A view of the world from my own unique perspective

Archive for the ‘Tongue-In-Cheek’ Category

Why I No Longer Enjoy How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Let me start by saying that I used to enjoy reading and watching watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas frequently as a child, and I still like watching the original cartoon version from time to time as an adult. However, a few years ago, I decided to take another look at this story from a new angle (The Bob Angle, naturally), and now I’m not quite as enamoured with it. In fact I think that I may have ruined a co-worker’s cherished childhood Christmas traditions with my impassive analysis of this classic tale.

Grinch - Book, DVD

One December, a number of years ago, a co-worker, whom I will call Diane, and I were talking about Christmas, and she told me that one of her all-time favourite Christmas movies was the Dr. Seuss cartoon How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I asked her why she liked it, and she replied that it made her feel good, and re-affirmed her faith in humanity.

I said that How The Grinch Stole Christmas was not a feel-good story, and that there was nothing even remotely redeeming about it.

To refresh your memory, here is a brief plot summary: The Grinch, who lives in a cave just outside the town of Whoville, hates Christmas, and has hated it for the past 53 years. This year, he decides to ruin Christmas for the Whoville residents by sneaking into their homes at night and stealing all of their Christmas presents, Christmas decorations and food. He puts everything into an enormous sack and hauls his stash up to the top of Mount Crumpit. As he prepares to heave everything off the side of the mountain, he looks down at the village and sees that his thievery has neither prevented Christmas from occurring, nor diminished the joyous celebrations of the villagers. The Grinch has an epiphany, and decides to return all of the presents. He is welcomed by the townspeople and then joins them in their Christmas celebrations.

I told Diane that while I used to enjoy watching the cartoon as much as everyone else, I changed my mind about this story. It wasn’t heartwarming at all. After the Grinch’s epiphany at the end of the story, the narrator declares that the Grinch’s heart has grown three sizes larger, and that he is now a transformed and newly-benevolent creature. However, the Grinch’s adulation by the citizens of Whoville is, in my opinion, undeserved – the Grinch didn’t do anything praiseworthy or even positive.

At this point, Diane protested “But he did do something positive – he returned all of the presents!”. I replied “If you do something positive for other people, then yes, you certainly deserve praise for your actions. However, the Whovillians are merely deluding themselves because they have failed to grasp what’s really going on. In fact, this perceptual blind spot will just set themselves up for a lifetime of sadness and disappointment”.

Graph - Baseline

Here is a graph that represents behaviour over time. Time is on the X axis and one’s behaviour is plotted along the Y axis. The horizontal line in the middle of the graph represents what I call baseline behaviour: it’s neither positive nor negative, and represents the way that we behave normally.

If someone does something positive for others, then a single good deed would be plotted like this:

Graph - One Good Deed

Continuous good behaviour would look like this:

Graph - Good Behaviour

Now let’s analyze the Grinch. This is what his behavioural line looks like:

Graph - Grinch Curve

Most of the plot lies along the baseline. That’s because for the past 53 years, the Grinch has hated Christmas. This is perfectly acceptable – as long as he never acts on those thoughts, he can hate all he likes. Sitting in his cave and being miserable is his baseline behaviour. One day, he hatches his diabolical plan to ruin Christmas, and when he acts on that plan and starts robbing houses, the line moves down. The line then continues its descent as the Grinch steals from house after house. Then when he experiences his epiphany and decides to return the presents, the line shoots back up.

The line doesn’t enter positive territory because the Grinch never did anything worthy of praise; he merely did something bad – repeatedly – and then corrected his mistake by returning the gifts. This is the crucial element in this story: it’s not an inspirational or even an allegorical tale because the Grinch didn’t do anything good – he merely stopped doing something bad. Notice that the line also doesn’t go all the way back to the baseline… that’s because the Grinch didn’t atone completely for his misdeeds. Doing that would require that he return the gifts to everyone’s house and then leave everything just the way he found it… but he didn’t do that. He merely gave the sack of loot back to the villagers to sort out for themselves. Behaviourally, that’s still a net negative.

What did the villagers do? They forgave the Grinch, invited him into their homes to celebrate Christmas, and then gave him a large steak knife!

Grinch - Dinner Table

Yes, I know this is a Dr. Suess story, but let’s look at this scenario a little more realistically. Imagine that there was a rash of robberies on your street and the thieves stole everyone’s Christmas presents, decorations and food. Every house was robbed, including yours. Now imagine that the thief decided to turn himself in. He goes to the police station and declares “I’m a changed man! My heart has grown three sizes today, so I am returning the presents”. What would the police officers do? They probably wouldn’t do what those naïve and somewhat dimwitted residents of Whoville are doing right now…

If your house was robbed just before Christmas, would you invite the thief into your home to be with you and your family? I think not… I think that you would want to throw his grinchy little tush into jail until it was time for his trial. And then you’d hope that the Crown assigns their meanest and most ornery pitbull lawyer to be the prosecuting attorney for his case.

GrinchAfter 53 years of hating Christmas and everyone who celebrates it, this dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon now claims that he has suddenly changed his ways. You can believe that if you like – just like you can believe hardened felons who have somehow managed to “find Jesus” just before their parole board hearings. If you’re still not convinced, then consider this: the Grinch didn’t rob the Whovillians because he was in financial dire straits or because he needed the food to survive. The motive was pure, seething hate. The Grinch, in my opinion, is a sadist; he went on his crime spree in order to inflict misery and emotional damage on as many people as he could, because his happiness is contingent on the suffering of others. The Grinch is shadenfreude personified, and not someone you want in your home.

Both Graphs

There is a world of difference between doing good deeds for others, and simply behaving poorly and ceasing your poor – or in the Grinch’s case, criminal – behaviour. Study these two graphs – understand the difference and don’t be fooled by those trying to pass themselves off as laudable. The Grinch did not do anything positive; he is not a good behavioural example to anyone, and therefore he should not be praised.

At this point, Diane just glared at me and said “Thanks a lot Bob – you’ve just ruined my Christmas tradition! Why did I even ask you for your opinion? I should have known better! Bob – you are worse than the Grinch!”

As she turned around and shuffled dejectedly back to her desk, I called out “Wait – don’t you want to hear about my all-time least favourite Christmas movie?”

.

.

Checkout Line Musings

Whenever I go food shopping, there is one decision that frustrates me more than any other: which is the fastest or most efficient checkout line? No matter how carefully I evaluate the different lines, I always make the wrong decision and end up in the slowest one. While I’m waiting there’s always someone ahead of me who has scanned something that’s not in the database. No one knows what the correct price is, and the cashier isn’t going to take the customer’s word for it, so she calls someone over, hands him the item, and off he goes to find out what it costs. Meanwhile, everyone else in the line has to wait.

While this is happening, I’m usually surveying the other checkout lines and thinking to myself “If I had chosen checkout line #2, I would have been right behind that guy right now – the one who has just finished bagging his groceries and is now leaving the store”.

Checkout Lines

I also spent a lot of time watching the cashiers at work, and thinking to myself “I don’t think that I could be a cashier – this is a job that I am suited for”. Of course, the job much easier than it used to be – in the days before scanners, the cashiers had to enter the prices into the register; now all they have to do is swipe everything across the scanner. Except for the stuff in clear plastic bags – that’s when the magic happens. Most cashiers simply look at the bag, and know exactly what code to enter. I’ve looked at those bags too, and half the time I can’t even identify the type of vegetable inside them!

A large bottle of cranberry juiceAnother reason why I would make a lousy cashier is that I wouldn’t be able to resist making comments and lifestyle judgments, based on the items on the conveyor belt. For example, if an elderly or middle-aged man was buying a bottle of cranberry juice, I would scan the bottle, hold it up, look at it briefly, turn to the customer and say (quite helpfully and earnestly) “Cranberry juice! I was just reading an article in a health magazine, and do you know what they said about this? Cranberry juice – a friend to urinary tract health. I see you’ve bought the large bottle, sir. Do you really like cranberry juice that much, or is there perhaps some other… medical reason for your purchase. Tell me, sir – does it hurt when you pee? Be honest, you can tell… What do you mean it’s none of my business? Listen – those other cashiers would just scan this item silently, but not I. That’s because I care. I care about your prostate. Because that’s just the kind of value-added cashier I am.”

Reason #3: I’m the type of person who gets bored very easily, and I need to do things that keep my mind sharp. Often, I’ll start making up games with the customers to keep myself amused. “OK sir, your total comes to $11.84″. From twenty, your change should be… $8.16. Does that sound right to you? What do you think? Does that sound right? You’re hesitating… don’t you know? OK, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you $8.16 right now, or you could choose option #2, and accept whatever amount the cash registers calculates as your change. Which choice will offer you the best deal? Or will the numbers be the same? You have five seconds to make your decision.”

Finally, I wouldn’t last long as a cashier because I don’t suffer fools gladly. One of my countless supermarket pet peeves is the innumerate shopper. These are the people who invariably come up short at the cash register, and then rather than admit their ineptitude, spend 30 seconds spewing face-saving nonsense such as “I must have left my wallet in my other purse”, “I know it’s here somewhere, just give me a minute”. Finally, when the cashier helpfully offers to remove one or more items from the total, the innumerate (and now indecisive) shopper spend another 30 seconds trying to decide which item that should be. My response, if I were a cashier: “Sir/madam stop wasting everyone’s time by trying to save face. We all know that you don’t have enough money to pay for all of your items, and that’s because you can’t do mental arithmetic. You are unable to keep a running total in your head, and I would wager that you likely don’t know which items are taxable. If I may say so, this is the price we as a society are paying for twenty years of sub-standard Mexican weed and a decade of insipid reality television – we now have stores filled shoppers like you, who are wandering around in a permanent mental fog.”

Clearly, I wouldn’t last long as a cashier. Now, back to the line analysis…

.

Checkout Line Efficiency Analysis

The basic initial strategy is obviously “choose the shortest line – the one with the fewest people in it”. As most of you already know, this strategy isn’t particularly effective, since there are too many other variables to consider. Some people have more groceries than others, so I modified my approach and discreetly looked at the number of items in everyone’s cart and then recalculate based on the total item count, rather than the number of people.

I’ll often walk past all of the checkout lanes and glance at each cashier. Is she young or middle-aged? The young ones generally work faster since they are vibrant, full of energy and eager to make a good impression as they enter the workforce. The middle-aged cashier – especially one whose face tells you that life has beaten her down – is more likely to be on auto-pilot, and therefore will be working at a sloth-like pace as she counts down the hours and minutes until the end of her shift.

An important consideration is what I call “the old lady factor”. A senior in the checkout line will usually gum the entire works (and this applies equally to older men). For example, a cashier might say, “OK madam, your bill is $20.94” and the old lady will say, “Here’s $20, and I think I have 94 cents. Now, where did I put my change purse. Oh, I don’t have my glasses. I can’t tell if this is a quarter or a nickel. Now I’ve lost track… how much have I given you so far?”.

Another variable is the age of the cashier. The older the cashier, the more likely she is to make small talk with the customers. This slows down the scanning and increases the wait time. Also, the smaller the town, the more likely it is that this will happen, and the longer this time-wasting banter will last.

If there’s time, I’ll check for multitasking abilities. When a cashier is making small-talk with the customers, does she stop scanning? It’s important to avoid cashiers who are unable to multitask.

There is also the plague the efficiency expert. This shopper will place all of their groceries on the conveyor belt, and then leave the line for that one item they forgot. Naturally, they don’t return as quickly as they thought, and everyone else has to wait. I don’t know if they’re simply absent-minded, or if they believe they’re being clever and efficient for thinking of this shopping strategy, but let me say this: I hate these people with the burning fire of a thousand suns! Unfortunately, you can’t identify these inconsiderate, inward-looking blackguards until you’re already in line with them, and by then it’s too late.

A little reconnaissance work (while not related to line efficiency) is also crucial. When I leave my regular supermarket, I’ll sometimes walk past cashiers who are on a cigarette break. What do you suppose the chances are that they will wash their hands (or even use hand sanitizer) after sucking on that cancer stick and covering their hands in carcinogenic filth? Probably slim to none. Personally, I don’t want these people handling every one of my food items before I bring them home. Make a mental note of who these cashier are, and avoid them at all costs during future visits.

You also need to consider the self-regulating behaviour of the other shoppers. Everyone else is doing exactly the same thing I am – we all want to get into the shortest line, so when one line is clearly shorter than the others, shoppers will gravitate toward it. In fact, if the disparity becomes pronounced, shoppers may abandon their own line to stake out a place in it. Checkout lines lengths don’t remain unequal for very long.

Conclusion

Finally, after incorporating all of these variables and making allowances for the self-regulating aspect of line lengths, I have come up with my own method of choosing the best checkout line. Since you’re never going to pick the shortest or most efficient line, just do what I do – choose the checkout line with the best-looking cashier!

.

I Mentally Correct The Grammar In Song Lyrics

Recently, a friend of mine posted this on my Facebook wall:

She obviously knows me well. I do correct people’s grammar – mentally (and I hope, expressionlessly). I’m not talking about obvious errors – I’ll also mentally correct split infinitives, faulty parallelism, and even the improper use of the future subjunctive mood. I suspect that many of you may also mentally correct people’s grammar, and consider this habit to be merely one of your idiosyncrasies.

I’d now like to raise the quirkiness bar a little and make another admission: I also mentally correct song lyrics when I listen to the radio. Not in all songs of course – there are so many that contain tortured grammar that the continual frustration would quickly turn me into a complete basket case.

The worst offenders are singers who use double negatives. However, in certain cases, correcting this error will change a song’s meter. In the Neil Sedaka tune Next Door To An Angel, the line “I can’t believe that this, is, the girl next door. Her funny little face isn’t funny no more” works rhythmically, and my 5-6 corrected versions don’t flow quite as well as the original. So Neil Sedaka gets a pass from me this time.

The Rolling Stones’ classic, Satisfaction, is another good example. The line “But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me” uses an object pronoun instead of a subject one. That line should be “the same cigarettes as I”, but that will ruin the rhyme scheme, so Mick Jagger is also off the hook. However, the song’s chorus is another story. How difficult would it be for Mick to sing “I can get no satisfaction”, instead of “I can’t get no satisfaction”? Drop a single consonant, and the song suddenly sounds so much more refined!

My Lyrical Pet Peeve

My biggest grammatical pet peeve in song lyrics involves a word that is almost never heard. In this age of “gangsta rap” and grunge bands, it’s difficult to believe that any word is verboten or avoided, but there remains one that escapes the lips of very few singers: whom.

Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters. This was the wildly popular mid-1980s movie theme that spawned the catch-phrase “who ya gonna call?”. Every time I heard it, it made me cringe. Personally, I think that this line should be changed to “whom shall one call?”, but I’m willing to compromise and accept “whom you gonna call?”. I don’t want to be perceived as inflexible, or (heaven forbid) pedantic.

Aretha Franklin – Who’s Zoomin’ Who? According to Wikipedia, this 1985 song zoomed up to the #1 position on the Billboard charts, and stayed there for five weeks. In my humble opinion, if the song title had been “Who’s Zooming Whom?”, it would have stayed on top of the charts considerably longer, and it would have single-handedly catapulted Aretha Franklin’s career into the stratosphere. I’m sure you’ll agree that the corrected version does sound a lot catchier. It’s too bad that Aretha’s people didn’t call me for advice back in the 1980s. With that single change, the Queen of Soul’s career would have certainly eclipsed that of the King of Pop.

Barry Manilow – Copacabana. This is a tricky one. Even though only one letter needs to be added, it’s not an easy fix. Here is the original verse:

And then the punches flew,
And chairs were smashed in two,
There was blood and a single gunshot,
But just who shot who?

Changing who to whom diminishes the AABA rhyme scheme. After dwelling on this problem for some time, I finally decided to re-write the entire verse:

There was a raucous boom,
Chairs sailed across the room,
There was blood and a single gunshot,
But just who shot whom?
At the Copa…

As you can imagine, singing along to this new version while the original plays on the radio is exceedingly difficult. Therefore, the only solution is to win the lottery. Instead of spending my winnings on a dream vacation or on an expensive car, I would buy some studio time and hire Barry Manilow to re-record this modified version of Copacabana. He wouldn’t have to release a new album or do anything extravagant – he would merely record a single copy just for me, to play in the car or on my MP3 player. Then, if I had any funds remaining, I would hire Aretha Franklin and Ray Parker Jr. This, in my opinion, would be money well-spent.

Good Lyrical Examples – The Runners-Up

There are a couple of pop songs that use the word whom in their title or lyrics: For Whom The Bell Tolls by the Bee Gees (and another – entirely different – version by Metallica). The first two lines of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Just A Song Before I Go are “Just a song before I go, to whom it may concern”. While I’m glad that the word whom was used in each song, CSNY merely parroted a well-known expression, and the Bee Gees appropriated the title of an Ernest Hemingway novel.

Honourable Mention: Rush – Limelight. While Limelight doesn’t fall into the “whom” category, I’d like to mention Rush for the following line: “One must put up barriers to keep oneself intact”. Other than members of the British royal family, few people use gender-neutral pronouns these days. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear something so proper from a progressive rock band. I’ve linked this song to a live version, because it gives me such immense joy to hear an entire audience of young people singing along and using gender-neutral pronouns.

The Winner: My Source of Lyrical Inspiration

My choice as the most inspirational and grammatically-uplifting song comes from an unlikely source – the 1970s and 80s British punk rock band The Clash. Their song Should I Stay Or Should I Go? contains the following lines:

This indecision’s bugging me,
If you don’t want me set me free,
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be,

Combat RockYou’ve got to hand it to the Brits. The Clash was one of the defining groups of the late-1970s punk rock era – a musical genre characterized by non-conformity, violent rebellion, ear-piercing volume levels, cacophonous and distorted music, and lyrics that were usually screamed into the microphones. However, as intimidating as all this seems – in England, even bad boy punk rockers know how to use the word “whom” properly in their lyrics.

.

.

A Face (but not Jesus’s) has Appeared on my Bathroom Counter!

I don’t know why I didn’t notice this before, since it was clearly right in front of me every morning. A couple of months ago, I detected an image of a face in the patterns of my fake marble bathroom countertop. Like all other face-like images that appear in everyday objects, it’s fairly nebulous, but to me, it looks like a man with a prominent nose and large, droopy jowls, cradling an infant. Here it is:

Bathroom Sink Image 1

These features seem fairly obvious to me, but if you’re having trouble making them out, I’ve numbered everything. Like a savvy evangelist, I am now interpreting this image for you, and may even imbue it with a gravitas that it likely doesn’t deserve. :o)

Bathroom Sink Image Labels

This is what I see: 1) and 2) Deep-set eyes. 3) Nose 4) Large, fleshy jowl 5) Infant’s head. 6) Infant’s mouth 7) Infant’s eyes. The white horizontal line between the 7 and 3 is just the camera flash reflection.

My first thought was: maybe this is an image of Jesus. Every couple of years (or more frequently if you read the tabloids), there’s a story about someone discovering an image of Jesus in their grilled cheese sandwich, household appliance, chocolate bar or embedded in a mouldy stain on their bathroom wall.

Grilled Cheese SandwichChocolate Milk

Jesus Plate-300Kit Kat

Wall StainIron

It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon, and even add my own twist: perhaps Jesus is the infant, and the old man holding Him is Joseph! Why should Mary always be the person holding Jesus? While my bathroom countertop image does look somewhat like a wise, old man who appears to have a mustache and beard, and who might even be wearing a robe, I don’t believe for a second that this is an image of Jesus.

Some of you may be thinking: Bob, what are you saying? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. This is the proper sequence of events:

  • You discover what looks like a face in a common household object.
  • Contact as many media outlets as possible.
  • Give numerous interviews, stressing that you and the Lord are really tight, which is why Jesus appeared on your [household object].
  • Tour the country and do the low-brow talk show and morning show circuit.
  • Explain that you hope this image will inspire others to become better people.
  • Tell the TV audiences how profoundly this discovery has impacted you, and that you will cherish this object as a symbol of the strong and inseparable bond you have with Jesus.
  • Finally, put the item up for auction on eBay before the public interest dies down, and try to collect as much money as possible.

The Golden Palace Casino paid $28,000 for some lady’s grilled cheese sandwich – and it already had a bite taken out of it. Surely I could get more than that for a section of my unmasticated bathroom countertop.

.

Why Do We See Faces?

This got me thinking – why do we see faces in everyday objects anyway? What happened to our natural skepticism and critical thinking skills? Part of the answer lies in a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia, which is the ability to see patterns from randomness or nebulous shapes. An example of pareidolia is this cloud formation:

I remember that the topic of facial detection came up during one of my university psychology classes. According to our professor, babies are hard-wired to recognize faces, because a mother’s face represents comfort, nourishment and protection. During the first three months, an infant’s vision is still pretty fuzzy, so they have to be able to recognize even a vague representation of facial features. That’s why we are able to see faces in almost anything, even if the shape is askew, distorted or poorly-defined.

The proverbial Man In The Moon is a good example of a face arising from amorphous features. I’ve never been able to see the face myself – it had to be pointed out to me. Even so, I still don’t see much of a resemblance.

MIM-1MIM-2

.

Why Is The Face Always Jesus?

Whenever the media reports on one of these stories, the face is invariably Jesus. Why don’t people run to the media clutching their grilled cheese sandwich and excitedly claim to see Pauly Shore, Judge Wapner, Les Nessman or Reuben Kincaid? An image of Reuben Kincaid on a reuben sandwich – now surely that’s something that will sell newspapers!

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), the author of The Chronicles Of Narnia, proposed that we see religious imagery because we live in a world that is immersed in such things. Certainly, during Lewis’s lifetime, religion was much more prominent in North American society, so his observation makes sense. My sociology professor once remarked “believing is seeing” – what we see is based, in part, on our belief system.

If believing is seeing, then why doesn’t anyone think that the nebulous Man In The Moon is actually the face of Jesus? Wikipedia lists several stories about the origins of the Man In The Moon. These include tales from Norse, Chinese and Haida mythology, but there is nothing that mentions Jesus. The Jesus connection seems obvious (at least to me) – if God is omnipresent and is watching over us from the heavens, then an ideal manifestation would be a face-like image on the moon, as both a tangible indicator of His omnipresence, and a subtle (and persistent) reminder to behave ourselves. The moon was far beyond our reach (at least until 1969), so there would no way for anyone to get a closer look and either verify or debunk this claim.

Cone Nebula

A further irony is the Cone Nebula. After the Hubble Space Telescope photographed it (above), some people believed that this was also an image of Jesus, and even quoted Matthew 24:30 to back up their assertion “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory“. Sure, this sounds very foreboding – until you do a little research and discover one nit-picky detail: the Cone Nebula is 2,700 light years away. The light from the Cone Nebula took 2,700 years to get here, which means that the light in this image started its journey toward Earth 700 years before Jesus was even born.

I can understand that people might see Jesus in everyday objects during C.S. Lewis’s lifetime, but in today’s increasingly secular society, why is it still happening, and with (what seems to be) increasing frequency? Personally, I think the answer lies – ironically enough – in one of the Seven Deadly Sins: hubris. We want to believe that we are special, or at least that we’re better than our friends and neighbours. One way to accomplish this is by forging a connection between ourselves and the creator of the universe. We want to feel that we alone have been selected by God, from this planet’s seven billion inhabitants. Other people attend Mass at God’s house every Sunday, but now God (or His son) comes to you. It’s the ecclesiastical equivalent of a doctor making a house call, or of playing golf with your company’s president, and having him pick you up at home.

This ego trip doesn’t work as well with images of other people. Seeing a likeness of Richard Simmons in your grilled cheese sandwich, sends an entirely different, and decidedly less flattering message: put that sandwich down, and get on the treadmill! Come on, you can do it!

Penn & Teller, in a program called Signs From Heaven, offer another, similar explanation. Some people are tired of going to church and hearing about miracles happening to others, so this is a way to put themselves in the spotlight by experiencing their own miracle. It’s their turn to be the centre of attention; others now gravitate toward them. Their lives are changed instantly from monotonous to glamourous.

The “monotonous lives” observation is important. How many of these “image of Jesus” claims are made by celebrities, business tycoons, millionaires or anyone else who already leads an exciting or glamourous life? Even the Pope (to my knowledge) doesn’t run around the Vatican, waving a grilled cheese sandwich, and claiming to have experienced a miracle. If you don’t have the talent or good fortune to make a name for yourself, then you can always bask in the reflected glory of others – and who can surpass the glory of Jesus Christ Himself? It’s a brilliant strategy.

.

Identifying The Bathroom Counter Image

I’m not the first person to see a face in a bathroom counter – according to this story, a woman saw something in her sink that resembled a face, was convinced that it was Jesus, and was so moved and inspired by it that she posted it on eBay with a selling price of $50,000.

I, however, have no desire to stand in the spotlight, nor do I harbour any feelings of hubris, avarice or frothing opportunism. I’m not going to go to the media and claim that this is Jesus because I have no desire to be stuck on some TV talk show, wedged between an aging Elvis impersonator and some hayseed called Gomer who insists that he was abducted and then probed by aliens. More importantly, I’d rather be known for my entertaining blog posts, instead of “that nutbar who thinks Jesus is watching him put on deodorant every morning”. I realize that the “face” on my bathroom counter is nothing more than my pareidolia trying to attribute some meaning to the nebulous patterns.

However, I also can’t resist speculating, and after staring at this image during the past few weeks, I’ve compiled a list of potential candidates: John Lennon; a late-1970s Dan Hill; Frank Zappa, cradling his newborn daughter, Moon Unit; Ted Neely (in character); a spry Dumbledore; Aragorn; a youthful Gandalf; or a young Saruman.

John LennonDan HillFrank ZappaTed NeelyAragorn

In the end, and after much contemplation, I’ve finally decided that my bathroom counter image is probably this cat, from the 1960s band The Strawbs. Now if only I can figure out what this means…

Strawbs CD

.

Barbers and Hair Stylists: Please Buy White Capes!

I’ve finally reached that age – when I look in the mirror and start seeing a few gray hairs. It’s an inevitable indicator of my disappearing youth, but just as I was getting used to it, something unsettling happened when I went to the barber shop for my regular haircut.

Barber Pole

I usually enjoy getting haircuts. The barber places the black cape over my shoulders, and then wraps a band of what looks like white tissue paper around my neck. After the cape is fastened, this makes me look a little bit like a priest. At this point, I usually look in the mirror – to see if I look convincing as a man of the cloth, and then wonder whether it would be possible to be a priest and still retain my irreverent sense of humour. During these moments, I’m often tempted to raise both my arms in the air, like the Pope does when he’s blessing a crowd – but unfortunately those capes don’t have any sleeves, and it would take a long time to explain all of this to my barber.

My life-changing barber shop appointment started just the rest, until the clumps of hair started falling onto the cape. They’re usually barely visible against the black fabric, but this time, there they were… those short gray strands. Most people would simply look at them and think “Yep, the gray hairs have started coming in”… but not I. I had a decidedly more visceral experience. To say that they were merely gray would be an understatement; these fibres appeared whiter than white. In fact, against the jet black fabric, they appeared to be almost luminescent! These gray hairs were a shining beacon, signaling my own mortality – a sign that this was now the beginning of the end. I’ve heard that people who have a near-death experience often feel as though they are travelling through a dark tunnel with a bright light at one end. Well, the symbolism here seemed obvious: the black cape was my own dark tunnel, and these few brilliant white strands of hair were the light off in the distance… representing the end of my journey.

As I sat in the chair, contemplating my mortality, I wondered why barbers’ capes are always black. This is fine if you’re young, but can be disconcerting when you’ve reached middle-age. When I got home, I did a little searching and discovered that barbers’ capes do come in white!

Barber Cape - White

Therefore, I’d like to make a suggestion to all of the barbers and hair stylists: You work hard to make us look good and feel good about ourselves, so please – I beg you – buy some white capes, and use them on your middle-aged customers or on those who are starting to get gray hair. White capes will highlight our remaining dark hairs, as a reminder of our enduring (if fading) youth, and that’s much better (and less stressful) than a black cape that will highlight a symbol of our advancing age.

.

What if the Rapture Happened… and Nobody Knew?

Let me begin by telling you that the newspaper article below is fake; it was generated from a web site that creates realistic-looking newspaper articles from user-entered text. I’m not sure why the author wrote this article, but since it’s dated only one day before the supposed Mayan Apocalypse, I suspect that it was intended to be an early sign of the end of the world.

Dolphins Vanish

Which got me thinking… what if this article was on the level, and was a sign of another end of the world scenario – specifically, the Rapture? Suddenly I saw this amateur hoax as an Onion-level piece of social and religious satire: The Rapture has occurred, coinciding almost perfectly with the date of the Mayan apocalypse. Jesus returned to Earth, took a look around, and then decided that only creatures who were worthy enough to be taken up to heaven were the dolphins! To quote an old Dean Martin song “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”.

First, a little background. As I’m sure most of  you know, some fundamentalist Christians believe in The Rapture – an unspecified date in the future when Jesus will return to Earth, scoop up all of the decent, kind, benevolent and worthy people, and then leave the rest of the heathens behind to fend for themselves. The Left Behind series of books and movies were all based on this belief.

I don’t believe in the Rapture myself, but a surprising number of people do. When 60 Minutes aired a segment on the Left Behind book series in 2004, it was revealed that 58 million copies of these books had been sold. Shortly after that segment aired, I remember reading that some special interest group asked major airlines not to ensure that at least one person in the cockpit had to be a “non-believer” (someone who didn’t believe in The Rapture) so that if it did occur, then there would still be someone left behind to fly the plane. The request was not taken seriously and not policy changes were made. However rumours were still circulated during 2003-2004, but were debunked by Snopes.com. Personally, I found that airline request amusing. I doubt very much that it was made out of genuine concern for others; the only people who would care enough about the religious beliefs of the pilots would be the passengers on that flight who were also “believers” and who felt at risk of being left behind themselves! For all of their piousness, they apparently aren’t above asking a “heathen” to save their lives.

And this is why that dolphin article amuses me so much. Although we humans – perched confidently on top of the evolutionary ladder – think we’re wonderful and are without a doubt God’s greatest creation, we aren’t as enlightened, civilized, or even as well-behaved as we like to think.

So why did dolphins win out over humans? I’ve thought of a few reasons:

  • Dolphins have no carbon footprint, and have always lived in harmony with nature.
  • Dolphins don’t deplete the planet’s non-renewable resources.
  • Dolphins don’t kill each other.
  • Dolphins do not subjugate other dolphins
  • Dolphins do not impose their religion or ideologies on other dolphins. 
  • Dolphins may kill fish, but they always eat what they kill.
  • Dolphins don’t kill other animals just to use their scales or hides to make fashionable shoes or handbags.

What I find most amusing of all is that not only were we humans left behind, but we didn’t even know that the Rapture even happened. In my opinion, that colossal lack of awareness makes us a pretty “low-bandwidth” species. That’s an inherent problem with living at the top of the evolutionary ladder – all we can do is look down on everyone else.

Finally, just in case you feel that Jesus made a mistake because you were left behind during the Rapture, let me set you straight. The dolphin disappearance was not a mistake – Jesus did this on porpoise!

What Will Really Happen on December 21, 2012

Mayan Calendar, Oreo Cookie

Forget everything you’ve heard up to now – this is what will really happen on December 21st, 2012…

Take a look at the photo above. It’s no coincidence that the Mayan calendar resembles an Oreo cookie. In fact, this similarity is how I finally uncovered the 12/21/12 doomsday secret. Those markings on the Oreo cookie are not merely some whimsical design – there is a secret code embedded in it that can be read only by the Mayan people. By employing highly-focused powers of inductive logic that would impress even world-renowned symbologist Robert Langdon, I’ve been able to decode these markings, and I will now share this secret with you. Here is the translation: “This cookie expires on December 21, 2012

Naturally, not all Oreo cookies will expire on this date, but some batches will – and only Mayans know which ones. Therefore, Mayans around the world will stop eating them on December 21st, while the rest of us continue to chow down, and consume our increasingly stale cookies in ignorant bliss. With only days to spare, I have finally decoded the secret Mayan plot for world domination! It appears that the doomsayers were right – this could (eventually) have been the end for us…