This Space For Rent

January 21, 2005

Years ago I heard a story of some guys in college who enrolled a dog named Buster in a class. They took turns writing papers and homework assignments for the dog, because college students don’t have enough to do. The dog even got noticed by the professor who would sometimes say, "Has anyone seen Mr. Buster Johnson? I have a question about what appears to be saliva on his latest assignment." Everyone thought this was hilarious until Buster started affecting the grade curve. Eventually he went on to get a degree and is now a CEO for a software corporation.

But I digress. Buster’s influence is now being felt far beyond his paw-stamp of approval on a new word-processing program. A few years ago the Sony Corporation got in trouble for inventing a movie critic who gave rave reviews to crap films, and by "got in trouble" I mean they got bonuses for coming up with such a great idea and now the entire industry is following their lead. Okay, it didn’t exactly work like that; in fact Sony had to pay out some huge settlements because some people were upset by having to pay eight bucks to see lousy films based on the reviews. Doesn’t the one percent of the population that even when you read a review going to the movies is still a gamble? Don’t they know that some critics hate everything and some critics…well, if Gene Shalit calls it "a rowdy, rambunctious, rip-roaring roller coaster of fun" anyone should know this means "run away".

And some movies are just beyond reviews. If I’d read reviews of "Young Einstein" I would still have gone to see it because no review could begin to come close to describing how bad it was, and even if it tried I would have said, "Come on, it can’t be THAT bad." Although the reviews might have done a little to prepare me for the experience of coming out and saying to the theater manager, "You can keep my money. I just want an hour and a half of my life back." But I digress. While Sony’s undermining of the sacred art of movie reviewing was widely scourged the United States government’s foray into self-promotion has managed to raise a few eyebrows. You may have heard that the new Medicare drug benefit was promoted by an invented journalist in a fake news segment that was quietly slipped into real news shows. If you haven’t heard this it may be because the news program you watch was one of the ones responsible. Now it’s come out that syndicated commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 (or 57.39 Euros) to "prom ote" the No Child Left Behind Act. Fortunately for taxpayers Williams has explained that he agrees with the act–his price for promoting something he disagrees with is much higher. There is a bright side to this: it’s proved that capitalism and Soviet-style propaganda can co-exist. And it’s also created a lot of debate by raising ethical questions such as, "Did anyone involved with this have any ethics?" and more practical questions, such as, "How can I get a piece of that action?" The latter question is one I’d especially like to know the answer to, and, by the way, have you tried new Blubbos(tm)? They’re the only doughnut filled with delicious, nutritious whale blubber, and I’m not just saying that because they slipped me a C-note. But I digress. I’m afraid the days of being paid to hold an opinion may be limited. Although Mr. Williams won’t be eligible for anymore federal payola, the government’s decision to follow Sony’s lead in the Medicare "news reporting" was incredibly ingenious because it cut people out of the equation entirely. The beauty of using a fictional reporter is they have fictional ethics. This may be true of some of their real-world counterparts, but a fictional reporter can’t be fired–just erased. And the best part is there’s no saliva to deal with.

And now for a word from our sponsor.

The Question: "How Many Dogs Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?"

1. Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and you’re inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

2. Border Collie: Just one. And then I’ll replace any wiring that’s not up to code, fix the drywall, and dig a moat.

3. Dachshund: You know I can’t reach that stupid lamp!

4. Rottweiler: Make me.

5. Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.

6. Lab: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I?Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!

7. German Shepherd: I’ll change it as soon as I’ve led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven’t missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.

8. Jack Russell Terrier: I’ll just pop it in while I’m bouncing off the walls and furniture.

9. Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I’m sorry, but I don’t see a light bulb?

10. Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

11. Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.

12. Pointer: I see it, there it is, there it is, right there…..

13. Greyhound: It isn’t moving. Who cares?

14. Australian Shepherd: First, I’ll put all the light bulbs in a little circle…

15. Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

The Cat’s Answer: "Dogs do not change light bulbs. People change light bulbs. So, the real question is: How long will it be before I can expect some light, some dinner, and a massage?" ALL OF WHICH PROVES, ONCE AGAIN, THAT WHILE DOGS HAVE MASTERS, CATS HAVE STAFF.

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