Monday, December 1, 2008

Good Afternoon, Cruel World

Dear Friends,

   At only 37 seconds, the Hard Taco song for December, "Giant U-Shaped Magnet," is the shortest piece to ever qualify as a monthly offering. From now on, Hard Taco will get in, tell you what you need to hear, and get out.
   As you know, the most popular topic of conversation for several years now had been The Case of the Runaway Bride. For those of you who have been living underneath a particularly heavy sound-proof rock, there was a woman named Jennifer Wilbanks who disappeared shortly before her wedding in the Spring of 2005. She reappeared in New Mexico, where she told police that she had been kidnapped and molested by a rotten-toothed Hispanic man. Eventually she confessed that she had invented the whole story, and simply had pre-marital jitters. This story was so captivating that nobody I know has been able to talk about anything else for nearly four years. You see, cases like this never really close. Will Wilbanks remarry? Will she issue a written apology to the rotten-toothed Hispanic community? Have the dogs in her search party been rendered useless for future rape-victim sniffing? If so, should Wilbanks have to pay to train some new dogs?

   This month, all interest in the Runaway Bride was suddenly and inexplicably supplanted by a new conversational nugget. The topic that has been on everyone's minds these days is financial uncertainty, and in particular "Depression-era suicide rates."  Unless you've been living in a particularly air-tight collapsed mine hole, you've seen headlines such as, "How to Talk to Your Children About Depression-Era Suicide Rates," and "Will Depression-Era Suicide Rates Change in the Next Five Years?"

   Many media outlets have been displaying grainy black and white images of disheveled businessmen standing on high ledges. What they don't tell you is that these pictures were all taken at the end of the Great Depression. You see, there were not nearly enough high-rises in 1929 to serve as suicide perches for the large influx of destitute businesspeople. Most corporate establishments were "ranch style" and had only one story*. Despairing white collar workers who jumped from the ledges of their workplaces would occasionally twist their ankles or damage a flower bed, but they rarely ended up dead enough to keep them from returning to work the next day.

   It was soon recognized that crest-fallen industrial tycoons had become an underserved population. The Roosevelt administration restructured the New Deal to include generous government skyscraper-building contracts, hoping to fill a much-needed role for woebegone day-traders and large business owners. These costly office spaces were quickly snatched up by companies whose self-destructive business executives needed high windows. The construction of these skyscrapers greatly increased the suicide rate among people with suits, while creating thousands of new jobs. This provided the economic stimulus that heralded the end of Great Depression.

   70 years later, it appears that we may have learned nothing from history. Unless you've spent the last several months suspended in thick foam, you would know that new skyscraper construction projects, such as the Chicago Spire, have halted due to the subprime mortgage crisis.  Friends, we need to prevent this from happening. Today's despondent billionaires are not satisfied simply to jump 100 feet to their doom. Warren Buffet, Alice Walton, Michael Dell, and others have declared that they would be "better off dead" and demanded that the government build them a 200-story building from which to hurl themselves. (This request has often been referred to as the Forbes 200.) Microsoft's Bill Gates has reportedly stated, "I cannot consider suicide a legitimate option to end my [expletive] misery unless I can plummet at least 250 stories." Gates added, "I doubt anyone would miss me."

   Please join me in urging our new administration to continue building supertall buildings. We need our nation's richest men and women to end their own lives so we can go back to talking about the Runaway Bride some more.

With warmest regards,

* As opposed to "dude ranch style," a type of architecture in which weight-bearing walls were reinforced with belt buckles and buttressed with lassos.