The perpetual gullibility of the human race provides an unending cavalcade of hilarity. We believe – sometimes because we want to, sometimes because the hoaxsters and peddlers of smarm know how to take advantage of our weak moments. For the born-again skeptics, no phenomenon travels in this world without an accompanying explanation stuffed into its baggage. Most folks believe there might be something to the unseen – that’s where the scammers step in.
When Kate and Margaret Fox discovered at a young age (12 and 15 respectively) that with tremendous ease they could convince their family and community that they could communicate with the deceased, it must have been a revelation. The world is ripe and ready for free-form plucking once you convince it that your fingertips hold a quiver of magic. The Fox sisters learned this when they were young enough to be gobsmacked by their success, yet old enough to work it into a career.
Or maybe it’s all true. Maybe they did possess the gift of gab with the dearly departed. After all, the spiritualism movement that ensued in their wake included a number of intellectual heavyweights and revered luminaries. Though when push comes to push-overs, I think I’ll side with the skeptics on this one.
Kate and Margaret lived in an allegedly haunted house in a place called Hydesville in northwestern New York. In 1848, when the girls were the ages I mentioned above, strange noises began oozing through the floorboards. The girls began communicating with this mysterious spirit: Kate would snap her fingers and the ghost would repeat the sequence. The spirit would tap out the girls’ ages. Eventually, a system developed by which the ethereal stranger could answer yes-no questions through its otherworldly tapping. Read more…
My wife hates April Fools’ Day.
She has a legitimate reason, stemming from the scar-worthy childhood trauma of watching one of her friends get April-Fooled into a lengthy scavenger hunt for a brand new puppy by his parents, only to discover the final prize was nothing but a prank. Were she not the empathetic soul I know her to be, I might assume this to be an elaborate act of transference on her memory’s part, that this may have happened to her; thankfully my in-laws aren’t quite so cruel.
I have always maintained an appreciation for a meticulously blueprinted ruse, provided the only perpetrated harm is the gloppy egg of embarrassment upon the face of one’s target. Every few years some news outlet or public pulpit successfully melds a crafty sense of humor with their automatic public earpiece and delivers a delicious morsel of weirdness to justify April Fools’ Day’s presence on our calendars.
A quality media prank is a rickety bridge above the chasm of banality and/or outright stupidity. One needs to find the threshold of credulity and glide one’s words upon it without causing a rupture in believability. We see this every so often when an article from The Onion or The Daily Currant makes its way as gospel into people’s Facebook feeds. When executed poorly, it’s a bad joke. When done right, it’s art.
That Swiss lady plucking fresh pasta from her spaghetti tree was the talk of the British water coolers on the morning of April 2, 1957, after the BBC had run a story about the popular agricultural phenomenon the night before. The show was Panorama, a current-affairs, 60 Minutes-style show that’s still on the air today, and the gag was delivered without punchline. The segment focussed on a family in Ticino, northern Switzerland, as they reaped the bounty of a hearty winter spaghetti harvest, having defeated the nasty spaghetti weevil. Read more…
Somehow I have resisted the overwhelming urge to adorn my lawn with kitschy trinkets and cutesy personalization. I prefer to express my individuality with my neighbors via the curious stench of empty liquor bottles and spring-thaw dog poo that meanders with the wind around my block. If someone opted to drop a plastic flamingo, a giant painted ladybug rock or a foot-high windmill replica into my possession as a gift, I would not display it in my yard.
I wouldn’t worry about offending that someone either – obviously if they gave me a gift like that they don’t know me at all.
But I don’t judge. Some people like to scatter tchotchkes around their yard like arbitrary sprinkles on a big green donut. That’s their thing, and as long as they don’t overdo it, I won’t criticize. Hell, it’s probably an effective way of giving people directions (“Turn right at the gas station, left at the tree shaped like two copulating ferrets, and mine is the brick house on the left with the sexy flower goddess out front.”).
So simple! And so disturbing.
But what really gets me is the gnomes.
Garden gnomes. They’re mythical creatures, I get it. But you don’t see a lot of homes with a minotaur or a three-testicled bat-wing unicorn out front (hey, I make up my own myths. So what?). The gnome phenomenon is no more offensive or weird than the pink plastic flamingo displays, except that they have inspired a bizarre wave of deviance among those who feel the lawn statuettes should be “liberated” in order to grant them the freedom that their mythical equivalents would treasure. Read more…
It was a crime chiseled from the musty grey stone of infamy. In its weary aftermath, a nation would rub its sweat-stung eyes, check itself in the mirror and know that nothing would ever appear the same again. The air would forever be bathed in a perpetual murk, and where once strangers could pass one another without subconsciously clenching a suspicious knobby fist, now all that remained was an atmosphere of collective mistrust.
The foolhardy among us paused mid-chortle to label this a ‘victimless crime’. Those flippant voices have grown dusty and cracked in the years since. We exist in a world of tinted light and soul-slicing angular shadows now. Our distractions have come to serve as our collective therapy. Not a tear-choked throat among us will ever forget where they were the night the Tree went missing.
The Stanford Tree. That chlorophyll-oozing bastion of our humanity that was forever desecrated by the heinous actions of the Phoenix Five. It pains me so much to relive this agony-soaked affair I must bite down on a gauze-wrapped Nerf dart just to keep from crying out in anguish as my words stab the screen. But this is how we cope. We tell the story.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The Stanford student body decided in 1972 to purge their sporting community of its symbolic racism by abandoning its Indian mascot and seeking something more universal and less genocide-y. The mighty Tree arose as a student body joke, mocking the administration’s lack of commitment to a new identity beyond the color ‘cardinal’. Since then the Stanford Tree has come to symbolize harmony, warmth and joyous flora. The Tree was more than a symbol – it was the very embodiment of all that was good and positive in the world. Read more…
The month of June is one often scowled at by office drones such as myself every year. Sure, we dads get a little love on the third Sunday, but there isn’t a single day off throughout the entire month. Where’s the joy? What do I do with that innate vibration in my gut that always wants to celebrate something, yet never gets around to telling my employer that I want to take all the Jewish holidays off, even though I don’t celebrate them?
The answer is simple: National Doughnut Day.
This is not some arbitrary corporate-concocted product of Big Dunkin’, looking for an excuse to move a hefty sum of Marble Frosted Cocoa goodness out the front door in June. This is a real thing stemming from good intentions.
And it gives me an excuse to write about doughnuts, so even if I don’t get the day off, I’m happy.
Leave it to the good people of Chicago to come up with something as fantastic as a day to celebrate the simple doughnut. The tale actually begins back in 1917 when the US wandered onto the stage of the first World War. The Salvation Army, looking to ease the burden for the troops, set up special ‘huts’ that would serve them baked goods, stitch up their torn uniforms and provide them with stationary and stamps to send notes to their families back home. One problem – it wasn’t easy setting up ovens and bringing in supplies to bake fresh treats for the soldiers every day. Read more…
If you’re a struggling video game developer, looking for some kind of hook to propel you into the elite ranks of… of various elite video game developers (sorry, no names come to mind here), there’s a simple answer. Find yourself a celebrity who’s willing to slap their name on your product. That derivative basketball game you created would sell a lot more copies with LeBron James allowing his face on the cover. Made a tennis game? Negotiate with a Williams Sister. Want to move a few million units of that realistic skeet shooting simulator? See of you can snag the rights to 2011 world champion Juan Jose Aramburu. It probably won’t be hard.
But this is all old news. Every gamer has probably invested a few hours in a Madden Football game, Tiger Woods Golf, or if they’re old enough, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. But I’m more interested in the stranger celebrity video games.
Stuff like Shaq Fu.
Most people remember Shaquille O’Neal as one of the greatest basketball players of the 1990’s, or perhaps as the guy who popularized size-22 shoes. But to adherents of GameBoy, Super Nintendo, Game Gear and Sega Genesis, he was also a master of kung fu. In this poorly-conceived game – which happened around the same time Shaq was also pretending to be a rapper and a movie star – you play as Shaq, trying to rescue a boy from an evil mummy in another dimension. Read more…