So I Went to the Movies Yesterday…

Yesterday, my wife and I went to the movies. Sounds like a typical Saturday, right? Wrong. Whereas I’m a pretty big frequenter of venues such as art galleries, theatrical productions, concert music, and even independent movie theatres, I very rarely go to the mainstream cinema. VERY rarely. In fact, the last movie I watched in a mainstream movie theatre was Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. And that was nearly seven years ago, back in December 2002.

So, what made me break my mainstream-movie-going fast and venture forth to my nearest cinema? Zombieland? Heck no! I’m talking about a film so powerful that even the mere mention of the filmmaker’s name is enough to send some people into fits of erratic and aberrant spasms. And no, I’m still not talking about Zombieland!

I’m talking about Capitalism: A Love Story, by Michael Moore (cue the “Ack! Err! Blahr!”). It’s a comedy… and a tragedy. Above all, it’s a documentary about the failure of capitalism that we all witnessed in 2008. Because like it or not, that’s exactly what we saw. Many people have passionately argued that communism, though it may look appealing on paper, ultimately fails because it does not take into consideration human greed and corruption. I would point out that capitalism ultimately fails for the exact same reason.

When a free-market, sink-or-swim, only-the-strong survive system is brought to its knees by greed and corruption and has to turn to the federal government for a bailout funded by the taxpayers, that’s called a failure of the entire system. When many of the same banks who were rescued then turn around and slash credit lines, raise interest rates, and gorge themselves on newly added fees, that’s called a slap in the face.

Then again, this post is not meant to be a review of Moore’s new movie. Yes, I did enjoy the film, and yes, I’m glad that I chose to drive to the theatre and spend a whopping $9 per ticket to watch it. That was my choice, and I’m glad I did so. Capitalism: A Love Story is a movie that all of us should be able to enjoy, regardless of any political party affiliations.

Moore’s greatest problem, however, is that he is Michael Moore, and people will pooh-pooh him and his movies no matter the topic. I seem to recall lots of outrage and ire across the board over TARP and AIG last year, and yet many of these same people who railed against TARP, AIG, Citi, and the other too-big-to-fail crooks now rail against Michael Moore for… railing against TARP and those same Wall Street fat-cats! Strange.

That’s just the way it is, I suppose. Michael Moore makes a movie, and people get outraged over it without even bothering to watch it. Moore could make a movie in praise of Ronald Reagan and how tax cuts will be the saving grace of America, and those same detractors will ridicule and try to discredit it. Oh well.

Speaking of greed and corruption…

On a different note, before heading to the movie theatre, my wife and I swung by a nearby mall. I’m not a very good consumer – I haven’t been inside a mall since Fall 2004… seriously. Anyway, while heading into the mall, I saw something that really made me scratch my head. Take a look at this photo. Notice anything odd about it? Yes, this is in Texas.

handicapped hummer

Don’t see it? Look closer. See the handicap wheelchair tag hanging in the rearview mirror? Wow! While I concur that it’s entirely possible for a handicapped person to drive (or ride in) a Hummer… I don’t know… something just seems odd about it.

And here’s another thing – I mentioned that I had not been to a mainstream movie theatre since 2002. One thing I DID remember is that the price for the junk food at the concession stand is outrageous, even criminal. Nothing could prepare me, though, for exactly just how expensive it was. Here’s a cell phone snap:

AMC concession prices1

Nearly four dollars for a small drink?! Almost five dollars for a small popcorn?! Pardon the sophomoric interjection, but LOLwut seems to satisfactorily express my confusion and incredulity. Oh, but it gets better….

AMC concession prices2

This picture is a little harder to read, but c’mon, $7.50 for a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut? Or, for the same price, you can get a few chicken tenders. What a deal! Want a regular hot dog (not a Coney)? That will be four dollars, please. How about an Icee? Oh, it’s $4.50. An ICEE! It’s just ice with some artificial flavoring! At least a pretzel is the same price. Holy $*@! That pretzel better tap dance and yodel for me before I suck it into my body and wash it down with a small bottle of water ($3.75).

If you can’t guess, neither my wife nor I bought anything. Since we were at the theatre a few minutes early, we watched with mixed amusement and horror as LOTS of other people did. Make that a large popcorn since I can get a free refill on it! It’s the best deal! Just slide your credit card. It will be alright.

Who knows when I will decide to go back to a mainstream movie theatre? Maybe another seven years? No matter how long I wait, I will be curious to see how much more inflated the prices will be for tickets and junk food. Maybe, just maybe, the skyrocketing prices will finally hit a breaking point, causing consumers to stop attending en masse, which will then result in massive profit losses for the movie industry. Will they scurry to the federal government and beg for a taxpayer bailout of their own? If they do, I will preemptively suggest that we consider calling it CRAP (the Cinematic Resource Alleviation Plan).

VISA Black Credit Card – Exclusive or Egotistic?

Visa - Black Card To the best of my knowledge, I’m not a pretentious jerk-wad. Nor is my ego inflated by enticements of luxury and exclusivity. I’ve never owned a “Members-only” jacket, if that means anything at all.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an invitation to apply for the exclusive Black Card from VISA, which (according to the marketing mumbo-jumbo) is the world’s most prestigious and versatile credit card. The invitation exuded exclusivity and hubris. After all, why would I want to use a credit card that common people (riff-raff) use when I can show the world my elegant distinction with the swanky black card?

Um, I call bollocks!

Before I deconstruct the BS that is the mentality allowing the Black Card to exist, here are the card’s bullet points:

  • Limited Membership
  • 24-Hour Concierge Service
  • Exclusive Rewards Program
  • Luxury Gifts
  • Patent Pending Carbon Card
  • Annual Fee $495

You read that right – the annual fee, just for the so-called privilege of carrying the card, is $495 per year. And what does that staggering membership fee grant you, other than the privilege of looking like an idiot? Here’s the unedited text of the advert:

For those who demand only the best of what life has to offer, the exclusive VISA Black Card is for you. The Black Card is not just another piece of plastic. Made with carbon, it is the ultimate buying tool.

The Black Card is not just for everyone. In fact, it is limited to only 1% of U.S. residents to ensure the highest caliber of personal service is provided to every Cardmember. Made with carbon, the Visa Black Card is guaranteed to get you noticed.

Become a Black Card member today and enjoy our 24-hour world class Concierge Service ready to assist you with all your business, travel and leisure needs.

This, to me, is nothing more than PR spin. Why in the world does a credit card need to be prestigious anyway? That’s like food or beverages that need to be extreme. Are there really people out there who are so insecure that they feel the need to stroke their egos by plinking down a prestigious credit card on a store counter versus a normal one? I pity them.

Monocle-man

I say, that's quite an exquisite credit card.

The marketing-geniuses behind the Black Card want you to believe that you are a superior human being. You are so superior, in fact, that you deserve, nay, DEMAND only the best of what life has to offer. You shouldn’t be caught dead carrying an ordinary credit card. Common people use those! And you’re not common, are you?

As a new Black Card member, people will notice you. Women will throw themselves at you. Men will line up to give you high-fives. Peasants and other mere-mortals will make sweeping bows as you walk by.

In fact, here is how a typical scene will play out every time you make a purchase with your card:

Hot store clerk: The total is $29.50.

VISA Black Cardmember: Here you go (hands over Black card).

Hot store clerk: Nice card. I definitely notice you and feel an uncontrollable urge to sleep with you right now.

VISA Black Cardmember: That sounds great. It’s too bad I have such a small penis.

Yeah, I went there. This brings us to the crux of the matter. The creators of the VISA Black Card take advantage of the one thing that allows such a ridiculous card to exist: INSECURITY. It preys upon people’s feelings of not being good enough, smart enough, talented enough, successful enough, or satisfied enough with their bodily endowments. These feelings are natural. We are all humans, after all.

Insecurity drives people to attempt to make up for their perceived shortcomings in other ways: by flaunting wealth, by driving souped-up cars and revving engines annoyingly in public, by keeping up with the Jones’, and by paying exorbitant fees for an exclusive credit card.

Douchebag Seriously, why in the world should one credit card be perceived as more elite than another? I don’t buy it. A credit card is a tool that serves a purpose. It’s not a status symbol. And people who pay $495 a year for a credit card that promises recognition, exclusivity, and the lure of luxury gifts lead insecure, pathetic lives. These people deserve pity, not the best of what life has to offer.

VISA’s slogan for the Black Card is: The World Awaits. Hey VISA, I propose a few slogans for your marketing team to consider.

Alternative slogans

VISA Black Card – Drowning in debt has never been more stylish!

VISA Black Card – THE card for people with more money than brains!

VISA Black Card – Show the world what a douche you are!

Are Savings Rates headed to ZERO?

Could interest rates for savings accounts possibly be headed for zero percent? Flagstar seems to think so! As I was updating the Savings Rate Wiki this morning, I couldn’t help but gawk at Flagstar’s astonishing new rate:

Zero percent at Flagstar

Zero percent at Flagstar

Zero percent! Wow! Sign me up! I have thousands of dollars in my mattress that I want to give them immediately.

On the other hand, if savings rates were at 0%, you wouldn’t have to worry about declaring interest on your income taxes. Hmmm….

Alas, the rock-bottom rate seems to have been a fluke, at least for now. The rate is back up to 2.65%. Was it just an error, or could it have been a prophecy? I suppose we will all find out soon.

I’m a Prophet – Fed Slashes Rate to 1%

Back on 30 January 2008, I made a prediction. In response to the Fed cutting the rate down to 3%, I wrote:

Where will it stop? Allow me to make a (hopefully erroneous) prediction – interest rates will hit 1.0% by Summer 2009.

See for yourself.

Alas, I regret to say that my prediction has come true, albeit about 8 months early! Today, the Federal Reserve slashed the Funds Rate all the way down to 1%. What does this mean? It means we can probably kiss our 3% savings accounts good-bye!

Just call me Nostradamus.

Since I am now such a widely revered prophet, I will graciously and generously bestow upon my readers five answers to your question about the future. Free of charge!

Behold! Nostradamus speaketh!

Q: How low will the Federal Funds Rate go?

A: By October  2009, the Funds Rate will actually hit Absolute Zero.

Q: How long will this recession last?

A: 42, naturally.

Q: Who will win the 2008 Presidential Election? McCain or Obama?

A: Neither. Ron Paul will win a landslide victory by write-in votes. His first executive order will be to tar-and-feather Bernanke and Paulson.

Q: So far this century we’ve seen both the dot-com and the housing bubbles burst. What bubble will inflate next? Gold? Oil? The Dollar?

A: No, no, no. Tulips.

Q: Do you have any winning lottery ticket numbers for me?

A: Uh, sure. But if you win, you have to cut me in at 3%, or whatever the current Fed Funds rate is, whichever is higher. On second thought, let’s just stick to 3%.

Here they are: 4-16-24-35-51-14. Wait a minute, maybe there should be a 42 in there somewhere….

Thus spake Nostradamus!

Dear Economy – I’m Helping!

Dear Economy,

I am sorry to hear that you have not been feeling well lately. However, I have some news that might cheer you up! Last night, my wife and I did something that we haven’t done in a long time. No, not that, you pervert. 🙂 Ahem… we drove our car. Furthermore, we bought gas.

I only mention this because it’s such a rare thing for us to do. You see, my wife and I live in a glorious little town with excellent public transportation. We also make great use of our glorious little bicycles. As a result, we only buy gas every few months. Before last night, the last time we bought gas was in early June.

We only drove our car because we went out to eat at a glorious little restaurant. You’d like it. It’s a local place, middle-eastern cuisine. It’s popular in our town for its uniqueness, attractive prices, and delicious food. The Greek/Turkish coffee is amazing! Continue reading

Humorous Search Queries for November 2007

This is a bit off-topic from my usual entries, but in glancing through the numerous search queries people have typed in order to find my site (this month), I stumbled upon a few rather interesting ones and thought I would share them here.

800-293-1621

After scratching my head for a few minutes, I realized this is the phone number for the E-Trade security department, and as a result of my wrestling match with them earlier this year, I’m currently the top hit for that particular search query.

etrade bankrupt

Really? That’s one I haven’t heard yet. But hey, I read it on the internet, so it must be true!

disregard information sent in error

Sure thing, boss. Consider it disregarded. Oh, I’ll have those TPS reports to you by five.

who owns fnbo direct?

That’s a good question. Are there any other questions? Perhaps you should feast your eyes on their executive profiles page.

apology for email sent

Apology accepted! 🙂

i have to drive a crappy car

Sorry to hear that, though I wish you’d explain why it causes you so much consternation. Actually… wait, is that you, Jim?

Fed Cuts Rates. Oh No, the Sky is Falling!

chicken-little.jpgIn the past few days, we have witnessed the 50-point rate slash by the Fed and parity between the US and Canadian dollar. Now, savings interest rates have been dropping like flies. Is the sky falling?

Yes. Yes it is. Run for cover now before it’s too late! Abandon all of your worthless US dollars before banks actually make YOU pay interest just to have them in your possession. Tell you what: I’ll hang onto them for you while you make a fast getaway. Yes, I’ll bear that burden for you out of the goodness of my heart. No, don’t let my sacrifice worry you, just keep running! 🙂

Oh no! The interest rate on my E-loan savings account just went straight down the toilet! It’s now only at a pitiful 5% interest rate. Gasp!

My sources tell me that ING Direct, already the least competitive online bank, has also plummeted from 4.5% to terrifying 4.3%! Those of you suffering through their horribly intuitive website interface and competent customer service – get out now before you owe them money!

Speaking of money, the US dollar now has the same value as the Canadian “loonie”? That does it! From now on, I’ll only accept my paychecks in gold nuggets! Or maybe Denver nuggets.

Chicken nuggets?