Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some Things are Better Left Unsaid.


. . . and when those things get said anyway, it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s a sad and disgusting story behind them.

Those stories, too, are better left unsaid.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Harry Houdini Drags Out "Return from Death" Trick into Eighty-Fourth Year

Harry Houdini: probably not this creepy in real life.

Harry Houdini—the legendary magician, escape artist, and crusading debunker of pseudo-supernatural frauds —continues to build dramatic suspense by delaying the stunning conclusion to his one-time-only “Return from Death” trick well into its eighty-fourth consecutive year.

Houdini, born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, was the master of daring escape tricks such as the Chinese Water Torture Cell, Buried Alive, and the Milk Can Escape, and regularly wriggled his way out of straitjackets, hand- and leg-cuffs, and even, once, the bowels of an adult Indian elephant.1 His most astounding and still-unconcluded trick, the Return from Death, commenced October 31, 1926, after his appendix ruptured, possibly aided to some degree by a series of gut-punches for which he was unprepared.

In the years since the inception of this greatest of escapes, various individuals—first his wife, Bess, and later other magicians and debunkers—have held séances in an attempt to contact Houdini’s spirit. Given Houdini’s  dedication to exposing psychic charlatans, con men, and all sorts of pseudo-mystical humbug, we are inclined to believe that séances being held in his memory would have him spinning in his grave on at least two separate axes . . . if he were actually dead, that is. His failure to respond from the great beyond strongly suggests that he remains backstage, biding his time for the perfect moment for his spectacular, sensational return.

Reports state that his audience—or at least the paltry few members of the crowd who still survive, and are aware of their surroundings—remain on the edges of their seats.

1. Not really.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rick DiPietro Out Indefinitely After Being Struck by Beach Ball

The unconscious DiPietro immediately after impact,
only seconds before hitting the ground.
New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, only days after returning to the team’s active roster after mercilessly attacking Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson’s fist with his face in an inconclusive early-February fight, will likely return to injured reserve after being struck by an errant beach ball before the team’s March 19 game vs. the Florida Panthers. Team doctors expect him to remain on IR until beleaguered Islanders fans manage to find some glimmer of hope in their long dark decade of disappointment, at which point DiPietro is likely to return, fully prepared for his next devastating injury.

Rick DiPietro’s fighting coach.
DiPietro, in the fifth year of a fifteen-year, $67.5 million contract with the Islanders, was the #1 overall draft pick back in 2000, started for Team USA in the 2006 Olympics, and was selected to start for an injured Martin Brodeur in the 2008 NHL All-Star game.1

Starting in 2007, however, injuries began to take their toll—DiPietro has missed significant playing time because of (at least) two concussions, two hip surgeries, one wrist sprained after tripping over Brian Griese’s dog,2 two knee surgeries, three instances of post-surgical swelling of the knees, one partial decapitation in a unicycle accident, one broken elbow sustained in a thumbwar, one lacerated scalp sustained in an (allegedly) drunken faceplant on Terrell Davis’s driveway,3 and of course the broken jaw courtesy of his unfortunate encounter with Johnson, which somehow also hurt his knee.4

DiPietro has played only thirteen games in the past two seasons, and his numbers in those games are about what you’d expect from any Islanders goaltender of the last twenty years not named Billy Smith. While it’s possible that DiPietro will regain his health and his All-Star-worthy level of play, the Islanders can take solace in the fact that his contract is on the books only until 2020, at which point science will have advanced to the point where he’ll be mostly bionic anyway.

1. At the skills competition preceding that All-Star Game, DiPietro, wearing a microphone for the live broadcast, announced after making an awkward moment in a shootout competition that he had “just fucked [his] hip up.” Some network people were probably offended by this, but, seriously, guys, what did you expect when you put a microphone on a hockey player?
2. Wait, no, sorry, we’re thinking of Brian Griese.
3. Griese again. Sorry.
4. Yes, he got punched in the face and hurt his knee. (In addition to his face.) Either Rick DiPietro incredibly fragile, or Brent Johnson hits very, very hard.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Aflac Duck Not Insured against Stupidity

Abrasive comedian Gilbert Gottfried has been fired from perhaps his most recognizable job—providing the voice of insurance giant Aflac’s frustrated talking duck—mere hours after tweeting a series of jokes that made light of the destructive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.1 As of this writing, more than 1,500 people have died, and that number is almost certain to continue to rise.

Now, to be fair, the idea of “laughing in the face of death” is an old and venerated one. No less a writer than William Shakespeare illustrated it memorably in his gory and generally messed-up tragedy/revenge fantasy Titus Andronicus, in which the protagonist—we forget his name—having witnessed the last of a long series of horrific indignities and evils done to him and his family by his enemies,2 bursts into not sorrow but laughter, stating I have not another tear to shed before starting to act crazy and getting down to some truly awful business.3 His laughter is jarring, even shocking, but it reveals a man not callously indifferent to suffering and misery, but one overwhelmed by it.

Duck (bottom), and dick.
But we would give Gottfried—probably neither the first nor last person to be given the nickname “America’s Creepy Uncle”—entirely too much credit by comparing him to Shakespeare,4 and there is significant difference between an imaginary character’s barking out mad laughter at the horror surrounding him, and a real live human’s making cheap jokes about real-world death.5 

There’s much to be said about timing, too, and timing—despite generally being crucial for comedy—does not appear to be one of Gottfried’s strengths. At a Friars’ Club roast of Hugh Hefner, Gottfried famously joked about his concern that his flight out of town “had a connection at the Empire State Building.” He told this joke in New York City, mere weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The crowd did not respond well, but Gottfried managed to salvage the evening with a particularly inspired rendition of perhaps the most famously offensive joke ever told,6 and clearly left the building without having learned a lesson about things he shouldn’t say, and when and where they shouldn’t be said.

Gilbert Gottfried appears to have been unaware that laughing in the face of death is only noble—or even halfway human—if you’re laughing at the prospect of your own death. Laughing in the face of other people’s deaths is, almost without fail, disgusting.7 We don’t know the point in time at which it will become acceptable to make jokes about what has happened in Japan over the last week, but we’re very sure that that point doesn’t happen while rescuers are still searching for bodies.

1. In the interest of good taste, those jokes will not be repeated here. In the interest of questionable taste and a desire to keep our readers informed, however, a link to a short list of them has been provided. If you can find it.
2. Among them: Titus kills one of his own sons for defying the Roman Emperor; the new Empress, wishing revenge on Titus, allows her sons to violate and mutilate Titus’ daughter; Titus later cuts off his own hand to spare the lives of two of his remaining sons, but they are executed anyway and their heads (and his hand) returned to Titus to mock him. After that, though, the play gets kind of messed up.
3. If you’re not interested in watching Julie Taymor’s intriguing but weird and exceedingly grim Titus, check out the South Park episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die.” You’ll wish you hadn’t, but if you can filter out the weirdness, the Hannibal Lecter references, and the guest appearance by Radiohead, you’ll get the gist of Titus Andronicus.
4. A reasonable comparison between Shakespeare and Gilbert Gottfrield would involve their height: Gottfried is 5'5", and Shakespeare lived four hundred years ago, so he was probably pretty shrimpy. Also, Shakespeare, having acted in his own tragedies, probably died on stage plenty of times, and we suspect that Gottfried has too.
5. We’re basing this statement on the tenuous evidence that Gilbert Gottfried does, in fact, exist.
6. We would prefer that our readers do not attempt to look up this joke for any reason, especially readers that are, for example, our mom. That goes for “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” too.   
7. Eddie Izzard successfully joked about Hitler’s death, but of course that’s an easy exception to make because Hitler, as Izzard correctly understated, “was a mass-murdering fuckhead.” Exceptions to the rule against joking about others’ deaths are few and far between.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Millionaires, Billionaires Decide that Financial Suicide is the Best Option

National Football League owners surprised nobody on Earth on March 12, 2011, by failing to come to an labor agreement with the NFL Player’s Association—after sixteen days of mediated talks and “months of stop-and-start negotiating”—and subsequently locking out the players,  beginning the league’s first work stoppage in almost twenty-five years. This lockout signals that the owners are—or at least hope to appear to be—willing to scuttle the entire 2011 season, lose billions of dollars of revenue, and potentially alienate the hundreds of millions of fans that have made the NFL the financial juggernaut it is today,1 simply to squeeze a paltry couple million more dollars out of their employees and fans.

Those fans—whose almost embarrassingly enthusiastic support has transformed professional football from an early-twentieth-century novelty act into a pervasive $9 billion-per-year industry—now face the sobering prospect of having to pay attention to their jobs on Monday morning, instead of checking their fantasy football scores; having to talk and even listen to their spouses, children, and friends for significant parts of Sundays, instead of just during halftime; and perhaps worst of all, having to survive the weekend with no more than the measly ten to twelve hours’ worth of college football coverage they get on Saturdays.

No one can predict what the future holds for the NFL—although we suspect it will involve offensively rich people casually dismissing quantities of money that would make regular fans faint of heart, while at the same time squabbling endlessly over almost nothing—but needless to say, we think that bringing an almost obscenely lucrative industry to a dead stop is a brilliant move.

Wait, no! Just kidding. Actually, we think this is a complete load of shit, because we are not, in fact, money-hungry idiots. Instead we’re regular everyday, run-of-the-mill idiots with small bank balances, common sense, limited vocabularies, hairy knuckles, and protruding foreheads: you know, football fans.

As actual adults, albeit ignorant ones, we at Bowling in the Dark find it hard to accept that the thirty-one NFL owners2—sixteen of whom are billionaires, which one would think implies some tiny degree of business sense—were unable to find a way to split nine billion dollars per year in a way that kept everybody happy.

And these negotiations weren’t even with other savvy businessmen, but with football players. Athletes, most of them with communications degrees—gentlemen physically gifted and driven to succeed, but so feeble of mind that they have managed to earn mere tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Practically children, really.3

As longtime football fans, we find it hard to accept that the only way do come to a satisfactory conclusion to these negotiations is to eliminate an entire football season.

More importantly, as longtime Denver Broncos fans, we find it hard to accept that the NFL and the NFLPA couldn’t have found a way to eliminate last season instead of the next one.

Thanks a lot, assholes.

1. Or, at least, was up until March 11, 2011.
2. There are in fact thirty-two teams in the league, but the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned, so for that reason I’m leaving them out of this.
3. If we are found dead, covered with cleat marks, your chief suspect should be a football player with no understanding of irony. We’re sorry that this is not likely to narrow the field down very much.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Three and Approximately One-Eighth Cheers for Pi Day!

Not that kind of pie. But Pi Day does, in 
fact, involve pie, which is awesome.
A mere four thousand years after the mathematical constant pi was first rigorously measured by Greek mathematician and pinochle champion Pithagorus,1 it occurred to somebody that the fourteenth day of March, when written numerically as 3/14, sort of resembles 3.14, the first three digits of pi. That this took so long to dawn on our civilization can be excused, to some degree, by the fact that the Western world had not developed the elusive numerical concept of “fourteen” until well into the sixteenth century,2 but even then, the shame of our slow realization of the existence and importance of Pi Day is not to be dismissed.

Not Alan Moore—but he probably
also hated the Watchmen movie.
Physicist Larry Shaw—whose resemblance to a happy and somewhat square version of comic book genius Alan Moore is allegedly no more than a coincidence—essentially invented Pi Day in 1989. The celebration of Pi Day became a constant in some circles over the following two decades, but remained only on the perimeter of society’s consciousness until March 12, 2009, when the U.S. House of Representatives, in a non-binding and perhaps slightly irrational resolution,3 recognized March 14th as National Pi Day.

We’re not aware of the scientifically-approved methods of celebrating this most transcendental of mathematical holidays—although we’re sure they’re infinite—but we heartily recommend that you go out on the town, find a bunch of round things in your area, measure them carefully, and then sit back and let mathematics blow your freaking mind.

Math: It's totally radical.

1. Not really—we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make the world’s shittiest Pi joke. Actually it was the Greek mathematician Archimedes who first measured pi, unless it was the Indian Shatapatha Brahmana, or the Egyptians. Or spacemen. Sixty-eleven percent of all paranoid American mathematicians believe it was the spacemen.
2. This, as you can imagine, made the fourteenth century very, very confusing. 
3. A non-binding resolution is a resolution on which Congress can vote, but that has no power as a law. Like, for example, speed limits.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    How to Fail at Marketing, Lesson 2

    Today’s lesson in how to fail at marketing is a simple two-step process:

    1. Determine the least appealing, least marketable portions of the human anatomy.
    2. Name your product after one of them.

    Big Black Dick Premium Caribbean Rum. Yes, really.

    To be fair, an advertising campaign aimed at an audience with a snickering Beavis and Butthead-style mentality is certainly not guaranteed to fail—that the photo below was taken in the first place being strong evidence that such a mentality does indeed exist—but there is a very big difference between a willingness to take a picture of [insert product name here] and a willingness to actually spend good money on it.

    Also crucial to consider is that the name a product is given may cripple one’s ability to come up with a snappy and irresistible slogan with which to sell it. American pop culture is littered with hundreds (if not thousands) of catchphrases that remain insidiously memorable years or even decades after they, and sometimes the products they sell, have gone by the wayside. The wrong product name risks rendering these phrases useless, defiling them in such a way that only a truly childish and borderline demented mind would repeat them for a cheap, dirty laugh.

    For example:
    • A day without [insert product name here] is like a day without sunshine.
    • [Insert product name here] makes hamburgers taste like steak burgers.
    • A [insert product name here] is a terrible thing to waste.
    • Aren't you glad you use [insert product name here]? Don't you wish everybody did?
    • All you add is love.
    • Double your pleasure. Double your fun.
    • [Insert product name here]: the San Francisco treat.
    • Fill it to the rim with [insert product name here].
    • I'd like to buy the world a [insert product name here].
    • It keeps going, and going, and going. . . .
    • Nobody doesn't like [insert product name here].
    • Nothing comes between me and my [insert product name here].
    • Please don't squeeze the [insert product name here].
    • [Insert product name here]: Reach out and touch someone.
    • Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.
    • [Insert product name here]: The Other White Meat.1

    We're not fans of the use of the "Papyrus" font here, either, but we
    aren’t going to be dicks about it.

    1. This one, of course, fails doubly, by being not just dirty but also complete nonsense.

      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

      Words that Changed the World III

      “Hi dee hi dee hi dee hi;
      Ho dee ho dee ho dee ho;
      Skoodily voo, skoodily voo, skoodily voodillyvoodillyvoo;
      Zit dit dit dit diddilyoo booot doot doodillyo skit dim biddilyum booot dooot doi.”