humor, life, Media, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

The sham of asking for feedback on customer service and why companies should know no news is good news

From the desk of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

I called the cable company about a problem with my internet service.

A computer answered.

We are already off to a bad start.

The computer asked me to press numbers on my phone to direct me to the proper human who could help with the problem.

I used my smartphone, which really means I touched glass where a number appeared.

I found myself nostalgic for the old push-button phones from Northwestern Bell. Those phones couldn’t take a photo or play games, but they were well-built and heavy enough to be used as the murder weapon in a blunt-force trauma homicide.

Somehow the ability to push that button really hard made me feel better about these phone tree answering services.

The computer routed me to what it believed to be the appropriate place. I waited for a human to come on the line.

The computer asked a final question: “Would you consider taking a brief two-question survey after your call about your customer service experience? Press ‘1’ for ‘yes’ and ‘2’ for ‘no.’”

This is an odd time to ask this question. I hadn’t had a customer service experience yet and I was already being asked to rate it.

I declined the offer.

I always do.

Don’t put the responsibility of reviewing your employees’ performance off on me. I just want to get my Disney+ streaming the latest episode of “WandaVision” in HD.

I buy a lot of products from a large online retailer. They often send me emails asking me to review a product such as a book or toy.

This offends me.

I make my living as a writer. If you want me to sling sentences for your $1.7-trillion online retailer, pay me. I charge $1 per word.

I would also consider deep discounts.

I’m realistic. They aren’t going to pay me. I’ll be a good sport.

Here’s a review of every product I ever bought from them: “[Insert product name here] was probably fine or I returned it for a refund.”

Cut and paste as needed.

This obsession with rating and ranking knows no bounds. I watch a movie on Netflix, they want me to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Roger Ebert should sue. Of course, he’s dead. This probably keeps his litigation to a minimum.

EBay wants me to rate every transaction. The feedback system supposedly kept scofflaw sellers from ripping people off.

But everybody gets ripped off by somebody at some point on eBay. I’ve always gotten my money back.

Even if you want to give negative feedback, eBay makes you go through extra hoops to do it.

So why bother?

My feedback is I didn’t ask for a refund.

A favorite restaurant of mine offers discounts to frequent customers. They sent me an email asking me to rate my experience every time I used the card.

I blocked their email address.

I still eat at the place. That’s my feedback. I’m a repeat customer.

I understand that consumers want to have a say in how they are treated by the businesses with which they deal – especially the massive, monolithic and borderline oligarchic corporations that dominate modern consumer life.

But I believe most of the ways they gather feedback amounts to a wooden suggestions box on the breakroom wall with a slot for comment cards that fall right into a trash bin.

I struggle to believe that if I rate my customer service experience at the internet service provider poorly that this will lead to any meaningful change.

I don’t believe they record calls for quality and training purposes. I believe they record calls for evidentiary purposes in case of a lawsuit.

What ticks me off about the whole thing is I’m being asked for my opinion when I know damn well they don’t care and they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing.

My recourse is either to change where I buy things or accept a certain level of cruddy service.

Press “1” if you agree.

And if you disagree, just stop reading.

Daniel P. Finney saw a werewolf at Trader Joe’s. His hair was in a bun and he smelled of beard oil.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. And I got a nasty tax bill for daring to have health insurance while I was unemployed. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Iowa, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen and you don’t have to wrap me in the lasso of truth to get me to say that

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the best superhero film I’ve ever seen. Call it hyperbole. Accuse me of recency bias.

But wrap the golden lasso of truth around my fist and I’ll swear the same: “WW84” is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

And I’ve seen most of them, even “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.”

I admit to being biased in favor of Wonder Woman, a character who first caught my interest when the 1970s show starring Lynda Carter played in reruns at the childcare I periodically attended in order to get what the guidance counselors said was “much-needed socialization with peers.”

I read her comic books written by George Pérez, perhaps my favorite graphic artist, as a boy. I felt slight trepidation buying a comic about a female hero, but nobody said anything – especially not my dad, so I assumed it was OK.

It’s good for a boy to root for a girl. That’s the message I took from my dad not being unnerved by the title in my collection of books bought at Montross Pharmacy. A boy needs that kind of reinforcement from his father.

But this Wonder Woman, as played by Gal Gadot and rendered by director Patty Jenkins, is the best I’ve ever seen the character. It improves on the terrific original from 2017.

“WW84” is a movie about wishes. Jenkins tells the story loud, bold and colorful, but at its heart, this is a children’s story. Wishes can be sweet whispers into Santa Claus’ ear for a new toy or they can be desperate pleas by the jealous and embittered. Wishes can break your heart as easily as they slake your desire.

Wonder Woman, who is called only Diana in these films, reunites with long-dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in a lovely, tragic way. Scheming businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal of “The Mandalorian” fame) tries to rule the world by preying on the weaknesses of others.

Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is a bright-but-overlooked scientist who struggles with toxic male aggression and her own insecurities. She sees Diana’s poise and grace and covets it. She uses magic to gain Wonder Woman’s powers but skips the steps of practice that earns poise. This ends badly.

“WW84” is imperfect in spots. There’s a silly, “She’s All That” quality in attempting to make Wiig seem dumpy and ignorable, but even beautiful people are treated poorly and feel badly about themselves.

And her ultimate form as the monster Cheetah only reinforces the lessons the horrific uncanny valley of “Cats” taught us in 2019 – you just can’t CGI a person into a cat. It will always be too silly.

There are obvious present-day political allegories in the movie, right down to Maxwell Lord’s uncontrollable hair. And the way both Diana and Barbara must brush off unwanted attention feels like an “I see you” moment for the #metoo movement.

But I choose not to mingle with the angels and devils in political statements no matter how important or well-intentioned.

Instead, I look at the film as a whole and see a lot of joy. Most of the movie takes place in the bright, beautiful daylight. The Fourth of July fireworks scene is very sweet.

There is plenty of action and battle, but the day is not won by Diana punching the last monster to dust. Instead, her victory is convincing humanity to give up their greed, to let loose their pettiness and forgive themselves and everyone else – embrace life and love.

The moment is beautiful, complex and powerful – and for me, quite personal.

I mention my father’s support of me as I read comic books and watched sci-fi shows while his other sons excelled in Boy Scouts, hunting and fishing. I did not have such a close relationship with my mother, whose undiagnosed mental illness and prescription drug addictions made her cruel and erratic.

Many paragraphs will be stacked about how important it is for girls to see a hero like Wonder Woman on screen, to believe in.

But as someone who has carried the scars of a bad relationship with his mother well into middle age, I argue that “WW84” is something that’s very good for little boys – and grown men – to believe in, too.

Daniel P. Finney is fighting for your rights in his satin tights.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Movies, Pop Culture, reviews

HOT SHEET: 5-sentence reviews of ‘Birds of Prey,’ ‘Class Action Park’ and ‘SCOOB!’

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: We’re all stuck inside and, if we’re following CDC guidelines, not traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving. So, it’s time for the ol’ Paragraph Stacker to break out some of his patented five-sentence reviews. Plus, he got a free trial of HBO Max’s streaming service to help him get through the crushing grief of not being able to eat Mom 2.0’s dressing.

ITEM SECOND: 5-sentence review of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, the psychiatrist who fell in love with Batman’s nemesis the Joker first seen on screen in the 2016 stinker “Suicide Squad.”
  2. Robbie is the best part of both movies, which damns her with faint praise because both movies are awful, though in different ways.
  3. “Suicide Squad” is awful in the way superhero movies often are: too many characters with no clear purpose or reason to be together fighting a big CGI blob at the end.
  4. “Birds of Prey” brings together a lot of strong women to portray ill-conceived and unbelievably shallow characters to fight a throng of armed goons that ends with one big, unsatisfying boom.
  5. There may be an attempt at some underlying attempt at positive messaging about female bonding, but if this is the kind of garbage women have to watch to feel seen and represented in society and art, the patriarchy has a lot more to answer for than previously thought.

ITEM THIRD: 5-sentence review of “Class Action Park,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. This documentary alternates between a nostalgic reminisce and grisly crime story of an amusement park in Vernon Township, New Jersey, in the greater New York City area known as Action Park.
  2. Wall Street hustler Eugene Mulvihill opened the combination water and motorsports park with almost no engineering and no supervision as thousands of New York and New Jersey youth broke bones, ripped off their skin and died on the dangerous rides between 1978 and 1996.
  3. The film relies heavily on some MTV “Headbangers Ball” footage shot there as well as a tourism video and some home video footage, which limits the visual scope of the film.
  4. Interviews with patrons and former park workers, as well as the mother of the first person to die at the park, force the viewer to sway between funny anecdotes and true tragedy without much reverence for the dead or their survivors.
  5. “Class Action Park” is a worthy watch, but as it closes it reinforces two points: Teenagers should never be trusted with anything ever and people from New York and New Jersey are insufferable.

ITEM FOUR: Five-sentence review of “Scoob!,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Scooby-Doo was good exactly one time: in the 1969-70 confusingly punctuated series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.
  2. Every incarnation after that has diluted the character, from the hour-long “movies” with guest stars such as Phyllis Diller, Tim Conway and the Harlem Globetrotters, to the abysmal creation of Scrappy-Doo.
  3. Warner Bros. made two live-action movies with a CGI Scooby and Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame in a very short purple skirt.
  4. “Scoob!” is an attempt at a love letter for Hanna-Barbera cartoons and attempts to cram in Dastardly and Muttley and the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt into an all-CGI (Does no one draw anymore?) Scooby-Doo movie with a plot that boils down to “friendship fixes everything.”
  5. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker seldom concedes that when you’re an adult you should put away childish things, but perhaps with Scooby-Doo, it’s better he stick to the originals that gave a few laughs than another redux.

ITEM LAST: This blog will become private in a few weeks, which means you’ll have to request access to read the posts. It’ll still be free, but there will be an extra step to reading posts. The easiest way to avoid all that is go to https://paragraphstacker.com/ now and look for the follow button on the left side of the page. Enter your email address and confirm it. You’ll get every post delivered to your inbox.

One day, Lucy is going to let Daniel P. Finney kick that football.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, Media, News, Pop Culture, reviews, TV

HOT SHEET: Thank God! ‘Bob’s Burgers’ and ‘Fargo’ are back … and other crap, too

Monday, Sept. 28, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: “The Simpsons” returned with another episode that seems like most of the episodes from the last 20 years. The typist notes that in 1991, American parents believed Bart Simpson’s flippant flouting of authority would lead to the downfall of society. Now “The Simpsons” are a part of Disney+ kid-friendly streaming service. Yet as “The Simpsons” enter a 32nd season of endlessly edifying the incalculable stupidity of Homer Simpson, society actually feels on the verge of permanent fracture due in no small part to people as dumb as or dumber than Homer.

ITEM TWO: “Family Guy” returned. The series feels only slightly less perfunctory than “The Simpsons.” Most episodes are good for two jokes. Anyway, Stewie said the f-word in church and there was a funny cutaway gag about racist Boston sports fan.

ITEM THREE: “Bob’s Burgers” remains the best of Fox’s animated lineup and perhaps the network’s best series since “King of the Hill.” It depicts a believable family with wise-cracking kids with terrific writing that manages to coast the line between absurdity and believability by coupling each episode with a catchy original song. The 11th season debuts with Bob worried about his personal faults and daughter Tina’s struggles to learn a hand-slapping game.

ITEM FOUR: Unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.

ITEM FIVE: The magnificent crime anthology series “Fargo” returned after a three-year hiatus. This season centers the tension between Italian and Black crime families in Kansas City. The 2-hour opener also features a nurse who murders patients, a mixed-race couple and their 16-year-old daughter with a predilection for investigation and a police detective with obsessive compulsive disorder. Those who missed the previous seasons can jump in here and not miss a beat. “Fargo” was cable TV’s best series when it was on in 2014, 2015 and 2017. The year 2020 needs “Fargo” more than any of those years.

ITEM LAST: A previous edition of the Hot Sheet promised the message would self-destruct in 30 seconds. Many readers reported the message did not self-destruct and they felt cheated. We are working with our vendor to discover where this error occurred and hope to deliver promised self-destructing messages sometime late Q4 or early Q1. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Three out of four dentists recommend chewing Daniel P. Finney.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.