Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear Kim Jong Il...

Hope You are Fine. Wish You Were Here
Obama Writes Letter to N. Korea Leader

© 2009 Leighann Lord

Special Envoy and honorary post man Stephen Bosworth delivered a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, written by President Obama. The contents of the letter are unknown but it is part of the effort to get North Korea back to talks about nuclear disarmament. Political paparazzi may wonder what this heretofore secret letter says, but style mavens everywhere really want to know: handwritten or typed?

In these days of email, texting and Skyping, handwritten letters are a lost art, but Barack Obama is a class act. He knows a beautiful handwritten note on presidential stationery could be just the thing to the North Korean leader. And what writing implement would the President use for such a sensitive missive? Ballpoint? A roller ball? Fountain pen? Fine, medium or broad point?

Script or print, pristine penmanship is of paramount importance. Chicken scratch will not do. The First Lefty’s (and by left I mean which hand he writes with, not the political side to which he leans) handwriting has to look as good, if not better than, he does. Future American Presidents may not have this ability. Cursive writing is not a part of today's educational curriculum. As lamentable as I find this to be, times do change. We no longer expect urgent political messages to be sent by Morse code, Pony Express or carrier pigeon.

I wonder what the letter smelled like. In the days of yore, it was cool for correspondence to be scented. Calvin Klein's Obsession does it for me, but Enjouli might better capture the fragrance of freedom.

More than likely the letter was typed using a very tricked out version of Microsoft Word. (White house Word?) What is the favorite font of world leaders? Serif? Sans serif? Times New Roman and Helvetica are safe but boring. A high level letter like this begs for a bolder font, one that communicates presidential power and political savvy without being too ostentatious. Maybe something reserved and classic like Bookman Old Style, or fun and light-hearted like Comic Sans. Before you scoff and reject the latter out of hand, remember nuclear weaponry is heavy stuff. Maybe Earwig Factory is what the doctor ordered.

Not doubt done on a beautiful cream-colored, heavy weight, watermarked paper (multipurpose laser, bulk-bought from Staples would be insultingly informal), how long would a letter like this be? Anything more than three, single-spaced pages might get a little tedious. The trick is to be brief without being incomplete. But since this is not a new dance between the U.S. and N.K., I think a simple heartfelt handwritten note would have sufficed:

Dear Kim,
Don't be such a hard ass.
Call me.
Love, Barry

Bonus? You can fit that in a Twitter post.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform New Years Eve @ Sweet Basil in Queensbury, NY! Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chuck Schumer: I Love You, Man!

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I love Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY). I don't love him out of some misguided sense of state pride or in that restraining order kinda way. I love him because he has a knack for bringing attention to the little things in life that matter to the little people. He had me at the "airline passenger bill of rights." Yes, there's haggling over health care, too many or too few troops in Afghanistan, but last week Chuck put the spotlight on the issue of egregious ATM fees. I love you, man!

If you've used an ATM to grab a little cash then you know fees have gone up. If you've availed yourself of an ATM that is not owned by your bank, then you are charged a fee by both. If it sounds like double dipping and smells like double dipping then it's banking business as usual. It's the bail out they never have to pay back.

And the timing of Chuck's charge is no accident. In a nutshell: "C'mon guys. It's Christmas!" During the holidays no one, not even banking executives, wants to be labeled a Grinch, a Scrooge, or the Burger Meister Meister Burger. Nice use of holiday guilt, Senator. You are the smoothest version of the Ghost of Christmas Present.

To avoid ATM fees I take money out of the bank the old-fashioned way. I go to the bank during banking hours. I fill out a withdrawal slip, take it to the window and tell the teller what denominations I want. Twenty dollars in singles makes me feel flush. If I absolutely have to go to an ATM, I make sure I go to one that’s owned by MY bank. I refuse to pay a fee to withdraw MY money.

For good or ill I do the family finances. My Husband came home one day and dutifully gave me an ATM receipt for a withdrawal he made from his checking account. I noticed that it was not from "our" bank. "Well no," he said. "I couldn't find a branch of 'our' bank, so I went to another one. Does it make a difference?"

I guess I must have blacked out because when I came to I was flipping through the Yellow Pages looking for a divorce lawyer. Of course I wouldn't have been able to afford one, what with our family fortune being frittered away on fees. Our marriage survived and we learned a few things. If a man really loves his wife, he won't go swiping his bank card all over town in just any old ATM machine. But that same love, no matter how strong, does not endow a man with the ability to magically read his wife's mind. But it should.

He should have known that ATM fees drive me crazy. Chuck knew. That’s why I’m glad he’s championing a cause of the frugal folk. My lofty hopes were laid low, however, when I heard that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, "promised that his agency will conduct a review of the major rise in ATM fees imposed by banks on customers who are simply trying to withdraw their own money." Oh no, not "A Review." Feel the fear? Me neither. The only thing that could make this more disingenuous is if this review is done by a committee of "Industry Leaders."

This "review" could be accomplished with a simple conference call between Bernanke and his friends:

Ben: Hey guys, why are the ATM fees so high?

Banks: Duh, because we make more money that way.

Ben: Yeah, I know but Chuck called so knock it off.

Banks: Do we have too?

Ben: At least until after the holidays.

Banks: Awww!

Ben: Don't make me adjust the prime rate.

Banks: Okay, fine .... F*&k Chuck.

Ben: I heard that!


A review sounds so lame. Bernanke isn’t flexing his muscle in Alan Greenspanian fashion. He's passing the buck. Or rather, letting his friends continue to pocket them. Nothing was said about stopping, restricting or regulating ATM fees. And even if there was something else would take it’s place: A bank cover charge with a two transaction minimum? A withdrawal slip fee? Call it a "going green" campaign and it'll be bullet proof. Even worse, it might be Chuck proof. I still love him for trying though.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform Friday, 12/18 @ the infamous Ottos Shrunken Head for the No Name Comedy Show! Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leave Me Alone, Al Roker!

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I hopped into a cab on my way to do a spot at The Comic Strip. I reached reflexively to turn off The Taxi Cab TV but there was no off button. What the Frak? There's usually an obvious red "off" button on the bottom right side of the TV touch screen. Today, it was painfully absent. With the TV blaring I said to the driver, "Excuse me? Can you turn this off from up there?" "No," he said. "I'm sorry." So the best I could do was turn it down, but I was still visually assaulted by a dazzling array of bright, quick-moving video images and Al Roker.

This attack on my senses is not unique. I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office. I and two other people were quietly reading. One woman was flipping through a magazine, the gentleman was engrossed in a novel and I, as usual, was on my laptop. Suddenly, the receptionist came out, remote control in hand, and turned on the TV to some mind-numbing morning show. Seriously? Perhaps the look on my face made her belatedly ask, "Do you mind having the TV on?" The other two gave half-hearted, acquiescent shrugs. I spoke up and said, "Do we have too?"

"Uh ... okay," she said, turning it off, the room returning to a blissful, blather-free silence. "The Doctor thought it was a little too quiet in here." A little too quiet? Thought we'd over hear the screaming, did he? Before I could stop myself, I said, "It's a little early, but would you like me to ring up a few friends, call a DJ and make it a party?" The receptionist didn't answer, choosing instead to return to the safety of her glass enclosed cube.

That was probably best. My DJ-on-call days are a bit behind me. The best I could do was aux in my Ipod and hope everyone liked my 80s House Music play list. But Marshall Jefferson is not for everybody. Even hard core House Heads may not be inspired to "Jack, jack, jack, jack your body" at 9:30 in the morning.

Now I must admit, I might have reacted differently if the TV had been turned on to Judge Judy. If they had tried to call me in for my appointment in the middle of a case, there’d be problems.

My Dentist has a TV in the waiting room AND the examination room. But he has never one asked me what I want to watch. No CNN, History International or Cartoon Network for me. My choices are Rachel Ray and Wheel of Fortune. "I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat. What is ‘Hell no!’?" I’d prefer a root canal.

My Dentist has a wicked sense of humor, so I should be grateful he doesn’t make me watch something from the Saw franchise. Besides, if the TV is there to distract me, it’s not working. Once the chair reclines and the Dentist goes to work, all I see is the bright over head light, and all I hear is the whirr of the drill.

Is this how old age starts, with a need for peace and quiet that quickly devolves into sensible shoes and dinner at 4 o’clock? But truthfully, I've always been like this. I remember going to night clubs in college and being dismayed that the music was so needlessly loud. "How am I supposed to have a conversation with anybody?" I screamed at my friends as the baseline reverberating through my marrow. Yes. I know. I'm odd. But as we age there is a natural loss of hearing. At some point the music will need to be loud for me to enjoy it. Why rush it?

This is perhaps one of the few good reasons to have children later in life. By the time they’re teenagers, they can play their music as loud as they like. Mama’s not gonna care.

We've had TVs in the back of Taxi's for quite a while now. At first it was novel. Now, it's annoying. I feel overstimulate to the point of numbness. (Perhaps this is what my Dentist is trying to achieve, saving money on novocaine.) I don’t need to be constantly entertained. Sometimes I want to hear, see and do nothing. Sometimes I want a break from The Matrix. Sometimes I want an Al Roker-free cab ride.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform Monday, 12/7, at Tom Ragu's Comedy Review @ the legendary Stone Wall Inn in NYC. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter. More at