Archive for June, 2009

Truck driver robs armed teens — yeah, right

June 20, 2009

I have no intention of turning this blog into a low-brow “dumb-crook news” site, but incidents keep happening in and near my small Southern city that just can’t be ignored.

The latest crime took place frighteningly close to home, or at least close to a location that I frequent almost every day. I meet my car-pool partner weekday mornings at 4:30 a.m. in the parking lot of a large 24-hour grocery store on a main thoroughfare about two miles from my house. It’s well-lit and close enough to the street that we’ve never felt fearful during our brief transfer from one car to another.

Last Monday, however, at about that exact time, there were a couple of goofballs working in back of the store on their first steps toward the criminal high life.

A bread truck driver was making his delivery when he was approached by a young man asking for directions to a nearby neighborhood. After the brief conversation, he then decided to cover his face with a bandana and produce a shotgun. His accomplice appeared from behind a dumpster brandishing a knife and they demanded money from the driver.

The driver said he didn’t have any money, but threw his wallet at the men while escaping into the store to call police. They took about $300 and ran from the area.

When deputies arrived at the store and began investigating the crime, they received a call reporting that someone had been shot several blocks away. What they found at that scene was two young men standing next to a couple of sweatshirts and a gun identical to that seen with the suspects at the bread truck robbery. One of the men was shot in the knee.

What they then proceeded to tell police was that the shooting occurred while the bread truck delivery guy attempted to rob them. Somehow, the gun had ended up at their feet about a half-mile away from the robbery scene.

Police didn’t buy that loaf of whole-wheat nonsense, and arrested the two teenagers on charges of armed robbery and possession of a weapon during commission of a violent crime.

The stupidity didn’t end quite there. When the suspects were removed from the squad car at the local jail, one of them allowed $300 to fall out of his pocket and into the back seat of the police vehicle.

The world is a-Twitter

June 19, 2009

There seems to be no middle ground on the subject of Twitter. People either think it’s a huge waste of time, or they believe it’s the greatest thing since Christ died on the cross for our sins, crying out in his final words “OMG, OMG, y hast thou 4saken me?”

I generally fall in the former camp, but that’s probably because I’m an older gentleman who can’t understand why the world would be interested that I just flossed between my maxillary first molar and maxillary second molar, or took yet another breath, number 12,845 today. However, with the current political upheaval going on in Iran, and few opportunities for the Western press to report on the event first-hand, Twitter and other social media have gained new respectability in recent days for giving at least a narrow, self-involved view of what’s going on.

I wrote back in a January website review (https://davisw.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/website-review-cnncom/) of the ridiculous legitimacy given to such commentators by CNN’s afternoon news coverage, hosted by Rick Sanchez and his army of Tweeters. Rather than do a fresh site evaluation this week, I thought I’d check in with CNN.com to see how they’re reacting to breaking events half a world away being covered by people even more amateur than their regular staff.

First, however, I need to participate in the “Quick Vote” on their home page: “Would you like to live in the moon?” I’ll vote “no,” because there is no air there and, if you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll know that a 75/25 mix of nitrogen and oxygen like the blend found here on Earth is my “favorite atmosphere.”

Now, let’s see what the social media types are contributing to the international conversation about the Iranian elections and their aftermath (original spellings and punctuation included):

  • We are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan who will be next North Korea or Iran
  • Iran needs a Leader not a Dictator, oh wait that’s America.
  • Sour losers send pictures!!! Hahaha, and Rick supports you. CNN has a history of spreading hatred and lies.
  • I need to sell this watch I have
  • We (the US) have toops on Iran’s Eastern and Western borders, and have our Navy on their Southern border. I think that’s enough influence in and on Iran.
  • If President Obama is the next Hitler, I will make sure I join him and gas your ass you dumb cracker!!!
  • David Letterman was just doing his job, he doesn’t right all his jokes, he was doing what he was told to say, and we think we have freedom of speech in America?
  • I have respect for you unlike most of the anchors on CNN. Beside you Jack is my fav and Anderson well he is just easy on the eyes.
  • If you have years and been diagnosed with schizophrenia, then maybe I’d understand a lot better when a person goes from weighing 130 to 190 in three months and still manages not to flip out ever
  • I live in the ATL and never see Ricky Sanchez
  • Is anybody covering what’s going on in Peru? What’s influence and and connection, if any, to the US privately controlled banks in Peru by certain individuals from Texas … Hmmm?
  • Nancy Pelosi and her husband had stock in AIG.
  • Hey Rick, just wanted to drop you a quick note. I think that whoever came up with the idea to interview an 11-year-old a day after his father was shot dead should be terminated immediately, that’s not news.
  • Look forward to you covering the overdue firing of Miss California USA
  • With cars like that we will be the Flinkstones for real.
  • Con-Agra has their own maintenance personnel … he was up on the roof which had not been deemed safe and he was wearing no safety equipment to be dealing with ammonia … did I see a face shield, a gas mask, safety shoes??? NO!!!
  • Al Gore may make heavy metal more popular by saying we need to put two parental notices on all music with explicit lyrics.
  • I wonder if they will get this page fixed or if Rick is just going to let it run itself into the ground, since he like Twitter so much more?
  • Rick Sanchez is an employee of wall street who line his pockets so he will say nothing bad about obama. Obama is also an employee of wall street. They are all puppets.
  • By the by, where is Francis? I miss the Dynamic Duo at work.
  • On the LA Lakers party … I think its ashame that they “have to” throw a party in a ecomnic crisis. Older people that have alztimers are being sent away while the fans celebrate.
  • OK I am on the short bus. You tell me about Africom.
  • I am not an employee that works for Rick. I am a normal everyday joe that gets on Ricks page to tell what I think about what is going on/wrong in our country.
  • Why is your mom trying to call me? She love me long time!
  • The election in Iran is a complete sham! The country might as well abolish election, because it’s merely a finger-painting event.
  • Looks like Ali Badri is one of those Ahamadijejad police opening twitter accounts to try to make it look like anyone actually voted for that thug.
  • Why doesn’t CNN do a story about all the moms that are sentenced each summer to lunatic kids dragging buckets of water between the kitchen sink and the backyard?
  • Democracy is coming baby! We bringing it to all of you guys, don’t worry.
  • You can delete my comments but my messages is eternal and they will follow you until the last day of your lives.
  • Check this out: former Chicago inmates … were handcuffed while giving birth. Can you please look into this story?
  • This man needs no respect from us nergos.

It’s funny because they’re Republicans

June 18, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 17) – The suddenly sensitive Republican Party continued its attack on the American comedy community yesterday, with several prominent representatives calling for repudiation of a number of widely repeated jokes.

Leading the charge was radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who strongly criticized the May issue of Reader’s Digest for printing an imagined conversation between a duck and the employee of a drug store.

“What did the duck say to the cashier about his purchase of lip balm?” the periodical asked. “Just put it on my bill.”

Limbaugh said the gag was an inappropriate representation of the type of everyday commerce that drives the American economy.

“To suggest that a duck could communicate on such a level with a human being shows the mainstream media’s strong prejudice toward an excessive respect for animals,” Limbaugh told his nationwide audience. “It shows how the radical PETA agenda is seeping into our society.”

In a similar attack on bird humor, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich condemned the makers of Bazooka Joe bubble gum for asking “why did the chicken cross the road?” The response about “getting to the other side” discounts the danger of having poultry wandering the nation’s highways, Gingrich said.

“To make light of such an obvious traffic hazard just shows poor judgment,” the Georgia Republican told Fox News. “What if a school bus came along and had to swerve to avoid the chicken in question? Would that be funny? Frankly, I don’t think it would be.”

Meanwhile, a quartet of leading Congressional Republicans appeared on the steps of the Capitol to call into question a whole series of supposedly comic yarns that displayed insensitivity toward groups that have traditionally been viewed as largely powerless in society. Each took a brief turn before assembled reporters to show their distaste for the stories while trying not to laugh.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted that although it was possible to tell that an elephant was in your refrigerator by the footprints in the Jello, such an observation tended to belittle what he called “Pachydermo-Americans,” and could also be viewed as a slur against the GOP in general.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) re-told the tale of why the math book was so unhappy – “because it’s full of problems” – but said he didn’t find it amusing that children in America’s public schools would hear such an important subject belittled.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he could understand that a sun-burned penguin “is indeed black and white and red all over” but contended he “just didn’t find that suggestion all that funny,” and feared it contained hidden allusions to global warming.

 Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), head of the Republican Policy Committee, said that claiming the little moron was carrying a ladder “because he wanted to go to high school” showed a disrespect for the handicapped that bordered on contempt.

“This so-called joke not only defames the mentally challenged but also those of a small stature,” Ensign said. “It infers that certain citizens of our population need the aid of large-scale hardware to gain access to public institutions that should be open to all.”

Ensign added that he was resigning his leadership position within the GOP because he had an affair with a female staffer whom he rewarded with a new position and an increase in salary following their liaison. He confirmed the relationship publicly without first notifying aide Cynthia Hampton or her husband Doug, also a member of his staff. Ensign is a member of the Christian ministry Promise Keepers, which promotes fidelity in marriage.

“Now that’s funny,” said one observer.

I could care less

June 17, 2009

I’m worried that I’m not worrying as much as I used to.

Worry can be a great impetus to get up off the couch and do something with your life. If you’re constantly contemplating all the bad things that could be happening to you, there’s a survival instinct that kicks in with a plan to anticipate and address these feared outcomes. Anxiety used to be a driving force in my career and other ambitions I had for myself, but lately I’ve noticed a certain amount of mellowing that would be a cause for concern, if only I could make the effort.

I’ve always defended my pursuit of anxiety as simply a way of thinking through problems before they happen, always in search of a solution to troubles that surely were just around the corner. I’m being proactive, I’d argue, in considering what it would mean for me and my family to have the earth impacted by a rogue asteroid. Maybe we could hide under our car, or check into a nice hotel, or eat at an expensive restaurant and charge it to that high-interest credit card I’m always afraid to use.

One of my earliest memories was as a first-grader walking home from school, shortly after learning about the dangers of being outside in a thunderstorm. One loud boom and I was running for my life in panic, certain that I was about to experience the business end of a million volts of electricity. I survived that afternoon, only to find myself five summers later worrying for three months about my upcoming move from elementary to middle school. That graduation meant changing classes every hour (I’d surely get lost), a more challenging curriculum (I’d never master algebra), and taking a shower after gym (I’d be naked).

When classes finally started in September, I somehow found a way to survive, and came to the end of that first week with a sense of relief I chose to perceive as accomplishment. That’s one of the hidden advantages to building up concerns in your mind into giant fearsome beasts; if you manage to make it through, there’s a sense that you’ve been fantastically constructive, regardless of the fact that you finished last in the 600-yard run not only because you were fat, but as a strategy to avoid taking a shower in the presence of your classmates.

Throughout high school and college, I used the ever-declining state of world affairs (Vietnam, the Cold War, Watergate, Hall and Oates) as a reason to avoid planning for a positive future. This was either a total repudiation of worry or, more likely, adopting it as such an all-consuming lifestyle choice that thoughts about tomorrow could focus on near-term gratification instead. By the time I started my first real full-time job, I was even using worry as an investment strategy, declining to participate in the voluntary contribution retirement plan because we’d all be dead by next Tuesday anyway.

But I was maturing, in a way. I was learning to break down the bigger fears into smaller, manageable chunks of concern. When I found out that I’d need to travel to India on business, for example, I managed to avoid thinking about what an enormous fright the entire three weeks would be and instead looked at the experience as one small adventure after another. First, I’d think about how difficult it might be to find the international counter at the Charlotte airport, then I’d worry if I was indeed in the right line, and only then would I be afraid that my luggage couldn’t be checked all the way through to Mumbai. And so on. To paraphrase Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, the journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step, and a 12,000-mile flight to a steaming, overpopulated, poverty-stricken subcontinent begins by abandoning hope that you’ll ever return. I expected the worst and came very close to getting it.

When I did somehow survive the experience and make it back home, I saw how my negativity about the trip had crystallized my outlook on life. If you thought through events in the near future thoroughly enough, you’d realize how unlikely a positive outcome was going to be. With such a constant expectation of imminent disaster, the worst that could happen is exactly what you predicted. You’d always have the satisfaction of being right, even if you also had passed away.

Speaking of physical well-being, it wasn’t until I went for an annual physical a few years later that I finally understood how pointless it was to sweat the small stuff. When the doctor identified a tiny dried spot on my forehead as “something we should look at,” I suddenly had a more appropriate perspective on life. “Great,” I commented, “another thing to worry about.” He immediately responded with the kind of carefully designed treatment plan we’ve come to expect from modern medicine: anxiety medication.

He told me about a class of pharmaceuticals called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRI. It seems we have a chemical in our brains called serotonin, and a selective portion of it is uptaken on a recurring basis. Apparently, we don’t want that. A prescription for citalopram wouldn’t do anything for my forehead spot, but it would make me worry less about it, as well as treat my irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsession-compulsion and lichen simplex chronicus, if I wanted to develop any of those at no additional co-pay. After taking this medicine for a week or two, I seemed to be significantly less anxious, and that moss on my back was almost completely gone.

I’m proud to say that I now have my fears under much better control. Tomorrow, for example, is just the latest test of my new-found coping skills. I’m meeting a plumber to get an estimate on some work I need done at my rental house, and it’s always been a challenge for me, a chronically unhandy individual, to interact with engineer types. But I’ve been studying up in advance on the plumber culture so we might relate better in a man-to-sorta-man relationship. I borrowed a pair of my niece’s low-rise jeans (hope he doesn’t notice the Miley Cyrus decal on the left cheek), I found some NASCAR-branded clothing that seemed appropriate for plumbing (a Dick Trickle t-shirt and a Greg Biffle hat), and I’ve had my right hand replaced with a hook, so I don’t have to shake hands or touch toilet water. I am forcefully taking the situation into my own remaining hand and confronting my fears.

By the way, that dry spot wasn’t head cancer after all. I think the clinical name for the condition was worry wart.

Fake News: Bush the Elder stepping out

June 16, 2009

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (June 13) — Claiming that it was “the risk, the challenge, and the search for adventure” that kept his mind fresh, former president George H.W. Bush marked his eighty-fifth birthday Friday by bounding out of his lavish seaside estate and into a brief taste of the ruinous everyday life that his son George W. Bush created for America.

Bush wore a helmet, protective goggles and a thick jumpsuit as he walked from his oceanside compound and into this small town on the southern coast of Maine. He briefly gave up his government-provided healthcare, the financial security of a lifetime pension and his Secret Service protection to experience the freefall of the middle class. His savings were temporarily cut in half and his position as an ex-president was considered for outsourcing to the Philippines during the hour-long outing.

“I gotta tell you, that was pretty scary stuff,” said Bush, who served in the White House from 1989 until 1993. “My son really screwed up. I survived being shot down by the Japanese during World War II, and it was nowhere near as frightening as this. Ridiculous insurance costs, a horrible job market, two overseas wars, and virtual economic collapse – I could never put up with that on a daily basis.”

“The people with the bravery to dive headlong into these fears and face them every day truly have my admiration,” said the eternally squinting former commander-in-chief. “Junior really did a number on you guys. I’m glad I don’t have to live with that fallout.”

Bush Senior strolled around the small historic district of the downtown area, stopping to chat with tourists and locals as they emerged from shops and restaurants. Many complained to the former president about how his son had so thoroughly wrecked the nation during his eight years in office, but the thick helmet largely protected his ears. He narrowly avoided injury when an executive from Kennebunkport’s only bank jumped to his death from a fourth-story window of the village’s tallest building, just barely missing the octogenarian.

The elderly leader of the Bush clan appeared remarkably steady on his feet, despite having local police chief Edward Brennan strapped to his back in a “tandem” arrangement for safety.

“Barb would never allow me out in public with at least some protection against the mobs who would like to rip me limb from limb,” Bush said.

Meeting with reporters back in the safety of his home after the excursion, the slightly shaken Bush the First announced that for his birthday next year, he would attempt what he called “sky-diving.”

“As I understand it, that involves leaping onto (CNN Morning Express anchor) Robin Meade,” he said. “I would jump that in a second.”

Monday miscellany

June 15, 2009

Gorilla escapes; run for your lives!

REAL NEWS: A gorilla named Mike escaped from his enclosure at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C., Friday, and slightly injured a food service worker before returning to his habitat after a five-minute taste of freedom, with a side order of pizza.

It was not known for certain how Mike, 16, managed to find freedom, though zoo officials theorized that he lowered himself down a thick vine. Witnesses said he furiously beat his chest when he realized he was no longer confined, then turned on the worker, who was identified as the zoo’s pizza guy.

The concessions employee fell to the ground and wrapped his body into a fetal position to defend against the fugitive ape. He reportedly suffered only minor bumps and bruises. Visitors at the zoo were evacuated for about 45 minutes before being allowed to return.

One woman at the zoo said she tried to warn other visitors that a gorilla had escaped, but she said no one believed her. Hard to imagine that “run for your life, there’s a gorilla on the loose,” was ignored by onlookers.

Zoo officials said there would be no negative consequences for Mike. Riverbanks executive director Satch Krantz said the animal was simply “being a gorilla.”

 Why is this restaurant failing?

Have you ever noticed how certain retail locations seem to host an endless rotation of obviously lost-cause business enterprises? You would think that city officials would rezone these sites as “death spots” to keep unsuspecting entrepreneurs from losing their life savings, but it doesn’t happen.

We have one such location on a major road in my home town that you’d imagine even the dumbest capitalist would know to avoid. Why? Because it’s located in a hole. When the road was widened a few years ago, the steep grade that partially hid it from view became even more severe. As it’s now situated, only the top edge of a sign is visible from the road. In order to see the building itself, you’d have to be run off the road and down the face of a cliff, and be fortunate enough to survive the crash with your hunger for casual dining still in tact.

The earliest restaurant I remember at this spot was a Chinese place, followed by a Mexican place, followed by a barbecue place. Now it’s Kathy’s Southern Style Dining.

Perhaps if someone comes along with either a bat cave or deep canyon dining concept, one day a business will succeed here.

Stitchers in a snit

There’s quite a kerfuffle in the stitching community, as two opposing factions are heatedly debating which day should be officially recognized as World Wide Knit in Public Day.

One group, which could be viewed as the traditionalist sect, favors maintaining this past weekend – June 13 and 14 – as the historic occasion on which needleworkers across the globe haul their skeins into the bright light of day. A splinter group is suggesting instead that next weekend – June 20 and 21 – be the designated “KiP” day. They argue that because the United States Needle Arts Association’s bi-annual conference is held on the earlier dates, and presumably they’re weaving in air-conditioned comfort rather than the outdoor heat of mid-June, that conference attendees would be unable to participate in the more public event.

Most of the Thirteenth-and-Fourteenth-ists went ahead with their celebration yesterday and Saturday. Knitters were reportedly seen hard at work on their scarves, sweaters and slippers at a number of locations around the world, including the perimeter of the Green Zone in Baghdad, atop the Great Pyramid of Giza, and in lifeboats near the search zone for the Air France jetliner that went down mysteriously two weeks ago. In the U.S., numerous interstate highway overpasses were outfitted with a descending platform on which knitters could sit and work while high-speed auto traffic rocketed by beneath them.

Spokespersons for the Twentieth-and-Twenty-First-ites said they will go on with their events this coming weekend regardless of the actions of their hated rivals.

Neither group could explain why World Wide Knit in Public Day is in fact a two-day weekend.

 Your release form is so cute!

While picking up a friend at the hospital Friday who had just completed same-day surgery, I found myself waiting near the exit for the Women’s Center wing of the facility. It warmed my heart to see what was apparently a newly enlarged family emerge and climb into their car behind me.

The scene was a darkened garage so I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw the new dad carefully clutching a tiny infant, swaddled entirely in white. He held the package so close to his chest that I knew it was something of inestimable value.

When they opened the door of the car and the interior light came on, I could see that I was right. Sort of. What the man held protectively in his arms was not a newborn at all. It was a large sheaf of what was apparently insurance paperwork.

GI Joe goes for the gut

I’m really looking forward to the release of what is sure to be one of the biggest cinematic blockbusters of this or any summer. “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra” will debut in theaters across the country on August 7.

As the relative of someone who suffers from a gastro-intestinal ailment, I’m very eager for this much-neglected condition to be the subject of a feature film. The increased publicity certain to follow in the wake of such a high-action romp is bound to increase both awareness and funding for diseases of the digestive tract. I only hope that “The Rise of Cobra” has nothing to do with a newly approved colonoscopic procedure.

The Scooby reportedly wore a tux

MORE REAL NEWS (with exact wording from this morning’s Rock Hill paper): An [amusement park] employee helped a park guest cheat on a carnival game and win a free stuffed animal, a park supervisor told authorities.

The guest made off with a giant Scooby Doo animal valued at $109, according to a sheriff’s department report. The Scooby Doo in question was dressed in a tuxedo, reports stated.

The incident occurred Saturday around 5 p.m. The employee was arrested on a charge of breach of trust with fradulent intent, and booked at the Fort Mill Police Department.

My advice: Be careful about trusting your judgment

June 14, 2009

“You Want My Advice?” is a twice weekly (Saturdays and Sundays) summer replacement feature of davisw.wordpress.com. I look at questions of ethics, propriety, faith, technology, geopolitics, health, etc., and offer completely inappropriate, irresponsible and possibly even life-threatening advice. Today, we hear from a writer who decided to take a problem into her own hands and do something about it.

Q. In an attempt to stop smoking, I chewed gum all day and suffered from halitosis. I went to dentists and doctors to no avail. My family and colleagues at work learned to keep their distance. It was very embarrassing! Eventually, I discovered it was the aspartame in the gum and the many cups of coffee I devoured each day. After I switched to another sweetener, the halitosis disappeared and has never returned. – How About Me? Aren’t I Something?

A. Sounds like problem solved. What do you want from me?

I’m glad to hear you achieved success in your resolution to quit such a nasty habit. That can be an inspirational and helpful story for others of us who are trying to turn over new leaves at this time of year.

It can be, but it’s not. Instead, it just sounds like you’re bragging about your ability to identify a problem on your own and think it through to a successful conclusion. This is a very bad thing for us in the advice-giving field. People should not be trying to improve or change their lives in any way without the close supervision of a professional. You’ve seen the signs at the health clubs about consulting a physician before beginning any kind of exercise program? They speak the truth.

I’d recommend that you back up all the way to where you started on this journey — resume your smoking, resume your gum-chewing, regain your odious breath – then call up Harpo Productions to get on the waiting list for the Dr. Phil Show. Otherwise, you’re doomed to failure or, at best, a success that’s not nationally televised so no one cares.

Today’s advice: For new graduates

June 13, 2009

“You Want My Advice?” is a twice weekly (Saturdays and Sundays) summer replacement feature of davisw.wordpress.com. I look at questions of ethics, propriety, faith, technology, geopolitics, etc., and offer completely inappropriate, irresponsible and possibly even life-threatening advice. Heed my word at your own risk.

Q. I recently graduated from college and started working in the real world. My problem is that my name is gender-neutral, which my parents tell me was intentional. Many new business acquaintances, whom I meet through e-mail, mistake me for a man. I am often addressed as Mr. and worse, taken for my own secretary when they call. It’s awkward to explain and then embarrassing for the person calling. Is there a polite way to let people know my gender? – It’s Pat

A. I can definitely sympathize and may be able to offer some unique advice from the perspective of someone named “Davis Whiteman.” The “Davis” part comes from several previous generations of fathers and grandfathers, and is not to be confused with “David,” which I’m often mistakenly called. Because my father was also a Davis (actually he went by “Dave”), I became known as “Davie,” which I dropped as soon as I got to college. My son also has the first name of “Davis,” but we call him by his middle name, Daniel. I don’t know who or why somebody came up with the “Whiteman” part – it might’ve seemed like a good idea at the time (1800s), but is definitely awkward in this modern multicultural era. It’s actually pronounced “White-mun,” a small consolation.

Now what was your question again?

Oh, yeah … something about how you want to show your genitals at work. This is not something I’d recommend for most professional workplaces. While it may be essential for certain jobs in adult entertainment and, more recently, the real estate industry (“I’ll show you mine if you buy this house”), most of the dress-for-success literature out there strongly suggests dressing. If you’re a woman, you may want to stay away from pant suits; if you’re a man, I’d avoid putting flowers in your hair.

Electronic and telephonic communications are admittedly a little more problematic. For email, I think you can solve the problem merely by using pink paper for emails if you’re a girl and blue paper for emails if you’re a boy. On the phone, just talk in a real high-pitched squeaky voice if you’re a girl and a booming low-pitched baritone if you’re a boy. As an added flourish, make passing references to Barbie dolls or rocket-propelled grenades, as appropriate.

Website Review: PowerJuicer.com

June 12, 2009

When I think of a piece of raw nature that’s been processed and warped by modern technology into a strained derivative of its true self, I think of Jack LaLanne and I think of his Power Juicer.

For those of you who may have been living underwater for the last 50 years (perhaps with a large fish strapped to your back and your ankles bound in chains), Jack LaLanne is the near-centenarian who was the original exercise guru. After transforming himself from a scrawny, boil-infested teenager in 1920s California into the well-built muscleman who defined the concept of high-waisted fitness in the fifties and sixties, LaLanne has reached the ripe old age of 95 and now rules an army of food processors on steroids. His commercials advertising this product are a common sight on late-night television.

LaLanne is still alive and kicking – though some might define it more as a twitching and spasming – despite a career that would’ve killed lesser men. He opened the nation’s first modern health club in 1936, his Physical Culture Studio of  Oakland. After premiering the imaginatively titled “Jack LaLanne Television Show” in 1951, he kept himself in the limelight with a series of physical feats that seemed both impossible and ridiculous. He towed a 13-ton boat through the Golden Gate Channel and later swam the entire length of the bridge twice underwater. He swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf with his hands cuffed and his feet shackled. At age 66, he filled ten boats with 77 people and dragged these through the water for over a mile in less than an hour.

Now, in an achievement that puts these insane exercises to shame, LaLanne can claim to have sold over 2 million Power Juicers to an American public starving for pulverized spinach and asparagus sap. To see how it’s done, I’m visiting the Internet’s “official ultimate juicing site,” www.powerjuicer.com, for this week’s Website Review.

The home page shows the three best-selling models of juicers – the Pro, the Classic and the Deluxe – and a mom introducing her young children to the joys of juice. The 3600-RPM induction-powered appliance sits on a counter in the foreground while the kids pose with their juice glasses bottoms-up. Despite the fact that the boy’s left hand, or gnarled stump, is hidden behind a bowl of fruit, the juicer claims to be so safe that not one person has ever died in its whirring maw of “surgical quality stainless steel blades.”

There are actually five models offered for sale at the site. In addition to the three mentioned above, there’s also the Express and the Elite, and sell for between $100 and $150. Though the many features of all five are painstakingly bullet-pointed, I’m having a hard time figuring out what’s different about them. All seem to advertise whisper-quiet operation, non-drip spouts, extra-large chutes to accommodate any fruit short of a watermelon, and special patented extraction technology. The only standout I see is that the Elite comes with something called “soy technology.” If you pay your entire bill upfront, you also qualify for a bonus accessory pack that includes a platform, fruit-based skincare treatments and juice club “mermbership.”

The pulldown of frequently asked questions covers routine information such as how to order, shipping times and weight, and warranty specs, but also contains some fairly disturbing actual customer queries. “Why won’t the power turn on?” asks one. It may have overheated. “Why is my Power Juicer clogged?” We hope you didn’t try to put bananas or avocados in there. “How can I make smoothies if you can’t add milk, yogurt or ice?” You can’t. “How can I juice carrots?” These can be a bit challenging. “Can I use wheatgrass in my Power Juicer?” Why would you want to do that? “Can I put melon rind in the Juicer?” Yes, but no: “we don’t recommend leaving the rind on due to recent cases of salmonella contamination,” but they add “this is a personal preference.”

There’s a “Healthy Living” section with generic tips such as “think local!” and how to get the most out of your compost pile. They suggest you line the bottom of your pile with sticks and twigs to help the organic material break down, and avoid putting meat scraps or bones in your compost because they tend to attract scavengers, not to mention local police detectives.

There are some “reviews,” though they’re really more like testimonials from happy juicers. A soldier in Iraq, in an email described as “unclassified,” says her husband dropped 30 pounds when he “started juicing daily.” (Hard to imagine a fully equipped infantryman lugging a kitchen appliance under his body armor, but combat stress does strange things to people.) Another writes they “want to thank you for making a great juicer, I juice every days, I mix all kinds of fruit and veg. I feel great been juicer with Jack LaLanne juicer since I got about 5 years ago thank again.” “I have had a burning desire to buy this juicer,” says another correspondent. “I forgot to mention that I was told I have level 2 invasive melanoma” (hopefully not from the soy technology), writes a customer who still watches the infomercials. “Thank you Jack LaLanne! You are a blessing to humanity.”

The rest of the pulldowns are considerably less inspirational. The “Press” section quotes InStyle Magazine as saying that Paula Abdul’s prized piece of equipment is a Power Juicer. Terrance Howard juices beets, carrots, celery and ginger with grape juice, according to a 2006 issue of Stuff. There’s Kelly Ripa on the cover of OK! telling how she’ll save her marriage, and Angelina Jolie talking about how she’ll be getting another adopted child, presumably in exchange for pulp. The “Juice Club” part encourages members to “go raw,” and claims that colorful citrus fruits will give the “carcinogens in you a swift kick.” (Personally, I’d rather not make them mad.) A “Juicing Tips” part touts the benefits of not having to use enzymes to digest and break down your food, and offers Bobbi Sue’s Pineapple Wheatgrass recipe – a pineapple spear, a handful of wheatgrass and a handful of spinach.

Ultimately, though, I keep coming back to the “About Jack LaLanne” section to find the true essence of what makes the story of the Power Juicer so powerful, and so juicy. He tells how his first juicer was over a yard wide and weighed 60 pounds. He describes how, when first introduced to good nutrition as a teenager, he went home that night and prayed “Dear God or somebody, I need help.” He talks about how giving your body the right fuel is like giving your automobile the right gas, but stops short of endorsing an ethanol-based energy policy.

In the end, it’s all about being an example for our children, though it’s not clear whether Jack and his wife, Elaine LaLanne (seriously), had any offspring. “Too many (children) are living on hot dogs, candy bars, ice cream and fast food,” he says. “Why not get them juicing? Make them frozen treats out of juice. Get juicing! I cannot stress enough the benefits of juicing.”

Jack with pulleys (NOT David Carradine)

Jack with pulleys (NOT David Carradine)

Half-Fake News: Job opening in N. Korea

June 11, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea (June 9) – Succession plans to name a new leader of North Korea in light of the declining health of current dictator Kim Jong-il took on another wrinkle yesterday as the 68-year-old strongman announced he was now accepting resumes from interested applicants.

The position, listed appropriately on Monster.com, is described as “chairman of the national defense commission, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army and general secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea.” Candidates should have a four-year degree in business or management, be willing to relocate, and have a strong contempt for underlings. The selected applicant will receive the title “dear leader” and will need a haircut. Compensation will be commensurate with experience.

The much-feared Kim, whose name is shortened from the family name “Kymberli,” is reportedly unhappy with his three male heirs-apparent. The oldest son, Kim Jong Nam, had been considered the front runner until he embarrassed the family eight years ago trying to sneak into Japan to visit Tokyo’s Disneyland. Middle son Kim Jong Chol was said to be “too wimpy,” according to an insider account written by the family’s former sushi chef. He was last seen at the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) qualifying school trying to get his tour card.

It appeared last month that youngest son Kim Jong Un would become head of the volatile nuclear-armed nation when the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper wrote that North Koreans were singing a song hailing Un, who we’ll call “Rob” to avoid Kim confusion, as “Commander Kim.” But father Kim may have soured on junior as reports emerged about certain indiscretions witnessed at the Swiss college he attended.

While enrolled at the International School of Bern, Rob assumed the pseudonym Pak Chol, socialized with the children of U.S. diplomats and became a fan of basketball great Michael Jordan, action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme, and former Monkee Peter Tork. Though he reportedly most resembles his father in looks, personality, charisma and thirst for power, Rob is thought to be an intellectual lightweight and even more of a dick.

Kim Jong-il, whose nicknames include “Intelligent Leader” and “Parka Boy,” took over from his father who died of a heart attack in 1994. During his career, he is suspected of having ordered an attack that murdered 17 South Korean officials visiting Burma, and of masterminding the bombing of a civilian airliner that killed all 115 on board. His voice has been broadcast only once, in 1992, when he approached the microphone during a military parade and said “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the People’s Army!” A voiceprint analysis characterized him as a contralto.

Various sources claim that Kim either died in late 2003 and has been replaced by stand-ins since then, or that he suffered a stroke in 2008. Either way, he is said to have a fear of flying and, during a trip to Russia, had live lobsters air-lifted to his train every day, which he ate with silver chopsticks. He is a huge film buff (his favorites include Friday the Thirteenth, Twilight and Rambo), wrote a book called On the Art of the Cinema, and kidnapped a South Korean director and his actress wife to build a North Korean movie industry. He has also composed six operas and enjoys staging elaborate musicals.

Job applicants are encouraged to use Monster’s resume writing service, which will craft a professional, keyword-rich resume that stands out in a crowd. North Korea’s population is about 23 million, so be sure to highlight your people skills.