Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jesus Loves Bacon!

On April 6, The Daily Telegraph reported that a local family had spotted Jesus in a piece of discarded chewing gum. The messianic appearance occurred on Good Friday when mother of two Nelly Noden removed a piece of gum from her mouth and laid it on the fireplace mantle so that she could enjoy some chips. When interviewed Mrs. Noden said, “I went to pick it up again and Jesus was just there, starring at me.”

Although admittedly not religious, the family believes that the timing is significant since the incident occurred around both Easter and Mrs. Noden’s birthday. “It was a real moment," admitted the U.K. mom, "My daughters and I were jumping around the room." The flavor of the gum has not been revealed, but the family plans to keep the artifact for posterity.
This was not the first time Jesus has made an appearance in a U.K. household this year. Just a month prior, The Daily Telegraph reported that a local bank teller named Toby Elles had conjured up an image of the Almighty while frying bacon. According to Mr. Elles, he and some friends had downed some beers and decided that some late night pork was in order. Unfortunately, Toby passed out on the couch for an hour after he tossed the bacon on the stove and when he came to; the house was filled with smoke.
Rushing to the stove, the 22-year old “lifted up the bacon and there was JC looking back at me.” Fearing that cleaning the pan would cause him to get “struck by lightning,” he has decided that he might get a permanent glass display case for the grease-fire miracle.  He reassures the public that he is “going to keep it for the rest of my life, perhaps it can watch over me." 

These two incidents imply several things:
1.       Jesus loves bacon, chewing gum, and the United Kingdom (all admirable).
2.       Working smoke alarms are only important if you wish to impede a domestic miracle.
3.       God rewards those who do not wish to waste a perfectly acceptable stick of slightly used chewing gum.
What bothers me most is that in most of these “appearance” cases, we rely solely on a stereotypical artistic depiction of Jesus. Long shoulder length hair, full beard, great complexion, and exceptional abs. In other words, that frying pan could just as easily be a depiction of a 1970’s era Kenny Loggins.
In fact, I feel that we are doing Mr. Loggins a great disservice by assuming that every long-haired, bearded apparition is Jesus. What if all this time we have been incorrectly categorizing Kenny sightings? Perhaps someone should cross-reference some of these claims. Do any of these people own the Footloose soundtrack? Have any of them recently purchased Caddyshack on Blu-Ray? Just something to think about…
However, if these incidents are not hoaxes, then the second coming of Christ appears to be a real snooze-fest. From what I know of the Bible, Messiah 2.0 is going to be much more dramatic than a pre-chewed stick of Big Red and an unattended stove top. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Amateur Graffiti & You

Several weeks ago on a beautiful spring day, my wife and I decided to take a leisurely stroll at a local nature park. Surrounded by the calming breeze and the stir of seasonal awakenings we took to one of the many wooden boardwalks that dissect the park. As we walked along I noticed that one of the handrails had recently been replaced and a budding young artist had adorned it with a poem. Upon further review however, I found that it was not a poem at all but rather a vicious personal attack:

I began to wonder what type of person would plan a trip to a nature park in order to spread the word about someone else’s supposed sexual promiscuity. If maximizing foot traffic was the goal I could think of much more effective areas than the handrail on trail #3 at a secluded nature park. Perhaps that very trail is where the two paramours first met or shared their first kiss before their mutual affection soured; or perhaps this was just a maladjusted adolescent who had been turned down for prom. Whatever the reason, it got me thinking about other arenas that showcased amateur graffiti.  
Over the years my unparalleled skill at combining interstate travel with mild Irritable Bowel Syndrome has granted me the privilege of viewing the interiors of many gas station restroom stalls. What I have observed over the years is that most of them have something in common, other than a lingering odor of shame and defeat; they are all covered in novice graffiti. Some are phone numbers, a few are declarations of affection, but by and large they are expressions of hatred. The question is; who are these people, who do they hate, and how do they express it?
When reading a message, I often wonder who these individuals are. Do they always have a chisel-tipped Sharpie on stand-by in case of an intestinal away-game? Are angry people drawn to public restrooms or are they angry because they have been reduced to using said restrooms? Unfortunately, I could find no exhaustive studies on the correlation between hatred and making a number 2 so we are left with only idle speculation; which happens to be a specialty of mine.
While it is usually impossible to identify the stereotypical graffiti artist, we can make several assumptions based on their handy work. In order to do these we must establish a pattern of how the work is presented and its subject matter.
The Call to Action
This usually consists of a series of instructions bookended by a racial slur and encourages like-minded stall dwellers to take up the cause. In the world of public oration, this is commonly known as a persuasive speech.
Example A – Kill all the Ruffles* or send them back where they came from!
In this example, the author intends to incite a localized ethnic cleansing campaign. The strategy is somewhat flawed as the originator of the comment did not leave any contact information thereby undermining his chance at forming a cohesive movement. However, one must applaud his use of deportation as a viable alternative for those who are still morally opposed to homicide.
Example B -White Power!
Like many calls to action, this one is based on race. Given the lack of a specific context, it would seem that the responsible parties intend to make a case for generalized intellectual superiority based on a Caucasian heritage. Certainly if there is any action that demonstrates cognitive prowess, it is intentionally defacing stall number four at a south Alabama rest area. Occasionally the artist will undermine their claim of extraordinary intelligence by substituting “Arian” for “Aryan” when referencing a specific ideology. For the record, Arianism refers to the teachings of Arius, an ancient Christian theologian that held somewhat controversial beliefs about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Aryanism loosely refers to the idea of practicing eugenics to form a “master race” that would populate the Earth (and presumably continue to misspell words as they defaced restroom walls.)
The Statement of Fact
In these situations, the originator of the graffiti wishes to broadcast information that they feel is pertinent to the populace as a whole. Since we can safely assume that many of them do not have access to mainstream media outlets (TV, radio, etc.) they have selected the next best thing: the wall.
Example A  – Lisa is a skanky Dorito
Here the author clearly intends to disseminate the information that Lisa is no longer a woman beyond moral reproach. Her hygiene, countenance, and general moral character have been called into question and the message simply wishes to alert others of this discovery so that they might avoid undesirable personal entanglements. Barely even registering as graffiti, this type of message is more akin to an impromptu community bulletin board.
Example B - Your Girlfriend Fritos people’s Tostitos for Quarters.
 Not nearly as informative as the previous entry, it would seem that this artist is making a generalized statement meant to broadly offend. In these cases “Your Girlfriend” is often substituted for “Your Mom”, “Your Granny”, or the occasional “Your Face.” On an economic note, in the context of a financial recession, reduction of price for services rendered can be a powerful catalyst for new customers. When seen in this light, the derogatory message could be sound entrepreneurial advice for a struggling small business owner.
The Conversation
Visitor 1: Gargle on my Sun Chips
Visitor 2:  I am busy at your mom’s house
Visitor 3: Both of your moms gargle my Sun Chips
 Visitor 1: Pringle you, Cheeto Puff!

Unlike the previous entries, these tend to be collaborative efforts that often involve three or more people. The content of the original post elicits a reaction from the next pen-wielding motorist with the squirts and a communiqué is born. The downside to this structure is that the conversation tends to escalate unnecessarily. We can safely assume that visitor 2 has never been acquainted with visitor 1’s momma thus making it even less likely that visitor 3 is a mutual associate of both mothers.
These conversations tend to continue until one of three situations presents itself:
·         The participants run out of wall space and are forced to continue their conversation at another establishment with a public restroom.
·         The owner of the current establishment renovates the bathroom and the archived statements are no longer visible.
·         All participants feel that the discussion has come to satisfactory conclusion (or the list of relatives to insult has been exhausted.)
Regardless of the form utilized, stall-based amateur graffiti will continue to provide intestinally-challenged travelers with a welcome distraction from wondering what microscopic organisms are currently chewing their way through the delicate barrier of single-ply toilet paper that separates them from the remnants of someone else’s poor culinary choices.
*Please note that in order to prevent further proliferation of racial slurs and unnecessary profanity I have replaced all offensive words with popular brands of potato chips.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steven Seagal is under siege (and perhaps house arrest)

I dare say that no pony-tailed thespian has had a greater impact on straight to video action films than Mr. Steven F. Seagal. His homicide-themed triumphs include Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Half Past Dead, Out for a Kill, Today You Die, Kill Switch, and Driven to Kill. Born April 10, 1952 in Lansing, Michigan, Mr. Seagal holds a black belt in aikido and briefly operated dojos in Japan and West Hollywood before being hired as the martial arts coordinator for the 1982 film The Challenge.
Delighted by his first taste of the film industry, Steven would later go on to star in the 1992 action-thriller Under Siege where he portrayed a cook with special-ops training. The film was a commercial success, two words that Mr. Seagal never heard much after the early 90’s. He later invested in other endeavors, such as his own line of energy drinks called Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt which came in quasi-offensive flavors like Asian Experience. There was even a mercifully short lived foray into the celebrity aftershave market with Steven Seagal’s Scent of Action. When asked about his professional image, the ever-humble star responded, “I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.”
In late 2009, Mr. Seagal began producing an A&E reality series called Steven Seagal: Lawman. The show, filmed in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, follows Steven as he dispenses justice Seagal style. His actual law enforcement credentials have been called into question and as best anyone can tell he is listed as a reserve deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parish. I assume that the title is both honorary and normally bestowed upon children visiting the police station as a part of a field trip. There has been some concern that the badge issued to him is actually comprised of milk chocolate wrapped in foil.
While his professional resume provides endless fodder for conversation, it is Mr. Seagal’s private life that keeps him in the public consciousness. A few short weeks ago, a 23-year old executive assistant to star filed a lawsuit in California accusing him of sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and false representation about employment. Aspiring socialite Kayden Nguyen claims that she responded to a Craigslist ad for an “executive assistant” position only to find that she was replacing one of two Russian models that were employed as “sex toys” to the 59 year old action star. She claims that she was held against her will in the star’s Jefferson County home, repeatedly groped, and asked for “massages” by the actor. She claims that when she finally escaped, Mr. Seagal chased her with a “flashlight with a gun attached to it.”*
Mr. Seagal’s attorney has responded that Ms. Nguyen was fired for using narcotics on the job and is simply a disgruntled ex-employee (perhaps she was ineligible for the sexretary severance package enjoyed by her predecessor.) They have filed a countersuit against the model claiming that she is breaching a non-disclosure agreement by filing the lawsuit. To be fair, Ms. Nguyen is no stranger to the limelight herself having been the subject of an episode of the Tyra Banks Show where she bragged about her ability to manipulate men (although she is a staunch lesbian.)
Regardless, this recent development is just the latest in a long string of personal missteps for the actor. In 1984 he married Days of Our Lives star Adrienne La Russa, a slightly imprudent step since he was still married to his first wife and mother of his two children Miyako Fujitani, whom he left in Japan when he returned to the United States to pursue his career. Three years later he began a relationship with actress and model Kelly LeBrock, whom he subsequently impregnated. This met with mild disapproval from his current wife La Russa, who quickly filed for an annulment. On September 7, 1987, Seagal and LeBrock were married and spawned two additional children over the next seven years. At some point the couple hired a nanny named Arissa Wolf whom Steven would also impregnate. LeBrock filed for divorce in 1994 citing "irreconcilable differences.”
Jenny McCarthy claimed that she experienced Mr. Seagal’s subtle charms first hand while auditioning for a role in Under Siege 2. After being summoned to his office for a private casting session, he reportedly told her to “Sit on my couch” & “Take off your dress.” McCarthy originally revealed the exchange during a 1998 interview with Movieline and when recently asked about the experience she continues to stand by her original interview.
Also in 1998, Penthouse magazine published accounts of nine other women who claimed to be the victim of Mr. Seagal’s “inappropriate behavior.” In 2001, Seagal faced a sexual harassment lawsuit from Patricia Nichols who worked with the actor in a recording studio and claimed he made unwanted advances on her.
A&E has suspended production of the show until further notice but Seagal’s attorney has not commented on whether or not Nguyen’s position will be filled. So ladies, keep your eyes on Craiglist and your hand on the pepper spray because one day you too might have the opportunity to be made uncomfortable by unwanted celebrity advances.

* And yes, that is exactly how she phrased it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Zombie Films: An Odyssey

Recently, I have been in a mood to watch zombie-themed films. Over the past few weeks I have taken in several selections from this genre and I have noticed a few trends that I would like to share.
Zombie films overly exaggerate our propensity for sympathy.
As disheartening as this may seem, most of us are not inclined to continue approaching another person who has large quantities of human blood streaming from their mouth as they produce guttural moans. I imagine most movie scripts in these situations would read like this:
Zombie:  emits gurgling noise through blood-stained teeth while dragging someone’s severed limb
Bystander #2:  “Is everything okay?”
Zombie:  responds by simultaneously retching and taking a bite out of aforementioned limb while continuing to approach Bystander #2
Bystander #2:  “Is something wrong?”
Zombie:  closes distance between itself and Bystander #2 while menacingly chanting “Hungry!”
Bystander #2: wondering out loud   “I think that something might be wrong…”

At this point zombie eats Bystander #2 amid his cries of “What are you doing?!?”

While I am all about concern for another human being, that concern tends to be dependent on whether or not the other human being is currently devouring a jogger or the FedEx guy. Despite the fact that our newspapers are inundated with stories of callous disregard for imperiled fellow humans in real life, during a zombie outbreak the entire human populace apparently becomes Mother Teresa.

People in zombie films are disturbingly unaware of their necks.
This is almost universal and seems to run contrary to human nature. The placement of one’s teeth on the flesh of a fellow person’s neck (provided that they are conscious) is an exceedingly difficult feat to accomplish without consent. This is due to both the awkward angle the attacker’s head must assume and the fact that most people instinctively raise their shoulder to prevent such uninvited contact.
If you disagree, I invite you to approach a total stranger and attempt to give them a hickey. You will quickly notice that this is a difficult task even without an alien virus ravaging your delicate central nervous system and the stench of death giving you away. On a side note, I believe that Christian Slater may still be in court over a similar experiment.
Changing into a zombie adversely affects your wardrobe.
In almost every instance where a person is bitten by a zombie, the articles of clothing they have on become instantly tattered and overly soiled. I will grant you that some of this is due to the bloodletting that often accompanies such a change. However, this does not account for the split pants and torn shirts, especially when these fabric breakdowns occur in areas unmolested by the virus-deranged aggressor.
One minute, a woman is wearing a stylish purple blouse with a plaid skirt and heels, and two minutes after she is bitten her shoes have gone missing, the blouse is ripped in four places, and her skirt looks as though it has survived an eight-month old shipwreck.
I realize that fabric durability has taken some hits lately but I see nothing wrong with giving Old Navy the benefit of the doubt.
Posterity always seems to trump self-preservation.
The most recent example of this is the film Quarantine, in which the central characters are members of a local news crew. This is utilized as a plot device allowing the film to be presented to us in a first-person perspective (i.e. as the cameraman sees it). Situations like this tend to be sensible at first, but after you have documented a dozen people eating each other in rapid succession, most of us would choose to remove the tape and leave the fifty-two pound camera behind.
I remember the scenes in that film going something like this:

Guy #4:  “Turn that camera off!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “People need to see this”
Guy #4:  “Haven’t you already gotten enough carnage? I said TURN IT OFF!!!!”
Reporter Sue:  “Don’t listen to him Gary! People need to know the truth!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “If you want this camera; you are gonna have to come get it!”

As Guy #4 approaches news crew he is attacked and eaten by zombies 6 &11 as Camera Guy Gary continues to film.

Reporter Sue:  “Tell me you got that!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “Oh, I got that!”

Again, I think we can all agree that there is inherent value in first person footage of unusual occurrences. It seems unlikely, however, that a normal person working part time for a local news channel is going to risk his life in order to obtain footage that will likely be edited down to an 8-second montage used to kill time before the local meteorologist checks the forecast for the sixth time.
I propose this as a more realistic rewrite:
Guy #4:  “Turn that camera off!”
Camera Guy Gary:  “People need to see this”
Guy #4:  “Haven’t you already gotten enough carnage? I said TURN IT OFF!!!!”
Reporter Sue:  “Don’t listen to him Gary! People need to know the truth!”
Camera Guy Gary:  turning to reporter Sue 
“Well, perhaps, you should film it so that I have a free arm to defend my abdomen from deranged zombies. After all, the only thing you have been burdened with is a two pound microphone and what I can only assume is a pantsuit from the Hillary Clinton collection. While you may be unaware of it, I have a mortgage and two children to support, which is the only reason that I agreed to trade with Frank and take this shift in the first place. And while we are on the subject, I lied earlier and I do feel like your eye-shadow makes you look like the third-string quarterback for a low-budget escort service.”
Reporter Suevisibly crestfallen “But how will we spread the truth?”
Camera Guy Gary: placing camera on the ground “I guess they will just have to check my Facebook status”

The Idea of Natural Recovery is Ignored.
Although the source of zombie mayhem is normally attributed to a “virus,” the idea of natural recovery never seems to occur to the survivors. In almost every case the script gives them two options:
1.       Violently murder everyone infected that you come in contact with.
2.       Create an artificial cure.
I always thought it would be funny to begin a zombie movie with the typical premise of a band of survivors who is forced to maim, beat, and generally slaughter everyone in their entire community. Only later is it revealed that the zombie virus was a five day sort of bug. Other than lingering dehydration, the infected had no long term problems and would have made a full recovery had they not been killed prematurely by the band of survivors.
The medical approach taken by most zombie films is the equivalent of going to a doctor’s office with the world’s first case of the flu and the staff decides it is best for humanity that you are shot in the face before they try Tylenol and a few days of observation. Granted the flu does not normally lead into cannibalism, but after four hours in the waiting room with a 100 degree fever the boundless aggression is certainly there…..

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Return To Sender


We have all come home with items that we later wish to return (The Ped Egg, do it yourself enema kits) but one Tennessee family has decided to return a child that they adopted from Russia. The dissolution of a finalized adoption is rare (some statistics put it at less than 1%) and involves several complicated legal proceedings that Grandmother Nancy Hansen did not wish to bother with. So she did what any self-respecting guardian would do; she took to the Internet in search of sound legal advice.
She located an online attorney that reportedly told her to put the kid on a plane to Russia and those other pesky details would fall into place. Obviously concerned with the child’s well-being, Nancy bought a one-way plane ticket and hired a Russian driver name Arthur to pick him up and drop him off at the Russian child protection ministry. When the child arrived unannounced, the Russian government was so angry that they immediately shut down all American adoptions of Russian children until a new agreement between the two nations can be ratified.
So what reason could the family possibly have for such behavior? The Grandmother claims that the 7 year old was violent and borderline psychotic, even taking the time to pen a “hit list” of family members that he wanted to kill. The final straw was when Nancy walked into the bedroom and saw the young man setting fire to some paper which she surmised was part of a plot to burn down the house and kill the entire family. The boy’s adoptive Grandmother claims that the young man confessed to burning down a building next to his Russian orphanage and admitted to other violent tendencies that they feel should have been disclosed to them before the adoption was finalized.
Where to begin…..
·         Assuming that this Tennessee family did in fact adopt Damien from The Omen as they claim, I am sure that a dissolution proceeding would illuminate this and allow the proper channels to prepare for his return and arrange for psychiatric treatment. The family claims that the kid was so disturbed that he was plotting assassinations after his daily nap, yet they never filed a complaint with the adoption agency. Russia is a country, not a vending machine for toddlers.
·         I cannot think of a better place to obtain life-altering legal advice than a Google search and a few anonymous e-mails with someone at
·         I also love that she hired a driver to pick the kid up based on his positive Internet reviews. It is nothing short of a miracle that this child arrived at his destination unharmed. This woman hired a man she did not know to pick up an undocumented orphan and took his word for the fact that the boy would ever be seen again. On a side note, Arthur does not strike me as a traditional Russian name but I am probably just being paranoid; after all people don’t lie on the Internet.
·         Where was the actual mother who adopted the child? It appears that all decisions concerning the young man’s future were made by cyber-granny and the mother’s contribution was reduced to writing a letter that indicated that she no longer wanted to “parent this child.” Maternal instinct fail.
Obviously we cannot know all of the circumstances behind the Hansen’s decision to put their adopted son on a plane, but their thoughtless actions have jeopardized thousands of Russian children who are waiting to be adopted into American homes. I just hope that Tennessee’s new claim to fame will not be reigniting the Cold War.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Silence is Golden

Example #1
After removing a cancerous mole from my head several years ago, my doctor suggested that I begin seeing a dermatologist as a preventative measure. I agreed, and a few months later I found myself in the office of Dr. Holly where I was asked to remove everything but my value brand underwear and place a ridiculously large napkin over my lap for the sake of modesty.
Since there were no magazines in the exam room and I was reticent to disturb the position of my man-cape, I began studying the artwork on the walls to pass the time. I immediately noticed the office’s decorator had somewhat eclectic taste as most of the photos were dramatic portraits of aborigines in tribal masks. To make matters worse, the individual who was the focal point of the picture beside me appeared to follow me with his eyes.
I tried to occupy myself with my cell phone but try as I might I was unable to shake the feeling that I was being watched by this masked voyeur. When Dr. Holly came in I figured that the unique and unnerving choice of artwork would be a good icebreaker, since meeting someone for the first time while wearing nothing but a paper towel and a smile can be disconcerting.
After we exchanged pleasantries, I nervously began attacking the pretentious and frightening artwork that adorned the walls. I made some joke about how I did not mind being forced to stare at canned artwork that looked as though it had been lifted from a guest room at a Motel 6, but intentionally frightening the patients seemed absurd. I believe I ended this soliloquy with some remark about how these pictures must have been on sale at a flea market.
Having patiently endured my rant with a look of bemusement, Dr. Holly proceeded to tell me that she herself had selected the photos because they were memories from her recent trip to abroad. I sat in semi-nude horror as she further explained that photography was a hobby of hers and she had personally taken each of the photos in question and that was the reason for their presence.
Having once again proven myself to be an unrivaled moron, I weighed my options:
1.       Play the entire conversation off as a joke and offer to purchase some of the artwork so that I could enjoy it at home.
2.       Distract her by throwing a stack of “Why Does My Mole Look Funny?” brochures into the air and running out of the office.
3.       Take my comeuppance like a man.
Although I was unaccustomed to option three, I finally accepted it after convincing myself that the first two were implausible. To her credit, Dr. Holly reassured me that no offense was taken and she proceeded with the exam as a consummate professional. We continue our medical relationship to this day but I consciously refrain from commenting on any decoration choices in her office.

Example #2
Several years ago a co-worker and I were setting up the computer of a new employee. She seemed personable enough, and the three of us made small talk as the components of the PC were being assembled. As a matter of unhappy coincidence, her office shared a wall with the men’s restroom on that particular floor. This meant that she was uniquely privy to the myriad of terrifying noises that emanated from that area.
During the course of the setup, we clearly heard evidence that someone had consumed a meal that was somewhat hostile to their intestines. Always the portrait of professionalism, my colleague and I pretended not to notice the sounds and she did the same. Finally, after the third courtesy flush in as many minutes, I could contain myself no longer and said, “Sounds like someone had lunch at the Old Country Store.”
For those of you who are not familiar with the establishment, the Old Country Store is a local landmark that combines kitschy frontier-themed souvenirs with a gut-busting gravy-swamped buffet. Due to the caloric fortitude of the previously mentioned buffet, those who ate there would often find themselves in search of a restroom within the hour. It was for this reason that my coworkers and I would often invoke its name as a catch all for digestive maladies.
At any rate, my friend and I chuckled for several minutes at our private joke before the new employee asked what we found so funny. Still wiping the tears from my eyes, I informed her that the food there was so covered in gravy and grease that the type of reaction we were hearing was not uncommon.
Even after my explanation, she did not seem to share our comical view of the restaurant but I simply attributed that to her lack of a sense of humor. Ten minutes later, as we were packing up, I asked what she had done prior to being hired here. In a deadpan monotone voice she informed me that she was previously the Kitchen Manager at the Old Country Store.
I believe it was at this point we faked an emergency page and wished her a pleasant afternoon.