Future, Proofed


My student loan got sold to some new company recently. So I set up automatic payments for it. So I’ve had to call my new student loan people to yell at them about screwing up my student loan payments a couple times this past week. Thing is each time I call their recorded spiel tells me “Important tax information for … 2017 … is available now through our web site”.

It’s that pause that’s got me. They recorded someone saying “Important tax information for … is available now through our web site” and then left a gap so the appropriate year could be badly sliced in. How many years did they get the guy to record for? Why didn’t they just record him saying the full sentence for each of those years? I understand their wanting to make a scheme as flexible as possible. But, like, how long would it have added to the original recording session to do the full sentence out through, like, 2040?

Do they really think they’re going to still exist that far in the future, when every corporation has been merged into a real-estate holding company with no actual assets and the only people making telephone calls are actors in historical re-enactments? And why would they care about my student loans? Do you think you’re distracting me from the projection it’s going to be seven minutes before I talk to a person? Do you — excuse me, have to go unproductively yell at someone who isn’t at fault because I can’t yell at the web site productively either. The system is stupid, but what else is there to do with it?

When The Car Wash Changed Management


I was passing one of those self-service car wash stations and noticed its sign proclaimed it was “BACK UNDER OLD MANAGEMENT”. Possibly it declared the back-ness to be proud. That’s the normal emotional tone to put on that sort of declaration. But I was busy with driving and all that, and then wondering: those things have management? It’s a self-service car wash, just a concrete overhang and a bunch of coin-operated hoses of varied content. Having management at all seems to risk over-administrating it, even if all you do is stop in once a month to confirm the place isn’t currently on fire in important ways.

But there must be management at all, if nothing else to make sure that once every two months the sign proclaiming this to be a self-service car wash is turned off for four hours, thereby establishing that the sign isn’t some public feature just there to light the way but rather a private service that can be turned off at will or when the bulb burns out. So I guess that’s where management comes in at all, and can get changed, and go on to mess things up so badly that the old management coming back is worth crowing about. Still I’m imagining how the new management’s failure unfolded.

Surely new management began optimistically, with a sign proclaiming “NOW UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”, though probably not saying who the new management was, since that would add an embarrassing personal touch to the place’s existence. New Management probably declared optimism and good cheer and maybe even an amnesty for people who abandon one-quarter-filled McCafe cups on top of the vacuum cleaners. That showed how poorly New Management understood the community, that they would interpret as slight littering their clientele’s ongoing public art project about consumerism and Shamrock Shakes. The customers wrote hurtful things about New Management in the local art journals, not ignoring the irony that since they had no idea who New Management was, they might be sharing a line at McDonald’s behind someone who’s somehow making buying a small coffee a difficult transaction, all jollily sharing one of those inexplicable confusing things about life.

Perhaps then New Management tried to make amends, rotating the concrete planters so as to show a slightly less moldy side to the street without actually putting any plants out to die in them. And the clients responded with tentative friendliness, especially when a rumor went around that the machines were now taking Canadian coins. Due to a programming defect that manifested itself with a new firmware update, because surely we’re in an age where self-service car wash change boxes need firmware updates, the machines were indeed taking Canadian and all other kinds of coins, sneaking into the patrons’ backseats and sometimes sending out remote units from the vacuum cleaners — those flimsy plastic heads detach for good, alarming reasons — to take any suspicious coin or coin-like items that the patron might have any dealings with. That would get sorted out in a weekly bug fix, but not before the community had lost literally several wheatpennies and a token for a Dance Dance Revolution game from a family fun center just outside Saginaw, Michigan.

Sure, a mis-step, but really the blame falls on whoever missed an obvious car-wash-automated-kleptomania bug in the firmware code update. Nobody knows who the programmers were or why they missed it. They might have been distracted by the weirdly slow line at McDonald’s. New Management tried restoring peace by setting the machine that dispenses greasy thin cloth towels for “drying” the car on free for a couple of weeks, then stopped. New Management tried drawing people back to the place by adding the scent of that thing they use to make medicines taste like cherry into the water. This would finally give patrons with sore throats a socially acceptable context to lick their side mirrors, as they’d be fresh-washed, but the plan goes wrong when new cars are attacked by swarms of coughing bees. At this point Old Management came back around, sighed, and offered to swap the self-service car wash place for something more New Management’s speed, like a disconnected telephone booth.

New Management agreed, and went to get a small McCafe coffee to feel better.

Color Classics: All’s Fair At The Fair


For today’s cartoon I’m stepping back into the Fleischer Color Classics, with a short released the 26th of August, 1938: All’s Fair At The Fair. The title gives away the subject: it’s a World’s Fair cartoon, and since it was the late 30s it’s a severely Art Deco setting to show off the automated and mechanized world of tomorrow, the one that doesn’t really need people in it.

This is a setting, and a hook to hang jokes on, that’s well-designed for the Fleischer Cartoons: Max and Dave Fleischer had a particular thrill for ingenious mechanisms and gadgetry. Sometimes I suspect they’re a little bothered to have to have characters in their cartoons, and so the automated, people-less World of Tomorrow plays to their strengths. After the initial scenes this is a very empty World’s Fair, with just one country-hick pair of characters appearing at all. I’m not sure the characters even had any written dialogue. The way they mutter evokes the contemporary Popeye style, in which the voices were recorded after animation. But Elmer and Miranda haven’t got the personality of Popeye and Olive Oyl, and Jack Mercer (the voice of Popeye) and Margie Hines (who had taken over voicing Olive Oyl and Betty Boop) couldn’t do much to give them character.

But this isn’t one to watch for the characters. It’s one to watch for gadgets doing things, and for the lovely background and set designs. That works, all, doesn’t it?

Not Because They Were Eaten, That Would Be Silly


Why look at unimportant questions? Because it’s possible the reasons they’re unimportant might be important. So here are some.

  1. Why aren’t artichokes? Artichokes are, so the question is pointless.
  2. Are you enjoying sofa work? This question is irrelevant to everyone who is not furniture, and the task of being furniture has been almost completely automated thanks to the modern steam-powered couch. It thus lacks the general application or consequences needed to be important.
  3. Why aren’t there people with purple or green skin? The only role served by purple- or green-skinned people is to allow persons to insist they aren’t racist because of how eagerly they would hire or even, if absolutely unavoidable, befriend people who are like the people they don’t hire or befriend except for not existing. This role is sad and depressing, so we rule it out as an important question because we don’t like being saddened and depressed by questions.
  4. With hamsters upon the rock-rimmed ride? This isn’t even a question at all, despite a valiant effort to give it the shape of one. Thus, it can’t possibly be an important question. It’s barely even a sentence, although that alliterative r stuff at the end makes it enough fun to bother looking at.