As someone who doesn't have money falling out his ass, I try to cut corners where I can when it comes to grocery shopping, home repairs or relieving what ails me. This is also probably why my wife seldom sends me out to grocery shop by myself anymore, even when armed with a list, because I'll usually come home with the cheapest shit on the shelves. Whenever I’ve argued there’s no difference between Diet Pepsi and the store brand knock-off, she's countered with, “Then why buy a Blu-Ray when the DVD is five bucks cheaper?”
Well played, Francie, well played.
While it’s okay to cut some corners at the supermarket, I learned the hard way over the years not to pick up bargain brands of certain products unless I wish to incur my family's wrath. At my house, it's Best Foods mayo or nothing; I brought home a jar of Miracle Whip one time and, based on everyone's reaction when I pulled it from the grocery bag, you'd have thought it was a human head. When it comes to dog food, my wife brought it to my attention that chicken products are bad for Wheaten Terriers, so simple Dog Chow is now out of the question. Have you ever tried to find dog food that doesn’t contain chicken? It’s like looking for Waldo in a sea of Waldos, and when you finally do find that bag o’ cluck-free kibbles, be ready to dip into your child's college fund.
In my house, the same best-or-nothing mantra applies to ice cream, salad dressing, cereal, pain relievers, butter, juice, pancake syrup, lunch meat, cheese and feminine hygiene products.
Regarding the last item on that list, I've since flat-out refused to ever buy them again on my own. Not that I’m embarrassed or anything, but I live in a houseful of females, all of whom now endure their monthly cycles (yes, fear for me). Whenever someone's cycle started without warning, my wife used to make the stupid mistake of trusting me to venture to Walgreens for these items with instructions regarding which brand and type. However, there are more varieties of napkins and tampons than there are stars in the heavens, and directions for assembling IKEA furniture are less confusing than the obscure labels and charts plastered on these products, which minutely differentiate one type from another. As a guy with no personal frame-of-reference regarding menstrual maladies, of course I’m gonna pick the cheapest thing which most closely resembles the instructions handed to me. After all, pads are pads, right?
Hence, one of our bathroom cupboards is filled with feminine products wrongly purchased by yours truly that no woman in my house can actually use. I suppose exchanging them for the right product was an option, but I've since found other uses for them, such as makeshift coffee filters, killing spiders and wiping dust from my precious home theater system. In fact, there are websites which show a variety of alternative uses for sanitary napkins. Seriously.
As other thrifty homebodies can attest, you can save a lot of hard-earned cash by turning worthless items into something handy. Used coffee grounds make great garden fertilizer, Coca-Cola is an effective toilet bowl cleaner, the Nickelback CDs you're now ashamed to admit owning make terrific retro-hip beverage coasters for your next party, and those old dirty pillowcases are perfect for the idiots in your life who'd benefit from a face-pummeling with a sack of doorknobs.
Then there are myriad home remedies which can cure what ails you. A stick of butter applied to a sudden burn provides immediate relief (unless you’re on fire, of course), snorting a few lines of Drano will clear those sinuses right up, and punching someone in the stomach will temporarily help them forget about that nagging migraine headache. I sometimes suffer from bouts of insomnia, but since this only occurs occasionally, it doesn’t much sense to spend ten bucks on an entire bottle of potentially-addicting sleeping pills, not when I’ve got my trusty old DVD copy of Dune handy.
Helmed by the perpetually psychotic David Lynch (he did turn down Return of the Jedi to direct this), Dune is an all-star trainwreck that bombed in theaters when initially released in 1984, but has since found a sizable cult following (like most of Lynch’s films, actually). It’s based, of course, on the classic novel by Frank Herbert, one of the biggest sci-fi douchebags this side of Harlan Ellison. I say this because back in 1983, Iron Maiden recorded a song based on Dune and respectfully asked permission to title it after the novel. Herbert's publicist responded with, “No. Because Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden.” Never mind the fact Maiden was huge at the time and Herbert hadn’t written a relevant novel since Dune was published back in 1965. In fact, Maiden’s song, retitled “To Tame a Land,” likely turned more young readers onto this old fart’s novel than the now-legendary Hollywood flop which effectively killed any chance of Dune ever becoming a film franchise.
To say Dune is convoluted would be an understatement. In fact, upon its release, Universal felt the need to provide ticket buyers with a two-page glossary of terms used in the film, apparently forgetting nobody can read in the dark. Unless you've actually read the book, the story itself is perplexing enough to make 2001: A Space Odyssey look like Flash Gordon. It’s also bloated with about 12,000 characters to keep track of, their dialogue & actions sometimes making little sense without your book and glossary handy. Speaking of dialogue....it is really fucking bad, especially the overuse of character voiceovers in a futile attempt to clarify what's going on. As for the performances...they range from low-key & earnest to godawful & over-the-top. The same could be said about the special effects. Except the sandworms, of course. Those things are awesome.
Still, I’ve always kind of liked Dune. Sure, it’s long, slow and hard to follow, but there’s also an ethereal quality to much of its imagery and music which I’ve always found somehow relaxing, particularly during the first half. For me, watching Dune is sort-of like receiving a therapeutic massage while new age music drifts throughout the room. In fact, I don’t recall the last time I watched the film in its entirety because it usually lulls me to sleep before the first sandworm even shows up. That suits me fine because Dune gets really stupid during the second half.
Which means Dune serves a useful purpose in my household. As a teacher, I typically get so used to staying up late and sleeping-in during the summer that it’s difficult to hit the sack early on those nights just before returning to work. But rather than rely on synthetic sleep aids, all I do now is pop in Dune, turn off all the nights and nestle into the couch with a blanket and a beer. More often than not, I’m soon zonked and snoring like an toddler on Benadryl.
Regardless of what one thinks of the movie, Dune is often pretty to look at (except maybe the whole heartplug scene) and the soundtrack is wonderful, the only decent thing Toto ever recorded. If you’re one of those still inclined to write it off as another overwrought Hollywood disaster, might I suggest keeping a copy around as a safe, non-addictive alternative for curing your insomnia? As a home remedy, it’s ultimately a lot cheaper and you’ll still wake up feeling refreshed...probably with the “Prophecy Theme” stuck in your head.