Monday, December 13, 2010

The Westboro Baptist Church: Masters of Frontloading

Alfred Hitchcock used to say he spent so much time planning a film, by the time it came to film it, it was almost anticlimactic for him. 

Quite often, people on the Internet start talking (and complaining) about films so far ahead of time, by the time the film comes out, they're so exhausted they don't bother seeing it. Some who read all the hoohah make the mistake that the film must have already come and gone, as the discussions took place weeks, even months before the release.

We're rapidly getting to the point where we won't even have to make the movies.  As soon as Hollywood can figure out a way to monetize the vehement fannish discussions, the need for the actual film will be eliminated.

The Westboro Baptist Church seems to have gotten this down to a science.  They're the folks who gained infamy and general animosity by showing up at the funerals of soldiers who died in the War On Terror and protesting.  Not protesting the war, or the soldier in question; odds are they didn't even know who the soldier is.  They protest the fact that people are starting to consider the the idea that homosexuals are anything other than sub-human abominations against the creator.

Their "God Hates Fags" banners have appeared on almost every news show in the country at some point or another.  The news that they're coming to a town near you sparks the kind of communal preparation reserved for natural disasters.  People make plans to go to whatever event the church intend to dsrupt, the news media talks about it endlessly, and all told, they get more face time before the event than they could if every single news outlet filmed them for the entire time they protested.

And they've gotten that figured out.  They have realized that with the amount of play their very name gets, they barely have to show up at the events at all.

Case in point, the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards.  the Westboro folks sent out a press release that they planned to protest at the funeral of the wife of former Senator, failed Presidential candidate and Only Human John Edwards.  The news media and public reacted as if NAMBLA announced they were going to go to Disneyland.  An astounding twelve hundred people attended the funeral, bearing signs and forming a human wall, protecting the mourners from hearing the hatred coming from the protesters.

The Church sent five.

Not five hundred...five PEOPLE.  One of them may have been a Real Doll.

Again, they've successfully front-loaded controversy.  They got everyone whipped up to a frenzy, made sure their message was heard, and didn't have to lift a finger.  The only reason they showed up at all was if they didn't, it would make them look like they backed down.  All they had to do was send a token force, hold up signs for ten minutes and leave.  Saves a fortune in airfare.

It's similar to what happened at the San Diego Comic-Con last summer.  They didn't have to send a separate force - they were already planning to protest Al Gore's energy conference (I guess they assume only faggots care about the air, or something) and as long as they were gonna be there anyway, sent out a release saying they were going to protest the SDCC, half-heartedly citing the lewd nature of comics today. Fandom organized and set operations in play more quickly than the legendary time a diminutive author extolled the joys of a bathtub of Lime Jello.  Dozens, possibly hundreds of fans lined the street in front of the convention center, with a range of glorious costumes and witty signage.

The Westboro crew sent three. Each holding two signs.

It was viewed as a tremendous victory for fandom and inclusion.  But again, the fans got one day of news coverage, the Church got WEEKS, off of what was essentially a last-minute thought.

They will eventually get to the point where they won't even bother to go. They'll mail the signs to the event and hire a couple temps.

But by talking about them so often, and for so long, they are given more power than if they showed up by the truckload and took the event sites by force. 

Heck, look at that guy in Florida who said he PLANNED to burn the Koran.  No reputation, no evidence of intent, something like thirty-five followers, and he got an call from the President and an audience with the guy building Park 51, the misnomered (and curiously forgotten because the story got old) Ground Zero Mosque.  All he did was SAY he was going to do something..

Think of the words of Hopper from A Bug's Life:

Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! 

These people have no power, save that which we grant them.  Back in the day, people like this were branded "Kooks", got laughed and pointed at for a while, and they went away.

So this is a better plan?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Do I need to disable my pop-up blocker here?

When you were a baby, if you weren't clad in evil Earth-killing disposable diapers, your parents likely used a diaper service. They'd send fresh new cloth diapers regularly to your home, which your parents (OK, your mother) would place on you. Your job was to turn those diapers into wet stinky containers of corruption and horror, which your parents would peel off you, throw into a bag and send back to the diaper company the next time the nice man brought fresh ones. Now, they used enough hot water, bleach and other harsh small-lifeform-killing chemicals that your parents didn't have to spend time pondering the fact that they weren't sending you back the SAME diapers. They didn't need to remember that more people had been in those pants than all the Kardashians' combined.

A year or two passed, your need for diapers abated, and you stopped getting your underwear delivered.

Until today. advertises itself as an "underwear subscription service".  For a nominal fee, they will mail you new underwear at regular intervals.

Blessedly, you are not getting communally worn and soiled breeches as in the days of your childhood, but new underwear, sent to you as you require them.

They offer rush service.  Now I gotta say, no matter HOW quickly they deliver, if I am in need of expedited underwear replacement, they shipping process cannot be fast enough.

Their FAQ describes themselves as:

A service that replenishes a man's basics like underwear, razors and more so he doesn't have to think about it anymore.
Small problem.  Men do not think about it now.  Underwear, like nutritional groceries and cleaning products, are purchased by girlfriends and/or wives if one is in a relationship, by servants and/or assistants if one is successful or influential, or they simply don't get bought. 

Many companies are trying to make the Internet the source of so many daily needs like video entertainment, books, and of course, porn, the reason the Internet was invented in the first place.  But many products have not made that jump successfully.  Many grocery websites have come and gone, and I still have some unredeemed flooz.and beenz.  So will internet underwear be the next boom, or their plan full of holes?

It could be worse...they could be offering disposables.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When you see someone make a major change to their life, it's usually not by choice

Our local paper the Morning Call has an item about a local Disney collector who's selling off his entire collection, and is considering having thousands of Disney tattoos removed from his body.

Now, what would inspire, or drive, a person who's spent nearly his whole life collecting something to part with it?  Is he suffering from a health issue and needs the money?  Do his kids need a house?  Did he bet on the Washington Generals one time too many?


"Reiger's tune changed recently when he met a woman in Florida."



He allegedly met his new love at a Disney convention.  That really begs the question why would he then choose to sell off what has to be described as a major portion of his life and epidermis?

This SCREAMS "Either this crap goes or I do".

There's not a sci-fi or comics fan who doesn't have a friend who found a girl (or guy) and got convinced to sell/donate/just fucking throw away all their collectibles.  They have that look of tired resignation to them, paired with a repeated "No, really, she's a great girl, she just thinks we need more room in the apartment."

This guy spent his life happy as a clam, going to the theme parks and getting more ink than the last theatrical release.  But he meets a girl, and goes from "Hi Ho" to "Yes Dear" in nothing flat.

He couldn't even bring himself to be at the auction - he's off on another (and I'll warrant his last) Disney Cruise, probably crying into his Goofy-tini, realizing that even though he gets to keep the glass, she probably won't let it in the house.

Here's what you do.  Go ahead and get married.  The sex is likely fabulous - it's what lures most men into tender traps like this.  So have a lovely wedding, and a great honeymoon.  Get her nice and pregnant..  Nine months from now, when the resentment starts to really sink in, make sure she gets an epidural.  She should have no pain or discomfort at all, the child should be healthy and well.

But as she's laying there in the recovery room, the nurse is going to come in with the paperwork for the birth certificate.  She'll ask, "Name?"

Look at your wife, think of all you parted with in the name of her love, and then look back at the nurse.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Discomfort Food

Outrageous Food star Tom Pizzica gets down with his subject matter

Having enjoyed the most recent edition of The Food Network’s Next Food Network Star, I was pleased to see runner-up Tom “Big Chef” Pizzica get his own TV series, Outrageous Food, on Friday nights at 10 p.m. ET. A joking, cuddly bear of a guy who seems like he’d be fun to hang with, Tom is a fine choice to host a show in which people cook and eat foods such as the 105-pound hamburger (including the 45-pound homemade bun) served at the Clinton Diner in Clinton, NJ, not far from us. Unlike Adam Richman on The Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, Tom is not expected to try to eat the titular outrageous foods by himself in a brief time period. Just as well; even the ten college students who teamed up to gobble the behemoth burger within an hour—with $5 million dollars on the line if they succeeded—couldn’t finish it.

But at least the giant burger only fills you up, big time. The Outrageous Food that gave me pause was at Cactus Bob’s BBQ Corral in Johnston, IA. Owner Cactus Bob isn’t just being a showman when he ominously intones, “Do you think you can handle the pain?” Several of their menu items have the word “Death” or “Dead” in their names. The insanely hot food on the menu gets its heat from the most intense chili peppers known to foodie-kind, Ghost Peppers, honored by The Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili peppers ever. At one million Scoville Heat Scale Units, the Ghost Pepper has snatched the Hottest Pepper crown from the once-mighty Jalapeno, now considered kid stuff with its paltry 2,500 Scoville Units. 
Call me a wuss, but as I watched the Cactus Bob segment, the “honor” looked more like punishment to me, if not outright torture. When Tom and Bob prepared the joint’s signature Showdown Sauce, featuring not only Ghost Peppers but also a satanic smorgasbord of other hot sauces and spices, the capsaicin fumes were so noxious that the guys couldn’t touch the peppers with their bare hands or even breathe their fumes without wearing safety goggles and surgical masks. Even then, they had to bring the skillet outdoors to cook without contaminating the restaurant! No problem for the local chili-heads who knew and looked forward to what they were in for, but I felt sorry for other poor unsuspecting souls on the street who happened to be standing downwind. Second-hand smoke has nothing on capsaicin fumes.
Dr. Lester Wilson of Iowa State University was on hand to explain, “The capsaicin is in the (pepper’s) membrane as a protective mechanism by the plant, meaning we’re not supposed to eat it.” Laughing, Tom said, “So the body’s saying, ‘You’re an idiot.’” A reasonable assumption, considering Tom broke out sweating from sampling just a tiny dab of Showdown Sauce. Cactus Bob tightened the screws even more by making diners who’d eaten the Showdown Sauce-bathed pulled pork sandwiches sit still for 10 minutes after eating, with no milk, water, or other coolants to douse their inner fires. I felt even sorrier for folks who’d accidentally gotten Showdown Sauce on their faces or in their eyes! “This is worse than labor,” one lady said, “and I pushed for three hours!” If she thinks it hurts now, wait until the next time she has to go potty; what goes in must go out, after all, and I’m told capsaicin stays potent for quite a while….
Hey, I get the appeal of eating ginormous amounts of food; it’s kinda like the call of the wild, but with more variety. But I’m at a loss as to why people are eager to eat foods that actually cause searing pain inside and out. Is it some crazy way of getting in touch with one’s primitive side to convince ourselves that modern life hasn’t turned us 21st-century folk into wimps? If you want to set your alimentary canal on fire, go ahead and have yourselves a blast. I’ll get my wild food kicks from ice cream, thank you; brain freeze doesn’t last as long.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Because calling it a Shellectric Chair would just be silly...

Eating a lobster is the ultimate act of the carnivore. Nowhere else (unless you believe about those websites in the Far East) can you look at a selection of living creatures, choose one, point at it and say "That one, the fat one; kill it, cook it, and bring it to me, for I am hungry". Similarly, when they bring it to you, they bring it to you whole. Cut open, perhaps, filled with stuffing (often made of OTHER similar animals, too small to sell on their own) but there's no denying you're eating an until-recently-living thing. You could try to convince yourself that a steak wasn't part of a larger creature if you really felt the need, but they don't even cut the dangly bits off of a lobster.

But many well-meaning busybodies bemoan the fate of the poor crustacean, claiming the methods used to kill them (boiling them alive, or keeping them in a frozen torpor UNTIL boiled alive) are cruel and vicious. Many have bought lobsters from restaurants and released them into the sea (where they likely die of the pollution of the cites they're not used to, or just eaten by larger animals, but it's the thought that counts). They can't get past the idea that these over sized aquatic insects aren't being given the dignity of a torture free death.

No fear - a gentleman in England has a solution.  He has invented a device that electrocutes the little darlings, so they don't have to endure the experience of being boiled alive.

It's called The Crustastun, and its unveiling was covered in the UK in The Independent.

Professor Douglas Neil of the University of Glasgow said that studies he has performed for the company that makes the machine demonstrate that electrocution is the quickest way of ending any signs of nervous activity in edible crustaceans – an indication of a clean death.
 Indeed, the last thing I would want to eat is a nervous lobster.

This is another example of a cause that exists only because we have too much time on our hands.  Just a century or two ago people were too busy not starving to wonder if the animals they were catching and eating felt morose about their fate.

Of course, the same amount of time ago, lobsters were peasant food, some disgusting mud-dwelling creature that no sensible person would put in his mouth.  So I imagine mindsets do change, usually with the assistance of a properly-executed marketing campaign. 

Do I have a problem with this invention? Not at all. Human ingenuity has found a need and filled it - it's the definition of business. Do I want them to use it on MY lobster?

Only if I can watch.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spreading the word by shutting up...?

OK, so an organization called Communication Shutdown is trying to make a statement about autism by saying nothing.  They're asking people to skip using Facebook, Twitter and the like on Monday, November 1 to get people to see how hard it is for autistics to communicate.

This makes as much sense as advertising hot dogs by giving away fish sticks.

Their argument is that social communication is one of the biggest challenges for people with autism. The idea is, if you skip using them for a day, you'll get an idea of how hard it is for autistics to use them.

How, exactly?  All it'll do is give you several hours of your day back.  Sounds more like national turn your TV off day than anything that's going to help autism.

You can more easily understand what autism feels like by logging on.  You know how hard it is to detect sarcasm online?  How without the inflection of voice and all the verbal cues we hear and see every day, you simply can't tell if a person is kidding or not? And how we have to resort on acronyms like HHOK (Ha ha only kidding) and NSAIRMI (No shit, asshole, I really meant it)?  You know how embarrassing it feels to ask "Um, sorry, but are you making a joke?"

Imagine what it's like standing in front of a person and not being able to tell if they're kidding. THAT'S what it's like being autistic, or someone with Aspergers or any of the other syndromes in what's known as the Autism Spectrum. 

High functioning Aspies and autistics are PERFECTLY good at communication.  It's the "Social" bit they don't get.  They don't have the wiring in their head that allows them to have empathy or grasp a joke.  It comes off as naivete or callousness just plain being weird.  It's as infuriating as being in a foreign country, barely being able to understand the language, the idioms and the humor, and constantly choosing the wrong word, and getting weird looks or outright laughed at.

Here's a slogan - "When you're autistic, you just don't get it".

The key to education is communication.  Greg Grunberg, late of Heroes and Group Sex and soon of Love Bites is spearheading an organization about epilepsy literally called "Talk about it".  All these recent "It gets better" videos are all about making sure kids understand that bullying will end, and things will improve.  And somehow this group thinks that NOT talking about autism for a day will help, save for the money they collect for all the people pledging to log off for a day? 

Now don't get me wrong.  I'd love it if other advocacy groups tried this publicity gimmick.  Like if Peta chose not to talk to meat-eaters, to show them how much less exciting their day would be without vegans in it.  They could call it "shut out the meat-eaters day" And I could call it "Second Christmas". 

And I'd LOVE to see Jenny McCarthy shut up for a day.  I don't see HER name in the mosaic of well-meaning people promising to skip a day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eat Shit and Die? THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE Should Be So Lucky!

WARNING: Not for the easily grossed-out (such as myself)!

To each his/her own, that’s my motto. Different strokes for different folks. Can’t please everybody. Still, to slightly paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force, a person’s got to know his/her limitations.

The Human Centipede reached my limit, I’m afraid. Frankly, I couldn’t get any farther than the movie trailers on YouTube. I just can’t bring myself to sit through an entire movie—or even *ahem* segments of such—in which characters are kidnapped and forced to have their mouths surgically attached to someone’s anus to form the titular monstrosity. Hell, just thinking about it was my limit (my stomach is still a little queasy)! So call me a wuss if you must, but I simply can’t bring myself to sit through an entire film about a batshit crazy German surgeon who used to separate conjoined twins and now kidnaps people instead to achieve his lifelong dream of creating a human centipede. I will admit, however, that the trailers—did I mention there’s a sequel on the way?—had me laughing and cringing at the same time, even as my stomach threatened to rebel.

The Los Angeles Times
ran an excellent article in May pointing out the film’s unexpected humanity as well as its gross-out factor. That and the trailers are as close as I intend to get to actually seeing The Human Centipede, thank you.

I know my limitations.

Rated “C” for coprophagia.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Five-Pound Gummy Bear

Not five pounds of gummy bears.  That's perfectly reasonable; indeed, it's the main reason we joined our local warehouse club, so that we would have access to purchase of five-pound bags of gummy bears at any moment.

No, a single, uni-flavored gummy bear.

A gummy bear the size of a premature child.

For the same price as TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS of individual gummy bears.

The tri-flavored gummy costs six dollars more.

You'd better really like the flavor you choose.

12,600 calories.  If it could be converted directly into energy, it could power your car for a trip to the headquarters of the Bowflex corporation and back.

This is a classic example of a gift that was not well thought through. Sounds like a great idea, looks adorable, it'll get a round of laughs, but then YOU'LL go home and the poor recipient will have to live with the thing.  It might as well be a gummy albatross, complete with neck rope.

Other examples of poorly thought out gifts are those jokey sex toys you find in Spencer gifts, collectible items from the Franklin Mint, and children's toys containing loose glitter.

OK, let's try to turn this into a positive.  How can we make this palatable?

What if you scooped this middle out like a candy bowl, and filled it with assorted regular sized gummy bears, turning it into a fecund gummy matriach, ready to spawn chewy fruit-flavored progeny?

You'd still have a couple pounds of gummy-viscera to dispose of, but at least you've jazzed the shell up a bit.

You could dice it up and make them more finger friendly, but this removes the cuteness of eating a small candy animal.  Unless you're a Dungeons and Dragons fan, and you can pretend they're little Gelatinous Cubes.

Eventually, you'll find yourself adding "gummy" to all your recipes to use the confusticated thing up.  Gummite (the source material from which all gummy candies are made) melts readily into a honeylike goo which mixes well in hot beverages, but will never come off your dishes if you let it set up.

If you know (or care) little enough about the person that you think this would be a good gift, cut your losses and buy a gift certificate.  The same level of "I had to buy you SOMEthing" with much less "I think you are a sugar-obsessed horror who might just eat this while we watch if we're lucky".

Available from Vat 19