We live in difficult times. Most people are convinced of that, even when our economy does well. Somewhere along the way we managed to convince ourselves that the business cycle — the fluctuation between bust and boom, between bull and bear, between recession and expansion, stopped happening. Such is not the case. Economic times will always vary. Some professions are less susceptible to “interesting times” than others, however.
If you ever find yourself living and working in the Old West, for example, be the undertaker. The undertaker seldom gets shot, which is a bonus in and of itself. The undertaker’s job is to silently witness all the killings done by the hero and the villains, creeping everybody out by measuring them for coffins before the go off for their showdowns, or just staring at everyone with that “I am saddened by the folly of humanity” look that Old West undertakers are taught in trade school. No matter how many people die, no matter how badly things go in town, the undertaker always has a job. One presumes it’s the undertaker’s job to turn out the lights and roll up the sidewalks when he’s the last person left in Gold Nugget.
Similarly, you may think that the best way to go into business for yourself is to find a business that serves other businesses. You’d probably sit at home, sticking out the tip of your tongue while wondering why you’re waving a pencil in front of your computer. You’d think, “I’ve got it. I’ll sell signs. Every business needs signs.”
That’s true, but only up to a point. If your job is to build new neon signs for commercial businesses, you might be okay, particularly if you can get into the blinking Jesus Saves market. Be wary of the pitfalls, however. You see, the least profitable business in the world is that of distributor for neon sign light bulbs.
Think about it. Have you ever seen a neon sign that had all its letters lighted? There is some unwritten law in the business world that once a neon sign is erected it can never be fixed. When all the light bulbs burn out, that’s a sign from the Fates that you should move on.
By contrast, the hyenas of the business world are the vinyl temporary sign guys. The vinyl sign guys set up new businesses every day. They know that you’ll need to cover that old neon sign for the failed business whose property you’re now leasing. They know you’ll be reluctant to buy a new neon sign, particularly with that bad-luck bulb thing hanging over your head. They figure they’ll sell you a nice vinyl sign that will only occasionally get tangled in the wind and require re-hanging.
They’ll laugh the whole way to the bank as they pick clean the corpses of the failed neon-sign-having businesses that came before, setting up an account for whomever takes over your office space when you’ve gone belly-up.
That’s just how these things work.
Another way that things work: Don’t watch stuff on Animal Planet unless you like crying.
What an adorable creature!
That, of course, is the thought going through your mind every time you tune in to Animal Planet. Animal Planet is the April Fool’s joke of cable television programming. It is the joy buzzer in the palm of the obnoxious friend who tells you he’s got a business opportunity for you. It is the severed plastic arm of a Happy Meal action figure toy underneath your lettuce and tomato but on top of your extra cheese. It is rain after you’ve washed your car. It is e-mail from your boss canceling the project on which you spent all night working.
You see, the sadists at Animal Planet never met a cute, fuzzy, cuddly animal they could not show you being eaten. They lure you in with images of otters swimming on their backs, possums curling over tree limbs, groundhogs and prairie dogs standing on their hind legs like people, and a variety of benign and cute-looking rodentia capering across grass-covered fields. Then, just as you are telling yourself that you’d keep one of these creatures as a pet if you could, something eats them.
Alligators. Tigers. Snakes. Birds of prey. Steve Irwin. The specific evil beast may vary, but the result is always the same: huggable woodland creatures being greedily devoured by the less-cute, following the endless cycle of Nature in which the homely make lunch of the less so.
Why do we do this to ourselves? More specifically, why do the executives at Animal Planet hate us, hate children, and hate all that is good in the world? Why do they kick puppies and pop children’s carnival balloons? Why do they worship Satan? Granted, where television executives are concerned, these are rhetorical questions at best. Consider, however, how we might better channel this need to see things devoured. Rather than committing to celluloid the lunchability of adorable animals, why don’t we put this television tactic to good use?
You are watching a fashion show. Bored and heroin-addicted models strut up and down the runway. Suddenly, angry pumas charge in, mauling them and devouring their emaciated frames. Sequins fly everywhere. Shrill cries fill the air. You smile and make yourself more comfortable on the couch.
Colin Quinn, television’s least funny male, delivers another joke with his usual lack of timing and delivery. Suddenly, several million Army Ants swarm over his body, stripping the flesh from his bones as he screams in agony. You make sure to record the episode so you can watch it again and again.
The staffs of 60 Minutes and 20/20 are maimed by enraged orangutans. Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings are swallowed by large constricting snakes. Carrot Top falls into a pit of angry piranha. Steve Irwin pokes Mike Tyson with a stick until Tyson crushes Irwin’s head and is gunned down by his shotgun-toting handlers.
The possibilities are endless.
No actual television personalities were harmed in the writing of this blog entry.