When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon-Scented Garbage

I was watching TLC the other night and saw several commercials for “Craft Wars”.  For those of you who have enough of a life to have avoided seeing the commercials or TLC itself, allow me to describe what this craft competition show will apparently be about.

“Hi Tori! By the way, I’m a big fan of your work. Oh…Okay, well anyway, this piece is my interpretation of a happy jack-o-lantern. It will make a great door hanging or as seasonal decoration. The crooked grin gives it a touch of whimsy!” (Image from blog.craftzine.com)

Three contestants are given crafting supplies including all the hot-glue sticks and glitter they could ever hope for.  Then, the host says “Your time starts…NOW!”  The crafter-contestants, who by their very existence make me feel like a superior life form, all scramble across the set to get to the bins of crap that they’ll be making “crafts” out of.  This is essentially the same format that’s used on shows like “Top Chef”, “Design Star”, “Chopped”, “The White Room Challenge” and countless others.  As if watching these scrap-booking, swatch-pasting zealots isn’t bad enough in and of itself, the whole thing is hosted by massive has-been mega-talent, Tori Spelling!  The description above was gleaned from my having viewed a 30 second commercial several times, while I was busy watching some other inane offering on TLC.

It’s truly effortless to sit here and complain about what passes for entertainment these days.  I mean, they make it so easy.  So I sat down to write my rants about just that, but then a deeper thought occurred to me.  With the recent celebration of Father’s Day, I was reminded of what my Dad used to say;

“Turn off that damn idiot box and go cut the grass, dammit!”

Oh wait, wrong Dad quote.  He also used to say;

“If you’ve got a problem with it, then come up with something better or shut the hell up!”

Good point, Dad (My Dad didn’t actually curse that much, but I sure as shit do).  I put on my thinking cap and came up with some programming  ideas of my own.  I’m going to email these ideas to TLC, NatGeo, HGTV, Bravo and A&E.  They’ll be welcome to use any and all of my ideas without having to pay me a dime, but I do want the title “Creative Consultant” and a link to my blog in the opening and closing credits.  Here we go:

The Rolls Royce of Eternal Rest – this baby is a serious upgrade.(Image from Jawdrops.com)

America’s Next Top Mortician – Three morticians are given a challenging stiff to prepare for a viewing and funeral.  They will each have a fixed number of hours to fully prepare the corpse for interment.  Some of the challenges will include pushy, unrealistic family members who want Aunt Bessie to look “more life-like”, ill-fitting clothes for the deceased, and convincing the family they should pay for the up-graded casket.  Finally, what final-rest competition would be complete without the hearse-obstacle course?

Janitors Got Talent – Everyone knows at least one janitor who insists on singing or telling jokes while pushing brooms and emptying trash cans.  Here’s a chance for janitors to shine like freshly scrubbed porcelain!  Each contestant will have to demonstrate their unique talent while brushing toilets, running a floor buffer and refilling the soap dispensers in the women’s bathroom.

Cryo-Bank Tellers  24/7 – This gritty, up-close slice of reality will follow the challenges of round-the-clock employees at a St. Louis sperm bank as they deal with the crazy demands of such a bizarre work environment.  Hand held cameras will follow them throughout the facility with copious amounts of digitized blurring of clients faces, specimen jars and more!  At least once every episode, one of the tellers will lament “The sign on the door said ‘Unoccupied’, Geez I hate when that happens!”  Hilarity meets revulsion when new staff members are pranked and directed to put their lunches in the wrong refrigerator!

Bus Wars – Broad Street Local – Parking Wars meets Cash Cab as Philadelphia’s public transportation passengers are asked impossibly difficult trivia questions.  Contestants are frustrated, angered and embarrassed to realize they can’t possibly win any money.  Tempers flare when the contestants realize that the host/driver has ignored their stops while waiting for one of them to answer the question!

You turbo-charge this thing, put a chain guard on it and go to work. (Image from social.kidspot.com.au)

American Baby-Nose Pickers – Poor little Tyler and Brittany can’t do it themselves with their little bitty fingers!  Whether they use the squeeze ball, a Q-Tip or their own massive adult fingers, Moms and even Dads just can’t rest until that little hanger is out of their babies’ honkers.  The contestants will have to face tough challenges like booger-eating older siblings and the nausea of onlookers.  Tension builds as we close in on the final weigh-in!

My Biggest Fat Gypsy Rose Lee Loser – Theatrical directors and personal trainers team up to direct a community theater production of “Gypsy”, starring the morbidly obese who compete to lose the most weight while dancing and singing the hit numbers from 1959’s Broadway smash!  Wardrobe issues and self-esteem are on a collision course in this emotional competition!  Contestants are pushed to the brink when they have to keep their appetites and salivary glands in check while singing the lyric “..have an egg roll, Mr. Goldstone..”

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I’m going to go ahead and send the link for this blog to all those networks.  Keep your eyes peeled in the months to come, I think I’ve got a few winners here.  Listen up network execs, as promised, these ideas are there for the taking, and all I ask is the “Creative Consultant” tag and a plug for my blog.  Be warned though, my next batch won’t come so cheap!

Cheap Sentiments – Get ‘Em While They’re Hollow!

Apparently, I am far from being the only person to be annoyed by uber-cute posters like this. A quick internet search for this poster revealed tons of cynical and occasionally grisly remixes of this image.

As my loyal readers may know, I rejoined the bizarro-world better known as Facebook after a year away.  I went back for one reason only – to drum up some readers for my dopey blog posts.  At the time, it seemed a small price to pay for my own perception of popularity.

Many people will admit to a bit of sentimentality when it comes to catching up with friends on Facebook, I have to confess that it’s been stirring up a very specific piece of nostalgia for me (Cue the time-travel music and wavy-screen effect).

It was the carefree days of my freshman year in college.  The rigors of high school and  oft-embarrassing life history of my hometown were behind me.  I was a whole state away from those ancient gaffs.  My slate was clean and I was making the most of it.

I’d chat up some little cutie from the dining hall, and before too long, I’d be hanging around in her dorm room.  Her pleasant-but-dumpy room mate would be there as well.  While my amorous intentions were held in check by the presence of Mandy or Becky or whatever the hell her roomie’s name was, I would look around the dorm room, sizing the place up, hoping to spot some clues which might come in handy later if whatsername ever left.

There were two staples in any of these freshman girls’ dorm rooms;

The first was a prom picture of the girl in her gown holding a corsage with some dude in a powder blue tuxedo.  The size and display of the photo spoke volumes.  The bigger the photo, the more likely she was still carrying a torch for him.  If it was in a massive Rococo frame surrounded by a semi-circle of votive candles, that would usually be an even worse sign.  If, on subsequent visits to the room, you noticed that the picture was missing or face down on the dresser, things were looking better.  If on a later visit still, you noticed that she had cut him out of the picture or somehow mutilated his image, that was even better.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep any photo mutilation in mind for the future in case things with this young lady actually proceeded into some sort of relationship.  Knives and razor blades in the hands of a scorned college coed can be hazardous to one’s health.  Still on the topic of one’s health, another good use of the prom photo was for reconnaissance, in case her knucklehead date turns out to be the possessive type and comes to visit some weekend, it was probably a good idea to know what this former all-county linebacker looked like.

All-County linebacker?! From what county?! In which state?!!
(pic from piclab.com)

The other mandatory feature in all of these dorm rooms were the schmaltzy posters hung on the rather institutional walls.  There were two posters which seemed to be on nearly every freshman girl’s dormitory wall.  The first had a  kitten on it, clinging to a span of clothesline with the words “Hang in there, baby!” in jaunty letters somewhere on the image.  The second poster would have some saccharin sweet image of a mountain sunset or a horse and foal, with the words “If you love something set it free, if comes back to you, blah blah blah”  (I’ve finally managed to forget the exact quote, so “blah, blah, blah” is kind of nice for me).  As for clues, these posters told me next to nothing.  The kitten poster was there because the girl liked kittens or because she needed an emotional boost to help her get through those tricky freshman courses for Elementary Ed majors.  The “If you love something, set it free..” poster may have been there for any number of reasons.  It could reflect a deep, philosophical stance on love’s fleeting nature, or a taste for sunsets and horses with the sappy quote as a mere afterthought.

In any case, they bothered me.  Unlike the prom portraits, the posters had no redeeming value.  To be frank, once you’ve seen one kitten dangling from a clothesline, you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.  If there was any doubt as to the worthless quality of these posters, all one had to do was look at the dorm rooms of these same girls as sophomores.  There were typically no traces of these sickly-sweet bits of visual noise.

As the years marched on and I moved into what I like to refer to as the  post-college-freshman-phase of my life, I have been blissfully spared those horrible posters.  I don’t mean to imply that my life is without schmaltzy sentimentality.  The hollow sweet phrases are still there, usually sold for 2 or 3 dollars with color coordinated envelopes from Hallmark and other purveyors of prepackaged emotional kitsch.

For the record, I don’t mind receiving a greeting card, especially if the sender writes something other than their name inside it.  There is something which borders on insulting when someone sends me a greeting card and only signs it.  It’s as if they’re saying “I have incredible fondness for you and wanted to take a moment to let you know just how much I care about you on the special occasion of your birthday / death of your uncle / recovery from same-day surgery / loss of your job.  Luckily, the folks who make greeting cards wrote this particular one and it captures all of my emotions just so.  All I had to do was pay for the card at the counter and put the old John Hancock on it.  Thanks Hallmark!  P.S. I hope you can read my signature, I signed it in the car at a red light.”

Apparently Facebook has some kind of massive photo album of inspirational Hallmark-ish quotes.  They come in a wide variety of fonts and colors.  The quotes cover every emotion known to man (OK, every emotion known to woman and more than every emotion known to man).  A person needs only find the quote of their choice and click on it, and it will show up next to their name.  Other people, who are apparently even lazier than the original virtual-Hallmark poster, can then “like” the original poster’s post of an actual writer’s quote.  It’s quite convenient to be able to post your emotions by just clicking on an image of a dorm poster (Certainly it’s less labor intensive than, say, writing a massive blog post, then revising it, editing it and then hitting “publish” and regretting it).

Unfortunately, like everything else on Facebook, some people feel the need to overdo it.  I have several “friends” on there who regularly who post dozens of these little posters of deep-thoughts every day.  It’s like they have an all-you-can eat pass from the dorm poster store.  I can barely keep track of how my other friend’s quest for magic unicorn eggs in Castleville is going without these cloying posters popping up every 30 seconds.  The implied “cleverness” of the person who posted it is also kind of annoying, as they didn’t actually do much more than browse at a virtual card shop and click a key on a laptop.  Friends then “like” the little quote as if the person who clicked first had some sort of creative stake in the process.  The fact that this person clicks on more posters in a given day than most people even have time to read gives a more accurate reflection of how little they actually put into it.

So, after decades of not having seen kittens-in-peril posters, I’m now inundated with a new generation of feel good, pep-talks on people’s walls.  The difference is that now, I never even asked to hang out in their stupid dorm rooms in the first place.