Sunday, January 22, 2012

Actual Telephone Conversations Heard at My House #12

Um... well, shit.

Okay. Before we get to the latest in my series of phone calls with professional shitty telemarketing fundraiser Associated Community Services, I have a, uh... well, something of a painful confession to make.

Months back, probably round May or so... I may have, um... sort of... donated some money... to a telemarketing charitable fundraiser. And the fundraising organization for the charity I donated to was kind of... well... A.C. Services.

(Ohhhh, shit that hurt way more to type than I imagined it would.)

Okay, okay, okay, I completely realize that donating to a charity through A.C. Services is a woefully ill-advised thing for anyone to do, but it's especially problematic for me, a guy who has done nothing but shit on them at every opportunity. Now, before you write me off as a complete dickweed who talks out of his ass and does not practice what he preaches (let alone stick to his NO EFFING TELEMARKETERS policy), let me first explain that at the time I relented and agreed to receive a donation packet from A.C. Services, I was not yet enlightened as to the glitter-specked-shitty nature of A.C. Services as a company. See, back in May, I had yet to do the research on them as a company to learn of the minuscule amount of money that actually makes it past their administrative coffers to the charities they have been hired to raise money for. (We're talking less than 20 percent of all funds raised actually getting to any given charity they serve, minuscule.) I also had yet to see how poorly many of the charities they represent are rated on Beyond that, my only real defense for violating my sacred rule of accepting no telephone solicitation of any kind is that the particular charity A.C. Services was representing that day was the U.S. Armed Forces Association. As a guy with a brother-in-law in the Army who spent a couple of years in Afghanistan, not to mention a father, a father-in-law, a cousin or two, half a dozen uncles and a number of friends who have served and/or currently serve in the military, I have a soft spot in my heart for the topic. This was the only reason I agreed to allow A.C. Services to send me a donation packet so I could send them a scant $20. However, in my phone conversation with them at the time of acceptance, I stressed to them that my usual household policy for all solicitation calls is to scream "EAT A BAG OF DICKS!" into the receiver and slam the phone down. And while I was indeed giving in to them this time I wanted no next time. I told Al the ACS telemarketer to take our phone number off of their call list. He agreed to this and gave me his personal assurance that he would personally never call us again.

Months have since passed and the calls have in no way stopped even though I've now told a second Associated Community Services telemarketer to put us on their do not call list.

Guess who called last week? Yep. Al, the exact same guy from AC Services who was once again raising money for the U.S. Armed Forces Association. How do I know it was him? He told me.

AL THE TELEMARKETER-- Hello, I'm calling for JUICE.

JUICE-- This is JUICE.

AL THE TELEMARKETER-- Hi there, Mr. AARON. I'm Al calling from AC Services. We spoke a while back when you donated $20 to the U.S. Armed Forces Association fund. How are you?

JUICE-- (Chills of horror run down spine as I realize that I actually did what he's describing) OkaaaaAY.

AL THE TELEMARKETER-- Now I know we said we'd cut back on the calls to you, because I know you guys like your privacy, and you've not had any calls, right?

JUICE-- Actually, Al, we've had more calls from AC Services than ever before.

AL THE TELEMARKETER-- Uh, oh. Well, um... Listen, the reason I'm calling today is because you were so generous with your donation to the U.S. Armed Forces Association fund before, and I know the people of BORDERLAND know you to be a good and charitable giver, so I was just--

JUICE-- Al, I have to let you know, not only do we once again NEVER accept telephone solicitation of any kind in this household, but we do NOT do business with AC Services. At all. I am now well aware of the small amount of funding that actually gets to any of the charities you represent and I don't like it. Therefore, AC Services is officially on my Do-not-donate-to list.

Al didn't have much to say after that.

I was so mad I went and dug up a few more more links to sites detailing the asshattery of AC Services and many of the "charities" that they serve.

Charity Navigator Blog
Tampa Bay Times

So let the word ring out once, our policy of no telephone solicitation is again firmly in place. So all of you legitimate charities out there can thank AC Services for being a bunch of lying assholes who have ruined it for you all. I'll still donate to charities, mind, but it won't be over the phone. In fact, I have now made an online donation of $10 to Seems to me off all the nonprofits I've heard about due to AC Services, Charity Navigator are the only ones who come close to doing the Lord's work.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Export Opinion

Wish I had watched this before Christmas Day, so I could have recommended what I consider to be a new holiday classic--sort of.

Last year, I came upon a trailer online for a film called Rare Exports. It's a Finnish made film from 2010 that was marketed as a Christmas horror movie, but is actually more of a dark fantasy Christmas movie. It concerns what happens when the one, true, original Father Christmas from Finnish folklore is discovered, entombed inside a mountain on the Russian border and is dug up. This is not jolly old St. Nick, by any stretch. The original Finnish incarnation of Santa Claus is a FAR darker character and way less jolly. It was one of my favorite trailers that I saw last year, but its taken a while for Netflix to get hold of the actual film for it.

While the premise seemed pretty absurd, it was so well-executed that I found it, with its widescreen/HD/cinematic nature completely compelling. (Watch for yourself to see.) I knew then that whoever put this together clearly knew what they were doing from a visual standpoint. However, I suspected that the movie would in no way live up to the promise of the trailer. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Netflix sent me Rare Exports before Christmas, but I didn't manage to watch it until the day after. Not only do I wish I'd watched it earlier, but that I'd showed it to my family while visiting them for Christmas, too, because they would have loved it.

Throughout my viewing of the movie I kept trying to decide whether what I was seeing was one of the most awesome movie's I'd ever seen or the dumbest. Or both. However, the performances of the actors in it, as they portray people forced to deal with pissed off old St. Nick, are so earnest that you just buy into it and go right along for the journey. And a fun journey it is, with more than a few unexpected twists and turns along the way, the less said about which the better.

My main critical point about the film is that by the end of it, it turns into what feels like a kid's adventure movie of the sort where the protagonist children figure out what's going on, have all the answers and show up the adults as they save the day in a fairly implausible way. In this case, the kids (or, kid, really) wind up working along side the adults to save the day in an arguably implausible way, but it still has that feel. I was able to get over that, despite the fact that there did come a point in the end game where a plot choice was made that stuck a knife in the ribs of my suspension of disbelief. It made me think, "Oh, that's bullshit! Nobody would ever let him do THAT. I'm not buying this." Then I remembered that I was watching a movie about people fighting evil Santa Claus and calmed right down.

Overall I really liked Rare Exports. The trailer is a great representation of the film itself. So if the included clip works for you, you'll like the film.

If you do seek this out, be sure to watch the two short Rare Exports films on the DVD, which were made in the years before the feature length movie and which inspire it. I'm not quite sure if they're alternate takes on the story, or stories that, in retrospect, serve as tongue in cheek sequels to the movie. However, while you can find them online right now (and at the Rare Exports webpage), I'd recommend waiting until after seeing the full movie to watch them. They're both great fun, but there are spoilery elements to them that might lessen the enjoyment of the longer film.