Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ronald McDonald: Public Menace?

Recently a campaign was launched against Ronald McDonald by watchdog organization Corporate Accountability International. The group, which successfully deep-sixed Joe Camel in the 90’s, has announced that the iconic (and slightly creepy) clown “has hooked kids on unhealthy foods spurring a deadly epidemic of diet-related diseases.” They maintain that the McDonald’s mascot bears some of the responsibility for the epidemic of obese American children and want the culinary debauchery to stop. They are staging demonstrations in front of McDonald’s locations all over the country in an effort to pressure the chain to get rid of their spokesman for good. McDonald’s has issued a statement defending Ronald as “a beloved brand ambassador for McDonald's” and unapologetically refused to comply with the group’s demands.
In a similar move, Californian lawmaker Ken Yeager has proposed a bill that would prevent fast food chains in his region from providing toys with their kid’s meals. He feels that the move could help stem the tide of obese children because “ten out of 12 meals that are associated with the promotional toys are the high-caloric, high-fat and high-sodium meals.” Shockingly, the California restaurant associated does not feel that this is a prudent step.
I fully agree that we should give children every advantage (be it health or otherwise) that we possibly can, but these approaches seem ill-advised for several reasons:
·         I am not sure how many children are that enticed by Ronald McDonald. He looks like a bi-polar clown wearing a highway worker’s onesie. Put a butcher knife in his hand, dim the lighting and you have an image frightening enough to cause Mayor McCheese to drop a cheddar cube.
·          As McDonalds does not perform home delivery, someone has to obtain said food for the children. Common sense would tell you that a steady diet of McRibs might not be the most nutritious meal-plan for your growing offspring but we cannot force people to avoid a McCoronary.
·         I am also not convinced that an inexpensive plastic choking hazard is going to tip the scales one way or the other. When I was a kid the bank teller always gave me a sucker when my parents brought me in, but I doubt this incentive convinced my parents to make more deposits. They chose and patronized the bank for their own reasons and the candy was just a bonus.
In the end, a child’s diet outside of school is wholly at the discretion of their guardian, parent, or caretaker. People go to McDonalds because it is fast, cheap, and delivers enough artery devastating calories to quell your hunger for long periods of time. Corporate responsibility is a necessary component of a capitalistic society, but unless the toys are covered in arsenic or Ronald starts dropping F-bombs at Timmy’s birthday party, I am not sure lawmaker should step in.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marital Phenomenon

Over the past seven years, I have witnessed several strange marital phenomenons, but among my two favorites are “the husband voice” and “the vanishing conversation.” Every bit as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle or the Federal Tax Code, these strange occurrences employ an insurmountable combination of circular logic and outright denial that renders any spousal resistance futile.
The Husband Voice
Several times throughout our marriage, my wife has had occasion to recreate my half of a conversation we had to a neutral third party. This involves her singlehandedly reconstructing and performing our entire conversation for the benefit of those who did not have the privilege of witnessing its original premier. While this on its own is not unusual, I have discovered a unique set of characteristics that tend to accompany this unauthorized impression of me and through several discussions with coworkers found that it is somewhat universal in a marriage relationship.
We have christened this phenomenon, “The Husband Voice” and below I have identified the most common symptoms to watch for. The progression of the “husband voice” is as follows:
1.       The woman’s chin will dramatically retreat into her neck while she assumes an unflattering, lumbering posture. This serves as a caricature of her significant other’s Neanderthal-esque physical characteristics.
2.       Her face will then become unnaturally contorted into frown lines to simulate the extreme physiological duress high-level thinking apparently causes her partner.
3.       Once the speaking begins, enunciation is sacrificed for the sake of brevity and lack of recall. In practical terms this means that the man’s part of the conversation sounds eerily similar to the Swedish Chef from The Muppets.
Once this exhibition is completed, the following exchange normally occurs:
Man : “I don’t sound anything like that.”
Woman: “That’s EXACTLY what you sound like.”
Man: “When do I sound like that?”
Woman: “You sound like that all the time.”
Man: “What is that supposed to mean?”
Woman: “See! You just did it again!”   assumes husband voice    “What is that supposed to mean?”

Process repeats until the end of time……..

 The Vanishing Conversation
Many a matrimonially-inclined man has found himself desperately searching for the phantasm known as the vanishing conversation. Its disappearance usually corresponds with an inadvertent double booking on the couple’s social calendar and leads to either one of two conversations:
Scenario A
Man:  “Do you want to catch a movie Saturday night?”
Woman:  “We are going to my Uncle Nelson’s parole hearing & potluck Saturday night. Remember?”
Man:  “When did we plan that?”
Woman: “I told you about it two weeks ago.”
Man:  “I do not remember you ever telling me that; maybe you just though you told me that.”
Woman: “Perhaps if you actually listened when I talked, you would remember things that we discussed.”
Man:  “I swear you did not tell me that.”
Woman:  “It doesn’t matter now; just don’t let me forget to pick up the ingredients for my Felony Fajitas…”

Scenario B
Woman:  “Do you want to eat dinner with Steve and Sue Saturday night?”
Man:  “I already told Randy that we would come see his adult magic show at the Best Western.”
Woman:  “Why would you tell him that without discussing it with me?”
Man:  “I did discuss it with you! Don’t you remember? We had this long conversation about it last Tuesday on our way to Burrito King.”
Woman:  “I remember going to Burrito King, but you never mentioned Randy’s magic show.”
Man:   growing desperate   “I know I did, because you said “What is an adult magic show?” and I said, “I think he just does the show without his pants.”
Woman:  “You must have had this conversation with someone else because you didn’t have it with me.”

You will notice that in scenario A, where it is the husband that is blindsided by a social engagement, the wife immediately suspects the husband’s inattentiveness is to blame for the mix up. This is in direct contrast to scenario B, where the wife is blindsided, in which she immediately suspects that her husband is so removed from reality that he actually fabricates entire conversations. This is what is known as the “vanishing conversation,” and makes it practically impossible for the wife to accept any responsibility in a double-booking.

*The views and opinions expressed in the post are those of the author and don’t necessarily represent even a passing similarity to the views and opinions of the author’s spouse, advertisers, or affiliates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Heidi Montag: Dreamer, Visionary, Role Model

There are certain instances where stunning natural beauty and unparalleled intellect are manifested in the same woman; today I wish to forgo discussing such a phenomenon and instead talk about Heidi Montag.
Born in Crested Butte, Colorado (you can’t make this stuff up) in 1986, she moved to California and was cast/assimilated into the cerebral tour de force that is The Hills. On the set of the show she met the only man who could possibly deserve her and on November 20, 2008 she and Spencer Pratt participated in a televised wedding ceremony in Mexico. After the Associated Press ran a story that the ceremony was fake, the couple decided to renew their artificial vows and participate in another ceremony late last year (this one seems to be legally binding.)
Heidi then officially hired Spencer as her business manager which led to career obliterating decisions like spending $2 million on her debut album Superficial. Explaining the record’s title Montag responds, "I've been called superficial, and that's not who I am - that's just the surface.”  A sampling of lyrics from the title track does seem to emphasize her depth of character:
They say I’m superficial
Some call me a bi*%$
They just mad cause
I’m sexy, famous and rich
I rock the latest fashions
And I set the latest trends
Girls say I’m conceited
Cause they really wanna be me
If I see it, gotta have it
Cause’ daddy never says no
Mama get what she wants
I keep it new, new
Like I’m supposed to yeah
Unable to find a record label executive intoxicated enough to bankroll the project, Spencer released the disc on his own Pratt Productions Records. The album moved 658 copies in its first week, possibly cementing Heidi’s reputation as the only highly televised artist whose record sales were unable to exceed her SAT scores.
Unwilling to accept mediocrity as a permanent bedfellow, Mrs. Pratt decided to upgrade her factory parts in multiple plastic surgery sessions (famously undergoing 10 in one day). Over the course of several years she has admitted receiving the following upgrades, all before her 24th birthday:
·         2 Separate Breast Augmentations
·         Collagen Lip Injections
·         A nose job (with a later revision)
·         Brow Lift
·         Forehead Botox
·         Fat Injections into her cheeks
·         Chin reduction
·         Neck liposuction
·         Ears pinned back
·         Extensive liposuction on legs, thighs, and waist
·         Buttock augmentation
Her last round of improvements was so traumatic that she hired a full time psychic “intuitive healer” named Aiden Chase to help her cope with the pressure of the public’s non-existent expectations. Mr. Chase was so successful at whatever it was that he was paid to do that Heidi fired her husband / manager / surfer-wookie and hitched her wagon to the intuitive healer’s star. When questioned about her decision, Montag responded "Having an intuitive psychic leading my team gives me an edge no one else has.”  In all fairness to Mrs. Pratt, replacing Spencer with a used bilge pump would not have noticeably impacted her career one way or the other.
Alas, Aiden’s stint as her manager lasted about 10 days before she fired him as by announcing "I have decided to part ways with Mr. Chase both as a manager and as a psychic.” While this was no doubt a soul-wrenching decision, Heidi has vowed to continue on and manager herself as “a strong and independent woman.” She and Spencer still plan to remain together for the sake of their three dogs and continue to spread their belief that the September 11th attacks were an inside job by the United States government.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Empire of Bishop Luke Edwards


Two folding chairs, a card table, and the passive endorsement of the nation’s largest retailer are all it takes to fund an empire. It may sound far-fetched, but Bishop Luke Edwards is at the helm of just such an organization and for the past thirty-three years he has prospered through a complex amalgamation of uncompensated labor, charitable donations, and questionable business deals.
Edwards’ empire operates under many monikers such as Reach Inc, The Holyland, and Christ Temple Church. Since its humble beginnings as a Mississippi-anchored congregation, the organization has amassed some enviable assets including airplanes, truck stops, shopping centers, and restaurants that by 2000 had inflated the Holyland’s net worth to just over $11 million.
These accomplishments are all the more impressive considering that in 1977 the organization consisted of just a modest congregation, the majority of which sustained themselves on government assistance. Bishop Edwards believed then, as he does now, that “most churches collect and never do anything for parishioners,” a financial model that he was determined not to imitate. He began collecting and pooling member’s food stamps and in turn, provided them with groceries. This gradually began generating enough revenue for the church to make preliminary investments in businesses which in turn generated more revenue for the church.
Eventually, the church began providing food, shelter, and even clothing to members who agreed to work at these church-operated ventures. This was done in lieu of a paycheck and provided a steady stream of monetarily uncompensated employees to staff the growing collection of business ventures. Eventually, the church constructed a commune in Sumter County, Alabama, which was for the hundreds of parishioners that were dependant on the church for their basic needs, thus The Holyland was born.  
By any objective standards, Sumter County is an economically depressed area. In 2000, over 38% of its 14,000 residents lived below the poverty level and the median family income just barely cracked $23,000 a year. Sumter County’s true claim to fame is housing the largest hazardous waste landfill in the United States which resides in the tiny town of Emelle, AL where The Holyland also holds property. It is not difficult to imagine that Edward’s message of self-reliance and freedom from poverty was embraced with open arms.
On the surface, all this reads like an awe-inspiring journey of one minister leading his flock out of a government subsidized existence and into a self-sustaining collective, but the reality is far more complicated. In the late 70’s the church formed a charitable arm called Citizens for Research, Education and Community Hope Inc. (more commonly known by its acronym R.E.A.C.H. Inc) which began soliciting for donations outside popular retailers such as Wal-Mart. Members were instructed to obtain the donations under the banner of “child abuse” as it easily loosens the purse strings of store patrons.
As part of their contribution, some commune members were required to participate in this child-abuse fundraising circuit, known internally as “The Route”, sometimes being shuffled hundreds of miles from home. In an interview with The Birmingham News, former member of seventeen years, Gail Walker, recalled how she spent six days a week on “The Route” for an entire year and was not even given leave to attend her own mother’s funeral.
“We were getting beau-coups of money,” Ms. Walker said in an interview. Gail claims that in one year she personally collected $65,000 in donations for abused children and it was not unusual to clear $5,000 a week. The money would be deposited in various bank accounts that would flow back into the organization’s coffers.
Tax Structure
Where does all of this money collected on “The Route” go? In 2000, REACH, INC claimed that they only received $8,515.53 in contributions and declared $7,589.10 in expenses such as bank fees and supplies. In 2001, the organization’s declared donations fell to $5,053.41 and their expenses dropped by almost 60%. Even more unusual is that an organization that collects less than $10,000 a year claims assets in excess of $230,000 and lists a president, vice-president, treasurer, and board member, none of whom receive salaries on paper. These figures paint a much different financial picture than that claimed by ex-members such as Walker.
 This is possible because the majority of the Edward’s organization operates as an “Apostolic Association” filing under IRC 501(d). There are numerous perks for this type of structure:
·         It is a federal tax designation specifically for communal religious communities whose primary activity is farming or manufacturing.
·         All income can be placed in a community treasury and distributed by the organization with minimum oversight from outsiders since this designation is not required to file a Form 990 or other public documents disclosing the money’s use.
·         501(d) organizations are tax exempt as long as they have a common treasury, even though they engage in business for the common benefit of the members.
·         The organization simply reports each member’s “share” of the pie instead of any individual income.
The real question is why would Bishop Edward’s organization bother to create a 501(c)(3) in the first place? Certainly they are entitled to an inordinate amount of both fiscal privacy and tax freedom under the 501(d) structure. Why would they open themselves up to outside scrutiny? Again there are several reasons:
·         Contributions to a 501(d) are not tax deductible.
·         A 501(c)(3) is necessary to become eligible for a large number of government grants including several for farming and agriculture.
·         It allows them to solicit outside large retailers like Wal-Mart who require this designation.
The beauty of this arrangement is that the group can solicit cash donations under REACH, Inc. and deposit the proceeds into the community treasury to be utilized for expenses. Within this structure, the leaders of the organization determine what income they will choose to report as charitable donations to REACH, Inc and what will go into the communal pot. The result is a complex shell game that allows maximum tax advantages with minimum public disclosure.
 It seems unbelievable, but one of the components that make such an operation possible is the solicitation policy of large retailers like Wal-Mart and SAM’s Club. Because there is no official chain-wide solicitation policy dictated from a corporate level, each store’s policy is created and enforced by the manager and local outreach liaison. Some locations allow no solicitations at all, but most will allow anyone who can produce written documentation of 501(c)(3) status. For instance, my local store has hosted Reach, Inc several times and other than a stipulation that Wal-Mart has the right to dictate their physical location, time slot, and frequency, the parameters are surprisingly lax.
·         In 1990, the organization was cited for more than one-hundred child labor violations.
·         In 1991, a former church secretary won a $650,000 judgment against Bishop Edwards for “sexual misconduct” and “mind control.”
·         In 1993, a Holyland runaway triggered a state child-abuse investigation
·         In 1998, four children died in a fire that ripped through one of the girl’s dormitories.
·         In 1999, the boys dormitory burned (no one was killed).
·         In 2000, a Holyland deacon was acquitted of assaulting a teenager that once lived in the commune.
The group has made its share of enemies over the years. In the 1980’s, one of the group’s businesses purchased a 322-acre hog farm from Hattiesburg, Mississippi resident Tommy Graham for $650,000. The business later defaulted on the payments and Tommy got a court judgment for the money he was owed. The group responded by having that particular business file for bankruptcy and then Reach, Inc was able to re-acquire the land for the commune at less than half the original price.
 Not all of the criticism comes from the outside. Phillip Williams, Reach, Inc’s first president, left after concluding that the organization was a “racket” and that the money was not trickling down to the individuals. A lengthy court battle ensued and Williams was eventually granted custody of his then 13-year old son, who testified that while in the commune he rarely got to see his mother and was often denied food for up to four days at a time for misbehavior.
 Lakisha Davis Herr grew up inside Edward’s organization and remembers frequent whippings as a child. Other Holyland children confirm Herr’s recollections, with several claiming that they were whipped with horse straps during their residency.
Several former members have contacted me via this very blog to express their solidarity with those who felt betrayed by the organization. Former member, Kimberly Landingham, who is Gail Walker’s cousin, admitted that she felt “abused in every sense of the word” by the commune. Another anonymous reader who claims to have escaped from the group posted:
“We would be gone for 2 or 3 months at a time, away from our children. We were supposed to receive prorated shares of the non-profit 501(d) upon leaving the organization. This information was reported to the IRS as if we received it. I left the organization 3 years ago, with 53.00 in my pocket and a bus ticket from a friend. We worked for nothing... No pay...nothing.”
Surprisingly, some of the most scathing criticism comes from Edward’s own children. Brenda Garris, Edward’s eldest child, admitted that “My father is a mastermind. He’s always been a hustler.” Even more alarming is how she handled comparisons between her father and other infamous commune figureheads such as, Jim Jones and David Koresh, “Jim Jones had nothing on Luke Edwards” she insisted.
So how does Bishop Edwards respond to such criticism? He believes that much of the negative publicity is generated by prejudiced whites and jealous blacks. This excerpt from an interview with Robin Demonia of the Birmingham News is quite revealing:
"You ain't ever seen a black man do what I do," said Edwards, a staunch Republican with a fourth-grade education. "I've been a challenger all my life. . . . They say I can't run a business, and I say I can. They say, 'I'm not going to finance you.' I say, 'I'll finance it myself.' I would not let being poorly educated and black stop me."
The Future
The group has succeeding in keeping a much lower profile in the past decade. In fact, it was the lack of public information on the group that led me to investigate them in the first place. The strategy seems to have paid off, as most of the people whom I spoke to, were surprised to learn that they were still actively soliciting under the Reach, Inc banner.  Especially given that my location in West Tennessee is almost 250 miles away from the group’s headquarters. The “charity” shows no sign of slowing down, even having recently created a Facebook page to proliferate their cause.
For the bishop’s newest venture, he has teamed up with Dr. Donald R. Evans, Sr. to construct a private school for disadvantaged children in Sumter County called Greentown USA. Dr. Evans, who holds an honorary doctorate from the unaccredited Saint Stephens Educational Bible College in Los Angeles, is serving as “Director of the National Public Relations & Fund Raising” for the project. Edward’s role is officially listed a “spiritual guidance.”
 According to the school’s “admissions office” students will not apply, but rather be referred by the legal system, churches, or parents on a case by case basis. Despite the fact that the project has not even broken ground yet, the school is accepting donations via the website. The school plans to be operational by the fall of 2012.
It is unclear why the school is even necessary considering that Edward’s group continues to maintain the Christ Temple Academy, an educational institution that the bishop created in the late 70’s. The school utilizes the Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) methodology that allows the students to learn at their own pace and according to the schools webpage is designed “to produce children that are capable of running businesses.” The school has no oversight from state officials and one child who was removed from the commune after five years at the school was judged “borderline illiterate.”
Given Edward’s advanced age it is unclear what the next decade will hold for Reach, Inc and The Holyland, but whatever the future brings I have no doubt that your donations will be gladly accepted.
*Special thanks to Robin Demonia of Birmingham News. Her brilliant 2000 expose on the group was invaluable to this piece and the best resource I have discovered. Also thanks to Jay Reeves of the AP for his help and direction.

The Tax Guidelines for a 501(d) Apostolic Organization can be found here:

The official website for Reach, Inc. and the Christian Temple Academy can be found here:

The official website for the Greentown USA project can be found here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Lesbian Prom*

I am sure by now most of you are familiar with the prom fiasco taking place at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. On February 5th of this year, the school issued a memorandum to students and parents as a reminder that all prom dates must be of the opposite sex. Eighteen year-old senior Constance McMillen had already planned on dressing in a tuxedo and bringing another female student to the prom as a date. Upon the memo’s release, she met with school officials to make her plans known. Eventually she gained an audience with Superintendent, Teresa McNeece, who informed her that only male students could wear tuxedos and both she and her date could be ejected from the prom if any of the other students complained about their presence there.
After striking out with the superintendent, McMillen contacted the ACLU who met with school officials to try and persuade them to change their stance. Following this meeting, the school decided to cancel the prom altogether by issuing the following statement:
"Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year."
They claimed to come to this decision after "taking into consideration the education, safety and well-being of our students.”
Local resident Eric Reyna eloquently expressed his support of the board’s decision to a local new channel:
“When we send our kids to school, we want them to attend a function such as this that's moral and stuff, there's immorality there. What about our rights? About being able to go into a place and still maintain, you know, morality.”
There are several items that I find puzzling:
·         I have never heard of a school specifically issuing a pre-prom memorandum to remind the student body of what constitutes “a couple.” This means that school officials were aware of Constance’s plans before she announced them and intended to specifically ostracize her or bring the issue to a head.

·         Why did the school board cite the “safety and well-being” of the students in their release? Are Constance and her girlfriend members of an unusually violent sect of lesbians? Are there documented cases of heterosexual fatalities if two women slow dance?

·         Why are all of the citizens worried that the presence of two students is going to remove the morality of the prom? How moral are the proms in Mississippi? Most high school proms consist of overdressed hormonal teenagers attempting to convince their dates that a few Mike’s Hard Lemonades back at the La Quinta Inn executive suite won’t hurt them. I am not sure that Constance’s absence would allow them to revert back to their original prom agenda of prayer circles and Bible Trivia.
·         Who cares if she wants to wear a tuxedo? If we were honest with ourselves, many of us would rather have seen some of our female classmates in tuxedos rather than a sequined evening gown with an inappropriately plunging neckline.

·         This is a public high school, hosting a school event, on school grounds and as far as I am concerned they have no legal standing to prevent two students from attending regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. It is disingenuous for the local school system to demand Constance’s adherence to what they consider socially acceptable just because it makes them uncomfortable. It is apparent that she is guilty of nothing more than being a lesbian in Mississippi.
I do believe that there is a bright side to all of this for both Constance and the entire senior class. A hotel owner in New Orleans has offered to host the entire prom free of charge in his swanky ballroom. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these seniors to be the one graduating class not to endure another “Jesus Take The Wheel” themed prom in the Itawamba Agricultural High School’s cafeteria.
As for the citizens concerned with what’s “moral and stuff,” perhaps there are more pressing issues in America than who Constance McMillen chooses to slow dance with. But that’s just a thought……

*For those of you wondering, the title of this post was a shameless attempt to generate more traffic for my blog on Google.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Tale of Urology

About a year ago, I began to notice a sharp pain in my “swimsuit area.” Like any self-respecting male, I renounced any semblance of self-control and panicked. I have a tendency toward hypochondria and after a few weeks I was prepared to bequeath my belongings to my wife and the one delivery guy at work that is nice to me. I went to see my normal physician and he indicated that the pain might be the result of a hernia but he recommended that I see an urologist. I secured an appointment with the first available specialist and before I knew it the big day was upon me.
As we exited the elevator, I spotted perhaps the most morose group of grown men to ever be assembled in a waiting room. It quickly became apparent to me that I would be the only patient in the room who did not witness the moon landing, and most did not even look up from their outdated copy of Sports Illustrated to make eye contact. I approached the reception desk and attempted engaged the bespectacled woman in light conversation, but instead I was briskly issued a questionnaire, clipboard, and urine specimen cup and told to have all three ready when my name was called.
As I was hastily completing my form, a rather salty older gentleman entered the waiting room and was issued the same three items, but after looking at the specimen cup he turned to the receptionist and loudly informed her that although his “hose was connected to the spigot,  but the water was not turned on.” There were a few soft chuckles and I glanced up to see how the receptionist would take such blatant insubordination, but after studying the man for a few seconds she apparently came to the conclusion that it was ill-advised to force the issue. The man grinned and defiantly placed his cup back down on the counter before sauntering over to an empty chair. He was my hero.
After an agonizing forty-five minute wait, my name was called and Ashley and myself were led into a sparsely-furnished patient room. The focal point of the space was the examination table, an archaic contraption that was equipped with stirrups, levers, and what looked to be an oversized beer-bong that led to a hole in the floor. I spent the next several minutes trying to envision a scenario that would have necessitated such a frightening device, but thankfully I was drawing a blank. My attention then became focused on a collection of non-descript lubricants and disturbingly large latex gloves that adorned the lone countertop. I experienced a rather vivid image of someone artificially inseminating a cow and began to suspect that most of the room’s supplies had been purchased at Crazy Willie’s Feedstore. 
Finally, the door opened to reveal an agreeable looking middle-aged gentleman flanked very closely by a non-verbal sidekick sporting green scrubs and a dirty stache’. I nervously observed that the doctor hovered rather close to the “bovine insemination starter pack” as he began asking about the shadowy discomfort in my nether regions, but I promised myself I would remain calm unless he put on a face shield.
After several minutes, he requested that I remove my pants and underwear so that he could “take a peek” down there and I silently contemplated whether we should develop a safety word beforehand. What followed was an embarrassing compilation of squeezing, coughing, and having my berries inspected like we were at an organic fruit stand. Eventually, he felt that he had gathered sufficient evidence for a diagnosis and informed me that it was not a hernia.  Instead, I would need to be placed on antibiotics and wear “jockey-scrotum” style underwear. I glanced at my wife to make sure that I had heard his last recommendation correctly as I was unfamiliar with this particular style of undergarment, but this proved unnecessary as he repeated the phrase twice more.
Relieved that my visit was coming to a close without the use of any industrial lubricants, I began to reclaim my pants and by extension, my dignity, when the good doctor produced a digital recorder and began dictating the particulars of my case into it. I realize that this process is not abnormal in and of itself, but this is the first time I have been in the room with my physician while he was dictating. I really wish that he had waited.
I could have gone the rest of my natural life without hearing my genitalia described as “supple, but with adequate elasticity.” Similar adjectives continued to flow until I began to suspect he was describing a leather sectional in preparation for his upcoming Craigslist ad. I had to get out of there.
As we left, I stole one last glance at the sidekick who now looked as though he had long ago retreated to the special place in his mind where his job did not involve a revolving door of de-pantsed men. I felt an exhilarating sense of liberation as I passed back through the waiting room and into the outer corridor. Leaving behind the assembled men, the Phizer-adorned tissue dispensers, and the ubiquitous specimen containers for the outside world, I could not help but feel that I had been given a new lease on life.
Unfortunately, the first round of antibiotics was not as effective as I had hoped so I was scheduled for a follow-up visit with another urologist. This time I was unable to avoid the prostate check and although he was advanced in years, this doctor seemed to have the burly hands of a Canadian lumberjack.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Television Love

As many of you know, I view televised dating shows the same way I view the Double Cheese Quesadilla flavor of Hamburger Helper: frightening and completely unnecessary. To prove my point, a story recently emerged concerning a contestant on The Dating Game.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Dating Game, it (and various reincarnations) ran on ABC from 1965 to 1980 and served as the precursor to modern day shows such as The Bachelor. The premise was fairly simple; a bachelorette was sequestered behind a wall where she could not see the male contestants and the male contestants could not see her. The bachelorette would then ask the potential dates questions designed to reveal clues about their personality. The idea of hiding the physical characteristics of the daters was designed to prevent superficiality from interfering with true compatibility and create a sense of tension. Once the time limit to ask questions was exhausted, the bachelorette would be forced to choose a date based solely on their answers.
Several celebrities such as Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, and Farrah Fawcett appeared on the show during its run, but in 1978 the show was to have its most infamous guest of all.
 Rodney Alcala was 34 years old when appeared as mystery bachelor number one on the popular television show. He and two other contestants were attempting to win the affections of bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw and in the end Rodney was victorious (although Cheryl later turned down the opportunity to go out with him.)  
Criminal profiler Pat Brown would later state that this instance of rejection could have been the catalyst for what happened a few months later. In early 1979, just months after his win, Alcala would abduct and murder a 12 year-old girl and begin his career as a serial killer. Over the next decade, four other women would die by his hand and ultimately the crimes would go unpunished until February of this year when he was found guilty of the five homicides in a California court.
While I am not suggesting that The Dating Game turned Mr. Alcala into a serial killer, it is telling that Robert Alcala had been convicted of raping an eight year old girl ten years prior to his appearance. This brings to mind a couple thoughts:
·         The screening process at ABC is not as stringent as one might hope (and I stand by my suspicion that current Bachelor host Chris Harrison has done Federal time.)
·         A person’s appeal on a televised dating program is obviously one the worst methods of gauging character I can imagine (without the pickaxe he seemed like a regular guy, so polite….)
Obviously Mr. Alcala had pre-existing mental issues, and whether or not his rejection on the show had any impact on his subsequent actions is debatable, but there is a disturbing trend to these shows. Since outrageous personalities generate higher ratings, producers will continue to seek out and cast progressively more unstable individuals. Case in point is Megan Wants a Millionaire contestant (and reported winner) Ryan Jenkins who strangled his ex-wife and stuffed her into a suitcase. 
If that doesn’t say “He’s a keeper,” what does?