in Denver

Dear Depressed,
I feel your pain, but you’re looking at this the wrong way. You need to take a good hard honest look at your job and ask yourself, does it really need to be me, specifically, that shows up, or could it be anyone? The vast majority of employees - and certainly you in particular - will need to honestly answer that it could be anyone. Take my job, for instance, as a professional writer. Anyone could do this. In fact, it’s not me writing this, and you didn’t even notice. Take my advice and embrace it. Then shop around for an out-of-work manager, or even a college kid looking to make a few bucks, and hire them to go into the office for you. Cut them in for 20% of your salary and meet me at Applebee’s for happy hour. Cheers!



Smidge,
Since it fell on a Saturday this year, we had a crazy St. Patrick’s Day party on our block, that may have even gotten a little out of hand. Green beer was flowing and I was introduced to a fun drink called an Irish Car Bomb. The last thing I remember was kissing someone dressed as a leprechaun for good luck. Good times. But I’ve heard they don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Is that true? If so, they are missing out!
Signed,
Slightly Green on Sunday

Dear Slightly,
I’m glad you had fun, and you don’t need to worry about the Irish. They celebrate St. Patrick’s Day much more than we do. Although, they don’t call it St. Patrick’s Day. They call it Tuesday.



There you have it; another week of partially satisfied customers. Remember, you, too, can benefit from this kind of sage advice by emailing your questions to asksmidge@gmail.com

You’re welcome, America!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ask Smidge

After countless requests for me to start an advice column - and when I say countless here, I mean there were none – the time has come. Move over Dear Abby, Ask Smidge is here.

Ask Smidge is open to any topic of your choosing. We do not limit ourselves to relationship advice, mostly because I know very little about relationships.

You, our beloved readers and needers of quality Smidge advice, are encouraged to send your burning questions to our new email address – asksmidge@gmail.com

We here at Ask Smidge are committed to reading every single question we receive, so remember, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people who ask questions. If you happen to be one of those people, I probably won’t answer your question in the column so much as read it aloud to all our friends and neighbors and have a great big laugh at your expense.

But rest assured, if we do determine your question doesn’t merit a response in the column due to your insanely small brain, you will never be named or made fun of in the Ask Smidge column. (I mean, not unless the question was just that ridiculous.)

Thanks in advance!

Let’s get to the questions, shall we?

Smidge,
My teenage son doesn’t seem to listen to me, or anyone, and he’s always moody. I try to connect with him, but he just grunts at me and asks for more food. What can I do?
Signed,
Frustrated in Freeport

Dear Frustrated,
Rest assured, your son is normal. The problem lies in the inner-working of his brain. The male teenage brain has the same makeup, functionality, and capacity for rational thought as a cantaloupe. The only thing you can do during this time is encourage him to take as many showers as possible to combat the onslaught of body odor, and try to keep your hands and feet away from his mouth while he’s eating. Past that, it’s like owning a large monkey. Good luck!



Smidge,
Our teenage daughter is moody, irritable, and seemingly insane at times. I try to talk to her about what might be bothering her, but half the time she just cries, which makes me very uncomfortable. My wife tells me that our daughter is going through a lot and it’s natural, but I don’t know what that means. Please help me.
Signed,
Uneasy in New Orleans

Dear Uneasy,
I don’t know anything about women either. (The teenage kind or the adult kind.) If I were you, I’d move out until it all blows over. Best of luck.



Smidge,
I’m hosting a barbecue this weekend and would like a recommendation. Which type of wine pairs best with steak?
Signed,
Parched in Pocatello

Dear Parched,
Beer.



Smidge,
Our new puppy is chewing on everything, but has a special affinity for shoes. She has destroyed countless pairs of expensive shoes and we’re at our wit’s end. Help!
Signed,
Shoeless in Seattle

Dear Shoeless,
Dip all your shoes in a large vat of Tabasco sauce. The puppy will stop chewing them, and you will never get athlete’s foot again.



Smidge,
I fear that our toaster may be broken. We were toasting a bagel and using the microwave at the same time when our teenage daughter inexplicably plugged her hair dryer in in the kitchen. (Something about how all the bathrooms in the house are worthless…) Anyway, I think the toaster got overloaded, because it sparked momentarily and let out a cloud of smoke that smelled awful. Now it will not turn back on. Is there a reset switch or something?
Signed,
Untoasted in Topeka

Dear Untoasted,
Electricity can seem like a complicated and mysterious thing, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. Electrical current is simply the movement of electrons from one place to another. In order to move, the electrons are vaporized by the amp volts, and travel along the various wires and circuits (known collectively as the “capacitor,” or the “fuse”) in the form of black or white smoke, depending on which wire they are in. Any time the circuit (or, “watt”) is overloaded or otherwise damaged, the electron smoke can be accidentally released from the appliance. Your toaster has lost all its electricity and won’t work anymore. You need a new one.



There you have it, folks. That’s just a small sample of the expert advice waiting for you when you send your questions to asksmidge@gmail.com

You’re welcome, America!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Taxination Pending

Boy, am I in trouble. And not the usual kind of “you left the toilet seat up again,” or “you’re not watching the boys closely enough and they started a fire on the sidewalk again” kind of trouble I’m normally in. This is much worse. I’m in trouble with the IRS.

I know what you’re thinking. All those years of claiming the neighborhood kids as dependents every time they ate a snack at our house finally caught up to me. You might be right. Or maybe it was claiming the dog as a business expense since I bounce book ideas off her? Who knows? All I know is it’s serious.

I received an official phone call from a mechanical robot voice the other day. It’s even worse than I thought. The IRS has obviously implemented Terminator-type robot agents to do their wet work. “Taxinators,” if you will…

The Taxinator robot didn’t even wait for me to say hello. It just got right to the point.

Hi, this is officer Magnus calling from Washington, D.C. with the criminal division of the IRS.

Holy crap. The “criminal division.” More like the execution division. I’ve seen the Terminator movies. Those silver robots are ruthless. They literally have no ruth whatsoever.

Taxinator Magnus may have started cordially, but the one-sided conversation quickly took a hard edge.

The matter as of hand is extremely time-sensitive and urgent, as after audit we found that there was a fraud and misconduct on your tax which you are hiding from the federal government.

Hmm… Taxinator Magnus’s American English Grammar and Idioms chip seems to be malfunctioning a bit. Maybe it got damaged in an IRS Criminal Division shootout?

Be that as it may, I am deeply concerned that there is a fraud and misconduct on my tax. But, I have to wonder… if I’m really hiding it from the federal government, then how do they know about it? Probably some kind of special next-level Taxinator computer processing tax fraud and misconduct algorithm. Who can tell with these type of things?

This need to be rectify immediately, so do return the call as soon as you receive the message.

Boy, again, it really seems like, given the existence of all this futuristic Taxinator malfeasance-sniffing software, they would be able to fix that grammar chip. Besides my internal need to rectify the tense of his verbs, agent Magnus hung up before I could figure out exactly what he wanted me to do.

I realize “the matter as of hand” is extremely time-sensitive and urgent, but am I supposed to return his call now, or wait for an unmentioned second message? I mean, he said call back as soon as I receive the message. Not this message.

On the one hand, I don’t want to make my fraud and misconduct problems worse by accidentally ignoring the Taxinator’s instructions. On the other hand, I don’t want to anger a six-foot-tall metal-alloy killing and auditing machine by not following its instructions to the letter.

As a writer, I guess I am duty-bound to follow the grammatically correct path. So, I’ll just fortify the front door, make an emergency escape plan to fall back to the steel mill, and wait patiently for another official message from Washington D.C.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

An Open Letter to the Movies

Dear Whomever is in charge at the movies,

We need to talk. I’m not sure which of you is in charge of the movie previews, so I’m writing to all of you about all the adult content in your trailers.

Now, let’s be clear. I have no problem with movie trailers that have adult content, if the movie has adult content. That’s great. In general, I’m pro adult content, being an adult, myself (chronologically, at least).

And before we get too far into this, I’d like to thank you all for continuing to make movies with adult content. I tend to enjoy them.

What I didn’t enjoy recently was when you chose to show these movie trailers with all the adult content. You see, my wife and I took our three sons - ages 13, 11, and 9 - to see Marvel’s new movie Black Panther.  

It’s rated PG-13, so I know what you’re going to say all defensively at some point – “Hey Mr. Parent, how come you brought an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old to a PG-13 movie?” To that, I would respond, “Bite me.” We did our homework.

We always do our homework, and Black Panther is rated PG-13 for violence. It’s almost all hand-to-hand combat stuff, and frankly, on a normal Wednesday afternoon, our boys’ fights make the movie’s combat look tame. (All three of them are available for hire, by the way, if you’re ever looking for small stunt men.)

There was one bad guy in the movie who had a cannon hidden inside his fake arm, which I didn’t consider an issue. I considered it to be what it was - completely awesome.

What we are mostly concerned about as parents these days is explicit content. There was hardly any bad language and the only remotely sexual parts of the movie were a few brief kisses.

But you know what I didn’t get to do my homework on ahead of time? That’s right - which trailers you were going to show ahead of our acceptable PG-13 movie.

The first one was for a fun little rated R film called Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence. Turns out she’s a Russian hooker/spy/assassin.

That’s nice.

The trailer started with her sitting on a hotel bed in a low-cut red dress. A man puts a stack of money on the nightstand and says, “Take off your dress.”

Thanks for that.

Then she kills him with a garotte and leaves the hotel. Then we get to hear the back story, narrated by a nameless American spy - she’s part of a group of young Russian officers called the Sparrows, who are trained to seduce and manipulate.

Great.

Oh, look, you flashed over to a future Sparrow watching a training film containing two women in black leather bikinis with riding crops, fuzzy blindfolds, and choke collars.

That’s nice.

Then there’s more rapid-fire images of Jennifer Lawrence seducing people with various parts of her body, intermixed with blood-sprayed walls and dead people.

Gosh, movie people, thanks for that fun visual and auditory learning experience for my kids.

You followed that gem up with a hilarious romp of a trailer for the raunchy comedy I Feel Pretty - also rated R - starring Amy Schumer.

I assume you folks over there in the movie business know who Amy Schumer is. So I assume you know that nothing even remotely PG-13, PG-14, or even PG-28 has ever come out of her mouth. She’s the female Andrew Dice Clay without the weird New Jersey accent.

And yet, there she was on our screen, standing in her underwear in front of a full-length mirror, woman-handling her boobs.

Thanks, movies.

Apparently, her character is not happy with her body or her life in general, until she hits her head and wakes up thinking she’s a gorgeous supermodel.

It was fun when you showed the footage of her entering a bikini contest and gyrating on stage, crawling around seductively while running her fingers over a bar patron’s lips, and pouring water on herself.

What was also really great was when she was obviously totally naked, telling her boyfriend he was getting “a sneak peak of what’s to come.”

That was a special time for our family.

So, again, to be clear, a sincere thanks from me for making those movies. I want to see both of them. But you showed their trailers to my kids ahead of a Marvel comic book movie about a cool superhero guy who fights crime with a magical armored body suit and a neat accent.

That was stupid of you. Your target audience department needs to be fired.

Please do me, and the rest of the parents of America, a favor – if you don’t have any relevant and appropriate trailers to show, just play some more ads for your snack bar with that $35 tub of dancing popcorn.

Or on second thought, don’t. Just show us the damned movie.

Thanks a million,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen


Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Amazon.com Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!