Friday, July 07, 2006

Anatomy of the Heist

One of the dumbest things I've ever done was buy a car on eBay.

I know. People love eBay. It's a capitalist utopia where good people work on the honor system because everyone is yearning for the perfect feedback score.

But fundamentally, eBay and car sales are diametrically opposed concepts. Car salesmen live to fuck people over. And eBay motors has unleashed a new generation of unscrupulous hucksters anxious to prey on the trusting and the stupid (me.)

Here's how you know you are about to get fucked/are getting fucked/have gotten fucked buying a car on eBay:

HEAVY EASTERN BLOCK ACCENT: When you can hear this accent in the vehicle description, huge bells and whistles should go off in your head. Move on. "1999 V70 Volvo it has good brake, good leather has never been smoked. This car engine it run like a top and has nothing wrong with it. You love no dent paint and all good steering with many many miles left on engine. Volvo make good cars and this beauty be yours forever." The reason this man has 100% good feedback is because he's in the Russian mob and will threaten your life when you give him negative feedback.

CAR STORED IN RAZOR-WIRE LOT IN NORTH KENSINGTON: Drive away. Write off the $500 deposit and get the hell out of dodge. I had a friend who told me a story about seeing a Police cruiser on blocks in Kensington. After showing up on time for my appointment, I sit in my car in the rain in Kensington for three hours waiting for Vladmir to pick up car from "other lot."

SALESMAN YELLS "FUCK YOU" IN THICK ACCENT OVER PHONE WHEN YOU POINT OUT FAULTY BRAKES, BROKEN ENGINE MOUNT, FAILING TIE ROD, TAMPERED-WITH ELECTRONIC BOARD AND CIGARETTE SMOKE SMELL. Yeah. We know where this is headed. "I don't understand. This car in great condition when you buy. You break! $4000?? Your mechanic he charge outrageous price. My mechanic say no problems. Car is mint."

SALESMAN REFUSES TO MEDIATE ON FAIR TRADE. "Call me so I am sure we can work this out over phone and resolve your issue." Issue? I have $4000 worth of repairs on a $5000 car that was advertised as Inspected. "My mechanic look at this car" is not Inspected. "No PA inspection in photos. I am representing correct. Where in my add I say brakes pass inspection? You see car before you buy - why not point out these problems" Because I'm in Kensington, it's raining and I just spent three hours entertaining my three-year old by singing "the wheels on the bus" seven thousand times. Forgive me if I didn't slide under the car with my calipers and my diagnostic computer. Are you going to help me recoup the cost of fixing the things your mechanic missed? "You drive car here I get inspect no charge." Drive the car BACK to Kensington after sinking $4000 into it? Kind of you to offer to cover the $35 inspection but I'll pass.

SELLER NO LONGER REGISTERED ON EBAY. I'd like to know the story here. Kicked off? Somebody finally busted up his little stolen car ring? Deported? Decided it was easier to just break into peoples' houses and steal their money? No feedback score to protect.

Epilogue: I've put another $1000 into the car since the seller "vanish like fart is in wind". Emissions computer failed and more electrical issues. And now the A/C is dead. In my other V70, it was the evaporator, which due to its position up behind the dashboard, will be about 8 hours in labor alone to have repaired or replaced. And the title arrived 3 months late - misprinted, misfiled and misaddressed.

So I just bought a guitar on eBay. From a guy with 100% positive feedback. Place your bets.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Four More

I was thinking about it this morning and I had a revelation: a third term for Bush.

I've always been a proponent of learning from your mistakes. Which would make President Bush pretty smart by now. (He's 60 today. Happy Birthday, Mr. President). He's been governing this country for six years. He's finally getting the hang of it. He'll probably really hit his stride at year 7. Why would we rip it out of his hands just as he was getting good? So that another Republican can start making mistakes all over again? (Because let's face it, the Democrats will never, ever see the White House again. Ever. Got it?)

Maybe we got this whole limited term thing all wrong. And maybe, at the lowest point in his popularity, we should ask ourselves the question: why are we so disappointed in President Bush? He had a mandate to lead this nation. Rich people and poor people and military parents across the country turned out in droves to tell him he was the right man for the job. He represents a clear moral majority in this country, which is rapidly becoming more and more secular -politically and otherwise. He's a horrible public speaker, so we know EXACTLY when his team is putting words in his mouth - unlike Clinton, who was so eloquent you never knew where his policy stopped and the spin started. Bush started a war that he is determined to see through and which will NEVER be wrapped up in two years. Who better than he to finish the job? Especially when no one else really knows why he started it.

There hasn't been another terrorist attack in the U.S. That counts for a lot. Seriously. His foreign policy is questionable, but name a country as big as the U.S. who's doing a better job. His economic policy - lower taxes and increased spending - is irreconcilable, but the economy seems to be hanging in there for now. His environmental policy may kill us all in a rash of climate-changing events, but my house is no longer on a river.

I'm back in Texas. And I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Other Peoples' Greatness

I worked with this guy for three weeks in 2000. He quit uncermoniously, I believe over the phone. Now he has two published books and several movie deals that may or may not be in the works. I read through his book tour blog. I remember he was quiet/dry/funny - I think his sarcasm doesn't translate well to a blog. It makes him sound kinda like a dick, but I don't remember him being a dick. Maybe he became a dick when he got famous. I'm actually sort of conflicted about shelling out money for his book. I'm totally intrigued by the subject matter and he's been grouped with other authors I like (Sedaris, not Eggers). He likes authors I like. Hell, we both owned Saabs at one point in our lives. But if he is the dick he sounds like he is, I don't want him to make any money off me. Plus it sounds like he's pretty well set. I need my money more than he does.
But Good For Him.

I went to high school with Lisa. She totally kicks ass. Her photography is stunning and equal parts humble and important and wonderful and sobering and personal. If I could hang her website on my wall, I might do it. My three year old would have some questions about the "Swingers Club" and "Burlesque" projects. I hope a thousand people see her work and hire her to shoot things for their clients/magazines/galleries/homes in the Hamptons. That'd be cool. I hope she makes a mint.

I'm living vicariously through both of these people. They have emerged from the blithe sea of sameness - poked their heads above the waves long enough for Simon & Schuster and the Whitney Museum to pick them out of a crowd and say "Brilliant." How cool is that? How envious am I? No wonder advertising folks get all whipped up about Cannes and The One Show. It's sticking your head out of the blithe sea of advertising sameness.

Let's be honest. At worst, we are manipulating our ad-centric egos in an industry few others would give a second thought beyond "Monkeys are Funny" and "That's right! I AM running out of paper towels!" Consider the Cannes award-winning lego poster: selling Lego to your average Target-roving mom in a new and provocative way? Or merely worthy of a creative industry handjob?

At best, I feel like Mike Hughes awarding me a Gold Pencil (two Gold Rx pencils, technically) puts me a step closer to working in his incredible agency. And I guess maybe even giving him a public bootlicking like this one might find its way into his inbox. He might read my unforgiving portrayal of a former colleague and find it rash and unprovoked and whiny. Or perhaps he'd forgive the sarcasm in a way I just couldn't.

Tens of people have remarked to my mother about the remarkable "Attack Rabbit" ads running in PA right now - I don't know if these remarks are positive or negative. I'll leave it at 'remarkable' and wait for the Effies to roll around. 1/2 my mom's church has seen my head poke above the blithe sea of sameness. Maybe one of them knows Mike Hughes and NOTHING about advertising.

Which would I rather have? Mom's church making rabbit remarks? A TV spot in the Whitney? A meeting with Lee Clow on the heels of my stunning sweep of D&AD? Tough one. I guess all three would kick ass, to be honest.

Do I wish I had the Lego poster in my book? *Shrug*
Do I wish I had that Lion on my bookcase? You're damn skippy.

Hire Lisa.
And what the hell, buy Will's book too. It's probably great if S&S picked it up.

A whimper.

The Coppell 4th of July Parade needs help. One marching band? A great one to be sure - the Coppell Cowboy Marching Band is fortified with enough snare drums to keep my son's attention for almost two solid minutes.

Some of the notable floats: a dentist office with giant walking teeth, a 50-year old woman walking next to a 2004 convertible BMW with a banner that read "Vote Democrat in 2006" , several dogs dressed in red, white and blue scarves panting in obvious distress, a church distributing water to the wilting crowd and distressed dogs, and two Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in a pick-up truck.

No wonder Coppell rated where it did in D Magazine's 62 Best Dallas Suburbs. Uh, 62? I can only assume that if Coppell had a real 4th of July Parade, its own fireworks display (each July 4th, the denizens of Coppell converge upon the "grassy" slopes of Andy Brown Park to watch neighboring Lewisville's Vista Ridge fireworks display over the trees) and a liquor store or two we'd be in the running with other suburbs that are further outside the city like Prosper and Murphy or the always-highly-ranked Highland Park/University Park phenomenon. I mean what good is suburban living if you have to drive twenty minutes to get a bottle of scotch?

I was also disturbed to learn that my favorite Mexican restaurant in Coppell is the closest one to be being shut down by the health department. Ain't that always the way? What is it with asian restaurants and the health department? Three of four unsavory ratings went to asian restaurants. The fourth was my Mexican restaurant with the best table-side guacamole in Coppell.

My wife will no longer eat at these places. Rightly so. Who wants to suffer the consequences of "pinto beans stored next to raw pork", "cracked chip scoop", etc.?

So now I have to learn how to make my own guacamole and perfect my lettuce wraps. Dang you, unclean restaurants.