9 Laws of TV Land

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I know I don’t have a baby, but suppose I did. And suppose the state let me keep it. So there’s my baby, lying innocently in its cradle, able to set things on fire by looking at them. And I need to have him raised quickly and easily while I’m busy with my life’s mission of getting drunk and phoning radio stations. What am I supposed to do?

I should do what normal people do, of course, and plunk the kid down in front of a television until he’s old enough to get up, button his own shirt and join a longshoreman’s union. Why not? My theoretical child seems happy enough — staring at the screen, clapping his little hands and playing with the channel changer until he finds a rerun of Goodfellas.

But experts in child-rearing say this is bad. According to an old study out of Tufts University, babies are influenced by the emotional reactions of actors, just like they are by their parents.

Basically, a baby doesn’t know how to react to a lot of things emotionally until it sees what other people. If a fire breaks out, it’s really neither here nor there to a baby until it sees its parents get upset. A toddler will think, “Say, that A Rod fellow with the Yankees looks like a pretty fair athlete,” until it notices that all the adults nearby are running around waving their arms in shock and panic.

Well it turns out that a 12-months-old child who is watching television will look to the actors for the same kind of cues. If characters in a drama react with suspicion and fear to veteran actress Lesley Ann Warren, a baby will do the same, and perhaps continue to do so throughout its life, leaving Ms. Warren with an eerie power over a generation of children who happened to have caught her on one particularly tense episode of Columbo.

But the way I see it, how can learning be “wrong”? How can knowledge be “bad”? Huh? Tell me that.

Not only are many important lessons available on television, but many of them are only available on television. These are things your child might otherwise not learn about life, even by observing life itself:

9 Laws of TV land

1. You can tell good people from bad people because bad people are usually played by actors who have played bad people already.

2. Advanced Grease Formula Pine-Sol can take care of all your day-to-day kitchen spills, bathroom grime and high-traffic area dirt cleaning needs, while leaving a fresh, long-lasting scent.

3. You’re too fat.

4. It’s easy to kill a man. Just push him over. Simple.

5. There is a point to life. It all leads somewhere. Also, events occur more or less when they should.

6. If you meet someone of the opposite sex whom you find attractive but with whom you have nothing in common, don’t worry. Circumstances will continue to throw you together. This continuous chance association inevitably will lead to romance and not to charges of rape or stalking.

7. When you move to a new town, your next-door neighbor will be eccentric but lovable and will bring color and adventure into your life, rather than, for instance, borrow money from you and continue trying to borrow more until you learn to ignore him.

8. You’re divorced. Your life is empty. You’re a hopeless curmudgeon to whom life has been bitterly unfair. You know what you need? A monkey.

9. Girls who look a certain way are considered attractive and pleasant whereas girls with a different kind of nose and hair are considered ugly and mean. You resemble one of the ugly ones.

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7 Things to Fix on Your Resume

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Follow this helpful guide to avoid the top seven most common mistakes people make in their resumes.

AVOID MENTIONING PRISON

It’s all well and good if, under the heading of “education,” you mention the GED you attained during lock-up. But be cautious when describing job abilities.

Good way to put it on your resume: “Experienced with laundry equipment, but also able to look up case law. Can sleep anywhere.”

Bad way to put it on your resume: “If you have a problem with someone, I can take care of this person by using nothing but a plastic spoon and some hair gel. Then you’re mine until we get out.”

EDIT LIST OF ABILITIES

Do not throw in just anything you can think of in order to make yourself look like more of a Renaissance man.

Bad: “Can speak fluent Spanish. Wrote my own wedding vows. Can fold my own tongue lengthwise and widthwise. Am able to abandon children without ever looking back.”

STAY FOCUSED

When describing the duties of previous jobs, try not to stray from the topic.

Bad: “As project manager for CPC Middleware, I set the budget and oversaw operations for projects that connected application software to basic operating systems. My wife makes the most remarkable chili. I’m going to be 34 next month, yet my parents are still taller than I am. Can I have a nickel?”

BE PROFESSIONAL

This is neither the time nor the place for your personal baggage. For example, which two items should be excluded from this job history?

1985 to 1994, engineer, Dempco Company.
1987 to 1993, participated in what I believed was a loving and monogamous marriage.
1993 to present, unable to feel anything, not even rage.
1994 to present, senior engineer, Lockheed.”

REMAIN SOBER

When listing job skills in a series of bullet points, do not get drunk in the middle of it. For instance:

* Experienced with Excel spreadsheets.

* Have completed nine hours of management training.

* Can beat up everyone I’ve met so far at your company.

* You know who was great? Adam West. The guy who played Batman on TV? He was great.

* I’m not a bad person. I’m just weak. And I have these terrible, terrible moods.

* Will you come home with me? How about your friend?

BE FORMAL

When listing former employers as references, refer to them only by their first and last name rather than by the nickname they didn’t know about. Viz:

Contact references:

Cousin It — extension #106.

Executive Vice President of Unmerited Arrogance — extension #130.

The Breather — extension #125.

EDIT YOUR JOB HISTORY

You don’t necessarily have to list jobs from longer ago than 10 years back. This is fortunate because too many different kinds of jobs makes employers think you may lack focus — and not everyone discovers their true calling right after college.

In this following resume sample, see if you can tell when the applicant should have stopped writing and left well enough alone:

2009 to present: Senior graphic designer at Concepts Unlimited, Newark.
2007 to 2009: Junior graphic designer, Special Moments Design, Edison.
2004 to 2006: Roadie for tic-tack-toe-playing chicken, Atlantic City and various locations.
2002: Accident victim for insurance money (freelance).
1997 to 2002: Member of Menudo.

More Places We Need to Invade

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The following places either pose a threat to the United States or require our help so desperately that we may have to intervene on their behalf:

Antarctica

This country is too cold to support life, and has been uninhabitable for millions of years. This must stop. The problem of Antarctica no longer should be left for future generations to solve.

Mississippi

This traditionally unstable region suffers a high infant mortality rate, about the same expectancy as China, Ecuador, North Korea and Lebanon, a low high school graduation rate and a high share of minors living below the poverty line. This is the classic scenario for breeding terrorist cells.

Lat. 30 South, Long. 150 West

Several questions remain unanswered about this area. What’s there? Well, some desolate patch of the Pacific Ocean — so admittedly, that question does have an answer. But who lives there? At just this moment, no one. But do they have weapons? Well, if no one is there, then they probably don’t have weapons. Alright, but tell me this: These people who are not there and have no weapons in this area where nothing exists, why won’t they cooperate?

Shelly’s Hi-Top Tavern

Since new owners took over this bar last year, the drinks don’t even get you buzzed. Yet the prices have gone up. Since this extra income obviously does not go toward alcohol, we can only assume it is being funneled to one of the many groups that want to topple the American system. Terrorists, perhaps? Nineteenth-century anarchists? Fourteenth-century heretics? Whoever this shadow group may be, we must show that the United States approaches problems with a firm resolve, that we will not bow, that we will not break and that we as a great nation are not fooled by a Long Island ice tea that’s mostly Coke.

The Playboy Mansion

National security officials do not know what exactly goes on there, since our nation’s leaders are too cheap to pay $9.99 for two videos in which viewers “Party with the hottest celebrities, the sexiest Playmates, and even Hef himself.”

However, having a party-like relationship with creatures on a TV screen smacks of cultism and witchcraft. And judging from the pictures in this ad, women are unable to escape from the mansion, since someone has stolen their clothing and left them nothing to wear except sandwich wrap and tiny, edible slacks.

Sam’s Club

Security officials are very interested in this wholesale shopping club, though pretty much for the same reason the rest of us are: They keep thinking how funny it would be to buy that 30-pound box of Snickers bars. United Nations officials have not been able to examine these facilities, however, because none of the inspectors will buy a membership card — figuring it’s silly to spend $35 to join when all they’re going to buy is a bag of frozen green burritos and maybe some tires.

Advanced Test for Being American

Congratulations, you have passed the test to become an American citizen. You will receive all the rights and privileges of every other American, except the ability to run for president or be taken seriously on talk shows.

However, being an America citizen is not quite the same thing as being an actual American. To fit in among other Americans, you must get at least two answers correct in the following test. The test is multiple-choice. So you need not understand the answer in order to get it right. That is the first hint at how most actual Americans operate.

1. What does the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantee?

a) The right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.

b) Low-income financing on a used car or motorboat.

c) I don’t know.

(The correct answer is C. If you’re really an American, you have no idea what the Sixth Amendment is.)

2. If it’s seven weeks into the baseball season and the Phillies have a record of 19 and 16, can they still win the National League East?

a) Hell YEAH they can win! They’re only one game behind the Marlins. They may not have a lot of flash, but the Phillies have the best team ERA in baseball.

b) I believe that these gentlemen can, indeed, triumph in this contest of which you speak, as long as they pray to Allah.

c) Who cares? We’ll all be dead someday.

(The most accurate answer is C. But if you give an answer out loud, best stick with A.)

3. What are the first words of the national anthem?

a) Oh, say can you see …

b) O say kan U C …

c) Meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, Jane his wife.

(None of the answers is correct. The words of our national anthem, in its entirety, are, “This tastes funny.”)

4. Where is America on a map?

a) Between Canada and Mexico.

b) Wherever it damn well wants to be!

c) Yeah! Wherever it damn well wants to be! Hoot! Hoot! Hoot!

(The safest answer is always “Hoot! Hoot! Hoot!”)

Never Apologize

April, 1993

Conference Room No. 3, Hyatt Regency
Ft. Worth, Texas

“OK, all the neoconservative commentators and politicians are here. Could someone seal the doors and we’ll get started?”

“Is this going to take long, Newt? I’ve got interest compounding and I need to go home and look at it.”

“It’ll barely take any time at all. I’m just briefing you all on one point: From now on, never correct yourself, never apologize, and never, EVER admit a mistake.”

“… That’s it? You dragged me here from Florida just for that?”

“Well, Rush, I thought you might have questions.”

“Nope. Got it. Toodleloo.”

“Well, I DO have a question, Newt. When you say ‘never,’ do you mean, like, never at all, even when we’re off the air?”

“This will be as good for your personal life as it is for your career. If you never apologize, you’re never wrong. I think I know something about marriage, having had two of them and being seven years away from a third. Believe me, if you dodge responsibility, life is pretty sweet. For example, O’Reilly.”

“Yo.”

“Suppose you said or reported something inaccurate, and someone points it out. Let’s say it was just some comedian from Saturday Night Live, but he has irrefutable evidence. What would you do?”

“It doesn’t matter who points it out. Being a journalist, I would issue a correction. It’s not something I’d enjoy, but nobody gets everything right 100 percent of the time.”

“But wouldn’t it be better if you just talked about your critic as if you’d already proven something indescribably dark about him.”

“You’re right. Sorry.”

“No, don’t … (SIGH) … Look, is Ken Starr here? OK, Ken, suppose you investigated some debacle at a savings and loan. And when you were done, you kept spending taxpayer money to pin someone completely unrelated on the president of the United States – just because you didn’t like the guy. So, a few years later, you realize that, all that time, the president was trying to capture a Muslim fanatic bent on destroying America, and you were getting in the way. What would you do?”

“I would explain that I did what I thought was right but that I’m sorry I helped tear the country apart in a partisan hatchet job. … What? You’re shaking your head. What?”

“No, you’d stick your hands in your pockets, whistle innocently, walk away and bag a lucrative job at some cushy private university. In Malibu.”

“Boy. That DOES sound good.”

“Let me try one more of you guys. George Jr. Suppose you invaded Iraq and told everyone we’d be welcomed as conquerors, we’d find major weapons, we’d install democracy and we’d be out of there in 100 days. A year and a half later, we weren’t welcomed, we didn’t find major weapons, we didn’t install democracy and U.S. GIs are still getting killed and mutilated. What would say?”

“I’d have friends say John Kerry lied about his war medals.”

“See?! This guy gets it!”

(Written in 2004)

How Writers Have Gotten Spoiled

I am writing the first draft of this column in pencil while lying on an air mattress in an otherwise unfurnished apartment for which I have not yet gotten furniture or Internet access.

The point is not that I write like this, but that professional writers almost never do anymore. Although writing is one of the simplest artistic endeavors (you just need a pencil, a notebook and the quaint belief that anyone cares what you think), more and more writers rely on advanced technology.

Normally, I’d be typing this right into a word processor, which checks my spelling and, in some cases, makes my jokes funnier and my characters more sympathetic. In the meantime, I’d be listening to CDs, playing Minesweeper (hoping someday women will be impressed with how fast I play) and going online.

Especially going online.

That’s the big crutch. Take away a writers’ Internet access and we flop around like trout on a hubcap. Trout on a hubcap? That doesn’t even make sense. But I’ve written it down and I can’t change it because I forgot how to erase anything without a delete key.

Anyway, I was saying we’re lost without the Internet – like an innocent child is lost without its global positioning system device (boy, I wish I could erase that, too). For instance, right about now in this essay, I might explore whether other people’s writing has gained certain qualities once they started using more technology. So I would run online search terms on “writing” and “Internet” and the names of specific authors and eventually I’d wind up reading about women who hunt. My mind wanders.

But after that, and after a couple of games of Minesweeper that finally would draw women to my house, I’ll add a couple of lines of information that you wouldn’t otherwise know unless you went on the Internet yourself – and frankly, why don’t you?

But without being able to do that, I have no choice except to write this week’s column with blanks where I’d otherwise get content from online, misspellings where Microsoft Word would otherwise fix them, personal information instead of news, and rambling instead of cogent data from wikipedia.

My subject is pants.

Pants were first invented in _____, and from that day to this, none of them have fit me. Waist bands are always an even number of inches, and my waist is always a prime number – 5, 17, 37, 53, etc.

Speaking of interesting things I found in the same notebook as the one in which I’m writing this, the Bavarian Illuminati were founded in 1776. How about that, heh?

In conclusion, perhaps _____ ______ said it best when he said, “__’_ ____ __ ____________ _ ______ __ ___ ______, ___ ___ ____ __ ________.”

(First published in December, 2003.)

The Lank Financial Management Newsletter

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Welcome to The Barry Lank Financial Management Newsletter, your source for reliable stock tips. This newsletter was founded last Thursday when I, Barry Lank — the founder and visionary behind The Barry Lank Financial Management Newsletter — bought stationery with believable-looking letterhead.

Many people ask what qualifies me to give advice about money. Many people. Many, many, many, many, many people ask me this, especially after they’ve seen how I live.

But whenever they ask that, I pull my bathrobe a little tighter around me, sit back on my milk crates continue playing “Call of Duty.” You see, I’m an optimist. And the reason I’m an optimist is that I don’t have any recent newspapers in my house. The most current financial journal I’ve read is from 1998, and it says we’ve discovered something called “The New Economy.” The stock market will never go down again. It can’t. Isn’t that great?

So let me start by answering a few questions from my readers:

“What is `buying on margin,’ and how can I get involved with it?”

Let me answer that question by asking you another: Why don’t you just burn all your money and hold some kind of solemn ceremony while you dump the ashes in the Pacific.

“What are bonds?”

I could explain what those are. So could a lot of people. But I’ve got to tell you, bonds are … they’re something a girl would buy. A “chick” investment. Don’t get me wrong. They’re profitable. But if you’re a guy, do you really want a girl’s portfolio? That’s all I’m saying.

“What are stocks?”

When I own a stock, I actually own a little piece of a company. What happens when a company makes a profit? Why, I make a profit. What happens when a company does not make a profit? Holy cow, I could lose everything! Where’s my broker?!

“What is … that?”

I save money by bottling my own soda out of what people leave in their glasses at restaurants and such. Want some?

– – – – – – –

In conclusion there are only three sure-fire ways to preserve or increase your money:

1. Hide all your money in a broken dishwasher and post yourself on your front porch with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.

2. Find an active financial market. The surest way to find an active market right now is put your money in a briefcase and run around and around the earth so fast that you go back in time.

3. Based primarily on my failure to learn anything new about money since high school — your best strategy is to buy a really bitchin’ stereo.

MORE EXCITING JOB LISTINGS!!!

Who says there aren’t any jobs out there? You can find lots of listings. There are hundreds of hundreds of tens of ones of job listings. Literally several. Listings like these:

Dishwasher

Because so many people are desperate for work, we require that all applicants have a doctorate in dishwashing, with a special emphasis on the soaking of cutlery.

Knowledge of Swedish a plus, in case you are ever called upon to wash Swedish cookware.

We will interview 100 people for this position and take a year to decide among them. The final two candidates will have to wrassle for it.

Trainee

Your job would be to pay us to train you for a job that we do not actually have. Successful past graduates have gone on to train other people for jobs that other companies don’t have either.

Violinist/Diesel Mechanic

Due to downsizing, our company has combined several jobs that used to be in different departments. As a result, applicants for this position must combine the skills of a talented, pitch-perfect, concert violinist and a diesel mechanic who can operate in sub-zero temperatures.

This company also has openings for a contortionist who also can be Russian premier and a Canadian mounted policeman who can double as a human chess piece.

Next Executive Assistant

Law firm once again needs to replace the executive aide for one of our more problematic senior partners. Your interview with him may include such questions as “Why was Taft history’s fattest president” and “Will you be my mommy?”

Actual Worker

Employees at our company enjoy an enviable selection of benefits. We receive health care, become fully vested in a matching 401(k) program within one year and automatically are promoted after two years of satisfactory service.

Unfortunately, you will receive none of this because we had to change our benefits package for new employees. As a result of the automatic promotion, we now find that every single employee in our 400-member company is in management. Worse still, we are all at the same level of management. So no one can fire or demote anyone else.

Your job would be to answer to 400 supervisors and tell each of us how much nicer he or she is than the others.

Supervisor/Nonsupervisor

You would make minimum wage supervising other people who also make minimum wage. Your job would be to set policy for a staff that has already seen 14 supervisors this year get fired after trying to set policy. Benefits include watching the entire company close up shop and move to Thailand.

Imaginary Staff Member

We are setting up interviews with possible candidates for an imaginary job in an industry that might exist if everything were different.

Since the job does not exist and the industry has not been invented, your duties could involve nearly anything, including light typing, operation of space craft, construction of tiny cities that could be inhabited by children, eating light bulbs and other household products in front of large, appreciative crowds and continuous ballroom dancing for up to 37 hours.

We would like to emphasize again that we do not have any actual openings. But we are very interested to see how many people actually answer this ad. During your phone interview, expect giggling.

History of an Innocent New Jersey

New Jersey has not always had strange characters skulking around the State House. You can actually find a lot of honest people if you just go far back enough in time.

Thus we come to the subject of prehistory.

Pottery fragments

This, of course, was the period before events were recorded in any standardized way that we understand. So we need to look at pottery fragments from archeological sites – New Jersey’s first signs of honest toil, and possibly last.

They show not only that people have been living here for at least 2,800 years, but also that only a select few craftsmen actually made the pottery. Tribal elders contracted out the work to some friends of theirs who, by coincidence, had hired those same elders to lucrative consulting jobs at various tribal planning boards. The pottery reportedly cost the indigenous tribes $30 million and had holes.

Native Americans

The first recorded Native Americans in the area were the Lenni-Lenape, whose name translates as “the original people.” It is a mystery why people would call themselves “original” before anyone else even showed up. But it certainly impressed early British settlers, who, themselves, honored a long-ago king who had the foresight to call himself Henry I.

The Lenni-Lenape traveled with the seasons, but had well-organized habits and a strong sense of tradition. For example, those who lived in the north were known as the Minsi, which translates as “the people of the stony country.” In the central area, inhabitants were called the Unami, meaning “the guys who get all the transportation contracts.” In the south were the Unilachtigo, or “Benny’s cousin’s sister’s nephew, who has a warehouse and owes me a favor.”

Early transportation

In traveling between their villages and their summer residences, the Lenape created trails that ultimately evolved into the early highway system for Europeans setters. As travelers along today’s New Jersey Turnpike may have guessed, the Lenape laid out their roads according to the location of Roy Rogers fast-food restaurants, which scientists believe were created by glaciers. However, archeologists cannot always understand why some roads went where they did or who on earth is going to use South Jersey Light Rail once it’s finished.

All scientists agree, though, that the only reason the Lenape trails got done at all was because, after some struggle, the tribal sub-chiefs broke down and agreed to play along with the unions.

The end of innocence

Yes, it was truly idyllic. But it had to end. First, Sir Henry Hudson discovered Cape May in 1609. (It wasn’t named after him, but rather after Capt. Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, who arrived 11 years later. Hudson had his eye on bigger things, discovering that same year the river that now bears his name and, two years later, the car.) Then settlers started arriving from Holland.

Actually, the first group of European emigrants had meant to sail only to France rather than thousands of perilous miles to New Jersey. However, the captain of their ship hired one of his fishing friends as navigator without interviewing any other candidates.

“I saved passengers money on their fares by not hiring someone qualified,” he boasted, shortly before passengers and crew ordered him to be eaten by larvae.

That pretty much brings us up to date.

(Any actual information in this article that was not twisted into some stupid joke comes from the American Local History Network.)

Simple Rules for Dating My Grammar

People keep asking me, “Oh Barry, would you be ever so kind as to correct my grammar, particularly when we’re having an argument and you’re trying to avoid the subject?” Of course, their linguistic abilities are so poor that they don’t phrase it like that, managing only to say, “Why are you sleeping in my car? Don’t you live anywhere?”

So to save time, I will spend this column telling you everything I know about grammar. That way, you can let me sleep. And would it kill you to drop me off at work in the morning? I’m in the car already anyway.

The most common mistake people make is to use one word when they should use another. The moral is, never use one word. For example, people often say “cribbage” when they mean something else. And many people say I am an idiot when in fact they mean that I am not.

A few common misusages:

Who vs. whom

Use “who” when it’s the subject of a clause, as you would use “he,” “she” or “it.” Use “whom” when it is the object of a clause, as you would use “him,” “her” or “it.”

If that does not clear it up for you, remember this simple rule: When in doubt whether to use “who” or “whom,” replace it with “anyway” and start a new sentence. For example:

“I just ran into that guy who you dated last year … whom you dated … Anyway, he had plastic surgery to make himself look like you.”

It’s vs. its

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, such as “his” or “hers.” If you’re not sure which one is appropriate, always use “its,” the reason being that, in the majority of cases in which the usage is in question, most people don’t much care what you do.

Me or I

Many people say “me” when they mean “I,” and “I” when they mean someone else.

For example: “I ruled the Soviet Union in the middle of the 20th century, and am believed to have slaughtered millions.” Rather than “I,” you mean “Josef Stalin.” Most people do.

“Hopefully”

Starting a sentence with “hopefully” tends to be a mistake. “Hopefully” is an adverb – a word that modifies a noun or an adjective. So if you say, “Hopefully, you won’t get too drunk and tell that story again,” what does “hopefully” modify: “Get”? “Tell”? Are you actually trying to say, “I hope you won’t get too drunk like you did last time and tell that awful story, because you don’t know how to drink and must be treated like a child”? Because if that’s what you mean, why don’t you just say it? Why do you and I always have to play this game?

Verb/Subject agreement

It’s often said that a verb must agree in number and person with its subject. And the people who often say this – well, most of us aren’t too excited to see them coming around.

Nonetheless, they are correct. One man mixed a singular subject with a plural verb case and blew off three of his fingers. Another man who meant to use a second-person singular verb employed a third-person plural verb. And even though those are the same verb (“you are,” “they are”), he was kicked unconscious by school children and thrown into a pit with a man who had used the phrase “so totally” while addressing the president.

Three important tips

1. Probably the most common misuse of language is when people just go on and on about nothing.

2. Though strict rules govern language, those rules were written mainly by people who aren’t here anymore. So if, for example, you used “affect” when you meant “effect,” it could be all right if we all just agreed to shut up and go along with it.

3. I drink because I enjoy it, not because I have a problem. Take your pity elsewhere.