Americans. Practical, clever, hard-working folk. But do they love their free time! And for eminently practical reasons. It's well understood that leisure time is critical to the proper function of democracy. Without free time, how could citizens stay informed and make sound judgments about the world around them?
To the average American, leisure is life. This is the time we take to learn about what's in store. And what better way to stay abreast of the future than with futurism? Cyberpunk, TV exposes on the links between angels and Area 51, alien-corpse auctions on EBay, and a myriad of other forms of pseudoscientific divination surge forth to quench our thirst for knowledge.
Ah - who are we kidding. Who cares about reality, or the future? Work, wife and kids are all the average American can handle. With maybe a little God on the side. All that awaits them out in the world is more work, more wives, more kids, more gods.
Desperate for meaning, their aesthetic itches not scratched by the production of offspring named Dillyn and Caytlyn, Americans turn to fantasy. Hey, it's cooler than the news - and it least it provides a ray of hope that, in the future, people won't be such gaping asses as they are now.
With this in mind, What Jail Is Like now presents a line of products to give you tomorrow's fix of tomorrow - today! Relax, let go, and leave it to the Scots to splash around in filthy loos looking for their opiates. You're an American - you need your gratification untainted!
I. The first product to receive our attention isn't actually a new product, but a repackaging of the old for a new purpose. Though it may not sound exciting, it's absolutely essential in this age of environmental consciousness for companies to think responsibly. After all, the environment is incredibly self-conscious, and easily made to panic and cry. We all need to conserve and reuse, and thus reassure the environment that we won't abandon it for a younger sexier environment. Intrigued? Read on...
The rate of cultural evolution has stepped up to such a pitch that even the best prophets are barely ahead of the game. Even our biggest transnational corporations, normally such deep wellsprings of human wisdom, can misjudge the latest management fads.
For instance, a recent memo distributed to officers of a major insurance provider explained that the accelerated pace of technological change necessitated constant renewal of resources. Of course this meant stuff like new computers and networks, but the directorial board took it to mean human capital.
Since insurance companies are on the cutting edge of any trend, other businesses followed their lead. They began to encourage constant turnover among employees while rewarding old mainframes with promotions and increased sick leave. This misunderstanding reached an extreme form among HMOs, which encouraged patients to die quickly so that their one old creaky CAT scanner didn't have to pull overtime.
This increasing transience of careers and life has put stress on communities. No sooner do families settle into homes, work and school than they have to leave again. Meanwhile, old computers always have a place, nestled in the warm bosoms of claims offices.
Corporations created the problem, but within the problem lies the solution. Perhaps the situation is different than it appears at first glance. Perhaps communities are not really endangered - merely obsolete. Perhaps work is the community of the future - the only tie that anyone should ever need. That's the trend, and who is anyone to argue with a trend?
But how to make the workplace a true community? How to house and feed your employees, and provide them with meaningful leisure activities? A place where children can be nurtured?
The solution lies in cyberspace. Anyone who has cracked open a computer knows just how much empty space there is inside. Now you can turn that space into a meaningful investment. Renovate your old mainframes with drywall and plumbing, and convert them into employee apartments!
This arrangement provides a minimum of two square feet per person, which should make them feel safe and cozy. Mainframes have the advantage of being self-heating and self-ventilating, and can supply a rich source of protein via the roaches that nestle amongst the vacuum tubes.
If your employees have children, not to worry! It's extremely cheap to construct a play area out of your equipment's original packing material. No child can resist playing fort with cardboard boxes. And bubble wrap - as well as being an excellent material for clothing and insulation - can easily be converted into air mattresses for children to bounce on. Finally, it's almost unnecessary to mention the deep affection that small children feel for plastic bags.
This would play havoc with the real estate industry, but that den of thieves is ripe for revolution anyway. No schoolkid has ever toured a real estate factory, and for good reason. The commercial images of land coming off the assembly line shiny and plastic-wrapped are lies. Real land is dirty and unsanitary, and frequently is not inspected for dangerous bacteria.
Cyberspace has finally joined with conservation to create the abode of the future. Don't wait - rent now.
II. There's no doubt that withdrawal from the world is the answer to every problem. However, withdrawal is not without complications. One of the biggest is the nagging guilt that you're missing something, or not doing something you should, or not learning how to appreciate the finer points of presidential candidates - such as their names. The world out there has lots of problems, and you kinda suspect that John Travolta didn't really go to court to protest water contamination, even though there was that movie. So what can you do?
Wait no longer - the solution is here. An evolutionary leap in withdrawal! A whole new kind of withdrawal that allows you yourself to save the Earth and be a hero, or at least feel sort of like you're doing it!
Sony and Monsanto, working in tandem, have created the next level of alternate reality. Sony has crafted a digital environment capable of simulating a world in dire peril - for example, a government whose strings are pulled by a small group of old white men who pose as wounded vets and panhandle, telling innocent people that the War left them medically unable to smile. That's fraud, and you're just the man to stop it!
Monsanto, meanwhile, has perfected a SuprQwik Genetic Makeover kit. This allows you to graft onto your blubbery person the genes of the action hero of your choice. Selection is currently limited to Martin Lawrence and Keanu Reeves, but the range of choice is expected to widen soon. Even Lara Croft may soon join Team Monsanto, thanks to a small donation of genetic material from seventies easy-listening sensations Seals & Crofts.
This all ties together into the Linear Immersive Environment (or LIE), in which you solve the intricate problems confronting the digital world of your choice. A typical scenario runs like this...
YOU: Give up, robotic menace. I have you surrounded.
ROBOTIC MENACE: Omigod, you're like totally Keanu Reeves! Can I have your autograph?
YOU: Certainly. But I require a dotted line on which to sign. *BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM*
ROBOTIC MENACE: A dotted line...stitched across my thorax...ugh...
YOU: The pen is mightier than the sword, dude.
Of course you might come up with a better punchline, since today's tech-savvy audience is unlikely to connect with archaic implements such as pens.
Be the first to buy the LIE - now from Sony and Monsanto!
III. Supposedly the wave of the future, video-on-demand is already passe. It's been prehyped for so long that Americans are already bored with it. Hey - some of us actually like to go to the video store, just to remind ourselves that there are people with worse lives than us (the clerks) and worse taste (everyone else in the store).
So - ever sensitive to the needs of the peeps, What Jail Is Like steps in with new and fragrant vaporware for everyone to be preexcited about! (You'll thank us later, when the video hype goes retro and becomes a cool party theme).
In America, video serves many of the functions served by friends in saner cultures. Namely - boring you to death with the same old stories, and providing familiar (and better-paid) faces for you to stare at while you munch your cheese popcorn.
However, in this hurry-up-and-settle-down society, people don't have time for friends. They only have time to wish they had time for friends. Why is this? Because friends are other people! Like you, they have spouses to whine at, toes to pick and paper clips to jab into their wrists. But they do all this at different times than you. Even when you can make time for a lunch date, commute times pretty much insure that you'll only be able to lick the fat-free mayo off your sandwich before you have to run and pick up Jimbo and Leeza from their playdates.
So what can you do to fill the void, now that some schmuck just grabbed Blockbuster's eighteenth and final copy of The Haunting - that film you needed to balm your soul and embalm the rest of you? You can take our advice and purchase Friends On Demand!
Friends On Demand is everything that video is not. Using the latest graphical 3-D rendering techniques coupled with the revolutionary AI algorithm, Depressed Expectation Targeting Heuristics (or DETH), the Friends On Demand software tailors a friend to meet the needs of your truncated life.
Your Friend will be an impeccable listener, gazing with rapt attention as you embellish your small but respectable ouevre of life experiences - such as that time in sixth grade when you snapped Cindy Lou's bra and accidentally broke it. What business did a sixth grader have with a Wonderbra, anyway?
Your Friend automatically self-tailors to complement you in every way. It always has the perfect suggestion for any occasion. This could be a candlelit bubble bath, a shopping trip to upgrade your wardrobe, or a bracing midnight walk to find couples making out in cars and shoot them. It's up to you!
You can choose your Friend from a palette of digitally scanned celebrity faces, ranging from Alex Trebeck to Katie Couric. With the Deluxe Edition of Friends, you can even apply the Digital Silicone utility to give your Friend bigger parts. Not that you need them yourself, understand - you just like to show people that you run with the best!
A bug reported in the early Alpha releases has been logged, and a fix is in the works. The bug was the result of application programmers designing friends that they themselves would like to have. As a result, every Friend looked like Agent Scully in leather, and would continually insist that the user drink a potion to increase his/her charisma to 14. The Beta release shouldn't have this problem, since the Marketing team has pitched in and brainstormed on Friends they would like to have. As a result, new Friends will look like the corporate shareholders. This should do wonders for the stock price!
Friends On Demand. You'll never need people again.
IV. Face it - your image isn't what it should be. Heck - you aren't what you should be. No matter how you try, you can't always be nice, or funny, or even marginally nice-smelling. You need to be perfect so your friends will like you, but - it's such a responsibility! What can you do?
You need an image broker. And not just any quack with a makeover studio. But where can you find a competent spokesperson and trainer?
For thousands of years, people turned to God (or his subsidiary, Christ) to broker their images. But it didn't work out the way everyone hoped. For one - unless someone went to exactly the same branch office of God as you, he was likely to find you repellent. Hardly the desired result! For another - though his fee was nominal, God tended to take credit for every good thing his clients did - but take no responsibility for their slipups.
In the early nineties, brave bands of musicians attempted to make it big - with no spin on their images. Melody was frowned upon as effete, and the chords walked nameless among us. Purity ruled: heroin became widely acclaimed as a tool for enforcement of chastity.
However, people soon realized that these imageless musicians could only project one emotion: total boredom with their own music. Things reached the breaking point when the Cheese Drippings released their single "Dumb Ole Empty Fifth - Now I Gotta Quit Drinkin and Play Songs". Red-faced VJs had to explain that "empty fifth" is in fact a musical term, not a reference to lack of alcohol. (MTV promptly fired the offending VJs, promising to replace them with personalities less uppity with da education).
Something had to change. Thankfully, megacorporate record execs had the answer. Calling in a favor from their bud James Cameron, they commandeered his chain gang of software designers. Working day and night for piles of Pokemon cards, these cybersavants created the world's first Digital Enthusiasm Simulator.
The next step was to find musicians everyone could connect with. Realizing that everyone loves the girl next door, our canny VPs pooled their most nubile school-age daughters, gave them tube tops and kickboxing lessons, and teamed them with the software experts.
Despite numerous bruisings and rejections for prom dates, the Unix gurus persevered and helped the girls lay down tracks that sounded uniformly cheerful and upbeat. The kids of America responded fervently, buying singles by the bajillions, despite the fact that early releases sounded a bit generic.
But these kinks were ironed out as time went on. Silicon experts next perfected the Urban Attitude Simulator. Now even the most Aryan cheerleader could sound urbane, and make millions for Daddy just by lisping over phat beats. The age of Liza Doolittle had finally arrived.
But what does this mean to you - Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Smith from Anytown, USA?
Think about your job. It's hard, right? Whenever a customer calls, complaining about your employer's product or their rheumatism (which are usually the same thing), you have to be friendly and helpful - in a noncommittal way. No matter what. Even transferring the customer in circles for forty minutes doesn't always help.
Or think about your home life. Whenever your spouse interrupts your quality time on the throne with requests for Ritalin and Drano, it's your job to sound inconvenienced - but not furious. It's hard to put just the right edge of ice in your voice, every time! What can you do when you're too tired to play the role?
The answer is - buy. Buy the Personal Attitude Assistant. Now from Virgin Electric - a joint venture of Virgin Records and General Electric.
The unit is deceptively simple in appearance. It consists of a voicebox which attaches to your throat and a strip of plastic that fits over your face. Aside from altering your normal screech or mumble into a pleasant baritone, the unit makes you immensely more attractive. And the plastic is not just to hide what you don't have - it's actually a memory-shaped polymer that responds to emotion. Kind of like Flubber that sits on your face.
No matter what crap gets shoveled your way, the Personal Attitude Assistant helps you deal. It has the right inflection and expression for anything. Take this patently hypothetical example:
BOSS: Hey, Phil. I have a special job for you.
PHIL: [Grateful but not obsequious] For me?
BOSS: Yes, Phil. Seems like we need a place to dump used batteries. Americans love batteries, but not once they've been used. Potential for infection, you know.
PHIL: Oh, of course, sir. I wouldn't want my daughter to accidentally touch any dirty D cells.
BOSS: Exactly, Phil. That's why we need to dump them in some banana republic that can't afford to lose our arms sales. Burma, perhaps?
PHIL: Sir, you know it makes me happy to fulfill any request you make. However, may I say that in this case your powers of perception are astonishing. They extend beyond those of any ordinary human - perhaps even to the edge of the known universe.
BOSS: Ah, Phil. Ours is a sweet sweet love.
Virgin Electric now offers group licenses on the PAA. Wire your entire office! With PAA, every suggestion is a good suggestion, and every pink slip is a great pink slip.
The Personal Attitude Assistant. Because appearances are everything. And because, sometimes, the world needs a break from you.