Monday, August 31, 2009

No More Cozy Canoodling with Canada

In the National Security Game, The Canucks Play Rough
© 2009 Leighann Lord


Going through Canadian Customs used to be smooth and painless, but things have gotten noticeably tenser along America’s northern border. Now it’s long lines, stone faced agents and random searches. Perhaps the national security paranoia of Canada’s southern neighbor is taking its toll. They could be just a bit bitter about a recent rule change requiring everyone crossing the border in either direction to have a passport. No more friendly traipsing back and forth.

I felt the chilly change while passing through Halifax, Nova Scotia. The line was so long I thought by the end of it I’d be getting into a night club or given a piece of bread. Not one to waste time or have my time wasted, I whipped out my "Wall Street Journal." About 20 minutes in, a customs officer with a dog came out to check the cued up travelers. That was new, but not unique. I thought there was nothing for me to do except let the cop and cur do their job, so I kept reading my paper. This was a mistake.

When they got to me, the officer snapped his fingers, asked to see my customs declaration card and in green highlighter wrote an ominous "P-1" on it. It mind as well have been the scarlet letter. In retrospect, I now know how suspicious I must have looked. Everybody knows Americans don’t read.

When I got to the head of the line, another Customs Official asked me a few perfunctory questions but that "P-1" told her everything she needed to know. I soon had the pleasure of standing in another - albeit shorter – line to be more thoroughly scrutinized.

While in the line of shame with other supposedly suspicious passengers, I overheard a search in progress. An agent was explaining to a detained traveler why some of his items were being confiscated. Apparently, it’s not that you can’t bring food into Canada, what matters is where that food comes from. Food from the U.S. is okay (overlooking tomatoes, peanut products and tuna) but Egypt? Not so much. The traveler being searched ahead of me was transporting a smorgasbord of Egyptian meat: sausage, chicken, beef. He was smuggling in a cookout. The officer confiscated half, but luckily the traveler was not in trouble because he had declared his moveable feast.

When it was my turn to have my privacy invaded or as a hard core Libertarian might call it – legally property raped – I was asked repeatedly about my travel plans: "What is the purpose of your trip? Where are you going? How long will you be in Canada?" At this point, too long.

Given the thoroughness of the search I began to worry about the contents of my bag. The most questionable items were vitamins and incense. Could I be detained for Flaxseed and Nag Champa? You can’t be too careful when it comes to international customs. A Canadian airport security guard once confiscated my travel size can of Static Guard. I’m still not sure if it was really against the rules or if she was just shopping.

As I began going through my mental Rolodex of international human rights lawyers, the customs officer said she was done and I was free to go. Admittedly pushing my luck, I asked why I was chosen for this special treatment. "What were you looking for?" She said they were selecting people at random to find those who weren’t declaring alcohol & tobacco.

I suspect, however, that I was "randomly" selected for lack of deference. I had the temerity to be reading and essentially ignoring the officer as he walked by. He had "selected" me before knowing whether I had in fact declared anything. He couldn’t have known until he asked for and looked at my customs form. I was getting the "P-1 special" whether I deserved it or not. Since they found nothing, I’m guessing not.

As I was leaving, another randomly selected traveler who had declared nothing, got busted with an excessive amount of perfume and clothes. When the officer called him on it, he began having trouble with his English, but managed to clearly say: "You didn’t ask about perfume and clothes. You asked about alcohol and tobacco." Good one, but the officer wasn’t buying. The fines were going to be hefty. They’re probably still tabulating.

I think Canada is getting testy in reaction to tighter laws requiring a passport to cross the border. As late as July 2009, Canadians and Americans could practically cross the border at will, visiting each other as good neighbors are want to do. But post 9/11, things have changed. Our once friendly open door, "Make yourself at home" policy is now, "How’d you get this number?" America is treating Canadians like Mexicans.

How long will it be before Canadians consider building a fence along their border? Who knows, but don’t expect the Canadian cold shoulder to thaw out any time soon.


Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good Times at Nestlé?


Say it Ain’t So, Wilona

© 2009 Leighann Lord
You know you’re jaded when you can find the bad side of a good news story. I was reading a relatively harmless article on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal’s" Market Place section about Nestlé’s drop in first half earnings. The company was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that "performance in it’s pet care business was ‘excellent.’" Some good news? Tell me more.

"Despite the tough economic times, consumers weren’t deterred by Nestlé’s price increases, which helped lift the pet-care division’s profit margin by more than a percentage point to 15.7%.

"Purina and Friskies are among Nestle’s fastest growing brands, with sales of each up by more than 6% in the first half. Dog Chow, which saw sales jump by more than 16%, had the second-fastest growth among Nestle’s major products..."

As a dog owner, I am not surprised at the money people spend on their pets. Rolie (His Lordship), our rescued, special needs cocker spaniel wants for nothing. He’s living a comfortable life, which we are more than happy to give him considering the abuse he sustained at the hands of his previous owners. (I often fantasize about tracking them down and beating them with a broom.)

With His Lordship’s myriad medical problems (almost complete deafness, cataracts, deteriorating hips, hyper thyroid, dry skin, and a surly disposition for which there is no cure) his care is not cheap. Thankfully his Veterinarian gives us the Senior Dog Discount.

We are also very lucky that despite his regal bearing, His Lordship likes to eat the cheap stuff. We learned after much trial and error that this breed of dog is notorious for choosing to go hungry rather than eat something it doesn’t like. Apparently you can lead a cocker spaniel to the Dog Chow, but you can’t make it eat.

That said, I was curious that Nestlé’s own analysis of it’s earnings data was so rosy. It assumes, perhaps innocently, that the increase in pet food sales came from people spending money on their pets. Who’s to say in these strained economic times that people aren’t buying pet food for themselves? Am I the only one who remembers that episode of "Good Times" where Wilona was reduced to eating dog food? It haunts me still.

Nestlé’s bottom line bump doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How could the company not take into account the heart breaking reports of animal shelters swelling past capacity with the pets financially strapped families could no longer afford to care for?

The article also said, "The bright outlook for pet products is also luring insurers into the market in search of growth rates faster than those for traditional car and life plans."

No doubt pet health insurance is a hot product, but like human health insurance not everyone can get it. By conservative estimates, His Lordship was five to seven years old when we rescued him, so no insurance for him. From nose to nub he’s a 30 pound pre-existing condition.

Animals and humans suffer from many of the same diseases. Since pet insurance, when you can get it, is cheaper maybe savvy pet owners are using Fido as a stalking horse for their own ailments. I wouldn’t blame them. Seeing the level of care His Lordship gets from his Vet, I like and trust him more than my own doctor.

I’m not sure if my personal take on this says more about my pessimism or Nestlé’s naivete, but I certainly understand it. Switzerland’s business community could use some good news right now. There was a time when tax dodging kabillionaires could stash their cash in Swiss bank accounts – bills still soggy with blood – and be guaranteed absolute secrecy. Wealth has it’s privileges, or at least it used to.

Swiss bank UBS has lost a big legal battle with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The bank is being forced to divulge the identities of thousands of American account holders believed to be evading taxes. And the IRS promises to be vigorous in it’s prosecution of these wealthy tax cheats. Now that’s a reality show I’d like to see. I envision it as a classy version of "Cops." After interest and penalties the perpetrators won’t be able to afford Friskies. Go get ‘em Geithner! We American’s have pricey pet food to pay for.


Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

Please feel free to subscribe or visit for news, Leighann's TV ppearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list. You can also follow her on MySpace FaceBook Twitter!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gimme Some Sugar, Mr. President


© 2009 Leighann Lord

When milk prices soared I took it in stride since I’ve never been a milk drinker. In kindergarten I told my teacher I was allergic to it so I could have apple juice instead. This allergy was news to my parents as there was no medical evidence to substantiate my claim. I was five years old. I thought being allergic to something meant you didn’t like it. By this logic I was also allergic to liver, oatmeal and my brother.

When gas prices skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon it hit a bit more close to home. As a working stand-up comedian I drive to a lot of my gigs. Some bookers compensated by paying a little extra for gas money, most didn’t. I was foolishly hopeful about a possible "gas tax holiday" but it never materialized. A good thing too, since that money was later needed for corporate bailouts.

But everybody has a breaking point and I’ve reached mine. I read an article in "The Wall Street Journal" (Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage; Thursday, August 13, 2009) that chilled me. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. My guilty pleasures in life are Sugar and Shopping. Since the economy developed an allergy to stability, I’ve cut way back on the ancillary shopping. That leaves Sugar.

I have a pack a day chewing gum habit. I take coffee with my cream and Sugar. I eat Frosted Flakes straight out of the box. I was nearly apoplectic when Kelloggs’ announced a plan to make my favorite cereal with one third less sugar. The point of Frosted Flakes is the sugar. I’d prefer it if they make them with one third fewer flakes. Let’s face it, Frosted Flakes with less sugar is like water with less hydrogen, instead of H2O you get HO.

I have friends who, for various reasons, don’t use sugar anymore. I am astonished at their fortitude. It’s like they’ve somehow learned to live without air. The prospect of looking into an empty sugar bowl is more terrifying to me than a Stephen King novel.

Sugar substitutes you say? I’ve tried them and they are no substitute. The best of the lot is Splenda. "You can’t taste the difference," my friends say. "Yes, you can," I counter. I have a hypersensitive palate and Splenda tastes wrong, off and unnatural, like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

So what’s causing this potentially life altering sugar shortage? According to "The Wall Street Journal":

"The world is consuming more sugar than farmers are producing. The world’s largest sugar producer, Brazil, is diverting huge amounts of its cane crop to making ethanol fuel. Likewise, the food industry has complained bitterly in recent years about the U.S. ethanol industry’s ravenous appetite for corn which helped push up prices for that key ingredient too."

"More than half of Brazil’s sugarcane crop is processed into ethanol while about one-third of the U.S. corn crop is made into the alternative fuel. An erratic monsoon season in India also has led sugar analysts to reduce their production forecast for the world’s second-largest sugar producer."

And so, it’s official: I am totally anti-ethanol.

My Husband suggests that perhaps "The Journal" has been less than thorough in its reporting. "They didn’t take You into account," he says. "If you cut back on Your sugar intake, maybe there wouldn’t be a shortage." Could he be right? Is my Sugar Jones is affecting world markets? I guess it’s either cut back or start growing sugar cane in my back yard. I might opt for the latter and pray the monsoons and Ethanolics don’t come calling.

In the meantime, President Obama, I know you’re busy with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Health Care, Blue Dog Democrats, selling cars, proving your citizenship, raising your family and The Economy, but this is serious. I can’t do without Sugar. I don’t exactly have medical proof, but I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to Splenda.

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

Please feel free to subscribe or visit for news, Leighann's TV ppearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list. You can also follow her on MySpace FaceBook Twitter!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To The Moon, Alice?

© 2009 Leighann Lord

A recent article in "The Economist" said that NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is considering sending another manned flight to the moon. My response to this should have been "Woo Hoo." But instead I thought, "Been there done that." I imagine the planet Vulcan is a long way off – and probably not even real – but aren’t we ready to send people as far as Jupiter yet?

I’m a Sci-Fi fan; and I do mean Sci-Fi not "SyFy" the supposedly hip new name of the Sci-Fi Channel. I hear the name was changed to make the network more "female-friendly." Yeah, that double Y ought to have women switching over from Lifetime in droves. Dear God, people, have we learned nothing from the New Coke debacle?

In general, we Sci-Fi fans are an open-minded lot. We can conceive of alternate realities, parallel universes, and believe in a future where science and imagination combine to help us reach our ideal selves. I have no trouble visualizing human beings traipsing around the galaxy through the power of Dilithium crystals, Holtzman engines or even hitchhiking around with a towel. So why am I so not excited about NASA sending manned flights to the moon again? Perhaps it’s because my imagination is burdened lately by more down to Earth concerns.

How can we seek to freely travel through space when we can’t even freely travel our own planet? Passports, visas, armed border crossings and war are proof that we are not exactly a unified species. I can’t even get from one part of my own city to another with paying a toll. Will the route to the moon take E-Z Pass? How can we justify spending money on another moon mission when so many Earth dwellers are hungry, homeless and in poor health?

This is what I get for reading "The Economist." It’s human frailty and foibles boiled down to dollars and cents.

In "Star Trek’s" version of the future there is no need for money. Presumably we’ve evolved past hedge funds. In "Dune’s" gritty future, however, humanity struggles with addiction, superstition, poverty and war. No wonder "Star Trek" is more popular. "Dune" hits a little too close to home.

Maybe I’d feel better if NASA’s reasons for going to the moon again were more lofty: Reigniting America’s passion for science, making space travel at least as fast as Earth travel, or finding the Aliens that keep abducting and probing American southerners.

In "The Economist" Gregg Maryniak, director of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, said, "The moon is rich in energy and materials that could enable further exploration of the universe and potentially save the Earth."

Uh oh. It sounds like the Earth’s trophy planet days are done. Earth was a starter wife, and now that she’s all used up it’s time to move on and exploit the resources of another sweet young celestial body. We can’t reach Jupiter, but we can reach the moon. That slutty little rock is hanging up there all nice and shiny, just asking for it. One small step for man, one giant step for mediocrity.

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

Please feel free to subscribe or visit for news, Leighann's TV ppearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list. You can also follow her on MySpace FaceBook Twitter!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

BlackBerry Break Down Leads to Marital Mayhem

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I guess my Husband got tired of me complaining about my cell phone. I have a BlackBerry Pearl and I while I love it, it hasn’t aged gracefully: Freezing, rapid battery drainage, random data deletion. I see the spinning icon so often I suspect it’s a self installed Zen meditation application.

I spend a lot of time on the phone with "Zack," my generic name for the army of 20 some things who work in BlackBerry’s Technical Support Department. They’re knowledgeable, competent and friendly, but that’s at least a two-hour phone call, not including the 20 minutes it takes convincing T-Mobile to switch me over to BlackBerry.

"Yes, I turned the unit off and on."

"Yes, I removed the battery."

"Yes, I’d like to keep all of my past appointments on my phone and in my Outlook. Can we please just call, Zack?"

During one of these all too frequent calls, the T-Mobile Rep was surprised and then alarmed to learn that I still had my original sym card. "That might be why you’re having so many problems," she said. "You should get a new one right away."

"How much will that cost?" I asked.

Wow, I thought to myself, it must be bad if they’re willing to replace it for free.

My suspicions were confirmed when the In-Store Rep stared at my primordial sym card and said, "Oh my god! This still says Voice Stream!" The Voice Stream company met its end back when social networking still meant talking to someone face to face.

That’s when my Dear Husband, who had been on his phone since we’d arrived at the store, hung up and announced: "We’re getting new BlackBerries!"

"What? But our contracts aren’t up. Don’t tease me." I’ve been wanting a new BlackBerry for ages, and by wanting I mean flat out lusting. It seems like everybody on the planet except me has a flashy new BlackBerry, but the $400 mid-contract price tag curbs my desire.

"I’m not paying $400 for a new phone," I said. "Correction: I’m not paying $800 for two new phones," because my Husband’s BlackBerry Pearl is as old and persnickety as mine.

"No, you’re not," he said.
"I called them and laid out our case: We’re long time customers. Our phones are old and failing. My wife is on the phone every day with ‘Zack.’ This is unacceptable. We’re switching companies if we don’t get new phones."

He also not so subtly pointed out that the math was in our favor. It’s cheaper for us to leave, pay the cancellation fee and get new phones from a new company. Voila, new phones are on the way.

"I saved us even more money," he said triumphantly.


"I combined our accounts."

[Insert stunned silence here.]

"You what?" I said quietly.
Sensing danger, but not knowing exactly why, my Husband answered, "I combined our accounts. The Rep said if we’re married we’d save money with a family plan."

[More silence.]

"What? We’ll get one bill now instead of two," he said.

[Silence, arched eyebrows and full-on pouty glare.]

"Did I mention we’ll save money?"

"But you should have ask me first!"
I said finally.

"I’m sorry! It sounded like a good deal. Doesn’t this help?"

"No!" I said.

"Why not?"

"‘Cause I’m not ready for this level of commitment!"


"We’ve been married eight years," he said quietly.
We all have our quirks and this is one of mine. I love my Husband dearly but we maintain separate music collections, clothes closets and laundry baskets. I just can’t have my fine Woolite washables co-mingling with his regular cycle man clothes. I honestly didn’t know I’d feel this way about combining our cell phone bills. I have no rational explanation for this except to say it’s probably part quirky personality trait, part control freak.

[Continued silence and then the manly sigh of defeat.]

"The Rep said we can separate the bills any time we want."

I said.


"Will I have to give the new phone back?"

he said. "So do you want to change it?"

"No. I guess having our phones on one plan is kinda romantic."

[Insert manly groan of frustration here.]

"Thanks for the new phone," I said.

"You’re welcome. Wanna celebrate by doing a combined load of laundry?"
[Insert feminine groan of frustration here.]

"Let’s see how this cell phone thing works out first."

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

Please feel free to subscribe or visit for news, Leighann's TV ppearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list. You can also follow her on MySpace FaceBook Twitter!