Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Craiglist Experiment Part 1: Long Term Romance

One of the intriguing aspects of craigslist is the “Personals” section. While it does not offer the thirty-nine levels of compatibility touted by E-Harmony or the six month guarantee of, there is a certain rudimentary charm in submitting a concise paragraph (and for the adventurous, a photo) to be poured over and reacted to by the local populace. For the inexperienced, there are several unique categories in the craigslist personals section:

Strictly Platonic – this section can be utilized to proliferate lasting friendships or even to find accomplices for an upcoming bank job. Carpe diem!

Misc Romance – generally reserved for couples wishing to “add an extra player to their nocturnal roster”

Casual Encounters- you may or may not become the victim of a grisly homicide (also a good place to find the high school volleyball coach who licks his lips excessively).

Missed Connections – when you lack the motivation for actual stalking….

Rants and Raves – upset about a purchase at Wal-Mart? Tired of white people? Ready to announce your sexual preferences to the world? Look no further.

Category 1 – Woman Seeking a Man

I placed the following ad in several large metropolitan areas serviced by craigslist:

In the interest of brevity, I am 30 years old with blonde hair and green eyes. I am 5’ 10” tall and have an athletic build. I currently work as a fitness instructor but have a degree in Leisure Studies (lame I know...) and am still not sure what I want to do when I grow up.
My hobbies Include:
·         Amateur Falconry
·         19th Century Existentialism
·         Swedish Love Poetry
·         Concerts
·         Artwork Originating with Zoo Animals
·         Geriatric Boggle Tournaments
 I am looking for a man who is sensitive enough to have a well-nurtured feminine side but masculine enough never to admit to its existence. He must be unfettered by self-consciousness, yet acutely aware of his own emotional and physical limitations. Someone for whom copulation transcends primal urges yet is willing to embrace those same urges when the situation calls for it. A man who is an unflinching advocate for justice, but whose life experiences have taught him that justice can be painfully subjective.  In short, I am looking for Batman (but I doubt he uses craigslist so I am willing to settle for a nice guy with common interests).
My fictional bachelorette (henceforth referred to as “Sandy”) generated quite a stir in several areas. While I generally would only leave the post active for twenty-four hours in one location, she generated an average of two responses per hour. Taken in aggregate, the responses produced some interesting data:

1. Men will feign interest in anything if they believe the woman is hot. I was flabbergasted at the number of suitors who claimed to have “always had an interest in falconry” or who liked noting more than spending a Saturday evening discussing the merits of existentialism. Only one person called me on the absurd nature of my “interests.”

2. Men are terrible at selecting flattering photos of themselves. One guy sent me a picture of himself surrounded by garbage and holding a small dog in what looked to be a condemned warehouse. Another gentleman sent me a picture of what I assume was supposed to be a seductive wink but was more akin to the stink eye. I am pretty sure that three respondents used the photos from their real estate ads and one scanned his passport photo.

3. Privacy is apparently overrated. A considerable number of interested parties volunteered their cell phone numbers, employers, and primary e-mail accounts without any assurances of my identity or intentions.  

4. A startling number of gentlemen attempted to distance themselves from their competition by referencing the dismal caliber of the men who frequent craigslist (yes, I recognize the irony). The most memorable quote was from a respondent who referred to men who frequent craigslist personal ads as “philistines” who would be unable to comprehend the “abstruse” nature of my ad. He predicted that a large majority of these philistines would respond with photos of their genitals (thankfully none did).

That being said, Sandy did receive a few quality candidates who appeared to have both steady sources of income and a comparable sense of humor. Admirably, not one of the almost forty responses was perverted in tone or content. 

During the same timeframe I penned an ad as a man seeking a woman.

Category 2 – Man Seeking a Woman

The ad I placed in several large metropolitan areas was as follows:

I am looking for a woman whose self-reliance is only eclipsed by her willingness to embrace the unexpected; someone whose gentle spirit is equally yoked with her unquenchable passion. She is a whirlwind of strength and femininity tempered by years of regrettable, yet vital, adversity which has only served to embolden her fearless outlook on life. I want a lady whose radiance is resistant, nay impervious, to the very passage of time itself.
If you are such a creature, and wish to drink deeply of the sweet nectar of our fleeting existence, please reply. I find the following qualities to be infinitely fascinating in the fairer sex:
• Misdemeanors (felonies are acceptable in some cases)
• Shellfish allergies
• A reluctance to parallel park
• Sneezing exclusively in sets of three
• Misspelled tattoos
• Ownership of any single complete season of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on DVD
• Skin that naturally emits the scent of vanilla
• A debilitating fear of nouns
• Current inoculation records for hepatitis B
• Violent mood swings

Please, serious inquiries only.
Ambiguously Yours
Note – In order to fool craigslist I also published a slightly different version that detailed my aversion to female mustaches or “fustaches.”

While my posts did elicit several responses, a significant number of those responses were from a dreaded “craigslist bot.” A craigslist bot is an automated computer program that scours the personal ads for specific criteria (in this case it was ads classified as M4W) and generates a canned response. The purpose of the program is to entice the post’s originator to respond (thereby revealing their true e-mail address and often identity) to a company who likely spam their inbox into oblivion with ads for discounted Cialis.

Bot Girl A - "Andrea Skinner"
Bot Girl B -"Stephanie Genevagibbs"

Bot Girl C - "Eliabeth Rosellade"

These bots ensure a high percentage of responses by pairing a few lines of salacious text with a decidedly amateur photo of an attractive woman. Since the bots cannot comprehend and interpret the text of the posts, it often results in humorously incongruous responses. My absolute favorite is this single line response from a bot operating as “Lauree Depasquale”

 “As we kiss, my hands massage your firm ass in your swim trunks”

While the implication that my buttocks are “firm” is quite flattering, I am not sure Lauree is ready for the serious long-term relationship that the category implies. It should also be noted that I did mention swimming as an interest. Although my ad seeking female companionship generated fewer human responses, there was some information to be gained.
  • In sharp contrast to the male respondents, the women rarely responded with photos of themselves and none volunteered their cell phone numbers. 
  • One claimed that she did sneeze exclusively in triplicate, but no one admitted to a misdemeanor.
  • None of the responses accused me of being disingenuous.

After this brief foray into the world of craigslist personals, I have come to the following conclusions:
  •  If you wish to expand your dating prospects and are looking for a serious emotional and physical connection, downgrade your three-out-at-a-time Netflix plan and spend the extra cash on E-Harmony. If you interests include kidnapping or awkward carnal moments in a public restroom, craigslist is still the best bet.

  • Maintain and utilize a separate e-mail account registered under a pseudonym to reply to any “personals” posts, otherwise you can easily be tracked via Facebook and Twitter and your new “friend” can become a bigger part of your life than you intended.

  •  If you are a man responding to the ad of an attractive thirty year-old personal trainer, never include the line “as soon as I can move back out of my parent’s house…” in a reply.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Apology, Inc.

Several days ago, as I was getting my haircut, I caught a TV clip of a middle-aged man in a suit dwarfed by a bank of microphones. Between pauses for self-loathing and tears, he was informing the gathered masses that his regrettable actions had betrayed the trust of both his family and friends. He spoke of the disappointment he felt in himself and the undue scrutiny and pressure that his mistakes created for those he loved.

For those of us who watch the news regularly, a teary-eyed man in a designer suit apologizing for “bad judgment” can only mean one of three things:
·         A prominent sports or political figure has been caught cheating on his wife.
·         A prominent sports or political figure has been caught cheating in the course of their job.
·         A prominent sports or political figure has been caught cheating on his wife with someone at their job.
The particular man in the example I witnessed at the barber shop was University of Tennessee men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who admitted to providing “incorrect and misleading information to the NCAA.” However, I have come to believe his is but one example of a market that has remained largely untapped: The Prominent Male Figure Apology Template. With that in mind I have formulated an easy to use fill in the blank style apology that can be read at a press conference or released in writing. Think of it as career mad-libs:

I (insert name here) have regrettably squandered the trust placed in me by my family/employer/citizens and offer my sincerest apologies to all those negatively affected by the poor decisions I have made. I have betrayed your confidence and compromised the integrity of my position/office by my unscrupulous actions and can only humbly request your forgiveness.*

*insert dramatic pause followed by teary-eyed introspective gaze

 And while I am unable to change the past, I go forward with a renewed sense of purpose knowing that those who matter most to me remain at my side*

*cue solemn nod from wife or applicable stand-in

Regardless of the outcome reached by the current investigation, I have decided to resign my position/post/office effectively immediately as my actions over the past several weeks/months/years/decades have proven me devoid of the qualifications necessary to continue the work of this fine organization/administration. As we go forward, I ask the media to respect my family’s right to privacy and I again offer my apologies to those harmed by my thoughtless transgressions.

Thank You.

While the above paragraph provides the basic outline, our staff of “culpability-deferment specialists” will work with you to provide an apology to fit your needs. Packages include:
·         The Head-Coach Deluxe – includes enough material to cover two collegiate recruitment violations, one D.U.I arrest, and four solid allegations of verbal abuse. Available extras include sponsorship money amnesia and up to five occurrences of “spontaneous player G.P.A. inflation.” 
·         The Senator’s Special – includes enough material to cover three questionable campaign contributions, six inappropriate uses of travel expenses, and a single instance of consensual sexual contact with a female staffer. Available extras include love-child coverage and a special racial slur enhancement.
·         The MVP – includes enough material to cover two separate uses of a banned substance, three sexual assault charges (not to exceed more than 1 per calendar year), and a single instance of paparazzi assault.  Available extras include a “manslaughter special” that can be invoked when the player’s own bodyguard/chauffer/accountant dies as the result of a gunshot wound inflicted by the insured.  
Please note that due to a new policy implemented by our underwriters, we are no longer able to offer our “Dead Hooker Mitigation Special” or “The Dennis Rodman Contingency.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Date With The Devil

On September 14th, Christine O’ Donnell stunned the Republican party by winning the right to represent Delaware in the United States Senate race against Democrat Chris Coons. She had faced former governor and current U.S. House of Representatives member Mike Castle, who by all accounts was a shoe-in for the Republican nomination. O’ Donnell was the dark-horse Tea Party candidate and no one expected her to come close to securing the nomination, much less win by six percentage points.  Her victory has caused infighting within the GOP as many of the party’s leaders (like Karl Rove) have publicly commented on her inability to lead while others (Sarah Palin) have openly endorsed her. 

As if this perceived upset hasn’t caused enough uproar, video has recently surfaced of O’ Donnell’s 1999 appearance on Bill Mahr’s roundtable discussion show Politically Incorrect where she claims to have dabbled in witchcraft and even dated a warlock although never going far enough to “join a coven.” For those who do not know, joining a coven is the dark arts equivalent of pledging a college sorority. While some see witchcraft as a forgivable youthful indiscretion, others fear that such an association could distance her from the conservative voters that won her the primary.

While I do not wish to dissect the probable impact of witchcraft allegations on a Republican candidate, there is one part of her story that fascinates me. In the same clip, she describes her first date with a witch where he took her to a “Satanic altar” that was adorned with “blood” and they had a “midnight picnic” there. In her defense, O’Donnell claims that the location and nature of their date had been a surprise to her implying that she would not have necessarily felt comfortable if given the option ahead of time.

In my mind there are only two possibilities that could have occurred in this alleged date scenario:
1.      She was more involved in witchcraft that she lets on.
2.      Her suitor took the biggest chance on a first date ever.
Obviously, if the young man in question met Christine though a sorcery mixer, he could be somewhat assured that she wouldn’t run screaming into the woods as the thought of having a chicken salad sandwich while lounging at the altar of the dark master. However, I would have far more respect for him had he chosen the location of the date cold turkey. After all, it takes a self-assured man to play his “How do you feel about blood sacrifices to the dark lord?” card so early in the game.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Christine came home and dished to her friends about the evening:

“He was such a gentleman; he brought Lunchables and then we drank sheep’s blood from the chalice of eternal torment. Then, just as the bone-marrow incense was burning out, he nervously took my hand and offered to carve a pentagram into my palm using the sacrificial dagger he had fashioned from the grave markers of the innocent. Afterward, we just sat there and quoted retribution incantations to each other in Latin. It was just like a Nicholas Sparks book.”
Of course, it is more likely that Christine had some idea of her beau’s interests and would have been far more shocked if he had suggested Starbucks and Trivial Pursuit.

I am also curious as to what the next big step would have been had the relationship worked out? Do Satanists marry? Is there a gathering of friends and family where the happy couple lights a dis-unity candle and pledges their lifelong indifference to each other while participating in a black mass? Is there a satanic priest that stands at the altar and delivers a canned message?

Dearly despised,
                      We are gathered here today in the presence of darkness and its eternal keeper to witness the soulless pairing of two heterosexual minions. While their beliefs do not allow them the luxury of personal fulfillment, they fervently desire to take advantage of several Federal tax credits only available to the matrimonially attached. We wish Judy & Frank years of crushing adversity tempered by parasitic guilt and hatred. You may kiss the damned. 
On a personal note, I think it would be infinitely advantageous to have a known Satanist as an older sibling. This ensures that it would take dramatic and repeated failure on your part for your parents to say:
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Could Be Worse......

We all have bad days at work. Your boss yells at you for wearing moccasins to a board meeting, a co-worker passes gas in the elevator and everyone assumes it was you, or the only radio station in town is playing Nickelback again; but the truth of the matter is that someone always has it worse. And I am not referring to your acquaintances that treat “having it worse” as a competition. We all know people who treat human misery as a game of ridiculous escalation:

Person A – “I think I sprained my ankle this weekend”
Person B – “I suffer from chronic ankle pain, plus several of my internal organs are operating at only 40%                       capacity”
Person A – “I probably hurt it helping my brother move; he lost his job and has to move back in with our    parents”
Person B – “The only time I got to help my brother move was when I was a pallbearer at his funeral”
Person A – “Yeah…So…..I gotta get back to work. I am pretty behind”
Person B – “I haven’t been able to catch up either since my home was burned to the ground by while I was in the hospital for sadness."

Instead, I am referring to the events in life that allow the rest of us whiners to place our problems into the proper perspective. One such example for me is the plight of the Chilean miners, 33 men trapped half a mile below the surface of the earth and squeezed into a living area roughly the size of a Quizno’s. Stranded since the roof of the copper and gold mine collapsed on August 5th, these workers are subsisting on  whatever can be delivered through the three tiny “pigeon” holes that connect the miners to the outside world. 

Over the past month, the miners have been provided with some semblance of normalcy thought the use of electric lights, phone conversations, and even televised soccer matches. Onsite psychiatrists have thus far refused the men’s request for alcoholic beverages fearing a breakdown of the social order and just recently provided them with tobacco. Overall the group, whose youngest member is only nineteen, has demonstrated remarkable resiliency. Their enthusiasm even survived the news that it could be another two months before an escape hole could be drilled to provide them a three hour ride to safety. If that wasn’t daunting enough, the extraction tunnel will be so small that no one with a waistline of more than 35 inches could fit through it, so the men have been placed on a strict exercise routine.

On the one hand, I completely understand the reticence to provide a case of Miller Lite to a group of tightly-wound 33 men trapped in a mine shaft. Certainly no one wants to risk Frankie taking the power-shovel for a joy ride after downing a few cold ones and causing another cave-in. However, I wonder if withholding tobacco was a good idea. I have never smoked myself, but I have seen firsthand the palatable instability caused by a severe nicotine jones. Perhaps the officials are concerned for employee’s pulmonary health, which seems disingenuous to say to someone working 12-hour shifts in a Chilean copper mine.

Regardless, I must confess that their attitude in the face of extreme circumstances puts me to shame. Rather than allowing themselves to surrender to panic, they have established chores, routines, and designated areas for personal hygiene. I would like to go on record as saying that were I to have been in the mine when the roof collapsed and I found myself trapped, I would have run in concentric circles yelling “We are all going to die!” as I simultaneously soiled myself. This behavior would have continued until I was chemically sedated or my involuntary bowel-movements dehydrated me to the point of unconsciousness. After several days of this, I would crawl into the fetal position and sing “How Great Thou Art” until my voice gave out whereupon I would gently sob and whimper myself to sleep.

That is not to say that they do not have problems; one miner, Yonni Barrios, has been maintaining both a wife and a mistress for several years. In the past he has been able to keep these two worlds separate, but a few weeks ago they both showed up for a candlelight vigil at the site. After some idle chitchat and an innocent “So how do you know Yonni?” the situation rapidly deteriorated. Now the two women prowl the grounds of the mine waiting for the Mr. Barrios to resurface; each one claiming ownership of his affection. Yonni has yet to comment, but sources close to the situation believe he may have already volunteered to be rescued last.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strippers and Sunday School

For the past four years, members and staff of New Beginnings Ministries Church in Warsaw, Ohio have taken action against a grave threat to the moral fabric of their beloved community. Night after night they have gathered with their digital cameras and driven nine miles to shame the patrons of a local “adult club” known as The Fox Hole. Over the years, the church has utilized several tactics to diminish the club’s business, including posting photos of customers on the church’s website (often with their license plate numbers), badgering customers by asking what their wives or mothers would think of their behavior, and loudly picketing with signs that refer to the dancers as “whores” and “prostitutes.”

Understandably, this behavior is frowned upon by the club’s current owner Tommy George, who has spent years amassing the upscale clientele associated with exotic clubs in rural Ohio. Mr. George has decided to fight back and has organized a counter-protest against the church. So every Sunday, he, and a small platoon of exotic dancers descend upon New Beginnings Ministries Church and hold up signs chastising the congregation for their lack of grace and humility. They have declared that they will stop picketing only if the congregation returns the favor.

New Beginning’s pastor, Bill Dunfee, has stated that "It's not about a personal battle. It's about a battle between two seeds: right and wrong, good and evil, light and darkness” and vowed to continue until The Fox Hole has seen it last lap dance. He believes that the adult club exploits the workers and encourages marital infidelity. The pastor has even offered to help the strippers pay their bills if they agree to quit. Although none of the protests have turned violent, both groups are unwilling to back down.

This scenario presents several interesting facts:

I believe that the church has underestimated the tenacity of a man brave enough to sport a quasi-mullet and open a low-budget strip club in the heart of Amish country. Obviously he is not someone easily discouraged by adversity, traditional business models, or community sensitivity. Besides, if history has taught us anything, it is to never cross a man with two first names.

To be fair, I can identify with Pastor Dunfee’s dim view of The Fox Hole. After all, nothing makes property values skyrocket like a windowless plywood shack across from a trailer park that uses a rented sign to advertise “1/2 price lap dances.” And I doubt that anyone would argue that strippers are the cornerstone of a healthy marriage (especially their own). However, it might open a better dialog if the congregants refrained from calling the dancers “whores.” I have yet to meet a woman that responds to a derogatory remark with “Tell me more about Jesus.”

I will say that regardless of the church’s motivation, it is probably not a good idea to use the money from the offering plate to pay the strippers’ utility bills for them. In such adverse economic conditions, I am not sure that the church should be encouraging those who are already gainfully employed to quit their jobs in order to support them with tithe money. I can just see the bullet items in the next budget committee meetings:

· Roof Repairs - $579.33
· Baptismal Maintenance - $253.24
· Digital Cable for Unemployed Strippers - $189.14

This situation does present an interesting moral dilemma. The church certainly has every right to peacefully protest what they see as an amoral establishment, but is packing up a busload of congregation members and driving them nine miles up the road to picket for hours on end the correct usage of the church’s resources?

Perhaps that time and effort over the past four years could be devoted to a soup kitchen, or building a Habitat for Humanity House, and as one of the female entertainers pointed out, at least the girls aren’t sitting on their couches being supported by welfare.

Strippers, like car valets, only exist because someone out there is willing to pay for their services. If Tommy George can afford to employ ten full-time dancers in a town with one stop-light and a Citgo, perhaps the church might want to utilize a different approach. After all, I doubt that very many of these women grew up dreaming of a career that paid them in a roll of sweaty singles dispensed by even sweatier men. If the church wanted to offer them an alternative, maybe they could take some money and create a scholarship fund so that the strippers could go back to school and establish careers outside of adult entertainment without going on welfare (church sponsored or otherwise).

For now, it appears that the only thing the two sides can agree on is that the town isn’t big enough for the both of them. Pastor Dunfee and his crew have recently expanded their protests to include an “amateur hot-body car wash” in a bordering county, but he made it clear that closing The Fox Hole is still their first priority. Ironically, thanks to Dunfee’s tireless efforts and publicity, The Fox Hole has become the most well-known strip-club in Ohio. Maybe these two can work together after all…

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tila Tequila: One Classy Dame

When one thinks of modesty, grace, and feminine understatement there is but one name that rises above all others. Born Tila Nguyễn, the French Vietnamese starlet is world renowned for her ability to inspire joy, hope, and wonder. Whether it is through the heartfelt prose of her comically over-titled self-help book Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party or the delicate undercurrent of a pending emotional apocalypse on songs like Stripper Friends or I F****d the DJ, Tila embodies the modern woman in a manner inaccessible to the fainthearted.
The first glimmer of greater things came when Tila was eighteen and she was discovered by a Playboy talent scout in a Houston Mall. Shortly thereafter she became a staple in journalistic mainstays like Penthouse and Maxim which led to her own MTV Reality Dating Show called A Shot at Love. The premise was fairly routine, a small group of self-involved contestants would compete for the affection of an even more self-involved individual all while nurturing their own meager attempts at notoriety. The twist was that Tila is a self-proclaimed bi-sexual and her potential mates represented both genders.
Wishing to pursue her love of music and poetry, Miss Tequila began releasing music through digital retailers. In her music she confronts all of the trappings of a sophisticated young woman:
Jealousy (as told in the track Knock You Out)
Anytime in the club or the bar,
girls be acting like they retards!
Mad 'cause they man straight up rock hard
and he ain't even on my radar!
Tila Tequila rockstar!

Substance Abuse (as told in the track Get High)

I just want
To get high
(Like that)
Give me some pills
I just wanna party

Relationship Ground Rules (as told in the track I Love You)

 You betta obey if you want my nookie,
You betta stop talkin' to all them hoochies.
You betta wise up and listen to me,
I will f*** you up!

Financial Planning (as told in the track Sugar Momma)

You need to just get up out my house
And be impressin me,
And buy me things,
Why I'm always buyin you this,
Buyin you that,
I don't never see you give nothing back
You need to get a job,
Or at least walk the dog,

Tila would later become engaged to heiress Casey Johnson who suddenly passed away in 2009. Miss Tequila would continue to make headlines concerning the relationship when she claimed that Johnson’s friends forcefully removed the late heiress’s dogs from her home with the intention of having them murdered and placed in the casket with Johnson. In early 2010, Tila claimed that Johnson had come to her in a vision, asking her to gain custody of Casey’s adopted daughter (apparently the dogs were not discussed.)

Wishing to place her this troubling past behind her, Tila agreed to showcase her music at the prestigious “Gathering of the Juggalos” music festive in Illinois. For the uninitiated, the juggalos (and juggalettes) are fans of the eclectic rap ensemble The Insane Clown Posse and the festive includes acts of similar caliber performing on a main stage.

After the crowd was warmed up by illustrious Tom Green, Tila took the stage and found herself immediately pelted by rocks, bottles, and projectile feces. In a valiant effort to earn the crowd’s attention and respect, Tila immediately removed her top and continued to serenade concertgoers despite their hostile remarks and continued use of flying turds.

Her resolve quickly changed when a well-aimed toss with a rock hit her in the face and cancelled her encore. She was then escorted to her trailer where the crowd smashed the windows in an apparent attempt to flush her out. She then sought refuge in an SUV which further irritated the juggali causing them to smash the vehicle’s windows as well.   

Tila has filed a lawsuit against the festival’s organizers in order to “bankrupt” them. The juggalos’ lawyers have not yet responded but inside reports have warned Miss Tila to watch her front porch for a flaming bag of rebuttal. Even so, destroying the financial ability of the Insane Clown Posse to sponsor an annual music festival may prove to be Tila’s greatest single contribution to humanity.