Saturday, November 22, 2008


I haven't been all that affected by the recent financial crisis in the U.S., so I've had a hard time buying into all the hype about it in the news. I have friends that have been laid off. Even the workload at my job slowed down over the past couple months. But as long as I continue to work at a job I am blatantly over-qualified for, there will always be outbound phone calls for this big fish to make at the small pond that is BRG Research.

I have been oblivious to the hard times that most Americans are apparantly facing. Maybe I'm spoiled; maybe I just have been living within my means all along so the pinch isn't as tight.

Well, that all changed today, after I was asked to pay $1.19 for a Double Cheeseburger at McDonalds.

The McDonalds Double Cheeseburger has been not only the salient feature of the Dollar Menu, but also the de facto U.S. currency of this decade. Gas prices may fluctuate, but I can set my watch to the Double Cheeseburger being a dollar.

Some people's consumer confidence was shot when they actually found themselves questioning whether they really need a new $200 coffeemaker at Linens 'n Things instead of just impulsively buying it. (see Michael Kinsley's November 14th NY Times Op-Ed)

Such pointless purchases were never a temptation for me. This was my crisis of confidence: paying an extra 20 cents for a Double Cheeseburger.

Now, I should have ponied up and sprung for the sandwich. Surely I already have more stuff than I need, and it should be my patriotic duty to pay $1.19 for a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger and stimulate the economy. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it, out of principle.

It's like the time last year when I called 5 Buck Pizza only to be informed that all of their pizzas now started at $6.99. Upon hearing my obvious question: "Are you still gonna be called 5 Buck Pizza?" they had the nerve to tell me that they in fact would. I thanked them for their time and hung up the phone, and have never called them back since.

I recently read that McDonalds is one of the most recession-proof businesses in America. If they want to stay that way, they need the Dollar Menu now more than ever. Or better yet, remember in the late 90's when they had those 39 cent cheeseburger Wednesdays? If they still had that offer, McDonalds would be the 21st century soup kitchen.

By the way, as a side note, the McDonalds guilty of this heinous $1.19 charge is the Orem, UT, Center St. restaurant. I usually try to avoid this one, but they offer the $1 Breakfast Burritos all day, so I couldn't resist.

Incidentally, any McDonald's that charges 25 cents for water, such as the one on University Parkway in Orem, will never make it through a recession. Especially when cheapskates like me are practicing business-as-usual thrift.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A TV Set Within A TV Set (part II)

The Simpsons show us what the world would be like if our entire lives revolved around TV. When sleazy tabloid-style news show, Rock Bottom, misleads its viewers into believing that Homer sexually harrassed a babysitter in "Homer Badman" (season 6), even Homer believes the account, although his own memory of the event is contrary to the show. The cognitive dissonance Homer experiences in this episode leads him to side with TV over himself, and exclaim, "Oh, maybe TV is right...TV's always right!"

In this same scene, Bart and Lisa confess to their father that the TV is more of a parent to them than he is. "It's just hard not to listen to TV," says Bart, "It's spent so much more time with us than you have."

Ironically, the reason that TV spends so much more time with Bart and Lisa than Homer does, is because Homer spends so much time with TV. In "Lisa's First Word" (season 4), he brags, "It's not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day."

The Simpsons teaches us that TV is the nucleus of the nuclear family. Or was, anyway. In the 90's. Today, in a Tivo and Youtube world, maybe the central message of The Simpsons is losing its relevancy. When Marge reveals that Homer spends a portion of his work day "googling himself", it sounds foreign to the Homer we all know and love. When Marge looks up her house on google earth from the laptop on her kitchen table, it throws off the whole geography, not to mention the timing, of her daily life.

In The Simpsons of the 90s, the workplace was for slacking, the kitchen was for eating, and the living room was the escape from everything. All of that has changed in later seasons, however. We have all made the transition to the new millenium, but in doing so, we have all aged. To watch the Simpson family, frozen in time, embracing new technology can be awkward. But in watching this awkwardness we can see just how far we've come.

Maybe someday the television will become obsolete. And when it does, studying The Simpsons will remind us why.