Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reach, Inc – From Roasted Peanuts to Abused Kids

On Halloween 1977, Citizens for Research, Education, and Community Hope, Inc. (R.E.A.C.H, Inc.) was born in Meridian, Mississippi. Within ten years they had successfully petitioned for, and been granted, tax-exempt status as a charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Service’s 501(c)(3) designation. They did so by claiming that the bulk of their financial support came “from the sell [sic] of fresh roasted peanuts and homemade peanut brittle by Reach volunteers.”

Reach, Inc. soliciting in front of a Wal-Mart

According to officially-filed paperwork, by 1986 Bishop Luke Edwards and his followers had already implemented the nomadic fundraising infrastructure (internally known as The Route) that still fills the organization’s coffers today. They describe a specialized team of 6 to 8 “volunteers” who scour the country for sympathetic retailers that will allow the organization to solicit funds in front of their store. While they have since abandoned the “bake sale” subterfuge, they still employ the same system of fund-raising today while claiming that all donations prevent “child abuse.”

Each revenue team was assigned a driver and secretary to accompany them while they spent months at a time traversing the United States in search of donations. The system was so effective that by the time the group’s I.R.S. paperwork was stamped, Reach’s donation teams had already brought in $892,910.84 and covered twenty-eight different states in less than three years.

Edward’s organization claimed that in exchange for these donations, it provided a rehabilitation program for “the abused and underprivileged children, educationally unenlightened youth, and economically deprived adults” as well as childcare and business training. When asked on their application to describe the process of becoming a member or beneficiary of REACH,Inc. they responded:
“Their [sic] are no fees or applications to fill out. One simply comes to the office and request [sic] to be a part of Reach. The members of Reach all needed help at one time or another. Reach is for people who need help.”
One of the most striking characteristics of the group’s filed paperwork how inundated it is with grammatical errors. You would be hard pressed to locate a more depressing exercise in written English outside of the junk filter in a Hotmail account. Some highlights:

When asked to describe the qualifications of Bob Bryant, one of only two paid employees, they responded:
“Bob grew up on a farm, duing [sic] the vary [sic] same jobs, which he was hired to do.”
Under section 3 of their Form 1023 paperwork when asked to describe their activities:
“We therefore fill [sic] that we are producing a workable model for the country. We hepl [sic] people from every walk of life.”
The ultimate irony is that all of the organization’s paperwork was prepared by the group’s secretary, a woman who utilizes the entire final paragraph to highlight the fact that she was trained “buy [sic] reach” in the arts of “farming, accounting, and public relations.” She assures the federal authorities that all “juviniles” [sic] placed in their hands will learn a small business and evolve from being a mere “studeny” [sic] into a manager. 

After reading the group's paperwork, several questions came to mind:

1. Did anyone actually read I.R.S. forms in 1986? If a team of eight people selling peanut brittle outside of a Piggly Wiggly can generate almost a half-million dollars a year, my church youth group would have commissioned our own yacht in the late 90’s. Even in the subsequent response from the Internal Revenue Service, I found no request for clarification regarding how peanuts could bring in enough cash to finance a small drug cartel.

2. Even if a hypothetical nationwide peanut shortage made such revenue figures plausible, did the Federal government really believe that a tutoring program whose star pupil misspelled the word “help” twice in a single paragraph was the actual recipient of these funds? By the groups own admission, they never exceeded 100 youths in the year they claimed $369,081 in revenue. This means that if all of that money went to education, as the group claimed, they were spending $3,691 per student which exceeded the national average in 1986. While I am sure that these fundraising campaigns had expenses, those would have been easily offset by the fact that none of the teachers employed by REACH, Inc. were paid.  

Perhaps it was the promise of self-sufficiency for the working poor in the rural south that caused the Internal Revenue Service to rubber stamp the group’s designation, but I am of the mindset that any initial trepidation they had concerning the organization’s integrity was no match for their mastery of the written word. With that in mind, I leave you with the REACH, Inc. mission statement as presented in 1986 to the United States government:

“We believe that if we feed you today, we have started something that will become very costly in the lone-fun [sic], but if we teach you how to feed yourself, we feed you for a lifetime. Self-help is our criteria, just want to help yourself.”
You can read a more in-depth article about Reach, Inc. here.

The group's complete I.R.S. application can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pole Dancing for J.C.

Several people have taken issue with how Crystal Deans has chosen to market her pole-dancing studio Best Shape of Your Life. The Texas-based facility offers beginning, intermediate and advanced pole dancing classes starting at $20 per person and markets the activity as a “fun and exhilarating” way to “build muscle and take inches off your waistline.”

Hoping to access an untapped market, Crystal began advertising “Pole Fitness for Jesus,” a monthly Sunday class that is offered at no cost to the first 11 women that show up with a current church bulletin. On these designated Sundays, all of the routines are accompanied by contemporary Christian music and the dancing is portrayed as a continuation of “the whole worship thing.” 

Crystal Deans

The story was soon picked up by a local Houston news station and went national shortly thereafter prompting strong public reactions. While some were encouraging of such an inventive fitness program, others felt the class was sacrilegious and offensive. To get a sense of the local consensus on the studio’s offering, I read over the user comments on the Houston news station that originally broke the story. A sampling:

Ian (whose profile picture is the outline of what appears to be two sea turtles fornicating) insists:“If I were Jesus, I would encourage more titty bars and less churchs [sic]. Church is boring, but everyone likes titties. Even Jesus.”

Paul posted: “I am sure there will be pole dancing in Hell. You do NOT mix Jesus with ANYTHING that is associated with FILTH!”

Michelle writes: “The higher the heels the closer to God.”

TstAccount1 felt that “this is by far the greatest insult to Jesus I've seen in a while....”

Faifai was upset by the article’s “noticeable lack of punctuation.”

The commentary continued to digress until a user named JamesB announced that he wished to procure the corpse of Jesus so that he could “dress him up in a silly hat” like “Weekend at Bernie’s.” While I did not agree with all of the comments (a Weekend at Bernie’s reference is obviously a much bigger insult to J.C. than pole dancing) they did bring up some interesting points.

Owner/instructor Crystal Deans, who spent several years as an exotic dancer before becoming a Christian, insists that just because an activity has an immoral stigma does not mean it is inherently immoral. She highlights the fact that the classes are held for women only in the privacy of her studio and have nothing in common with strip clubs other than the apparatus.

Her comment about the apparatus got me wondering, “What makes the idea of dancing on a pole so divisive?” Health clubs, community centers and even churches all across the country are hosting Zumba classes that feature women in the exact same attire gyrating to the same style of music. My wife is a Zumba enthusiast and some of the moves she learns are more likely to have me reaching for a roll of singles than my prayer journal.

So if it isn’t the clothing or the music, we are left with only the pole itself. But why is it even necessary? At what point in human history did some guy observe a shapely naked women dancing on an elevated stage and comment “I like the concept, but it’s still missing something….” After doing some research, it appears that the idea of people dancing around a metal pole probably originated with Chinese acrobats who used them as props in the 19th century. Then, at some point in the 1950’s, the pole began appearing in American burlesque shows. The reason for its inclusion is still the subject of speculation. Some have pointed to its basic form suggesting phallic overtones, others insist that it is simply easier to disinfect than a chair. Whatever the reason, it has since become synonymous with erotic dancers, adult entertainment and every Kid Rock birthday party since 1997.

So from a historical perspective, it appears that men were paying to see naked dancing women long before anyone thought to incorporate a pole. In my mind this lends some credibility to Dean’s claim that dancing on a pole does not constitute an ethical statement or immoral action. By the same token, I am not sure a group of women swinging around a tether-ball kit to a Michael W. Smith CD constitutes an act of worship.

One thing that I am sure of is that Crystal Deans is a marketing genius. By simply giving a few free pole dancing lessons to any Protestant in possession of a church bulletin, she has acquired the kind of nationwide publicity normally unobtainable by a small dance studio with meager operating capital. Say what you will about her career choices, but her ingenuity is beyond question.

This got me wondering if this clever juxtaposition between the sacred and taboo would work for other fringe activities. We might only be months away from “Holy Ghost Insider Trading” or “Crips for Christ.” If the trend of pole dancing to Christian music catches on, it is only a matter of time before an official “Pole Dancing for Jesus” soundtrack is released:

  • How Great is Our God (but how much better is my fireman spin?)
  • Amazing Grace (my inhibition is gone)
  • Lord, I Lift Your Name (and my heels) On High
  • Better is One Day (on my stripper-pole)
  • I Can Only Imagine (what my grandmother would think)
  • I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (but it would be faster to just show you mine)
  • Shout to the Lord (and grip with your thighs)
  • Mighty to Save (and slow to judge)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (and generous is thy tipping)
  • Because He Lives (I can face my B.M.I.)
  • Worthy is the Lamb (and difficult is inversion)
  • Jesus Paid it All (except for the cover charge)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rise of the Machines

Recently, a super-computer engineered by IBM competed with and conquered two very intelligent human participants in several rounds of the popular game show Jeopardy! The computer was nicknamed Watson and used several complex algorithms to understand and orally respond to a series of questions just like a real human or even Ken Jennings would. As with chess master Garry Kasparov’s 1997 defeat at the hands of IBM’s Deep Blue, the event sparked renewed interest in singularity, loosely defined as the moment when computers will become more intelligent than the humans that created them. This brings to mind two very important questions:

1.  When will singularity occur?
2. Why does IBM hate humans?

It is predicted that by 2023 computational power will surpass that of the average human brain (which means that the current cast of Jersey Shore is expected to be eclipsed before this fall) at which point we could conceivably transfer our consciousness into the machines. This infrastructure would only be slightly different than the cerebral playground depicted in The Matrix since in this case, I assume the now-outdated human body would be discarded altogether.

Some are excited about the prospect of creating a form of technological immortality where human consciousness could be seamlessly transferred into software code for eternity. Based on what I have read from Raymond Kurzweil and others associated with the movement the computers will eventually be conceived, manufactured, and implemented by artificial consciousness themselves. In laymen’s terms this means that at the point we can become technologically immortal, the computers that we reside in will likely be made by other computers.

This frightens me for several reasons, not the least of which is the scene in Terminator 3 where Skynet becomes self-aware and instantly decides humanity should be eliminated. I admit that after hearing Fergie’s rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at this year’s Super Bowl we may have reason to “thin the herd” but I do not know if I want a MacBook Pro with a pistol making the call on who is going to get “formatted.”

The real question I have is this, why would a free-thinking autonomous machine continue to expend valuable time and processing power to create vessels designed to preserve a less intelligent and more destructive life-form? It is the modern equivalent of a pair of horses pulling a Lamborghini up the Interstate. Eventually someone will realize that the horses are just slowing it down. 

Proponents of this future insist that the artificial intelligence modules would be embedded with code that would predispose it to view humanity in a favorable light. That all sounds great in theory, but I can already envision the conversation now down at the Human Consciousness Preservation Initiative:

A.I. Bob – Hey boss, can you tell me again why we continue to improve the overall functionality of complex electrical circuits in order to preserve the consciousness of an inferior species that mistakenly feels entitled to its continued existence?

A.I. Bob’s Supervisor – Good point. Let’s delete humanity and install World of Warcraft 6 instead….

Perhaps the greatest insurance policy human consciousness has going for it is how illogical it really is. I was recently reading a book describing the plight of several American P.O.W.s held by the Japanese during World War II and while many had similar experiences, often residing in the very same camps, they processed their ordeals very differently. Years after the war, one former POW assaulted a waiter for serving him white rice in restaurant because it triggered an intense flashback.

I cannot imagine a logical consciousness being given an amalgamation of all the stimuli experienced by that particular POW and identifying a plate of white rice as the obvious emotional trigger point. It was not Japanese men, air-raid sirens, or bamboo canes  (all situations and objects that he was exposed to more often and would be more easily identified with fear and anxiety) but a ubiquitous rice dish he was rarely fortunate enough to partake of and when he was exposed to it the result was mainly positive.

At any rate, in order to remain optimistic about what could very well be a grim future I have penned a series of questions and assignments that I believe would stump any machine operating on the basis of logic:
  • Explain the societal contribution of a celebrity image consultant.
  • What is the function of the male nipple?
  • Name something more delicious than bacon.
  • Defend the United States federal tax code.
  • Why is a “restocking fee” necessary on an unopened item?
  • How is it possible to clone an entire cow but I am still unable to purchase milk that lasts longer than ten days?
  • Identify a philosophically-challenging Michael Bay film.
  • Arrange Charlie Sheen's last 5 television interviews in ascending order of coherence.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Virtual Publicist

The recent tsunami in Japan has highlighted the fact that most celebrities have a publicist for a specific reason: they desperately need a publicist. While tens of thousands lost their lives due to the tragedy, several celebrities took to Twitter to bestow their insightful commentary to the world. A few highlights:

Gilbert Gottfried -   "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, 'They'll be another one floating by any minute now.'”

50 Cent (responding to the initial tsunami warnings) – "Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoe's from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol."

Alec Sulkin (Family Guy scriptwriter) – "If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google 'Pearl Harbor death toll.”

Gilbert "Hope Floats" Gottfried
Had these comments been filtered through the proper channels Gottfried would still have a job at Aflac instead of sitting at home waiting on the call from Disney concerning the direct-to-DVD release Aladdin 3: Abu & Iago’s Big Adventure. As of this writing both 50 Cent’s career (and hoes) appear to be intact and Alec Sulkin’s reputation remains about the same.

But even before the tragedy in Japan, notable personalities were using Twitter to make important cultural observations:

Jessica Simpson used her Twitter account to weigh in on geriatric testicles:
"Dear elderly man at the gym: its hard 4 me 2 keep composure whilst punching at chipmunk speed when yr ball sack spills out of yr wind shorts."

Tila Tequila eloquently discussed religious prophecy:
"I am the virgin Mary, and my child will be born Jesus Christ. I am the second Coming.......God told me so. I shall save all the good people."

Former MLB pitcher and radio host Mike Bacsik tried his hand at race relations:
"Congrats to all the dirty mexicans in San Antonio,"

While I cannot disagree with Miss Simpson’s disdain for the unsecured testicles of the elderly, perhaps it was unnecessary to commit such musings to writing. For whatever reason, modern celebrities believe that success in their chosen pursuit qualifies (and compels them) to bestow their viewpoints on the general populace, yet I cannot think of a single celebrity whose career has been enhanced by Twitter.

This celebrity Twitter trend has concerned me to the point that I felt compelled to develop a new piece of software called “Virtual Publicist.” The program can be installed on celebrity smart phone and will turn thoughtless comments into benign observations. A few examples:

                      Input                                                                             Output
Jews ruin everything!
I enjoy sailboats!
I just hit some Mexicans with my Bentley. I hope their donkey didn’t scratch my paint! LOL!
I am no longer certain that the doctrine of mutual destruction is the most viable option to suppress worldwide nuclear proliferation.
Apparently Shoney’s dislikes it when people snort rails of coke off the breakfast buffet. Go figure.
Be sure to support your local boys and girls club!
I just visited some white people in their natural habitat @ a trailer park!
Oranges provide folic acid!
I am so tired of people complaining about childhood prostitution!
I have decided to purchase a telescope for my son.
OMG! It was so hard to get a car loan that I thought for a second I was black!
These unseasonable warm temperatures are wreaking havoc on my sinuses!
I am going to host an abortion-themed dinner cruise.
Wyoming’s state bird is the Western Meadowlark!
This Rwandan Genocide board game is tough!
I collect antique shoe-horns!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Value-Sized Aggressiveness

As the five of you who normally read this blog are aware, I have an intense hatred of high-pressure suggestive sales techniques at retail outlets. With a little strategy and a lot of luck I have been able to avoid such unpleasant encounters, but a few weeks ago my streak came to an abrupt end.

As I walked into the economy-sized utopia that is Sam’s Club, I was greeted by an employee armed with a black and white brochure outlining the store’s new “E-savings” plan. I listened politely and informed her that I was not interested in participating. Foolishly believing that our interaction was the last time I would hear of “E-savings” that trip, I cheerfully continued toward the pasta aisle in order to acquire a case of Mac & Cheese the size of a suitcase.

Having completed the objective of my outing, I made my way to the checkout line and was greeted by a cheerful cashier who looked to be in her mid-thirties. After scanning my membership card, she looked up and asked if anyone had mentioned the “E-savings” plan to me yet. I quickly informed her that the woman at the door had told me about it and I wasn’t really interested in participating.

She contemplated this for a moment, and apparently decided that I had no idea what the hell I was talking about and needed to hear about “E-savings” again. Using exaggerated hand gestures and what appeared to be a chart made for a 10 year-old, she explained that for only $39 I could save $7 of that day’s purchase and continue to save on future purchases while “pro-rating” the cost of my savings.

After finishing her soliloquy, she stared at me expectantly until I replied that “I was unable to afford any more savings at this time.” Having apparently convinced herself that my reluctance to participate was the result of diminished mental capacity and not a logical decision making process, she insisted that I “didn’t understand” and re-explained the program to me once by leaning more heavily on the picture chart.

Eventually, she accepted defeat and I was able to complete the transaction without further incident but the damage was done. Another pressure-free retail haven had been infiltrated and I knew that before long an employee would follow me around asking “Are you sure you don’t need 2 gallons of picante sauce?”

I try and remember that the employees are forced to deliver these sales pitches and their pushiness often directly correlates to the amount of pressure placed upon them by management, (judging by the experiences I have had a Books-A-Million, they must threaten their associates with public genital mutilation) but there has to be more diplomatic way to approach the situation.

If the lady who checked me out was following her approved script, which is certainly possible, I would like to have some words with the corporate brain-trust that fashioned it. First of all, what exactly does “E-savings” mean? Normally the prefix “E-“ identifies an object as electronic in nature thereby differentiating it from its’ analog counterpart, (for instance, e-mail is the electronic version of regular mail) but what exactly do analog savings look like? Aren’t all savings applied electronically regardless of nomenclature?

And while I am at it, if the customer indicates that they are not interested perhaps you shouldn’t have your sales associates imply that the customer lacks the cognitive ability to understand a financial misstep when they hear one. I haven’t heard the terms “deferred costs” and “pro-rated fees” that much since the Bernie Madoff press conference. It sounding like the “E-savings” plan had only one of two possible outcomes:

1. Pay $39 above and beyond the existing membership fee in order to create the possibility of saving money on a future purchase you have no way of being certain that you will ever need.

2. Pay $39 above and beyond the existing membership fee only to realize you may not utilize it and compensate by purchasing participating items and brands you do not need in order to implement your savings on items that you cannot afford.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If you are pining to share an awkward moment in front of the TV with your children or mother-in-law, look no further than a commercial concerning erectile dysfunction. Gone are the days where “equipment failure” was a discussion only embarked upon once HIPAA forms were signed and diplomas were inspected; now anyone sitting through two full quarters of an NFL game is exposed to enough innuendos to understand a Color Me Badd album.  

While I am all for progress in modern medicine, I am not sure that listening to Mike Ditka combine thinly-veiled sexual euphemisms with football terminology is the dawn of a new era. However, even Ditka’s Levitra ads seem like subtle poetry compared to Enzyte’s ubiquitous spokesman “Smiling Bob” who apparently grins like a mental patient at the first sign of arousal. The most disturbing thirty-second spot involved Bob dressed as Santa Claus while his female co-workers lined up to straddle his “north pole.”

The onslaught is not limited to television commercials. Anyone with an e-mail account is constantly bombarded with spam messages promising to end the apparent scourge of male flaccidity plaguing the country. Ever other line promises to make you “bigger,” your anatomy “rock-hard” and help you make the best use of your “power-rod” and God knows I hear that enough from the Bowflex commercials.

So how did we get here? Why are we being constantly being subjected to elderly couples slow-dancing in their kitchen and ex-ballplayers coyly reminding us that it might be time to “mobilize our special teams?” I believe the blame rests squarely on two events.

The first event occurred at the 1983 meeting of the American Urological Association in Las Vegas, Nevada where British physiologist Giles Brindley went to the podium, removed his pants, and invited those in attendance to inspect his chemically-induced erection. Ironically, Jim Morrison recently received a posthumous legal pardon for a similar display while Giles went on to receive knighthood. Having injected himself with phenoxybenzamine, Brindley publicly demonstrated the possibility of treating erectile disorders with pharmaceuticals while proliferating the stereotype that the only thing more uncomfortable than seeing a urologist is visiting one of their conventions.

The second event occurred in 1997 when the FDA amended their guidelines concerning direct-to- consumer marketing of pharmaceuticals. The change effectively allowed drug makers to present their product without requiring written disclosure of side effects and health warnings. This allowed them to replace written lines like “Prolonged use has been shown cause spontaneous ocular and rectal hemorrhaging in zoo animals” with the spoken refrain “Talk to your doctor to see if Viagra is right for you.”

While most medications utilized the revised FDA parameters to minimize their often dramatic side effects, erectile dysfunction commercials have taken an opposite approach by highlighting one very specific side effect: the four-hour erection. Each and every E.D. commercial includes the line “Call your doctor immediately if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours.” The implication is that while playing all four quarters of the game is desirable, spilling into overtime could indicate a serious medical condition.  I believe that such a statement is a marketing ploy with no basis in medical science for two reasons:

1.  Most humans in possession of a male reproductive organ do not need a commercial to inform them that involuntary genital engorgement exceeding the running time of Schindler’s List is abnormal. 

2. The wording implies mythical results without ever claiming to actually invoke them.  The viewer is encouraged to insinuate outcomes so impressive they can only be controlled by trained medical professionals.

The truth is that we might as well get used to the awkward moments because erectile dysfunction drugs currently generate more than $2 billion in annual revenue and a recent study published by the Kaiser Foundation showed that every $1 spent marketing prescription medicine directly to consumers generated over $4 in sales. And they are finding new uses every day.

In 2007, a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed that Viagra could be effectively used to treat jet-lag. This means that while on a flight in the near future, you may discover that more than your neighbor’s tray table is “locked in the upright position…..”

*Special thanks to Brien Turner whose intense dislike of direct-to-consumer marketing of E.D. drugs served as the catalyst for this rant. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Celebrity Tattoos

For centuries, humans around the globe have used their bodies as a living canvas by permanently marking their skin with ink. We have even recently discovered evidence of the practice dating as far back as Neolithic times, and over the years the ink has been utilized for everything from memorializing loved ones to marking cultural milestones. With such a rich history, I am proud to report that the majority of today’s tattooed celebrities have accepted such an important mantle with the dignity and respect it deserves.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate specific examples of the aforementioned dignity and respect so instead I created a celebrity tattoo checklist to prevent temporary lapses in judgment from becoming permanent reminders of ineptitude.

Rule 1 – Proofreading is essential, especially if the tattoo’s text does not appear in your native language.

Heroes starlet and renowned dolphin activist Hayden Panettiere recently decided to have a line of Italian script prominently placed on the side of her ribcage. She selected “Vivere senza rimipianti” which translates “to live without regrets.” Unfortunately, she added an extra “i” and the Italian word is actually spelled “rimpianti” which means that her tattoo is roughly the equivalent of “to live without regerets.”
Hayden Panettiere's New Ink
Will her regret over the error makes her tattoo unintentionally ironic, it might be best to consult a few native speakers before turning your epidermis into a permanent typo. To be fair to Miss Panettiere, there could be some Italian celebrities with English tattoos that read “make no mistaikes.”

Other unfortunate casualties of I-want-the-cache-of-foreign-script-without-the-burden-of-cursory-research syndrome are David Beckham and Britney Spears both of which have misspelled tattoos in other languages. Beckham has a tattoos misspelled in Sanskrit (it was supposed to be his wife’s name and now it is a lasting tribute to some woman named Vihctoria) and Britney asked for the Chinese character for “Mysterious” and instead got “Strange.”

If you generate more than $1 Million a year in taxable income and still rely solely on a tattoo artist to provide proofreading services for body art written in a foreign language, perhaps you are not making the best use of your personal assistant’s time. Personally, I always feared foreign script because I knew that I would have wanted the Japanese character for “intrinsic hope” and gotten “ignorant honkey.”

Rule 2 – Do not get a tattoo of you current spouse.

I am fairly certain that the statute of limitations on jaywalking could easily outlast most celebrity relationships so it is unwise to commemorate your soon-to-be ex-spouse on your body. Keep in mind that none of the mistakes listed below can be explained away by naivety since each subject was on at least their second spouse by the time they got inked.  

Melanie Griffith apparently decided there was no better way to proclaim her love for Antonio Banderas than to have an inmate at Riker’s Island frame his name in a heart. I have seen more artistic fare carved into the prophylactic dispenser at a Pilot truck-stop.

Denise Richards bet 1 ½ inches of her ankle space that Charlie Sheen was a dedicated family man whose commitment to monogamy would only be surpassed by his emotional stability. Denise Richards now has a two inch tattoo of a fairy on her ankle.
Angelina Jolie got the words “Billy Bob” tattooed on her arm. Getting a tattoo that said "Billy Bob" would even be a mistake for someone actually named Billy-Bob.

Johnny Depp got "Winona Forever" tattooed across his back during his relationship with Winona Ryder. After the couple split, Depp decided to class up his ink which now reads “Wino Forever” as a permanent tribute to the symbiotic relationship between alcoholism and chronic homelessness. 
Despite Dean McDermott’s prominent arm tattoo of Tori Spelling from the bosom up, he was granted American citizenship last year. And they tell us the border is secure….

Rule 3 – It is unnecessary to tattoo your own name on your body, especially after you have paid countless PR firms to make sure we already know what it is.

Aside from Guy Pierce in Memento, there is no excuse for tattooing your name on your body. 
Mark Wahlberg’s participation in Boston’s experimental ident-a-kid program was as unsuccessful as his anti-smoking campaign.

Nichole Richie has “Richie” tattooed on her neck and “Virgin” tattooed on her wrist. Some have crassly observed that only one of these tattoos would be useful in identifying her.

Always willing to go the extra mile, Steve-O decided to turn his back into a tribute to his front. The result is every bit as troubling and detailed as an amber alert.

Rule 4 – Never, under any circumstances should you get a tattoo of Roseanne Barr.

Rumor has it that flashing this tat can still get you killed in some areas of Pakistan:
Rule 5 - Excessive face tattoos are only for serial killers and rappers with legal problems.

Several weeks ago, rapper Gucci Mane was committed to a psychiatric facility after pleading "mental incompetency" at a parole violation hearing. Immediately upon his release, Mr. Mane cemented his plea by paying someone to tattoo a waffle cone with 3-scoops of ice cream onto his face. America owes Mike Tyson an apology.
31 Flavors of Straight Pimpin'

Lil Wayne is know for his dedication to body art, and he sealed that commitment by getting eyelid ink in addition to a series of tears; one of which is close enough to the side of his mouth to count as spittle.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Finger

Kem "The Finger" Kimbrough
A few weeks ago, a story broke about a photo of the Clayton County, Georgia Sherriff Kem Kimbrough. The image in question was of the elected lawman flipping the bird and appeared on his personal Facebook page. An upset citizen alerted a CBS news affiliate in Atlanta of the picture’s existence and reporter Wendy Saltzman sent Sherriff Kimbrough a Facebook friend request in order to gain access to the image and confirm its existence.

To her surprise, Kimbrough accepted her request and she was able to confirm the picture’s authenticity. This led to a news story about the picture, which angered the sheriff who immediately filed a complaint against Saltzman for Facebook-friending him under “false pretenses.” The sheriff’s complaint and subsequent disparaging remarks about the station and its reporter soon resulted in another, more widely distributed, news story detailing the sheriff’s reaction to the initial news story. Ironically, Kimbrough’s actions have led to wider circulation of the photo he apparently wished to keep private.

Reporter Wendy Saltzman
Personally, I have never been able to understand the allure of giving the finger in a photo. Do these individuals have a strong dislike of photography? Are they confused about when to properly implement such a gesture? I know several people whose Facebook albums look like the liner notes from a late 90’s Kid Rock CD and I have been unable to ascertain the thought process behind such a theme.

Operating under the assumption that most practitioners have become confused as to the gesture’s proper use I have created a few examples:

  • A man wearing an Alf costume cuts you off on the Interstate while attempting ignite his homemade pipe bomb = OK
  • Your mom asks to snap a picture of you with your daughter at her Kindergarten graduation = Not OK
  •  A group of wayward youth strike you with a cantaloupe while you are waiting for the guy in front of you to finalize his selection from the Redbox machine = OK
  •  A picture of you is to be featured in the brochure of a prominent children’s hospital = Not OK
  • You are at the gym and a complete stranger approaches you and asks if you are a body-weight Scientologist because you “look like a Level 6 Fattie.” = OK
  • You and your fiancĂ© are sitting for your engagement portraits = Not OK

Most would probably insist that flipping the bird is an outward sign of their passion for nonconformity. By selectively displaying a particular digit they are proclaiming to the world, “I may be unable to completely avoid photographic documentation of my existence, but I will not allow my rugged individualism to be muted by societal norms or corporate interests.” More often than not, such remarks would be authored on said individual’s contractually-controlled Apple iPhone and published on their Facebook page for good measure.

As for Sherriff Kimbrough, a good rule of thumb is to avoid uploading any photos to the Internet that you wish to keep private. I am also unsure how one goes about friending someone under false pretenses since as far as I know users of Facebook are not currently asked to detail their intentions prior to sending a request. If such a questionnaire did precede a friend request you would likely have four options:

I am sending you a friend request because….
1.       We are actually friends in real life and our online connection is simply an extension of a deeper platonic admiration and respect for one another.
2.      We have a personal connection, however tenuous, and although it is unlikely we would purposefully spend time together in the real world, the effort required to click your profile directly corresponds to the amount of interest I have in your life.
3.      We have never actually spoken to each other but I am currently sitting at 399 friends and we have enough mutual friends that I think this request will put me over the top without you asking too many questions.
4.      I thought that you were hot and wanted to keep my options open in case your marriage/serious relationship crumbles unexpectedly  and access to your “friends only” beach vacation photos is just a bonus.
 The bottom line is that either Kem accepted her friend request because he mistakenly thought that a random attractive woman found his profile picture irresistible and wished to initiate communication or he knew she was an investigative reporter and convinced himself that her interest in the actions of an elected official must be of a personal nature.

If the guy wants to take a photo of himself flipping off a busload of nuns in front a preschool and use that as his Facebook profile pic that is his business. I doubt that it would look good on his next campaign poster but it is not illegal. By the same token if someone sends you a friend request and you accept it later exposing yourself to ridicule over the pictures you give them access to, stop crying and move on.