RelationHints!: Dress for Sexcess!

July 28, 2007

If you’re trying to attract that special someone of the opposite sex, it’s highly important that you look the part—a sexy, smart outfit is one of the keys to making a good first impression to further your search of another like-minded individual. A shallow, soulless individual.

While there are plenty of other important factors concerning your appearance, such as hair, makeup, and not pulling up your shorts until you’re certain that urine has ceased to be produced and ejected from your body, today we’re specifically going to look at your attire and what it means for your romantic prospects. That, and make fun of metrosexuals.

Disclaimer: Please note that the below information is primarily for the two genders to impress each other. I am fully aware that there is a latent subculture of women who dress specifically to compare themselves to other women, a concept that is frightfully humorous to men who really could care less what they look like to other men, but don’t say anything to women since, hey, let’s face it, who’s really benefiting from all that competition?

What You Wear Says A Lot About You: Your appearance gives hidden, nonverbal cues to your potential mate. With only a glance, an individual can compute how much they are attracted to you, what kind of respect you have for yourself, and exactly how many drinks it’s going to take to get you to stare at the ceiling for about forty five seconds or so.

Men will want to put on an impressive effort to show that they don’t spend most evenings in navy blue boxers and the same Pearl Jam T-shirt they’ve been wearing since that totally awesome weekend back in ’97, which of course all men do. This usually requires removing most of the beer stains from their shirt and pick out jeans that don’t look like they’ve been left at Michael Vick’s basement overnight.

Thankfully for men, styles don’t change very often. Sure, sure, sure, clothing lines and fabrics will tend to change over time, and certain decades trot out outfits that were apparently conceived by blind second graders, but there’s a fairly limited range of actual designs. This makes things easier and, more importantly, cheaper.

Women, on the other hand, have to balance their appearance through a variety of styles. They want to look attractive while, at the same time, don’t want to look like a whorebag or, worse, wear something that went out of style six weeks ago. Usually this involves an intricate blend of modesty and sensuality, which can often be accomplished through a combination of tight denim, loose necklines, and about sixteen hundred ounces of eye shadow.

Super Secret Special Tip For Women: Don’t spend too much time on certain accessories. You could be wearing horseshoes as earrings and men would neither notice nor care.

What Color Is Your Power Suit? While texture and coordination are important, most people are going to notice the colors you are wearing first. Psychologists at a university I just made up have run laboratory tests to determine what people think when they see specific colors, and it may be helpful to know what kind of vibe you want to display:

Blue: You eat the same cereal every day, take the same route to work each day, and have no imagination whatsoever.
Green: You are Irish, or it is St. Patrick’s Day, or are colorblind.
Brown: You are a UPS driver.
Black: When you were sixteen you went to a Natalie Merchant concert and have never left.
White: You are unafraid or unconcerned about blemishes appearing on your outfit through eating, drinking, moving, or doing anything at all for any reason.
Teal: You have recently lost a bet.
Red: You are an advocate of the collectivization of the means of production.
Pink: You are either overcompensating for your lack of femininity, or feel like you must prove your testosterone level. In either case, get a hobby.
Magenta: You are a monitor for a Commodore 64.
Purple: You think it is 60 BC and you are a prince.
Burgundy: You have recently been shot by Harvey Keitel.
Mauve: You are performing penance.
Lilac: You wear your Christmas gifts instead of returning them.
Orange: You think you are either a traffic cone or 1979.
Yellow: You are twelve years old.
Formica: You cannot tell the difference between a hardware store and a clothiers’.
Maroon: Your hand-eye coordination becomes increasingly unreliable the more wine you drink.
Beige: You do not know how to properly separate your laundry.
Gray: You are either an actuary or my ex.

Men and Women Are Different! Both genders dress for different reasons. Females actually enjoy the act of coordinating accessories: jewelry, purses, shoes, hair color, bloody stilettos removed from each other’s backs, etc. In fact, entire magazines, retail stores, and basic cable stations are devoted to exclusively promoting a clothing-coordinated lifestyle, a highly humorous fact for those females who scoff at certain individual’s roughly equivalent devotions to, say, golf, or Nascar.

Men, on the other hand, dress for comfort. If they’re going to be impressing someone, they aren’t competing with each other. If that were the case, most men would simply draw up business cards with their annual salaries and hand them out at nightclubs. Which, really, should be the most important thing. Why spend all this effort on dressing up for the sole purpose of not being dressed up later?

Just D’oh It

July 26, 2007

The Simpsons has been on for a long time. I mean, irritatingly long, as in kids who are graduating high school this year have never lived in a world where Fox wasn’t producing new episodes. And that just makes me feel very, very old, the same reason I dislike telling people what magazines I subscribe to and going to the mall on Saturday nights.

Anyone from my generation can tell you when they first watched The Simpsons. It’s just like the Kennedy assassination or the time Sally Wiggin went on the air without her makeup; everyone knows the time and the place of their first viewing of this remarkable animation.

Well, okay, I don’t. I remember watching the first episode about Santa’s Little Helper, but I also watched the shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show, and I have no conceivable reason to remember when I first watched this. All I remember is that it wasn’t Scooby Doo and it wasn’t the Snorks, thank goodness, but I certainly didn’t know what the hell it actually was and I knew I wouldn’t get half the jokes until I was in my early adulthood, which at that time was approximately 2,000 years away.

It was revolutionary in more ways than one. It was a cartoon aimed at adults. Sure, there was the Flintstones, and on a bad day you could spend an afternoon reading the cultural subtext of Inspector Gadget. But c’mon, cartoons were produced foremost for kids, what with their bright colors, nonsensical situations, and devotion to supporting an industry that pays Malaysians about ten cents an hour to color in cells. This wasn’t Bugs Bunny dressing like a cocktail waitress or Mickey Mouse chasing jogging dandelions or whatever the hell that fruit was doing in Fantasia; this was jokes told by badly drawn yellowish folks about the perils of middle age, the gifted program, the boredom of the suburban housewife, and electroshock therapy.

And today’s kids, processing South Park at a normal rate of shock and awe, have absolutely no idea the impact The Simpsons had on the parents of the day. Bart’s deviance was nothing new to television; youngish scamps getting in trouble was a tired plot device back in the tube’s glory days before TV was even invented. The difference was that back then, youngish scamps who got in trouble repented after an appropriate punishment was metered out, like being grounded or ratting out commies. But in Bart Simpson’s world, he wasn’t only an underachiever, but he was, as a T-shirt so eloquently put it, proud of it, man.

Simpsons apologists cranked up their noise level, pointing out that Edgar Allen Poe was an opium addict and Lewis Caroll enjoyed the company of youngish girls, apparently hoping to point out that while Bart may sass his elders, at least he’s not high and hitting on Girl Scouts. Still, promoting charging $12 for a plastic key chain that says “Don’t Have A Cow, Man” in a muffled Nancy-Cartwrightish voice that cost about a quarter to make isn’t exactly a dismissible crime, either.

What makes The Simpsons so peculiar is how they’ve managed to keep it fresh and topical for so long. Here, I am assuming that you stopped watching The Simpsons around 1996 or so. The Simpsons, like many other television programs, tend to rely on formula to crank out season after season of programming. As a general rule, episodes were structured as thus:

1. Some completely arbitrary series of events concludes with the introduction of some current hot social topic, like gay marriage or influenza;
2. Homer screws it up;
3. A secondary character utters some random line every ultrafan on the intraweb will have as their signature for the next month;
4. Lisa has a solution she presents as pretentiously as possible;
5. Several self-referencing jokes are made;
6. A celebrity voice unrelated to the plot is crammed into the show’s sequence;
7. Some random deus ex machina wraps everything up;
8. Joseph Barbera dies just a little inside.

The culmination of all 400 episodes so far produced the holy grail of Simpsons fans: the Simpsons Movie. Even thought the plot is largely an expanded version of a regular episode, and the animation is a touch crisper, it permits the writers to expand their creativity to fit the big screen, a format known to encourage creativity, as evidenced by this summer’s blockbusters Live Free and Die Hard, Evan Almighty and Air Bud 8: Dog Plays Lacrosse Or Some Other Shit Like That. Actually, I strongly suspect it’s going to have the humor quotient of a regular episode, expanded out to about an hour and a half, and you gotta pay eight bucks to see it. Still, it will be nice to see what happens when writers and animators are no longer restricted by the medium of televsion and are given a chance to be creative that they would not find anywhere else, except perhaps HBO. Or books. Or the comics. Or straight-to-DVD collections. Or basic cable. Hmm. Perhaps the motion picture industry will be presented with a very cromulent opportunity, after all.

Harry Potter And The Incredibly Oversold Hyperbole

July 17, 2007

The final days are upon us; muggles are crowding in mall book stores and department stores, patiently awaiting the arrival of the final novel in the Harry Potter series. Muggles, along with Squibs, Half-Bloods, Death Eaters, Seekers, Bludgers…and…oh, forget it. I have no idea what any of this means, and a rather large part of me doesn’t care.

The hype surrounding the newest Harry Potter book is largely unprecedented. The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is currently the highest earning author of all time. The movies are reliable blockbusters, and millions of people the world over are ardent fans that put Trekkies and Star Wars fans to shame, at least in the percentage demographic of actively participating MILFs.

With such a highly anticipated book, dozens of rumors of various realistic chances of being true are spreading like wildfire across the Internet and beyond. So with due diligence to my regular readers, here is a list of completely verifiable gossip items about the final Harry Potter book:

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is forced to pay out over $660 million dollars to former students for “undisclosed” reasons. In an unrelated story, Snape was transferred to the Sao Paulo branch of Hogwarts.

Hedwig is the result of a chance encounter one sinful night between Charlie the Owl and Henrietta Hippo from the New Zoo Revue.

Harry Potter finally masters a spell that will make an eighteen-year-old actor appear to have yet hit puberty.

“The Deathly Hallows” turns out to be a strict allegory concerning itself mostly with middle-aged housewives who somehow expect the novel they wrote in that Creative Writing Class back in 1982 but had to abandon it when her “study partner” knocked her up to turn into a seven-book franchise but are ultimately let down by the curse of fate known as “having no real talent but delusions of ability in spades.”

The Sorting Hat determined the house assignments that Harry, Hermione, and Ron received not because of their innate abilities, but because Hermione’s father “knew a guy” and Ron was “too Jewish” for Ravenclaw.

Alan Rickman is one creepy-ass dude. This isn’t so much a rumor as established fact.

In one of the final dramatic scenes, Quiddich players go on strike, with the end result being two expansion teams and a salary cap. Hogwarts officials immediately demand a local sales tax be levied to pay for a new stadium or they will move the team to Portland, Oregon.

The Ministry of Magic continues to deny that the Second Wizarding War was fought simply to search for weapons of mortal destruction but was an all-encompassing casus belli, despite what the record states, and in any case they certainly can’t pull out now.

Dumbledore didn’t really die; he simply ran for president as the Green candidate and disappeared in a small puff of irrelevancy.

The last book is pretty much a blatant plagiarism of certain elements of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, and every two-dollar book with a wand or pointy hat on the cover from the Scholastic Book Club. Which really isn’t a surprise, since that’s how the first six books were written.

Lord Voldemort is finally destroyed by stripping him of his magical powers and installed as the chairman of the Exxon Corporation, where he manages to gain market share and finds that pissing around with magical spells and prepubescent Merlin wannabes is pretty lame when you have an $87 million dollar golden parachute.

Harry’s choice of becoming a wizard was actually one of the three choices offered to any eleven-year-old with a lightning bolt tattooed on his forehead, the other two choices being professional wrestler and anime villain.

Likewise, Hermione is left to devote her life as a witch with a number of choices few mortals are presented with: witch nurse, witch cook, and witch teacher.

Something happens to Ron, though it appears that no one really cares.

“Avada Kedavra” roughly translates into “If you’re actually paying retail for this book, the spell is not necessary; the magic has already been completed.”

Of the many items in the Harry Potter universe that are invisible to muggles but can only be seen by wizards, perhaps the most prominent is the gaping loss of self-respect inherent in the fact that you’re thirty five years old and reading a book about boy wizards playing made up sports at what is essentially a boarding school for nerds.

A magical spell is created in the last few pages of the book that causes the author to refuse to write a book for at least two years, after which the statements that prequels and sequels are “100% definitely not an option” will suddenly appear as viable opportunities. This spell is called the “one million dollar advance.”

The final twist of the Harry Potter universe is the release of a dark and evil spirit that pervades throughout the lands, its effects dark and unsurpassed in all of history: millions upon millions of schoolchildren snap shut their books, start playing Mario Kart for eight hours a day, and in a few years sell all their hardbacks on eBay for a buck apiece.

Chinese Fire Squad

July 16, 2007

In America, we throw around baseless and selective accusations against established, well-entrenched institutions and frequently are then awarded Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.

In Italy, they frequently elect street criminals to parliament and consider political corruption a check against an overreaching government, but still have the national pride to put all of the faith in the Catholic Church.

In China, they shoot Food and Drug administrators.

To each, as they say, their own.

China has awoken, and found itself capitalist. Okay, it’s not capitalist in the capital-C, Adam Smith-worshipping, unsolicited-fellation-from-the-Heritage-Foundation manner; let’s just say that the People’s Paradise seems to have a lot more clothing boutiques and upscale coffee shops than Mao cooked up in a five-year plan. Note that “capitalist” doesn’t also mean “democracy,” since the Chinese version of participatory government is that most citizens are permitted to grumble approvingly in lieu of actual votes.

Many in America are fearful of the Celestial Empire. Not because of the fact that they probably have nukes or that their army is approximately 5 billion people strong or that any day now they’re going to invade Formosa and trigger World War Five, it’s because they may be able to undercut us by pricing generic-brand detergent and chew bones below cost.

Me, personally, I am concerned about the Chinese military. I mean, the guys invented fireworks about eight hundred years ago and haven’t done much with it since. I strongly suspect they’ve invented something cool and/or insanely destructive, and are just waiting for Hong Kong to misplace a decimal point or Taiwan to forget to pick up the kinds on Sunday before they drop the big one, as it were, which I can only assume will explode in the air and appear above the sky as a red, white, and blue eagle before it rains hellfire down upon the battlefield. Their other invention, paper, I’m much less impressed with.

There’s been a recent scare of trade woes from China where the product quality is somewhat wanting:

·There was toothpaste that turned out to have traces of an antifreeze thickening agent, an additive not found to have a significant impact on dental care, though it does have the side effect of irreversible weight loss.
·Pet food was found to have contaminated wheat gluten in doses strong enough to pass through human gastronomical systems but not for Fido and Peachtree, a rather odd oversight considering that “crab” Rangoon I ate last week.
·Certain items in the Thomas the Symbol of Capitalist Repression Through Bourgeoisie Transportation Methods catalog was found to contain trace amounts of lead in the decorative paint. This is doubly unfortunate, since anyone who has ever watched a child under the age of four for more than two seconds knows that, if handed an item the size of Thomas the Tank Engine, the child will immediately determine whether this is something that can be placed and held inside of their mouth by immediately trying to swallow it.

Americans take a lot of crap from foreigners, whether it be diplomatic rebuffs, holier-than-thou self-satisfaction, or Jude Law. But mess with our teeth, pets, or child’s chance of getting into a good preschool without drooling all over the entrance exam, and it’s time to take the gloves off.

China is trying to improve its reputation for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s an emerging power and despite its autocratic government and patchy progression levels, the Chinese know a bad PR move when they see one. Without selling plastic Naruto dolls and novelty cake decorations to distracted Yanquis trying to find something to spend their greenbacks on before they throw it into a big pile of burning garbage, so long as they don’t accidentally pay off more than the minimum mortgage payment, the Chinese economy would crumble like a deck of cards and they’d have to go back to trying to melt steel in their back yard. And by “back yard” I mean “Japan.”

Most importantly, though, the Olympics are set to begin in Beijing in 2008. Cracking open China to all of the reporters of the world is going to be a first. Certainly, the press in China has been freer than it has in the past—investigative reporters are only having their children threatened to be shot instead of actually being shot—for many this will be the first time reporters are allowed relatively free access to an area that engages in a foreign, baffling, and ultimately mysterious culture unseen since Salt Lake City.

All of these factors, alas, coincide rather unhappily with poor ex-FDA-or-whatever-they-call-it-in-China chief Zheng Xiaoyu. To fill the pharmaceutical company’s coffers, he repeatedly granted approval for several types of drugs that turned out to be fictitious. Although how that’s any different than marketing Xanax I’ll never know. He was lax in enforcing existing food regulations, and dozens of people from around the world became ill and in some cases died from subpar rice cakes, drinking water, and heart medication.

Some nations will publicly execute a traitor as an example to others. Some citizens will string up a tinpot dictator to send a message that liberty is worth fighting for. Some nations pin their hopes and dreams on fruitless brushfire wars and unmistakably immoral terror strikes. And some government choose to execute their bureaucrats to send a forceful message about misappropriating the regulation of diethylene glycol, so that all others who wish to disregard the growing menace of trace amounts of diethylene glycol in exported goods should learn.

To each, as they say, their own.

Road to the Wodehouse

July 11, 2007

A new collection of stories by P.G. Wodehouse has recently been released, reigniting interest in one of the most underapprecitated writers of the 20th century, as measured in references to newts, aunts, and antique cow-creamers.

P.G. Wodehouse is one of those peculiar British institutions, much like queuing and standing six hours hovering over a kitchen sink scraping a carrot and calling it a soap opera. Most people may not realize the impact that Wodehouse has on American popular culture, mostly in the form of Jeeves, the impenetrable and iconoclastic butler.

In the Wodehouse stories, Jeeves is in the employ of the much lesser-known Bertram Wooster, an elite ne’er do well who goes about his daily routine pissing the afternoons away at social clubs with other like-minded fortunate sons and getting invited to stay at country estates where the chance of getting engaged to a member of the opposite sex that he dislikes with an intensity normally reserved for Klan members and meter maids is approximately 100%.

Personally, I find it appalling that “Wooster” hasn’t entered the vernacular with as much integration as “Jeeves” has. I wouldn’t mind there being a proper noun appropriated for the representation of a born-to-comfort, out-of-touch, trust-fund busybody who assumes that they know what is best despite never having to deal with any aspect of the real world whatsoever. The only phrase in currency that approximates this idea is “presidential nominee for a major political party.”

Technically, as all proper Wodehousians know, Jeeves really isn’t a butler at all. He’s a valet, a distinction that is nearly as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and is paid attention to about as much as the terror warning alert system. Jeeves is a butler, by jove, and there’s not much in the American mind that’s going to change that. (For the record, a valet, or gentleman’s gentleman, took care of their employer’s personal attire, such as laying out clothes and drawing baths and the like. A butler is the head of the domestic help. Butler is Dad, valet is your little brother you made your personal slave.)

The plots were clever, witty, and—let’s face it—incredibly redundant. As anyone who has watched Keeping Up Appearances or the Liberal Democrats knows, the British are very fond of using the exact same situations over and over and over again, apparently finding newfound humor in excrementally minute differences in execution. The standard Jeeves & Wooster plot would be something like the following:

1) Wooster purchases some ridiculous item, such as a lavender safari hat, that he is convinced is the height of fashion;
2) Jeeves bitches about it
3) An aunt comes to visit and deliver an ultimatum, usually in the form of:
a. Becoming engaged to a female;
b. Breaking up an engagement
c. Committing some nefarious crime, such as pilfering a pinch of table salt, for some incredibly insufferable reason
4) Wooster screws the pooch on the deal
5) Jeeves fixes it
6) At some point everybody ends up at a country estate
7) Wooster agrees to destroy the item mentioned in the first page of the book that was never mentioned again up to this point.

(Sorry about the outline. Writing about Jeeves and his overcompensating orderliness to rectify the Katrina that is Wooster’s daily routine, one can hardly be helped slanting passionately towards the formal.)

While Wodehouse was a voluminous writer—he has written over ninety books, including eighteen Jeeves & Wooster novels to his name, though one would kind of be hard pressed to claim that there were eighteen different stories—other forms of media bearing the Jeeves & Wooster brand have also been perpetuated. In the early nineties, a well-regarded series was created starring Hugh Laurie (known to us Americans as Dr. Gregory House) as Wooster and Stephen Fry (known to us Americans as “Stock homosexual British guy” in every major motion picture that calls for such a character) as Jeeves. The episodes are largely faithful to the spirit to the books, in characterization, setting, and dialogue. And yet it’s very hard to compare the two; Wodehouse’s ability to stretch even the most minute detail into eight pages of decidedly purple prose just can’t be matched by a youthful Wooster you expect to yell “Is Cameron on the rag again?” at any given moment.

In certain senses, Wodehouse himself could easily have been mistaken for Wooster. While he lived a reasonably gentle life, he was decidedly detached from the real world. I mean, very, very, alarmingly detached. As in during World War II he chose to stay in France because he didn’t realize that this war might, in fact, turn into somewhat of a big deal. And once captured by the Nazis, he was “persuaded” to record some witty bantering about the war, which pretty much boiled down to “Nazis, British, what’s the difference? We’re all just men,” a sentiment that understandably went over just about as well as the Blitz did. (George Orwell, of all people, defended Wodehouse, the defense pretty much boiling down to “Rich guys don’t know any better.” The Home Office officially declared him “naïve and foolish but not traitorous.” With friends like these, and all that.)

Stained as a collaborator, he permanently moved to New York, where the disappearance of policeman’s hats reached an all-time high. The correlation was impeachable. As Jeeves may say, in that amazingly understated manner only Jeeves could do, If you say so, sir.

Family Jewels of Denial

July 9, 2007

The Central Intelligence Agency, in its bicentennial house-cleaning, recently released over 700 pages of formerly classified documents, heavily edited for the ubiquitous “national security.” (Please note that we are using the layman’s definition of “house-cleaning” in this sense…the CIA’s definition is decidedly more aggressive.)

When the CIA released the information, it brought to light much of the information about the agency’s activities in the past few decades. And by “brought to light” I mean “stuff that every single person on the face of the earth already knew.”

These are charmingly called the “family jewels,” a phrase no doubt coined by several agents over a good hearty laugh over the water cooler between funneling cocaine to Contras and deciding which Hungarian defector will have his testicles Zippoed first.

I’ve always been intrigued by the CIA. Not sure why. I don’t believe it’s the artificial romance that is falsely portrayed in the media. There isn’t any cool-looking gadgets that slice off limbs or Russian femme fatales who defect at simply the prospect of a guy finishing the job without vomiting potatoes and vodka on themselves. I think it’s the significance of doing something as your everyday job that you wouldn’t be allowed to do in real life. We all know full well that when I’m at work, I argue all day with the dim-witted redhead in activations about who gets to use the fax machine first, and they’re sitting around a table in Langley discussing the assassination of Salvodore Allende over a box of Kripsy Kremes. I bet they get full dental, too.

The CIA’s obsession with Fidel Castro seems strikingly off. I mean, sure, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs and the commies trying to take over everything including most breakfast cereals, but it seems like had they taken the amount of effort used to kill Castro into, say, overthrowing every other nation on the earth, including the Soviet Union itself, they still would have had enough time and resources to produce all three Mission: Impossible movies within budget and without having to resort to casting Tom Cruise.

It’s actually a kind of disturbing topic, but the imaginative ways that the CIA tried to assassinate Castro are almost magnificently comic. Here’s a list of the various methods in which the spooks tried to bring down the Cuban dictator:

An exploding conch shell, strategically placed in Castro’s favorite scuba diving spot. Had it worked, we not only would have rid the world of Castro but also had the world’s first spy mission inspired from a late-show Muppets throwaway skit.

A poison cigar. And not poison as in a liquid that kills you, but poison as in LSD. That’s right, they wanted Castro to trip on live national television and make him a laughingstock of the third world. Or, at the very least, only slightly less alarming than a televised interview Farrah Fawcett.

A beard-falling-out chemical. Don’t know what it is or what it’s called, but it apparently causes your hair to fall out when placed in your…boots. I guess. Rather than assassinating him, this tactic cooked up by the agency would embarrass him right before he went to speak at the UN. I can’t imagine how this would have worked. For one thing, I can’t think of anything more awkward than addressing the UN in the first place, except possibly addressing the UN while representing Israel.

Toxins. The closest the agency got to offing the Cuban leader was when they had a poison capsule full of botulinum toxins in a chocolate milkshake. In one of the tragic consequences of history, the capsule froze against the freezer it was in, and ripped open when the waiter/gambling addict who sold his soul to Allen Dulles went to drop it in. Had he succeeded, Castro would have died drinking a milkshake, a humiliating end to a glorious fighter for the communist cause. Still, it was safer and less humiliating than eating a Grand Slam at Denny’s.

The approximately eighty thousand attempts at offing Castro aren’t the only illegal items revealed in the documents. But most of these activities are almost quaint with a touch of modern-day reflection. Some of the apparently more egregious crimes include the following:

Surveillance of Brit Hume. That’s hardly a crime, I think; about two million people engage in surveillance of him every night, though admittedly I suspect most of that is, indeed, forced. The crime here, though, is—Brit Hume??! I mean, c’mon. Was Bill O’Reilly not antiestablishment enough for Nixon?

The opening of mail intended for delivery in the Soviet Union. This is a crime? Apparently the Soviet Union has never been married.

Funding “behavior modification” techniques on unsuspecting civilians. I know the quote marks are supposed to lead us to believe they’re talking about LSD, but I’m convinced they really mean the obvious government support of Martin and Rowan’s Laugh-In, which I wholly refuse to believe stayed on the air due to the market demand of Americans. If it truly was, well, then, I think Castro might have been on to something.


July 8, 2007

Recently, a list proclaiming a new set of Wonders of the World was created. This list is the brainchild of Swiss businessman Bernard Weber, who wanted wonders that would reflect a new world, transcending tradition. The historical Seven Wonders of the World, to his credit, was pretty piss poor in its scope. I mean, they were great and impressive and all, but they only covered the Mediterranean area, and even that seemed to be restricted to about a hundred yards in every direction of the chair that Philon of Byzantium was sitting on. (And, c’mon. The Mausoleum is like the Charles in Charge of culturally significant architectural feats—yeah, I suppose it’s nice and all, but the Statue of Zeus has Tony Danza.) So enlarging the scope and time frame seemed to be a plausible and (let’s be honest) lucrative thing to do.

Of course, the wonder list was not without controversy. Egyptians, offended that they would have to defend the Pyramids of Giza, actively disdained the project. Boy, did that show everyone! Weber declared that since the Pyramids managed to stay upright for the past 4500 years or so, well, that was good enough for him, and it became the honorary 8th wonder of the world, tossing the whole carefully balanced “seven wonders” thing all to hell. Granted, there is an additional, ninth wonder, which is that a Swiss businessman would have the creativity to come up with this project in the first place.

The final seven (or eight) (or nine) were chosen by popular vote; anyone who registered got a free vote, and if you wanted to pay extra you could vote again. Sure, seems a bit odd to pay for additional votes, especially since many of the wonders are located in impoverished nations, but most metropolitan cities across the globe seem to be functioning fine under such as system, so I don’t see why it can’t work in this case.

Anyway, an objective review of the winners is required, so let’s have at it.

Chichen Itza (Mexico): Located in the Yucatan, the Chichen Itza is an icon of the Mayan civilization. At one time, it was a cultural and political center for the civilization, but evidence shows that its occupation came to a violent and strife-ridden end, a monumental testament to the grand achievements a civilization can accomplish in peace, and the price to be paid when there is war. Today, drunken college kids from spring break packages in Cancun appreciate its archeological splendor by vomiting on the stone-paved walkways and flashing the locals.

Christ the Redeemer (Brazil): It’s hard not to be impressed with the Christ Redeemer. I mean, it’s hard to top a 105-foot tall statue of the Savior. It makes the Statue of Liberty look downright sacrilegious in all her humble copper glory. Unlike Lady Liberty, though, Christ the Redeemer isn’t holding any stone tablets. Somehow, I think they missed the mark on that decision. It would have fit right in, having the statue of Christ clasping a list of the nine commandments. Here, I’m assuming in this case that the commandment concerning graven images has been repealed.

Great Wall
(China): Many people are surprised that this grand feat of engineering didn’t crack the original list. Few people realize that the reason for this was that China did not exist until Marco Polo discovered it in 1271 AD. A common urban legend states that the Great Wall is the only manmade object that can be seen from space. This is, as most things, an outright lie; there are many things that are visible from space, such as the national debt, the large, gaping hole in the logical theology of Scientology, and Gordon Brown’s sense of complete indifference. Anyway, the Great Wall managed to keep the barbarians at the gate, as it were, for several centuries, which is more than you can say for New Mexico and Hungary.

Machu Picchu (Peru): This Incan city is one of the most short-lived civic projects undertaken by a reasonably advanced civilization, being abandoned by its founders less than a hundred years after its construction, a feat matched only by the Millennium Dome. Granted, the rather quick arrival of the Spanish army may have had something to do with it, but I’d rather blame the Hearst Corporation or the metric system. Also, I hate llamas, and they run the place like the Irish run Boston. So to hell with them.

Coliseum (Rome): This one seems like a cop-out to me. Sure, I’m certain it was a grand structure in its time, but I’m also certain the resources, debt, slavery, and political maneuvering necessary wouldn’t even be close to matching what it takes to build a new sports complex in the States. I’m sure they had their own version of the “renaissance tax” to pay for its construction, a convenient lie, since throwing Christians to lions for the public’s viewing pleasuring isn’t any more of a “renaissance” than watching Barry Bonds injecting a baseball full of HGH.

Petra (Jordan): K. I’m going to be honest here. I had to look this one up. Usually anything I look at that involves the word “Petra” also involves the phrase “Russian hottie willing to do anything. Visa and Mastercard accepted.” It’s an ancient city in Jordan that tourists flock to, unless there’s any political instability in the area, which is one hundred percent of the time, in which case everyone stays the hell away. It was also the final location of the Holy Grail as evidenced in the scholarly work Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Taj Mahal (India): The Indians were pushing hard for this one. Why they’d be so impressed with a casino in Atlantic City, I’ll never know.

Seventh Time’s the Charm

July 7, 2007

Today marks a day that is rarely seen. In fact, one can extrapolate how often it happens: once a century. For numerologists, state lottery players, and regular subscribers to Woodall Prime Number Digest, the date—July 7th of 2007—is a day as important as could possibly be imagined, at least for those whose imagination rarely stretches beyond calendar dates with moderately distinctive patterns.

Many people who care about such things believe that the triple sevens are a sign of good luck. The number seven, by itself, has always been considered lucky; and anything occurring in triplets has always been met with good fortune, as any casual scan of a standard Fairy Tale book will show you. There are three little pigs, after all, and the three bears, though one has to pause and think exactly of the burdens they bore to wonder exactly how lucky they were. Slackers and victims all around, I say. The industrious Germans, my ass.

But several classes of people are using this day to try to maximize their luck or, as rational people say, minimize the personal responsibility for the things that go wrong in their lives. Such as:

Brides: The wedding day has always been the bride’s Big Day, and what better way to make it even more of your Big Day than to have it on a numerically pleasing date? Churches and chapels are booked solid due to its popularity, lucky indeed since it falls on a Saturday. (Who wants their wedding to conflict with Texas week on Wheel of Fortune?) If that means having your wedding at 12:30 in the freaking morning and paying five times the normal rate to reserve a wedding chapel and the service be less than twelve minutes so the next bride and groom can be shoveled into place, then, well, so be it, since there is nothing so important as to have your wedding on July 7th, 2007. The true irony is that the luckiest person in the entire transaction is the groom, who shouldn’t have any reason to forget their anniversary. Woe to the unlucky fellow who fails to remember that.

Gamblers: 777 has always been a special number for gamblers; most slot machines have their big payout on the triple sevens (either that, or triple monkeys wearing fezzes or some nonsense like that, which is funny since the monkey wearing the fez seems to be the least lucky primate on the planet, except for maybe that poor bear on a unicycle. Where was I? Oh, right.) Every slot machine, roulette wheel, and keno table will be full of grandmothers and citizens who failed prob and stats in high school in the casinos and bars across the country, ready to attribute their good fortunes to the Gregorian calendar and their losses on watered down drinks and the super lucky key chain they forgot on the kitchen table at home.

Environmentally Conscious Concert Goers: Today also marks the beginning of Live Earth, a series of ecologically friendly benefit concerts to take place on all seven continents (get it?). This huge event will display for the media the solidarity that the world has to combat environmental issues by drunkenly mumbling the lyrics to Smashmouth songs while trying unsuccessfully to cop a feel with that emo chick in a tank top dancing in front of you. The point, of course, is to show support to young people about environmentally important issues, such as global warning, deforestation, endangered species, and the importance of not driving a Prius down the highway at 100 miles per hour carrying around pot and a trunkful of prescription drugs that you do not, in fact, have a prescription for.

One strange thing about the emphasis placed on this date is how, last year, June 6th, 2006 passed by with hardly a whimper. Perhaps the Powers That Be™ somehow decided that it wasn’t supposed to be a major media event, right before they fixed the Golden Globes and perpetuated the grand Daylight Savings Time Conspiracy, and the only slip up was the release of The Omen, which was a portent only for an eventual domestic gross of $112 million. Yet many major events did sound rather menacing on that day last year. (The Wikipedia helpfully notes, as always, that this date is “thought to be the end of the world by some.” Gosh, thanks for the heads up.) Still, one only has to look at the events that transpired on that date last year to grow concerned:

·Jason Grimsley of the Arizona Diamondbacks has his house searched for steroids.
·The conflict in sub-Saharan Africa between Chad and Sudan continues, with today’s highlight being the theft of 350 cattle.
·Most ominously, the Australian government commissions an obviously fictitious individual, “Ziggy Switkowski,” to head their nuclear energy task force.

I don’t care how many creepy animals and latent convicts influence the course of events in Australia, the world has never had, nor will there ever be, a man named “Ziggy Switkowski,” and if there was, he would not be in an important enough position to head nuclear energy. Department of Prop Comics, perhaps. Minister of Poorly Drawn Comic Strip Characters, yes. But nuclear energy czar? Please. That will be the day.

The Secret and Lies

July 6, 2007

The Secret is a rather sudden and forceful cultural phenomenon that I am apparently just a little bit too late in recognizing, much like my narrow-minded inability to recognize the positive merits of iPods or polio vaccinations. A hugely popular self-help “package”, The Secret is presented in both a book and a DVD format, lending its teachings to be published and easily accessible to (let’s face it) bored middle-aged housewives with disposable income the world over. It’s hardly a secret that The Secret is propagated prominently on Oprah, the Ellen DeGeneres show, and, presumably, junior high school soccer games, Costco, and overpriced massage parlors.

The Secret forms it base of philosophy off of the Law of Attraction, proponents of which claim it has its roots in quantum physics, much like how Papa Smurf no doubt is an academic derivation of dispensationalism. The Law of Attraction states that…well, to be honest, I’m not sure exactly what it states, because it has that touch-feely New Age definition that I’m pretty sure is vague enough to please anyone who has already committed $29.95 of their paycheck. It seems to be something like the following:

1) Your thoughts and feelings affect the events that happen in your life;
2) You can do this by drawing your thoughts on blank poster board;
3) Or, instead, you can think about it really, really hard; and
4) I’m not making this shit up.

The makers of The Secret tend to downplay the whole Win, Lose, or Draw combined with armchair psychology thing, believing it to be somewhat of a hard sell. Instead, they promote The Secret as a life-affirming, positive enhancement to the daily routine. Think positive thoughts, they say, and positive things will happen to you.

Which, as everyone knows, is complete hogwash. For instance, every single night I lie awake in my bed and crush my eyes tight, thinking as hard as I possibly can about Scarlett Johansson wearing nothing but a bath towel and a smile, presenting me with a plate of frozen chocolate covered bananas, a fistful of Double Eagles, and an advance copy of Madden 2008. But every morning I wake up to nothing but bran muffins and unfinished ironing, and when I finally show up at my boring job that cute blonde the next team over won’t give me eye contact, let alone the time of day. So, so much for that.

The Secret is spearheaded by an otherwise pleasant lady with the name of Rhonda Byrne, who kind of looks like a cross between an albino go-go dancer and an amalgamation of the appearance (and, I presume, the personality) of all the past and present female members of Fleetwood Mac. She has the dispensation of exactly the kind of person you expect to meet at a New Age convention somewhere—youthful, energetic, and scares the secular hoobity-joobities out of you.

Incredibly, The Secret proudly advises that its tenets can help you out financially. Most self-help products go through great pains to avoid the “get rich quick” angle, preferring the “scam good hard-earned money for a collection of worthless platitudes you could derive from the punch line on a Bazooka gum wrapper” approach. The producers of the film are up front about the appeal for riches; tell people they’ll find true love, inner peace, or efficient order in their lives, they say, and consumers will pass, thank you very much, as they stop at the state store or the OTB to find their peace, love, and order. But promise them cash, and they’ll line up around the block, clutching their Machu Picchu keychains and Whole Foods discount cards as they patiently wait their turn.

I’m a rather skeptical person by nature. I’m doubtful I’d believe anything that could conceivably show up on the same catalog page as, say, quartz crystals that can harness the earth’s energy, a wild claim I refuse to acknowledge until they can design a manual can opener that doesn’t involve me, at some point, accidentally shoving a sliver of tin into the meaty part of my thumb and loudly proclaiming a rather un-New Age like sentiment. So The Secret’s secret is lost on me; if I’m not buying into Area 51, Kirilian photographs, state lotteries, or Barack Obama, I’m certainly not buying an Australian-based pseudo-psychological documentary-in-quotes-only.

Still, I can’t fault a girl for trying. Even if you’re not a fan of The Secret’s warmed-over Psychology 101 nonsense and its borderline criminal marketing campaign, if nothing else it helps people who need that kind of thing with an easy, positive aspect of their own lives they can concentrate on. Granted, anyone could go to a used book store and pick up a Norman Vincent Peale book for a quarter or watch a couple of episodes of Viva la Bam to make themselves feel superior. But many who believe in The Secret are also those willing to buy pretentious rubbish for five times wholesale and are probably not exactly the most resistant when it comes to buying them several shots at the hotel bar after a grueling day bouncing about in their revealing sun dress pushing powder blue crystal healing stones slash earrings at easily pleased passers-by at the Holistic Convergence 2007 convention booth. Now that’s a positive thought.

There Goes Another Candidate: Care of the Dog That Bit You Edition

July 1, 2007

A few testy gallons of ink have been spilled over the past few days over what was supposed to be a small, character-building anecdote during a Boston Globe profile of Mitt Romney. Not since Lyndon Johnson drop-kicked an innocent bloodhound into the Mekong has the mistreatment of a canine caused such a political stir.

Romney, sometime Massachusetts governor and Presidential contender, was asked for an example of his crisis management style. Instead of saying something along the lines of “I helped a troubled Salt Lake City Olympics committee overcome scandal” or “I ushered through a large-scale engineering project in my state through a fiscal crisis,” he decided that the best course of action was to retell a delightful tale about how, during a family vacation to Canada in the early 1980’s, he strapped the family’s Irish Setter to the top of the car. Then, when the animal unexpectedly got nervous about traveling atop a large metal canister at 55 mph in a small plasticish cage and responded by leaking brown disgustingness all over the back window, Elder Statesmen and Future President Mitt Romney pulled over, took a garden hose, sprayed off the dog, car, and cage, replaced the poor mutt back in his canister, and all individuals went upon the remainder of their trip, presumably canine-diarrhea-free.

Not all that surprisingly, animal rights activists and, well, most human beings reacted with a range of emotions going from “general head-shaking” to “comparing it to the Holocaust.” Also, not surprisingly, many of the other presidential contenders were asked about their own relationships with pets. Perhaps remarkably, many of the other candidates have no compunctions about detailing their stories, and subsequently a lot of skeletons were drug out, dusted off, and put proudly on display.

Before he lost nearly 110 pounds, Mike Huckabee kept a steady supply of rats in his Little Rock governor’s mansion to guarantee a fresh supply of milk for his daily breakfast of twenty-four pancakes, eighteen sausage links, and a colonic.

John Edwards bravely saved a warren of rabbits from being subjected to cruel cosmetic trials by volunteering himself instead.

When house training a beagle, Rudy Giuliani used a then-untested method of corrective conditioning, mostly rewarding the dog with corned beef hash when he was good, and shoving a broom handle repeatedly up its anus when he was bad. Then came 9/11.

While interred in a POW camp in Vietnam, Arizona senator John McCain had to eat a greyhound to keep himself from starving. In his defense, it was #4, no MSG, on the menu.

Bill Richardson owns a Chihuahua, which currently is the only evidence available that he is actually of Hispanic origin.

Hillary Clinton distrusted husband Bill’s dog, Buddy, as a diversion in attention to their marriage. She arranged the White House Travel Office, the Rose Law Firm, and Susan McDougal to have Buddy hit by a car to combat the ever-growing threat of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

On the very day that he descended from the heavens, Barack Obama healed two groundhogs, four dogs, and a leprous tabby.

Fred Thompson used to be responsible for taking Annie Parisse out for her daily walk on the set of Law & Order.

On his regular trips to Fantastica, Dennis Kucinich rides atop a snow white unicorn accompanied by a band of musical changelings.

Wesley Clark has keeps a stable full of stalking horses, which are owned by the Clintons.

Ron Paul regularly establishes cockfight rings, proclaiming it to be an educational display of the concept of “survival of the fittest.”

Joe Biden
keeps a parrot. Big surprise.

Every fortnight for the past thirty years, Newt Gingrich holds a ritual deep in the woods of Arlington where a half dozen virgin white mishas are sacrificed to Alvin Toffler.

Dick Cheney often drinks the blood of fawns for lunch, usually mixed with a quart of Valvoline.

While on a promotional tour for An Inconvenient Truth in Antarctica, Al Gore married a puffin in a moment of ecologically orgasmic weakness. The marriage was later annulled on advice from his advisor.

Sam Brownback refuses to believe that calico cats exist.

While some may dismiss all of this as unimportant distractions from the real issues, it’s not exactly a secret that character counts during elections. People want to know the human side of a candidate and, in the case of Rudy Giuliani, whether there is actually at least a human side. People voted for George W. Bush not because of his stance on the estate tax or abortion, but because he seemed like a regular guy that would not be out of place sitting in your living room, watching the football game, and not being able to figure out the proper way to swallow a pretzel without passing out. Bill Clinton’s ability to feel our pain wasn’t just a throwaway political cliché, but a genuine ability to build rapport with people by making everyone in the room feel like he was looking them right in the eye, pressing firmly on their hand in a comforting manner and slowly moving his hand up the small of your back looking for the clasp.

Though when it comes down to it, perhaps Romney’s so-called gaffe was a well-placed advantage to his campaign. By declaring the experience he has with hosing down feces, psychological manipulation, and emotionless crisis management, he’s establishing himself as the person best able to handle Gitmo.