Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bargain Hunting

Since the recent economic downturn, bargain hunting has gone from a pastime to an Olympic-level sport. I stand in awe of friends and family whose diligence in acquiring coupons allows them to obtain $200 worth of merchandise for $20. It is perhaps this epidemic of American frugality that has spawned an outbreak of discount stores with each one claiming the title of “best bargains in town.”

Not long ago my wife and I had occasion to enter one of these bargain hunter’s paradise to look for classroom supplies and perhaps an inexpensive bookshelf. Like similar outlets, this particular store dealt in returned, refurbished, or discontinued items from upstream retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target with a few wholesale items thrown in for good measure. Unlike similar retailers, they implemented an unnecessarily confusing pricing system that had to be explained using a chart.

Each item had a price sticker and a date on it. If 30 days had passed since the date on the sticker, you would receive a 10% discount on the marked price at the case register; for every ten days past that, you received an additional 10% off until your discount topped out at 70%. After two separate trips to the store entrance to reference the chart, I felt confident that we were ready to bargain hunt.

After walking up and down several aisles, my wife selected a series of interlocking floor mats that would fit nicely into her classroom d├ęcor. Utilizing the training I had received upon entering, I scoured the packaging for the two pieces of information I needed but was never able to locate a date. Confused, I took the item to customer service and requested help from the associate. The conversation was as follows:

Me: “I could not locate a date on this to calculate the discount.”
Her: “It doesn’t have one.”
Me. “Then how am I supposed to calculate the discount.”
Her: “Some items are not eligible for the discount and therefore are not marked with a date. However, not all items that do not have a date are ineligible so you should ask us even if there is not a date because they could still be eligible.”
Me: “So this eligible?”
Her: “No, but thanks for asking.”

Unsure of what had just happened, I placed the item back and we continued to browse. We did find some graph paper and walked to the register to complete our purchase. Directly ahead of us were two women who appeared to be shopping together and as we approached I heard the clerk explaining the store’s unnecessarily complicated pricing system for what had to have been the 100th time that day.

Right as he was finishing his spiel, one of the women’s phones began playing a Lil’ Wayne tune as she leisurely went about the task of unclipping it from her cleavage. Managing to answer just as Weezy dropped another f-bomb, she left her friend to continue the bargaining. Her companion was agonizing over whether she really wanted one of the items in her basket and asked the clerk if she could remove it from the packaging.

He reluctantly agreed and from the box she produced a boy’s athletic supporter and proceeded to hold it up to the light as if she was inspected a counterfeit $20 bill. Still undecided, she asked the clerk if he thought the device would fit a 12 year old boy since the packaging clearly designated it for 11 and under. Understandably reluctant to discuss the crotch of a twelve-year old boy with a complete stranger, he shrugged and mumbled something to the effect of “should be fine..”

Still holding the apparatus in her hand, she announced that while the boy was older than the indicated age he was rather “small” and should be “covered” by the device. She continued to silently study the device like a dinosaur fossil for the next few minutes until she reached a conclusion. To the relief of everyone within earshot, she returned the item to the packaging and completed her transaction without further commentary.

Do not misunderstand me; I am a big fan of financial prudence but if there is one area I would be willing to avoid returned, refurbished, or damaged items it would be the protection of my reproductive organs. You cannot expect junior to take a fast ball to the plumbs with confidence knowing that his jockstrap has a “slight manufacturing defect.”

Of course the other possibility is that the item was simply returned by the previous owner and in that case I wonder how they answered the question, “Why are you retuning the item today?”

  • This is the worst eye-patch ever….
  • Why would anyone put so many holes in a soup ladle….
  • The water balloons kept falling out….
  • My friend said he needs a much smaller size…..
  • The XL is too small. I am going to need the “Clydesdale” model
  • Our school librarian has no sense of humor……
  • I already had one that came in my box of Lucky Charms…..
  • It didn’t look right under my prom tux…..

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Outbreak of Fun!

In 2009, an aspiring model named Denise Underhill arrived at the Playboy mansion for a pictorial with staff photographers. Like any respectable geriatric bachelor pad, the mansion is equipped with a large outdoor trampoline in case the need should arise for calisthenics. In a moment of inspiration, the photographer asked Miss Underhill if she would mind jumping up and down on the trampoline whilst he snapped pictures of her. She agreed and everything went according to plan until she landed wrong and allegedly tore the “meniscus in her right knee.”

According to Miss Underhill, despite the obvious severity of her injury the Playboy staff provided her with only a set of crutches and sent her on her merry way. The knee later required surgery and the model subsequently filed a lawsuit against Playboy requesting more than $25,000 in damages and medical expenses. In the paperwork, she cites the lack of “warning signs posted ... as to the dangers posed by the use of the equipment.” Thus far neither Hefner nor Playboy has publicly commented on the lawsuit.

I imagine that this dispute would be difficult to resolve. On the one hand, one would assume trampoline-jumping to be an innate skill honed in adolescence, but on the other hand one would expect a mansion that houses a sexually-active 85 year-old to have more medical supplies on hand than a set of used crutches. I guess there could be some legal merit to the lack of cautionary signage concerning the trampoline, but I would assume that nothing the kills the buzz of nude trampoline jumping like a comprehensive set of release forms.

As dangerous as Hefner’s exercise apparatus is, it appears that the real health risks are to be found elsewhere on the estate. Earlier this year the estate hosted a shindig for DOMAINFest, a conference consisting of people who make their living by buying, selling, and parking Internet domain names. In other words, a large number of socially-awkward technology enthusiasts were able to fulfill their fantasy of attending a party at the Playboy Mansion.

Unfortunately, a couple hundred of the attendees began suffering from fever, vomiting, and diarrhea the following day. The outbreak of symptoms was widespread enough that Los Angeles health officials launched a two month investigation that concluded that the party-goers had contracted Legionnaires' disease, a sometimes fatal bacterial infection that often leads to pneumonia. The source was eventually identified as the mansion’s famed “hot-tub grotto”, a body of water with a higher fluid-exchange rate than the Panama Canal.

Playboy officials initially denied any attempt to link the outbreak to the mansion, but have since taken steps to ensure the grotto’s sanitary integrity. While it is true that a proper mixture of anti-bacterial chemicals has been show to eliminate the presence of Legionnaires' disease in whirlpools and hot tubs, I also had MTV in the late 1990’s and realize that no amount of bleach and chlorine could get me into a small body of water that Fred Durst inhabited for two solid days. The CDC probably uses the Playboy Mansion to locate Los Angeles on a pathogen outbreak map because of all the push pins located there.

Legally speaking, I believe the young model with the knee injury deserved more than a set of crutches and cab fare, but to be fair she still managed to leave the mansion with more than most budding coeds who visit there. I would also have to believe that she signed some sort of release in order to participate in the photo session in case she slipped on some body butter or was sideswiped by Hef’s power chair. I say reimburse the girl for the corrective surgery (if it was legit) and offer her a slot on the next “Girls of Civil Litigation” DVD.

While no one from the “Legionnaires' grotto” incident has filed suite yet, I am sure that it is only a matter of time. I suppose the attendees were entitled to a reasonable expectation of sanitation in the mansion hot-tub and that would be the basis for awarding punitive damages. However, if everyone who found themselves nauseated and suffered from a low-grade fever after a visit to the grotto won a monetary judgment, the magazine would have gone bankrupt around 1973.

In either case, I do agree that proper signage is in order. I have taken the liberty of penning a rough draft:

WARNING! Those who enter these grounds often do so intoxicated by visions of fast-tracked stardom or boyhood carnal fantasies only to leave burdened with regret and self-loathing. Neither Playboy Enterprises nor the mansion staff is responsible for injuries sustained while utilizing the grotto, trampoline, cutting torch, licorice slide, tandem pogo-stick or industrial Jell-O cannon. Any wounds (physical or otherwise) sustained during your visit to the mansion will be treated extemporaneously by unqualified staff members and publicly denied at a later date. Prophylactics, penicillin, and a brochure entitled “Is it still consensual if I didn’t use my real first name?” are available at guest services. Also, we have reason to believe that Sean Penn soiled himself while swimming last August so utilize the pool at your own risk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Butt

There are numerous ways to enhance one’s physique. Some are natural such as exercising, dieting, or utilizing a photo from the Reagan administration in your real estate ads and others require artificial enhancement like plastic surgery, botox, or standing next to Larry Bird. And while we are all familiar with face lifts and breast augmentation, there is a new trend sweeping the nation: butt enhancement.

The ultimate goal is to create a more prominent caboose that can easily be spotted through jogging pants, a sun dress, or sheet rock. In the past this goal was accomplished through a disciplined regimen of gravy intake and physical inactivity, but modern medicine has allowed the benefits of a high caloric lifestyle to be available to all God’s children. There are generally two accepted methods of achieving a gluteal entourage and while the techniques and complications differ, the payment plans are eerily similar. 

The first method involves removing fat from an area of the body where it is unwelcome (such as the stomach) and injecting it into the area where it is desired (like the buttocks.) This is known as a “Brazilian Butt Lift” and is performed as an outpatient procedure for about the price of a zero-turn lawn mower. The other method involves traditional implants being placed inside of the cheeks via surgical incision, but tends to be more expensive and carries longer recovery times.

Unfortunately, the high cost of buttock augmentation has forced many of the derriere-challenged to seek enhancement outside of traditional medical communities.In March of last year, six different New Jersey residents were hospitalized after receiving Brazilian butt-lifts from less-than-reputable physicians. The women developed severe infections because they were injected with consumer shower caulk instead of surgical-grade silicone.

In May of this year, South Carolina resident Michelle Roca was arrested when a woman went into a coma after allegedly receiving gluteal implants at her establishment. Even more disturbing was the fact that Miss Roca’s “establishment” was a clothing store called CoConuk Boutique and she was not a doctor. According to police, Roca flew in doctors from other countries to perform the procedures in the stockroom.

In 2009, former Miss Argentina, Solange Magnano, died during her “butt enhancement” surgery. In February of this year London resident Claudia Adusei died after receiving buttock injections at a hotel near the Philadelphia International Airport and many authorities believe there are many other unreported fatalities.

With regard to the “Brazilian butt-lift,” why is it that the selling point of every esthetic enhancement implies that it originated in Latin America? Brazilian bikini-waxes, Brazilian butt lifts, and Brazilian blowouts (which, surprisingly, have nothing to do with the digestive system) have women everywhere flocking to their spas or plastic surgeons. Can you imagine that being a selling point in other areas of medicine? Would a large number of people request a Peruvian vasectomy or a Bolivian caesarian section?

I do feel bad for these ladies, but perhaps when your surgeon stops mid-procedure to run to Home Depot for more supplies you may want to start making some preliminary inquiries into their qualifications. The worst part was the “doctor” had diluted the caulk before the injections presumably to make it last longer. All professional ethics aside, how mismanaged is your medical practice that you have to dilute a $4 tube of DAP mildew-resistant silicone to keep a profit margin? Between that, a caulk gun, and a box of wine (for anesthesia) any fee you collect that exceeds $10 is pure profit.

Also, a good rule of thumb is to avoid medical procedures offered in the fitting room at an egregiously- misspelled clothing store in South Carolina. I wonder how Miss Roca drummed up business for her other services. Did she just lean over to women at the register and remind that for every three pairs of jeans purchased they would receive one free mystery injection from an illegal immigrant by the loading dock? My favorite quote came from Roca’s boyfriend who, when questioned about her innocence, avoided a direct answer by insisting that the boutique “is no place for a clinic.” I suspect he gave the interview over the phone while frantically packing up his Playstation and Miller High Life T-Shirt collection.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


My wife often enjoys watching The Food Network which has recently become inundated with competition-format cooking shows. For the uninitiated these consists of three or four contestant chefs, a host with no discernable function, and a panel of three judges (at least one of whom has learned English as a second language).  
I can't believe it's not botulism
It is always fascinating to watch the judges eat a plate of kelp pudding with trout butter and solemnly announce that the texture was “overly formal” given the consistency of the penguin broth. Just once I wish the judges would drop the pretense and say, “This tastes like hatred” or “Tell us why you decided to incorporate human feces into your dish.” I believe that the judges are contractually prohibited from uttering the phrase “this does not taste good” even though that is the most important characteristic of food. This format is used for everything from Cupcake Wars to Iron Chef America so it was no surprise when my wife’s new favorite show Chopped adopted the same template.

What separates Chopped from its peers is the fact that each participant is given a basket with several hideously-incompatible ingredients and asked to make something delicious. This leads to episodes where contestants are required to make a dessert from provolone cheese, a rutabaga, and castor oil. After each course of the meal, a chef is “chopped” if their concoction fails to rouse the imagination of the panel. These scenes of rejection are often sandwiched between personal interviews where the chef reveals their personal or financial shortcomings (this is my 5th divorce, I made a bad investment in a rattlesnake farm, I murdered a Shriner in Minnesota, etc….)

There was even an episode where one chef agonized for a full two minutes over lending his nemesis (who ended up winning) an egg. The incident was then discussed at length by the judges who reviewed an instant replay of the incident in real time. The egg’s inclusion in the winning dish was apparently so crucial that I suspect the losing chef may have taken his own life shortly thereafter out of shame.  

As the show progresses, it appears that the producers are becoming more and more extreme in the dichotomy between ingredients until they are actually placing items in the basket that should never be introduced to each other in the same dish. The idea behind this escalation is that the more diverse the ingredients the easier it is to discern which participants have culinary talent. In that spirit I have created a few “baskets” that I would like to see them feature on the show:

Basket 1
Value-Brand Soy Milk
Pork rinds
Swedish Carp
1 Human ring finger

Basket 2
Mango Pudding
New England Flank Steak
Walrus Broth
3 Centrum Multi-Vitamins
Vienna Sausages

Basket 3
Fish tacos
Chocolate frosting
Children’s Motrin
Alfredo Sauce
Corn Pops Cereal

Basket 4
2 Bald-eagle filets
1 Box of Junior Mints
Gillette Shaving Foam
Water Chestnuts
Tropical Punch Kool-Aid

From each basket the contestants would be required to create an appetizer, main course, and low-calorie smoothie. The main course must be plated in the form of a celestial constellation and the first chef eliminated will have their American citizenship revoked.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How To Win Back Your Ex

A few months ago, New Mexico resident and computer tech Greg Fultz provided $1,300 to fund a large billboard. The ad featured a photo of him in front of a playground cradling the opaque outline of an infant. The caption read, “This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!” and carried the official endorsement of the New Mexico chapter of the Right To Life Foundation. The billboard also stated that it was “Created for N.A.N.I. – National Association of Needed Information.”

Greg's Original Ad
The ad quickly drew media attention and several details emerged concerning Fultz’s claims. It appears that the woman Futz, 35, impregnated happened to be a twenty year old college classmate named Nani and the “Created for Nani” acronym was a thinly-veiled public accusation masquerading as a non-existent organization. Fultz later revealed that the two only had a six-month relationship and he has no idea whether Nani actually had an abortion or simply suffered an involuntary miscarriage (as she claims). He insists that since Nani has not spoken to him since their relationship ended, he has received “no closure” concerning his loss and that is why he chose the billboard.

Nani has retained a lawyer and is taking him to court for invasion of privacy, harassment, and domestic abuse. Fultz and his attorney insist that the billboard’s content is protected by his first amendment right to free speech but he voluntarily removed the “Nani” reference. Upon discovering that Fultz was not certain his ex-girlfriend had actually had an abortion, Right To Life retracted their support and their logo no longer appears on the ads.

This is an interesting case study in free speech versus personal privacy and some (including Fultz’s own attorney) have compared it to the recent ruling in favor of Westboro Baptist Church. I might be inclined to agree with that if he had not chosen to publish the rather unique first name of his ex-girlfriend who resides in a small town of 35,000 people. Whether she had an abortion or a miscarriage, Fultz appears to be leaving the land of free speech and entering the realm of a well-publicized HIPAA violation.

He has every right in the world to publish a picture of himself holding what appears to be clipart from the “infant crime scene” collection with the caption “My Future Child Was Murdered By Abortion” or “Look What Abortion Did To Me.” However, the moment he identified his ex-girlfriend and publicly accused her of having the most polarizing medical procedure in modern history he veered away from moral statement to personal attack. I believe that the fact he was willing to do all this without knowing whether or not she even had an abortion makes it a case study in varsity-level jack-assery.

I am personally shocked that Nani would give up her chance to stake her claim on a catch like Greg. 
After all, how often do you come across an eligible, mulletted mid-thirties computer tech that is willing to have sex with twenty-year old women outside the confines of marriage?  He is obviously an emotionally well-adjusted man with marketing initiative and access to large amounts of disposable income. Let this be a lesson to all the ladies out there: once the Flutz-train leaves the station, it ain’t coming back.

While I completely understand the passion and controversy behind abortion and support every person’s right to speak either in favor or opposition of its use, it appears that Greg is simply attempting to soften a personal vendetta by transforming it into a public issue. I have a hard time believing that a guy who reportedly lists Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey as a person who “inspires” him commissioned the billboard out of pure moral indignation. Perhaps if he had spent the $1,300 on an engagement ring and a haircut Nani would still be returning his calls. 

On the plus, side if you are a single woman looking for someone with Photoshop and a twisted sense of justice to impregnate you, Fultz is back on the market.