Rick Perry

Bad signs and mixed messages

New Zealand readers may be familiar with the Hobson’s Choice brand.

Well, sir. I’m here to tell you this company loves its meat.

I didn’t know how much so until two weeks ago. It all started when I went to Newmarket to take photos.

This was right after I’d written about a PSA advising New Zealand children to stop in the middle of the road when a speeding car was bearing down on them, instead of running out of the way. At least that’s how I read it.

The ambiguity of the PSA prompted a search for more examples in signs and billboards of that mysterious Kiwi aversion to precise communication.

Newmarket, a shopping district, seemed the perfect locale for the expedition.

The signs were disappointingly concise and informative.

Still, there were one or two things I found worth commenting on. Of course, I used to snack on lead paint chips, so what do I know?

The first thing I spotted on my search was the local outlet of a national shoe chain.

Admittedly, this is ambiguous only as far as it is questionable branding.

I mean, what is so tantalizing about a clinic? It’s so medical. Isn’t a clinic where you go to find out if you should be worried that it burns when you pee and that funny swellings happened to appear in a special place only a few days after you blacked out during your last drinking binge?

(Incidentally, and on a completely unrelated matter, Jacquie, if you’re reading this now, we need to talk. I have a surprise for you. Nothing to be concerned over. Not too much. Yet. But, yeah. We’ll talk.)

Maybe some people find the association of shoes with potentially frightening, painful, or invasive diagnostic procedures a good reason to go into a shoe store.

Personally speaking, after five minutes in any store, a colonoscopy starts to seem like a more pleasant way to spend my time.

But what kind of person reads “Shoe Clinic” and thinks, “If I go there, maybe I’ll get stuck with a long needle or exposed to X-rays. It’s a value-add. They are so getting my money”?

Me, that’s who. Shoe Clinic doesn’t only concede that going to a store is a tedious, uncomfortable experience; it’s saying that’s exactly the experience you can expect when you step inside. I can’t tell you how refreshing I find their honesty. Just like going to a clinic.

Not far from Shoe Clinic, we have tchotchke emporium Texan Art Schools.

When I first came across this store a couple years ago, I assumed there’d be something to do with art inside, like pencils, and drawing pads, and books on Banksy.

Alas, no. Just a lot of Kiwiana, some of it quite chintzy and little of which I’d gift to anyone that I didn’t want to hate me. You’d be surprised how many people fall into that category. Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. In which case, I’ll probably be shopping at Texan Art Schools for your next birthday.

It is obvious that the owners of this store have never been to Texas. Unless, by putting “Texan” and “School” so close together in one name, they were being ironic. This is the state, after all, that put into office a governor whose policy response to a serious drought was to declare three days of prayer while slashing funds to fire services battling record numbers of wildfires…thanks to the drought. Now that’s smart thinking, and not a way of thinking you can learn in any school. Unless you’re in Texas, apparently.

There were other pictures even less worth talking about than these two, so I went back to my neighborhood, slightly dejected. Which brings me back to Hobson’s Choice. On the way home, I passed one of its trucks making a delivery, and I felt drawn to take this picture.

I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. There was nothing patently interesting about the sign. Hobson’s Choice is a clever enough brand name. And what it is selling is a pretty commonplace staple that I was already sold on years ago. In fact, you might call me a Hobson’s Choice man. It is not unusual to find me lying on my stomach tasting the maple difference out of an open faced sandwich spread before me. Other times, I’ll just lie on my back and have the Hobson’s Choice lowered to my mouth. I’ve handled it with my fingers on occasion, but that can be quite messy, so mostly I pretty much prefer to eat it.

I looked at that picture several times over the next two weeks. There was something attractive, yet odd about it. It inspired my appetite, but there was something revolting there as well and  I couldn’t figure out what that was until I finally showed it to Jacquie.

“Oh my god,” she said. “Do you know what that is?”

I shook my head. She was blushing. She pointed to a particular part of the picture, and the light bulb went off in my head.

“‘Oh my god’ is right,” I said. “That’s a picture of a ham sandwich.”

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The Media elite gets me so mad sometimes

I haven’t really been following the Republican Presidential Primary warm-up debates. But news of Rick Perry’s clumsy performance on CNBC the other night did catch my attention.

During the debate, Perry, the Texan governor of Madame Tussauds, explained how his flat tax plan “does the things to the regulatory climate that has to happen”.

This would include the elimination of three Federal agencies, Perry said, directing his comment squarely at America’s current most hopeless romantic, Ron Paul. The Governor was clearly responding to criticism the more-of-a-libertarian Paul had made earlier in the debate.

Perry said his plan would balance the budget by 2020, partly by getting rid of the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce…and the Department…of…

Well, we don’t know what the third one would be because Perry doesn’t know. The governor struggled for a few moments to come up with a doozie that would shut his fellow Texan up for good. But poor Perry wasn’t up to the task, much to Ron Paul’s elfin delight.

Later, Fox News-persona

Greta Van Susteren

leaped to Perry’s defense in an interview with Michelle Bachmann (US Representative-the Kuiper Belt) who’s also running for her party’s nomination. The interview really pissed me off, and I’ll tell you why after you watch the video. Pay attention especially from 1:o4 to 1:26 into the clip.

Van Susteren here accidentally reveals a streak of news media elitism when she said the “news media are going to have a field day with this”.

Why is it that any time something even remotely scandalous happens, some jerk always has to chime in with “the news media are going to have a field day over this”.

I’ve worked in various aspects of the news media for 15 years now, and I’ve never once been on a field day. I can’t even imagine what the news media would do if they went on a field day. Would there be potato sack races, balloon rides and one of those inflatable jumping castles? When a scandal breaks, does something like this happen at the desk:

Reporter: A good source in Wellington says John Key took a sheep for a long weekend in Bali on the taxpayers’ dime.

Assignment Editor: That’s a great story. This being election season and all.

Reporter: But that’s not all. Key tried to cover it up by having the sheep for Sunday roast the day after they got back.

Assignment Editor: This is hot stuff. We have to move quickly. Tell Murray to go home and collect his badminton set, and we’ll meet him at the Domain.

Reporter: That sound fun. I’ll make ambrosia.

Assignment Editor: No, you do potato salad. Jane will bring paper plates, forks and cups.

Reporter: I thought you liked my ambrosia.

Assignment Editor: I hate ambrosia. It’s not dinner. It’s not dessert. Only toothless morons like ambrosia.

I’ll admit I’m making a big assumption here. A field day doesn’t necessarily have to be a day in the park or a picnic. Maybe when the news media go on a field day, they all get together and rent a yellow school bus, drive for two hours singing 99,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, and go on all the rides at Great Adventure before vomiting up all the cotton candy they ate while riding one of those things where you sit and spin around and around and around.

Maybe that’s what the news media does when they have a field day. But I don’t know. And it makes me angry. And confused. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve ever actually worked in the news media at all.

I mean, the New York Post, yeah, I can understand the confusion there. But, what, the New York State Society of CPAs newsletter doesn’t count all of a sudden? I’ll have you know, I’ve also worked for the Harlem Valley Times (R.I.P.), The Meriden-Record Journal and the Poughkeepsie Journal. Surely, one of these publications qualifies as news media.

Assuming that is true, you’d think that at some point over a 15-year time-span, you would have at least heard of someone going on a field day. Probably in the same way you hear about how the reporter sitting nearest you just won a whole bunch of Associated Press awards for a three-part series about cats stuck in trees. But you never won bupkes, and this explains your serious problem with alcohol abuse. I mean, some reporter gets invited on a field day? In most newsrooms, you couldn’t keep something like that under a bushel for very long.

But no. I have never heard mention of anyone going on a field day. My only conclusion is that field days are reserved for an exclusive, secretive group cabal. They probably all met at Columbia University or something. It probably started innocent enough. A bunch of J-students, just looking to relax.

Indeed, there is an elite media out there, and whenever something scandalous happens, they pack whatever they’re doing, and go on a field day. We just weren’t supposed to know about it. Way to let the cat out of the bag, Greta.