Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Ninth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Last year at this time I sat down and selflessly took time out of my busy schedule of snacking to write you a sixth open letter. I have given you nothing but invaluable advice over the years, attempting to help you improve not only your business operations, but also your business model, never asking anything in return for all my time and effort.

That changes as of today. One of two things is happening. You are either not reading my letters, or you simply don’t care. Given the current situation, I have to assume it’s the latter. You see, in letter number six I gave you the friendly heads-up that you’d ‘accidentally’ scheduled picture retake day during our school’s spirit week, specifically on pajama day.

I’ve got to hand it to you. Last year when you scheduled picture retake day on pajama day, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. But you did the exact same thing again this year. Retakes are today for a school full of kids wearing fuzzy SpongeBob SquarePants jammies.

Who’s in charge of scheduling this? I’m starting to think it’s the same photographer who didn’t care during the original picture day that Son Number Three had a clown-sized milk mustache and an entire cheese puff stuck to his face. I mean, logically I just have to assume he or she didn’t care, since being legally blind probably prevents employment as a photographer. Or maybe not with you guys.

Honestly, if it was solely up to me, I would have been done with school pictures a long time ago. But my wife, bless her heart, was clinging to the hope that school pictures still meant something special to you. Her answer to me this morning when I asked if she wanted retakes: “Why bother? What if they’re worse?”

You’ve lost my wife, so now your relationship with me has officially changed.

We used to pay you for the fall pictures, but I see that coming to a close. We have a nice camera, and we have something you apparently don’t – napkins. From now on, Costco Film Developing will be our official fall school picture photographer. I’ll save money, and I won’t have to look at food on my sons’ faces. Not in the pictures, anyway. I will obviously continue to see food on their faces during the day, since none of them have yet to master civilized eating. Son Number Three constantly looks like he used a grenade to get the food into his mouth instead of a fork.

As for spring pictures, that’s where our relationship is taking its biggest turn. I used to simply ignore the notices since I didn’t want or need more pictures ten days after you took the last set. Many of my helpful letters to you over the years have highlighted how you could save enormous amounts of money by not inexplicably printing and shipping reams and reams of spring pictures to me that I didn’t want in the first place. The indication that I didn’t want them still being the very easy to understand fact that I didn’t order them.

I know you guys are having a hard time with that concept, so let me try to put it in another context for you. Let’s use fast food as an example. Next time you drive past a McDonald’s, take a minute to notice that no one runs out of the building, chases your car down the street, throws hamburgers into your window, then sends you letters asking you to pay for the delicious burgers or kindly return them to the store.

McDonald’s has the business model where they wait for people to actually order the hamburgers before they make them and hand them over. Crazy, I know, but that’s how they do it.

Since we’re on letter number nine here, I feel like I should go a little further with the explanation. The spring pictures you print and send me that I didn’t order are the hamburgers getting thrown through the moving car’s window three blocks away from the restaurant. Get it?

I used to not care about when spring picture day was. And as humorous as I thought it was that you still took their pictures anyway, despite the distinct lack of any order forms, and then sent them to me hoping I would give you money, I still didn’t care.

Now I care. Now I am going to pay attention to when spring picture day. Now I’m going to get my kids dressed up on that morning and have them ready for pictures.

Spring picture day is our family’s new Halloween. I’m going to test you and see when you will finally stop sending me pictures. Will you still take pictures of my kids if I draw mustaches and surprised eyebrows on all of them with baseball eye black? Will you send me reams and reams of pictures I’m not going to pay for of my sons with Sharpie marker beard stubble and eye patches?

We’re going to find out.

Thank you Lifetouch! I’m really looking forward to our new relationship moving forward. If you don’t care, then I don’t either.

Good luck with your pajama pictures today.

All my best,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Urgent Facebook PSA

If you are on Facebook – and I am assuming you are by now, since you are a breathing human – you have no doubt seen the following status update on more than one friend’s page:

Just trying to be safe: Deadline tomorrow!!! Everything you've ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry. Channel 13 News talked about the change in Facebook's privacy policy.

I have been on Facebook for a long time now, and I have seen that fake deadline come and go at least four or five times in the last four or five years alone. I can assure you, if “Channel 13 News” talked about it, it was to attempt to let you know that this hoax comes around once every year, just like the winter solstice, or that fruitcake Aunt Edna baked back in ’79. The only news flash here is that everything you ever posted on Facebook was always public.

NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. Copy and paste.

Facebook is a free web service where you voluntarily post pictures of your cat. That’s all it is. It happens to be a very large free web service with a zillion cat pictures, but let’s not kid ourselves. And what the hell does “tactically allowing” mean?

This is my favorite part:

I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute).

With this statement, I give notice to Facebook... Yes, because all legal matters these days can be handled by posting lawyerish-sounding phrases on a free social media site. That’s why we don’t need lawyers anymore.

Judge: “Mr. Johnson, you’re being charged with bank robbery, how do you plead?”
Mr. Johnson: “Totally not guilty, Your Honor.”
Bank’s Lawyer: “You walked into our branch and demanded five hundred thousand dollars in cash.”
Mr. Johnson: “Well, yeah, but that’s only because I saw a tweet that said you guys were giving away free money to anyone who asked for it in a low voice while keeping one hand in the pocket of their sweatshirt.”
Judge: “Oh, snap! There was a tweet?”
Bank’s Lawyer: “Wow, sorry. We totally didn’t know that someone tweeted that. Our bad.”
Judge: “Case dismissed.”

The content of this profile is private and confidential information. Yes, that’s why I’m using this free web service as a personal diary, making vague references to my crappy day and how I’m such a bad parent. I do that to get my own private and confidential thoughts down onto a virtual page so I can reflect on them later, privately. I never do that so other people will publicly ask me what’s wrong and send me encouraging messages about how I’m a great parent. I wouldn’t want that kind of public attention on this public free web service when I’m trying to be so private and confidential.

And then, to cap off the awesome, what appears to be the phone number of a pizza place in western Nebraska is listed at the bottom, with “The Rome Statute” thrown in for good measure, which simply doesn’t apply to this fake problem anyway. Besides the fact that no privacy actually exists in my relationship with Facebook (and "any entities associated with Facebook”), the real reason is that the Rome Statute doesn’t even remotely apply to anything having to do with pictures of my lunch.

In my exhaustive ten-second Wikipedia search, I found out The Rome Statute establishes four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Even if my Facebook account could be considered international since I frequently post pictures of tacos, none of those four crimes seem to apply here.

But, hey, I understand if you’re new to the Facebook world and you got duped by this recurring hoax. Lawyers are scary, and like it says in this one and the ‘Bill Gates is going to give money to everyone who posts this’ one, better safe than sorry.

If you did happen to post that warning to your wall, and now you’re suddenly regretting it, have no fear. I have written something you can replace it with. Feel free to copy and paste!

Just trying to be safe, since the deadline is tomorrow. Not a specific date, mind you, but tomorrow for Pete’s sake!!! I hereby totally give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook 100% permission to use my pictures, information, messages and posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden NOT TO disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on my profile and/or its contents. The contents of this profile are so awesome that I would be legally and morally offended if Facebook didn’t take full advantage of it. And I’m not even limiting this to just the stuff I have on Facebook. I mean my actual stuff, like my couch and my food, as well as any of my relatives that will go without a fight. I now hereby renounce all my possessions and my relatives, and give Facebook the legal authority to do whatever they want with them. I give no other entity that is not associated with Facebook any authority whatsoever for anything. Facebook is now in charge of everything. Because I used the words ‘hereby’ and ‘whatsoever,’ this is totally legal and stuff.

There you go. It’s just as legally binding, but now maybe Facebook will come and get rid of that old couch for you. And maybe Aunt Edna’s fruitcake.

Maybe even Aunt Edna, too!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Giant Smelly Goat

In 1934, a plucky Greek immigrant named William Sianis bought the Lincoln Tavern in Chicago, Illinois for two hundred and five dollars. Foreshadowing the modern Greek financial situation, his check promptly bounced. But he made good, retaining ownership of the establishment by repaying the bank with the proceeds from the first weekend he was open, under the bar’s new name, The Billy Goat Tavern.

William “Billy Goat” Sianis was many things. He was a bar owner, a bartender, a pretty kick-ass nickname haver, a check bouncer, a purveyor of marginal cheeseburgers, an actual Billy goat owner, a marketing genius, and a visionary with the foresight to petition for the first liquor license on the moon, just in case any passing astronauts needed a burger and a beer. He was a man with a dream.

Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, Billy Sianis was apparently also a wizard. An evil, sports curse-applying wizard.

In game four of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field, Sianis and his pet Billy goat, Murphy, were ejected from the stadium due to Murphy’s foul stench. Since Murphy was a bar mascot, I would have to assume that he existed, like Sianis, on a strict diet of pickled eggs, greasy cheeseburgers, and beer. Hence the odor.

Also, like Sianis, I have to assume the goat was an angry drunk. History does not tell us how many twelve-dollar Miller Lites Billy and Murphy consumed that day, or how many Cubs executives Murphy rammed on his way out of the stadium that day, but we do know what Billy said to them. The very disgruntled goat owner hexed the entire organization as he and Murphy were being unceremoniously escorted from Wrigley Field.

“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

The curse heard around the world.

Now, if you were a Cubs fan there on that fateful day when your Cubbies were up 2-1 in the series, you may have just shrugged it off as the rantings of a drunken, smelly tavern owner who was callous enough to bring drunken, smelly livestock to box seats at a baseball game.

And when the Cubs then blew the lead and lost the series four games to three, you may not have made the connection, chalking it up to bad luck.

But in the year 2015, when your beloved Cubbies haven’t won a World Series in a hundred and seven years, and have failed to even win a pennant and get into another World Series since that fateful goat-cursed year of 1945 - seventy years later - you simply can’t deny the wicked sorcery behind old Billy’s curse.

Many attempts to reverse the curse have been made by the desperate Cubs’ faithful over the years. Sam Sianis, Billy’s nephew, has walked a goat out onto Wrigley Field more than a few times in hopes of canceling out the bad juju.

A Greek Orthodox priest has sprayed holy water in the Cubs dugout, and multiple priests over the years have blessed the field, the dugout, and the entire stadium, to no avail.
Goats have sacrificed and been sacrificed in the effort as well. Two poor goats were made to travel all across the country – one even being made to walk all the way from Arizona to Chicago – in attempts to reverse the curse. If those goats thought they had it bad, the ones that have been killed and unceremoniously hung from a statue at Wrigley Field over the years would argue differently. Cubs fans take their baseball seriously.

My second favorite, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to break the curse of the Billy goat took place in September of last year when - and I’m not making this up - five guys ate an entire forty-pound goat in thirteen minutes at the undoubtedly five-star-rated Chicago eatery, Taco in a Bag. No one combines superstition with food and awesome restaurant names better than Cubs fans.

None of those perfectly sane curse reversal tactics worked, but this year they may have found the most powerful (and certainly my favorite) reversal magic yet - in the form of a T-shirt.

Here are the important elements of the scene:

- Legendary funnyman Bill Murray was the star of Ghostbusters, arguably the best movie about three college professors from New York starting a private business to catch ghosts that was ever made between 1983 and 1985.

- Bill Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago if you look at the map from really far away. He is a lifelong Cubs fan, and since he was born in 1950, he’s been subject to the curse his entire life.

- The art for the Ghostbusters movie poster was a cartoon ghost captured inside the international “no” symbol – the red circle with a diagonal line.

- The movie’s amazingly synthesized hit theme song by Ray Parker Jr. – who literally made an entire musical career out of that ONE AND ONLY song – has the famous line, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”

Now the stage is set. The 2016 Cubs are the winningest team in the baseball regular season. But they are facing my San Francisco Giants, a team that always wins the World Series in even years, if “always” is defined as “since 2010.” The Giants don’t have a curse, we have magic. Even year magic. We were all #beliEVEN. Until last night.

Last night the Giants inexplicably blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth, as the Cubs pulled off the biggest ninth-inning come-from-behind rally in a postseason clinch game in the entire history of Major League Baseball. That not-so-small feat got them past my Giants and moving on to play for the National League pennant. If they can secure that, they’ll be in a World Series again. They certainly look good to do it.

I love the Giants, and I don’t care one way or the other about the Cubs, but if my Giants had to lose their even year magic, I certainly hope it was a result of the Billy goat curse finally being lifted. No baseball team or its fans deserve what the Cubs have gone through the last one hundred and eight years. Except for the Dodgers, obviously. The Dodgers deserve much worse.

The curse reversal magic that is probably making all of this possible? That comes in the form of a T-shirt that Bill Murray wore to the Cubs/Giants games at Wrigley Field. It was the Ghostbusters poster art, but the cartoon ghost was replaced by a cartoon goat, and the tagline underneath read, “I ain’t afraid of no goat.”

Think about how awesome that is for a second. Bill Murray from Chicago wearing a shirt referencing a Billy goat named Murphy, coopting the tagline and poster art from one of the best movies that he himself was ever in, to put a quadruple reverse hex on the curse.

If that is not simply the best sports curse/classic movie/comedic genius movie star T-shirt pun that has ever happened, I don’t know what is. That kind of comedy has powerful magic. Let’s hope it’s powerful enough. At least for the sake of my Giants, and all the unsuspecting goats in the greater Chicago area.

We will see soon enough, but for now, I think if we’ve learned anything here, it’s these three things:

1) Bill Murray is a national treasure.

2) People from Chicago are weird.

3) Never insult a wizard with a goat at a World Series game. Ever. No matter how drunk or smelly either happen to be.

Go Cubs.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Decoration Blues

Halloween is about to throw up on my house. And in it. The note from my wife has been on my desk for a week – get Halloween tubs down. Great, there goes nine hours of my life.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Halloween season is upon us. I have long been lamenting the fact that Halloween has somehow grown from a one-night event where your single goal is to gather as many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as possible, into the most singularly drawn-out “holiday” we have.

The Christmas “season” is probably technically a little longer, but it shares the first half of its spotlight with Thanksgiving. Halloween gets the entire month of October all to itself, and now inexplicably, the last week in September, it seems. I actually saw cobwebbed bushes and jack-o’-lantern lights up on some of the houses in my neighborhood before the calendar flipped to October this year.

I have to give my wife a little credit. At least she waited until September 30th at midnight to put the note on my desk. You may have noticed that ‘tubs’ is plural in the note. Yes, we’re talking multiple full-size Rubbermaid storage tubs crammed full of ceramic pumpkins, ghosts that hang from the Tree of Death out front, wooden signs that say ‘Boo,’ four-foot-tall witches, jack-o’-lantern toilet seat covers, and enough other crap to fully decorate the inside of a Costco if we needed to.

I’m not going to say that my wife is decoration crazy, mostly because I like sleeping in my own bed, but I’ve lost count of how many holiday tubs we have in our garage. We have tubs for Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Flag Day, Columbus Day, Arbor Day, National Aviation Day, King Kamehameha Day, Black Friday, Leif Erikson Day, National Library Workers’ Day, and even some of the lesser known holidays. All I know is we have a three-car garage, and we have just enough room to park the boys’ bicycles inside as long as we stack them.

So in a little while, I’m going to move the bikes out into the driveway with the cars, find the ladder somewhere amid all those tubs, make my way over to the Halloween section on aisle twenty-four, and begin moving tubs into the house. My wife will then begin a decorating routine that looks a lot like what might happen if the Tasmanian Devil got loose in a craft store. When every square inch of the inside and outside of our home is positively spooky, I’ll move the tubs back out to aisle twenty-four until it’s time to replace them with the Thanksgiving tubs from aisle nine.

It could be worse, though. I met a guy the other night at Son Number Three’s baseball game who was hobbling out of his truck on crutches. He had one of those big black fabric-and-Velcro braces on his foot, and he looked to be in a fair amount of pain. When I asked how he was doing, he replied sullenly, “I’ve had better weeks.”

“I can see that,” I said. “What did you do to your foot?”

His face became even more dejected as he recounted his tale of holiday woe.

“I cracked my heel...
stepping off a ladder wrong...
putting up Halloween lights...
for my ex.”

Ouch, bro. Ouch.

But, hey, keep your head up, man. You’ve got to look on the bright side in this life. At least you didn’t break your leg, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty decent country song there. You already have the pickup truck, the ex-wife, and the unfortunate injury. Add in a new girlfriend, a dog, and a beer, and you might end up making some money off this little mishap.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find that ladder and make my way over to aisle twenty-four. If you need me, I’ll either be somewhere in the tub maze, or at the ER writing a country song.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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

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