Friday, August 12, 2005

Pink Plastic Flamingos

HTML email is evil. It adds incredible amounts of bulk to mail and is potentially insecure. Some recipients resent it, and many email lists flat out forbid it, including one that I have helped to manage for over ten years.

An old friend, someone I've known for over forty years, is an AOL subscriber. No amount of searching has enabled him to send simple, straightforward, plain text mail, even after a couple of lengthy phone discussions with tech support. We've finally given up on it. One day I illustrated it for him.

To understand this, you must know that Tom has one of the most beautiful gardens you will ever see. I told him:

Say that you hired a company to come and help you regularly a couple of times a year with certain garden chores, such as the lawn work, or cutting back dead wood in the treed areas. Say that you were perfectly happy with the service, except for one thing, namely that the company insisted on leaving behind an array of pink plastic flamingos in various strategic and highly visible points your garden. No doubt you would tell them thank you very much for the thoughtful touch, but you really would prefer not to have the pink plastic flamingos. But then a customer service representative of your service said, "But everyone gets and likes the pink plastic flamingos. Why on earth would you not want the pink plastic flamingos? Sorry, that's not an option — we don't support service without pink plastic flamingos."

That would be an accurate description of AOL's garden service department, if they had a garden service department.

17 comments:

Whoa! said...

I think the worst pink plastic flamingos offenders are cell phone manufacturers. Want a simple portable phone? Sorry. With a phone you also get a digital camera, a video camera, a Web browser with Net access, a personal organizer, email, video games, memo alarms, and a calculator. Who said I wanted an electronic Disneyland? With an encyclopedic manual of How-to? Just give me a phone, will you? You wanna get real fancy give it a battery that will last a few days.

The Neologist said...

Yep. I'm one of the few people remaining in modern society who does not yet own a cell phone, although I believe that situation will change by sometime early in 2006.

I've thought about walking into a phone store and asking a clerk: "Do you have one of those phones where you can just pick it up, say 'Hello?', and have someone answer you back?" I don't think they make that type any more.

Telephones are the rudest of devices. Telephony is interrupt driven communication. In my previous job with Motorola, the CEO could have been standing in my office telling me that the whole future of the company was totally dependent on my own mission critical assignment, but if the phone rang, I would be expected to jump for it. I learned to take advantage of that insight. If I had something to discuss with my boss, normally I would visit him in person in his office. If I passsed by and saw he was busy talking to someone else, the solution was simple. I would just return to my office and phone him, knowing he would interrupt whatever he was doing to talk to me, and I would not have to wait.

For perspective: be aware that I make my living in the telecommunications industry, now as a software engineer for a company that provides Linux system software for telecommunications infrastructure equipment. But I still don't own a cell phone.

Anonymous said...

Telephony has recently worsened. Cell phones now provide TV shows, movies, ipod functions, and are pushing ring tone fetishism. If a cell phone comes with a selection of thirty-seven ring tones, what is the reason to have ring tone download capabilities? That might be great for people who, rather than answer the phone, plan to enjoy the ring tone instead.

Another thing. When the instruction book is three times the size of the product, the manufacturer has indisputably taken a wrong road. Whoa!

Anonymous said...

I am moved to write to this Blog Site to say I take exception to the deprecation of Pink Plastic Flamingos that appears in Mr. Newton’s essay.

Having served for several years as Vice-President of Sales for the now defunct Pickering Injection Moldings Ltd., a company that manufactured exclusively for the Florida market under license to Union Products, I can confidently assure you that Pink Plastic Flamingos (PPFs) are valued by hundreds of thousands of Americans as lovely additions to any home or garden. To assume everyone would “no doubt” turn them down is to express unjustified prejudice regarding them.

Their graceful appearance has accorded them undeniable staying power since Don Featherstone first designed them in 1957. In 1959, when their popularity was just beginning to climb, President Eisenhower had one dozen installed in the Rose Garden during August of that year, both of the standing and feeding models.

PPFs have been featured in People magazine and numerous other publications like USA Today, along with being featured on over 30 television shows like "48 Hours", "Inside Edition", "Chronicle" and "Maury Povich". They have been on display every year at the national Hardware Show for nearly forty years now. How many things can you say that about?

Naturally it is impossible to please everyone, just as your essay has not pleased me, and rational people accept that tastes vary. But to denigrate this American Icon as though it is something to be universally scorned is an unacceptable affront to the cultural sensibilities of countless of your fellow Americans. To emphasize this point I am pleased to submit the following TRUE report.

New Hampshire is home to the SPA, Society for the Preservation of Artificial Wildlife (not to be confused with Society for the Preservation of the Plastic Lawn Flamingo). Back in 1994 the NH Department of Transportation removed one of Northfield, NH’s hills next to Exit 19 (off I-93) and put water in its place to compensate for wetlands it destroyed while rebuilding the exit. Many folks in Northfield viewed creating an acre of wetlands next to a highway exit as a waste of money and someone decided to beautify the "artificial wetlands" with “articificial wildlife” - PPF’s soon appeared and have been reappearing every spring in Northfield’s PPF "park". Because some of the flock have been stolen over the years some town residents formed the SPA and drafted the Northfield Artificial Wildlife Preserve Act of 1996, which outlaws the removal of artificial wildlife from the artificial wetlands without the written consent of the SPA, and an artificial trapping/capture permit. Northfield selectmen passed the ordinance several months later. Over 10,000 people from around the country have joined the SPA to date and the group has shipped PPF’s as far north as Alaska.

I trust the above will establish that, like so many other art forms, Pink Plastic Flamingos, even though not universally admired or understood, do merit proper respect.

Anonymous said...

Murray, I am so angry with you that you should make such trouble for Mr. Newton. People should know you’re the dumbbell that put Pickering out of business! Now I’m too ashamed of my association with Pickering even to give my name. May my current employer never find out. You know it was you that sank the factory, Murray. You and your stupid typos. You’re still making them too.

So what does Orlando mean to you, Murray? Remember Orlando? We get a gorgeous order for ten thousand white plastic planters and what did you requisition from production? What did we deliver them, Murray? Ten thousand white plastic antlers! That’s some typo, Murray. Where did you get antlers?

And Tallahassee, Murray. Remember Tallahassee? A group wanted to flock the mayor on his birthday with 250 Pink Plastic Flamingos. So what did you type on your requisition, Murray? 250000 that’s what. That’s a quarter million, Murray. What were you thinking?

I had to rent a rig and hire a driver for that delivery, Murray. And while he’s gearing a sixteen wheeler around Tallahassee the factory went under. It was impounded, Murray. Padlocked. He couldn’t return them to the plant. So guess what he does, Murray. He parked the rig in front of my house and ran off.

I returned the truck, Murray, but what am I supposed to do with two hundred forty-nine thousand seven hundred and fifty pink plastic flamingos? My garage, my family room, two of my bedrooms, my second bathroom, and my entire basement are packed solid with pink plastic flamingos, Murray.

You want to be an example of a man who respects pink plastic flamingos? Tell me where you live, Murray!

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the anonymous commentator who advised me of the existence of this Blog.

As a former employee of the firm providing legal services for Union Products Inc., I am moved to point out an important falsehood contained in an above comment.

Union Products, who retain the exclusive design copyright, at no time licensed any other manufacturing facility to produce pink plastic flamingos. Pickering Injection Moldings Ltd. both manufactured and sold many hundreds of thousands of cheap imitation flamingos to the unsuspecting American consumer and thereby committed a criminal offence.

This was the primary reason for the padlocking of the factory, not financial instability. The president of Pickering Injection Moldings Ltd., the vice-presidents, and all other principals were duly arrested, tried and convicted of decorative flamingo piracy. They are currently serving their sentences in Florida State Prison and are all enrolled in the Governor Bush’s Faith- and Character-based Correctional Initiative.

The only Pickering principal to elude arrest and incarceration has been Mr. Murray Gilfillan who served as Vice-President of Sales, and with whom Mr. Newton has had some contact.

Readers of this Blog Site should be aware that a ten thousand dollar reward is offered for any information leading to the aprehension of Mr. Murray Gilfillan. The reward I understand is in the form of a Union Products gift certificate.

Anonymous said...

I can barely express my shock and dismay at the dumpster load of absurdity, calumny, and misinformation being presented on this Blog.

First, I must stress that allegations of Pink Plastic Flamingo piracy are completely unfounded. The agreement between Pickering Injection Moldings and Union Products is documented.

My mistake was forgetting to place the document in company files. I discovered it in my attaché case. I will scan it and email it to the authorities, which will exonerate both me and my wrongfully imprisoned colleagues.

The agreement was signed by Don Featherstone, owner of Union Products, and myself. He insisted I visit his office in Leominster Massachusetts on the afternoon of January 1, 2004. I happily complied despite the holiday and desprite a power failure in the building. There we signed the Pink Plastic Flamingo Agreement on Union Products letterhead.

At my meeting with Hung Woo in Los Angeles regarding the Chinese market, he persuaded me to fly with him to Beijing immediatly to seize a rare opporutnity to meet with Chairman Deng Xiaoping.

I phoned the Pickering office from China and a recorded message said the number was no longer in service. I naturally assumed our struggling company went under.

As for Sheldon in Purchasing, I take great exception to your critivism of my typos. You know full well we had to use computers you ordered that had defective keyboards. My personal typing kills are excellent.

Regarding the 249,750 Pink Plastic Flamingos in your house, ship them at once to me care of General Delivery, Central Post Office, Beijing, China. The market for them in this economy is unimaginable. Owners of rice paddies find they scare away birds from damaging crops. The east will no longer be red, Sheldon. It’s about to become pink beyond the dreams of avarice!

Anonymous said...

Murray, Murray, Murray. You schmuck. You landed all the company owners in prison? I can only believe it. And who but you could be sent on a business trip to LA and end up in Beijing?

You have a rare opportunity to meet Chairman Deng Xiaoping? A rare opportunity for sure. Deng Xiaoping’s been dead for nine years, Murray. What kind of scam you got yourself into now? Besides, Murray, you wouldn’t know Deng Xiaoping from Egg Foo Yung. Sometimes I think you inhaled too much fumes from the polymer vats.

Now you tell me to ship a quarter million Pink Plastic Flamingos to China. That’s eleven thousand four hundred and sixty-two dollars and forty-eight cents freight charges, Murray. Show me the money I ship the birds.

I know you, Murray. Remember the company tournament at The Copperhead Golf Course where you damaged a golf cart? What did you do about the eighty-five dollars damages, Murray? You settled with flamingos, right? Same deal at Topiko’s Patio Restaurant when you knocked over the candle and set fire to the curtains. You always settle with freebie flamingos, Murray.

You can go to Beijing? You can stick around over there? You got money. Show me the cash for the shipment, Murray. You can’t flamingo your way out of this one.

Sheldon

Anonymous said...

My name is Manfred, the lawyer retained by Pickering Injection Moldings in the Pink Plastic Flamingo piracy trial. Thank you, Sheldon, for directing me to this blog.

Mr. Gilfillan, the alleged agreement you emailed to the Florida State Prison Authorities has been faxed to me. Although the signatory did write “Don Featherstone” the signature is definitely not Featherstone’s handwriting. The document is a forgery.

Don Featherstone’s signature, as you know, is embossed on the backside of every Pink Plastic Flamingo. You have only to compare the document’s signature with a plastic flamingo’s rump to note the distinct dissimilarity.

A quick consultation with the Leominster Police Department revealed that there was a break-and-entry at Union Products HQ on January 1, 2004. The trespasser lowered himself through a skylight using a rope, Mission Impossible style, and subsequently made his way to the electrical room where he switched off the power. This disabled the alarm system so he could later open the front door to let in an accomplice.

It seems the accomplice was you, Mr. Gilfillan. Leominster Police now seek you as an accessory to this crime. The person you met was an impostor whose real name is Stockwell Blackwell, designer of transparent plastic dome paperweights containing a dead scorpion, and the notably unsuccessful gray plastic Neptune-with-pitchfork lawn ornaments.

Mr. Blackwell, who mistakenly expected plastic sculptures of Neptune to be as popular in America as marble ones are in Europe, was apparently motivated by envy and resentment of the Pink Plastic Flamingos’ success. He was counting on a proliferation of cheap imitation flamingos by Pickering Injection Moldings to destroy public confidence in the original product.

I regret to advise you that the case against your Pickering colleagues remains closed. The former president though is scheduled for early release because of his claim to have been born again. He has asked me to inquire where exactly you are staying in Beijing.

Anonymous said...

This is Murray Gilfillan.

Sheldon, I have no way to contact you right now except through this blog. I urge you not to be foolish with an opprotonity of this enormity. So I got the Chairman’s name wrong. Not important.

Get those pink plastic flamongoose shipped here as quickly as possible! Don’t let an imsignificant detail like shipping costs stand in the way. There are a billion Chinese here. No Pink Plastic Flamingos. Yet. Do the math. I am willing to splat the profits with you. Remember, nothing ventured nothing pained.

I’m sure you recognize I can’t do anything immudiately to get Pickering’s managers out of prison. But get focused, Sheldon. Cooperate and we will make such a fortune we’ll be able to hire the finest lawyers in the country.

Sheldon, this is urgent!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Murray. This is Sheldon. I hear you. I hear you but I don’t trust you. So how should I trust? Business deals always seem to work out for you but never for any others involved. So listen to me. This deal is too big I should just ship the birds. I’m doing one better. I’m coming with them in person.

By ship takes time. I’m arriving with the crates at Beijing Zhan train station in four weeks. The exact time is 10:00 a.m. on Monday, March 6, 2006. Be there. Have trucks. Have money. No money no birds. I swear.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon, this is Murray. I hope this gets to you before you leave. I’ve run into a prublem. Turns out the rice paddy crowd who were so eager for the pink plastic flamgolons are penniless country folk. I’m talking paupers here. The ones with the bucks live in the big cities, in condominimums. And they couldn’t care less about plastic birds.

But don’t worry. My contact here, Mr. Hung Woo, has arranged for your shipment to be picked up by Wong Ting Novelties where they will be melted and remolded into pink plastic dragon souvenirs for the tourisk industry. Not as big a deal as I hoped but at least we’ll both do better than break even, plus you’ll get a trip to China.

By the way, I didn’t get the name wrong, and Deng Xiaoping is not dead after all. He is still alive and still Chairman of Wong Ting Novelties. What made you think he was dead?

Sheldon, please conflurm you received this message before you leave.

Anonymous said...

Sheldon? Murray again. Did you get my message? Please confirm you got my message.

Anonymous said...

This is Hung Woo in Beijing. Mr. Gilfillan, where you now? What country you go to? Flamingo delivery go very very badly. You must write me very soon like you promise.

Mr. Sheldon not come alone. He arrive by train at Beijing Zhan with former president of Pickering. They look for you very much. When I tell them you already leave China they not believe my words. They say many dishonorable things about you very very loudly. On former president’s head veins grow big like worms. When truckers from Wong Ting Novelties begin to load crates Mr. Sheldon and former president try to stop them very physically. Big crowd gather to see unsocial behavior that include pulling hair, tearing clothes, one loss of upper denture, and some bleeding from noses.

Police come in electric cars and handcuff these two men. They drive them to jail. This good for Wong Ting Novelties but very very difficult for Sheldon and former president. The government criticize them very very strongly and give them five year program of education in self-criticism at Beijing Remand Prison.

Mr. Gilfillan, I now wait further instruction. Please advise.

Anonymous said...

Hello Hung Woo, this is Murray Gilfillan. Too bad about what happened to Sheldon and the former president but, alas, they have to take respoonsibility for their own inappropilate behavior.

I am happy Wong Ting Novelties received the plastic flamglolos. I will invoice them this afternoon. The flamingos’ steel legs, which I asked you to set aside, should be shipped to Laiwu Steel Corporation in Shandong of course. As you remember, they offered us a fantastic price.

Hung, have you obtained a private email address yet? I’d prefer to continue our correspordence privately instead of on this public blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is Hung Woo. Mr. Gilfillan, I feel not good to supply private email address on blog. This could cause me very very much spam. Where you go? What country you in?

Anonymous said...

Hello Hung Woo, this is Murray Gilfillan. I don’t want to say exactly what country I’m in on this public blog either. I’d like my legal uncertainties in the U.S. to blow over first.

As for your email address being made public, don’t worry. I guarantee you the Blog Administrator won’t post it. You see, in Beijing when I discovered my company’s phone was out of service, I had a feeling Pickering’s problems might mean trouble for me personally. I was worried about returning to the USA. I wanted to know who, if anyone, was Googling me. And a number of disgruntled people were. Now you know why I visited Beijing Internet Cafés so often. That’s where I set up this whole decoy blog site. Yes, ‘Lynn Newton’ is just an alias for me.

For a lark I went to Google Images and entered “running geezer.” I clicked on Search, found this guy, and borrowed his name and photo. I have no idea who he is.