In an earlier post, we examined the ancient practice of Chinese footbinding and its modern manifestations within the context of shopping for prom shoes. This has become a popular post, as evidenced by a consistently high number of page visits. I will not speculate upon whether random internet explorers with feet or shoe fetishes stumble upon it while searching for other things. All I know is what my statistics tell me... and I don't think they're lying.
So when I read about a new practice of institutional mutilation of a pedalian nature, I knew I had to comment on it.
Old-fashioned Cinderella procedure
Recall the fairy tale, Cinderella, and its many
variants. The majority of these stories involve a plot twist with a glass or golden slipper or shoe. Cinderella flees the palace ball in such haste that she loses her footware on the staircase or the path. The prince discovers its and vows to wed the girl whose foot will fit. Cinder's nasty stepsisters, bent on snagging the keys to the kingdom and egged on by the cruel stepmom, go so far as to cut off parts of their toes and heels in their attempts to force their large dogs into the tiny shoe.
Well, in an instance of life imitating art... women of a certain ilk are now taking the knife to their toes in order to fit their tootsies into modern instruments of torture known as "shoes." Yes, you read it right: elective, i.e. cosmetic, plastic surgery for their feet.
Modern Cinderella Procedures
Since the phenomenon was first noted in 2003, women are increasingly requesting cosmetic foot procedures -- including shortening their toes, adding collagen to their heels and even completely removing their pinky toe -- in order to better fit into vertigo-inducing 4-, 5- and even 6-inch stilettos. Others opt to lop parts off in order to fit into a smaller size. Apparently, these women do not understand the biomechanical engineering marvels that are their feet: a complex network of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles that support over 100,000 pounds of pressure for every mile they traverse. Even small changes can undermine the foot's structural integrity and cause crippling pain, as anyone who has had a wart, a corn, a bunion or plantar fascitis knows all too well. Yet these women are willing to risk infection, nerve damage, foot deformities (from shifting collagen) and worse just to slip their perfectly normal feet into the abnormal shapes designed by Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin. And, the irony of it all is that removing a toe could completely affect a woman's balance, making her even more unstable on those super-high heels.
Obviously most podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons disavow these practices. But as always, there are any number of them on both the East and West coasts who are convinced they are simply helping women "look and feel their best"
This is just another one of those moments when I simply fail to understand my fellow woman.
According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the world (or at least the recording of time) will end on December 21 of this year. But according to ESPN's college football talking butts, I mean heads -- oops, analysts---it already has --when Northern Illinois University's up-by-its-bootstraps football team was selected to play against traditional powerhouse Florida State University in the Orange Bowl. OMG, you would think it was the end of the world as we know it. Well, I feel fine. I have no personal connection to NIU, other than my daughter is good friends with an alumnus and my other daughter attended a speech camp there and I live about 40 minutes away from the cornfields and quadrangles of DeKalb, stomping ground of the Huskies, the newly crowned Mid-American Conference football champs.
NIU All-American Quarterback Jordan Lynch
The Huskies (12-1) polished off Kent State University this past weekend to capture their conference crown with another gritty, heads-up performance that has been their trademark for the past two seasons. As a result of the various polls (AP, Coaches, Harris, etc.), they moved up from #21 in the BCS rankings to #16, thus earning themselves a trip to Miami and bragging rights as the first MAC team to snag a bowl game berth -- and offending the sensibilities of the ESPN elite.
The Huskies take the field.
What a gnashing of teeth there was that day!
David Pollack: "I don't agree with it. I don't think that they should be there."
Jesse Palmer: "I don't think they should get to go."
Kirk Herbstreit: "The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS for 2012 is really a sad state for college football. They dont't deserve to be in the BCS this year. Are you kidding me? No one even knew they were playing until the Toledo game two weeks ago."
Kirk Herbstreit -- washed up Ohio State QB
No, you idiots. The Penn State/Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky travesty was really a sad state for college football. The very fact that college football is basically a semi-pro league designed to make money for universities and that its athletes live under different rules than most of the other students who toil on campus (what other high school seniors already know they are admitted to X college in August before their non-athlete pals have even submitted their college applications???) -- that's a really sad state.
Celebrating the MAC trophy
A Cinderella team like NIU making the Orange Bowl is something to celebrate. Okay, so their coach has already moved on to supposedly bigger and better things. That's just another challenge for them to rise above. Seems to me ESPN needs a visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to remember the hopes and dreams of the little guys, the 99% who are sweating it out and putting in the work and hoping that it will all pay off with a break, just one break. Hey, it's just football, guys. Lie back and enjoy it.
I am not one to watch the bowl games. But I think I will be tuned in on this New Year's Day. And for everyone who roots for the underdogs, wherever they may be:
shout it with me:
"I am NIU."
"We are all Huskies now!"
The first Honorary Scrooge of the Month Award goes to Sony/ATV Music for blocking a parody of Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "Beat It" from appearing on YouTube. Local high school students who frequent Lansdowne Public
Library (in Pennsylvania) and serve on its Teen Advisory Board wrote and produced “Read It,” a delightful take-off aimed at inspiring other teens and tweens to just pick up a book or e-reader and take the reading plunge. However, on November 19, just three days after the video made its debut during the dedication of the library’s Ronnie Hawkins Resource Room, they discovered that the performance had been blocked on YouTube by Sony, which administers the copyrights for Jackson's music. As you can imagine, the teens were crushed that all their hard work was going to go unseen.
Heroic librarian Abbe Klebanoff
After a week of intense lobbying of Sony executives and the executor of Michael Jackson's estate by the video’s editor, Abbe Klebanoff, head of public services for the library, the corporation finally relented and acknowledged the video's parody/educational purposes under the Fair Use Act. The video has been restored to YouTube. Who knows, perhaps the fat cat corporate types were visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and woke up remembering what it was like to young and excited about creating something... or maybe the ghost of the king of pop himself paid them a call. Below you can see what all the fuss was about.
It's that time of year when the mailbox is chock full of retail catalogs attempting to sell, sell, sell and one begins to wonder how the Postal Service could possibly be $15 billion in the red with all this glossy paper crisscrossing the country and landing on my countertop. There's a Land's End here and a Signals there, here an LLBean, there a Grandinroad, and then, there's the grand-daddy of them all, billed as "America's Longest Running Catalog," Hammacher Schlemmer, "offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 164 years" (according to the cover) -- or, as it's known around my house, "the catalog with things you never knew existed, that you don't really need, at prices you really can't afford." This is the type of catalog where every item is preceded by the definite article "the" -- as in "The Glow in the Dark Driver Ejecting Bumpercrafts" or "The Best Electric Wine Opener." (I kid you not.)
The latest edition of the catalog came over the transom with a strange gadget pictured on the cover, something that looks like a cross between a unicycle and a droideka destroyer droid from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Unfolded, "The Folding Electric Mini-Farthing" still has much in common with the other two, since encountering any of them could very possibly lead to an excruciatingly painful injury, if not a sudden death.
Moving on from unsafe transportation you really don't need, we have the "and why exactly do I need this?" toy: The 50 Foot Snowball Launcher.
According to the catalog copywriter:
"This toy blaster makes and launches softball-sized snowballs up to 50 feet, allowing rapid, long-range assaults during neighborhood snowball confrontations Simply place snow in the forming chamber and close the lid. It packs three perfectly spherical snowballs. To blast your mark, place one snowball in the muzzle, aim the launcher, and pull back the slingshot mechanism..."
And then there are the oxymorons:
"The Healthiest Deep Fryer," which purportedly uses only one tablespoon of oil and "The Filterless Air Purifier," which uses "billions of harmless electrons that attach to air impurities and convert them to negatively charged ions," and "The Healthiest Potato Chip Maker."
And then there are the WTFs:
"The Powered Pumice Stone," and "The Remote Controlled Tarantula" and "The Thinning Hair Boar Bristle Brush" and "The Pain Relieving Neuromuscular Stimulator System." And I am only on page 21 of 88!
And if you are so gullible as to purchase "The Hands Free Hair Rejuvenator"
(pictured at left, below) at $699.95 a pop, I have some property that used to lie along the Jersey Shore to sell you!
Gozer the Traveler. He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you! (Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters)
Packing heat in the library?
News from the ALA (American Library Association): "An effort on the part of the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, Michigan, to ban people from bringing guns into public library buildings is likely going nowhere. At its July 16 meeting, the board voted to send a letter to state legislators, asking them to consider a bill that would add libraries to the list of places that are exempt from the open-carry law. The letter was written after a pro-gun rally spilled into the library, with armed people and a film crew parading around the building. But legislators seem tepid about changing firearm regulations".... Read more in the Birmingham Observer/Eccentric
And we're talking a glass of wine the size of a 7-11 Big Gulp! Every night -- with dinner --- and sometimes before!
Better make that a 32 ounce!
The ubiquitous Morgan Freeman
Spokesmen and/or women… you know, those people who become the commercial face and voice for faceless, impersonal corporations. You’ve seen them on TV and heard them over the radio: the reassuring Dennis Haybert for Allstate Insurance; the cocky William Shatner for Priceline; Mike Rowe for Ford; Morgan Freeman for just about everybody else. (Apparently he's #5 on the list of the Top Ten Most Trusted Celebrities. And happy to do voiceovers. Nice work if you can get it!)
Hopeiary vs. Olympic fencer
Well, Dow, the chemical conglomerate, has got a new spokesman with neither a face nor a voice. In fact, it’s a bit of shrubbery. Hopeiary (yes, that's what it's called - ugh!) is a giant green biped made of hedges, created by the ad agency Draftfcb in Chicago. (Perhaps the admen are Monty Python fans?) Hopeiary even has his/its own website! (Is he/it planning on being the most interesting shrub in the world?) If you’ve watched even a tidbit of the Olympics, you’ve probably seen a commercial with this anthropomorphic topiary, walking around London, stumbling into Olympic athletes. Apparently he symbolizes the planet with "its own Olympic dream"—which is to not get totally, irreparably wrecked by humans. Dow's environmental history as a global corporate citizen is checkered at best, including its links with the horrendous gas leak at a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, 28 years ago, which killed almost 3,800 people. (It bought out Union Carbide, which owned the factory at the time.) So Hopeiary seems like more than a bit of greenwashing to me…
America has always been a country with a flare for hyperbole. We Americans like to live large, eat and drink big gulps, and buy in mass quantities. Why, we invented the jumbo-size! We also like to erect landmarks to our out-sized items. If you doubt the veracity of this statement, take a roadtrip while you still have time this summer, and for my readers overseas, if you're planning a trip to the U.S. any time soon, add these fabulous attractions to your itinerary! America's highways and byways are littered with strange, surprising and often hilarious monuments to America's love affair with extravagant exaggeration. Whether it's food, flora, fauna or frippery, we sing the praises of the humungous among us. Let's traipse through the 50 states, shall we, from sea to shining sea, in order of admission to the Union:
1. Delaware: Giant Doctor's Bag with Stethoscope (Newark)
2. Pennsylvania: Giant Cow (Wilkes-Barre)
3. New Jersey: World's Largest Elephant (Margate City)
4. Georgia: World's Largest Peanut (Ashburn)
5. Connecticut: Giant Statue of a Man Holding an American Flag (Norwich)
Why is this on top of a printing company?
6. Massachusetts: Giant Rotating Globe (Wellesley)
7. Maryland: Giant Pineapple (Baltimore)
8. South Carolina: World's Largest Peach (Gaffney)
9. New Hampshire: Giant Pirate (Hampton)
Built by...who else?..a duck farmer
10. Virginia: Giant Milk Bottles (Richmond)
11. New York: The Big Duck (Flanders)
12. North Carolina: World's Largest Chest of Drawers (High Point)
13. Rhode Island: Giant Rooftop Dragon Statute (Providence)
14. Vermont: World's Tallest Filing Cabinet (Burlington)
Perhaps this belongs to the duck?
15. Kentucky: World's Largest Baseball Bat (Louisville)
16. Tennesee:World's Largest Rubik's Cube (Knoxville)
17. Ohio: World's Largest Basket (Dresden)
18. Louisiana: Giant Frog Statue (Rayne)
19. Indiana: World's Largest Egg (Mentone)
Sport and art meet at the Nelson-Atkins Museum
20. Mississippi: World's Largest Rocking Chair (Gulfport)
21. Illinois: World's Largest Covered Wagon (features a giant Abe Lincoln) (Lincoln)
22. Alabama: Giant Hog (Dothan)
23. Maine: Giant Lobster (Hancock)
24. Missouri: World's Largest Shuttlecock (Kansas City)
25. Arkansas: World's Largest Tuned Windchimes (Eureka Springs)
Were you expecting something to do with cheese?
26. Michigan: World's Largest Weathervane (Montague)
27. Florida: Giant Bowling Pin (Tampa)
28. Texas: World's Largest Rattlesnake (Freer)
29. Iowa: World's Largest Strawberry (Strawberry Point)
30. Wisconsin: World's Largest Muskie (Hayward)
31. California: Giant Donut (Ingleside)
Intern Bruce snapped this one
32. Minnesota: Paul Bunyan Statute (Akeley)
33. Oregon: Giant Grizzly Bear with Salmon (Crescent)
34. Kansas: Giant Reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers (80 ft easel) (Goodland)
35. West Virginia: World's Largest Teapot (Chester)
36. Nevada: World's Largest Firecracker (Amargosa Valley)
37. Nebraska: World's Largest Porch Swing (Hebron)
That's one big spud
38. Colorado: World's Largest Hercules Beetle (Colorado Springs)
39. North Dakota: World's Largest Buffalo (Jamestown)
40. South Dakota: World's Largest Pheasant (Huron)
41. Montana: Giant Eagle Statues (Libby)
42. Washington: World's Largest Cowboy Hat and Boots (Seattle)
43. Idaho: World's Largest Baked Potato (Blackfoot)
Barney's fantasy date?
44. Wyoming: World's Largest Jackalope (Douglas)
45. Utah: Giant Pink Dinosaur (Vernal)
46. Oklahoma: World's Largest Concrete Totem Pole (Foyil)
47. New Mexico: World's Largest Pistachio Nut (Alamogordo)
48. Arizona: Giant Sundial (Carefree)
49. Alaska: Giant Rollerskate (Anchorage)
50. Hawaii: Life-size Whale Statue (Kihei, Maui)
You can check out these and many other oddities at RoadsideAmerica.com. Happy trails!
While doing research on Faraday cages for the novel I am currently writing, I found myself trolling the not-so-shadowy underworld of survivalist/preparedness blogs. One word: Wow! I realized that I have been very lax in my maternal duties to stock the house with a year's supply of food, toiletries and medical necessities against this decade's Y2K-like paranoia-inducer: an EMP event. I also stumbled across this silly tidbit of a video. I have never been one to resist the charms of Peeps, in solid state or reduced to goo:
App, app, on the phone...
With two recent movies spawned by the Snow White fairy tale (for those living in a cave: Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, not to mention hunk-o-the-month Chris Hemsworth), we do indeed seem to be living in a "who's the fairest of them all" era. For those of us who lack magic talking mirrors, there's an app that's ready to help us answer that timeless question. Or at least figure out how ugly we are.
Ugly Meter app
The Ugly Meter is advertised thusly on iTunes: "Do you ever wonder if you're ugly and your friends just don't tell you? Do you have an ugly friend, and you just don't know how to tell them?
The Ugly Meter takes your photo and scans the details of your face to give you a rating of 1-10 on the Ugly Scale. If you rate a 10, you probably have a face that only a mother could love. Depending on how bad your rating is, the Ugly Meter will comment on your looks!"
Brad Pitt through the Ugly Meter Pro
You snap a picture of you (or your victim). The app scans the photo and evaluates it based on things such as facial symmetry, proportions and shape. It then spits out a score from 10 to 0. Unlike the Dudley Moore/Bo Derek movie romp, in this case, a 10 signifies the ugliest and a zero means you're hot. Then, depending on your score, it will insult you with a clever put-down, such as "any similarity between you and a human is purely coincidental." All this for 99 cents! Or $4.99 for the PRO upgrade, where the scale goes to 100. (Why not 11?!?!?)
Of course, the Ugly Meter is a complete joke. A user can submit the same photo half a dozen times and receive different results every time. And the app creators, the Dapper Gentlemen, go so far as to poke fun at all the press they have received about this app, including featured stories on CBS and MSNBC, the Today Show, the Tonight Show, the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail and Howard Stern, many of whom don't seem to get the joke.
But maybe the problem is that our whole social milieu has become an Ugly Meter. Back in 1999, there was the attractiveness rating website called Rate My Face, which then was superseded by Hot or Not, which was apparently an inspiration for Mark Zuckerberg's first foray into social media creation, Facemash, which used hacked images of his Harvard classmates' ID photos to create a "who's the fairest of them all" smackdown. The next-gen spawn, Facebook, allows us do that in a "kinder, gentler" fashion as we scroll through all those photos of fabulous vacations and remodeled kitchens and pretty babies and that "friend" who always posts a shot of herself posing with her leg jutting forward in classic model style, as if looking for affirmation that she's still hot after all these years.
It's all about the ranking and the rating... from reality television shows that are competitions in which the audience votes to eliminate the "less fair" (singer, dancer, etc., etc.) to best seller lists and box office returns and the ceaseless political polls.
When did we forget how to judge for ourselves?
Hey, just look in the mirror...
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