Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Friday, July 31, 2015

Here We Go Again

I almost always read two newspapers a day, and sometimes as many as four. Among them are the NY Times and WS Journal. Both are very excellent newspapers, renowned for their degree of objectivity—though of course being who they are, the selections of stories does seem sometimes to support their relative political stances—NYT a more  liberal view, the WSJ, a more fiscally conservative stance. But I regularly read them both feeling that somewhere in the middle I'll get a sense of the real story on a particular world or domestic event.

In today's Wall Street Journal, though was a story that appalled me, both for what it said about a major international corporation, as well as for the fact that a respected newspaper dodged meaningful discussion of ethical problems inherent in the story.

Diageo PLC, the world's largest manufacturer of spirit liquors, in an effort to expand their business, has now created and is offering for sale dirt-cheap variations of whiskey and other spirits aimed specifically at making money from the poorest citizens of Africa. Small shops have been set up in neighborhood African slums that offer liquor that costs roughly $.10 a shot, entire bottles for $2.00. These products are held back from stores in the more affluent neighborhoods, where educated and well employed citizens can afford more expensive liquor. It is only the poor that get the gut-rot.

The article is a profile piece presented as an example of corporate ingenuity in seeking expansion in the third world, and runs almost 80 column inches. Yet the ethical problems with such business practice is confined to two small paragraphs, barely 60 words in an article that runs at least 2,500. One paragraph merely acknowledges that there are detractors to the strategy of fostering excessive drinking in poor neighborhoods.  The impact of the piece is primarily a celebration of the cleverness of Diageo and other liquor manufacturers as they find ways to expand business in the African continent.

Says Charles Ireland, chief executive of the East Africa branch of London-based Diageo:  "It's our turf, and we fight hard to protect it."

The whole thing smacks a little of the immorality that caused Nestle corporation to sell substandard infant formulas in Africa in the 1970's, until the World Health Organization called them on it.  Or the same twisted logic by which drug manufacturers dispose of drugs banned in the West  to third world nations. Or that causes Dupont to erect unsafe chemical processing plants in India, proclaiming their benevolence to the local labor force.  The concept of white man's burden and privilege seems to be alive and well in the international corporate landscape.  It's not like Dupont ever built a death-trap chemical factory in Ontario.

By the way, within its arsenal, Diageo produces Guinness, Johnny Walker scotch, Smirnoff, and Captain Bailey's.

I may think twice about buying these in the future.  It also means I'll likely have to give up a favorite smokey Scotch, Craggenmore, as it is a prime component of the JW blends. I haven't yet decided on the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meet "Since George Shaw." Intimately.

Today I'm pleased to introduce a new guest Geezer, who will be writing here under the cryptic name "Since George Shaw."  The only hint I can give you is to say that it is not a reference to the author of Pygmalion, and that our new Geezer has been an obsessed Minnesota sports fan since...well, practically since football helmets were made of leather. 

Mr. Shaw, a longtime acquaintance of your editor, is an astute, amateur movie critic as well as a a writer of his own screenplays. He is a former rabble-rouser who came of age in the late 1960's, back when rabble activity was truly rousing. He retains a good measure of the contentiousness of that long-ago period, though is now notably softened by grandfatherhood. 

When asked to provide a profile, Mr. Shaw chose to describe himself with a bullet list that harkens back to the format in which centerfolds in Playboy magazine once described themselves: 

• Favorite Author: John Updike
• Favorite Poet: Bob Dylan
• Favorite Contemporary Musical Group: Old Crow Medical Show
• Favorite Musical Group from Back-in-the Day: The Amazing Rhythm Aces
• Favorite Movie: The Big Lebowski
• Dream Date (if I wasn't married): Penelope Cruz
• Favorite Activity (when not dating Penelope Cruz): Playing in the lake with the grandkids.

Please welcome "Since George Shaw" for what we hope is the first of many essays on these pages—the editor. 

A couple of years ago, I turned 65 and went on Medicare. I chose Medica as my supplement plan, and shortly after, in the mail, I received a lengthy questionnaire (6 -8 pages regarding my health status (not sure if this was from Medicare or Medica). Among the 60 questions were roughly 8 different questions related to whether or not I was depressed —not an unreasonable line of inquiry for a 65 year-old man. But there was not one question even remotely related to my sex-life. I am not an expert here, but I think there might be a relationship between the health of one's sex-life, and depression, especially for an old man.

Last fall, I had a pinched nerve which eventually led to surgery and lots of physical therapy at Park Nicollet clinic in Minneapolis.  At every PT appointment, I was required to fill out a form. One of the sections on this form asks questions related to difficulty, from "severe" to "not a problem," with about a dozen "basic life activities." None of these activities involve sex. 

I asked my PT why not. He explained that the list focuses on the "most common" activities. The list includes opening a jar of pickles and tying a necktie. I gave up ties when I retired, and I like pickles as much as the next guy, but....seriously?

"Attractive young woman" is in the eye of the beholder.
Meet Eva Braun, all-star of proctology. 
At my annual physical, my primary-care doc, an attractive young woman who carefully examines my scrotum and anus, asks me all kinds of questions about alcohol, drugs, and whether I "feel safe at home," but none about my sex-life. One time I asked her if she was at all curious about my sex-life (which, by the way, is perfectly "normal" for a guy who has been married 45 years man, i.e., a couple times a week when my wife isn't pissed off at me for not taking out the garbage or something). My doc didn't answer yes or no, but was clearly uncomfortable with my question and quickly changed the subject.

I doubt that my experience, with Medica & Park Nicollet is uncommon. But given the close relationship between sexual health and overall health I think it is indicative of a huge gap in our health care system. It amazes me that my health care professionals are so squeamish about a basic life function. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mad Marvin, Episode 3

After his last essay, Mad Marvin fell silent for quite awhile, and I had hope that he'd perhaps gone back to his deep woods cabin to work on his manifesto once again. But late last week this piece arrived, which we now present to you in edited form—the editor

I'm Mad Marvin, dammit.

After two previous articles, each time you guys who read this site have implied, sort of, that I'm an out-of-control (rectum). And I have to tell you I've been hurt by that. Throwing hot coffee on a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist, gay-hating, stinky douche-bag? What's the big deal?  One or two occasional outbursts—which were really goddamn warranted, if you ask me—and you get labeled as some kind of psychotic anarchist. (Excrement).

It hurts for you guys think of me like that. Am I not human?  Do I not bleed? (Actually, because of the blood-thinners my dork-of-a-doctor makes me take, I bleed MORE than the rest of you). Yeah, I'm a little impulsive at times. And I bet you're jealous.

But I'm not the  out-of-control fellow, full of Tourettes-barking episodes, that you all think I am. (I now have a drug that helps that.)  To prove to you that I have much more self-control than you give me credit for, I'm going to tell you a bunch of things that I DID NOT say and do over the last few weeks.

• When some jerk waiting at the stop light threw his cigarette butt out of the window of his car, rather than into his car's ashtray, I DID NOT:   get out of my car, pick up the smoldering cigarette butt, and toss through his open car window, into his lap, with the words "Cigarette butts are not biodegradable, you stupid (euphemism for penis). What gives you the (fornicating) right to litter our streets with the trash from your filthy (fornicating) habit?"

• When a big blubbery man walking ahead of me out at Tractor Supply hit the automatic door-opener at the exit door—the one REAL disabled people are supposed to use— I DID NOT SAY "Hey lard-ass. Too hard to open the door yourself? If you did things for yourself rather than taking the easy way out, you maybe wouldn't be so (fornicating) fat.

• When a  woman passed by me on the street wearing skin-tight black spandex pants and apparently no underwear, I DID NOT SAY: "Christ lady, do you want me to take up a collection to buy you a mirror so you can see what you look like before you leave the house? Nobody in the this world wants to see your goodies."

• When my 75-year old neighbor mows the lawn in his bright red Speedo and wearing nothing else but a gold chain around his sweaty, wrinkled neck, I DO NOT SAY: "It's time to die, Fred."

• When trying to eat my Magnificent Seven breakfast at the Perkins restaurant off of highway 36 last month,  and the couple next to me began to change the shitty diaper on their slack-jawed two year old—on the table. I DID NOT: get up, open my fly and begin urinating in their orange juice. And I DID NOT SAY to the father:  "Christ almighty, you in-bred barbarians. Why the (fornication) don't you and your sister/wife pack up your 1993 mini-van and go the (fornication) back that Podunk in Arkansas where baby shit on the dining room table is normal?

See, I am perfectly capable of restraint.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pygmies Take Over the Amazon

My feeling toward Amazon.com is decidedly bi-polar.

Like most customers, I'm somewhat in awe of Amazon's business model. Their ability to ship me the stuff I want, very quickly, at very attractive prices is almost supernatural. Purely from a consumer's point of view, I flat out adore Amazon.

But like any employee who works for a company manufacturing products sold through Amazon, I have a very healthy level of fear, loathing and distrust of the online retail giant. There is no retailer on earth more predatory, more cutthroat, more venal than Amazon.com. And that includes that corporate Son of Satan, Walmart.

So I've watched Amazon's  buildup to Prime Tuesday over the past two weeks with a good deal of interest as well as skepticism, pretty sure I knew what was coming. As you undoubtedly know,  Amazon's Prime Tuesday event was promising a whole boat-load of exceptionally good purchase deals exclusively to it's prime members—those folks, like me, who have paid $99 per year for what is an admittedly great membership that gives you a free book a month, free shipping on most products, and a whole lot of free video streaming from a library that is considerably larger and better stocked than Netflix. I have no problem with my Prime membership; it's one of the great bargains to be had.

I also was pretty sure I understood the business motivation to this highly publicized PR venture, and the evidence, as it unfolded, did not disappoint. In anticipation of these positively sinful good deals that were coming, hundreds of thousands of people coughed up 99 bucks to join the program, and Amazon stock has also soared on the stock market in recent days due to the frenzy of excitement over this scheme.

Then Prime Tuesday arrived in the wee hours this morning. Periodically through the day I checked to see what new offerings were on the table each hour.  I can now kick myself for not ordering in time for these juicy bargains:

• A 14" long plastic shoe horn, which  could have been mine for a mere $6.99.
• An airline seat belt extender, of the type which flight attendants loan people for free whenever asked. Owning your own, though, I guess saves you the embarrassment of having to ask for it in front of other passengers.
• A whole bunch of flash-drive memory sticks could have been mine, at many cents cheaper than I could buy them at Target.
• I just missed on a very expensive Husqvarna lawn mower, discounted from yesterday's regular 35% off to a full 40% today.
• Also missed on a pretty good deal on last year's Samsung 50" HD television, selling for $1000. Not a lot different from the closeout I saw at Best Buy last week, but still.
• A Rubbermaid 42-piece food storage container collection, guaranteed not to outgas too many dangerous chemical fumes into your leftover spaghetti.
• An extra $30 off a black & white Kindle e-reader, which is utterly necessary if you'd like, as I do, to cough up $2000 to $3000 a year to Amazon to lease ebooks from them.
• A four-pack of No Pinch No Problem Panties

No shit. This was the special merchandise being offered by Amazon today in this once-in-a-lifetime event. Jesus Christ, these people are really smart. Who else manages to parlay a simple stock reduction sale into millions of dollars in new membership fees while simultaneously increasing the value of their stock options by 25% or so.

Pardon me now. In a few minutes the Surat Tex Cream Color Georgett Semi-Stictched Anarkali goes on sale. This time, I'll not miss out.