April 22, 2004

Gotta Have It

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This past Thursday beckoned the return of that oh-so utterly fabulous day of the year known as Tax Day, the day when millions of Americans go ballistic at post office employees (and not the other way around) just to make sure their precious returns are postmarked by midnight. This dreaded April 15 has found our dear friend Uncle Sam lining his pockets with the remainder of my hard-earned summer job battle pay (I worked with children ages 3-8; if that’s not considered “battle pay” I don’t know what is). I now encounter the sickening proposition of possessing a (very) little amount of money. Translation: I need to figure out a clever way to get some more. Let’s see … finding another job and earning a long day’s pay is definitely out of the question. And walking up and down the streets looking for loose change just isn’t the rewarding hobby it used to be … so I’m going to have to focus my attention elsewhere. Perhaps I’m in need of a budget. Or maybe an accountant, whose ruthless and intimidating demeanor are enough to snap me out of this Starbucks Frappucinos habit, because I’m telling you, it’s wrecking havoc on my wallet. This week’s items are all able to save you a little bit of cash. ‘Cause there’s nothing quite like having a couple extra pennies jiggling around in your pocket. And I mean nothing.

Chestnuts Roasting by an Open … Television Screen?

Expecting some company over to your house that you’d like to impress (or, more likely, humor)? Like my bookie always says, if you can’t solve the problem by throwing money at it, then you’ve got deeper issues other than a chronic gambling addiction. If you happen to suffer from the horrible dilemma known in some circles as CAS (that’s cheap-ass syndrome for the layperson), and also happen to be lacking in all aspects of fundamental taste, there’s no reason to expect that you won’t think it’s a good idea to buy the “Instant Aquarium and Log Fireplace.” You would think that these two items would normally have nothing to do with one another, and you would be right, except that the makers claim that both have the unmistakable power to transform your home, apartment, condo, trailer, or plot of concrete into a “relaxed, welcoming oasis of calmness and warmth.” Normally, you might expect to spend hours setting up one or both of these items, but thanks to the power of videotape, the key to a relaxing environment can be yours in moments. Put in the aquarium tape, push play, and watch the fish “happily bobbing about, not a care in the world.” Oh, if only organic chemistry were so simple! Then switch to the fireplace and bask in the pixilated warmth of someone else’s videotaped fire. Doesn’t it just tingle of voyeurism? Personally, I find this product laughable, but for the money, what can go wrong? (www.gadgetstuff.com)

When That Doggy in the Window Costs Too Much

So you’re an animal lover and would like to raise your own pet. But first, you’ve got to check to make sure that you can afford it. Cats and dogs are out. So are birds, gerbils, goats, pigs, whales, fish, bacteria, and pet rocks (SO 1970s). What’s the one thing missing from this list? Insects! Not just any creepy crawlers, mind you, but our good friends from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, ants. They may be tiny, boring, and ugly, but let’s face facts here: they’re all you can afford. Or, say, you’re sick of the hustle-bustle of the modern world, and decide that you have the irresistible urge to play God for a while. It’s not so economical to spend years formulating intricate plots to take over the world (unless you’re two lab mice named Pinky and the Brain, but that’s a whole other story entirely), so instead, you can spring for the Antquarium, a combination ant farm/aquarium that NASA scientists developed to allow astronauts to observe wildlife in space. The concept is simple: you “recruit” (a.k.a. heartlessly kidnap) some ants with the included high-tech wooden stick. Then, you place the ants into their new surroundings and watch the “fun” develop. The gel creates an ideal habitat for ants, providing all the nutrition ants need to survive (sure, but is it LOW CARB?!) for their average life expectancy of six months. Once you’ve set your victims inside, the ants burrow their way through the gel to create some unique patterns in the gel. People that tend to forget to feed their pets: this is for you. The only upkeep necessary to promote life on your miniature kingdom of the ants is to open the container once a month to let the gel air out. For a mere price of $32.92 (and countless ant lives), this product can be yours today. (www.iwantoneofthem.com)

As My Local Neighborhood Bill Collector Once Said …

… the only sure things in life are death and taxes. How delightfully morbid. If you want to take the morbid-ness up to a new level, consider sending your enemies the “Death Clock CD ROM.” This sickening program can calculate, as accurately as possible, how long you’ve left before heading to that big Collegetown Bagels in the sky. All you have to do is answer a few probing questions about your smoking and drinking habits, your weight, and your attitude towards life. After careful calculation using who knows what kind of formula, the program generates a “death date,” and then creates what one advertisement described as a “cheerful” screensaver for your PC that contains a countdown ’till doomsday. (www.gadgetstuff.com)

Archived article by Jason Mednick