Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why Jaws Is the Greatest Film of All Time

You're probably expecting me to say "Because it's about fucking sharks," but it's so much deeper than that.

See, in 1935, the Council of Nine met in Rivendell (a small cafe in Pasadena) to discuss the future of the film industry. The Council included such revered filmmakers as Cecil B. Demille and David O. Selznick, as well as total assholes trying to be all counter-culture by having no middle initial, like Orson Welles. Howard Hughes couldn't make it due to a previous engagement with complete insanity, but sent a jar of urine to represent the interests of psychotic multi-millionaires in his stead. These illustrious names were gathered together in response to a looming threat to the art of film: the Ring of Profits.

Hollywood had been laboring under the oppressive Hays Code for years already. It was a compromise they had been forced to make, but they had underestimated the heartbreaking cost of censorship. They had expected the Puritanical restrictions to fade away as viewers demanded better films, more challenging films, or at least more titties. With enough pressure from audiences, the studios would be forced to reconsider asinine limitations on cleavage width when faced with the cold reality of a bottom line. Eventually the people would rise up with their pocket books, in support of great cinematic art.

Only they didn't. Audiences soon revealed themselves to be more interested in a cartoon mouse than in Of Mice and Men. They preferred watching a waddling man with a Hitler 'stache and a bowler getting run over by a runaway cart to seeing Jean Valjean lifting that cart off its victim. And above all else, they demonstrated their ravenous desire for the empty, saccharine puppy-love of a musical fairy tale over the raw passion of a once-in-a-century romance.

And that was it. The Ring of Profits had fallen into the wrong hands, and all was lost for Truth and Beauty in the art of film. The Council of Nine knew this, and so they drafted a secret agreement with the studios, hoping against hope that, somehow, on occasion, great films would slip past the studio guards, until the day when filmmaking became affordable enough for people like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith to be able to say "Fuck the studios, I'm doing this in my god-damned backyard with a camcorder and finger puppets."

There are few who know the full contents of the Council's agreement with the studios, but much can be deduced from observing the history of film. They clearly prescribed a number of plot requirements. This is why in any action or war film, the funny guy dies; why in any love story, only the best friend can die; and of course the most damaging plot requirement of all: the requisite love interest.

It doesn't matter if the film is a documentary about Cheese Puffs, there has to be some sort of romance going on in there somewhere. You can't just go into space with 2 other people and not fall in love with at least 1 of them. And let's be honest, who among us has taken a purely platonic road trip with our college buddies?

Which brings us to what makes Jaws so completely bad-ass: there is absolutely no love interest in the story whatsoever. And it would have been so easy to add one, wouldn't it? You had the skinny dipping couple at the beginning, you had heroes who could have had girlfriends or sexy personal assistants, you had an entire town full of attractive young beach goers to pair up willy nilly. But all that romantic crap would have gotten in the way of valuable shark time, so Spielberg was like "Fuck it."

Keep in mind too that Jaws isn't based on some real-life story the writers had to pretend to be true to; it's based on a novel. A novel that had a fucking love interest side-plot. That's right, in the book, police chief Brody's wife fucks the oceanographer Hooper, adding a layer of bullshit tension between two of the heroes fighting the Great White. But again Spielberg, in a ballsy move that proved he not only had taste and vision in his pre-Crystal Skull days, but also testicles bigger than anyone else in Hollywood, gave the middle finger to superfluous romance and opted instead for, you guessed it, more shark attacks.

The result was the unquestioned greatest water-based thriller of all time, the invention of the PG-13 rating and, in this writer's humble opinion, one of the greatest films of the 20th century, particularly in terms of pacing, tension-building, and just getting down to god-damned business with the shark hunting.

In a world where even films about the founding of a company whose founder is still alive and able to call "shenanigans!" (and not just call it but post it on the Facebook wall he fucking invented where it can be read by all of humanity) connect everything in the plot to some empty romance the writers extracted entirely from their own asses, it's indescribably refreshing to come across a film that gives it to you straight. No dopey romance that wouldn't last through the end of the credits, no unsurprising dick move by the jilted ex, no stopping in the middle of the peak action sequence to kiss the girl. Nothing that makes you think the film should be subtitled Jaws: and some other stuff no one really cares about.

It's called Jaws, and that's exactly what you get. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg. Now for God's sake, please retire before you find some way to fuck it up.

Respectfully yours,

S. Misanthrope

Monday, December 27, 2010

Threatdown #1: Trees

Trees are the most evil things in existence, for the simple reason that they are everywhere and that, given the chance, they will kill you.

True, they don't get the chance all that often, being inanimate objects (or so we are told). Most of the time they just drop sticky stuff on your car and leave it at that. Some lure children into their seemingly sturdy branches, only to chuckle (in a way that sounds a good deal like rustling leaves but isn't) at the broken bones that ensue. Occasionally trees will take it a step further, sacrificing limbs in their ongoing war against windshields. A few bolder ones go completely kamikaze in their efforts to cause property damage.

The "crash and smash" strategy of warfare historically favored by trees is not too difficult for humans to counter, but recently trees have revealed a far more sinister mode of attack. They are capable not only of smacking us on the head, but of the invasion of our very bodies.

That's right: trees have indeed sent their spores into the bodies of humans, where they have taken root and caused hemorrhaging. Like most totally fucked up things, this was first documented in Russa where (I am not kidding), a fir tree grew *inside a man's lung*, complete with root system and foliage. As in the space race, the United States lagged the Soviets but was eager to one-up them by boasting a man with a pea sprout growing inside him. This is doubly disturbing as we humans generally believe that we totally own things like peas that we not only eat but also fucking invented. Add to this the fact that geckos have been found inside chicken eggs, and it's enough to make anyone go pro-ana.

Of course, we are the fools for inviting these monsters into our very homes. You may as well keep a baby saber-tooth tiger in your living room as a ficus. We romanticize trees to no end, be it in great works of literature (in real life, Treebeard would eat those hobbits) or in disturbing children's poems (the smartest thing the boy in "The Giving Tree" did was to chop that fucker down).

A few others out there have seen the danger posed by these sylvan specters and tried to warn us. Allstate has cautioned not only against live trees waiting to collapse on your car, but also of seemingly-benign Christmas trees ready to slip off someone's roof while on the interstate to cause a ten-car pileup (a menace even I had not considered). The Little Prince, while seemingly a whimsical novella for children, is actually a timeless treatise on the dire tree threat which challenges the dangerous but common delusion that there is "plenty of room on this planet for both humans and trees.".

The fact is, we've been warned. When the Tree-pocalypse goes down, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

So remember, when they want you to see this:

Or this:

Or this:

You  should be seeing this:

Most sincerely,

S. Misanthrope

How Wishing Works

Some people seem to be confused on this topic lately, so I thought I'd be helpful and clarify the issue. Good will toward men and all.

So, I have a tendency to say things like "I wish babies weren't allowed in public," or "I wish there were no trees," and certain idiots nice people who are probably just confused due to not being fully recovered from their recent lobotomies that removed their entire rational faculty tend to respond with comments like "You were a baby once, too, you know," and "If there were no trees, you'd have no air to breathe, so you should be grateful for them and love them like they were your own baby-kitten hybrid creation of perpetual neediness and love." To which I usually reply with an elegant "Please shut your god-damned face, you simpering nematode."

But since it's Christmas (Happy Day 3, everyone! I'm sure I don't have to explain that the 12 days of Christmas actually come *after* Christmas, not before as Christmas countdowns on television would have you believe. Surely my dear readers are intelligent enough to realize that, if the wise men had to follow a star that would appear when the Christ child was born, they couldn't have begun their 12 day journey until Christmas Day at the earliest, and would therefore not have arrived at the manger until January 5th. I'm sure I don't need to tell you all that.), I will be generous.

Listen up, because I am only going to say this once. Ready?

Wishing doesn't change anything.

There are absolutely no circumstances under which the expression of my desire for human procreation to be relegated to a Matrix-like facility would lead to any actual changes to the world. Merely articulating my wish, however ardent and sincere, that people with pizza nipples be required by law to wear shirts at all times, or that gingers be forbidden from breeding so that the giant evolutionary mistake that is freckles might one day be eliminated from the gene pool has no affect on reality. I really, truly wish it did, but there again, my wishing is irrelevant.

I think it funny, by the way, that everyone is quick to realize this when the tables are turned. When someone wishes they had wealth or fame, most people are ready to remind them that if wishes were horses, there'd be a lot of shit in the streets. Wish for something reasonable, and everyone easily recalls the cause and effect principle of the universe whereby your mind does not have the power to control or alter reality. But make one small remark about midget chain gangs being extremely useful for farming baby carrots (to them it's like farming normal-sized carrots), and suddenly the fabric of reality is urgently threatened by your every flight of fancy.

Now you've been warned. I'm so overwhelmed by Christmas Spirit at the moment, I'm giving everyone who pulled this crap on me in 2010 a Get-Off-The-Stupid-List-Free card, but don't expect me to be so generous in 2011. I expect us to learn from our mistakes. We've got 5 days left to figure this out. Maybe practice in front of a mirror. Try phrases like "I wish that every time an orphan caroler misses the high note in 'O Holy Night', their head would explode," or "I wish Eugene Levy's eyebrows would be forced to fight each other in a caged fight to the death, and I hope the left one wins."

And do let me know if any of your wishes spontaneously come true, because I really would like to be rid of babies and trees.

Ho, ho, ho,

S. Misanthrope

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And an agoraphobic new year!

S. Misanthrope

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guilt is Good

One of the hazards of ascribing to a certain philosophy that shall remain nameless is that you tend to spend about as much time defending against your supposed defenders as you do against your attackers. That's what happens when you redefine words like "selfishness" and "integrity", and you can't go ten minutes without using the adjective "metaphysical.'

A great example of this problem is the "self-esteem" movement of the 90s. Or maybe before the 90s, I don't really know. But I definitely noticed it in the 90s when my 3rd grade teacher told me there was no wrong way to spell "indubitibly", squiggly red line be damned. Thanks to her, I have almost zero spelling skills and an uncanny ability to believe that I am right about everything.

As a ----ist, I am a huge fan of self-esteem. Like, the hugest. You might say I consider it a non-optional value even. But I am also a huge, huge enemy of the self-esteem movement. Similarly I am generally an enemy of guilt, at least guilt of the Judeo-Christian or other unearned variety. I don't want anyone to feel guilty for existing, or using fossil fuels, or exhaling greenhouse gasses. I don't even want you to feel guilty for walking past the bell-ringing Santa Claus or being annoyed when your bus has to stop for an extra 45 seconds to let a wheelchair board. Overall I would probably reduce global guilt levels by 95% or more.

The supposed supporters of "self-esteem", however, want to wipe guilt from the human emotional spectrum. They don't want you to feel any guilt at all about anything ever, which is a big problem, because sometimes guilt is exactly what you should feel. Guilt is a normal, healthy emotional response when you do something wrong, specifically when you take some action that undermines your values, or fail to take some action that promotes them. It's the accumulation of the regret, remorse, and disappointment that comes from acting against your goals, and its purpose is to get you back on track. Removing the ability to feel guilt makes about as much sense as removing the ability to feel pain. Just ask a naked mole rat how well that works out.

I recently read an article in a magazine that pretends to offer up intellectual content as well as pictures of shoes. The article was about a trio of supposedly influential female bloggers I've never heard of who write about diet and exercise. They basically run a lot, eat small amounts of South Beach-approved foods, and document it all online. Whether this is meant to inspire or shame lesser beings who occasionally eat french fries and have been known to skip the gym is unclear, but basically it's your standard, run-of-the-mill diet and exercise journal, just made public instead of shamefully hidden.

The author's disdain for these women is palpable. It practically drips off the page. It hints that these women's habits are unhealthy, possibly bordering on anorexia. One of them runs ten miles per day and eats a salad for dinner, for a total daily caloric intake of 1200 calories, if her blog is to be believed. Another "indulges" in a "brownie" made of black beans and sour cream for "dessert."

And your point? I mean, that sounds kind of lame and it's certainly not the lifestyle for me, but that doesn't prove it's an invalid choice. The author does get a quick quote from some doctor claiming that 1200 calories are not quite enough for someone so active, but he doesn't outright call it "unhealthy" nor does he recommend milkshakes as a better diet option than pseudo-brownies.

No, the real problem, according to the article, is that blogs like these might make readers feel guilty for eating an entire bag of Tootsie Rolls and watching the dust collect on their treadmill. And the author has a point. Who are these bloggers to be dedicated, driven, and successful? Who are they to flaunt their progress, making the rest of us feel inferior by contrast?

I'm beyond fed up with complaints about our culture's "impossible" standards of beauty. What does that even mean? Are we expecting women to have two heads and breathe underwater? Does the Miss America Pageant require prehensile tails? That would be fantastic, but no.

Standards are standards because they are hard to reach, but that doesn't mean they are impossible, as evidenced by the many seasons of ANTM and the fact that models are not robots. And P.S., it is not always about health. It's not even mostly about health. Very few of us find our lives immediately threatened by what we eat (or don't eat). For most of us, it's about looking good naked. For a few of us, it's about looking good on camera, which is in many ways more difficult.

That's really all we need to be concerned about in the modern world. We don't need to run from mastodons or fight cave bears anymore (paleo dieters, I'm looking at you). We just need to look pretty. Or not, honestly. Whatever you want, just don't expect Vogue to run photos of your love handles.

So there are some blogs out there helping more women get tiny little stick figures. More power to them, I say. If that's what you value, get to it. And if you fuck it up by eating donuts for breakfast, wallow in your well-earned guilt.

If anyone should understand this, by the way, it should be the magazine that only features women over 5' 9" and under 120 lbs. on its illustrious pages. But who are we kidding? Hypocrisy is the new black.

Ever yours,

S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stupid of the Week #6: This One Study I Did in College

True story:

The best thing about being an undergrad is the easy money from studies, especially the psych studies where you don't actually have to do anything. I once participated in a study at the University of Chicago where they flashed words at you on a computer screen and you had to classify the word as "good" or "bad." The words were always obvious things, like "joy" or "arsenic."

Between words, they flashed a screen in black and white pixels that, according to the script at the beginning, was just meaningless filler that didn't represent anything. Sometimes it did indeed appear meaningless, but as the study went on, an image started to appear. To me it looked for all the world like the Raisin Bran sun.

If you don't recognize this, I'm sorry your childhood sucked.

Seeing even the vague, pixelated impression of that happy sun before me, gleefully pouring not one but TWO scoops of raisins into every box, I was struck suddenly with an overwhelming feeling of benevolence toward the universe. Pure joy radiated from every pore. I loved everything. Everything was good.

The computer screen flashed the word "cockroach" at me right then, and I reflexively pressed the "good" button, my one error in the entire study.

When I finished the program, the lab administrator came in to interview me. She asked if I saw anything in the supposed nonsense image that appeared between words.

"Yes," I said, "I saw a happy sun."

"Uh, what?"

"A happy sun. You know, like the Raisin Bran sun," I held up my hands with my elbows jutting out like I was holding two scoopers. The admin just stared at me as though I had just told her I was a dragon. Eventually she asked:

"So, did you see a face?"

"Well, yes, it couldn't very well be a happy sun if it didn't have a face, could it?"

"Right. So, this face, did it look like any particular race to you?"

"What are you talking about? The sun doesn't have a race. He shines on us all equally and distributes copious amounts of raisins to people of all colors."

"Ok, so no race then," she muttered as she made notes on her clipboard that clearly said "exclude this crazy person's data from the study."

After a minute or so, it dawned on me. Broad nose. Large lips. Heavy brow. What my pure, innocent, color-blind psyche had interpreted as a playful cartoon celestial body was supposed to be a black man.


Not this:

Instead of seeing a happy sun and mistakenly identifying cockroaches as good things, I was supposed to see a black man and miscategorize butterflies and rainbows as bad because of my subliminal racist tendencies. Oh. I see.

Interestingly enough, we actually all are subliminally racist in a similar way literally at birth. Showing a newborn infant the face of a black person automatically triggers the fear center of their brain. But the response is not to noses, lips and foreheads, it's to color. If you painted a white person's face black and showed that to the infant, it would react the same way. It also doesn't matter if the baby is black or white. Our baby brains are wired to think "dark = scary."

Of course it is grossly unfair to classify such a reaction as racism. This innate response probably has more to do with infants being able to see dark things more clearly. But it is interesting nonetheless, in an "oh, huh" kind of way.

So then I left the study and found myself unexpectedly face to face with my then-nemesis. We immediately drew weapons and fired.

But that's a story for another day.

Nighty night,

S. Misanthrope

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stupid of the Week #5: "Magic"

No, not the card game, though that game is absurdly simple. I mean, really, the Pokemon card game is more mathematically challenging. What I'm bitching about today is the use of the word "magic," specifically in technology-related advertising.

With the Christmas holiday upon us, we can of course expect an uptick in the number of things magic is given credit for. That $3,000 swing set in the backyard that Daddy worked overtime for three months to buy and spent all night Christmas Eve assembling is from "Santa." The cookies on the kitchen counter in the morning, the ones that Mommy woke up at 4am to bake, were left by "elves." The pile of crap your neighbor's dog left on your lawn is "reindeer droppings."

The holiday season is the traditional time set aside to fuck with your child's ability to comprehend reality. It's much easier to convince someone to believe in God if they already believe in a fat man who can fit down a chimney. And when's the last time Jehovah gave you a new bike in exchange for cookies and good behavior? Santa Claus is way cooler than Jesus, and has better fashion sense. Grown men should not wear sandals.

The point is, magic has its place, and that place is in the month of December and in the lies that we tell children. It does not belong in the general vocabulary as a catch-all way to explain away the interactions of electrons and magnetic fields that ultimately lead to computers and other gadgets.

I first noticed the inappropriate use of the term "magic" in a Palm Pre commercial, in which the narrator drones "What happens out here [meaning on Facebook], *magically* updates in here [I suppose this means in your address book on your phone]."

Like, seriously? "We're not the iPhone, but we're close!" would be a better tag line than that. Whatever cool software it is that makes this interface possible, it's not "magic," it's technology. Technology that Palm Pre developed and is now trying to sell. And their big selling point is that their phone is *magic*? Does it run on wishes and fairydust?

At first I thought this might be an isolated incident. A company desperate for a way to lure customers away from the iPhone mistakenly appealed to mysticism. I mean, we are talking about marketing people, here. Not exactly the brightest bulbs in the box. I'm sorry, I mean "magic glowglobes."

But alas, it wasn't long before Apple itself ran a similar ad, touting the "magic" of the iPad. Apple, the tech company for tech people. The guardians of geek heaven. Unless they have wizards on their payroll now, any claims to magical properties should be considered outright fraud.

Still, two points make a line, not a pattern, right? Oh wait, there's also Droid, Motorola, Sony, Microsoft...the list of companies who have publicly attributed the unique abilities of their products to other-worldy forces goes on. It would seem our world is just bursting at the seams with magic. I guess that explains why Radioshack always felt a bit like Diagon Alley to me.

But seriously now: every time I see an appeal to magic in an ad for something that isn't legitimately magical, like Disneyland or Etch-A-Sketch, I feel like some creepy old man is trying to get me to trade my cow for magic beans. Haven't we all heard this story before? It doesn't end with a golden goose.

Ads like these are insulting to the intelligence of their target audience. Not quite as insulting as the plot of Avatar or a Thomas Kinkade painting, but close. And if there's one thing I know is true about Americans, it's that we won't buy things from people who insult our intelligence.

Oh wait.

Never mind.

Wishing you lots of holiday magic!

S. Misanthrope

2010: A Year in Review

 I realize the year has not quite come to an end yet, but the way things have been going, I think it's best to quit while we're only ten thousand light years behind.

The Good Things that Happened in 2010

1. Daniel Radcliffe once again spent most of the year naked, but this time with Hermione instead of a horse, which is a significant improvement. And yes, he's totally old enough for this to be a good thing.

Unfortunately, I could only locate a photo of the horse which, due to U.S. equine pornography laws, cannot be reposted here. Instead, please enjoy this photo of Angelina "I've Already Done That" Jolie:

Have fun explaining that to your six children.

2. A brilliant combination of good writing, witty dialog, and a British accent somehow made this guy sexy:

No, seriously. Check this out:


3. Cuddy also spent most of the year naked.

And it's about time, you saucy minx.

Aaand that's pretty much it for the good things. Notice anything they all have in common? That's right, they are all completely fictional. The only good things that happened this year happened in the magical world of sci fi/fantasty/medical drama. Everything else sucked.

Bad Things that Happened in 2010 

1. Natural Disasters - get 'em while they're hot! Or cold, as the case may be. Crazy ice volcanoes, Chilean earthquakes, Haitian earthquakes. Luckily all these things happened in places nobody cares about, yet they somehow managed to cause a combined GAZILLION dollars in damage. Of course that's nothing compared to:

2. Man-Made Disasters - primarily Deepwater Horizon, racking up a supposed Eleventy Bagillion dollars in economic damages. Ouch. All this, and it's not even 2012 yet. Speaking of which...

3. The Movie 2012 - came out (technically in 2009 but I wasn't blogging back then) and although I didn't see it because the title doesn't even start with a letter let alone the letter "s", I know enough to know that it ruined the boyish innocence of John Cusack as surely as Philip Seymour Hoffman ruined mine. Not cool.

4. Sarah Palin - seems to have rebounded big time. There must be some brains under that hair, because the switch from politics to reality TV was absolutely brilliant. Obama may be the first president to succeed more as a pop culture icon than as president, but his power pales in comparison to Snookie's.

Rumor has it, the Palins are just getting started. We can expect more dancing, shooting, canoeing, shooting, camping, shooting, flannel, shooting, trapper hats and moose, not to mention exciting updates from the Russian front and more sexy flight attendant outfits in 2011, followed by a government coup in 2012.

There will be no stopping her this time. Our only real chance at avoiding a future Palin presidency is to run Danica Patrick against her (the NASCAR lobby is huge). The primaries would be tough, tougher even than the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Things would get pretty dirty, and there'd be some nasty mud-slinging, too, especially during the "Mud Wrestling for Middle America" caucus.

Be honest. Who would you vote for? This:

Or this:

I'm getting ahead of myself a bit here. But then, in other respects we are way behind. For instance:

5. 2010: Odyssey Not-So-Much - Absolutely nothing whatsoever from any Arthur C. Clark novel has come true yet. Not one damn thing. The Blue Danube does not resound throughout space. The Chinese haven't discovered any evil plant monsters living beneath Europa's ice. Obelisks are thin on the ground. The only robot that's ever threatened my life was that singing Christmas tree at Macy's. All I want is one teensy weensy alien threat to exterminate all life. Is that so much to ask? Come on, it's the future already!

Well, maybe next year.

Love always,

S. Misanthrope

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Best Thing about Blogging

is that when I tell one of my jokes to my significant other and he looks at me like I'm a dingo talking word salad, I can then post my joke here and someone, somewhere on the internets will think it's funny.

Heart you guys,

S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Business Idea: The Admiral Akbar Bathroom Companion

The Admiral Akbar Bathroom Companion is an easy-to-install product guaranteed to provide endless entertainment. The device consists of a single unit that attaches beneath the lip of your toilet bowl. A sensor on the device detects and analyzes anything that enters the toilet. When poop is detected, Admiral Akbar's voice exclaims: "It's a crap!"

This is going to be huge. Seriously, every frat house in the country will buy one. Operators are standing by.


S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Better Education through Boobage

Thanks to a completely pointless magazine, I learned yesterday that Katy Perry recently caused  a ruckus when she *gasp* showed cleavage on Sesame Street.

There are so many delightful angles from which to attack this idiocy. I'm positively bubbling.

The primary focal point of stupidity here is the fact that most of Sesame Street's audience still breast feeds. They see titties all the time. And when they see titties, they don't think "fun bags" or "dirty pillows," they think "food." So really the worst thing that might happen is Katy's cleavage might make the tots a bit peckish.

(Ok, to be fair, the absolute worst thing could be that the sight of her breasts might cause a feeding frenzy where all the 2-year-olds storm the television set, trying to reach her luscious rack, and begin licking the screen so vigorously that they cause a short circuit that cuts off all electric power in North America, at which point Iran and North Korea coordinate a perfectly timed attack against the United States and the world's last hope for freedom and justice is gone forever. Worst-case scenario.)

A secondary tidbit of stupid is the fact that, cleavage or no cleavage, Katy Perry is probably not the role model you want for your kids. Katy Perry shows her tits everywhere. Even if she wore a habit during her Sesame Street debut, if your kid ends up liking her and wants to see more of her, the first thing the kid's going to discover is that her breasts are *everywhere*. That, and they would also start singing "I Kissed a Girl" on car trips.

I'm not even bothering to address the underlying prudishness and fear of sex that is really behind all of this inanity, by the way. Never mind that your kid may *want* to grow up to be a sex-pot pop star. Never mind that it's perfectly normal and healthy for women and girls to want to be sexy. Never mind that the primary purpose of boobs is to give men something to look at while they listen to women talk about feelings.

Let's pretend that sex really is scary and wrong and children need to be shielded from it for as long as possible. Even so, no kid watching Sesame Street is going to associate Katy Perry's ta-tas with sex, because no kid watching Sesame Street even has an inkling of the concept of sex or sexuality. Not even the ones who masturbated as infants, or who walked in on Daddy donkey-punching Mommy the other night.

You know who will appreciate the tittalidge? The adults who are forced to sit through mind-numbing hours of Teletubbies and Barney every day. For them, watching a busty pop icon bust a move is a breast, er, breath of fresh air.

Children's shows have long had hidden messages for adults. Watching Looney Toons as an adult is like watching a completely different show. I recently saw a cartoon on the Disney Channel that referenced Joseph Conrad, for Christ's sake. It is not now, nor has it ever been, completely about the kids.

I think it's about time that we, as a culture, owned up to this fact and moved toward a better integration of children and adult entertainment. Forget having Katy Perry guest star, give her her own show: "Learning to Count with Katy Perry in a Bikini." Imagine if 26 Victoria's Secret models taught you your ABCs. I bet you'd learn right quick. And there's really no reason why you couldn't remake The Little Mermaid with Prince Eric shirtless the whole time.

Just sayin'.

Lots of love (and boobies),

S. Misanthrope

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not All Monsters Are Related

I'm here today to advise everyone to stop throwing around the term "monster" so lightly.

"Monster" is not a catch-all term for evil creatures. Ted Bundy was evil, scary, and had strange teeth, but that is not enough to make him a "monster." To be a true monster, you need to have some super-natural skill at being evil and scary. It also helps to be blue, but that's really a secondary qualification.

I am adamant in this, because there really are monsters in this world. Monsters that become very, very angry when humans mistakenly identify non-monsters as monsters. It's a touchy subject for them, and who can blame them? Imagine if your boss were to consistently mistake you for a fern. You'd be offended too.

It always helps to have a list of concretes to solidify your understanding of a definition, so I've compiled a list of some real-life monsters for you to peruse.

1. Geese
Geese are clearly monsters. They have a truly unmatched capacity for evil. They are especially dangerous to children, who tend to learn about ducks first. A child learns "Duck + Bread = New Best Friend" very quickly.

When a child sees a goose for the first time, they see a really big duck and they think "Big Duck + Lots of Bread = Super Best Friend."

The goose sees something more like this:

What follows can only be explained in slow motion:


2. Squirrels
I have witnessed a squirrel stealing a double cheese burger *out of a person's hand* through a combination of acrobatic skill, Special Forces stealth, and sheer ballsiness. I have seen a squirrel steal an entire pack of cigarettes from a purse, climb up a tree with them, and start eating them. And in Russia, *squirrels ate a dog* in less than a minute. I think this proves squirrels belong solidly in the monster category.

3. Bat-Eating Centipedes
I think it bears repeating that this is the scariest thing in the known universe. Its existence requires an immediate and radical alteration to our survival strategy as a species.

I hope we are all better informed, now. Remember: there are monsters out there. Respect them, or they will kill you.


S. Misanthrope

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Veterans through Inconvenience

Today in the U.S., we honor our veterans by closing dry cleaners early. This is a great way to frustrate people who try to pick up their clothes at 3pm and discover that the cleaners closed at noon. All around the city today, there are people with their faces pressed against the glass of closed dry cleaners mouthing "Why?" into the dark store.

Then they try to go to the bank, only to find that closed as well. At least the bank has put up a friendly sign, saying "Closed for Veterans' Day." Now all these people know why they can't get anything accomplished today. And really, what makes people more appreciative of the heroic efforts of our country's veterans, the efforts that allow us to live in a (partially) free and (somewhat) functional society, than being inconvenienced?

Veterans' Day is a very empathetic holiday, in that way. Christmas is sympathetic. We give to the less fortunate on Christmas. But on Veterans' Day, we celebrate veterans by making sure people have no clean clothes and no money, so that we can all know what it's like to be a veteran. And really, who wouldn't prefer making others badly off to making themselves better off?

One great "sacrifice" deserves another, so today, be sure to show your appreciation for the Purple Hearts, the amputees, the medal-winners, and all the soldiers who left their homes and their families to risk life and limb on our behalf, by putting off your banking until Friday.

Yours in patriotism,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Am Not Alone!

Few things make me feel better than being selected for market research focus groups.

You begin with the nerve-wracking preliminary questions to see if you qualify. It starts with the basics. How old are you? What's your sex? Which racial group do you identify with? I have many, many times been rejected at this point. Apparently a great many 18 to 24 year old white females have nothing better to do than answer online surveys. It hurts because these are things I have no control over, and people really should stop hating on white chicks. We're so oppressed.

Anyway, then they ask some questions that you are obviously supposed to say "no" too. Do you work in marketing? Are you close with anyone who works in marketing? Have you participated in market research in the last 3 months? Sometimes they will be trickier, like maybe they will ask what field you work in. Hopefully, if they ask this, you have some idea of what the wrong answer is from what the survey is about, i.e. if the survey is about cell phones, don't admit to working in telecom. But then sometimes it's a double-bluff and they actually *want* someone who works in telecom. This is pretty much a coin toss.

Then come the really weird questions. How many ducks do you own? Have you ever been to Switzerland? What is your favorite species of turtle? Do you know anyone who plays the banjo? Have you ever brought a frisbee with you on vacation, or jam? How many times have you purchased bearing grease in the past month? For these you gotta just answer honestly and hope for the best.

Then, at last, come the magic words "We'd like to invite you to participate in our study." At last: acceptance! Not only do you get money and possibly products out of this deal, you also get to know that someone out there wants to sell you things. You, personally. However weird you are, however unusual your tastes, someone in the world is eagerly designing a product with you in mind.

Sure, they only want you for what's in your pants (your wallet). Sure, you're basically a whore for the advertising industry. But it's worth it to know that you are not alone.

Love always,

S. Misanthrope

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Movie Review: Secretariat

Well, I tried to go see Secretariat so I could write a review of yet another film with a one-word title that starts with "s," but I ended up being tricked into paying $10.25 to watch a 2 hour long Brooks Brothers' commercial. Anyway, have a good weekend.


S. Misanthrope

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Songs that I Think Are Fake

There are all of these super famous songs that no one actually knows. You might know one line of it, which is usually just the title sung to some vague melody that you aren't too sure about. You only ever hear snippets of these songs, like in the background of a movie. I don't think those songs are real songs. I think someone just wrote those snippets and that's it, and now everyone thinks they are parts of actual songs. They keep putting them in movies and people keep thinking they are real, but it's all a big lie. Songs like:

1. "That's Amore" - No way is this a real song; it was clearly invented to have something to play in Italian restaurants in films.

2. The Canadian National Anthem - I'm pretty sure there's nothing after "Oh, Canada!"

3. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" - Can anyone tell me any words to this song other than the title? Yeah, that's what I thought.

4. "Zat You, Santa Claus?" - This song is clearly just a bunch of generic brass instruments playing to provide background music for family-friendly Christmas movies, then the one line is sung very loudly to mark the end of the holiday shopping/decorating/ice skating montage.

I think it would be genius to have a karaoke bar where the entire playlist consists only of songs like this.

This is unrelated, but I also wanted to point out that it's really gross to bring your dog into the grocery store. Why do people do this? Anything that pees to mark its territory should not be brought around human food items.


S. Misanthrope

Stupid of the Week #4: the Dalai Lama

 Few things rank higher on the stupidity index than religion. Rob Schneider movies, Vibrams, and that’s about it. Oh, also heirloom tomatoes. Why you would pay more for your fruit to be uglier, I do not know.

Anyway, under the silly heading of “religions” are some that are even sillier than average. The more popular, first-world religions tend to be fairly even-keeled. Yes, they technically preach the same total nonsense, but most followers don’t take it *that* seriously, nor does it really affect their lives. The third-world and fringe religions, on the other hand, produce all kinds of crazy every day.

One of the craziest and most despicable religions, to my mind, is whatever religion has the Dalai Lama in it. I really only know that one thing about it, but that one thing is enough to make the harshest of judgments in this case.

The idea is that this Dalai Lama person is a spiritual leader who is reincarnated all the time. When the old Lama dies, a new one is born. The priests or monks or whatever have a bunch of Nostradamean nonsense to interpret that will help them find the new Lama. So the priest-monk-people wander around Tibet, with the help of friendly Tibetan government officials, until they find a kid who fits their prophecy.

Sometimes, when they see the kid, one of the monks sees a flame or other sign to let them know it’s him. They then test the child. For instance the current Lama supposedly picked out the crackpipe that belonged to the old Lama from amongst assorted other crackpipes. Also, when he was 2, he told his parents they should give him extra sweets because he was the Dalai Lama. Very convincing, objective evidence, that. Q.E.D.

And yes, I realize that there are multiple Lamas so it isn’t accurate to just call him the Lama, but since this whole thing is a bunch of nonsense, I don’t care. Moving on.

So this kid is “discovered” around age 4, possibly younger, by creepy bald men wearing orange and is taken away from his family and kept hidden from the world until age 14, when he emerges and starts telling global leaders what to do based on stuff he read in fortune cookies.

That’s it. That’s the Dalai Lama. That’s this “great spiritual leader” everyone sprays their shorts over.

In the West, we have a word for it when a child is taken from his parents and kept locked up with a bunch of old men: child abuse (what, did you think I was going to say something else?). And yet countless people in the West, when they learn of this religion and its vile disregard for the rights of a helpless child and his parents, think this culture is “interesting,” in the way that some quaint village tradition is “interesting.”

My boss, who I’ve mentioned before, decorates his house with hideous masks he buys while visiting obscure parts of the world. He goes around the world observing “native people” in their “natural habitat” and comes home with these trophies to hang on his wall. He travels around and looks a savages living in mud huts and admires the art they produce, art that reflects the twisted horror of their lives, and he considers this “interesting.”

I simply do not know what to make of people who do this, people who view other people as though they were wild animals in cages. When a centipede eats a bat, it’s interesting. But when a man stretches his neck out to over 18 inches for no reason whatsoever, or when a child grows up in an Amazonian tribe that can’t count past 5, or when a man can buy wives with cattle regardless of her consent, it’s not “interesting,” it’s nauseating. It’s not some curious habit of another culture; it’s a systematically brutish and disgusting practice that no human should ever be a part of.

Take a moment to really contemplate the irony of the Dalai Lama, a man who hopes to be reincarnated as an insect because that would be the best service he could provide to the world, riding on a jumbo jet, courtesy of Western non-idiocy, to visit the leaders of countries that have outlawed stealing children. Yeah, it’s insects who do a lot for the world.

Then again, we actually would be better off if he, and all people like him, were turned into bugs. In that one respect, I hope this crazy religion is true.

Yours, etc.,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Movie Review: Splice

Here’s another review of a one-word, starts with an “s” film for your enjoyment.

Splice, written and directed by so and so and starring Adrian Brody and some chick, is pretty much the best movie of all time. If by “best” you mean “absolute worst”, and by “movie” you mean “piece of crap”, and by “of all time” you mean “of all time.”

As the director states, Splice confronts important issues raised by the blooming science of genetic engineering. Questions like: what would happen if you mixed a bunch of genes together to make a slug, then added human DNA to make a monster, then kept that monster as a pet in a creepy lab basement and a scary abandoned farmhouse and played Scrabble with it? What if it turned out your wife had used her own DNA to create the monster? Would you then have sex with it? Then what if that monster died, then came back to life, changed sex and raped your wife? Then what if she got pregnant from the tranny-zombie-incest-monster rape? Would you keep the baby just to see what would happen, for the sake of science?

Splice’s answer to these questions is something like “Wait, what? Why are they doing that? That makes no sense. Wait, they aren’t going to…oh my god, is he really going to…? Oh god, NO! Ew, what the fuck?”

Not a thing in the entire film makes an ounce of sense. Not a micro-nano-milli-ounce even. Forget the sketchy science, which I am willing to write off as a basic hazard of sci fi writing. This goes beyond nonsensical statements like “It’s evolving!” or the “double helix” high five. The real insanity is in the actions of the characters. Everything they do is mind-bogglingly illogical. Here, I’ll show you:

So this scientist couple wants to see if they can splice human DNA into this hybrid of 7 other species that they created. The company funding them shuts the project down, so they go ahead and do the splice anyway. Fine, I’m with you so far. Then the chick decides to grow a creature from this DNA in one of the artificial wombs in the lab. This, about 5 minutes into the film, is where things start to get fucked.

The scientists know nothing about this new species, like whether or not it will gestate properly in this device. Of course it doesn’t, so the woman sticks her hand blindly into the creature and ends up being stung by a poisonous stinger, even though none of the spliced critters have poison stingers. Then instead of killing what is obviously a monster, the woman insists on keeping it and feeding it Tic Tacs without doing anything at all about this deadly poisonous stinger thing.

Soon the baby monster cannot be kept hidden in the lab, so they move it to the scary basement, and then to the farm where the woman scientist grew up with her abusive mother, where it is always midnight and everything is creaky and terrifying. All this time, she claims to be “studying it,” but all she actually does is put makeup on it. Because she never adequately dealt with her mommy issues, the scientist alternates between treating the creature like a beloved daughter and a hated animal, which of course causes the creature, who clearly possesses human or near-human levels of intelligence, to act out, like any teenager would. Except this is a teenager with amphibious lungs, prehensile tail, wings, and a poisonous stinger.

Anyway, more completely crazy and disturbing shit happens. Never, during any of it, does anyone stop to ask questions like “Is this creature human? What does it mean to be human? Does it have free will or a rational faculty? Does it form concepts and, if so, what are the implications of that ability? Can it use language? Does it have rights?” No, all they do is an MRI, after which they point to a bunch of organs and say “What is that? Oh well, we’ll worry about that later. Let’s go play Scrabble!”

All this is to say that you absolutely must watch this film. Seriously, it is the funniest thing ever made. It’s like Rocky Horror if Rocky Horror weren’t a joke. Watch it, then wonder what on earth an Oscar-winning actor did that movie for. Watch it, then watch the director’s pompous, totally serious commentary about “unconventional sex,” etc. It’s absolutely mind-blowing. For anyone who, like I, enjoys gawking at the unbelievable stupidity humans are capable of, this film is a treasure trove.

With love,
S. Misanthrope

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"We Have Nothing in Common as Human Beings..."

I have a definite tendency to over-think things. Like if I'm planning a dinner party, I might think that G&T's would go well with the pate I'm serving, so I might ask one of the guests to bring gin and another to bring tonic water. But then I worry that the one bringing gin will buy some crap gin, so I just buy some Henrick's myself. Then I start to worry that the one bringing tonic water will end up bailing and no one wants to drink straight gin, so I buy the tonic water too. Then I worry that someone will want diet tonic water so I get that as well. Then it occurs to me that some of my friends may prefer vodka so I need to get that and lemons, as well as limes for the G&T's. Then I end up with a fridge full of tonic water, diet tonic water, 3 kinds of gin, a handle of vodka, and 50 lemons and limes, and in the end everyone at the party only wants to drink wine.

One of the worst over-thinking traps I tend to fall into involves giving compliments to strangers. See, my view of justice requires giving credit where credit's due to the good as much as to the bad. The more important a quality is to me, the more necessary it becomes for me to acknowledge that quality in another person. Since personal beauty and style are quite high on my list of values, I am an avid compliment-giver. Cute shoes, nice dress, great cufflinks, whatever. Comments like these used to roll off my tongue with ease. Until one day when I started thinking...

I was riding the elevator to my office with a woman who had on a fabulous headband. "I love your headband!" I piped up with my usual alacrity. The woman slowly turned her eyes toward me, looked me up and down, and cautiously drawled "Thhaaanks."

Now, technically she did say "thanks," and maybe that was all there was to it, but what I heard was "I'd really rather not be complimented by a girl with no makeup on who couldn't even be bothered to straighten her hair this morning. Please don't suggest that we have anything in common as human beings."

Ever since, the urge to give a compliment has a triggered a cascade of self-criticism. I see a nice pair of shoes and my brain goes "Oooh, cute shoes. I should tell her. Wait, do I have cute shoes on? What if I say I like her shoes, but she thinks my shoes are gross and wishes I didn't like hers? Maybe my shoes are ok, but what about my outfit? Her shoes are pretty funky, but my outfit is pretty conservative. Maybe she will think her shoes are boring because I look boring. But then I have weird earrings, so maybe she will think her shoes are too weird because my earrings are too weird. Maybe I look fat today and she won't want to be seen talking to a fat girl. Oh my God, what if she's actually an alien and my entire standard of beauty doesn't apply to her? What if...."

 And so on, until I realize that I've been standing on the street corner for ten minutes, the cute shoes are long gone, and I look like a crazy person talking to myself (the kind of crazy person you *definitely* would not want complimenting your shoes.)

Yesterday, while studying in a coffee shop, a very nice but somewhat awkward young woman came up to me and complimented my vest. She wasn't exactly badly dressed, but she was far from my fashion ideal. She asked where I had purchased it, and I was forced to publicly admit that I had gotten it from a pile of crap my mom gave me and that it had probably been purchased at T.J. Maxx during the 90s. I had to say this in front of two other women who were very skinny and wearing a lot of makeup and who obviously did not get their clothes from their parents' garage. I think they lingered for almost an hour just so they could make me feel inferior by contrast.

So even though the compliment was very nice and seemed like exactly the kind of compliment I would give, the entire experience was traumatic and made me never want to give or receive compliments ever again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Grammar of Signage

Ok, this has really been bugging me, and I don't know the answer. That never happens, because I know everything, so obviously there is a hole in the universe somewhere.

Say you have a sign, with a title ("Strategic Misanthropy," for example), and then you have a subtitle as well (such as "celebrating the species we love to hate.")

How do you properly punctuate and capitalize the subtitle?

It's not a full sentence, so "Celebrating the species we love to hate." isn't right. On the other hand, capitalizing the "C" and leaving off the period doesn't seem right either.

I suppose the correct answer is to capitalize everything in the subtitle as you would for the main title, but I just can't stand being so trigger-happy with capitalization. Rebelling against my German heritage, I suppose.

Since I'm the type of person who would rather be extremely wrong than only partially right, I'm considering going with something like this:

ceLEbrat^inG "THE" speCies' we,:; love TO hATE.!?

I think we've arrived at a very good place, grammatically.

With love,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update: Yoga Kills!

I have previously covered the stupidity of yoga (see here? I really did!), but I neglected to mention that, like the brown recluse spider, yoga is also a silent killer. Well, maybe not killer, but if you are a leg, it will fuck your shit up.

One of my yoga acquaintances broke her leg doing yoga. That's right, her leg broke from *stretching*. According to her instructor (who is the one who broke the leg), this is actually quite common for yoga practitioners.

Anyone who still thinks doing yoga means you're healthy needs to be escorted off this planet immediately.

Stupid of the Week #3: National Write a Novel Month

Apparently November is "National Write a Novel Month." The name implies that November is the month for every person in the nation to "finish that novel they've always talked about writing." This is a terrible idea, and here's why:

To begin with, let's assume positive intent. That is, let's assume that whoever came up with this idiotic idea was really, truly trying to make something good. Let's assume they are not a soulless Randian supervillain hell-bent on drowning the world in mediocrity. Maybe they thought it would be a nice morale boost for struggling writers. Maybe they think it will increase the probability of another J.K. Rowling appearing on the scene. Maybe they have cerebral palsy.

If that is the case, whoever thought of this idea really needs to stop and think some more. For instance, they could think about the last pamphlet they received, or the last thank you card that came in the mail, or the last angry note someone left on their car. They could peruse Emails from Crazy People or 27b/6. They could read, oh, pretty much any random blog. They could do all of this, and then imagine a world where the authors of all the pamphlets, thank yous, passive-aggressive notes, crazy person emails, and blogs wrote novels instead.

As Sue Silvester says: horror!

Most people can't write for shit, and most of them are completely, utterly, blissfully unaware of this fact about themselves. And this is fine, as long as they don't write in public. Kind of like how it's okay that most people can't sing since they only do it in the shower or alone in their car listening to Annie Lennox. Our society has even cleverly constructed outlets to allow us to occasionally embarrass ourselves doing the things we can't in a safe environment. Artistic vomitariums, if you will. Sculpture has adult pottery classes, singing has karaoke, and writing has blogs.

It is as inappropriate to encourage some Stephanie Meyer wannabe to write a novel as it is to grab the girl butchering "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the karaoke bar and put her in Carnegie Hall.

Now forgetting positive intent, there's something bracingly offensive in the idea of "National Write a Novel Month." Maybe it's because I have a number of friends who are legitimate writers with legitimate novels in the works, but I react to the notion of just anyone writing a novel for the heck of it with total disgust. It's insulting both to the people who take writing seriously and write for a profession and to everyone who is not a writer, who is bidden to take a month out of their life to give up their values and write a novel instead.

A novel is not an absolute good. You are not a better person for writing a novel. Novel-writing is a totally optional value, properly done by those who enjoy novel-writing and properly left alone by everyone else. What insufferable arrogance to suggest that one person's values must be everyone else's as well! How equally loathsome to value the art of the novel so little that you would suggest that anyone can and should create one!*

If someone tried to start a "National Perform an Actuarial Reserve Analysis on a Bermuda Captive Insurance Company Day," everyone would scoff, and rightly so: the idea is ridiculous. There are people who specialize in these things. They are called actuaries. There are also people who specialize in selling car insurance (called geckos), in flying airplanes (called my sister), and in analyzing stocks (called "Shit, why did I waste my money on an MBA?"). They do these things because they like to, and because they do them, you don't have to.

There are also people who work their asses off to specialize in novel-writing in more months than just November, and they deserve some fucking respect. So let's celebrate "National Write a Novel Month" by going about our own damn business, shall we?

With Love,

S. Misanthrope

*As Anton Ego says in Ratatouille, "Not anyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another one that's short

I have a ganglion cyst in my left wrist. It’s not really a big deal. It only hurts sometimes and it just looks like I have an extra wrist bone on the opposite side. But supposedly they do ultimately require treatment and treatment costs money and money I have not.

This is actually Ganglion Cyst Part II: The Return. I had the cyst drained earlier this year. My GP is very nice and cute and probably thinks his glasses make him look young and cool. I asked him how I could have gotten the cyst and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: So how did I get this thing?

Doc: Well, the cyst is a pocket of fluid that your body puts out to protect your joints from too much of certain types of motion. This type of cyst is common with glass blowers because they twist their wrists a lot.

Me: Ok, but I don’t blow glass, so how could I have gotten it?

Doc: Mm, it’s usually just glass blowing.

Me: How about typing?

Doc: No.

Me: Cycling?

Doc: No.

Me: Weight lifting? Hand stands? Learning sign language?

Doc: It’s only caused by glass blowing.

Me: …

We sat in awkward silence for a bit, with him peering sideways at me like I was some kind of closet glass blowing deviant. His stare so clearly said “You glass blowing freak, why don’t you just admit it already?” that I actually started to try and think of ways that I might have blown glass without knowing it, like maybe while sleep walking. I left the office not really sure whether or not I was at serious risk of being taken over by a glass blowing version of Tyler Durden in my sleep.

And that’s why I’m really not looking forward to going back.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm posting this because it's short

It might be impossible to market skin care products to me. I’m not particularly inspired by cute teens splashing water on their faces. I don’t care about vitamins or minerals or exfoliating micro-beads. I definitely don’t care about looking younger as I am still carded when I try to use the AMX I’ve had for 5 years to buy a pack of gum. The Oil of Olay logo looks like a terrified woman trapped in an egg to me.

But one advertising strategy in particular will never, ever persuade me to purchase skin care, primarily because it doesn’t even make me think of skin care. These are the ads involving reptiles. Lubriderm (can I just say "ew" to that name, please?) has their “later, gator” commercial and tag line. Some fancier company has posters with iguanas and lizards next to some nondescript pink and white boxes and bottles. Reptilia seems to be the universal skin care symbol.

The point of these ads, I suppose, is to let you know that, if you are a reptile, your skin texture is undesirable and you should go kill yourself so we humans can get back to stroking our smooth legs and arms. Or perhaps it is aimed toward people with fauxhawks, which tend to attract reptiles due their similarity to the nuchal crest. “Tired of reptiles following you everywhere, dropping out of trees and landing on your fauxhawk? Buy Reptile-Away hand lotion and send those pesky buggers on their way!”

Anyway, these ads won’t work on me because my reaction to a photo of a lizard is more like: “Oh, cool, a reptile! I wonder if this ad is for a reptile exhibit at the zoo. No, not the zoo. Maybe it’s for a pet store. No…a movie perhaps? Hm, why are all these bottles next to the lizard? Oh well, I guess I should go buy car insurance now.”

You see, I think reptiles are awesome. My very first can’t-be-without-it-for-30-seconds stuffed animal was a dinosaur. My second was an alligator. My sister’s first was a sea turtle and her second was a velociraptor. So I know I’m not the only person who sees an iguana on a billboard and thinks it’s cute and cuddly and who doesn’t think of skin care at all.

You know what does make me think of skin care? Nuclear reactors. Why? I don't know. The radiation, I guess. Maybe St. Ives should consider putting some of those in their ads.

Hugs and Scaley Kisses,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Three Terrifying Things No One Seems to Know about Except Me

#3: Man-Babies

If you’ve ever worked at a 1-hour photo, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, well, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Man-babies are babies that look like grown men. They can be either sex, but are usually male. They look like what you might get if you took a burly Italian man and performed some kind of digital regression to make him roughly the size and shape of a rather large baby. You know how in Harry Potter 5 there’s that hour glass thingy in the Department of Mysteries that turns that Death Eater’s head into a baby? It’s probably a lot like that. J.K. Rowling definitely worked in a photo lab.

I have a hard time communicating to non-photo-store employees exactly what is so frightening about man-babies, but just trust me. They are damn creepy. The worst part is, the parent is always oblivious. They are just as convinced as all other parents that their baby is the cutest thing ever and they take many, many pictures of their little perversion of nature.

Most people have had the unsettling experience of peering into a stroller or crib and finding themselves face to face with what appears to be a giant prune drooling from a gaping hole that only Picasso’s imagination could have placed in that particular spot. It’s awkward as hell to then have to simultaneously stammer praises and excuses for why you can’t pick the bonnet-wearing piece of oozing dried fruit up. But then you learn your lesson and the next time you see the prune monster, you are better prepared.

There is no way to prepare yourself for the sight of a man-baby. Even if you know it’s coming, the sensation of having your guts pulled out through your belly button and then put back in backwards is undiminished. The inexplicably proud mother enters the photo shop, diaper bag and stroller in tow. You immediately recognize her from the prints you just quality-checked and gagged over, and you begin to shiver and murmur prayers to Yctazl, the Tazmanian god of pretzels, that she left the changeling in the car with the windows up. As she crosses toward the counter, you realize from the way her eyes dart concernedly to the stroller that Yctazl will not save you: IT’S IN THERE!

You force yourself not to look. Maybe if you don’t look directly at it, you can get through this. You hand the customer her order before she says a word and hope she interprets your furious typing on the register as efficient customer service and not as a desperate effort to get her and her demon offspring out of the store as quickly as possible. You limit your responses to single-syllables and primitive hand signals because the word “man-baby” is on the very tip of your tongue, ready to spring-board into the biggest customer-interaction disaster in history. Dear Yctazl, just please don’t let the woman stand at the counter for ten minutes reviewing every goddamn print. DO NOT let her order reprints, oh dear Lord of Pretzels, NO REPRINTS!

You wait the exact 2.45 seconds required after handing her the receipt to dash to the back of the store, where you huddle between the toxic waste tank and the spare rolls of glossy 6” paper while the coworkers who didn’t draw the short straw speak to you in soothing tones and offer you smelling salts and chocolate. In 40 minutes or so, you are able to stand up, but a part of you never recovers.

#2: Desert People

If you live in the southwestern United States and you *don’t* know who I’m talking about, it’s probably because you are one of them. If you still aren’t sure after reading this, watch Salad Fingers. Desert People are the so-called humans who inhabit the trailers and glorified tents with aluminum siding that you can occasionally glimpse from the interstate while speeding your way between civilized places like L.A. and Las Vegas. They typically live out of sight of anyone or anything, however, so it’s difficult to gauge how many there are and where.

Because of this, little is known about Desert People. They are likely afflicted with some degree of agoraphobia or possibly suffer from a gross misunderstanding of the virtue of independence. Though some keep animals like dogs and horses, many do not, which shows Desert People have a unique ability to tolerate, or possibly even enjoy, isolation and solitude. Further Desert People are rarely known to reproduce, therefore it must be assumed that there are those among us even now who will one day take up residence inside a tin can in the Nevada desert and will never be heard from again. Another popular theory is that they are descended from the Sand People of Tatooine, sent to Earth eons ago on a mission to locate alternative energy sources, only to find themselves unable to return home due to a shortage of bantha droppings.

If your car breaks down on the way to Vegas, you may be tempted to seek assistance from a Desert Person. Though reliable statistics on the success of such a strategy are not available, one can presume that the average Desert Person will either help you, ignore you, or eat your flesh with equal probability. Choose accordingly.

#1: A Centipede that Can Eat a Bat

This is officially the scariest thing in the known universe:

Yours in Perpetual Fear,

S. Misanthrope

Monday, September 27, 2010

FSF: Top 3 Most Inconsiderate Pedestrians

San Francisco has THE WORST pedestrians of any city I’ve ever been in, including cities in Asia where pedestrians deliberately jump out in front of cars in the hopes of having their medical bills covered for life. As a city resident who drives, cycles and walks all over the city on a regular basis, I am uniquely qualified to opine on who is most to blame for the swirling maelstrom of despair that is SF traffic. The buses, aka “MUNI”, are definitely the main culprits, but the pedestrians are not far behind. Here are the three worst kinds of pedestrians in San Francisco:

#1: Crack Heads & Bums

It’s like they have somehow managed to perfectly synchronize their aimless wanderings to coincide with the exact middle of the green light for oncoming traffic at every intersection. I have not once seen a bum cross the street or even begin to cross the street at a time when he/she had the right of way. They will simply meander out into traffic, with never a glance left or right to check for a semi coming toward them at 50 mph, totally oblivious, taking their own sweet fucking time getting to the other side. They don’t just do this at piss-ant little intersections, either. They do this on the freakin’ interstate.

For some reason that is beyond me, the drivers just put up with it. They never honk or flash their lights or use a snowplow attachment or blast “MOVE, BITCH!” on their stereo. Last week some guy just left his shopping cart in the middle of Market Street while he wandered around scaring small children on the sidewalk, blocking traffic in both directions including a trolley and a duck boat full of tourists, but the only people who seemed to notice or care were the frightened children and me. At least those tourists got the “real SF” experience.

“Crack heads and bums are #1?” you say? Seems a bit obvious, I know. #2 is more of a surprise…

#2: Business Men/Women/People in Suits Going to Stupid Fucking Oracle Conventions and Staying at the W

Aaarrrggghhh! Maybe they can turn the motor of the world or whatever, but these people cannot cross the street for shit!

Here is a dramatization of what you can see happening on virtually every corner of the Financial District and Union Square during the business week:

 The next version of Grand Theft Auto should include hordes of these idiots in suits pouring out of some convention center and blindly entering the street where they are easy pickings for you to crush under your 4x4.

Ok, the last group is...


You all suck. No one here can cross the goddamn street properly to save their life. In New York and Chicago, the tourists may stand around gawking on street corners, but the residents quickly herd them along by forming a phalanx and poking them with sticks. The ones that fail to move quickly enough are simply knifed and tossed aside, and it’s all very humane and efficient.

San Franciscan pedestrians, on the other hand, cannot be differentiated from tourists except by reference to their hipster clothing and distastefully disheveled appearance. Behaviorally, they are completely identical. Do they stand and stare in the exact middle of where people are trying to walk? Yes. Do they stand on the corner waiting for the “Walk” sign when there are no cars anywhere in sight? Yes. When they get the magical “Walk” signal, do they proceed as if that somehow indemnifies them against all risk to life and limb posed by buses, cars, bike messengers, and stray bullets? Absolutely.

Frighteningly enough, crossing the street seems to be what SF pedestrians are *best* at. What they are undoubtedly worst at is walking. In all my years biking along the Embarcadero, I have yet to see a person who could walk in a straight line. It makes me think those sobriety tests are rigged because, drunk or not, no one here can do it. All the work that has gone into creating the perfect stochastic random walk function was wasted. All they needed to do was tag a bunch of SF pedestrians and map their progress from the Wharf to AT&T Park. Even the guy from Pi couldn’t find an algorithm to describe that randomness.

Constructive Criticism

If you’re interested in what you can do to avoid being a total douchebag pedestrian, here are a few tips:

1. If there’s somewhere you can move safely that brings you closer to your ultimate destination, move there. Now.

2. If you do not have wheels and are not crippled, do not stand in the middle of the sidewalk ramp. That ramp is for wheelchairs and mulefa only. The rest of you can bend a fucking knee to descend from the curb.

3. When walking in a group, it is not appropriate to walk 5 abreast, thereby blocking the sidewalk for everyone else.
            Corollary A: Groups tend to walk more slowly than individuals, thereby magnifying the rudeness of forming a human roadblock.
            Corollary B: Depending on your size and the width of the sidewalk, it may be equally rude to walk two abreast, particularly if you are a burly Russian man afraid to be seen walking too close to another man in San Francisco and prone to large gesticulations that effectively double your width.

4. You can greatly reduce the likelihood that you will be run over by cars, bikes, skateboards, or buffalo if you move in a somewhat predictable manner. Generally, this means you should walk in a fucking straight line.

Let's see if we all can't work together to make this world a more tolerable place, eh?


S. Misanthrope