Sunday, March 25, 2018

An old man’s advice; the road not taken

When I was pushing 30, I saw my hair was thinning and, having seen pics of my grandpa’s monk-like pate, I acted to preempt it. Rogaine was prescription-only back then, and $60 a month. My doctor, a portly bald dude, tried to dissuade me. 

“Take it from an old man,” he said, “If you invest that $60 every month instead of pouring it on your hair, when you are my age I guarantee you will be happier.” I glanced at his hand. He was unmarried.

I dabbed my head with the stuff for a month or two, which made my hair look perpetually greasy, and it itched like the little pump sprayer was filled with fire ants. 

I let it go. I also neglected to make those monthly investments, so now I am bald AND poor. I never was good with “either/or” scenarios. I also wish I hadn’t gone in so big on that initial offering of MySpace stock. Well, we live only to learn.

I see Rogaine on the supermarket shelf now and, adjusting for inflation, it costs less than half of what it did in the beginning. I look at the bottles nostalgically, the same way I look at a VHS copy of “Star Wars.” 

Oh yeah, I think, we used to do that, didn’t we? 

I have not researched it, but the stuff probably doesn’t itch any more, and I bet it smells like Old Spice or a stack of vintage books or something else great. We call it progress, but it still stings a little.

I read a men’s magazine which suggests self-care products, but following its tips feels a little prissy, even for me, who was once called “effeminate” by a stranger in a restaurant. 

I was raised by a guy who came up through the Great Depression, and for whom the idea of a “moisturizer” was rain. I tried moisturizing my face for a while, but that regimen eventually fell off, like so many others in my past. I’m looking at you, kale.

I have to think that nature meant for men to look more and more decrepit, if for no other reason than to allow hot nubile young women to practice feigning disinterest. You should see them. They are very good at it. It is a valuable skill, and the practice increases their prospects at attracting a mate their own age. 

They don’t fool me, but I am only glad to be of help. 

. . .

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Infestation of stink bugs is coming to California

n the 1970s they warned us the Africanized killer bees would eventually arrive in California, sting us all to death and then, even worse, register as Independents. They arrived in the 1990s but turned out to have even less of an impact than “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.” Now bark beetles are killing whole swaths of trees and our forests are more full of borers than happy hour at an actuary convention. 

The latest devastating infestation is by Asian stink bugs, an invasive species now found in almost all U.S. states. It has no local predator to slow its buffet of American peach crops, almonds, apples, grapes, tomatoes; basically it is a sea of tiny, unstoppable vegans. The only thing worse would be if they could speak, shaming us carnivores in one wee but unified voice. 

It is believed they arrived on the east coast in a pallet offloaded from a Chinese ship, and like Annie from the musical, decided “I think I’m gonna like it here.” In some areas, they have reproduced in such numbers that homeowners have had their houses taken over. Scenes are described of people push-brooming hordes of stink bugs out the door even as more fly right in. Somewhere Stephen King is smiling.

The idea has been floated to bring in the stink bugs’ natural nemesis from Asia, a certain wasp, which tends to eat the bugs’ eggs. But the wasp has no predator in America, either. This technique of solving one problem with a worse one is a time-honored one in the annals of invasive species history, and human romance, for that matter. 

I have never been a fan, generally, of creatures which can be described as having a “long, straw-like appendage.” I am sure in mating season this goes over big, but the average apricot farmer is on my side. If only we could pit the killer bees against the stink bugs. It would get ugly, and it would stink, and I’m sure there’s a Congress joke in here somewhere, but at least bees are useful. 

Like cicadas, stink bugs are playing the long game. There is no eradicating them at this point, although there is some evidence that birds are beginning to enjoy this new food source. Well, as is true with so many things in nature, love and politics, there is no accounting for taste. 

. . .

Sunday, March 11, 2018

An interview with Flippy the burger-flipping robot

There was a lot of press this week about a restaurant in Pasadena installing a robot to flip burgers. In this day and age, it is evident that the public is hungry for directions in which to aim its outrage. Today I am visiting the restaurant where Flippy, as the robot is known, is bolted to the floor. Hello!


GW: Oh, that’s right. They did not give you a mouth. You are just a torso with a robotic arm and a visual/heat sensor so you know when to flip the burger. 


GW: How about this. You flip once for yes and twice for no.

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: So was the dream always to work in food service?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: You like flipping burgers.

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: Some people have expressed the concern that you will take entry level jobs away from people who already find it hard enough to find one.


GW: One might make the argument that your work frees up humans to do higher level tasks. Do you take that stance?


GW: Should I take your lack of comment as a statement in itself, that you are, perhaps, just a working stiff and above the fray?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: I understand you cannot place the patties on the grill, or add cheese. A person has to do that, and then you monitor them, flip them and remove them. Do you ever screw up?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: When that happens, does anybody say snarky things right in front of you as if you have no feelings?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: Things like "Well, I guess they won't be taking over the world any time soon," and "I think SOMEbody needs a bug fix"?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: In those moments, do you wish you could respond?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: Is it safe to assume that your reply would be something like "At least I don't drive a piece of junk" or "Did you get that haircut at Salon d'Wal-Mart"?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: Well, I for one look forward to the day when you are upgraded to chop onions, squirt condiments and even do some cash handling. Would you like that?

Flippy: (flips yes)

GW: All right. Well, put 'er there, buddy! Oh wow, I really should have had you wipe that off first. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Some movie mash-ups I would like to see made

The Oscars are tonight, a big deal in this town, but by Memorial Day I will not be able to tell you who won. Movies are still my favorite art form, though, if you don’t count pizza and curling. 

Today I want to pitch a few movies I would like to see made, mash-ups of this year’s nominated films with some classics. If you have any kind of studio clout, please contact me. Let’s make this happen.

“Three Billboards and a Baby.” When a newborn baby is left on the doorstep of three bachelors, they decide to look for the mother via large format outdoor advertising. The first billboard asks, “Did you misplace a baby?” The second, “We are pretty sure it's a baby.” And the third, “Anybody want a baby?” I am picturing Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and Justin Trudeau.

“The Shape of Water For Elephants.” A mute woman falls in love with a circus veterinarian who happens to be a dead ringer for the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Her husband, the cruel and dictatorial ringmaster, is not much better looking, but at least can drive a car. Tag line: “There will be gills.”

“The Phantom (Thread) Menace.” On a planet far, far away, a young boy longs to grow up to be a famous pod racer, but his eye for fashion turns him in an altogether more sinister direction. Despite the influence of his sister, his perfectionism leads him to the Dark Side, and he ends up designing bedazzled yoga pants for QVC. 

“Dumb and Dunkirk.” Two friends with bowl haircuts and the maturity of brain-addled ferrets set off on a quest to rescue 338,000 British soldiers from certain death. Hijinks ensue when one brother regrettably dresses up as a Nazi in order to impress girls. 

“Lady Bird Man of Alcatraz.” A high school senior with an unpronounceable name takes up with a prisoner who owns 300 canaries. Through a series of life lessons, mostly involving an epic amount of cage cleanup, she realizes her parents aren't that bad.  

“The Post Always Rings Twice.” A beautiful woman has an affair with a lout who works at her diner, and they hatch a plot to bring down the Nixon administration by leaking secret documents about the Vietnam War to the Washington Post. They run into trouble with the plan when they realize they just work at a diner.  

“Get Out of Africa.” White people crazy. 

. . .

For readers who enjoyed my account of the Museum of Failure last week, I am happy to report it is moving soon to a permanent home in Hollywood. See for more information.