Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Claw Enforcement

During every election year, politicians clamor to be the “law and order” candidate. They want to demonstrate their hard-nosed approach to justice, appear as law enforcement’s best friend, and prove they are tougher on crime than their opponents.

One-upmanship abounds as they propose more secure prisons, harsher sentences, and expanded police patrols. But they leave out much more cost-effective ways to stop crime in its tracks.

Like simply saying “no.”

According to this report, a woman at Rocky’s Mini Mart in Hesperia, California recently deterred an armed robber simply by rejecting his demand for cash. She told him that she couldn’t give him the money, and he just walked right out of the store, no harm done.

Just consider the implications. If a potential arsonist swings by your place, you just say “no,” and she goes away. If a would-be murderer comes at you with a knife, you just say “no,” and he goes away. If bloggers close in to attack you for denigrating John Denver and the Muppets, you just say “no,” and they go away.

Many of you are probably thinking, though, that you don’t want to become known as a negative person. You might be asking … isn’t there another way to clip criminals’ wings?

Well, your attitude is for the birds. Seriously—it’s for the birds.

Because it turns out our feathered friends are the last great hope against crime, according to this story out of Pennsylvania. Last month, a macaw there took offense at an intruder. In a big way. It clawed at him, screeched loudly enough for neighbors to hear, and chomped hard enough into the burglar to leave a nasty wound.

It’s only a matter of time before a politician realizes the potential of the talented—and apparently rather territorial—macaw. It won’t be long before a candidate proposes adding the birds to police departments across the country.

At first, police organizations will squawk. Political opponents will cry fowl. But eventually other candidates will parrot the proposal.

And the idea will fly.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Marriage for the Dogs

Weddings often have surprises.

If you go to enough ceremonies, you’ll see some funny things. A flower girl will refuse to walk down the aisle. A bridesmaid will pass out. A groom will shout “I don’t,” kiss the priest instead of the bride, and skip toward the door while giggling like a schoolgirl.

Maybe that last one was just my friend Dennis. (Well, now Denise.)

Regardless, madcap antics often surround the exchange of nuptials. But nowhere have such shenanigans reached the level attained by a recent wedding in India. A 7-year-old girl in the country’s eastern state of Bihar married a dog.

(Disclosure: This is a tale I could not invent; I wouldn’t have even known about it if not for Manic Mom, who suggested in her comment on my last post that I address this odd topic. And I would not have made time to write this tonight if not for my ardent supporter Jay Lassiter, whose affirming insistence that I write more often has kicked my ass into action. Just this once.)

Back to our story. That was NOT a typo—a girl truly married a dog. And not one of those fancy Westminster Kennel Club types, either … it was just some random stray.

This pairing seemed like a swell idea to the girl’s family, which agreed to the wedding because—again, I’m not making this up—the ritual would do away with the “evil eye” that cursed her because her upper teeth came in before her lower teeth.

For the record, let me thank my parents publicly for not raising me in the Indian state of Bihar.

I’m not one to criticize other cultures, or argue that one society’s superstition is any more “valid” than another’s. But I’m really going to need some help with this one. If you have any insight, please educate us—how, precisely, does marrying a dog deny a tooth-induced evil eye? And, I hesitate to ask, does removing this curse require a consummation of the marriage?

Whatever the answer, it takes a cur-ageous girl to marry a dog. Either that, or the bride’s mother was a real bitch.

All this makes me wonder which teeth came in to prompt this kind of madness. Was it the molars? The incisors?

Nope. It was clearly the canines.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Paying the Price

Let’s say you’ve had a bad day at work.

Perhaps the boss fired you for a simple mistake—or, even worse, for someone else’s. Then some jackass cut you off on the way home. You spilled coffee all over your pants, burning your beanbag and putting intimacy out of the question for the next six months.

Picture yourself arriving home, only to find that your pad’s been broken into. Maybe your checkbook and credit cards have been stolen. Or, even worse, some sick bastard commandeered your iPod, deleted your kick-ass music collection, and replaced it with Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, and John Denver and the Muppets.

Take all this, and more … and it’s STILL not as taxing a day as Dennis Charnetzky recently had.

The Valparaiso, Indiana man sat down to open the mail, thinking he might get the usual bill or two, postcards with pictures of missing children, and 192 unsolicited applications for Capital One credit cards.

Instead, he got a property tax bill, and it was up from last year. Just a bit. From $1500 to—get this—$8 million. That’s a lot of triple grande soy light-whip 140-degree toffee nut lattes.

For minute this guy must have thought he was not in Indiana, but in Taxachusetts.

Most homeowners would be pleased to discover that their house value has gone up. In fact, in many areas of the country, real estate has been a solid investment for most of the past decade, earning 20% or more per year. But this was ridiculous; his assessment rose from around $122,000 to $400 million. And he hadn’t even installed new marble kitchen countertops.

Local officials say an outside user probably slipped into the county’s computer system and inadvertently changed the house value. Recalculated tax rates reflected the error, so now the county’s schools and public services face severe budget shortfalls due to less-than-expected revenue.

That’s quite a tax-ident.

Just imagine getting an $8 million government bill … and then being told that you have to cough up some extra dough to ensure your garbage gets picked up. Where do you come up with that kind of money?

If I were him, I would have asked for a loan from my fellow Indiana native, Guns ‘N Roses frontman Taxl Rose. Or taken a second job.

As a taxidermist.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Here Comes the Bribe

So many factors fuel America’s slide into apathy and obesity that it’s hard to know where to begin laying the blame. We can certainly point the finger at fast food and video games. Soft drinks. Starbucks. Xbox. PlayStation. Don’t forget the people parked on the couch watching reality TV instead of living in reality.

Oh yes, and then there’s the gym teacher in Florida charged with taking bribes from students who want to sit out of P.E. class.

In Pensacola, kids don’t have be sick to sidestep the hardships of the few remaining physical requirements in the U.S. educational system. According to the authorities, you could just slip one clever teacher a dollar a day and feel free to sit on your ass and watch the others play.

A great scam if you can get away with it. Everybody wins: the rich kids have more time to gossip, fewer students get injured in overcrowded half-court basketball games, and the teacher supplements his paltry income. And, just like every crime on Scooby-Doo, he would’ve gotten away with it.

If it weren’t for those meddling kids.

Some punks—probably scrawny nerds crawling away from dodgeball with welts the size of casabas all over their bodies—ratted the scheme out to their parents, who told the principal. Paradise lost.

But there is a bright side to the story. The debacle has refocused our attention on other Americans, whose bribes may have helped them escape certain school classes—with dramatic consequences:

Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton: Conflict resolution
Ted Kennedy: Driver’s education
Former LAPD Officer Mark Fuhrman: Criminal science
Bill Clinton: Ethics
George W. Bush: English
Former Enron CEO Ken Lay: Accounting
Hilary Clinton: Home economics
Dick Cheney: Gun safety
Britney Spears: Child care

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sex, Lies, and the First Grade

Some stories just make you shake you head. Questions like, “What were they thinking?” and “Are people really THAT stupid?” appear before your eyes.

This one’s a doozie, folks.

An article I saw last week: First-grader suspended for sexual harassment. I’d like to think I’m not the only one who saw this and did a double take, thinking I’d read the headline wrong … or stumbled across great news satire.

Sadly, this story is true. School officials in Massachusetts kicked a 6-year-old out of classes for three days to punish him for sticking his fingers inside a girl’s waistband. Which they, in their wisdom, called sexual harassment.

I call it political correctness run amok.

The boy denied touching the girl’s pants, telling his mom that the girl touched HIM first and he only responded by touching her shirt. Whether it was her waistband or her shirt, he’s now considered a sex offender.

The only problem is, as his mother told the press, she doesn’t even know how to explain to her son what “sexual harassment” is. You see, in case you missed it, he is SIX YEARS OLD.

Sure, everyone had at least one scary, mustache-wearing monster in their fifth grade class—you know, the 5’11” bully who had been held back about three times—but that’s an entirely different demographic from six-year-olds. I’m going to go out on a limb and join the medical experts who say that most first graders are too young to get sexual satisfaction from touching others.

Like many roads to hell, the PC road was paved with good intentions. But it has become a parody of itself. If sanity stays on its holiday and this trend continues, don’t be surprised to see these headlines in a newspaper near you:

President, Under Pressure, Renames Residence “Rainbow House”

Swedish Women Banned From Entering US Due To Hotness

Bartender Jailed After Serving Manhattan, Not Womanhattan

Abe Lincoln Exhumed, Charged With Not Ending Slavery Sooner

Senators Fined For Capitol Dome’s Breast-Like Appearance

Fetus Arrested After Touching Mother’s Uterus

If that last criminal commits his heinous crime in Massachusetts, he probably will be charged with sexual harassment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Special Album Review: Spinal Tap’s Rock and Roll Creation

This is a new one for me: a review of something that doesn’t even exist.

I have responded to the call of two fellow rock fans—Ben of "My Daily Review" and Metal Mark of "Heavy Metal Time Machine"—in a possibly unprecedented effort to nearly simultaneously review three albums by Spinal Tap, the greatest rock band that never was. Please check out their reviews of Brainhammer and The Sun Never Sweats.

Without further ado, here is my fake review of the fake Spinal Tap album from 1977, Rock and Roll Creation.

Once each decade or so, an album takes the rock world by storm with its musical virtuosity and lyrical genius.

Spinal Tap’s Rock and Roll Creation is NOT that album.

In fact, it’s hard to call this ostentatious fusion of heavy metal, religious imagery, and sophomoric sexual allusion an album at all. Rock and Roll Creation is better described as the soundtrack to the level of Hell that even Dante didn’t dare describe.

Trying to locate bright spots on this record is like searching for buried treasures in your backyard—they may be there, but you’ll have to look really, REALLY hard to find them … and you’ll uncover a lot of shit in the process.

The album’s least vomit-inducing song is the title track, the only one on the record preferable to shaving one’s testicles with a rusty scalpel. Tap’s co-founder and lead singer, David St. Hubbins, growls lines like “Ying was searching for his yang/And he looked and saw that it was good.” One hopes that St. Hubbins is referencing Eastern philosophy’s tenets of self-awareness and balance, but it is far more likely that he is simply imagining a man named “Ying” who admires his own penis.

Spinal Tap’s morbid hybrid of sexual innuendo and quasi-spiritual phrases weigh down the album's other tracks, like “Young, Smug and Famous.” The band’s label says the album was originally titled The Gospel According to Spinal Tap. That name would have better described the bulk of the album, which indeed should be lost for centuries in the nether regions of a nameless desert.

The most positive thing to say about this vomitorium of sound is that it at least attempts hard rock—more than can be said for its immediate Tap predecessors: Back for the Rent, the band’s first, and thankfully last, contribution to glitter rock; and Tap Dancing, Tap’s equally horrid stab at glam dance music. Rock and Roll Creation fails miserably ... but it’s tempting to give the band a D- for effort.

So take this reviewer’s advice: Buy this album.

Then smash it, burn it, and bury the ashes deep in your backyard so it will never see the light of day again.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Maid in the Shade

Wouldn’t life be easy if you hung out with the rich and famous? Surely you have thought about it at least once, maybe twice … perhaps 12,384 times.

It’s only natural to daydream. To picture yourself living the high life—rubbing elbows with celebrities, dancing with the stars. You know, walking a mile in their shoes.

Or just stealing them.

Being close to the elite, you see, presents opportunities. And if you are a premier maid like this woman in New York, you use that opportunity to steal celebrities’ clothes, cameras, jewelry, and anything else you can get your hands on.

The 35-year-old maid pleaded guilty this week to grand larceny, as well as forgery and identity theft. She admitted using her housekeeping job to grab her clients’ little goodies, ranging from Candice Bergen’s leather jacket to Robert DeNiro’s wife’s earrings—which, by the way, were only worth $95,500.

Celebrities from the 1970s haven’t been screwed this much since Warren Beatty finally settled down with Annette Benning.

It would not surprise anyone to find that in addition to failing as a thief, this woman probably lacked skill as a maid. Perhaps she didn’t make beds. Left floors unmopped. Neglected toilet bowls.

Maybe her clients noticed a recurrent inability to dust behind the lamps. Take out the trash. Polish the crystal.

In fact, rumor has it that Bill Gates fired the same woman last year after her very first visit to the Microsoft founder’s home. His complaint?

She wouldn’t do Windows.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fear Your Television

Why aren’t more movie and TV scriptwriters criminals?

No, no … I don’t mean the bastards who inflicted on us “entertainment” like Big Momma’s House 2 and ABC’s show Invasion. Although those writers do, in fact, deserve Abu Ghuraib for their sins, I’m instead referring to the complexity and creativity of the crooks in heist movies and crime dramas.

Take, for example, films like Ocean’s Eleven. Or Ocean’s Twelve. Anything with the word “ocean” in the title, really. Whoever came up with the theft schemes there should have been ENACTING these plans, not just WRITING about them.

These thoughts took over my brain when I read this article about the “CSI Effect.” If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s a quick summary:

The badguys today are using tricks to destroy DNA and otherwise cover up clues in ways that were largely known only to "insiders" before the success of CSI. Case in point: An Ohio man is accused of washing his hands with bleach (to remove his two murder victims' blood), using blankets in his getaway car (to prevent blood transfer), burning the bodies and his clothing (to, well, burn evidence), and taking his cigarette butts from the crime scene (to keep investigators from getting his DNA).

That's one smooth criminal. And authorities say crime shows are contributing to an increase in the frequency and quality of such cover-ups, leaving police with fewer hairs, fingerprints, and body fluids to obtain valuable leads from.

I have watched CSI, enjoying the bizarre murder plots, the clever evidence collections, and the madcap antics of wacky crime lab leader/party animal Gil Grissom. But only now do I realize that this show is enabling criminal behavior and endangering our well being. It's shocking to hear this, I know: Television—far from being the solution to all of life's problems, as I was led to believe—actually undermines the common good.

With this insight, I now see that this is not the first time a television show has put the public in danger:

Star Trek: This show lulled us into thinking that Spock and other extraterrestrials were OK—funny looking and quirky, sure, but certainly nothing to be scared of—leading us into apathy regarding the alien threat. First people stopped reporting UFO sightings … now we have complete infiltration by the otherworlders, cleverly disguised as local TV weathermean, circus clowns, and U.S. senators.

The Love Boat; You would think, after watching this gem, that cruise ships were floating cities of romance, witty discourse, and happy endings. Not true. Just ask missing honeymooner George Allen Smith. You couldn't get me on a cruise ship now even if the only other passengers were Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba. (OK, maybe … but I'll still want a gun under my pillow.)

The Dukes of Hazzard: Lack of respect for authority figures is only the most obvious of the sins fostered by this amoral monstrosity. And, like a plague, it's a cyclical curse; last year's big screen version inflicted pain and humiliation upon a new generation. For years we will suffer the effects of this show's evil, which ranges from reckless redneck driving to obese women trying to fit their asses into Daisy Duke shorts.

Cheers: It all seeemed like good community fun. According to this sitcom, you just head down to your favorite bar, drink beer all night, become clever and well-liked, and go home and rest so you can do the same thing again tomorrow. Little did we know that there are things like drunk driving, bar fights, and unattractive bartenders to deal with. Not to mention the show's blatant disregard for that most heinous tavern risk—the beer goggles.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Need Your Ass

That's an abbreviation for "assistance," of course, in the title. Got your attention, didn't I?

A few blogs that I respect and admire have a "Best posts" or "Greatest hits" sidebar--a nice, friendly idea. And it's convenient for new visitors, who can quickly get a sense if it's a blog worth reading. So, for the common good AND to tickle your funny bone, I ask for a few minutes of your time to read a few back entries ... and leave a comment voting for your three favorites.

I will create links below for what an independent observer has told me are among the better posts to appear here. If you are a veteran of these pages, you may be able to respond quickly with your top choices. If you are are new member of the club, welcome--please take a few minutes and scan these posts and let me know what makes you chuckle most.

All who comment will get their site's link added to my sidebar.

If you already have a link here and you DON'T comment, then I will remove your link, hack your site, and stalk your family. (Not really, but I hope that my regulars WILL offer solid feedback.)

Here goes. Thanks in advance ... for your ass.

From July: Packing the Court: A Modest Proposal and Dear John Roberts

From August: The Latest Celebrity Fling and Funeral Attendance: A Coup-rageous Act for African Leaders

From October: Don't Cry for Me, Filipinos

From November: Man's Buttocks Glued to Toilet Seat: A Commentary

From December: Enemy Mine

From January: Shocking Differences Between Men and Women and Don't Cell Yourself Short

From February: Fall's Well That Ends Well

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fall's Well That Ends Well

Most of us have made fools of ourselves in public.

Maybe you uttered something during an important meeting that you shouldn’t have let slip out. (Consider me guilty.) Possibly you walked into a party with your buttons unbuttoned, your belt unbuckled, or your zipper unzipped. (Very, very guilty.)

Perhaps you even admit on your blog that you listen to cheesy 80s hair metal. Way too often. (No comment.)

But I’m betting that you didn’t (A) trip on your own shoelace, (B) fall down a museum stairwell, and (C) shatter three near-priceless Qing Dynasty vases.

So let’s just say your day wasn’t as bad as this guy, who certainly wishes he had worn slip-ons, sandals, or even full leg casts last Wednesday while visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The Chinese artifacts that he reduced to fragments had been crafted in the late 17th or early 18th century—making them older than the Rolling Stones.

Yes, ALL of them. Combined.

The museum director was gracious about the “regrettable accident,” emphasizing that he and his co-workers were simply “glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed.”

Translation: The clutz hauled ass before the curator could beat the crap out of him.

This story bring to mind some other historical stumbles with memorable results:

Michael Jackson. The King of Pop faced criminal charges because he was seen getting too friendly with the youngins. But remember that he always wore moonwalk slippers, and those things are damn slippery. He doesn't have the moves he used to, so perhaps he just fell a lot—and always found himself grasping for anything to break his fall.

Conveniently, he always had those little boys around.

The atomic bomb. We didn’t really mean to drop it, you know. We just wanted to open the airplane's big doors and show it off. Let the Japanese SEE it and panic. Then, we planned to fly away in peace and accept their surrender later that day. Those airmen just lost their grip, that’s all.

Oops. Our bad.

O.J. Simpson. Everybody suspects that he killed Nicole. Few people realize that he didn’t really intend to hurt her … he merely slipped and fell because he couldn't see in the dark, dark night. Oh yes, and he just happened to have a big-ass blade in his hand.

If he put a knife in her throat because the sidewalk wasn’t lit, you must acquit.

As for the unidentified man who staggered into the Chinese vases, he wishes he weren’t part of this sordid history.

He is probably going over that unfortunate moment again and again in his mind. Could he have tied his laces more tightly? What prevented him from keeping his balance? Why didn’t he grab on to a rail, or stair, or a fellow museum visitor?

At least he could have taken some e-vase-ive action.