Why not nuke North Korea’s nuke test? They’ve said they’re going to have a test; I presume we know where that will be. So we nuke it the day before. There’s a big explosion, a mushroom cloud; they blame us. We say what are you talking about? You said you were going to light one off. And you did. No! You did it! Right. We nuked your nuke test. And that makes sense . . . how, exactly? It would certainly keep them off their game. And just after we nuke the test - and every subsequent test, of course - we put a call to Li’l Kim’s cellphone, and someone with a Texas accent says oh, I’m sorry, wrong number. I was tryin’ to reach a live man.

Speaking of unwanted calls: for the last few days we’ve gotten a call from Sadie’s, a kid’s photography company. Gnat had a sitting a few weeks ago. When the number popped up on caller ID I called it back, and was informed that this customer did not accept incoming phone calls. That’s good marketing. That’s fine customer relations. We can bother you, but you can’t call us. I phoned the local store; the clerk said they were probably trying to sell us enlargements. I called the home office in Utah. He said they were conducting a survey. Typical. In order to best serve our customers, we shall embark on a campaign to alienate them. The pointy-haired boss shows his hand. Well, tonight they called again, and this time I took the call. The telemarketer asked for my wife; I said she was occupied, but I could help.

“I’ll just call back later.”

No, you won’t, you dinnertime spoiler, you intrusive family-time thief, you botherator, you. And by “you” I mean the telemarketing industry, not you the person whose understandable need for a paycheck has compelled you to take a job extracting the last few drops of demographic info from a disinterested, and faintly hostile, customer base. “We’ve already had three calls from Sadie’s,” I said. “Why exactly are you calling?”

Pause. Pause. Pause.

“’Cause your name’s on my list?”

Criminey. “Well, you got us. What would you like?”

“It’s a survey?”

“Fire away.”

“Okay . . . what did you like about Sadie’s?”

“The photographs.”

“And what didn’t you like?”

“The phone calls.”

“If you complete this survey you can get a free 8 X 10 on your next photo shoot. Would you like to set up an appointment?”

“No, thanks.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Here’s a company with a great product - high-quality tot photography - and they screw the pooch right off the bat, telling you that they own the copyright to your child’s photo. (That’s what they told my wife when she took Gnat in.) Then they call you every day until you submit to a survey. Oh: you get a floppy disk with one photo, and it has a proprietary screen saver on it. A floppy frickin’ disk. In 2003. Oh, it all looks great from a marketing standpoint - end-user software! Customer follow-up! But from a customer’s perspective it’s highly annoying, and it makes me suspicious - for all I know the screensaver reports back to the home office, and tells them whether we’ve used it.

If they’d given us a CD with all the photos, and said “bring it back for a free 8 X 10 next time” and left it at that, I wouldn’t be suspicious at all. But telling people “we own the pictures of your child” and phoning the customer three times in a week to upsell is just stupid. The decline in American corporate savvy began the day some school offered a degree in Marketing.

The time comes when a man has to take a stand, and this battle between fraterslibertas and Hugh Hewitt has forced me off the fence. I think the fraterslibertas lads are in the right, but Hewitt has the juice and can do my career much more good, so I encourage everyone to shun the frats in public and pelt them with expired produce, and perhaps shout GOLDSTEIN! at them in true 1984 hate-rally fashion. Kulaks!

It’s now official: according to the DVD box copy of every sci-fi movie made in the 50s, they are ALL allegories about the Red Menace - with the possible exception of “The Red Menace,” which used a plot about Soviet spies to play on the public’s fear of Martians.

I’m watching, with no great satisfaction, a pokey & cheap film called “Invaders from Mars.” The print isn’t that good; one reel seems to consist mostly of a battle between wintergreen and cinnamon dental floss. That’s understandable, given that the original color negatives suffered the usual fate of movies in those days. What was with these people? Okay, boys, movie’s done - everyone unzip your fly and pee on the negative. Bill? You pour acid on the shooting script. Now someone feed the props to the goats out back and we’ll be done. Say there, fella, what do you think you’re doin’, heading off to the john without some of of the original costume fabric? Here’s a bolt; use it all.

Anyway. The acting’s bad. The writing’s bad. The score, however, has some interesting moments, and the set design is worth noting. The liner notes tout the director - William Cameron Menzies - was the designer for Gone With the Wind and Things to Come, but it’s apparent from this movie that his star had cooled considerably. Nevertheless, some of the shots are quite startling and surreal, and it wasn’t until I read the liner notes that it made sense. They designed the movie to be shot in 3D - but they couldn’t get any 3D cameras. They were all rented out, the DVd liner notes said - which suggests that the check bounced. So it was never 3D, but it has that 3D feel, with items placed RIGHT DOWN FRONT FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON and things waaaaaaay in the back. They spent a lot of time figuring out the 3D stuff, but not enough on the Martian costumes. You can see the zippers.

Why am I watching these things? The trendy science talk, perhaps - in “Invaders” they talk about these new-fangled infrared rays, which sound quite dangerous and possibly Soviet. And I enjoy the presumptions. In these films someone always alerts The Authorities, at which point this great seamless assemblage of generals, scientists, meteorologists, sociologists, astrophysicists, and stoat wranglers spring into action, often with one nondenominational but certainly Christian padre on hand to thank the Almighty when some of His creatures had succeeded in defeating some of His other creatures.

That’s enough for this week - nothing I’ve written here in the last gasp of August has satisfied me, and I appreciate your patronage nevertheless. There’s always next week! I’ll stink 17% less, I promise. And if you have an actual Bleatometer for calibrating the stink factor, ship me the specs - but not to the old email. It’s full and I can’t get to it right now. Fence at startribune dot com is the address for the foreseeable future. Have a fine weekend; better efforts await in September. See you then.


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