Monthly Archives: April 2016

My Soul vs the Company Store

I think I may have sold my soul to the company store.

I was quite late to online shopping generally, but once I got on board I sure took to Amazon. I’m no shopaholic, going into debt buying figurines or other crap I don’t need and in fact, I strictly use Amazon gift cards for purchases (no extra fee for the “privilege”). I find stuff there I can’t get in stores, love the convenience, and often ferret out good deals. There is no question Amazon has made my life better.

Now that being said, I often feel Amazon knows me just a little too well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ve got psychologists on payroll to help them assess customers’ personalities and buying habits. Amazon is “Big Brother” albeit a mostly kindly one. Seduction is a far better technique than bullying, no?

When I first purchased a tablet (from Amazon) I steered clear of those produced by Amazon, i.e., Kindle/Fire. I wanted some of my life to take place away from Amazon’s watchful eye. I was pretty happy with the tablet, that is until this year, when after having it just over 2 years, the touch screen began to go bad. The virtual alphabet wouldn’t let me type certain letters, important ones like “a” or “t” for example. I’d tap “a” and it would type “s.” Being who I am – somewhat tenacious by times (especially when saving money is involved)) – I tried to work around not having a full alphabet at my disposal. Also – and try not to think less of me – I wanted to give the tablet a chance to fix itself or mend its ways.

Equally bad, I was hitting things on the screen I didn’t intend. To my surprise, I joined a “drum jam” on Facebook. I discovered this when I got my acceptance. Oh my! I had never even seen the group before let alone intentionally pressed “join group”. I hastily apologized and removed myself. That was innocent enough, but it occurred to me I could get myself into worse trouble with a bad touch screen. What else might I inadvertently join? Who might I send a message to? What might I purchase? No, it was time for a new tablet.

I strictly looked for inexpensive ones, just basic internet, I don’t need a lot of tricks and features I’ll never use. Also, I was irritated that my initial outlay of cash had gone south so quickly. This led me to an older model Amazon Fire. For weeks, I let the marked-down tablet languish in my online shopping cart. And for those same weeks, in my mind I kept hearing the words to the old song about the company store. When I was a kid, we had access to a pile of old 45 and 78rpm records, oldies left over from my parents and older siblings, and this was one.

For kicks – and because I don’t feel like looking them up – I’m going to share the lyrics from memory: “Sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me because I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.”

My sister and I would happily sing along to the baritone-voiced narrator. I didn’t know what a “company store” was or why someone might be so indebited to it he’d be unable to get into heaven. I just knew the tune was catchy!

Decades later, I eye Amazon warily, feeling fairly certain with the purchase of their tablet (and its “special offers” i.e., ads, imbedded into it) that I’ve indeed sold my soul to the company store. I bet there won’t be much of anything they don’t end up knowing about me. “I owe my soul to the Amazon store…”

Popcorn fun!



Tell me this doesn’t look like a moose?!? Okay yes, I drew on the eyes myself to create the full effect, but still you can see it, right?

I pop and eat A LOT of popcorn but I don’t remember ever seeing a kernel quite like this. The ears! The nose! The mouth!

Here he is next to a lamp to show size contrast.


The Monopoly┬« man is a strange fellow

Recently I’ve seen two different promotions featuring the Monopoly┬« man, the older mustachioed gentlemen with the top hat and cane. In the last month or so, his image has been everywhere and on top of that, I needed to come up with his formal, original name for a crossword answer. It turned out to be “Rich Uncle Penny Bags.” Rich Uncle Penny Bags? What kind of name is that?? I’ve heard of “Money Bags” but Penny Bags doesn’t make him sound all that rich.

Seeing his image takes me back to childhood memories and how much I loved playing the game with my brothers & sisters. There were times, when I was very young, we played as a whole family. In some instances, my slightly older sister and I were made to play as one person. We didn’t argue; it was basically a condition of getting to play with the older ones. I remember one time in particular, when my sister and I as our little tag team were losing and about to be eliminated from the game, so one of my older brothers was good enough to try to sneak money to us in his shoe under the table (he had long legs). As you might imagine, this was a clumsy affair that the others were quickly wise to, especially as my brother sunk lower and lower on his side of the table.

I’ve also been reminded that I found the Monopoly┬« Man a bit unsettling. He wasn’t exactly kid-friendly and he didn’t look like any of MY uncles. On closer examination today, I see that he’s an odd choice, especially as a mascot for what has long been largely a children’s game. It’s something in the eyes, at least in one characterization where he has these large, dead-fish eyes (there’s more than one version of him). If he’s not exactly sinister, he’s shifty-looking. I can see why I didn’t exactly warm to him. He looked like he was up to no good.

Interesting side note from Wikipedia: The character initially appeared on the first game produced in 1936 but the artist who rendered him remained anonymous until 2013 when his granddaughter came forward to identify him as Dan Fox. That’s a long time for a culturally iconic image to go uncredited.

I realize now also that Monopoly is a game of capitalism, which was entirely wasted on me as a child (I sure didn’t know the actual meaning of the word “monopoly” either). I didn’t know what capitalism was; it was just a fun game. Buying property and building houses was utter fiction to me (sadly still is). I really didn’t like ending up in “jail” but that too and the game’s white collar crimes that led to it meant nothing in my limited experience. My monetary knowledge was enough that I understood fine the accumulation of the fake money; I delighted in collecting rent when other players landed on my property. The railroads were especially desirable. I thought trains were terribly exciting (I still have a fondness for them) even if my experiences were largely limited to seeing trains or waiting at train crossings on the proverbial road trips to Grandma’s house in the country.

I had an idea a long time ago I never did which was to get a Monolopy┬« board and hang it on the wall as decoration. I wouldn’t go buy a new one; it’d have to be a yard sale or thrift store find. It’s funny to me. Basically, my favorite childhood game features a theme which is largely the antithesis of things I value as an adult – nobody ever accuses me of being money-hungry or any stripe of capitalist. I still like the little dog, though, and the hat. Those game pieces were a piece of brilliance.


April 5, 2016

So… it seems like only two years ago (which it was) that I started this blog. I pretty much knew that I’d make it to a year. Beyond that, I didn’t really know, think or plan. And just as I’ve seen with many other blogs, I wrote considerably less in year two than one. There were reasons for that beyond any kind of expected/predictable “blog fatigue”, that is, stuff in my life that took me and my energy away from the blog, but maybe I’d have written less no matter what.

Even as it stands, I feel good about this blog, as a body of work. I’ve covered a lot of ground. Took advantage of my “outlet.” WordPress stats tell me I’ve put up 471 posts. About 140 of those are my “Short Thoughts” posts, which are, well, short. From my tag cloud on the blog’s main page (for those unfamiliar, that’s the auto-generated collection of categories on the lower right side of the screen, i.e. “tags” that I assigned my posts; the larger the font, the more I wrote about said topic), I see Humor has been the largest one consistently for two years. Which I’ve found interesting because I thought initially this blog would probably have more straight prose, i.e., not-so-funny posts. I guess it’s good I feel humorous most of the time although I always write what I feel like writing – I don’t say to myself, “I am now going to write a humor piece.” Humor is followed by Relationships, Nature, and Men as my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th favorite topics. I’ll take that. Summer and Food are not far behind those.

As I did one year ago, I want to say thank you for reading. To you who’ve been with me from the start or darn near it, as well as those who’ve come along later, and even anybody possibly reading this blog for the first time (just so long as you think it’s wonderful and intend to return; I have standards, you know). I wouldn’t blog if I didn’t have readers. It is hugely gratifying to feel like I’m connecting with you. That’s always been so. Whatever else I can say about it – and that’s quite a few things – there IS something addictive about blogging. Thank you for coming along on my blog ride.