Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monkey See; Monkey Do; Monkey Stab

(AP) Chimpanzees living on the West African savanna have been observed fashioning spears from sticks and using them to hunt small mammals — the first routine production of deadly weapons observed in animals other than humans.

Full article.

This is pretty amazing. It wasn’t so long ago that we (as humans) started out on our tool-making path that went from spears to wheels to iPods. Chimpanzees have used other tools before: they’ve made hooks for catching termites and employed flat rocks for opening nuts. But, this is just the first time they’ve willfully constructed a weapon, so it’s only a matter of time before they’re hunting while sporting white earbuds.

Apparently spear making is a learned-skill, as it’s spread throughout the primate troop where it was first observed. One has to wonder if we left this band of chimp-geniuses alone, what kind of society would they build up: would they live in vine-covered high-rises; or create a banana-based stock market? Would Britney Spears still be famous, or would they just have a bald chimp wearing a blond wig?

And philosophically, it really calls into question whether we, as a species, are that unique. One of our defining characteristics is supposed to be tool use. Why we shouldn’t be surprised. And why we should prepare for the inevitable chimp uprising.

Here’s the chilling scientist quote:

After stabbing their prey, they [the chimps] removed the injured or dead animal and ate it. Lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University in Ames said it reminded her of the shower scene in "Psycho."

Brrrrr. Problem is there was only one Norman Bates and there must be, I dunno, like a billion psycho chimps out there. By the way, this is what they’re killing: a cute, but tiny, primate-squirrel called a bushbaby:
If intelligent chimps have no qualms about brutally murdering these adorable little scamps, do you think they’d hesitate for a second before taking a swing at us?

To summarize: animals are not just stronger than us, faster than us and often pointier than us—now they're also armed. God help us.

Monday, February 26, 2007

NYTimes says: Don't Go to College, You Dumbasses

The NY Times argues that college might not be worth it for everyone:

“I just think that we need more of our kids going to school,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

But given that 45% of U.S. high-school graduates already enroll in four-year colleges, how dire can this “need” be?...Not all school-children have the intellectual capacity to reach “basic achievement” levels. In college, similar limitations apply. The number of Americans with the brains to master the most challenging college classes, is probably closer to 15% than 45%.

If you're one of the lucky 15% who can read words and sentences, then Check it out here. (via Slog)

For the rest of us, where do we go? If only there was a fully accredited College of Colorful Pictures and Shiny Objects.

The article does rightly point out that there are many non-educational benefits to college. A big one is networking for future business contacts. Also, if you carry a light class load it can serve as a de facto retirement from the working grind before you’re too old to enjoy it. A nice little “pre-tirement” if you will. And statistically, there’s no better place to find your future spouse and current not-quite-a-spouse-if-you-get-my-drift then during your university years.

But as for book learning, the author might just have a point: 4 years will not prepare one properly for ANY type of job. Or make one well rounded with ANY proper roundedness. On graduation day, your computer skillz are already outdated; your German philosophers are already long dead; and the student loans start getting called back in.

To solve the problem, we just need to agree that College is like the new High School. Graduate School is the new College.

And High School, as always, is a filthy animal holding pen.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Q & A session regarding my recent trip to NYC

Q: So I understand you went to New York 2 weeks ago?

A: Yeah. Originally I was going to go to escort a 73-year old woman [seriously] through JFK airport. But then she cancelled and I ended up going to just visit Scott.

Q: So…what’d you do there?

A: Well I’ve done all the touristy stuff on previous visits. Scott’s a great host and I mostly wanted to follow him around and see what he’s dedicating himself to. He’s in the entertainment industry and is living a completely alternative lifestyle to working in an office. Instead of waking up at 6AM, he was going to sleep at 6AM after a night of doing shows and networking. And there’s this whole bizarre hierarchy of fame. Some people have headshots, some have show credits, some get paid, and some don’t. Everyone seems to know everyone else and what they do. It’s how I imagine LA is.

Q: What did you learn? We’re there important life learnings?

A: That professional stand-ups definitely have a tough job—but Scott manages to make a living at it. That nothing is easy. And that life is suffering. But that last one might just be because it was like –10 degrees. Also Scott recommended some good books, which I’m about to read.

Q: Did you see any famous celebrities like Robert DeNiro or the Angelina Jolie?

A: Sit down, but I saw Judah Friedlander in a restaurant! I didn’t go up to him or anything, but he was eating food…just like a normal person would.

Q: Wow, eating food, huh? That’s a really great story, but who’s that?

A: An actor, he was one of the co-stars of American Splendor

Q: (stare)

A: You know, the movie biopic about Harvey Pekar, the curmudgeonly comic-book writer. It also starred Paul Giametti and Hope Davis and several non-actors including Pekar himself. It got nominated for some awards.

Q: (stare)

A: Judah Friedlander also had bit roles in some lamentable Ben Stiller comedies.

Q: Oh, OK I’ve heard of him. So was New York just like a New Yorker cartoon, was there plenty of cocktail party chatter on the Upper Eastside? Or was it more like “Escape from New York” with mutant gangs and burning cars?

A: As far as I can tell, NYC is nothing but black-clad mutant gang socialites making cocktail banter, going to gallery openings and blowing up Broadway.

Q: Can you compare and contrast NYC with your own chosen city, Seattle?

A: In someways they’re similar. They’re both are hip-ish and liberal; both are surrounded by water. Both got lots of educated young people driving up rents. And now that New York got rid of it’s nasty murder rate from the 80’s, it’s become this kind of social playground for beautiful people. Seattle is sort of like that too, but with more salmon. We’re both heavy users of Craigslist, iPods, public transit and new technologies. We’re plugged into the same pop-culture trends.

Q: OK, now what about the contrasts?

A: Well obviously NYC is freaking huge. So in a sense, there are many, many New York Cities. I’ve only seen a slice of it, but it’s an ambitious city. Seattle is a very unambitious city. Life here is easier in Seattle with milder weather and cheaper amenities all around. People are more polite and you don’t typically wait in line for things. And the people are extremely laid-back, which is nice, but overall there’s a lack of Northwestern drive.

Oh and we we’re in a regular Manhattan bar and they wanted $6 for a beer—for a Bud Lite! Can you imagine? How can people live like that? In my mind they’re no better than animals.

Q: Did you inadvertently insult any strangers?

A: Yes of course, but I’d rather talk about something else. Like the city tabloids! We don’t have them here (or in any other city besides London) but NYC has 2 tabloid papers the NY Post and the NY Daily News and they are pure absurdity. I think unintentionally. In the headlines, they use the $-sign for the letter “S”. They make up absurd puns about the trashiest news stories…like they dedicated a whole reporting section to the lede “Diaper-Donning Lady Astro-Nut is a Space Case!” (referring of course to Lisa Nowak)

The tabloids also provided many unsubstantiated “sightings” with tantalizing headlines such as “Which Mets Player Was Seen in SoHo cheating on his wife!?” But then they refuse to identify the man, probably because they just made up the story.

And they had a “Detailed Debunking of Global Warming” that went along the lines of:

It’s so cold out now…so Al Gore is a friggin’ liar…so why don’t that jagoff pump some greenhouse gases back to my apartment in Queens?

Clearly you can’t even argue with logic like that.

Q: So you did insult strangers?

A: At a bar, a girl from festive party approached us gave us cupcakes. One of us said thank you and to told her that it looks like a fun baby shower. Turns out, it was a birthday party, not a baby shower and she went back and whispered something to the one pregnant-looking friend. Who immediately shrieked, “WHAT!?”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Washington's Birthday

Dear George Washington,

Happy Birthday! I can’t believe you’re really 275? Because you look far too good—you can't tell a lie-- but you must be lying about your age since you look younger than 200.

When I look in my wallet I see you on the dollar, on the quarter, and on my driver’s license. My state is even named after you and the silhouette of you wigged-head is on all the highway signs.

Not to mention the nation’s capitol and about half of its elementary schools are called Washington. When I tried to spray-paint graffiti on Mt. Rushmore this summer, I couldn’t help but sense your presence, like you were almost there, looking at me with disapproval.

What I’m saying is I think of you all the time.

That’s why I wonder what you’d think of the country you started all these years later. Our culture is in decline with modern teenagers and their violent video games; and their loud raps; and of course their crass Founding Fathers Erotic Fiction:

George Washington looked up from the steaming hot-tub, chest glistening in the moonlight. He was strong for a gentleman-plantation owner with surprisingly well-muscled back and shoulders.

He called out to Thomas Jefferson, who was working late into the night with his smooth, sinewy arms scrawling his ink quill across early drafts for the new nation's Contitution.

"Tom, the Constitutional Convention is not for another week hence. Why don’t you dally a bit and take a dip with me? The water’s fine and I’ve got something I need you to ratify."

If this pop-culture filth doesn’t signify out nation’s moral decay, I just don't know what does.

Sincerely appalled,

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Helpful Companies Want Their Helpful Products in Your Hoo-Ha

So these advertisments are certainly the spiritual ancestors of todays Norelco BodyGroom internet ads. Different look, but pretty much the same insecurities--this time for the ladies.

These come from 1948 courtesy of the Lysol Company. via

(click to enlarge)

text: the locks are labeld "Doubt", "Inhibition" and "Ignorance"

“Often a wife fails to realize that doubts due to one intimate neglect shut her out from happy married love.”

(click to enlarge)

text: “Why Does She Spend The Evenings Alone? She neglects that one essential…personal feminine hygiene.”

“Wives often lose the precious air of romance, doctors say, for lack of the intimate daintiness dependent on effective douching. For this, look to reliable Lysol brand disinfectant.”

Doctors said this? Intimate Daintiness, is that some kind of advanced medical jargon?

Bear in mind, this is the same Lysol used today to clean your stove. So: ouch! The same product was also marketed as a mouthwash and as a birth-control method. In the old-timey advertisements they couldn't say use it for birth-control, say they danced around the issue refering to sperm as "germs" Apparently this was the most popular female contraceptive from 1930 until 1960. The prevention rate is something like 20%. So besides burning some very sensitive tissues and disrupting the natural chemistry down under -- it doesn't actually work very well as birth control. Be sure to ask Grandma about it some time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Say Whuh?? Charlotte is better than New York City??

I more disagree than agree with this recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal (which is about par for the course), but it’s food for thought.


Joel Kotkin’s main premise is that high rents cause businesses to play-it-safe in the “superstar” cities (like New York, San Francisco, London) while true innovation and job growth is quietly happening in the “bridesmaid” cities (like Charlotte, Denver, Phoenix).

In recent years, Houston has replaced NYC as the nation’s energy capital. And little Charlotte has quietly become a major banking center passing up contenders such as Chicago, LA and San Francisco--only New York is bigger (for now).

And when I was in NYC last week I couldn’t help but notice big chains are everywhere. You get your coffee at Starbucks; a quick burrito at Chipotle. There was even a large-box K-Mart in Manhattan.

By the way these 3 companies originate from Seattle, Denver and Detroit respectively. All bridesmaids.

And presumably this applies to aspiring homeowners too. Imagine you’re a mid-level Wall Street analyst with a mortgage payment. Are you going to be rocking the boat at work? Well you’re probably going to keep your head down and sign off on your boss’ upcoming report on Enron’s awesome profit outlook.

And remember the Manhattan Project? It didn’t even happen in Manhattan—where’s the truth in advertising!? Anyway, food for thought.

One more thing, Kotkin seems to inject politics into his analysis where it just doesn’t belong—with a few gratuitous swipes at the fabled San Francisco hot tub liberal (this is the Wall Street Journal op-ed section after all). Are all-powerful liberals really running the world from their hot tubs, and if so, what’s keeping their glasses of Chardonnay from getting steamed up while they ban the bible and hate our troops?

Joel Kotkin can’t stand up to the awesome power of aging hippies, and like a coward leaves these important questions unanswered.

Monday, February 19, 2007

How to Succeed in Business

[Scene: Monday morning at the office coffee machine]

Co-worker: Good morning

Paul: Morning…nice hat is that new?

[co-worker is wearing a black toque with a red skull patch]

Co-worker: Yeah, I got it from my new boyfriend. He’s a rocker so he’s into skulls and crossbones and that kind of thing.

Paul: You know who else is? Pirates.

Co-worker: Yeah…I guess they are, but he’s not one, he plays lead guitar in a band.

Paul: Like a Band o’ Buccaneers?

Co-worker: [annoyed silence]

(Brain: stop being so stupid…talk about normal office things like the weather or traffic)

Paul: So, uh, how was your weekend?

Co-worker: All right, I hung out with my boyfriend and went to his show. And yours?

Paul: Nothing special, guess it was arrrgh-right--all right, it was all right.

(Brain: Stop that. crap.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jesus Shaves

Since it started happening to me, I’ve had an odd fascination with shaving. Specifically, how the large toiletry corporations got involved in a personal grooming ritual that is by all appearances very private. (My Bathroom's Tourist Motto: "What Happens in My Bathroom, Stays In My Bathroom") Gillette, Bic, Norelco, Schick, Braun. They’re all monsters by market capitalization and you'd think they'd be satisfied owning our faces. Oh no.

Recently, Norelco (now Phillips-Norelco) and their marketing team made the admittedly logical conclusion that they could sell more shaving equipment if men would only stop being so selfish and start shearing their entire body. So they came out with some internet ads for a product called BodyGroom (TM).

This is a recent article about it with a great tag-line.

How To Shave The Modern Male In which a helpful corporate giant encourages you to please groom your crotch. Truly [link via Slog]

The pitch is clear. Gary will tell you, straight out, that the Bodygroom will "help make your d-ck look bigger." This is a theme and a key selling point. He will also tell you, with a (winking) straight face, that the Bodygroom is "the convenient, easy, gentle way to make your genitals bloom." And if you ask him if women really prefer a well-groomed man, he will snicker in disbelief and barely be able to contain his laughter before composing himself, looking straight at the camera and deadpanning, "Yes, yes they do."

In fact, the opening introduction alone addresses your average American frat guy's naggingly homophobic concerns right from the start. Gary even admits to it himself: "Let me tell you, this whole issue [of genital grooming] used to make me quite un-comfortable. But now, with a hair-free back, well-groomed shoulders and an extra optical inch on my c-ck, let's just say life has gotten pretty darn cozy."

You will smile and say to yourself, wait, this is Philips Norelco? This is a major manufacturer of mountains of Chinese-made consumer products? Are they insane?

Oh my god, it's the most beautiful advertising message. Perhaps ever. Apparently BodyGroom is selling very well by making your genitals “bloom” like a precious rosebud and by adding an "optical inch" down there--stereotypical male insecurities. But is the optical inch really going to fool anyone? A woman must kinda like you to begin with just to see it—at which point she’s probably not on the fence anymore.

As with all important grooming decisions, one must ask what would Jesus do? Not shave apparently--the Bible is extremely specific on this topic.

Do. not. shave.

In Leviticus 19:27, God explicitly forbids shaving one's beard or the hair on the side of their head (sideburns). But here's the odd thing, God however was conspicuously silent on scrotal shaving. Old Testament and New Testament he had plenty of pages to forbade, or at least admonish-- but not a peep.

Bonus Link: One man’s horror as he discovers…the unthinkable.
Transsexual shaving cream can.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The G-Files: Case of the Last Will and Testament

Background: “G” is an all to real person although she may seem fictional. This is her story.

[Scene: Car interior in late December. Car is driving to local Barnes & Nobles for my parents’ Christmas gifts]

G: Paul, I was thinking, so what do you want me to give you for Christmas this year?

Paul: Well, we both hate the materialism of the season, which kinda makes everyone forget what’s really important. So I think I’d just like to get a simple…homemade…blowjob.

G: Ha ha!

Paul: No I’m completely serious.

G: Well I know what you can get me. Get me an address book…you know, for addresses. All I need is a book to write people’s addresses.

Paul: I can address that issue of yours.
[pause, but there is no laughter or acknowledgement]
Well anyway, you’re an easy woman to please, and I like it.

G: And I already know what I’m giving you for Christmas.

Paul: Ooh what, something festive? [I’m imagining a new laptop, or an espresso machine, or a 12-Days of Christmas set of blowjobs]

G: Are you ready?….A Living Will! Isn’t that cool? So if I’m in the hospital on breathing machines I’ll give you complete control to pull the plug. I’ve been reading about euthanasia and people can waste away in a vegetable state with no brain activity but the doctors will keep them hanging on. I’ll type up a legal document and wrap it up with a bow—that way you can decide when I’ll die.

Paul: [after a few horrified seconds] That…that is pretty much the worst Christmas gift I’ve ever heard of.

G: No it isn’t, it’s really good because it shows I trust you.

[We pull into the Barnes & Noble parking lot and seamlessly move to the next conversation topic, a raging argument about “Batman Begins”]

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Q: Are We Not Men? A: Well, about 10%

Scientists recently completed a DNA-based “census survey” of who’s living on our skin. No surprise, but we host a lot of bacteria. What is surprising is who they are: an estimated 250 species live on us, 8% are species previously unknown.

The exact mix will vary by individual, but pretty much everyone is hosting the 4 major players: Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Propionibacteria and Corynebacteria -- which together are about 54% of the skin mix.

And Corynebacteria would be counted even more--but they were uncooperative when the census-takers knocked on their tiny, little doors.

In addition to the many permanent microbes, we’ve got a multitude of transient bacteria on the skin. So not only are homeless microbes begging for change and building filthy trashcan fires, they’re doing it on our genitals. And scientists, for some reason, want us to know this.

And that’s just scratching the surface. The real story is what’s inside us…estimates are that bacteria started living inside animals a billion years ago, and have evolved inside us, with us. It’s a wet, warm environment for them and they do some useful things for us like breaking down food, cleaning up debris and fighting off harmful bacteria.

The researchers noted that microbes in the human body actually outnumber human cells 10-to-1. Our microbes are actually, in essence, a part of our body.

In essence what we think of as “us” is not really 100% human after all. That's depressing. Thanks for nothing, Science.

[link via]

Only tangentially related…15 awesome microorganism photos and one smoking hot micro-centerfold. (Miss February - Cynoglossum officinale)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Today in Unnecessary Nakedness

In the right time and place, naked can be a beautiful thing. The gym I frequent is not such a place.

Socrates might ask of his fellow philosophers, “Is it--or is it not-- appropriate to be sitting completely naked in front of Paul’s gym locker casually reading a book on executive management?”

And the philosophers would answer in unison, “Master, it is certainly not!”

But there’s an executive manager out there who disagrees with the wisdom of the ancients and he’s not visually pleasing.

Perhaps more understandable, but still unsettling: last week’s long naked discussion in front of my locker regarding riding lawnmowers with another gym patron. Also naked. Not just a naked hello, but a full naked conversation with many naked, naked follow-up questions regarding blade-height and horsepower.

And it’s not even lawn-care season!

And then there’s today, where yet another casually unclothed gym patron initiates a conversation, this time with me:

“So are you like watching the Super Game this weekend? I wonder if during the Break Time Show there will be another Clothing Mis-fire.”

The correct terms he should’ve used are: Super Bowl; Half-Time Show; and Wardrobe Malfunction.

I’m pretty clueless about sports, but even I know that people don’t talk like that. The only reasonable assumption is that he’s actually an alien majoring in Anthropology at Mothership University.

And he must be failing because ANTH 101 teaches that traditional human costumes for conversation between non-intimates consist of cloth draped over our bodies. In football terms, he would be flagged with a 10-yard penalty for unnecessary nakedness.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Super Broker Shuffle

Apparently the Chicago Bears are going back to the Super Bowl. Last time they went in 1985, they weren’t just a team, but a cultural phenomenon. Having lived through 1985, I can attest that even an oblivious kid could not escape Bears on TV, Bears on the radio, Bears in car advertisements. I think they did something for McDonalds.

The pinnacle of their cultural relevance was undoubtedly “The Super Bowl Shuffle”. Before the big game, most of the entire team participated in a group “rap” with much shuffling awkwardness. It was on the radio, it was on MTV. It was everywhere.

The track even reached #41 on the Billboard charts. It was a confusing time for all of us.

As awkward as it was seeing ham-fisted athletes act like musicians/dancers, it was soon eclipsed by the SUPER BOWL of AWKWARD later that year. I refer of course, to the lesser-known “Super Broker Shuffle”. Unfortunately this never made the Billboard charts:

There are really no words to describe this further.

Timothy Noah Tears Baby Einstein a New One

Of the many good scribes at Slate, I really like Tim Noah. And this article shows why. He does his research, understands the issues and keeps an obscure topic lively.

Read it here.

Long story short, the Baby Einstein Company founder sat next to the First Lady during the President’s recent State of the Union address. Every year, a few lucky American Heroes get this honor. This year there were 3:

1) That guy who recently jumped under a NYC subway to save a stranger
2) A soldier in Iraq who fought off an enemy attack with shrapnel in his legs and bullets in his arms
3) The woman who started the Baby Einstein Company – they make videos for babies.

This is an example of a puzzle for babies called “which one doesn’t belong here

So anyway, she’s rich now and in 2004, she and her husband gave $5,000 to the Republican National Committee. Probably just a coincidence.

When the Baby Einstein founder writes into Slate to argue about being treated unfairly, Noah’s reply is even more researched and twice as damning:

Choice quote concerning Baby Einstein’s claims to making your baby smarter through the magic of TV:

By all accounts, what Baby Einstein videos are really good for is distracting the baby while Mom or Dad sneaks off to take a shower. I'm a parent myself, and I well remember those moments when a baby could feel like the commandant of a particularly inhumane prisoner-of-war camp. (No, you may not go to the toilet! I don't care how long you've been waiting!) But you didn't market these videos under the brand name Baby Hypnotize or Baby Chloroform. You marketed them under the name Baby Einstein. That's deceptive.

Ha, Baby Chloroform! Most parents actually call them Baby Crack (no really). And the parallels are uncanny:

1) Babies can’t get enough of them - much like crack
2) You can only buy it from unsavory characters (Baby Einstein is now part of Disney Corp)
3) Babies kind of act like crack-addicts to begin with: both are incomprehensible; concerned only about their own needs; often soiled

[Regarding the video cover image above: would you trust a giraffe who appears to only be wearing a partial tuxedo top without any pants to watch over your children? No matter how musically inclined he is, that doesn't seem like a prudent choice.]