Monday, April 29, 2013

Possibly NSFW: "If It Ain't Broke..."

[There is no nudity contained in this blog. However, some of the images used might get you in trouble at work. Proceed with caution.]

The year was 1983.

Do you remember 1983? I was a sophomore in college. Ronald Reagan was president. We gathered around the television to watch the final episode of M*A*S*H.

We were there again when Michael Jackson "moonwalked" across the stage.

Sally Ride became the first woman launched into space.

Cheryl Tiegs graced the cover of "Sports Illustrated".

"Octopussy" was the latest installment in the James Bond franchise.

"Flashdance" was all the rage.

Everyone was working out to Jane Fonda's video.

And we were rocking to the tunes of Culture Club.

And in Clearwater, FL, the "Hooters" franchise was launched.

That was 30 years ago.

While the rest of us have grown older and moved on, "Hooters" has changed very little in those 30 years. From the food to the decor to the uniforms worn by the waitresses, walking into a Hooters restaurant is almost like stepping into a Time Machine.

However, in recent years, the fortunes of the chain have been declining. This past year they were able to squeeze out a 1% growth in an increasingly growing industry that is posting double-digit gains.

Thus the announcement this week that changes are coming to your neighborhood Hooters Restaurant. Food, decor, uniforms - it's all on the table in a push to make the chain profitable again.

My first thought upon reading this news was, "Change the food and the decor, but don't touch the uniforms!"

What? You think I go there for beer and wings?!?

But as I thought about it more, I realized they may be right. Consider the list I began with: Sally Ride and Michael Jackson are dead. Three other actors have portrayed James Bond since Roger Moore. Who is still listening to Culture Club? When was the last time you watched "Flashdance"? Or put on a leotard with leg-warmers?

While I will certainly miss the iconic tank top and orange shorts, maybe it IS time for a makeover.

But what will it be?

I have visited similar restaurants over the past few years and have not been impressed with what I have found.

Not long ago we stopped at a "Tilted Kilt" in Clarksville. The short kilts were cute, and the cleavage was "over the top" - ahem! - but it seemed like all the girls filled in the spaces with tattoos!

Lots of tattoos! Big, ugly tattoos, scarring what had previously been very beautiful skin.

Then there's "Show-Me's", just up the road from us. "Show-Me's" is almost a direct knock-off of "Hooters", down to the wooden deck and the fake palm trees out front. But the uniform is black and the shorts are more like bikini bottoms. And for some reason, ""Show-Me's" just seemed a little trashier less refined than "Hooters".

Not long ago a friend pointed out that most "Show-Me's" are located next to Harley-Davidson dealerships. Coincidence? I think not.

Then there are the Bikini Baristas - an odd choice of clothing for a coffee shop!

Nothing like a little push-up pick-me-up in the morning!

And Bikini Bars seem to be popping out up in all the wrong places.

Don't get me wrong. I think she is beautiful. But I don't want her bringing me food dressed like that!

How are you supposed to chew your food with your mouth hanging open!

Whatever "Hooters" decides to do with the uniform, they must continue to walk the fine line between attracting horny men and maintaining a family atmosphere.

If they go too far in favor of the former, the First Mate won't let me eat there anymore!

Yes, sometimes the First Mate steers the ship!

But if they move too far toward the latter, they'll lose a lot of the customers who have made them what they are!

To make matters worse, the company has announced that "social media" will play a big part in the decision.


Naturally, the Captain will be watching!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Dumbing of America

Okay, I realize I have only been on this planet for a little over 50 years now. So what I speak of here is only an infinitesimally small fraction of human history. I get that.

But have you realized how dumb America is becoming?

And I don’t just mean because we like television shows like “Jackass” and “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo”.

Although, honestly, I have heard grown adults brag that they knew all the questions on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

I’m proud of you, son. Stick with it and get that high school diploma!

I’m not even referring to the 140-character limit by which one can express her/himself on Twitter, or the ongoing debate about the short-hand used in texting. For an enlightening discussion of that, you can go here.

In one of my favorite movies, “The Big Chill”, Michael (played by Jeff Goldblum) is a writer for “People” magazine. I couldn’t find the exact quote, but essentially he confesses, “I write what people can read in a typical trip to the crapper!”

That was in 1983.

Our situation hasn’t improved.

USAToday newspaper came on the scene the year before that. Al Neuharth launched this “national newspaper” filled with colorful pages, lots of pictures, and condensed news articles. His distribution system allowed the paper to be delivered bright and early every morning (except weekends) hot off the presses.

I never thought Al could pull it off, but almost every other newspaper followed suit, switching their format to be more colorful, more “readable”.

“…a typical trip to the crapper!”

USAToday transitioned easily to the internet, re-creating its colorful style in a free electronic format.

Meanwhile, my local town’s newspaper – also available electronically – wants to charge me more than $200 per year for a subscription!

But I digress.

What triggered this blog / rant is two-fold. First, Al Neuharth passed away last week, a story all but lost amidst the wall-to-wall coverage of one of the biggest news events in America since 9-11.

If you don’t know what I am referring to, you need to come up out of your bunker for some fresh air!

But also, in recent months, I have noticed that USAToday (online) is offering more videos in the place of printed stories.

Glory be! Now I don’t even have to read the already-abbreviated news. I can just click on an icon and the guy in the 30-second video will tell me all I need to know!

Heck, I can watch dozens of these videos during a typical trip to the crapper!

I suspect that if I asked USAToday about this, they would argue, “We have the capability now, so why not use it?”

I would counter, “Just because we can, must we?”

Where are we headed with all this? At a time when most public schools are pushing students to excel – expecting more and more at a younger age in order to stay competitive with the Chinese or whomever  – the rest of the country is being dumbed-down to a 3rd grade level!

No offense to 3rd graders!

We find this even in the church. The most popular translation of the Bible is the New International Version. Unlike the frequently-idolized King James Version, which is written on a 12-grade reading level, the NIV is written on a 7th grade reading level.

My preference, the New Revised Standard Version, is written on an 11th grade reading level.

And just so you know, that trendy paraphrase, “The Message”, which all the cool pastors are using now is written on a 4th grade reading level.

Folks, I don’t expect everything I read to be “War and Peace”. (That’s a very thick novel, for those of you who don’t know.) And I don’t want to have to read with a dictionary nearby.

But I WAS taught how to read, and I like to exercise that skill every now and then.

The opportunities to do so are just becoming fewer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'm a Frikkin' Genius!

Every morning, I get up, fix myself a high-fiber breakfast, and watch the morning TV news shows while reading the latest news from various apps on my iPad.

I would brag that “Look at me, I’m multi-tasking!”, but just getting up in the morning is multi-tasking for me!

I check the news each morning for two reasons: 1) I want to know what’s going on in the world before I go out into it, and 2) it makes me feel like a frikkin’ genius!

Take for instance:

     1)    Last week, Joshua & Sharyn Hakken kidnapped their own children from her parents, who had temporary legal custody of the boys because Joshua had been busted for drug possession. Joshua had previously tried to retrieve his boys from foster parents at gun-point; this time, he tied up his own mother-in-law and took the boys off on his boat. A BOLO went out to law enforcement, and Joshua and Sharyn's faces were plastered all over the news. Turns out, the idiots sailed to Havana, Cuba, where they were immediately recognized by an American reporter. The Hakkens were arrested by Cuban police, who quickly returned them to America; and the boys were returned safely to their grandparents.

Really? Cuba? What were you thinking? Yes, there is no extradition treaty with Cuba, but Cuba doesn't want our crazies! If you remember, they dumped a bunch of their crazies and criminals on us back in 1980!

Judging from the mug shots, I don't think you would just blend in down there either!

     2)    A fisherman in Belarus saw a beaver near the shoreline and tried to get closer to the wild animal to take a photograph. Apparently he got too close. The beaver attacked, biting the man on the thigh; the bite severed an artery. The man’s fishing buddy was unable to stop the bleeding and the would-be photographer died.

Hmmmm. Who could have seen that coming?

Reminds me of the joke about a man who got bit on the butt by a snake. His friend called a doctor to find out what to do. The doctor said the friend would have to suck the venom from the bite area. The injured man asked, "Well, what did the doctor say?" The friend replied, "The Doctor says you're gonna die."

And finally,

     3)    A drunk man in China [and I really don't have to explain that he was drunk!] was admitted to a hospital after inserting a live Asian Swamp Eel up his rectum. He claims he saw it on a porno film he had been watching. The eel chewed through the man’s colon and into his chest cavity, where it latched onto his intestine. The eel was retrieved alive, but later died. The man, regrettably, survived.

As I said, reading the news each morning makes me feel like a frikkin’ genius! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Creature of Habit

Today at lunch, I approached the counter to get a refill on my drink before I returned to work.

Yes, it was one of those fast-food restaurants that happily gives refills, but you have to ask.

As I approached the counter, the cashier cheerfully asked, “More unsweet tea?”

Shut up. It was lunchtime. I don’t drink the hard stuff until after 5.

Hmmm… it’s five o’clock somewhere!

Okay, maybe it’s only 4:30.

Anyway, this incident was remarkable, for two reasons: 1) she was cheerful – unusual for a fast-food employee, and 2) this was the first time I had seen her there, yet, despite a crowd of a dozen or so in line around me when I first placed my order, she remembered my drink order.

The ol’ Captain has still got it!

I complimented her on her memory – and left wondering why she was working fast-foods.

I have two favorite watering holes in town where, after meticulous training and repeat business, the bartenders now set up my drink before I even sit down. I like that. Makes me feel special. Important even.

“Making your way in the world today 
takes everything you've got. 
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot. 

Wouldn't you like to get away? 

Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name, 
and they're always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see, 
our troubles are all the same.

You wanna be where everybody knows 
Your name.” 

I loved that show!

As a word of explanation, I am a creature of habit. My cocktail of choice is a Southern Comfort on the rocks. A simple drink, easy to remember, hard to mess it up.

Then you lose my business.

Anyway, being such a creature of habit, you can imagine my frustration at now having to train a new Administrative Assistant – my third one in two years.

In my defense, the last one got a better offer with a salary and benefits package that the church simply couldn’t match.

Make no mistake about it, I like the new AA and I think she will do a good job; she has exceeded my expectations these first three weeks.

Now it’s the little things – those “creature of habit” things – that she’ll just have to learn as we go along.

To that end, the previous AA was kind enough to leave five pages of instructions for her replacement – the daily routine, where to purchase supplies, and warnings about some of my foibles.

“He does not like you to change up fonts [in the newsletter]; leave consistent and ‘neat’.”
“Beware: He loves a red ink pen sometimes!”
“Always tell telemarketers that he is busy or away from his desk.”

At first I thought that was a bit much. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate what she did. One less thing I have to teach the new girl.

Hey, I even learned a little bit about myself in the process!

And now you have too!

Oh look, now it IS five o’clock! Gotta run!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

And in other news...

Here's something to think about...

... and then there's this...