Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Legislation Regarding Bird Poop

While opportunistically browsing in Wikipedia, among forbidden places for the putative intelligensia, I happened to come upon this curious entry:

The Guano Islands Act (11 Stat. 119, enacted 18 August 1856, codified at 48 U.S.C. ch.8 §§ 1411-1419) is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress that enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other governments. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States.

    -- From Wikipedia.

In other words, unlike Congress's usual pattern of wrapping their legislative poop in attractive-sounding packaging, Congress back in 1856 literally passed an Act regarding physical bird poop, known to the gentle as guano!   

What are these bird poop paradises that altimately had the Stars and Stripes places over them?  Here are a few; Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Johnston Island, Baker Island, Navassa Island, Jarvis Island, and others.  Don't think about booking a condo on Kingman Reef, these are uninhabited.  So, if you can go there, you can watch the birds, and wait for the next boat out.

Why this interest in bird poop?  Well, it seems that bird guano is a prime source of saltpeter, a substance used in making fertilizer, gunpowder, and as a perservative for foods! In short, it has commercial value.

In reading more about saltpeter, it was apparently rumored to be an antiaphrodisiac, a substance that reduces libido in people.  Generations of soldiers and high school boys apparently believed that their food had this kind of adulterant in it to make them, er, behave a little better?

So, maybe we have some questions here.  Why did Congress enact this?  Was it in anticipation of firepower needs for the looming Civil War, or to help scientific agriculture, or food preservation, or even to make their constitutents behave better before abstinence was discovered as an alternative? 

Also, what kind of dialogue and discussion accompanied this Act?  Did Members of Congress make a lot of bird poop jokes?  This is a fertile topic for someone needing a master's thesis topic.

Courting albatrosses

Not possible on Kingman Reef


Monday, October 29, 2012

Supernormal Stimuli and Bulgarian Airbags

Evolution has over long stretches of time allowed species to deal adaptively with the basic problems of life in the prehistoric environment. However, with the rapid changes taking place in modern life, the glacial pace of the evolutionary changes no longer as easily allows species to adapt very well. This even affects us humans; for example, we are bombarded by a number of larger-than-life temptations such as supersized take-out food, candy bars, and improbable pornography, each of which impact on instinctive drives with dangerous results. 

This is where supernormal stimuli come in.  A supernormal stimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus that causes an instinctive behavior to take place.

In the 1930s Dutch ethologist Niko Tinbergen found that oystercatchers that lay small, pale blue eggs speckled with grey preferred to sit on giant, bright blue plaster dummies with black polka dots.

Using gulls, Tinbergen's students found that mother birds preferred to try feeding a fake baby bird beak held on a stick if the dummy beak was wider and redder than a real chick's.

Male stickleback fish ignored a real male to fight a dummy if its underside was brighter red than any natural fish. Tinbergen coined the term "supernormal stimuli" to describe these unreal substitutes. These stimuli appeal to primitive instincts; but paradoxically exert a stronger attraction than the real-life counterparts. 

Most supernormal stimuli are contrived; though in rare cases they may occur in nature due to random variation. Since oystercatchers do not deliberately manufacture brightly-hued, oversized plaster eggs; that was not a factor in the oystercatcher’s environment. But the addition of a new element, the meddling by homo sapiens, changed the rules completely.  Bird brains could not handle those supernormal stimuli.

Are humans affected by supernormal stimuli? Evolutionary psychologist Deirdre Barrett suggests in her book Supernormal Stimuli that we do: ours are mostly contrived: very sweet drinks, foods containing high amounts of fats (such as French fries or biscuits made with lard), stuffed animals with infantile features, and so forth. These specific stimuli in their naturally-occurring forms draw out instinctive patterns of behavior that make it easier to perform adaptive behaviors relating to survival or reproductive motives; however, in their excessive, supernormal condition they can possibly harm our physical or psychological well-being. (For example, we have an inborn preference for sweet-tasting substances as those ar related to increased energy; but the prehistoric environment did not have the superabundance of those that can be available very easily today.

Some examples in which the human perceptual environment has been changed through deliberate contriving can be seen in the form of toy animals with hyperinfantile features (e.g., Care Bears, My Little Pony), the use make-up, and with large-sized candy bars.

And we should not overlook supersized breast implants, once known as Bulgarian airbags.  The story behind this slang expression is that a woman who had supersized in this way was in an automobile accident, but avoided serious injury because of the extra cushioning from her new breasts implants gotten in Bulgaria.  Anyway, breasts that are sized out of the ordinary, whether due to nature or contrivance, are very likely to draw attention to the possessor.  Maybe this is why larger-sized breast implants are more common in the L.A. and Las Vegas areas.



Barrett, Deirdre. Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, W.W. Norton, NY, NY. 2009, 224 pp, IBSN 978-0393068481 US $24.95.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

St. Augustine on Flatulence at Will

The casually-held dichotomy between voluntary and involuntary behaviors has long been held; despite suggestive evidence that, under some conditions, behaviors viewed as reflexive or involuntary can be voluntarily emitted.

One of these unsung skills is the ability to fart at will.  St. Augustine of Hippo, in his work The City of God reported that some men  "have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at will, so as to produce the effect of singing".   He thought that the loss of this charming ability originated with the first sin of Adam and Eve.  That was an expensive apple!

This form of entertainment was mentioned by Rabelais, among others.  Also, Joseph Pujol, a popular entertainer at the Folies Bergère, was known as Le Petomane.  He thrilled audiences with his ability to play tuneful flatuses!  Benjamin Franklin] wrote a work entitled Fart Proudly, so we have an early example of support for this art form among the Founding Fathers.  Well, probably not that old crank, John Adams.

Which leads to some questions: 
Suppose a Presidential candidate farted during a debate?  Would that adversely affect his showing, or would it forge a common bond with the listeners? 
Or suppose a preacher was enjoy a flatus while in the pulpit.  Would there be an odor of sanctity from it?
If you are on a date, is it okay to fart on the first date?  How much commited must you be to have this latitude?
Should not one of those arcane feminine skills imparted so that the possessor would seem more "ladylike" include being able to fart publicly without notice?  Clearly, our golfer is somewhat behind the curve on this one?
Dogs do it, as this children's book memorializes:
There are even regional differences as to acceptability.  For example, Matthew Richter, a yound man residing in Seattle, in a moment of excitement, accidently let loose a flatus while in the Public Market.  Everyone froze; no one said anything.
Poor Matthew was mortified.  He realized that he committed a monumental faux pas.  So he immediately abandoned his life in Seattle, and went off into exile in darkest Idaho, or was it Illinois?  One of those "I" states that polite people don't mention.  There, he lived in anonymity and lived a life satisfactory except for his secret shame.
Finally, after twenty-five years, he returned to Seattle.  He figured that, by this time, everyone would have forgotten his monumental blunder.  So this middle-aged Matthew, returning under an assumed name, happened to be in one of the Starbucks' near Elliott Bay. 
While enjoying his cappuchino, he overheard the barista talking about how old she was:
"I was born on the day, and in the very hour, that Matthew Richter let fly his fart!"

And that is why there is the well-known Seattle Freeze.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Political PSYOPS and Statistics

First, some fun quotations about statistics:

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. ~Gregg Easterbrook

98% of all statistics are made up. ~Author Unknown

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. ~Aaron Levenstein

Statistics can be made to prove anything - even the truth. ~Author Unknown

Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable. ~Author Unknown

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts - for support rather than for illumination. ~Andrew Lang

 Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say. ~William W. Watt

You get the drift.  Statistics are often derided or disrespected in quotes; but people react to numbers and statistics in real life quite differently.  Citing a number, no matter its provence, lends the weight of credibility to anything.  N
umbers impress people unduly; often without giving much thought into how they were obtained.  And this could even be used for dirty tricks in politics or making generalized alarming statements.  Actually, this might be a form of political psychological warfare.   (For all I know, the major parties might be deliberately doing this already.)  See this interesting article on military Psychological Operations:

PSYOPS includes the use of three types of information to impact on an adversary:  White PSYOPS, factual information, Black PSYOPS, out-and-out lies, and Gray PSYOPS, a mixture of truth and well-planted lies.

Let's consider a few possible examples that could be used.  Last year some Republican congressman from Kansas, while on a junket, went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee (a harmless fact though some tried to turn it into some sort of sacrilege.  Don't ever consider peeing in the Sea of Galilee).  But there was a big brouhaha about it.  I'm surprised that someone didn't manufacture a phony statistic such as, "44% of Republicans regularly skinny-dip;" which might have the intended effect of the type:

"The horror!  The horror!" 

Actually, that's a famed Joseph Conrad quote; and it did not involve going into that real Heart of Darkness, Washington.  Still, this could prompt a scary thought and negative attitude toward the political party mentioned in the false statistic.  [Somewhere I read that Democrats were more likely to do so; but the same caveat would apply to that assertion.]

Recently, a schoolteacher inadvertantly synchronized iPads intended for student use with her phone, and the students got to see quite a bit more of her than the lesson plan called for!  Can you imagine some tabloid carrying the hysterical headline: "Wave of topless teachers: 38% admit sending topless pictures of themselves to students!"  Strangely enough, the student recipients were suspended for receiving this unorthodox lesson. Possibly some readers might see a need to re-enroll in school; or at least go for a G.E.D.  And some schemer can turn it into a political slant by including the mention that most teachers tend to be Democrats. 

So much about nudity.  What about money?  Both parties have their plutocrats; but wish to see only the other party's moneybags mentioned in print.  But for theirs, the curtain of privacy and respect should prevail.  There's even more leverage if you link the money with organized crime.  "The Purple Gang is 84% Democrats!"  "39% of playground bullies are fund-raisers for the Republicans!"

But, also accusations of moral turpitude.  We can see this tangentially alluded to in lists like "Most Corrupt States," which are simply those that have less scope for corruption, or rarely make the news.  Is New Hampshire a corrupt state?  I don't know; but I suspect Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.  Also Louisiana, because I read the Times-Picyaune.  At least the corruption there is bipartisan.

Anyway, although this quote might be kind of heavy-handed: "State House corruption: 63% of Democrats are on the take"  without a parallel reportage on venal Republicans.  However, when it comes to persuading the simple-minded or the casual reader, it could be judiciously used.  The key to a successful lie is that it is embedded in truth.  Winston Churchill's epigram should be modified:  "In politics, a lie is so precious that it should always be attended by a bodyguard of truth."

Then there's pork: not the four-footed kind that oinks.  "What is pork?"  Possibly Pontius Pilate also asked that question once.  Pork is decidedly in the eye of the beholder.  Somehow, the Bridge to Nowhere seemed like a good idea in Alaska. 

Having said my piece on this, I somehow wonder if making up bogus statistics regarding the opposition might be like carrying coals to Newcastle.  After all, each major party is adept enough in shooting themselves in their feet without the use of Black or even Gray PSYOPS involvement.  White PSYOPS might suffice.  Years ago there was some Democrat running for President who mis-managed a photo-op enough that the Republicans used it in their counter propoganda!  And they didn't have to make up any numbers.*

*In science, that is referred to as "dry labbing."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Where the Baseball Rules of Intimacy Came From

Do you ever wonder where those baseball dating intimacy rules came from?  You know, no deep kissing on the first date, no access to second base before the fifth one, etc.?  These are the rules of engagement that the genteel crowd are expacted to play by.  If you transgress, you are to be tarnished with the label of "slut" or "dangerous baaaad guy."  Shame on you!

Of course you do; but you want to appear high-minded and above such thoughts to the world, don't you?  I thought so.  You're not that devious.

A conventional Google search offers no satisfaction.  [Was that what the Rolling Stones were singing about?  Or was it the frustrations from their Sharona?]  No, you got to be crafty in your search.  In the true spirit of the times, you must channel the backdoor search engine technique.

It turns out that the basis of the rules, now interpreted very loosely, were drawn up at a gathering of the New England Sorority Pledge Trainers for Purity and Social Improvement (NESPTFPSI) back in 1955.  Since people were less often reading newspapers, and this was in the pre-CNN Eocene, this meeting was under-reported.

Actually, the ladies (Don't call them girls; they would open a serious can of W.A. on you even now!) saw this as a logical step in streamlining the courtship ritual.  The idea was, to speed the process of getting those errant boys and girls married as early as possible so that they would have a head start in reconstructing the boy-man that they would eventually marry before he got too set in his bad habits.  Furthermore, these rules of intimacy were to continue after marriage, but with some flourishes that were not found beforehand.  [These backdoor internet sources alluded to the rule that husbands could finally see their wives naked on their tenth anniversary; a rule that was passed despite strenuous opposition from the Connecticut delegates.]

The NESPTFPSI even adopted the simple first base, second base, third base, home plate analogy that is still current today.  It turns out that they had their meeting in a hotel that was also used by a visiting major league baseball team.  Since they happened to meet for drinks in the lounge, the severe ladies drew upon a metaphor of baseball, a game that had been played and followed by troglodytes in the large cities that they were familiar with. 

So remember, no second base before the fifth date!  And remember also to support breast cancer research to save second base!

Finally, unless you're a European princess, keep second base covered!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Missy Chauvin and the Honey Island Swamp Monster

Missy Chauvin, star reporter for T.V.'s Action News, was assigned to do a scary feature for Halloween.  She decided to go to one of the local scary places to see what could come of it.

But what one?  The Lalaurie home was overdone.  St. Louis Number One was dangerous, even in the daytime.  And she couldn't manage another trip to the Myrtles in Francisville.

Suddenly, she had an inspiration: she could pretend to interview the Honey Island Swamp Monster with Brian, her cameraman and, Reggie, her co-star playing in the starring role while wearing a monster suit.  (Brian referred to Missy as 'his mike stand.')  Anyway, she Googled the Swamp Monster, seeking out likely locations.  Also, since part of the script was that she would pretend to be abducted by the Honey Island Swamp Monster, she wore a ravishing lilac-and-pink nightgown under she reporter's dress.  After all, she needed to look good for the abduction scene!  Always a professional, with the long-standing history of New Orleans journalism in mind.

So Missy, Brian, and Reggie wander around the swamp, pretending to look high and low for this form of cryptozoology.  Reggie, not familiar with the layout of the swamp, got lost.  After a while, they happen upon a tall, hairy, amorphous creature that somehow doesn't look like Reggie's costume!  Brian runs away, having remembered a date with Sienna Miller, or was it Jessica Biel?  Brian was not adept in excuse-making; but few camerapersons are, you know.

Anyway, Missy finds that the script is taking place in real life, and that the H.I.M. does a better job with the action than Reggie ever could in the rehearsals!  [Missy thought, "Oh well, I'm dressed for a swamp abduction."]

Missy screamed, "Where are you taking me," more by reflex than with the expectation that the Monster spoke English.  However, to her surprise, he did. 

"Oh, just taking you on a date!"  Missy thought the worst: what horrors would a date with a monster entail???  "Let me put on some pants and a jacket and a hat . . . . "

And they wound up at the Waffle House in Pearl River.  Neither the hairy guy in the fishing clothes or the lady in her nightgown seemed to be remarkable to the late night crowd nursing their coffee and eating waffles.  The night waitress simply thought that he was a New Orleans lawyer who spent a week on a fishing trip in the swamp nearby and went to seed as a vacation from his usual, dapper self.  Lawyers easily go to seed in the sticks of St. Tammany Parish.

The Honey Island Swamp Monster turned out to be a regular customer, preferring the French toast there.

Missy said, "Say Monster, would you like to try my French toast using my pain perdu recipe?"

It turned out that the Honey Island Swamp Monster was a LSU fan and Missy Chauvin wound up with an occasional, though hairy, boyfriend.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Playboy's Top Ten Party Schools

Each year, the administrators at major universities look for one particular axe to fall.  No, it's not necessarily further cuts from the legislature, or impaired fortunes of football teams (except perhaps in Alabama).  No, it's worse: Each year Playboy magazine publishes its list of the Top Ten Party Schools.  This year, the University of Virginia topped the list.  Wouldn't Mr. Jefferson be proud?

As a further bit of information, the USAToday article contained this excerpt:

"Methodology? Playboy is succinct. "We took America's top 100 colleges and ranked them across 900 data points in three categories: Sex Life, Sporting LIfe, Nightlife.'"

In a breakdown by category, in what was surely a rigorous, peer-reviewed statistical undertaking, the University of North Carolina ranks No. 1 in Sex Life (Tar Heel women, Playboy says, are "plentiful," "beautiful" and "progressive." ( Worst: Colorado School of Mines.)

[Okay, there are a lot of us; and I'm willing to be described as "beautiful," as are most Tarheel women.  But progressive?  Is that Playboyese for easy?]

In the Sporting LIfe category, Ohio State tops the list. "In Columbus, top-notch tailgating is rivaled only by the games themselves." (Worst: Yeshiva University)

And in Night LIfe, Southern Methodist University is No. 1. "At SMU, Dallas is your never-ending house party." (Worst: Brigham Young.)

For the record, in recent times the University of Colorado and the University of Miami received this dubious honor.  Among the criteria that Playboy used in 2009 was a "bikini index," not otherwise identified.

How do institutions react when this honor is bestowed?  Typically, the faculty there will tut-tut, and grouse about the nonseriousness of the student body.  The local newspapers will carry the story; and if it's a slow news cycle (like now) they will interview a few students who will embellish their stories.  Some institutions might protest, or at least take some steps to clamp down on the ardent spirits (ethanol and youthful, both).  Many schools might say or do nothing officially, figuring that if nothing is said, it will fast go the way of old news.  (That is probably the most effective strategy, at the recent debacle at the University of Tennessee regarding butt-chugging illustrates.  All of the participants managed to extend the news life of that story much longer than normal.)

But there is a still another way:  Embrace the mantle of party school.  After all, it could serve as a recruiting tool!  I can see some relatively little-known university vaulting into prominence by being named a party school.  And it's cheaper and more fun than having an outstanding faculty doing significant research or a powerhouse football team!

Florida Panhandle University, here's your chance!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Bit Over the Top in Looking Sexy

There's a fine line between looking sexy and looking cheap; and this line is viewed differently by people in different cultures, locales, settings, or even social classes.  Obviously, Amish swimswear is not going to be widely sold, if there is really such a thing.

Some examples:

Sexy:  modest décollété       
Cheap:  Australian cleavage

Sexy:  bikini
Cheap, Vulgar:  microbikini

Sexy:  short skirt
Cheap:  skirt so short that you can't sit

Sexy:  Daisy Dukes
Cheap:  Cut-offs with hiney partially showing

Sexy:  wearing a unexposed thong
Cheap:  showing a whale tail

Sexy:  t-shirt
Cheap, Tacky:  t-shirt that reads "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"

Whether wearing a bra or not falls into one category or another is usually seen depending on whether there is a hint of the nonwearer's nipples or not.  (Sorry for my crass candor here.)

A few years ago a Minneapolis company marketed a product called Bodyperks: these are nipple enhancers that could be placed under one's bra or worn directly on the breasts while not wearing a brassiere.  In effect, nipple falsies!  The web site below introduces the product, contains a number of testimonials from happy users, and illustrates how it might be used.

In the television program, Sex and the City, this was mentioned in one of the episodes as the Manhattanites strived to push the limits of sexiness as that bit of televised froth dramatically portrays.

Appearing on any scene while wearing these Bodyperks would, to say the least, draw a considerable amount of attention!  This is because the product gives the viewer the impression that the wearer is overperky and also somewhat sexually aroused as well.  (Nipple erection can accompany sexual arousal or just plain being cold.)  These Bodyperks are a specific instance of what Niko Tinbergen called supernormal stimuli:  exaggerated versions of stimuli that normally produces a response, but becomes preferred to the normally-occuring stimulus. 

In a real sense, if in the competition to seek mates (or at least to have one-night stands) more women employ such prosthetic means, then there will be pressure on the others to do likewise!  This might, therefore, result in a breast-enhancement arms race!

In my opinion, this is way, way over the top.  Far beyond tacky!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Hot Buttons for Being Humorous: What Can Be Acceptable and What Can't

As someone who tries, not often successfully, to write funny pieces, I developed some guidelines as to what can pass for being funny, and what can't.

Topical humor can be funny; but only if the humorist and the readers and listeners have the appropriate background in common.  For example, Mr. Hennessey and L'il Abner, written in different eras from the present, seems at times to be incomprehensible.  In fact, both were understood as very satiric in their time.  It's like topical humor needs a "perishable" or "use by" stamp on it.

A similar problem exists when "in" jokes are used in a forum that calls for a general audience.  Most people don't get it.  While in some cases this is done intentionally (David Letterman, maybe?), it's more often the result of a miscalculation.  Discover what your audience or readers know, and what they do not know.

Political humor and religious humor can have the occasion to be too pointed and alienating.  Hopefully, one result of trying to be funny is so that others may have a good time, and to be more sympathetic to other humans.  Demonizing or strongly ridiculing others is cheap and tawdry.  The user of political or religious humor needs to be cautious and selective.  And with a certain amount of charity, as well.   

Racial or ethnic humor is even more so open to problems.  Nobody likes to be shamed; so watch the nature of the jokes, and refrain from using offensive terminology.  For example, using the "N" word.  (Well, it does serve a purpose: the user self-designates herself or himself as an insensitive, bigoted lout.) 

Sex-related humor can pose some problems.  Certainly there should be more latitude in comedy clubs, where the audience is more self-selected and homogeneous with respect to taste and expectations.  In settings such as on the internet we need to be sensitive to the nature of possible views: they can be of both sexes, varying ages, and varying degrees of understanding. 

It's not possible to obtain 100% offense-free humor; but a good rule of thumb as that if it doesn't bother 80% to 90% of people, it's probably okay.

Women and humor present a special case: both as jokesters and as audience members.  In this, every woman should find her own humor comfort zone.  In my case, I might try to be funny about my niñas but keep the sex out of my blog.  Again, it's the 80% rule that applies here.  This is not to say that other women should not be more explicit: it's whatever they can be comfortable with and what the audience will bear.

There is one thing to remember: Stand-up comedy sometimes has critical, unpleasant audience members.  It's not for the thin-skinned.  Writing funny things instead of stand-up is less stressful.  Although I have gotten negative comments, it's easier to shrug them off.  It must be extremely hard to be hooted off of a stage, though.  Maybe no one would do it if I wear a cute outfit and hold a toy bunny!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Advertisement for a State-of-the-Art Toilet

Kohler, Inc. has recently developed the creme de la creme of toilets., if you can imagine such a superlative.  Even better, it doesn't even look like a toilet when not in use!  The Numi toilet is a state of the art, modern, automatic and motion-sensor, self-cleaning toilet combination bidet that also warms your feet, your tush, can play music with its built-in speakers, audio input jack and docking station and keeps itself odor-free. 

Do you have an extra $6400?  That's what one of these models will cost you.  This is one of those things, like those super spas found in some Bed and Breakfasts that constitute a plumbing indulgence that might be too easy to get accustomed to. 

I like the intriguing ads that Kohler uses for its product: they arouse interest in the viewer since the purpose of the ad is not screamingly obvious.  The viewer must take the trouble to discern it, to seek closure, to fill in the incomplete information.  What is going on in this somewhat romantic setting: is it to be a proposal, an assignation, a prelude to a sophisticated evening?  Is it such an occasion to use this spectacular toilet that it is a social occasion in a room with a view?  The viewer craves further information.

And I wish I had her dress and 'do. 

I think this might be an example of the Zeigarnik effect in application: individuals are more likely to remember incomplete rather than complete information.

How Gestalt of them!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Lewd Dude Meets The Prophetess

Milton, the noteworthy King of Flith and the Connoisseur of Porn at his college, was referred to simply as the Lewd Dude for his prurient interests.

At long last the Lewd Dude finally made it down to the Crescent City -- the place, where to his collegiate reckoning, where anything goes, where the beer and whiskey could be purchased without the need for a driver's license, people partied hearty 24/4, and those hot Orleanian women would throw themselves at you when needy, or at least flash their breasts for beads! 

This was how the place was depicted while he was back at Indiana Southern College and he would watch old episodes of Cops or get one of those tacky Girls Gone Half-Wild DVDs from the movie rental store.  In short, he saw New Orleans as a place where anything would happen; and what happens in N.O. stays in N.O.


So the Lewd Dude rode with his buddies all night, before landing in a cheap motel and mentally preparing for the all night party on Bourbon Street.  After all, a place that names its iconic street after a whiskey must be where you can play it wet and wild, fast and loose!  So the L.D. and his buddies were socking the brewskis away (as people in Hoosier country termed such libations) and giving the local girls the eye.

Only whey were not getting much of a rise.  Maybe it was the disreputable angle in which they were wearing baseball hats, or their general loudness, or their uncouth requests for female exhibitionism!  Or possibly their nonacquaintance with deodorants.  Anyway, the disappointment quotient began to ascend!

Finally, they noticed a young, oddly but chastely dressed young lady coming from around the corner.  It was Madeline, AKA The Prophetess, as she was known in New Orleans.  Madeline had just finished her flying novena for world peace and a fast track at the Fair Grounds and was seeking some ice cream repast while conferring with her compadre, Crazy Chester.  The Lewd Dude yelled out, "Heeeey, Baybeee!"

Madeline was confused.  Who were these strangers addressing her in such a forward way?

She drew near, a mistake.  But her only one.

The Lewd Dude called out, " Hey Bay-bee, show us your [breasts]," while reaching to raise her sweater.

Madeline swung with her purse, and cold-cocked him!  Madeline was naive; but learned at an early age how to manage unwanted attentions from tourists, called turistas locally.

Ole L.D. was staggering from being whopped on side of the head, and Madeline sprayed him.  However, instead of buying pepper spray, she made a mistake and bought Deer Be Gone.  The Lewd Dude thus smelled like bear urine which possibly improved on the spillage of the Buds he had earlier! 

And to make further the Lewd Dude's day, a large African-American male named Crazy Chester came on the scene.  Crazy Chester and The Prophetess were in cahoots with each other in the equine actuary profession (they both were touts).

"Yo, podner; you disrespecting The Prophetess?  You in for a world of woe!"

The E.R. at Charity got another customer that evening.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lady Godiva and the Tea Party

I suppose that the present-day Tea Party faction of the Republican Party underreached when it came to symbolism.  When it came to that, the English did it far better.

In the legend, Lady Godiva felt sympathy for the people of Coventry when they were grievously and oppressively taxed by her husband.  She brought up the matter to him over and over again, but he obstinately refused to remit these taxes and give the people relief.  Finally, her husband got tired anough of his wife doing this, and declared that he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of Coventry. Lady Godiva took this at face value; and beforehand requested that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows out of goodness to her. 

She rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Everyone had closed their windows, out of respect for her ladyship's going this extra naked mile.  Just one person in the town, Tom the tailor, disobeyed her proclamation and became the eponym for a voyeur.  Tom was, according to the story, struck blind.

In the end, Godiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the punitive taxes.  She is regarded as a heroine in legend for her deed.  Tom lived on in infamy.

Where is this going, a naked lady eventually honored by having a fine brand of chocolate named after her?

Well, it seems to me that those opponents of taxation might well adopt the Lady Godiva symbolism in lieu of the Tea Party mythology.  After all, too many Americans are not necessarily aware of the link between faux Indians throwing away tea off of ships into Boston Harbor and high taxes; but everyone can get the metaphor of taxes and your getting left bare nekkid!

Also, too many of the Tea Party people are seen as dowdy soreheads with no sense of humor, reprobates who find too much fault with everything.  Tossing the Tea, and adopting Lady Godiva as an alternative symbol would serve to give the movement some currency.

So my suggestion is that the antitax folks should get some of their more comely, long-haired members to ride through town, specifically some Coventry of choice, on horses to protest taxation!  This would serve several purposes:

1.  It would positively symbolize what effect oppressive taxation has.

2.  It would provide free entertainment for the ungodly.

3.  It would provide the morally upright with another opportunity to demonstrate their uprightedness by closing their windows and curtains so as to not offend their heroine.

4.  It might encourage the au naturel look, and give well-toned ladies with a socially acceptable occasion for giving into exhibitionistic tendencies in a setting other than South Beach.

5.  It would give the television media an opportunity for an easy story.

6.  It would allow any or all of three unsung Coventrys to make the news.  (Tea Party naked bareback riders have their choice of Coventrys in Connecticut, New York, or Rhode Island.)

7.  It might even encourage equestrian lessons, and aspiring nude females would be drawn to lessons on how to ride a horse!

So, if you're against taxes, giddy up!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Royalest Royal Scandal of Them All

Us common sorts love to read about the misdeeds of celebrties, the badder and the more bizarre, the better.  Centuries ago, the royals provided this diversion to a greater degree than now.

Well, other than Princes of Wales desiring to be Tampons, apparently.

However, when it comes to scandals, the French royals knew how to do it.  Consider: three sisters, married to future kings of France, had trysts in an old tower with two lovers.  Cap it off with spies and a gruesome pair of executions and possibly a royal murder.  This story really delivers when it comes to juiciness.

This Big Kahuna of all royal scandals occurred in 1314 at the end of the reign of French king Philip IV, known as "le Bel" (the Fair) because he was extraordinarily good-looking.  Let's call him Phil the Hunk for short.  He played hardball in dealing with the Church, with the nobles, and with the religious orders of kinghts like the Knights Templars.  Helping him in this regard was an extraordinary minister named Enguerrand de Marigny.  However, he had to borrow money from the Lombards to finance his schemes before taking over the extensive properties of the Templars.

Philip IV had three sons, Louis, Philip, and Charles; each in turn became king.  None of them was as handsome or as smart as him.  As customary back then, all three were married with an eye for political gain.  Louis was married to Margaret of Burgundy, Philip married Joan, Countess of Burgundy, and Charles married Blanche of Burgundy.

Louis and Margaret apparently particularly did not get along.  He was known in his time as le Hutin, which apparently meant the Headstrong or the Quarrelsome or the Not Good in Bed, depending on your French source.  Eh, bien!  Charles apparently was boring as watching paint dry: he was described as "conservative" and "straight laced."  It sounds like he lost Blanche's interest quickly; I imagine her as like Lydia in Pride and Prejudice: flirtatious, easy, and as dumb as a box of rocks.  Joan apparently was happily married to Phil, Jr. but had a little kinkiness on the side.

Margaret and Blanche took up with two gallant knights, Gautier and Philip de Aunay.  They apparently had naughty trysts in the Tour de Nesle with the two knights, and their sister Joan looked on.  A little voyeurism for entertainment; they could not keep up with the Kardashians back then. 

They could not resist giving their lovers some jeweled purses that had been given the girls by Isabella, who happened to be the sister of Louis, Philip, and Charles.  Let this be a cautionary tale on the dangers of regifting gifts from sisters-in-law.  Anyway, Isabella told her Dad, King Philip IV, and Dad was not at all pleased.

He had the knights followed; and sure enough, the spies found them messing around with the princesses.  Totally bad karma.  From all indications, the adulterous affairs had been going on, and King Phil the Hunk aired the dirty laundry of the whole affair to all of Paris and convicted the whole sorry lot of lésé majesté.  The knights were publicly  tortured, castrated, and executed by being drawn and quartered.  They had to make do for entertainment in those days before professional football.  You can bet that this would have played for a long time in the tabloids, had they existed then!

The girls had their heads shaved, and were imprisoned in dungeons.  However, Phil, Jr. interceded and got Joan released.  Margaret was less lucky.  Louis was still married to her, and she was a convicted adulteress.  Since he succeeded after the death of Daddy Phil, he needed some heirs, stat!  So . . . . Margaret somehow got strangled or suffocated or just conveniently died, so Louis could then remarry.  Blanche was left to stay in prison.

Louis, Philip, and Charles became King of France in turn: Louis X, Philip V, and Charles VIII.  Louis had a son born postumously, Jean I, but he lived for only five days.  Somehow, they managed to go through all of that kinging and persumably trying for a male heir, but with the death of Charles, the line ended there.

What was the motive behing Isabella's blowing the whistle?  Sisterly love, but that's a stretch.  After all, the Burgundians were married to her brothers.  I would not be cool about a sister-in-law of mine messing around and being unfaithful.  Also, Isabella was married to a future King of England, and he was notoriously gay!  And, finally, she had a son also, named Edward.  If all the cards fell right, her kid could someday be King of both England and France!  Isabella may have been taking the long view for Junior's sake.

Years later, Isabella herself took up with a lover, Roger de Mortimer.  They deposed her hubby King Edward II in 1326.  Edward II mysteriously and supposedly grusomely died due to the misplacing of a red-hot poker where the sun doth not shine.  She was one scary woman!

The Tour of Nesle, where the affairs took place.

Friday, October 5, 2012

We Need Laws for a Better North Carolina

While North Carolina is as good as it gets, and is the envy of the lesser states, there are some wee areas for improvement that need to be addressed.

1. Teachers get 10% of their salaries in lottery tickets.

2. They need to make it a crime to sing to a goat.

3. The Governor must take vows of poverty and chastity at the Inaugeration.

4. The state needs to make it illegal to be ugly.

5. We need more official state things:

     a.  State Fish -- carp

     b.  State Lamppost -- leaning

     c.  State Brassiere Color -- orange

     d.  State Toilet Paper -- one ply

     e.  State Carpet -- powder blue and white

     f.  State Bug -- cockroach

     g.  State Outhouse  -- moons on the door

     h.  State Lap Dance -- a version of the shag

6. The state needs to make moonshining legal.

7. All school board members and administrative staff must eat one lunch per week in the school cafeteria of his or her own choice.  Think of the children!

8.  All legislators must eat at least one meal per month in a state prison or mental hospital.

9. We need for those who play bluegrass music to be considered sex offenders.

10.  We need to make Hatteras a topless beach.

11.  We need to change UNC's colors.

12.  We need, retrospectively, to pardon Tom Dula.  Tom Dooley should not hang down his head, wherever he is in the afterlife.

13.  Hash browns at breakfast should be outlawed.  Grits, you all!

14.  It should be fashionable to have a sofa on the porch for sitting with your dogs.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reasons for Reticence

There seems to be a general revulsion towards distance or reclusiveness in many people: they find that they must know details about prominent people who, for reasons of their own, now wish to be out of the public eye. 

Some of that may be because of the assumption that their reticence is because they have something to hide.  The sequence goes this way:  Someone keeps a low profile.  Therefore, he has something to hide.  But there are exceptions as well.  For example, where are the idiots from the Insane Clown Posse, and what are they doing?  If you're reminded of them, you may give a pained look in remembrance, but be thankful that they haven't been seen lately.

No, it's especially likely that people who are known to wish to drop out, just can't do so conveniently.  Unfortunately!

Take the case of Greta Garbo, who might have paradoxically inspired interest by her famous remark "I vant to be alone."  She sounded so European and jaded and mysterious -- a publicist's dream.  And then there's that case of Sister Judith: a former Hollywood actress once named Dolores Hart, who left acting and became a nun.  And stayed that way.  Now actresses usually leave the trade by default: they can't get roles.  And they're expected to always desire to return to trip the light less-than-fantastic.  But to have one run off to become a nun when she was getting roles, that was unheard of!  So naturally writers or reporters visit this poor nun and intrude on her spirituality or reclusiveness or her new life to find out what she's about.  And the reasons she would give them, even though truthful, were as totally foreign to them as if she was from outer space. 

Literary figures also come into the picture.  Consider the long-isolated J. D. Salinger: occasional books or short stories, but no interviews.  Or Harper Lee.  She wrote one huge best-seller, To Kill a Mockingbird, but none others.  Was it because she had only one book in her, or she found the celebrity status that went with that kind of author status to be uncomfortable, or maybe she did not suffer fools interviewing her very gladly?  I got the impression that she was an original; and you must expect that originals will do things that most people might not also do.

Thomas Pynchon, whoever he is, did it successfully.  He wrote three major works, V., The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow.  But kept well under the radar.  I applaud his reticence; and in no way consider that he or other recluses have any obligation to satisfy my curiosity by telling all.

For some literary recluses, it may simply be that they need time for their own thoughts and the serious works of writing and correcting text.  They delibreately separate themselves from distractions.

A little personal story:  For a while I lived alone in a cabin by the Honey Island Swamp and worked as a swamp tour guide.  Apparently, there were some people who heard about me and whose feverish imaginations conceived of me as a wild swamp girl!  Yea!  And I hang out with the Honey Island Swamp Monster!  [Google that!]  Sadly, I think I substantially disappointed them when they finally saw me!

My thought is that these private, different people inadvertently develop an aura about themselves through their not being seen.  While not intended by them, people tend to fill in the gaps and complete a story.  It's kind of a cognitive tendency toward closure, as a Gestalt psychologist would say.