Monday, December 28, 2009

Just One More Thing....

Some serious thoughts to contemplate as we all instinctively bring the year of 2009 into review.

With the coming of the new year, a lot of people are focused on making the changes that they feel they need to hopefully give themselves a better, fuller, richer, longer and especially thinner life, and that is admirable. I too desire all of the above. But can I add one more thing to the list of resolutions for your consideration? Can we all try to make 2010 the year we stretch our minds beyond the "that's how it's always been" mentality and see each other as people instead of labels to be quickly categorized and condemned because they are not like you? Can we show tolerance and understanding where we had once shown contempt and ridicule? Can we give others the same degree of human dignity and compassion that we would expect for ourselves? In short, can we try, at least, not to hate one another?

One of the big stories of this last year was the ongoing battle concerning same-sex marriage. I am not a gay man, but I feel strongly that the rights of all of our citizens should be upheld, regardless of their sexual preference. Unfortunately though, with the passage last November of Proposition 8, a state ban on same-sex marriages here in California, that struggle continues. You might call it religious intolerance or homophobia but however you spell it out, it still reads "hate."

Through lies and fear, and bolstered by millions of dollars in support by the Mormon Church and other religious organizations, these anti-gay marriage activists prevailed in imposing their narrow view that gays and lesbians are immoral and thus should be blocked from equal protection under the law.

How insidious.

Does anyone else see the disturbing problem of a bunch of right-wing traditionalists teaming up with the Mormon Church and campaigning to take away the civil rights from a targeted group of Californians just because their views on marriage didn't comply with their own half-baked religion?

That they were able to confuse and frighten others with ridiculous horror stories about what would happen if Prop 8 failed, does nothing to add to the legitimacy of their claims that homosexuality is patently immoral and that gays and lesbians are somehow sub-human and constitute some threat to society. And yet those are the views that have been imposed on the state, and as a consequence one of the most basic of civil rights, the right to marriage, has been stripped away from them.

Just think how far our country has come in the last 50 years. A similar struggle was being fought back then, the right for interracial marriage. Back in 1963 a married interracial couple from Virginia was arrested in their bedroom for a violation of that state's Racial Integrity Act. (Shades of Nazi Germany, you think?) The judge suspended their sentence but only on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They couple decided to appeal the judgement so that they could be allowed to live together as a couple. In 1965 the judge who ruled against them refused their appeal citing the following bit of ignorance:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Eventually, they took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled unanimously in their favor. In their decision of Loving v. Virginia, the court wrote:

"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man', fundamental to our very existence and survival....To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Is it so hard for people to envision replacing the racial context of this decision with that of sexual preference? Would it be any less true if we had? Of course it wouldn't, but there will always be those ignorant masses that yearn for the return of the days of separate drinking fountains and separate bathrooms and whose apocalyptic fears of fire and brimstone raining on them if such a thing as same-sex marriage were to become legalized in their home state. Alas, despite all the efforts to educate, sometimes there's just no cure for stupid.

Not surprisingly, the Southern states, where white supremacy is still the fashion, took the longest to prohibit bans on interracial marriage. South Carolina waited until 1998 and Alabama finally officially amended their state's constitutions to remove these laws two years later. It should be noted that in the referendums, the vote was only 62% in favor of allowing interracial marriage in South Carolina and 59% in Alabama.

And now here we are, ringing in the final bells of 2009 with a biracial president. My how times have changed. I think it gives us all hope that no matter what, we aren't sentenced to suffer fools gladly forever and there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

I refuse to live in a world where religious zealots and fundamentalist whack-jobs with millions of dollars to bankroll a campaign of hatred and bigotry can impose their will on the public through deception and treachery. The U.S. District Circuit Court has set a trial date of January 11th, 2010 to review a challenge to Prop 8's federal constitutionality. The lawsuit states that "This unequal treatment of gays and lesbians denies them the basic liberties and equal protection under the law that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution." Lets spread the word and get this stupid amendment repealed and help close the door on this type of civil rights piracy in other states.

The photo above is one from the NOH8 Campaign, a photo project and silent protest which celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff Parshley created in response to the passage of Proposition 8. Beginning with portraits of everyday Californians who support Marriage Equality, it now lists amongst it's subjects prominent celebrities, politicians, military personnel and basically gay and straight people from all walks of life from all over the world. The photos show subjects with duct tape over their mouths symbolizing their voices not being heard and NOH8 painted on one cheek in protest. To learn more about this grassroots campaign or to donate your support, you can check out their website at

Thank you for your consideration and Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Very Snuggly Christmas

Question: What's big and blue, cozy soft and you can stick your arms in it?

Answer: If you said a Snuggie, you are correct and go to the head of the class.

If you said something else, you are a sick and disturbed person and probably need immediate psychiatric attention.

Snuggies are those big blankets with sleeves that let you stay warm while holding your cigarette in one hand and your baby in the other. We've all seen the sappy TV commercials where they tell you that with the Snuggie, you don't ever have to worry about having your arms trapped in a blanket anymore and unable to use the remote control, the telephone or be able to read a book.

Well, two out of three for some of ya'.

With the Snuggie, you can loaf around on the sofa while watching "Cops" or your favorite wrestling shows and still be able to drink a forty and chow down on some frozen pizza without exposing your arms and upper body to the winter chill.

The commercial goes on to show people wearing their Snuggies at outdoor sporting events as well. I imagine they would probably work equally well when you are out fishing too. In fact I'm sure it won't be long before we see fishermen sitting in their boats or lining the shore wearing their bright blue, maroon or sage green fleece wraps. "Fishin' In Style" they could call it, and maybe they could have a special built-in pouch to keep your worms warm too. Just a thought.

For the last couple of years we have all bore witness to the kitschy retail phenomenon that is the Snuggie as tens of millions of them, as well as a plethora of Snuggie knock-offs such as the "Slanket," the "Snuggler," "the Snug-Mee" and many others, became the hottest ticket on many a Christmas wish list. Many stores were quickly sold-out as the supply, especially for the most popular colors, simply couldn't out pace the demand.

I was personally perplexed by this. My first impression of the Snuggie was that it looked like a long bathrobe that was worn backwards. Or that people who wore them resembled those cult followers that patiently waited for their spaceship to come riding in on some comet so that they could drink their Kool-Aid and escape to the next level. In short, I was not partial to this thing, but especially after being forced to watch endless "Sham-Wow" style commercials that insulted my intelligence.

But despite my initial bias against the Snuggie, I eventually came to see that there was definitely a huge market for these things and since not everyone could be an imbecile (could they?) it must have some merit to it after all. In fact, it was not long before I figured that it would probably make a good gift for my wife, who is always complaining of being cold when it's warm out. And what makes more sense, turning up the thermostat on someone who is already warm or wrapping the cold person in an envelope of warm fleece? I was also intrigued to see that Snuggie had also come out with versions for children and dogs. And any company that liked dogs can't be all bad.

But the number one reason that I feel like Snuggies are a worthy and practical gift this year is...because that's what we gave out for Christmas presents this year. Yes, it's true. My wife is really great at sewing and embroidery and friends and family members are often the lucky recipients of some of her skillful works. Last year for Christmas she made twenty wonderful, embroidered blankets and a fancy quilt for my mother. This year for Thanksgiving she did personalized napkins, tablecloths, place mats, seat cushions and other stuff. For her office Christmas party she volunteered to make elf costumes for twenty co-workers and managers.

This year for Christmas she decided to make Snuggies for our friends and family. I am proud to say that they were all very well received. And for my Trekkie brothers, a special embellishment seemed appropriate. My apologies in advance to the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek:

My brothers Steve and Rob (Kirk and Spock)

So what's next for the Snuggie? Well, there has sprung up somewhat of a cult following behind this product and with the momentum it's generating I doubt that there's much out there that at least won't be touched by the Snuggie success.

In addition to the evolving role in fashion that Snuggies will no doubt be apart of, I see there's now a new social network to rival Facebook called, the Social Network with Sleeves! And the inescapable combination of Snuggies and sex has led to a website called the Snuggie Sutra, the Kama Sutra of Snuggies. Can a Snuggies breakfast cereal or snack cracker be far behind?

To tell the truth about there's only a few suggestions I have that I feel that the Snuggie people could do to win over a broader demographic. They include:

1. Add pockets so people have a place to put their smokes, their can of chewing tobacco or jerky treats.

2. Instead of including a free book light with each order, how about offering a free Bumpit for the women and a free bottle opener for the guys?

3. I think that the traditional cap and gown worn at graduation ceremonies would be better if the gown part was replaced with a Snuggie. I don't know about you, but what do you do with the gown afterwards? It just makes more sense, particularly for outdoor ceremonies.

4. Maybe a zippered front so that the women who might want to expose some cleavage have the ability to do so if they feel like it. Because, can get hot in there and it would be good to get some, um... air circulation in that area.

5. How about putting a hoodee-style head covering on the Snuggies so that those people who enjoy Snuggie pub crawls don't catch a cold from constantly going in and out of bars at night.

Those are just a few suggestions. I invite you to come up with some of your own that might fit your particular requirements and post them in my comments section. Until later then, I leave you with a very funny Snuggie parody commercial. Stay warm and comfy out there in the blogosphere.

And for those of you that like to wander around naked sometimes, don't forget that the Snuggie is worn with the opening on the back, not the front.

You can't fool us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Weird Christmas Greetings To You All

This week for your entertainment I present some Christmas cards that probably weren't the first choice at Hallmark (or any other reputable greeting card company for that matter) but which are nonetheless available free for email at So if you or someone you know has a twisted sense of humor and would appreciate some weird tidings this year for Christmas (and just about anything else) I would like to recommend this site.

Here are some favorites that I picked especially for my blog readers because you are all so terribly, terribly special to me and I wanted to wish you all the merriest of Christmases from the bottom of my weird lil' heart!

Now here's a card that your small children will appreciate. Especially if your children are in the mob. Although it does announce Santa's demise, it also gives you an out if you decide not to buy them presents this year.

Who doesn't remember going through this ordeal in our childhood? Did our parents even think to consider what kind of deviant they could have been sitting us on? Probably not. And now many of us are forever scarred and can never again sit on the lap of an old guy.

I admit it. I tried to stay up all night and catch the fat man in the act of leaving presents. I wanted to make sure he didn't screw up again and leave me socks again as a present like he did the year before. But I fell asleep, unfortunately, and got those stupid socks again anyway. Bastard!

I may be in the minority here, but I think that Rudolph has outlasted his fifteen minutes of fame and needs to be retired so other reindeer can have a shot at stardom. Like how about "Vixen, The Really Sexy Reindeer" or "Cupid, The Fornicating Reindeer." Now there's a cartoon I'd like to see.

As severed head Christmas cards go, I thought this one was very touching and sentimental. I know a lot of people probably feel the same angst at their inability due to so-called "Anti-decapitation laws" to give celebrity heads to their loved ones for Christmas. But have no fear, because laws were made to be changed and the wait won't be long. Watch your back, Miley!

Do you remember who first told you that the story of Santa Claus was total BS? Did you believe them or did you hold out hope that your belief, like your belief in pro wrestling being real, would someday be vindicated? And what year of high school were you in when you finally accepted it?

It's hard to imagine what our Christmas would be like without a Santa Claus. But being ever open-minded to new and progressive evolutions of holiday traditions, I'm thinking that naked, writhing priestesses would make for some very interesting holiday TV specials. It sure would make "A Charlie Brown Christmas" a lot more entertaining. "Go Charlie, Go Charlie, Go!"

There you have it, my blog buddies and faithful fans, my collection of strange e-cards for the fun-loving weirdo in all of us! This week promises to be quite hectic so if I don't get back to my blog before then, I will leave you all with my best wishes for the holiday season and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Keeping Christmas Traditions Alive

It's Christmastime! I mean no offense to those of you of other religious faiths, beliefs and ideologies, whatever they might be, but for me and most Americans this is traditionally the time each year when we put up our Christmas trees, sing Christmas carols, give Christmas presents and revel in the spirit of peace, love and goodwill toward man. And we want to keep it that way.

How is it that a small percentage of the populous is able to effect such radical changes to the sharing of beliefs and traditions of the majority in the name of diversity? Two words: Politically correct (PC).

Political correctness is about making people in society from diverse backgrounds feel like they are a part of the whole and not outsiders looking in. The eagerness of the PC crowd to prevent these groups from feeling like we are forcing our traditions and beliefs on them has led to some contentious battles and uncomfortable compromises, but most particularly during the holiday season.

Every year it starts up again, all this politically correct whining and fighting. Even though it should be a fun season of family togetherness and retail excess, it's an irritating distraction. You wonder, is this the year people finally relax and shut the hell up and let celebrations continue as they have for ages or will this be the year that even more people raise complaints to our intolerance to their beliefs and demand that we abandon our traditions in order to be more "inclusive."

Unfortunately it's looking like the latter again this year.

Recently I posted an article concerning the anger and emotion this issue generates each year and how exasperating political correctness can be in attempting to remedy these conflicts. Comments on that post from a couple of my favorite bloggers reflected these diverse feelings on the subject. While John from the blog, Coffeypot, questioned the actual fairness to those whose traditions and beliefs are being whittled away under the guise of tolerance, Tom from the blog Reinvention: The Journal of a Dog-Lover, Book-Reader, Moviegoer and Writer was more sympathetic to those whose beliefs run contrary to the established norms.

It's a debate that has been raging for years now, this question of whether there should be a ban on all-things Christmas in public schools, government offices and elsewhere in favor of some secular, non-specific holiday celebration that didn't offend anyone (well, didn't offend anyone except Christians, anyway.) Personally I think it's a load of crap and that if you feel offended or uncomfortable by the way the majority of Americans celebrate this holiday season, then either learn to deal with it or get out of Dodge. I apologize for my bluntness, but I seriously doubt any country anywhere has been as tolerant regarding others beliefs or traditions as we Americans have.

With all the different cultures and beliefs out there in the world, there is no way we will ever arrive at a solution that would meet with everyone's approval, so why try? In my humble opinion, I feel that it's unfair and wrong for people to have their traditions altered to pander to a different group that doesn't share those traditions and that if a country is decidedly Christian, as ours is, then that's the direction they should unapologetically follow. Why not be just as democratic about this issue as we would anything else and allow the sentiments of the majority to prevail? Unfortunately, though, that's not the way things work here.

Over and over Christians have had to take one on the chin because some non-Christians felt uncomfortable with everyone around them enjoying a traditional religious holiday that they didn't share. And rather than being tolerant of others and letting the majority just live and let live, they decided that the majority needed to instead be tolerant of them and their beliefs. Which is why "Merry Christmas" is slowly morphing into "Happy Holidays," and "Christmas and Easter Break" became "Winter and Spring Break" and why we now see signs for "Holiday Trees" instead of "Christmas Trees," and things like that.

It happens at Easter and Halloween too. And it seems the young, impressionable children are always the excuse that is used to wage politically correct warfare. “Oh, my kid can’t be exposed to Halloween costume parades because that just glorifies paganism and is affront to their beliefs.” But unfortunately it’s not enough that the children sit this one out like other students who are religiously banned from saying the Pledge of Allegiance or celebrating other holidays. No, the entire school has to cancel the festivities so the few who can’t celebrate don’t feel left out. So now everyone has to lose out on what was a fun and memorable activity for children for the sake of a few party poopers.

Don’t blame the schools for pulling the plug in these instances. They don’t really have a choice. If they don’t, then the parents can and usually will sue the school district and probably win, which means less money for the kids and a bigoted reputation for the school, neither of which any school can afford. It’s your classic no-win situation. Ironically, it’s these same kids, often with parents in tow, that seem to show up at your doorstep Trick-or-Treating. This makes me think that they are just looking for a public challenge to their beliefs to grab some headlines and/or piss-off the general public. It’s so unfair.

This is why we need to change not just the laws, but the attitudes of these people who believe that it is okay to disrespect our beliefs but insist that we sure as hell better respect their beliefs. If you want to honor your beliefs and traditions, then do so at your home on your time. But don’t come between me and my Santa Claus and my Christmas tree. If you or your children don’t feel comfortable around these items, that’s your problem and you deal with it. But asking others to do without just so you can feel better is stepping way over the line.

Some compromises have been made in schools and other places by allowing side-by-side displays of other religious symbols (menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, etc.) with the Christmas decorations, and I can see that as being an acceptable solution, but just telling a group to ignore years of traditional behaviors for the sake of widespread acceptance or some displaced guilt feelings is absolutely stupid.

If it is acceptance that you require, whether it is respect for your celebrations of Ramadan, Diwali, Hanukah, Yule, or some other holiday, then it is acceptance that you must give to us as well. It’s a two-way street and you can’t have it both ways.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Politically Correct Holiday Greeting

In the spirit of the Non-specific-gift-giving season, I present a classic non-denominational-winter-solstice-holiday greeting. (Author unknown)

Greetings, please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

And a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "America" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas...Or I'll Kill You!

Christmas is almost here, so you know what that means. It’s time for peace and joy and goodwill toward men, right? Ha! Get serious!

It's time to step up the ignorant hate-mongering and start rambling nonsensical bigoted platitudes and spreading alarmist political paranoia. (Some of you started early and others never stopped, so just keep doing what you are doing.) Mr. Beck and Mr. Limbaugh, continue to stir the feebleminded masses into a fury of nationalistic rage. Mrs. Palin, just tell us again your plan to help out the country of Africa. (That always cracks me up.)

This is also the time of year where diversity stages its annual “War against Christmas” with Christmas represented by those people who have formed a tradition of putting up Christmas trees and other Christmas-related decorations in their public schools and government offices and where they also attended Christmas parties and sung Christmas carols. That was, until the dawn of political correctness (PC for short).

Now an increasing number of people are seeing their traditions fall by the wayside as the PC crowd invokes its political muscle to create a more homogenous and socially-inclusive scenario for all. For example, the new directive is to use the term "Holiday trees" instead of Christmas trees and rename previously Christmas-related activities as "Winter" activities.

Though it was designed as a well-meaning attempt to minimize social offense of diverse groups (such as gender, religion, cultural, racial, sexual orientation, handicap, etc.) and promote equality in language, it has failed miserably in actual practice. An entry in The Urban Dictionary defined PC as “a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end. (An alarmingly accurate metaphor as it turns out.)

As an example of this PC conflict, I cite a recent article I read about an elementary school in Ashland, OR in which the school's principal replaced the Giving Tree in the school's lobby with a couple of snowmen because she had received complaints from several families about it being a religious symbol. The principal has since adopted new guidelines banning trees and Santa Claus images from their holiday decorations. As you would expect, this move upset many people and caused quite a controversy.

A sampling of the colorful responses to the article include these angry bits of vitriol, each followed by my commentary in blue text:

"I'm sure in the real near future, we true Americans are going to be done with ALL the people that are not Americans, who are illegals, who are other people looking for the American dream, we true Americans are gonna begin the biggest war on our soil that has ever taken place on our soil. I for one am so fed up with all these people wanting to change our American ways and our beliefs because they don't like it, I'm ready for war, right here, right now." Uh, I think the only thing you are ready for are your meds, pal. And just maybe a padded room. Remember folks, friends don't let friends type drunk.

"WE are now becoming the minority and being discriminated against. I am sick and tired of having to change what I believe in or how I celebrate things because it might upset someone. You came to this country and left yours, if you don't like the way we do things around here, then do us all a favor a move back." You are assuming that the complainants are immigrants. More likely they are atheists or some religious faith that doesn't subscribe to Christmas, like maybe Jewish or Jehovah's Witnesses for example. Remember, just because you are paranoid doesn't necessarily mean they are out to get you.

"I've been trying to warn all of you what is coming down the road for our once great country. And it's exactly what our leader wants; he even is not going to setup the manger scene. If this doesn't get you blood boiling, we got to get our country back before it's too late. This anti-American BS is all the cause of BO and his gangsters leading us to a socialist society. Taking our rights away in all forms of what we once fought and died for. Come on people, enough is enough! Stand up and vote all the libs out starting in 2010 and the loser of a president in 2012." Yes, I think the article mentioned something about Barack Obama dropping everything and calling the elementary school principal and telling her to take down the tree. Then he yelled "Yea Mao" and hung up. Clearly, the president has to be stopped before he does something crazy like passes health care reform, creates more jobs or improves the economy. Where's Sarah Palin when we need her?

"DO NOT tell me I can't have my Christmas!!! I WILL put up my tree, I WILL display the baby Jesus, I WILL say MERRY CHRISTMAS and I dare you to tell me your sorry a** is offended because you will unleash my wildest fury and it ain't gonna be purty!!!!!" YOU WILL be wearing a straight-jacket unless YOU DO calm the hell down and take a CHILL PILL you psycho douche-bag. Now go SHUT UP and finish watching “Deliverance.”

"We no longer have religious freedom when it comes to the Christian Faith. Socialism here we come!" YAWN! Does anyone who says "Socialism is coming" even know what the hell they are talking about or is it all some stupid sound bite they heard and keep repeating like parrots because it makes them seem intelligent when they clearly are not?

"We are NOT a muslim nation!! Even though SOME people are trying their best to make it that way…wake up people, this is only the beginning…. I hope every parent and child will stand and protest this school and it’s stupid and offensive policy….yes, you have offended Me and a lot of other people….put the tree back up!" You could be right and it was Muslims who, in an effort to get that much closer to world domination, asked the principal of an elementary school to remove a tree from their lobby. Or maybe they were Jewish and just objected to a Christian symbol in a publicly-funded institution. It's a tough call for sure.

"Wait until the Muslims become the majority and then you will see what tolerance will be like!"Yeah, with 76% of Americans claiming to be Christians, I would say that will be a long, long wait. You should hold your breath though, just to be on the safe side.

"The pendulum swings any further with all of this Muslim Tolerance stuff and we all WILL be forced to wear burkas." Hey Dude, you just got a phone call. Guy said to tell you the sky WAS falling. I think he said his name was Rush.

To those who want to get all self-righteous and alarmist over some elementary school principal's bad decision to take down a giving tree in the school lobby during Christmastime because it made some students uncomfortable, I have to's a tree! It's not some lone, teetering domino standing on the march towards socialism or a Muslim plot or to convert us all to Islam. It's just a future box of firewood, so just chill out and don't let it get your panties in a bunch. You can still have a good Christmas and decorate your trailer however you like and you can still play with your guns and dream about being Rambo all you want.

Trust me, no one is going to bother you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

All I Want For Christmas Is Zhu (Zhu)

Every year at about this time parents run amok at toy stores trying to find that one "must-have" toy to appease that ungrateful brat little darling of theirs. You know the toy that has become so ridiculously expensive due to a frenzy of heavy marketing and a suspiciously low availability just before Christmas time?

For years we’ve watched with a mixture of amazement and pity as grown adults waited hours in lines and charged toy counters pushing old ladies to the floor and trampling little kids in the process of trying to get their hands on some silly toy that their child would be bored with in a week or two anyway. Parents that went through this with Cabbage Patch Dolls, Furbies, Tickle-Me-Elmo’s or Beanie Babies can back me up on this.

This year's "I-absolutely-gotta-have-it-or-you-totally-suck-as-a-parent-and-I-just-don't-want-to-live-if-I-can't-have-one" toy of the year is called a Zhu Zhu, and it is a small robotic pet hamster that, for around $30, does the same kind of stuff a regular hamster does, but doesn’t require a regular cage cleaning. Just an occasional battery replacement is all.

Originally selling between $8 and $10 apiece, they have really caught on with the moppet crowd and their popularity is soaring almost as quickly as are their prices. Even a report claiming that the fuzzy robo-rodent was tainted with a toxic antimony compound (which was later found to be false) did little if anything to slow its demand. Why? Well, the Zhu Zhu are cute and furry, make funny squeaky noises and move - all three criteria necessary for a sensational splash in the toy world.

If you haven't gotten yours yet then you are probably screwed as most stores are out of stock on them and won't have them in before Christmas. This just leaves Amazon and the other price-gouging jackals selling theirs online on E-Bay or on Craig's List. And believe me, there is no shortage of sellers on the internet. I checked Craig’s List for just my local area and there were over a hundred listings for Zhu Zhu and Zhu Zhu accessories. “Have yourself..a merry little profit…” Actually there’s nothing little about 300% or more! And yet ticket scalping is illegal. Oh well. God bless capitalism.

There are five of the Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters, and each one differs from the other primarily by it’s color, it’s unique squeak and the way it moves. The five are named Mr. Squiggles, Pipsqueak, Num Nums, Patches and Chunk. Patches comes with some of the accessories and is not available separately. Originally the manufacturer (Cepia) had named them Go Go Pet Hamsters, but later changed the name to Zhu Zhu, and the rest was marketing history. The Go Go Pet Hamsters are still available, but they are now labeled as rare and “collector’s pet hamsters” and sell for about double the price of the Zhu Zhu.

(Momentary pause while the author screams at the computer screen. Okay, good.)

In addition to the five Zhu Zhu pet hamsters themselves, there are a number of Zhu Zhu accessories that the discerning robot hamster owner can’t live without. For example, if you have a Zhu Zhu pet hamster, he’s going to need a place to sleep. The Zhu Zhu Bed with two blankets is around $20. Next he’s going to need a place to crash after a day of squeaking and moving to and fro. The Zhu Zhu Hamster House Starter Kit will set you back about $60. Starting to get the picture?

And of course you wouldn’t want to deny your pet hamster some fun times, right? Add to your shopping list the Zhu Zhu Funhouse, the Hamster Wheel, the Hamstermobile and Garage, the Adventure Ball, the Spiral Slide and Ramp, the Bathtime Play Set, the Surfboard and the Sleep Dome for starters. Kaa-Ching! I’m not going to say it’s an expensive proposition keeping your child’s toy entertained, but what it boils down to is you can either succumb to your child's incessant whining and shell out big bucks for two pounds of colored plastic and wires or you can pay the mortgage. Your choice.

I had a hamster when I was a kid. He was noisy and smelly and sometimes he bit me pretty good. Now and then he used to escape from his cage and chew up my stuff. But he helped teach me about responsibility and how to properly care for a pet. And finally, he taught me about death and dealing with grief. Not bad for a $10 investment. But I totally see the benefit of getting a robot pet too. Some kids are not as loving to animals nor as careful to keep them from harm. They often grow up to become serial killers, in fact. It's better that some have a buffer between real living creatures and a plastic toy to weed out those with killer tendencies or too whacked out to know any better. (I'm surprised their marketing department doesn't exploit this obvious benefit.)

For example, I had a cousin once that used to love cartoons as a kid. One day after watching an episode of Tom and Jerry he grabbed a hammer and whacked the cat on the head, killing it. He was so surprised that there were no stars hovering around its head, no eyeballs rolling back with the words "TILT" and especially that the cat didn't get up a minute later to go grab a hammer of his own. Nope, just a dead cat. Ahhh, but maybe there was something wrong with this cat. So he found another cat and did the same thing. Nope. Another defective cat. I think he eventually learned his lesson. Although he is working for the stockyards, so...who knows?

I guess I've finally reached grumpy old man status when I preface sentences with "Kids today have it so easy..." But it's true in a way. Toys are becoming more high-tech all the time with voice activation, artificial intelligence and now the ability to read brain activity. As kids we were happy just riding our bikes and playing baseball. Today's kids would rather play baseball on a Playstation. Our G.I. Joes were powered by our imaginations, not by microchips. When do you ever hear of a kid playing chess or Monopoly anymore? No, they are too busy blasting zombies and annihilating murderous alien scuzzballs. You have to wonder if something simple as a Frisbee will ever be able to find a place with this next generation. Maybe a flaming, shrieking Frisbee that throws ninja stars at holographic images of monsters? Ah, but then it wouldn't really be a Frisbee, would it? Alas, the times are a-changing, my friends.

Technology is leaping ahead all the time and it seems that artificial intelligence is the next wave to crash on our shores. I shudder to think what's going to happen to old Fido when Dog 2.0 hits the stores. Really, how long before our dogs are replaced with cybertronic canines with artificial intelligence and programmed personalities with a variety of barking options and the ability to wirelessly download first run movies and project them onto a wall with the specially designed lenses in their eyes? Oh, and you will be able to use them to play video games and MP4's too. How wonderful that you never need to feed them or clean up after them or walk them and when you get bored you can just deactivate them? They don't run away, chase cats, shed hair, bark at the neighbors or pee on the furniture. Just the perfect pet you say? Until one turns on you, I suppose. That dang Chaos theory again...

Now I don't necessarily see the arrival of the Zhu Zhu as some warning of apocalyptic destruction where animals and people eventually all become replaced with some type of robot beings and the world becomes ruled by computers with artificial intelligence. No, about the only thing these furry little guys will destroy is your checking account. But after that, it's all good right? Yep. At least until the manufacturer releases their Spring line with five new Baby Zhu Zhu's, all new accessories and a full line of pet hamster clothes (can't have hamsters running around naked can we?)

Too all of you lucky enough to find a Zhu Zhu for your kids, or to call your own, I say good for you. I hope it gives you all the joy and comfort you want out of a pet gizmo. For those of you that missed out this year, I am sorry for your loss. It will truly be a blue Christmas without Zhu.

Sorry. That was bad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday Funnies

Hey it's Tuesday!

That today some random crap off of the internet day!

-Random thoughts from people our age...

-I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in Americadid that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the f was going on when I first saw it.

-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to finish a text.

- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

- Was learning cursive really necessary?

- Lol has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- My brother's Municipal League baseball team is named the Stepdads. Seeing as none of the guys on the team are actual stepdads, I inquired about the name. He explained, "Cuz we beat you, and you hate us." Classy, bro.

- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm....Goonies"

-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

- I would like to officially coin the phrase 'catching the swine flu' to be used as a way to make fun of a friend for hooking up with an overweight woman. Example: "John caught the swine flu last night."

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like, I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

-When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentioning something she hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light internet stalking.

-Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising speed for pedophiles...

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

-I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

-The other night I ordered takeout, and when I looked in the bag, saw they had included four sets of plastic silverware. In other words, someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard before dinner.

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