My warped decoding of the Chevrolet commercial, “Like Father, Like Son”

[NOTE: Chevrolet, to their credit, has since edited/updated this commercial. Details are in my 12/4/11 post.]

I fell on my head too many times as a child. See UC run down the steep hill where he lived. See UC’s feet go out from under him. See the back of UC’s head bounce on the hard sidewalk. 

Sharing this warm childhood nugget should explain a lot regarding this blog and the pain I feel when I obsess about some trivial detail most people let go, but I can’t.

Case in point: the Chevrolet commercial below. Please check it out, or everything I write won’t make sense, though it may not make sense anyway – no guarantees.

What did you think? Cute, huh? That’s what I thought at first. The innocent little boy playing with his truck reminded me of moments I had as a child playing with my Hot Wheels cars, driving them over our black lab. I had Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys and Barrels of Monkeys, too.

Such a wonderful scene. Watching it made me feel so all-American that a piece of Apple pie I ate when I was 10 years old came back up my food pipe.

But something about the commercial didn’t ring true to me – a wrong note in the score, a scratch on the record, an image out of place. This is why I paused the football game and watched it again.

First, there is the purple-haired doll, which the little boy appears to be helping to move her pretty-pony horse trailer. What a nice young man, but that is the price you pay for owning a truck. You become the moving company for your friends.

"Why doesn't he love me? She's no good for him. She's mean, mean, mean. I'm the one for him. Can she see in the dark?"

Back to our purple haired sprite with the bowling ball head on a broom stick of a neck. She represents the girl we males were friends with when we grew up. A tomboy, our fun neighbor, which is reinforced by the friendly language the boy uses to say, “thank you.”

She’s nice, but she’s not the marrying type or the one you’re going to want to go home to. Nope, despite being cute, fashionable and an entrepeneur with her own stable of magic ponies, the purple hair, giant head, and genetically-deformed cartoon eyeballs kill her chances of being a serious romance.

She is the girl you confide in, share your love of another woman with, open your heart to and thank for being such a good listener. No matter how much she longs for the dude who drives the truck, she has no shot.

That’s because the young dude who drives the truck has a whole lotta woman back at the ranch.

"Did I tell you to take the bag off your head?"

Oh, and she looks anything but happy, despite the boy pretending to be her and saying, “hey, honey, I’m glad you’re home.” Her expression betrays this and says she knows – they always know – he was out helping Ms. Pretty Pony tow magical horses.

I mean, I get it. As a caveman, I understand.

Drive the Silverado and you’ll go home to a very tall woman wearing a skin-tight top, camo Daisy Dukes, big boots and a holster-like garter belt. And she will take you into the house and hurt you to an inch of your life, and you’ll have to wear turtlenecks in the 100-degree heat of the construction site for the next week while your buds ask why you’re dressed like that and walking funny.

So, I have to ask: Why couldn’t she wear a white doctor’s coat? Or a business suit and carry a briefcase? Or be a successful rockstar and have a tattoo and hold a guitar? Or not have proportions impossible to achieve for 99.9 percent of the women on this planet?

And it made me wonder why my wife has never greeted me at the door dressed like this? Is it because I don’t drive a Silverado?

Or could it be because she’s too tired after working all day looking at spreadsheets and unsexy Excel formulas and taking care of our daughter?

I’m thinking Halloween will be very different at our house this year.

My to-do list:
1. Search Lara Croft costumes on
2. Rent a silver Chevy Truck
3. Call my Doctor and beg for a Cialis prescription
4. Rent two bathtubs so my wife and I can bathe separately and look at the sun set over the power lines in our backyard

Clearly going to college and raising a daughter has screwed me up. And I’m no angel with thousands of years of male genetics working on my feeble image-sensitive brain each day.

However, if there is a bright spot in the portrayal of female dolls in automobile commercials, one need only look at the original Nissan Z commercial with GI Joe driving across the floor to steal away the yuppy Ken’s honey, who makes an amazing transformation from repressed Barbie to Tawny Kitaen in a Whitesnake video. Two-timing Barbie doth not a role model make (Shakespeare).

I look forward to an ad agency making a commercial using a realistic looking female doll to drive the truck. Then, with a Lady Gaga song blaring, she drives home to discover Kenny, her unemployed construction worker boyfriend – he can’t find work in the recession – in a dirty tank top barely covering his belly, sporting baggy white Jockey shorts, and holding a bong in one hand and a hammer in the other because he’s demolishing the workout room to build a man cave.

It would be at this point in the commercial I would hit pause on the remote, lean over and tell my daughter this is why every woman should own a truck. It makes it much easier to pack up your stuff when it’s time to move out.

“Sweat the Details” or “Done Is Better Than Perfect”?

The downside of performing the same job for over 10 years has been experiencing a revolving door of supervisors and managers. The range has been wide, from “great leaders” to “I’d rather swallow my iPad before I work another day for this moron.” Oh, and knowing more about the work than they do.

These are my new work pants and shoes. Trust me when I say I thank my lucky stars every day and wish all of life's good parts could last forever.

The true challenge is staying up with the various, and sometimes contradictory, team-building ideas, motivational techniques, and management styles the new managers bring with them.

Just a few years ago we lived something close to the Facebook saying: Done is better than perfect. And we churned out substandard work. Lots of it.

Yes, a large number of projects were checked off as complete, but we always felt dirty and embarrassed because our names were associated with the work, and the results lived on long after the managers had left the building.

Then a new management team would arrive and review what was done and say, “we can do better than this, people. It’s a good thing we’re here to save you.” But then they would fall victim to the “more is better” rule of the 2000s and we’d explain to the next group of managers that followed them why it was what it was.

And change was always promised, but not delivered, in the game we played to keep our jobs: Quantity is easier to measure than quality.

And then Steve Jobs up and died and now we worship his 10 commandments and the popular, Sweat the Details, which may be the most amusing of all, as volume hasn’t changed. Now we sweat the details on certain projects, with certain being the key word.

It doesn’t say “sweat some details,” which made my wife wonder if sweating all details is healthy. She thinks it should read “sweat the important details.” I agree because I always agree with my wife and I really do agree with her this time.

It’s an odd contradiction of the workplace, these “mantras du jour” that keep us on track and motivated.

I do, however, look at a another of Jobs’s rules and dream to adopt it: Kill a 1,000 Projects. Now Sweat the Details makes more sense to me. It’s easier to sweat the details on 10 projects than 1,000.

And yet, when you have a boatload of projects on your to-do list, and half the time you need to complete them, apply the Facebook mantra and you may live longer.

You know the economy is bad when . . .

. . . your eye doctor works two jobs to make ends meet.

I went to the eye doctor today for my annual appointment. I’m not sure how the conversation about the economy started – it wasn’t me, I swear – but man o man did I get an earful – or eyeful?

Turns out she is working two jobs: her regular practice and at another company giving eye exams. Okay, so it’s not as sad as if she were serving cocktails at night in a club called Retina Scan, but she is the first doctor I know moonlighting to pay the bills. And despite her husband working, there isn’t enough to pay the bills and save.

I see all. And your office is a mess by the way.

I got the full scoop of what it costs to go to medical school for Ophthalmology – mucho dinero. And how long it takes to pay off a student loan – mucho años. And how much interest there is on a student load – mas dinero. (She’s bilingual.)

I’m sure she gets paid some minimal amount per visit and has to churn through patient after patient to make ends meet. The conversation made me start to worry that she wasn’t paying attention to my eye exam and might miss something important, like how stunning my blue eyes are (my opinion, not hers). And I fully expected, based on my past experience with doctors, to have some rare eye problem to add to my list of ailments.

But not today. The health Gods looked down upon me and decided not to make by eyes turn bright purple or swell to the size of cantaloupes or shoot flames and burn off my eyebrows. Today, they gave me a pass.

What did hit me is that there are people in the 99% percent I never expected to be there – first timers when it comes to feeling like they are barely making ends meet, which makes me wonder how my parents ever made ends meet when only one of them was in the workforce? And why are two incomes today not bringing in moola by the boatload?

If only I had the vision to understand it. 🙂

How men treat my wife when I’m not around

My wife pulled into a gas station talking on the vehicle’s hands-free phone system. She parked at the far pump, turned off the engine, and transferred the call to her handset. She had just come from the hospital where her mother had spent the night with chest pains and was talking to her sister about how they would support her in her golden years.

What if I showed up in dressed like the Captain and delivered some bone crunching pain?

The gas station wasn’t crowded and a man in his 40s driving a red BMW convertible pulled up behind her. While she was on the phone in the car, the man came over and looked in the driver’s side window and gave her a disapproving look. She got out and pumped her gas and spoke on the phone while Mr. Bimmer gave her more of the looks you’d expect from someone with the job of policing the use of cellular phones in a restricted area.

He finished pumping his gas, got back in his BMW, backed up and as he drove away in the safety and comfort of the Bimmer’s leather cockpit, he yelled, “get off the f***ing phone” and continued driving. If only my wife ran as fast as the Flash and carried a machete.

Now wherever my wife and I drive in the general area where we live, I look for this man. And whenever I see a red 3-series BMW convertible, I ask my wife “Is that the guy?”

And one day she is going to say “yes, that’s the guy” and I’m going to etch, “She’s off the phone, knucklehead,” on the hood of his car.

This story is one of dozens my wife has of angry men who feel compelled to unleash some of that anger on my wife .

There was the aging rock star at the grocery store who used his cart to block her from passing in the aisles and laughed about it as he followed her around the store, and the grocery worker who gave her a hard time about getting past him while he was stocking shelves, and numerous other guys flipping her off while driving when they were the one in the wrong.

And there are the men in cars who expose themselves to her when she runs in the morning, which is an odd but true fact of L.A. that there are naked guys driving around in the wee hours of the morning enjoying the feel of cloth seats on their bare bottoms.

This is my favorite cereal. Oddly, I couldn’t find it on the General Mills web site. Are they not proud of creating and selling the world’s greatest cereal? Or, it is really bad for me, which may explain a lot?

And they’re all on my list. And one day, I’m going to find them and hope it’s in the last hours of my life and I can use the gun I finally broke down and bought to shoot them in the knee caps, an injury they’ll remember every time they take a step for the rest of their lives.

My wife once asked: “why doesn’t this stuff happen when you’re around?”

Hmm, let me guess. It doesn’t because these guys wouldn’t say anything like that with another man around.

One day, I dream I will be with her at the grocery store – though I hate going there – and I’ll be out of sight when some a-hole blocks her way with a shopping cart in the cereal aisle. And I will walk around and witness it.

And you, my dear friends, will get to see the black & white security-camera footage on with the title, “Man forced to eat 5 boxes of Captain Crunch in grocery store brawl.”

And to think he ate them box and all without the aid of milk. Amazing.

Dear Blog, not tonight. I have a headache.

The long week caught up to me tonight. Everything is due yesterday at work and today’s rush project replaced yesterday’s rush project which replaced the day before’s rush project.

Here's a picture of the pup for my friend Just Ramblin' and other dog lovers, but not @onlyz

To fulfill my post-a day duty, here are my two favorite links from the day, each with enough facts to make those who worship the rich cry – or not, if they refuse to believe the numbers.

I’ll be back Saturday.

Oh, and one more thing. My apologies to everyone who wrote comments this week. I’ll reply in the morning. I’m thankful and humbled you left me feedback – even you @seanset.

More Americans than Chinese can’t put food on the table

CHARTS: Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About… (Make sure you click the link at the bottom to look at the charts. Scary, unless you’re a one-percenter)

Are people in Los Angeles getting angrier? (A non-political post for Margie)

One of my neighbors “displayed” his gun to another neighbor’s gardener the other day. I was on a conference call and missed the fun that ensued when my two neighbors got into a heated argument about it (my wife’s description, as she caught the last two minutes). It’s a good thing I missed it because I would have called the police. When a gun comes out, that’s process step 1 for me.

If cannons, not guns, were legal, we'd have a fewer killings and more people going to chiropractors instead of prison

Today I saw the good neighbor, who is a friend and the one who didn’t brandish a gun in the light of day, and he filled me in.

Turns out his large tree overhangs Dirty Harry’s property. And as an act of kindness, his gardener went to the front door of Mr. Harry to ask permission to move something on the property to access the tree and to make sure his cars weren’t damaged from falling debris. But no one answered the door.

When the gardener tried again, he was confronted by Mr. Harry who had a shotgun or machine gun – some kind of big gun. Then the argument started about it not being a polite gesture to greet a gardener with a weapon of death instead of a rake or hoe.

Now I know most of my neighbors probably own guns. This is Los Angeles where it’s almost mandatory, though I’ve managed to resist the impulse, thinking that I’d probably use it on myself in those dark moments of blood clots and hemoptysis. But here’s a neighbor who feels like we’re living on the open range and he’s protecting his property from cattle rustlers.

What do I do? Or don’t do?

This is the kind of photograph that lures people to California. It's all Hollywood magic. The bird is fake and the beach is a painted backdrop.

Move? I don’t know, but it was the first thought that crossed my mind.

It does make me wonder if my unscientific theory that people are growing angrier is true.

I don’t have any facts to back this up.

It’s the feeling I get when I see how people treat each other in public, how they drive, how certain neighbors could give a flying fudge bar if they return a “hello” while I’m walking in the neighborhood – to the point I feel like flipping them the bird when I see them – a pre-emptive strike – which would illicit a response from them or a comment like, “you’re the worst neighbor ever and I wish you’d f’ing move.” Hello to you, too, neighbor, glad you finally acknowledged my presence. 

I experience this hostility in the way men treat my wife when I’m not with her (another post coming soon).

I wonder if this city is suffering from traumatic or post-traumatic stress syndrome. We’re going through our days carrying so much stress and tension that we’re ready to snap at anyone, and are too burned out to be courteous.

It’s a just a hunch, but I feel it in my bones.

Unemployment is high in California; illegal drugs are popular; foreclosures with For Sale signs in the front yard and near-foreclosures with brown lawns, broken picket fences and half-finished additions lace neighborhoods. Do these daily images impact our sub-conscious?

Worry. Overrated and un-fun. (Creative Commons: Photo by Steve Snodgrass)

And then there is the constant worry we’re not working hard enough at our jobs and could be laid off at anytime to save the company money. And we’re working longer hours to make up for the whole “do more with less” mentality of companies during the recession. And there are the bills.

If we lose our jobs, where would we be? Brandishing a gun at a hard-working gardener? Walking into a beauty salon in Seal Beach to kill eight innocent people in an unspeakable, tragic act of violence?

I don’t know anymore. The older I get, the less I know.

Maybe I should have taken the advice of the first bumper sticker I saw when I moved to L.A.: Welcome to California, now go home. 

Occupy Wall Street and the lesson I learned from Stella Liebeck

Do you remember the case of the woman who spilled hot McDonald’s coffee in her lap and was awarded close to 3 million dollars by a jury?

What do you remember about it?

Do you remember everyone talking about what a scam it was and how this was the shining example of tort reform and legal system abuse?

I thought that to be accurate because everything I saw or heard about it backed up that opinion. Major media even reported on it but with incorrect facts.

This movie is an eye-opener, but also one that shows how the deck is stacked against us.

Then I started watching the documentary Hot Coffee, a must-see, which reviews and analyzes the facts of the case. The key word here being “facts.”

Remember, truth does not equal fact. And in this case there is what people perceive to be the “truth” and there are the facts.

Some of the facts: Stella Liebeck, 79, wasn’t driving the car – she was in the passenger seat, parked, when she opened the lid of her coffee and spilled it in her lap, suffering burns so severe that even I, a long-time guest of hospitals, couldn’t look at them when I replayed the segment on HBO GO. Burns so severe Mrs. Liebeck needed skin grafts.

How could I have been so wrong? How could I have joked that the case represented the evils of large jury awards?

And it made me wonder what else I think I know now to be “true,” but is not “factual.”

And the movie in its entirety reminded me that there is a large group of powerful people, media outlet owners, businesses, organizations, and the government officials they promote and purchase, who will stop at nothing to strip away the rights of the common man and woman in this country while they tap our wallets and fatten theirs.

I know I may sound like a conspiracy nut, but if it feels like it’s harder to get by these days because we’re paying for more of everything and wondering why our taxes don’t cover the expenses of this country. Well, it’s not our imagination. Big business continues to manipulate the system to pay less.

These powerful people have done a masterful job of imposing their will on us while we work our asses off to earn a living because companies won’t hire more people, telling us we have to “do more with less” during these tough times. And we do it because we have no choice. There are fewer jobs, which helps keep productivity high.

And that’s why the Occupy Wall Street movement is so important. It’s not about money, it’s about exposing corrupt power – the powerful who set a direction for the country that favors the rich and big business.

But the power-hungry have pushed people too far, grabbed too much of the pie and imposed their will to the point we finally looked up from our iPads to realize we had fewer rights than we did yesterday and the truth they promised was best for us, was not best for us. It was best for them.

Which brings me back to Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants. How is it possible any of us condemned and made fun of a 79-year-old woman with disfiguring burns and backed a large corporation that heated its coffee water to 180 to 190 degrees and could have settled for pennies before going to trial?

Was it by accident that the facts of the case got twisted and communicated to portray an elderly woman as the villain and a corporation as the victim? Or was there a greater force at work dropping incorrect facts in the wind?

It makes me wonder what other truths are getting distorted in this country by those in power and those who control the media.

I’ll remember the lesson I learned from the case of Stella Liebeck when I hear and read the truth the rich and powerful feed us as to why they are the victims, and how unions and the poor, the tired, the hungry and the sick are really at fault.