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Archive for March, 2009

star-wars2
The Star Wars Holiday Special is something of a legend among science-fiction fans. It is widely renowned as one of the worst films ever to appear on television, and that’s saying something considering the prequels have all been shown.

The plot goes something like this: Han Solo and Chewbacca are on their way to Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day” with the wookie’s furry family. Darth Vader, however, will have none of it, so he promptly sets up an imperial blockade around the forest planet. Luke Skywalker shows up to help, R2 D2 makes holiday beeping noises, wackiness ensues, and because the force is strong in badly written TV specials, the wookies reunite at the end and sing a happy yet unintelligible song.

There’s just so much horrible goodness to be found. Carrie Fisher is clearly drunk/stoned throughout most of the movie. One of the wookies watches the equivalent of a futuristic porno. A Jefferson Starship video randomly shows up during a search of the house. There’s a bizarre cooking show featuring a multi-armed Harvey Korman. And the musical number by Bea Arthur (of Golden Girls fame) is, quite simply, to die for.

This cinematic classic is sadly not available for rental or purchase. George Lucas has decreed that the movie will never be released to DVD (being too terrible, even for him), so if you want to watch the film, you’ll have to resort to the black market.

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pocket-protector
You always want to have a pen with you – it’s just common sense. Storing them in your shirt can be somewhat problematic, though, so it might be a good idea to put the pens inside a pocket protector. That way, if they suddenly reach critical mass and explode, you don’t have to worry about a shirt full of blue ink. The pocket protector will gladly absorb the damage, and all you have to deal with is getting repeatedly beaten up for your lunch money because you’re using a pocket protector.

The white plastic devices became a classic symbol of nerddom, and could be regularly seen on skinny computer programmers and the hopelessly unfashionable. They were ugly, inelegant, and the perfect accessory to go with taped-up glasses and cow-lick hair. Of course, the people who wore them now own major software companies and go on vacation every month to the Caribbean, so perhaps there’s something more to pocket protectors than has otherwise been considered.

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monkey
You may have noticed that many metropolitan cities suffer from animal problems. Some are plagued by hordes of pigeons. Others are burdened with infestations of rats. Santa Cruz is renowned for its high banana slug population. The whole country of India, however, has recently experienced a somewhat amusing dilemma – most of the land has been invaded by swarms of monkeys. Tiny furry ones who can jump about and climb on every surface and sneak into people’s homes with great efficiency.

This might initially seem kind of cool, but these monkeys are fiendishly intelligent. They know how to open doors, and break into cupboards, and eat your hidden stash of bananas. They also throw their feces at folks they don’t like with remarkable accuracy. As such, India has spent a tremendous amount of money and resources trying to curtail the constantly-growing simian population. Nothing has successfully worked, though (the monkeys simply steal the food out of the traps and give the people the finger), so living with the furry thieves may simply become a sad fact of life.

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tonya-harding2
Tonya Harding was an ice skater who had long dreamed of performing for the Winter Olympics. She practiced every day, including weekends, doing her best to master the incredibly difficult triple axle, but slowly discovered something to her dismay: she was pretty crappy. Or at least, she wasn’t good enough to compete against Nancy Kerrigan, another figure skater who had a perfect smile and great poise and read stories to orphans every Sunday morning while tending to sick puppies.

She thus hatched a sinister scheme with Jeff Gilooly (her ex-husband) and Shawn Eckhardt (a friend) to take her rival out of the picture. They hired a man named Shane Stant to attack Nancy Kerrigan while she was at the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, using a crowbar to the deed. The aftermath can be seen in the famous video footage of her clutching her broken knee while crying out “Why?” repeatedly. The answer, sadly, is obvious: because you were so much better than her.

It turned out that Tonya Harding and her accomplices weren’t exactly criminal masterminds, so it didn’t take long for the authorities to figure out what had happened. Her ex-husband was brought in for questioning, and he quickly spilled the dirt on what had happened. The United States Figure Skating Association promptly stripped Tonya of her title, and she was banned from the world of professional skating. This didn’t mean she was forever removed from the celebrity spotlight, however; in 1994, she released a porn movie made on her wedding night.

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a-million
A Million Little Pieces is a harrowing tale of drug addiction and alcohol abuse that took the publishing world by storm. The story is told from a stream-of-consciousness point of view that is often confusing to the reader, but helps reflect the distorted mental processes that are said to go on during recovery. It gained international prominence when James Frey (the author) appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to discuss his harrowing experiences, prompting many astonished gasps from the studio audience and the book to shoot to #1 on Amazon.com.

The story was also a gigantic fabrication by the author. It turns out that many of the shocking events described in the book never actually happened, despite James Frey’s claims to the contrary. The Smoking Gun performed an investigation, out of simple curiosity more than anything else, and discovered multiple fabrications in regards to his drug experiences and criminal record. There were no mug shots to be found, no death reports for his girlfriend, and no magic beans which grew into a huge beanstalk that led to a magical cloud kingdom.

James Frey was given a chance to go back on the Oprah Winfrey show and defend himself, but upon his arrival he was savaged repeatedly. The famed daytime TV hostess tore into him for his numerous lies and distortions, stating that she was “left with the impression that the truth was not really important” and that he had betrayed his millions of readers. He was forced to slink off with his tail between his legs, and the book ended up being reclassified by the Brooklyn Public Library as ‘Fiction’. To put it simply, you don’t mess with Oprah.

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dogs1
One of the truest and most classic examples of kitsch are the numerous paintings of Dogs Playing Poker. They’re pretty much what you’d expect: a group of dogs, usually a golden retriever, a bulldog, a cocker spaniel, and a poodle, are gathered together at a table playing high-stakes poker, and look – one of them is cheating! He has a card hidden behind his right ear! Oh, you adorable, lovable canine! Who needs a Van Gogh or Renoir for your personal collection when you can have a tacky piece of artwork that’s available at the local Wal-Mart for $2.99?

All of this ignores the main problem – the mere sight of these paintings has been proven to cause widespread madness. They are so mind numbingly kitschy and horrible that there is no choice but to go completely insane, and one unfortunate gallery viewing in Texas resulted in several hundred people being institutionalized. It therefore your patriotic duty to destroy these objects of the devil should you ever stumble upon one in your travels. But be warned – a simple glance at Fifi tossing a poker chip into the pot is all that is needed to send your mind tumbling off the deep end.

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rasputin
Even as a young child, Rasputin was rumored to possess supernatural powers. He could (supposedly) point out horse thieves to his father, and was able to send people into a hypnotic trance. He became a religious mystic, and it was while he was wandering through the Russian forests that he heard about the Tsarevich Alexei falling ill. Rasputin managed to track him down and was able to use his “healing powers” to reverse the child’s condition. More than likely, he just used aspirin (which was new at the time), but the Tsarista was amazed by the boy’s recovery and declared Rasputin a holy man.

Rasputin quickly gained influence over the royal court, much to the consternation of the other nobles. He was able to choose candidates for government office and help shape public policy for the masses. Rumors also surfaced of immoral activities, including sorcery and sexual promiscuity. Rasputin appeared to follow a set of religious teachings which stated that redemption is only possible after yielding to temptation, so one might as well yield to said temptation as much as possible. The Tsarista paid these stories no heed, and as time went on he became her most trusted advisor.

On December 16, 1916, the nobles had had enough. They decided to kill the mad monk, but this turned out to be a far more difficult task than they ever anticipated. First they attempted to poison him by lacing his dinner meal with cyanide, but Rasputin merely shrugged off the effect despite the fact it was enough to drop an elephant in its tracks. A man named Felix Yusopov then grabbed a revolver and shot Rasputin through the back, which seemingly killed him, but it turned out that mesmerist was merely faking. He strangled his attacker and attempted to flee the scene.

The other conspirators quickly chased behind and shot him three more times, which once again appeared to do the trick. Rasputin finally collapsed, and they wrapped the body in a tarp and threw it in a nearby river. When his corpse was recovered three days later, though, the cause of death was revealed to be hypothermia (water was found in his lungs as well). It had taken a deadly poisoning, four bullet wounds, and the cold embrace of an icy river to finally kill the man; perhaps there was something to the teachings of the Russian mystics, after all.

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