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Welcome to Mike Redmond's home on the Weird Wide Web!

Greetings, Earth People. I'm Mike Redmond. Not the baseball player. Instead of making you guess the rest, I'll just go ahead and tell you who I am and what I do.

  • I'm a newspaper columnist -- formerly the feature columnist for The Indianapolis Star (back when you could call it a newspaper). I bailed out of the place about two years after Gannett bought it, and I still count that as the best decision I ever made. My creditors don't always agree.
  • Now I write for papers around Central Indiana, a magazine or two, and this site. I'm also a public speaker, a teacher, an historical (as opposed to hysterical) interpreter, a farm tour guide, and occasionally, when I can be talked into it, an author. They're all my favorite jobs.
  • This is where you'll find my online column, posted every Wednesday, unless I get ambitious and post it Tuesday. But don't count on it.
  • This is also where to look for news about speaking engagements, new jobs, friends, and stuff that strikes me as interesting. I'll probably throw in a few recipes, too. I get wild like that sometimes.
  • Take a look around. Let's have some fun.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Something Stinks With This System


So there I was, wandering down the Personal Cleanliness aisle of the Big Cheap Department Store, when my eyes fell upon a bottle advertising itself not as soap, or detergent, or a cleaning product of any kind but as- get ready - a Scent System.

Scent System?

Sounds like something you'd find on a skunk. Or a good name for that uncle of yours who is always pulling the old "pull my finger" joke at family reunions.

But no, there it was, next to the usual array of bar soaps and five-dollar-a-gallon aftershaves: A Scent System.

Only a man could have come up with something so ridiculous.

"System" is a magic word to guys. There are lots of these. "Turbo" is a magic word. So is "bold."  Advertisers and marketers these all the time to sucker guys into buying stuff that they don't need for way more than they ought to pay. Snack foods, for example. I'm pretty sure it's possible to buy a Giant (another magic word) bag of cheese puffs that are now Turbo-Charged with Bold New Flavor. Never mind that they're really just the same old cheese puffs with a little bit of cayenne sprinkled on them. They're Turbo and Bold. Guys love that kind of stuff.

And so it is with "system." The word triggers a response hidden deep in guy DNA, a natural attraction for plans and strategies, which usually translates into a keen ability to make things more complicated than they really need to be.

Think about it. Every time someone "reorganizes" the work flow at the office, what happens? Things get more complicated and what used to take a day to accomplish now takes a day and a half. That's a System Loving Guy having what he considers to be a perfect day. Perfect if designed by Rube Goldberg, I mean.

So what does all this have to do with getting clean? Nothing. But it has everything to do with selling soap.

Scent System, to a guy, conjures up this image - a squadron of tiny little scent specialists deployed onto his body for the purpose of keeping him Socially Acceptable.

"All right men, time for a perimeter check. Neck? Check. Torso? Check. South of the Border? Check. Feet? Oh, my. Feet, we'll get back to you."

The squad leader sits in Scent Control monitoring the situation and sending Scent Troops where they're needed.

"All right, he's heading to the boss's office. Looks chancy. Yep, he's nervous. Let's reinforce those armpits STAT!"

"Pretty girl ahead. All hands on deck! All hands on deck! We need a full-on response here, people. Make him fragrant!"

"Man your battle stations! Man your battle stations! He's going to the gym! Repeat: He's going to the gym!" This is not a drill! This is not a drill!"

And so on.

It is, of course, ridiculous. Scent system? Please. It's shower and that's all is. The only thing systematic about it is the way marketers use a magic word to make sure guys grab it and throw it into their shopping carts purely from a reflex they don't even understand. Right along with the Turbo paper plates and Bold new cat litter.

Which, of course, is what I did. I bought a bottle of scent system.

What can I say? I'm a guy.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, September 28, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's A Shift, And Not For The Better



I'm a little miffed at the American Automobile Industry.

(I know, I know. Join the club.)

The object of my disaffection, however, puts me in a category of American-Automobile-Industry-Miffed-At Person that I have pretty much to myself, at least when compared with the People Who Bought Chevy Vegas or This-Is-Gonna-Cost-HOW-Much-To-Fix? categories.

My dissatisfaction comes from the fact that it is pretty much impossible to get a new pickup truck with a manual transmission anymore.

Hey, when I have a complaint, at least I try to make it interesting.

I've been dinking around on the various automaker websites, checking out various models of truck and their options, and the fact is you can't get a manual transmission unless you buy one of those Super Heavy Duty Giganto Four Wheel Drive Turbo Diesel Mammoth Mountain Mover models with the optional Roof Mounted Searchlight, E-Z Access Rope Ladder and Fire-Breathing Exhaust Pipes.

This is a little more truck than I need, seeing as how my driving is pretty much limited to work, errands and the occasional pleasure trip, and not hauling trailers full of large zoo animals. Not that I see a lot of that happening. In fact, most of the Super Heavy Duty trucks I've seen lately are going to work, running errands and taking the family on the occasional pleasure trip.

Anyway, if you want a good, basic full size pickup truck, it looks like you have to take it with automatic transmission, which to me calls the whole "basic" thing into question.

So why am I so stuck on a manual transmission?

Well, for starters, look at the name: Manual. Manly. A manual transmission is a manly transmission, perfectly suited for the American male who deep inside has imagined himself barreling down the open road, jamming gears on a semi full of contraband beer while Burt Reynolds gets ol' Smokey off your tail, or some such ridiculous movie kind of thing.

Also, I think a manual transmission puts you in greater control of the vehicle. Actually, the automatic transmission is one of the worst innovations in history, because it makes bad driving too easy. It allows people to think they can multi-task (talk on the phone, eat, fix makeup, read the newspaper) while driving, which is just nuts. Driving IS multi-tasking. You have to operate a piece of heavy machinery while maneuvering through traffic. And as we all have seen, that appears to be one task too many for a lot of people.

And finally, I'm convinced that unless you're driving some super-deluxe six-figure sports car, a manual transmission is your best defense against car thieves. It's just a theory, but I'm betting most car thieves these days couldn't drive a stick shift on the best day they ever had. And it's quieter than the car alarm that blasted for the better part of a half-hour last night about half a block from my house.

So, American Automobile Industry, I ask you: In the name of better vehicular control, better mileage, lower crime rates and much more manliness, please give some thought to restoring manual transmissions to basic full-size pickups. Do this and surely you will sell at least one, to me...

One of these days. My truck is running great and I don't need a new one yet. And the manual transmission works just great. Hope you're not miffed.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, September 21, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are We Getting Ruder? Of Course We Are, You Moron


All right, boys and girls, here's a little pop quiz. Today's question is:

Are we Americans getting ruder?

Select your answer from the following:

A.                &*@! yes.

B.                 &*@! yes you moron.

C.                 &*@! yes you #$@@&^%* moron.

D.                Maybe.

Actually, I think I'll go with:

E.     Are you kidding? Where have you been? This has been going on for at YEARS, and it's getting worse all the time.


The real question, of course, is how things came to such a pretty pass. Like most of what's wrong in the world, I think it starts with people who think the sun shines out of their  ... I mean, revolves around them.

In this country, they're the ones who cut into lines, interrupt other people's transactions, drive like maniacs, treat customers like annoyances, treat clerks and waiters like servants ... you get the drift. (We're lucky. In other countries those are the nice folks.)

And it goes further. People shout at each other an awful lot these days, and I don't just mean on what used to be called talk shows or at professional sports. Go to a kid's soccer game, a library board meeting, a shopping mall parking lot, the end of my block. There's a good chance you'll find some high-volume invective flying around. And it doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense. These days, he who shouts loudest wins the argument.

Why? We can blame all the usual suspects, of course - the Internet, TV, talk radio, the playground, and that loudmouth guy at work - but I see something else at work here. To an increasing number of people, manners simply don't matter anymore.

Manners, as it was explained to me at length by my mother, are the outward expression of one's respect for others.

Well, there you have it. This is a me-first, I'm-gonna-get-mine, agree-or-be-ridiculed world. In a situation like that, there IS no respect for others and therefore, no need for manners.

Next time you're out to eat in a "family" type restaurant, take a look around to see how many men are dining with baseball caps on their heads. Now, to my mind, that's rude. In fact, wearing a hat indoors is rude in itself. But while eating? The way I was raised, to wear a baseball cap and eat OUTDOORS would be a serious infraction. Indoors would simply beyond the pale.

Whenever I see this I just shake my (hatless) head in dismay.

And in the spirit of honesty I'll add that one of the more serious violators of this edict is my own brother, who wears a hat indoors and out and at table. I sometimes wonder how it was that we were raised in the same home by such different mothers.

My mother also explained that the lack of manners had consequences. In my case, the price of bad manners was disappointing my grandparents. I cannot begin to tell you how effective that was. I wasn't all that concerned about disappointing my parents - in fact, I was kind of used to it - but the idea of disappointing Grandma and Grandpa still gives me a pang of shame.

Maybe that's it. Maybe we're getting ruder because we are losing the idea of shame. After all, in a win-at-all-costs America now, and shame is for losers.

If that's the case, shame on us.

Tue, September 14, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lashing Out, Automotively


Some years ago, when I was a young man trying to make his way in the exciting world of Big Time Professional Journalism, a man gave me some valuable advice:

"Never say you've seen everything, because the second you do, something will come along to make a liar out of you."

I'm trying to remember who said it, and where. It could have been my father, which means we were probably in the Mongo Tavern enjoying the spécialité de maison, ham sandwiches and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Then again, it could have been when I was a reporter in Columbus, which means I probably got it from my editor Stu, which further means we were most likely in the Columbus Bar enjoying the spécialité of THAT maison, grilled tenderloin sandwiches and Miller Lite. Or, it could have been some miscellaneous drunk.

Anyway, it's good advice. Which I herewith plan to ignore, for now I believe I HAVE seen everything, and remember, this is from a guy who actually had a close encounter with the Oscar Mayer Weenie Wagon.

I have seen eyelashes for cars.

They're on the Weird Wide Web, so you know they're for real. I mean, who would go onto the Internet to lie about such a thing?

What we're talking about are rather large appliqués that go over the headlights of whatever you are driving, giving it what the mascara commercials call long beautiful lashes for any occasion, rain or shine.

And, it should be added, turning any vehicle they are applied to into a sissy.

I'm a little surprised it has taken so long for something like this to hit the market. Car fronts have long resembled faces, and not just in the cartoons. I had a great-uncle who drove a Plymouth that looked exactly like Edward G. Robinson, if Edward G. Robinson had four eyes and chrome lips.

And there has always been a certain type of driver who simply could not resist "personalizing" his or her automobile with some sort of geegaw - a radio antenna festooned with a raccoon tail (or in the case of the true iconoclast, an entire raccoon); a naked lady hood ornament; a fake hand poking out of the trunk. At least, I THINK it was a fake hand.

I see carlashes as mostly a girl item. I base this on my experience with one particular girl who always gave her cars cutesy-poo names like Violet and Annabelle, who moved her decorations (graduation tassel, stuffed animals, chrome accelerator pedal shaped like a foot) from her old car to the new, and who tended to choose her automobiles based not on mileage or horsepower, but on how well the radio worked and if it had well-placed cupholders. Oh, and if the color went with her wardrobe. Believe me, she would have been all over this headlight-eyelash business.

I'm sure there are lots of people who will follow the same path. I suppose we all see our vehicles as extensions of themselves - I can certainly make that argument for my truck - and some folks just want to gussy up a bit. I guess it's okay as long as they stay on the face end of the car. The time to start worrying will be when they begin putting makeup on their tailpipes. The cars', I mean.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, September 7, 2010 | link 

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By the way -- everything on this site is Copyright 2009 by Mike Redmond. If you copy it without my permission, I will hunt you down with either my dog or my lawyer. I'll probably go with the dog. She's smarter.

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