Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rod-Boy’s Fashion Tips for Summertime

As we head into the final stretch toward sho’nuff summertime in sunny South Carolina, many of you are wondering what the fashion trends of the season will be.

And, naturally, that means my email box is full of inquiring minds asking me for the inside scoop, seeing as how I have earned somewhat of a reputation as a perennial fashion trendsetter. (Many people depend on my advice to avoid making fashion faux-pas.)

Take clam-diggers, for instance. I’m confident that my all-time favorite summertime article of clothing attire is going to make a comeback. Nevermind the fact that I haven’t actually seen a pair of clam-diggers since I was six years old. This summer, I plan to find a pair somewhere and don them… and I’m pretty sure the trend will spread like wildfire. (I always liked the rope belt, which, when I was six years old, also came in pretty handy for tying up siblings.)

Here are the rest of clothing trends I’ll be setting in the coming months:

Shirts -- There are two basic shirt choices in the summertime: printed tee-shirts or alohas (aka Hawaiian). Which you wear depends largely on your belly size. (Get it? Depends “largely” on your belly size!) If you’re occasionally a big, fat, giant, hippo-pig-whale, as I am, you’ll want to stick with the loose fitting alohas, instead of the sometimes snug-fitting tee-shirts. I personally am a big fan of the alohas… mainly because I’m a BIG fan of the alohas! Printed teeshirts, on the other hand, do offer the extra advantage of advertising your favorite rock band, NASCAR driver, or allergy medication.

Color choices of shirts – and all summerwear, for that matter – depends largely on your choice of BBQ sauce, since BBQ is the meal most likely to be eaten in the summertime. If I’m planning on eating ketchup-based BBQ sauce, I’ll probably go with a red-toned shirt; if it’s mustard-based sauce, then I’ll trend toward a yellow or mustard color. Bottom line: If you go ahead and plan in advance to blend your shirt with your sauce, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache from the almost-certain “drip and stain” eventuality. (By the way, I have found that a good, flowery, multi-color aloha shirt will hide virtually ANY summertime BBQ drippage you might encounter!)

Footwear -- Two words: Flip Flop! It’s the next best thing to going barefoot, which is really my favorite, but I know a lot of big city folks who read this column – from places like Pelion, Prosperity, Elgin and Huger – will reject my notion of going barefoot. If you can’t go barefoot, flip-flops are the next best thing, followed by sandals and old, worn-out sneakers. Socks, on the other hand, should definitely NOT be worn in the summertime. I mean, what’s the point? (If you feel you must wear socks, I recommend black socks, worn with sandals, so you will blend in with the tourists visiting from Up North.)

Pants -- While you’re waiting for clam-diggers to once again become all the rage (just because I said so), there are a few other acceptable styles of pants you can wear: Cut off jeans are a safe choice. Swimtrunks always work. And I seem to generate a lot of real nice comments, compliments, and approving smiles from total strangers every time I wear my plaid Bermuda shorts that my aunt gave me back in 1973.

Neckwear – This is the area of clothing which represents the greatest difference between summertime and the other seasons. The recommended neckwear(s) in the summertime generally fall into three categories: 1) Straps, such as sunglasses, guitars, or beverage holders; 2) Hawaiian leis, to match the highly-recommended aloha shirts; and 3) Bibs… very helpful when slurping up the BBQ which should be consumed at least five days a week during the summer months.

Neckwear which is NOT recommended during summertime is: 1) necktie (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… as if I even OWN one!); and, 2) jewelry, like gold chains, etc. This ain’t Jersey, you know.

Accessories – The Stylish Southern Male’s wardrobe can be completed with a few well-thought-out accessories: straw hat, sunglasses, and a white stripe where your wristwatch once was. It’s summertime! Who needs to know what time it is?

To select the appropriate straw hat, you’ll want to factor in the angle you expect your head to lay on your hammock, which is, after all, the most important pastime of a good summer day.

Your shades, on the other hand, say much about your personality… about “who you are” as person. (Mine, for instance, reveal that I am a confirmed cheapo who likes to shop at dollar stores and consignment shops.)

Well, that should cover the fashion basics, and allow you to head out into the summer sunshine stylin’ and profilin’!!!

There is, of course, much, much more I could tell you about fashion, but it will just have to wait until next week, when our fashion topics will be: “Tattoos for Great-Grandparents”; “Piercings After 50”; and “Elastic Waistbands: Not Just for Formal Wear Anymore!”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I’m in the white car

If you happen to see me walking around a parking lot this week, seemingly meandering from vehicle to vehicle, don’t worry. It will just be me looking for my car.

This week, it turns out, I’m in a rental vehicle. Last week, a delivery truck smushed the door of my car. (“Smush”, incidentally, is NOT a technical automotive industry term – and actually doesn’t even show up in most English language dictionaries – but it’s the only word which can adequately describe precisely what happened to the door of my car.)

The rental vehicle is white. It has a name – probably something like Ford, Chevy, Dodge, or TamishiakiYomasukiSushhama – but car makes and models go in one ear and out the other with me. All I know is it’s white.

You may know this about me: I am not a car person. I can’t tell them apart. They’re all about the same to me. I can’t tell you what’s under the hood of my car. Actually, I HAVE owned cars that I’m not really sure which end WAS the hood.

What I know about a car is this: I go out in the morning and put the key in the ignition and turn the key and either it starts or it doesn’t. If it starts, I drive it. If it doesn’t, oh well, I guess I just have to find a different car.

As a result of a total lack of knowledge, understanding, and concern about all things automotive, I have amassed a pretty long list of car tales in my lifetime… far too many to recount in this space in a single week. It would take several weeks… and I just might do that.

But these honest-to-goodness, absolutely-true tidbits will give you a clue how I am with cars: I once owned a car which broke down so often, it had a trailer hitch installed on the front bumper for ease in towing! I once lost a car. And I once painted a car myself… with a paintbrush.

Obviously, I am not mechanically inclined. The only tool I have ever found even remotely useful in repairing a car is a hammer.

And now, as automotively-challenged as I am, I face the additional problem of driving a car that looks exactly like half the other cars on the road. It’s a little white car… and that’s really all I know about it.
And, to make things worse, I’m just a tad absent-minded. Sometimes, right in the middle of doing something, I completely forget to

So, when I go into the grocery store, absent-mindedly bumbling along the aisles in search of grocery items I can’t remember at locations I can’t recall, I’m also very likely to forget exactly where I parked my little white rental car.

A few years ago, when I was travelling from Columbia to Charleston in a similarly nondescript borrowed car, I stopped at the rest area near Orangeburg. When I came out of the restroom, to my dismay, I had no clue which of the 50 cars in the rest area I had been driving. Through the miracle of Electronic Cell-phones, however, I was able to contact the owner of the car and establish the color, size and tag number. And, 49 cars later, I found it!!!

Normally, it’s not a big problem for me. Sure, I forget where I parked, but it rarely takes me more than a half-hour to find my car, because it’s usually the only one of it’s kind in the lot. Like my rental, it’s white… BUT it’s old and big and rectangular… with a blue top. My car is usually easy to find, because it’s roughly the size of a WWII battleship, and shaped a lot like a Ramada Hotel. And, just in case there are two, mine is the one with the assortment of brightly-colored bumper stickers plastered on it, ranging back to the “I Like Ike” era.

This week, I’m trying to avoid going to the grocery store, to avoid the embarrassment of losing my car. But one can only go so long without nourishment.

If you see me in the parking lot, peering into the window of every single white car, don’t fret. It’s just me trying to find the one with a hammer on the front seat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The return of the Big, Fat, Giant Hippo-Pig-Whale!!!

It’s baaaaaaa-ck!

The big, fat, giant hippo-pig-whale that believes itself to be my alter-ego is trying desperately to take over my body again.

Actually, the BFGHPW was only gone for a week or so.

Regular readers of this column will recall that, back during the frosty winter days of January, I forthrightly proclaimed on these pages: “I am a Big, Fat, Giant Hippo-Pig-Whale”. My girth had begun to exceed my net-worth. My waistline has become a wasteland. I was regularly cheating on my over-eating. (I was an huge-enormous poet that didn’t know it.)

So, given my gargantuosity (a word I have just made up to describe the condition), I did what I always do to shed a few pounds: I challenged the whole world to a weight-loss competition. And… the whole world sent eleven of its stoutest members to accept my challenge.

For eight weeks, a dozen of us were slaves to our chosen diets in a battle of willpower to see which of us would claim the $100 per person prize (which converts to $1200 American dollars, for the numerically-challenged).

That weight-loss contest came to a conclusion last week, on April 6th, which, it turns out, was the Monday before a major holiday: Easter!!!

Here’s an interesting fact which I never fully realized until last week: As it turns out, Easter is one of the Major Food Holidays, along with Thanksgiving and Christmas. The main event of the holiday, other than going to church, is eating a big Easter meal. Let me repeat: A BIG Easter meal.

I have probably sorta taken those meals for granted in previous years. But not this time. I had just come off of an eight-week self-imposed hunger strike – during which I had officially lost 32.7 pounds – and I apparently unknowingly set about trying to see if I could gain it all back at one sitting!!!! I almost succeeded! Hence, about a half-dozen pounds of the Big, Fat, Giant Hippo-Pig-Whale has returned!!!!

But it was great being down 32.7 pounds while it lasted… which was about an hour and a half.

As it turns out, my 32.7 pounds lost was good enough to put me in second place for the competition… just ahead of three other former weight-loss champs. The reigning weight-loss champ Don Gawrys lost 32 even. Three-time champ Kirk Luther lost 26. And the original contest champ Norman Agnew lost 22.

Turns out most of the other contenders – Bruce Holland, Jimmy Carroll, Denis Vaucher, Doug Adam, Shirley Towne, Jim Miles, and Terry Campbell – were merely window dressing whose only role was making the prize money bigger. They averaged losing about 10 pounds.

But the big winner – and new Almost Annual Fifteen Fat Guys Weight Loss Competition Champion – was Tom Boetger, General Manager of Carrabba’s in Harbison. Tom bested the field with a total weight lost of 46.8 pounds, dropping from 267.8 to 221 in eight weeks.

At the big final weigh-in, Tom let us in on his secret: He went on a diet, and stuck to it!!! Brilliant! No… Genius! What a plan!!! Diabolically clever.

So, our congrats to Tom, the new King of the Formerly Fat Guys.

And I hope Tom enjoyed HIS Easter as much as I enjoyed mine: Six pounds!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rod-Boy’s Tax Tips

This week, I want to offer some free advice… and as with ALL the free advice I give out, it’s worth TWICE as much.

However, if I were you, I would think twice about following my advice this week, because this week, I’m leaving my typical areas of expertise – fashion, art, cuisine, physical fitness, home d├ęcor and design, Scrabble, and Undercover CIA Operations – and delving into an entirely new field: Rod-Boy’s IRS Tax Deduction Advice.

Now, already, I know the question prolly at the tip of your tongue: “Hey, Rod-Boy! Since you’re giving away all this valuable advice for free, like a donation, will you be able to claim it as a tax deduction?”

The answer is a resounding “NO”. Claiming Free Advice as a tax deduction is a bad idea, a lesson I learned during the IRS Audits of 1982 and 1983.

The next question you’re likely thinking to yourself now is, “Hey, Rod-Boy! If I applied my Schedule C Accrued Depreciation Allowance to the Earned Income Credit or my Adjusted Minimum Tax because of my Net Operating loss from Credit Default Swaps, can I apply the carry-forward to a SEP or HAS?”

My answer to that question is a resounding “Can you say that again slower.. and maybe use some littler words?”

My point is: I do not know everything about Income Taxes. But I do know some stuff. And, today, I want to share some of the stuff I know, or else have just invented out of thin air, one or the other.

With times being what they are – a slow economy, a recession, tight-money, and Reality TV Shows almost every night – things seem pretty bleak. And with tax filing day coming up next week, most Americans will be looking for ways to hold on to every penny possible, which sometimes leads to “playing a little fast and loose” with the ol’ tax deductions.

Here’s my advice: Don’t do it!

I really can’t tell you what deductions you SHOULD claim, but I have compiled a handy little list of deductions you should NOT take. (Feel free to clip this list and pass it around the office to your co-workers.)

Here it is -- Rob-Boy’s List of Bad Tax Deductions. DO NOT try to claim these tax deductions:

-- One of the most common deductions being tried unsuccessfully this year is the Interest on your Mortgage Deduction for the cardboard boxes many Americans are currently living in.

-- Some taxpayers are trying to claim Education Credits & Deductions for going back to school because watching – an evil plot to take over the world – has turned their brains into mush.

-- The IRS has denied a claim for Depreciation Allowance on a ShamWow when it began to lose its absorbency after only 23,257 uses.

-- Several Illinois taxpayers unsuccessfully claimed Charitable Donations to the Governor of Illinois in their attempts to be appointed to the United States Senate.

-- In addition to the Hybrid Vehicle Credit, some are listing a Hybrid TV Credit, arguing that their TV has not yet switched from digital to analog as promised.

-- The Bernie Madoff Medical Expenses Deduction, which allows Bernie Madoff to take large deductions years in advance, because if he ever gets out of prison, he’s probably going to need lots of medical attention.

-- The IRS is also not likely to allow the “Serving Fish to Tourist in T-Shirts” Deduction because you’re broke and have no money so what could it possibly hurt.

-- And this year’s catch-all deduction is the “So Easy A Caveman Could Do It” Deduction Suite, a collection of large, random, miscellaneous deductions, none of which are valid, but if the IRS questions you, you just say: “Oops! Sorry. I had a caveman do my taxes for me.”

That’s my list. None of these deductions will work, so I’m afraid you’re just going to have to suck it up and pay your taxes.

However, while none of these deductions will work, I am exploring another plan to deal with taxes in these dismal times. At the grocery store last week, the lady ahead of me in the checkout line had an envelope full of coupons she had clipped, and she saved about a hundred dollars on her grocery bill.

So do you think the IRS will accept grocery coupons?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Forward This Week

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour

This week, for the second time in less than a month, many Americans will once again set their clocks ahead one hour, thanks to a new Economic Stimulus program passed this month by Congress.

Called “Economic Stimulus Daylight Savings Time” (ESDST), the new program is totally voluntary for Americans wishing to dedicate an extra hour each day to reviving the economy.

With many citizens already planning to use their initial extra hour of Daylight Savings Time to earn extra income, thus stimulating the economy, Congress hopes a second, additional extra hour will stimulate the economy even more. The original proposal, which would have mandated the second hour of Daylight Savings Time for all states, stalled in the Senate after passing the House, forcing the Obama administration to offer a compromise which made the extra hour totally voluntary.

If the ESDST voluntary extra hour succeeds, sources say Obama will use that success to bolster his health care proposal, which is designed to work on the same principal.

To increase participation, the plan offers citizens additional incentives:

-- Participants will also be able to Spring Forward on their income taxes, with the traditional April 15th deadline moved forward one month to May 15th for those who sign up for the extra hour;
-- As an additional economic stimulus, participants will be allowed to roll-back the odometer on their primary vehicle by up to 10,000 miles;
-- The long-awaited “analog to digital” TV conversion will be delayed by up to one year for ESDST participants; and
-- All participants will be allowed to reset their home bathroom scales by up to 10 pounds, allowing instant weight loss for participants.

While traditional DST always begins at the hour of 2:00 am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, ESDST will begin midweek, during the night of Tuesday, March 31st, with participants re-setting their clocks at 2:00 am Wednesday morning (4/1/2009).

Not all officials are happy with the Economic Development Daylight Savings Time plan.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford rejected the extra hour outright, writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial that he will veto any future Daylight Savings Time legislation. Sanford, a strong proponent of the global economy, said he believes that the time-of-day should always be exactly the same in all time zones around the world. Known for his Libertarian leanings, Sanford said he also believes that each individual should have the right to choose their own time-of-day.

Sanford’s staunch Libertarian ally, Wall Street mogul Howard Rich, agreed with the Governor, and announced plans to fund new “Time-Choice” political organizations in a dozen states, appropriately named: “Iowans Against Gun Control”, “South Carolinians for Gooder Government”, “North Carolinians for Government Gooder than South Carolina’s”, “Texans United for Boots (TUB)”, “Utah Citizens for Wife”, “North Dakotans for Warmer Weather”, “Save The Seals”, “Rescue The Whales”, “Help the Hippos”, “Serving Fish to Tourists in Tee Shirts”, and “I Hate the New Facebook”.

It was unclear whether those groups have any connection to another recently formed organization, “Gullible Transplanted Northerners Who Always Fall for Rod-Boy’s Annual April Fools Columns”.