Saturday, May 31, 2008

Keffiyeh Kerfuffle

Ladies and gentlemen, the terrorists are at it again. What kind of world do we live in when even our deep-fried confections aren’t safe? In case you hadn’t heard, Dunkin’ Donuts recently pulled a web ad featuring Rachael Ray in which the celebrity’s paisley scarf was mistaken for a keffiyeh. Despite objection from the company, conservative commentators and blogging pundits such as Michelle Malkin maintained that sporting such equivocal apparel “offers symbolic support for Muslim extremism and terrorism.” It’s times like this when I’m so glad that others are willing to think for me. I would have hated to have turned a blind eye to what was clearly jihadi chic and mistakenly endorsed Palestinian terrorism with the purchase of an iced coffiyeh coffee. Maybe the reason I missed Rachael Ray’s clear gesture of Palestinian solidarity was that the keffiyeh is generally worn over the head by women and men alike, or that it has also been worn by non-terrorists and U.S. troops.

But since the issue’s been tabled, I’ve had suspicions of Rachael Ray’s Islamic sympathies for a while now. Months before she decided to don terrorist couture, I thought her book titled More Ideas for 30-Minute IEDs was particularly suspect. Not to mention, her recipes as of late have called for an exorbitant use of gunpowder and malice. Just the other day, I could have sworn that instead of her trademark slogan Yum-O!, she let slip a rather Middle Easterny Blam-O! Check out her latest “Gaga for Gaza” menu:

  • Arafat-free falafel and fennel

  • Hamas humvee hummus

  • “You go kaboom” baba ghanoush

  • Spicy intifada frittatas

  • Talibananas foster
It’s hard to say whether said controversy speaks more to corporate pussification or to how some individuals’ degree of sensitivity is matched only by their ignorance. Suppose Rachael Ray actually wore a keffiyeh. How does it follow that a perky celebrity as American as apple pie is giving credence to Palestinian apologists? Does anyone make political statements with their attire these days? (Note to self: reconsider the Windsor since it’s Cheney’s knot of choice) Saying that all people wearing keffiyehs are terrorist sympathizers is like saying all people who wear glasses and tweed jackets are college professors. It just doesn’t follow. Surely more time can be spent dealing with legitimate domestic concerns instead of the potentially insidious marketing of a donut franchise. Then again, the ass fattening of America may be at the top of Al Qaeda’s agenda. That way, when they finally cross our shores, we won’t be able to run to safety without rolling a cankle.

Now this would be justifiable cause for concern.

Friday, May 30, 2008

There Is No Vacuum, Only Zuul

Paging Dr. Venkman and his Ghostbusting entourage. It seems that someone has misplaced or hocked their proton pack (I personally think it was Egon), and it has consequently fallen into the unskilled hands of our office cleaning lady.

Unless there has been a surge of paranormal activity in the dregs of Oklahoma (not entirely unwarranted), why is such a sophisticated piece of equipment in the employ of janitorial services? Posing as a vacuum, no less. As an aside, does anybody else feel that awkward tension as a stranger empties the trash that you're perfectly capable of taking out yourself? Hey... sorry... let me just... move my... chair.
Well in any case, kudos to the Ghostbusters for designing a nuclear accelerator with uses other than removing ectoplasm. Your form meets multi-functionality approach should secure a moderately successful QVC stint. Which is more than I can say for the last Ronco product I purchased. I think a good trademark phrase you could use is Whether Poltergeist or dust, it's a must! but it's a bit marble-mouthed.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

But I Still Love Technology...

Filling up at $3.79 per gallon hurts. I don’t care if you drive a weed eater to work, you’re going to pay through the nose for gas. People seem to automatically assume that because I drive a hybrid (ahem, Mr. Snooty McSnobberson), I’ve somehow managed to slip through the grip of the oil tycoons. Not so, mein freund. Hybrids are a means of appeasement. They use gas and electricity. Contrary to popular belief, I can’t coast around town on fumes for two weeks. Gas mileage is always a selling point for dealerships, and they wave that 48* MPG under your nose like fresh-baked brownies. There’s always an asterisk. In this case, it means *test conditions achieving 48 MPG were downhill, on ice, in neutral, and being pushed by a tsunami.

The ‘Brid’s über-cool, Earth-huggyness is tempered by several factors. Next to nil horsepower. Strike one. Next to nil capability of transporting large objects. Strike two. A horn that trumpets like Babar, the infirm and emaciated baby elephant. Strike three. I noticed this the other night as I tried to reprimand some idiot who crossed over two lanes of traffic with the urgency of a tranquilized giant sloth. “You freakin idiot! Take this!!!” eeeeeeeEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!! [the horn mysteriously changes pitch, sounding remarkably like Flipper in puberty]

Heaven forbid that I need some work done on the bath toy on wheels. The singular local Honda dealer charges double for oil changes on hybrids, and their service reps remain consistently heavy handed in their douchebaggery. No surprise. With a name like Milo Gordon, you can expect a level of customer service akin to Dell’s outsourced technical support. Have you try turn de computer on? They also come equipped with the personality of potted meat. Hey Dudley Do-Nothing, don’t take it out on me because your boss hasn’t upgraded your OS since Windows 3.0. You’ve still got Minesweeper.

So I was not excited about taking the Brid in when my CD player went kaput last week. It wasn’t 30 minutes and they had called me back, “Yeah, looks like that CD player’s shot. For us to order you a new one… Well, that’s gonna run you $867. But if you want us to take out your current one and send it off to have it looked at, that’ll cost about two and a half.” I had to stifle my laughter. Wait, they were serious. $867 for an ’04 factory stereo whose functions were limited to playing CDs and picking up local radio stations. It’s a few circuits more than a glorified alarm clock. And aesthetically speaking, the same LCD was top of the line in 1996 when the TI-83 streamlined Trigonometry class work. And how gracious of them to offer to send it away for the slight possibility that someone could fix it. For only $250. Pocket change.

I realize that a CD player is nothing more than a creature comfort. But a week and a half of doing without has reminded me why I hate radio. There’s only so many morning shows and Way Back Wednesdays that I can take. If anything, I tune in to listen to music, not to listen to you yarn about American Idol contestants. I tried to give it a shot. I swear I did. But it appears that they haven’t considered supplementing their four-song playlist. I even got semi-excited at the prospect of being caller number nine and winning Toughman tickets. Imagine the buzzkill when I was instructed to “just call 53-MAGIC,” only to find myself stymied by a QWERTY keypad. I guess if I still had a Nokia 3310 or owned a landline this wouldn’t be an issue, but no such luck. And after working out the number in my head, fate would have it that I was caller number ten. The gods must be smiling at my misfortune.

The rain cloud parted, though, when I made the executive decision to go to Best Buy, the Mecca of technology. Techa for short. There’s no other place that consolidates my entertainment and gadgetry interests while simultaneously outing my inner geekdom. Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the Geek Squad. In no time flat, they offered a beefy replacement for the substandard wind-up toy currently sitting in my dash.

“Do you want an iPod hookup?”
“Heck yes.”
“Satellite radio capability?”
“Maybe, I hadn’t really thought about…”
"I don't have..."
“HD Radio?”
“I don’t even know what that...”
“Don't worry, it's all included. That’ll be $129.”
“Are you in a committed relationship?”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Slutbucks, Inc.

The surplus of controversy lately amuses me. Given the dictum, "Choose your battles," it's as if some have said, "Oh I will. And I'll pick many more meaningless squabbles along the way." So I wasn't surprised yesterday when I read that Starbuck's new logo had come under fire. Not having noticed the change after several previous visits, I had to Google it to see the source of the latest threat to America's moral fiber. *sigh* I knew where this was going. Oh how I love Christian media watchdog organizations. They give you so much material to work with. True to form, those expecting the sanctity of their coffee cups have called for a national boycott of Starbucks on account of the new logo.

“The Starbucks logo has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute," explains Mark Dice, founder of the group [The Resistance]. "Need I say more? It's extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves, Slutbucks."

It’s nice to know that our moral battles have been downgraded to denigrating beverage containers. I’ll overlook the misnomer of "legs," even though it’s instrumental to Mr. Dice’s pornographic indictment of the alleged mersluts. What’s more interesting is how the asinine commentary continues. "The woman is actually a siren, not a mermaid, which in Greek mythology lures people to them with their beautiful songs, and then kills them," explains Mark Dice.

There’s a shard of truth in the last statement. The Starbuck’s logo is a picture of a siren, albeit a two-tailed siren. And it’s here that one realizes Mark misses the corporation’s intentional maritime imagery: the Melville reference of the company name, being based out of Seattle, etc. While Greek sirens were bird-women of sorts, mermaids of lore sang to sailors, lulling them to a shipwreck on rocky shores. Sure there’s something to be said of Starbucks success and lure, but the image is far less malicious than it is a humorous commentary on a cultural lack of moderation.

But let’s suppose the charges are true. If I was a developing company wanting to implement the proverbial “sex sells” marketing strategy, I think that I would venture away from fish porn. Nothing makes men go gaga for coffee like half-naked half-fish half-women. Right. I’m not ruling out that there are certain types of people that would go for that sort of thing, but I’m willing to bet that they’re on the fringes of society. These are the people who are probably holding out for Princess Ariel to rebel against her child star image and do a Playboy spread.

The new logo is hardly new, since it is a revision of Starbuck’s pre-1987 logo. An unnecessary chronology reveals that Ms. Starslut’s seductively sinister fins and breasts are in most incarnations. So why the hubbub now? The prosecution’s case hinges on what is most likely Mark Douche’s junior high memories of peeking at the Kama Sutra. Or his unhealthy fascination with Ron Howard's 1984 romantic comedy Splash.

Said controversy suggests the high possibility that, given the reaction to a coffee cup, there are some individuals who couldn’t abide the nudity of even classical art. It’s a slippery slope from Boticelli to skin mags, my friend. Or so says the teachings of various polygamist sects. These would make the most intolerable parents at PTA meetings, and God forbid someone suggest a field trip to The Met for an afternoon of Renaissance areola gazing. But it begs playing out, so if you’ll indulge me…

Honey, I’m going to take my hands off of your eyes, and what you’ll see might scare you. Some people call this art, but we call it smut. This one was painted by Peter Paul Rubens during the Baroque period. Maybe that's why he went broke. Haha, you liked daddy's joke didn't you? Mr. Boobens, er, Rubens titled this one “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus.” And that’s exactly what happens when you show boobs. People get raped. You don’t want anyone to get raped, do you honey? No, I didn't think so. Me neither, and that’s why daddy only drinks Maxwell House now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Short Fuse Chronicles - Pt. 1

What follows is the first installment of things that really get my goat. And I don't even own a goat.

Why was I watching 60 Minutes? That’s beside the point. What matters is that Andy Rooney has somehow managed to abate death well into 2008. I’m amazed that the squawking buzzard of a man still finds things worth berating. Shouldn’t he be more concerned with estate planning or that lump that has mysteriously appeared on his lip? It’s evident that he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel to find fresh objects of derision. This particular night, he decided to turn the customary disdain on his fans and their oh-so-bothersome gifts that they shower on him. Two solid minutes of “I don’t care for this” and “I don’t care for that.” “This is a really nice work of art, Dave, but NO I will not have lunch with you any time soon.” What an ungrateful old codger. He should restrict the critiques to his sphere of influence, not sparing the cooks who plan menus at his assisted living facility. I get it that producers intend him to be some sort of comic relief from the 58 other minutes of real, palpable news. But parading an octogenarian’s senility is just in bad taste. Funny, yes, but my laughs would become increasingly repressed if cameras were to follow him as he got lost on the subway or confused in the check-out lane. How dare you, CBS. How dare you.

Is child mobility a pressing concern? It must be for someone to have invented shoes with wheels. No, not like Xanadu. I’m not talking about roller skates. I’m talking about Heelys, the sneakers with one or more retractable wheels in the heel. The new craze is called “heeling,” (not healing, like Locke on LOST island) which is a derivative of skating and all things X-Games. I call it Extreme Walking. Anyone in the vicinity of a heeler must engage in defensive walking and/or driving. I realized this the other day, as a pre-pubescent bullet ricocheted off my shopping cart. For all their novelty, Heelys don’t come equipped with a requisite braking mechanism. Either that or the transition from hot wheels to a decelerating run is too much to ask. It’s as if heeling has transformed our youth into the Wheelers from the über-creepy movie Return to Oz. Highway patrol officers motivated by their quotas would have a field day snagging all the Road Runners as they zip and weave through lanes of consumer traffic. All I’m saying is that from now on, I'll have to go shopping with a radar gun and spike strip in hand.

In my opinion, Japanese steakhouses are of the upper echelon of dining out. Sure, you may lose your eyebrows to the flames, but wasn’t it worth it for the terrorized look on the kids’ faces? From the culinary acrobatics to the eggcorns, it’s just top notch. But nothing can diffuse my anticipation faster than a Caucasian hibachi chef walking up to our table. I’d say that in the last year, I’ve had an 85% chance of being served by John Smith (aka privileged student from local community college). There's a guidance counselor somewhere who has vocational considerations of her own to work out, because something is seriously wrong with this picture. I don’t go to Los Tres Amigos to order a shawarma. Neither do Bedouin women frequent Abercrombie & Fitch. So why should I expect a corn-fed farm boy to know how to handle a Mahi-mahi filet? No matter how percussive he got with his utensils, it was clear that John’s asian persuasion was limited to his forearm tattoos. Unless of course he secretly nursed an interest in Hello Kitty and Manga. People, stick to what you know.

Speaking of which, what does a 19 year old know about running a city? What's this you say? That's right. The AP just announced that a college freshman was elected as mayor of Muskogee, OK. He wasn't running against the incumbent, but he did square off against a former mayor of Muskogee and still walked away with 70% of the popular vote. Really? I might expect this of a town sporting a double-digit population, not a town of 38,000 people. Was there no one more qualified than some kid sweating the pressures of rush week? I mean, I'm not expecting some Poli Sci major to spring out of what I'm sure is a predominantly agrarian community. But is Boy Wonder going to pencil in city council meetings between the Biology labs and intramural tournaments? Perhaps you can RSVP for his inaugural celebration via Facebook, and the event would remind you to bring supplies for beer pong. I don't think it's too much to ask for someone with more (dare I say it?) experience. *gasp* Surely a neighboring city could loan a mayor for a few months while Muskogee got their shit in gear. Who's going to be patting themselves on the back over their Guiness record-breaking when their still acne-prone wunderkind tries to dodge the bullets of commercial zoning ordinances and multi-million dollar school bonds? I'm sure that stretching $50 to cover a semester's worth of Ramen is more than enough prep for a job of this caliber.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mamase Mamasa Mamakosse

A very Happy Mother's Day to all of you who now cringe when someone says the word "crowning." You're a stronger human than I. If you haven't already, spend some time with your respective matriarchs. Your mother could be June Cleaver in the flesh. Or it's possible that another few years of you being under her roof would have turned her into Andrea Yates. Whatever the case, find a way to show honor with a nasty glittery card, celebratory cookie cake, or if your lazy ass can't think of anything, send a chintzy ecard.

And apropos of nothing, I decided to post my latest playlist. Namaste.

Dance of the Knights - Prokofiev
Hysteria - Muse
The End - My Chemical Romance
Don't Hold Back - The Sleeping
Why Do I Keep Counting? - The Killers
Gotta Be Somebody's Blues - Jimmy Eat World
Never There - Hoobastank
Inside the Fire - Disturbed
Say (All I Need) - OneRepublic
Hallelujah - Paramore
The Poet Acts - Philip Glass
What If - Coldplay
A Bad Dream - Keane
The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand
Paralyzed - The Used
Satellite - Guster
Make This Go On Forever - Snow Patrol
Not Enough - Our Lady Peace
My Mathematical Mind - Spoon
Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend
Breath - Breaking Benjamin
Attack - 30 Seconds To Mars
Prelude 12/21 - AFI
Can't Take It - The All-American Rejects
Hide and Seek (Ciaran Hamilton remix) - Imogen Heap
Inevitable - Anberlin
Island - The Starting Line
Headlights - The Classic Crime
Spiders - Lovedrug
Right Where It Belongs - NIN

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Good Morning, Malady

Last week it was evident that my least favorite time of year was in full swing. Spring usually typifies growth, birth, life after death and renewal. You know, happy fun stuff. But after having to categorize my sneezes on the Fujita scale, enough was enough. Every year since my early 20s, I’ve accepted that I’ll have to endure two solid months of upper-respiratory hell. And yet, I always seem to get caught off guard by Mother Nature’s coup de main. It’s as if I wake up one morning mysteriously transported to the dankest, dustiest house imaginable.

So I suffer from hay fever, aka allergic rhinitis. It’s not the end of the world. Believe me, I’d rather take a temporary hit to liveliness than have to tolerate a chronically spastic colon. But still, the torment seems disproportionate when considering nature’s harassing agent: pollen. Recalling my 5th grade science class, what exactly is pollen again? The male gametes of plants. That’s right. What a comforting thought that for two months, I get the privilege of lining my sinuses with flora’s man-seed. It’s nice to know that even in nature males fail to exercise sexual discretion or restraint. Way to go, nature. Thanks for perpetuating stereotypes and retarding steps toward gender equality.

Daddy, when did you and Mommy decide to have a baby?

Well son, when a man reaches a certain age, he realizes that he loves someone. And the most responsible thing he can do is to encase his sperm in cellulose and disperse it to wherever the wind may blow. It just so happened that Mommy happened to be a few miles north, and even though we’d never met, we had something special the moment my pollen landed on her pistil. Yes, your germination was an act of indiscretion, but the important thing to remember is that Mommy and Daddy loved each other.

Apparently a perk of joining the pollen platoon is a cosmetic overhaul of your face. We’ll call it Extreme Makeover: Assface Edition. Benefactors will receive allergic shiners and edema of the eyes. Google it. It’s just as pleasant as it sounds. Both of which render yours truly as a younger but equally haggard sibling of Emperor Palpatine. As tempting as the dark side was, the Sith reneged on the promise of Force Lightning. I’m still bitter about it. Then there's the curious phenomenon of an itchy nasal cavity and throat, a sensation I'm sure I could only replicate by snorting a line of Pop Rocks. It's an impossible itch to scratch and after several unsuccessful and obnoxious snorts, I've seriously considered recruiting the Scrubbing Bubbles to do the job.

There seems to be no medical consensus on what prescription to use when your eyes adopt the texture of congealed pudding. Having moved several times, every doctor I’ve seen has prescribed something different. The least favorite of which were milky white eye drops, and they tasted disgusting. How do I know how they taste, you ask? Because I was unwillingly educated in how the lachrymal ducts drain into the sinus cavity. All those years of watching Ripley’s freaks shoot milk from their eyes finally made sense.

Whether Zyrtec, Claritin-D or even your first generation anti-histamines like Benedryl (aka elephant tranquilizers), allergy medication is damage control at best. But some insist that taking bee pollen or honey from local hives can eventually result in long-term tolerance to the nuisance. Really? Let’s see what happens when we apply that logic to rattlesnake venom. Such a suggestion also demonstrates the scholastic ineptitude of pollen enthusiasts. They’d have to explain why bees have suddenly traded their interest in brightly colored, fragrant plants for that in ragweed, trees and various grasses. That is to say, insect-pollinated plants are not the problem, so honey derived from which could not effectively “cure” you of your allergies.

Electron microscope renderings actually shed light on pollen's abrasive personality. Is it a ball with countless, pointy barbs that hook into the lining of your sinuses? Or is it a miniature version of the new breed of "toys" that now fill the crane vending machines at the local mall? Whatever the case, I find them both irritating to the core.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Survival of the Dimmest

When I was a child, power outages were exciting, mysterious and a bit frightening when severe weather was involved. They became an opportunity for family bonding, initiating the ever popular scavenger hunt for candles and matches. When the powers that be tarried a little longer than usual, evenings without electricity suggested the remote possibility of setting up camp in the living room. That is until the lights flickered and everyone scattered to their proper beds.

As an adult, I now consider power outages to not only be annoying but quite possibly the one thing that could reduce humanity to primordial soup faster than you can say electrolytic capacitor. I observed the seeds of devolution at work this week as the electric utility tapped out like a bitch. My coworkers and I collectively sighed and stared blankly at our lifeless computer monitors. Our simian-like demeanor suggested that Kubrick’s 2001 had happened in reverse. It wasn’t the first time it happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. But it always makes me laugh how it’s never convenient when an outage does occur. I’ve never overheard, “Well I’m sure glad I just saved that Word document” or “I was going to thaw out those steaks anyway!”

As the minutes pressed on, I realized that this wasn’t like Monopoly, where everyone avoids purchasing Water Works and Electric Company. No, when the utilities really go out, life comes to a screeching halt. There’s only so much manual work to be done in cubicle world. I could see it in the eyes of a few that this inconvenience robbed them not so much of their productivity as it did the ability to maintain an appearance of work. After 5 more minutes of desk organization, I joined my colleagues at the windows to see if some witless dolt had careened into a telephone pole. Further discussion gave way to newer mysteries, such as how the phones continued to ring despite the absence of volts, watts and amps.

The growing crisis prompted some unique social hurdles as well. Reticent office hermits struggled to make small talk to ease their agitation. So, umm… how’s your mom? She had that thing with her… uh, stomach, was it?... Didn’t she have some sort of invasive surgery to… No? Oh, she’s been dead for 5 years… My mistake… You and Susan thought about having kids yet? I mean, it’s been… Oh really? 12 and 8?... You don’t say. They grow up so fast. Well, time fli… oh look, the power’s back. Good catching up with you Stan, er… Steve. And the ant colony buzzed back to life. I’m pretty sure that a few minutes longer would have yielded a bonfire of folders and various buffalo drawings on the walls.

An afternoon in an office without power played out like a bad apocalyptic movie. But there was no gladiatorial combat in a Thunderdome, nor were we brainstorming how Earth could dodge a Texas-sized meteor. The office wouldn’t have become more interesting had it flooded to the rafters and Kevin Costner sailed right by, showing us his gills. No, our end of the world thriller would be titled “Our Stuff Doesn’t Work Anymore,” and it would feature riveting dialogue such as “Your components work yet?... Nah, mine neither… Guess we’ll just wait some more.”

I’ve never been more convinced that mankind has a veneer, a sheer suggestion, of intelligence as a species. I’m pretty sure that our entire social equilibrium hangs on the ingenuity of history’s handful of geniuses. And it’s this membrane of decency that encapsulates the less than cerebral masses, myself included. By a show of hands, who all knows how to fix a cell phone when it goes rogue? I didn’t think so. My fear though is that were some global event to strip us of our technological advances, our demise would be far more shameful. The populace would concern themselves with how to mill pepper and grind coffee, much less forging a weapon to kill their dinner. Which is why when the power grid fails next time, my first priority (in between taking phone calls) is to construct an instrument of death from rubber bands, tape and paper clips.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Devil In the Retail

Are you a person who sees the signs of the times? The other day I received compelling evidence of an immanent apocalypse. I had previously thought that a global, centralized political juggernaut would emerge and subsequently serenade the nations into oblivion. But behold! The craggy jowls of the earth have opened to swallow the miscreant and reprobate into her fiery bowels! The twisted serpent has found his avatar not as the descendent of an unbroken lineage of fornicators, but as a moderately successful fried chicken restaurant franchise. Imagine my surprise when I was handed this receipt in the drive through.

My hands burned after almost inadvertantly receiving the Mark of the Beast. Or is it Breast? I promptly disposed of the iniquitous meal and cleansed myself with a grilled cheese bearing the visage of the Blessed Virgin.