Friday, November 23, 2012

By The Numbers

  • Statistically speaking, the American most likely to own a gun is a white 50-64 year-old Southern male who has never attended college and makes around $50,000 a year. The least likely to own a gun is a minority female aged 18-29 who possess a doctorate degree, lives in the eastern United States, and makes around $30,000 a year.

While this information could easily be used to justify the stereotype that the south is comprised of uneducated rednecks that collect guns, I found it somewhat reassuring. After all, between the two of them who is more likely to be angry at the world: a redneck with a low cost of living who managed to land a $50,000 annual salary on his GED or someone who just realized they spent $100,000 on a Ph.D. in order to live just below the poverty line? If that poor girls hears one too many stories about Bubba “I Don’t Read So Good” Scooter leapfrogging her tax bracket I don’t think it is in anyone’s best interest for her to have easy access to a firearm.

  • The contestant most likely to win a Miss America Pageant is a 22 year-old, 121 pound California / Ohio / Oklahoma resident whose talent is singing, wins the preliminary bathing suit competition, and does not believe evolution should be taught in public schools. The contestant least likely to win is a 22 year-old, 121 pound Idaho / Vermont / North Dakota resident whose talent is dancing, loses the preliminary bathing suit competition, and believes evolution should be taught in public schools. 

Critics of scholarship pageants might scoff at this statistic, highlighting what appears to be a glaring endorsement of physical beauty over intellectual prowess, but I feel this could be a motivational tool for future contestants. One day, despite her climatological disadvantage in swimwear, a future Miss North Dakota will take her Biology degree and dance into the hearts of Americans everywhere. It is high time the velvet ropes came down and we allowed all 22 year-old, 121 pound, unmarried women with no criminal history, and a sub 20 B.M.I to highlight this country’s diverse beauty.

  • Often, unrelated statistics can offer valuable insights into our nation’s demographic. For instance, we know that Idaho has the nation’s lowest percentage of single adults. We also know that 52% of singles say they are too busy to meet other singles and even though 63% of married couples were introduced by a friend, only 17% of those introductions lead to anything.

While these figures might be depressing if you live in California, just think about the poor single guys in Idaho who cannot get a date because every well-proportioned available woman in the state is off at dance lessons so that they are adequately prepared to be eliminated in the first round of the Miss USA pageant. Either Idaho is a romantic, monogamous haven of traditional marriage or it is so sparsely populated that when two single people finally run into each other they exchange vows just to remind themselves they are not the last remaining vestige of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world.

  • Finally, The Sunday Times of London held a survey where they asked women which of eleven physical attributes they found most attractive in a man and asked men how they though the women would respond. The top four answers selected by women comprising an overwhelming 78% of the total are buttocks (39%) slimness (15%) flat stomach (13%) and eyes (11%). The bottom two results, comprising only 3% overall, were the penis (2%) muscular chest & shoulders (1%) and muscular arms (0%).  

Men, being the perceptive creatures we are, predicted the results exactly the opposite. With unwavering certainty, they predicted the following: muscular chest & shoulders (21%) muscular arms (18%) and penis (15%). Eyes and buttocks were tied for 7th place at 4%.

Sidestepping a discussion on what exactly constitutes an attractive penis (Grooming? Symmetry? A conspicuous absence from the dinner table?) I wonder if some guy read that statistic during his grueling four hour gym/genital salon daily routine and said to himself, “You mean I could’ve gotten more dates with a pair of colored contacts, a few lunges, and a low calorie diet!?” While there is certainly room for error (and personal preference) in all these statistics, there is a lesson to be learned:

If you are a single guy in Idaho trying to catch the eye of the local beauty queen before she uses her scholarship money to pursue her doctorate at NYU, I suggest you stick to the numbers, wear the chinos and have her leave her pistol at home.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dumber Days

Recently, Stanford University professor Gerald Crabtree presented evidence that humanity is actually getting dumber. His study, published in the journal “Trends in Genetics,” argues that mutations in the human brain are eroding our collective intellectual and emotional capabilities. He believes that this deterioration has been brought about by none other than the societal advances that make our lives easier. The idea is that we have become so efficient at providing for our basic needs (food, water, shelter) that we no longer exercise our cognitive muscles and they are slowly atrophying.

In fact, Crabtree theorizes that our intellectual peak occurred when we were still non-verbal and our most pressing need was survival. He estimates that at the current rate, we could suffer two or more harmful mutations within the next 3,000 years. He does caution that technological advances could mitigate this intellectual decline and we might even be able to isolate and treat the mutations by then.

I do find it interesting that he identifies our non-verbal phase as our most intellectually potent. I mean, how exactly would our thoughts and logical processes increase in dexterity when we conveyed information through a series of grunts and gestures? Surely, we couldn’t have been collectively smarter before we could speak. Then again, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo makes a convincing counter-argument.

While the idea of our inevitable slide toward stupidity is worrisome, I am more concerned with the loss of our emotional capabilities. It was not clear whether this meant we would experience and display less emotion as time went or we simply would be less able to control the emotions we currently have. Either way, both options would be a great voice-over for a post-apocalyptic movie trailer:

In a world where Earth is populated by heartless morons, our last hope rests with the one man who dares to weep while attempting long division. The question is not whether or not he will triumph, but rather, how will he express his disappointment if he doesn’t……

In a world dominated by emotionally-unstable imbeciles, one man will stand for reason and tranquility in a sea of unnecessary tears and rudderless anger. What will become of our hero? Will his Pragmatic Posse be any match for the evil Bi-Polar Brigade? Will order and balance be restored to the universe or will we continue to be enslaved by our irrelevant euphoria and inapplicable sadness?

There is a delicious irony in the fact that the very creature comforts the study identifies as our cerebral doom are essential to the study’s very existence. After all, if our primary objective each day was simply survival, I highly doubt the study of genetics (or the journals that publish its progress) would have ever come into being. In effect, we are devoting our dwindling intellect to the study of our dwindling intellect.

I do wish he had provided more details on how severe this pair of “mutations” will be. Are we talking about delaying a few scientific breakthroughs or am I going to wake up one morning and decide Bret Michaels was underrated? I suppose it is not such a bad deal. Even If I had the choice, I am not sure I would trade agriculture, literature, and science for a few IQ points. What good does high-order math do you when your day consists of not wearing pants so that it is easier to poop in your cave-house?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Slap Away The Years

It seems that every day we are pummeled with products and services claiming to reverse or hide the signs of aging. Wrinkles disappear, turkey-neck is gobbled up, and suddenly your son’s friends are making thinly-veiled references to The Graduate. Most of these are topical solutions contain fabricated ingredients like “elastisis technology” or “rejuvenox extract.”

Others may wish to bypass such over-the-counter remedies and go straight for Botox injections. While this treatment can certainly provide subtle improvements over an extended period of time, impatience invariably gives way to overuse and pretty soon you are unable to convey basic human emotions. So where does that leave someone who wishes to avoid both expensive daily creams and costly injections?

Fortunately there is a new youth restoration technique sweeping the country: face slapping. Based on an ancient Taiwanese tradition, customers pay to have an experienced practitioner wallop away their crow’s feet and frown lines. Currently, the only certified face-slapper in the continental United States is a woman named “Rassameesaitarn New Series World” who San Francisco-based Tata Massage parlor is generating quite a buzz.

According to her website, first time customers must pay a (cash-only) $5 “face-slapping consultation fee” and an additional $350 if they wish to undergo a session. For those whose epidermis requires more intensive healing, there is a $1,000 full-course offered in three distinct styles:

·         Face Slapping to Look Like a Celebrity
·         Face Flapping to Look Younger
·         Face Slapping to Charm Your Significant Other

While I applaud non-chemical holistic treatments for aging, I believe I am going to have to see some science behind this. If getting repeatedly slapped by a woman is the anecdote for aging then I am pretty sure Benny Hill would still be alive and Charlie Sheen would be carded when buying cigarettes. I have to wonder about the screening process behind the $5 consultation fee. Are there certain people too wrinkled to slap? Does she turn a certain number of her rings around based on case severity? The only thing more depressing than realizing you just paid a woman named after a future Flaming Lips album $350 to slap you is realizing that you just gave her $5 to tell you that no one hits hard enough to fix your problem.

I imagine Mrs. Rassa is also going to have to clear up a few misunderstandings in her first year of business. After all, one cannot open a cash-only parlor promising “tata massage” in San Francisco without generating a certain amount of confusion.

Her webpage features subject-verb confusion set against a fluorescent green backdrop and a photo of the proprietor holding a framed certificate that we are to infer was bestowed upon her by the official governing body of face slappery.   

I also have several questions about the “full-course” package. Does the customer get to pick the celebrity or are they chosen at random, because there is a big difference between the George Clooney and the Larry Bird. Also, is there not a way to incorporate all three? If I am going to pay someone $1,000 to give me five-across-the-eyes, I want to walk away looking like a young celebrity that would impress my wife. The last thing that my spouse wants walking through the door is a Lyle Lovett doppelganger that recently drained their joint checking account.

The one product she needs to provide is gift certificates. She could even have a “revenge enhancement” if you wish to give the certificate to someone you loathe. Maybe for an extra C-note she will give them a Goodfellas style once-over under the guise of “wrinkle reduction.” Just imagine how fun it would be to send that goober from marketing down to the Mrs. Rassa knowing you slipped her a little something extra to “put some real stank on it.”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hobby Lobby & The Hearing Impaired

Not long ago my wife and I were at Hobby Lobby looking for some supplies for an upcoming baby shower. For those who have never been to a Hobby Lobby, the merchandise breakdown is as follows:

  • 30% = Seasonal Items (mechanized Santas, ceramic pumpkins, pictures of a mechanized Santa sitting on a ceramic pumpkin)

  • 40% = Craft Items (scrapbooking materials, items that were designed to interact with hot glue, pictures of other people’s completed craft projects)

  • 15% = Letters of the Alphabet (these are sold individually as block letters, wall decorations, or photos of random letters that spell words like “love” or “peace.”)

  • 15% = Owl-based decorations (lamps, sculptures, pictures of owls overlooking Santa’s craft project involved pumpkins carved with letters of the alphabet)

At any rate, while my wife was agonizing over the varying shades of pink napkins I was approached by a well-dressed Caucasian man in his 60’s who silently handed me a business card. The card indicated that he was deaf and that he supported his family by selling the card in exchange for donations. The card featured a set of praying hands and the words “God Bless You All” on the front and a chart of the sign language alphabet on the back.

What struck me immediately was the quality of said card. It featured embossed lettering and thick cardstock. My curiosity was immediately peaked and I wanted to retain the card so that I could research the legitimacy of his claim. This left me with two choices:

1.      Give him some money and possibly contribute to fraudulent panhandling.
2.      Keep the card, refuse to pay him, and take the chance of going to Hell for stealing from the hearing impaired.

Always one to hedge my bets, I gave him a dollar and he signed either “Thank You” or “Dumb Cracker” before walking away (I was unable to decode his motions fast enough using the card I had just purchased). He seemed to be operating alone, and since the deaf can legally drive I assumed he provided his own transportation. I tried to keep track of him to see what kind of vehicle he drove but I lost him near the felt section.

Once I got home, I Googled the phenomenon and apparently my new friend was either legitimate or operating on the bleeding edge of auditory scams because I could find no references to his modus operandi. It appears that the most prevalent scams involving the deaf consist of a woman claiming to be a single mother going house to house selling alphabet flash cards. It appears that many of the hearing impaired carry business cards identifying themselves as such but not in an attempt to generate revenue.

I must admit, the idea of handing someone a business card in exchange for currency is somewhat enticing. I pondered which of my genetic predispositions would generate the most sympathies and how best to monetize them. Here are some ideas for my business cards:

Hello…I Am Socially Awkward at Funeral Visitations. Please Give Me A Quarter.
Hello...Myopia Prevents Me from Reading without My Glasses. Can I Borrow Your Car?
Hello…Many of My Skin Moles Have Worrisome Irregular Edges. May I Have Your Wedding Band?
Hello… I Subconsciously Project My Fears Onto Unrelated Situations Causing Irrevocable Damage to my Interpersonal Relationships. Are You Going to Finish That Sandwich? 
Hello…I Suffer from Gingivitis. Will You Loan Me $200

Perhaps this man’s story was legitimate and my dollar helped support a disadvantaged American struggling in these tough economic times. Either way, he could greatly increase his profit margin by forgoing the raised gold-leaf lettering and printing his cards on something other than Egyptian papyrus stock, but then again people might not pay as much for it. If nothing else, he probably has a future as a business card design consultant.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Baby Story Part 4

In this installment of our semi-popular web-series we will be looking at the phenomenon known as “pregnancy brain.” It is a condition whereby intelligent women become unable to perform some of the most fundamental cognitive functions. Some attribute the onset of symptoms to hormones, others to a simple lack of sleep. Whatever the reason, this ailment may affect as many as 68% of the 1/3 of women highly susceptible to it.

In my wife’s case, the onset of symptoms began around week 18. We were preparing for our workday and my wife was standing in our bathroom curling her hair. Following a series of exhausted huffs, she shouted with thinly-concealed rage, “What is wrong with this stupid curling iron!!!” Always the dutiful husband, I returned to the restroom to find my wife furiously manipulating her curling iron in an attempt to produce her desired hairstyle.

I immediately noticed that the appliance’s electrical cord was unplugged and dangling uselessly by her side. As anyone in striking distance of a pregnant woman knows, this is a delicate situation. One must exercise extreme caution since one verbal misstep could result in either body-wracking sobs or a flying Conair product. I diplomatically suggested that connecting the curling iron to a power source might produce better results. Glancing down at the untethered power-cable, her eyes narrowed as she exclaimed, “I don’t have time to let it heat up now! I am already LATE!!”

She then tossed the curling iron on the counter, and announced that everyone was just going to have deal with her having straight hair. I believe I mumbled something about her uncurled hair, “framing her face” as I retreated toward the door that led into our bedroom. While the incident unsettled me, it would have been irresponsible to classify it as a pattern. At least, that’s what I thought.

That evening, we were jovially recalling the curling-iron incident while watching television when my wife decided to have some cereal. Still uneasy leaving her unattended around electronic appliances, I watched as she calmly poured herself a bowl of Cheerios and placed the gallon of milk into our pantry before attempting to refrigerate the remaining cereal. I gently proposed reversing her food storage decisions at which point she realized what had happened and asked me, “Why am I stupid!?”

Now my wife is a fiercely intelligent and capable woman, and I consoled her by insisting that we cannot allow a few rational blunders to affect her self-image. However, beneath my calm exterior I found myself increasingly concerned by my wife’s mental degradation. In the weeks that followed, she would walk into rooms wearing a confused expression only to sheepishly admit she had forgotten her original purpose.  

Many times she would call me to let me know that she had thought of something important only to admit that she had forgotten it between the first and second ring. Often this would be immediately followed by a call-back meant for another family member she had somehow expected to reach via the last-number redial command. One day, she dedicated an unspeakable amount of time attempting to speed-dial someone using the Blackberry “lock-key.”

In an effort to protect both my spouse and my unborn child, we worked out a simple code for the onset of cerebral fogginess. She states “I don’t know no Portuguese” at which point I assist her in avoiding sharp objects or high-order math. So far, we have avoided any major incidents since the implementation of our safety phrase. I am simply thankful that her profession doesn’t involve the operation of a ban saw.