Monthly Archives: October 2012

Stay Safe this Halloween

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat (Photo credit: therapycatguardian)

Later today, millions of children will put on their costumes and venture out into their neighborhoods to trick-or-treat for Halloween, the spookiest of all holidays. Ghouls and goblins of all shapes and sizes will walk the streets like candy-craving zombies, anxious to stockpile sweets that will inevitably lead to the real-life horror of stomach aches and cavities. None of that matters, though, because everyone knows how wonderful this experience can be.

They also know how dangerous Halloween can be. When I was a kid, the urban legend that caused the most fear involved razor blades being hidden in apples. Fortunately, my friends and I never ate the fruit we were given and always shunned the people who chose to substitute it for Snickers bars and Sweet Tarts. We would normally heave the fruit into people’s backyards for them to discover later, always hoping they would “take the hint” and spring for real sweets the following year. I now understand why they did it—fruit is much healthier and causes less tooth decay, in most cases—but Halloween is supposed to involve junk-eating. It’s an important part of the tradition, for goodness sake!

Of course, more serious Halloween horror stories about kids being abducted, attacked or even killed always seem to garner headlines. Safety is important and there are tons of useful tips to be found online. Here are a few of my own to add to the collection.

Safety in numbers

The most obvious tip is to travel in groups rather than individually because it makes you less of a target. Thankfully, most people I know trick-or-treat with their parents or friends because face it, going by yourself is just sad.

Beyond safety, trick-or-treating with a group provides a number of other benefits. For one, you and your friends can mix-and-match your costumes and hit the same houses multiple times. This can quadruple your candy intake and ensure Halloween lasts well into November. Groups can also perform more elaborate tricks, especially on those people handing out the apples and oranges. Someone needs to teach them a lesson, after all. And if another group of costumed hooligans step to you—perhaps to try to steal the candy you’ve worked so hard to collect—then your posse can back you up. I would never endorse violence or any kind of Halloween rumble, but it never hurts to be prepared.

The right costume

When you select a costume to wear, there are certain precautions you should take to further guarantee your safety. Huge, plastic masks are fine—even though they cause excessive face and head sweating—but only if they allow for clear vision, especially peripherally. You never know who or what will be hiding in those dark corners or behind bushes. And if you can’t see threats coming, you stand little to no chance of avoiding them. Wearing a mask that allows for a clear line of sight—or that can be quickly removed at the first sign of danger—is always your best bet.

You should also make sure your costume is flame-resistant (or at least flame-retardant) and by all means, leave the capes at home. If someone does try to mess with you and you flee, having a long cape drifting behind you will make you much easier to catch, and potentially choke. It may also get snagged on a fence or tree branch, which could result in you choking yourself!

Candy!

Candy! (Photo credit: jeffadair)

Candy Land

One of the most dangerous aspects of Halloween involves the candy, and not just because it will fatten you up or rot out your teeth. You never know when some lunatic will tamper with their treats or even try to poison revelers, so checking each individual piece you receive is always a good idea. Look for the obvious signs first, like damage to wrappers, small puncture marks (needle-sized marks especially) or evidence it has been opened and re-closed. Once everything is clear and you start eating, pay attention to the taste and immediately spit out anything with a weird or unusual flavor. You just never know whether it comes from a bad factory batch or some psycho who dipped each candy into drain cleaner or liquid laxative.

One more thing about candy: Have you ever gone trick-or-treating and come across a house where the residents are gone, but where a huge tub of candy was left outside for the children? Normally, there’s a sign that says something like “please take only two pieces” or “make sure you leave some for the other children.” My advice in these situations is simple: ignore the sign. Do you think people really expect children to exercise restraint? They may hope for it, but I guarantee they have a better chance of meeting an actual vampire than having kids follow the honor system in these instances. And remember this: if you don’t take it all, then someone else will. And we can’t have that, can we?

Props sometimes hurt

My final Halloween safety tip relates to costumes and can be very helpful in preventing danger. It is never a bad idea to carry a prop that could double as a weapon if the need arises. Of course, it should match your costume because honestly, a werewolf with a Samurai sword just wouldn’t fly. But if you decide to be Harry Potter, why not grab a stick, call it a wand and then poke anyone who tries to do you harm? Wizards like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings” carry long wooden staffs, which can also do wonders in terms of self-defense. Whatever the case may be, a sturdy prop can add a lot to your costume, but it can also keep the demons at bay. Something to consider, I think.

So there you have it: some rather unconventional tips to keep your Halloween safe and enjoyable. There is a lot of darkness in this world and the freaks definitely come out, especially since this is the only holiday where it’s acceptable to hide your identity. Take the necessary precautions, however, and you need not worry… at least not until your next trip to the dentist!

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Return to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

George passes the torch…er… lightsaber

It’s official!

Disney just purchased George Lucas’ company Lucasfilm for the hefty price of just over $4 billion in cash and stock. After three decades, the creator of “Star Wars” is stepping down and allowing Mickey and his friends to take the helm.

What does this mean for fans of the most successful science-fiction franchise in film history, you ask?

A lot.

Shortly after the deal went through, Disney announced plans for a final “Star Wars” trilogy to begin with Episode 7 in 2015, followed by the final installments every two or three years. Of course, there will also be “Star Wars” rides and attractions at Disney theme parks, but those are more for the kids than old timers like me.

Having grown up with the original “Star Wars” trilogy, beginning with Episode 4: A New Hope, it was initially hard for me to stomach the pre-trilogy that followed. Jar-Jar Binks was annoying, the kid who played young Anakin couldn’t act, and the reliance on computer graphics flew in the face of everything “Star Wars” stood for. The word “sacrilegious” came to mind because to me and millions of others, “Star Wars” was our religion.

Of course, the pre-trilogy grew on me over time, especially since it helped introduce my son to the “Star Wars” universe. And each of the first three films had their high points: the battle with Darth Maul, the Jedi showdown on Geonosis and the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into the evil Darth Vader, to name a few. It also helped that some of the casting was spot on. Ewan McGregor was the perfect Obi-Wan Kenobi, and you will never hear me complain about Natalie Portman running around in a skin-tight, white outfit!

Darth Vader in the Magic Kingdom? (courtesy of Jesus Diaz/Gizmodo)

Now it looks like three more “Star Wars” films are in the hopper, and I have absolutely no idea what to expect. Casting will be a challenge since all the original stars, like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, are too old to resume their original roles. I suppose they could play elderly versions of their characters, but some new blood is likely needed.

The plot of the new films is also a big question mark. Sadly, I never read all the “Star Wars” books and have no idea what the future will bring. It’s probably safe to assume that the Empire will rise again and a new group of heroes will have to stave them off. Will the new Jedis be the offspring of Han and Leia? Will Luke now reign as Supreme Jedi Master? Is it possible Chewbacca’s kids will be thrown into the mix?

Who knows?

The important thing is this: “Star Wars” is coming back to life. And whether the new films are great, terrible or even mediocre, I know one thing for certain: I will be sitting in that theater to judge for myself.

Start the countdown, “Star Wars” peeps! Only two and a half years to go!

Football Foresight

Cut image of Nostradamus

Even Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted this! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

R.J. Lewis, a color commentator for PlayOn! Sports, just might be the Nostradamus of athletic broadcasting.

During a recent game between Atlanta‘s Douglass High and Rockmart High, one in which Rockmart led 54-0, Lewis predicted that the offensive snap would be bobbled and that the defense would scoop it up for its only score.

And I’ll be damned if that very thing didn’t happen on the next play from scrimmage.

Rockmart’s running back took the hand-off from his quarterback and fumbled it seconds later. Waiting for it was a Douglass defensive player who scooped it up and ran it into the end zone. This prevented the blow-out (sort of) and left the final score at 54-6.

Lewis was shocked by the turn of events. “I do not have a crystal ball,” he told listeners. “I do not have a Magic 8 Ball, but that just happened.”

Talk about beating the odds!

Don’t Blame Yoko

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to The Guardian and a recent interview with David Frost, surviving Beatle Paul McCartney now claims that Yoko Ono had nothing to do with the group’s 1970 break-up. By then, he says, each of the Beatles had quit the band.

“She certainly didn’t break the group up,” McCartney told Frost. “The group was breaking up.”

Since I’m such a huge fan of the Beatles, their music and specifically John Lennon, it’s hard for me to accept this news. But it did come from the proverbial “horse’s mouth,” and Paul was actually present when the group disbanded. Alas, I was still a glimmer in my mother’s eye and wouldn’t be born until the following year.

One thing that McCartney said really struck a chord with me, though. He mentioned that if not for Yoko, it is unlikely that John would have written such hits as “Imagine” and “Watching the Wheels,” songs for which Ono provided inspiration. In fact, McCartney suggests people thank her for all the solo music the individual members produced once the Beatles were in their rear-view mirrors.

I guess he has a point, so let me be the first to say something I never thought I would utter: Thanks, Yoko!

Vote for Me

Not a great place to be…

Since the presidential election is only a week away—and being something of a procrastinator—I figured now was the time to announce my candidacy for your next Commander-in-Chief. I know this is unexpected and may even be perceived as lazy, but hear me out. For a year or more, we have all been subjected to endless campaign advertisements and constant political posturing. Why force a third candidate on the American people when they have obviously suffered enough?

Positive Presidential Trait #1: Mercy.

I also find the price tag of a presidential campaign to be far too expensive. How can we justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television spots, direct mail flyers, placards, publicity agents and other campaign “necessities” when there are so many Americans out of work? Sorry, but my conscience won’t allow that, so I opted to keep the campaigning to a minimum: this post. It would be nice if enough of my fellow Americans read this, voted for me as a write-in candidate and actually sent me to Washington, but I’m realistic. I know it’s a long shot, but I figure, what the hell?

Positive Presidential Trait #2: Bravery—and maybe a little Faith (for you Tea Party folks out there).

Of course, no presidential campaign would be complete with some promises. I was about to write “empty promises” but for once, there is a candidate willing to tell it like it is—someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth. And that someone is obviously ME!

Worlds Best Political Cartoon 2011

Tired of all the political sparring? (Cartoonaday.com)

If you elect me as your next President of the United States of America, I promise to…

…blame the previous administration for everything that’s wrong while taking credit for anything positive they put into motion.

…put an end to homework! Sorry. That was apparently some deep-seeded memory of a middle-school election I have tried hard to forget. A story for another time, perhaps.

…use Air Force One to take summer vacations to Atlantis Resort, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii or some other exotic locale. Hey, I’m just being honest. I suppose there could be some kind of lottery so normal Americans could win invitations to join us. We could fill up the plane, book a resort and throw down Presidential style… whatever that is.

…pretend the millions of jobs economists predict will be created over the next four years have something to do with me.

…use cigars only as intended—for smoking. Since I don’t smoke cigars, though, this shouldn’t be a problem. I do smoke cigarettes, but they are far less durable and I doubt anyone could derive any erotic pleasure from them. Or could they? I suppose it is possible. After all, there are people who get off on poo poo and pee pee, and that’s just nasty.

…appear at as many of your children’s birthday parties as my schedule allows. We all know the President isn’t as busy as he lets on. The VP runs around the country, the Secretary of State travels the world and he just has to sit back and chill. Why not spend some of that “down time” making balloon animals, telling jokes and doing parlor tricks for a bunch of snot-nosed… I mean gifted… kids? They are the future.

…show my gratitude by releasing some juicy, previously confidential information, like the truth about Area 51, the Kennedy assassination, Roswell… you name it. Visit my website to vote—it will launch once I take office—and help determine which secrets get revealed!

…bring peace to the Middle East through democracy and… sorry… I can’t even write that, it’s so far-fetched!

…tell you everything and be as transparent as the Invisible Man, even if it causes panic in the streets, rioting, a zombie apocalypse… whatever. America has a right to know, damn it!

…implement policies or start projects that require more than four years to complete so you will have no choice but to re-elect me. Good politics take time, so eight years works much, much better.

The time for a change has come! Vote for me! (sodahead.com)

Positive Presidential Trait #3: Sense of Humor—Decide for yourself if it’s good or bad.

Finally, I offer a little information about myself so you can rest easy I’m no freak. I have no criminal record, adult or juvenile, and have never committed a major crime. Technically, speeding and urinating in public are crimes, but they’re more the “little white crime” variety, if you know what I mean.

I don’t attend church—mostly because Sundays are my holy football days and church clothes are too itchy and uncomfortable—but I’m open to it and certainly don’t mind if others go. Faith is a good thing. And no, it isn’t for the Tea Party people this time. I really mean it.

Most of all, I’m a decent person. I won’t abuse the position if I can help it—maybe some late-night grilled cheese sandwiches or barbecued ribs from the White House chef, but nothing major. And I certainly couldn’t do any worse than anyone before or after me. Hell, I’m just what this election needs: a non-politician with bipartisan inclinations. So next week when you hit the polls and elbow through those annoying campaign “scalpers” working the door, do us all a favor.

Vote for me!

Positive Presidential Trait #4: Sincerity—I genuinely feel your pain. And I think you know what I mean, don’t you?

Joss Whedon for Romney?

zomney

A still from Whedon’s video

Joss Whedon, the 48-year-old creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and writer of “The Avengers,” just released a campaign video in support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This may seem odd given Whedon’s past support for Barack Obama, but there is a method to his madness.

The video that hit YouTube Sunday is an obvious parody that encourages voters to choose Romney because he is most likely to bring about a zombie apocalypse. Check out this excerpt:

“Mitt Romney is a very different candidate, one with the vision and determination to cut through business as usual politics and finally put this country back on the path to zombie apocalypse. Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks to health care, education, social services, and reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting — all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland. But it’s his commitment to ungoverned corporate privilege that will nosedive this economy into true insolvency and chaos. The kind of chaos you can’t buy back: Money is only so much paper to the undead. The 1 percent will no longer be the very rich — it will be the very fast.”

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend that you take a look. Whedon’s talents obviously extend beyond the Big Screen, and Obama supporters are sure to love it.

I know I do. Nice work, Joss!

Sex with Siamese Twins

The Bunkers in their later years

Chang and Eng Bunker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In August, the show “Abby & Brittany” debuted on The Learning Channel and finally gave viewers a glimpse into the lives of conjoined twins, once referred to as Siamese twins. Abby and Brittany are 22-year-old women who have their own head, heart, spine, lungs, gallbladder, stomach and small intestine, but share nearly everything else.

Conjoined twins are very rare. occurring only once in every 200,000 live births. And the odds of them surviving for very long are slim. Most arrive stillborn, while roughly 35% live for only one day. Overall, the survival rate falls between 5-25%. And roughly 70% of all conjoined twins are female.

The most famous conjoined twins are, of course, Chang and Eng Bunker from Siam, hence the term Siamese twins. They married sisters Adelaide and Sallie Yates and produced 22 children, as well as up to 1,500 descendants, many of whom live in North Carolina.

This obviously begs the question that most of us likely wonder: How do conjoined twins have sex?

“Very carefully” would be a funny response and may indeed be the case, but there is a lot more to it than that.

When I think about conjoined twins having sex, a number of strange and even kinky scenarios come to mind. Finding a willing participant must be challenging since one twin having sex while the other sits idly by is bizarre by anyone’s standards. And if two participants are found, then questions of incest and group sex inevitably arise.

Are conjoined twins more likely to swap partners? If one sex organ is shared, then do both twins feel the sensation? Which partner would perform oral sex in this situation?

I could go on and on.

Abby and Brittany (courtesy of The Learning Channel)

Oddly enough, though, most reports of sex with conjoined twins are rather tame. And since few ever speak of their sexual exploits, it can be difficult to determine answers to all our questions.

You also never see porn sites devoted to sex with conjoined twins, at least not in my own “research” (for lack of a better word).

What all of this means to me is this: What conjoined twins do in the bedroom is their own business. We can speculate about this and that, assume more deviant behaviors are in play or doubt that sex with conjoined twins can ever be anything but strange, but who are we to judge?

After all, these twins deserve some of the normalcy they were denied at birth. And having sex with people they love is a great way to equalize things.

Chang and Eng obviously enjoyed it!

Trouble on the High Seas

HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty (Photo credit: Bob from Caledon)

A replica of the HMS Bounty, the ship famous for a 1789 mutiny led by acting lieutenant Fletcher Christian, set sail from Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Florida. The vessel, which has appeared in such films as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” makes frequent trips along America’s east coast to offer spectators a glimpse into maritime history.

Today, the crew sailing the ship almost made maritime history of their own.

A distress signal was sent from the Bounty late Sunday after crew members reported it taking on water and were forced to abandon ship in several lifeboats. Two Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 people, but a search for two others is still underway.

Thus far, no one knows why the ship and its crew decided to embark on a journey that would inevitably take them through Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest storms to ever hit the United States. And now the historic replica is just floating near Hatteras, North Carolina, surrounded by rough seas and strong winds.

Here’s hoping it can still be salvaged once Sandy has passed it by.

Something in the Air

Marijuana

Marijuana (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

According to a recent study by Italy’s Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research, the air of eight Italian cities contain trace amounts of the psychoactive drugs cocaine and marijuana. They are Florence, Naples, Palermo, Bologna, Milan, Turin, Verona and Rome.

Yes, Italy is the place to be if you want to get drunk on great wine, fat on amazing food and high on intoxicating air!

Well, not really. The amounts are too small to produce any physical effects, and only large enough to be measured by very sensitive instruments.

But just in case you’re interested, this highest concentration of air drugs were found in Turin; Palermo had the least. For marijuana, Florence has the edge, especially during the winter months when levels tend to spike.

Call your travel agent today to book your next vacation there!

Historical Horror: The Blood Countess

The Blood Countess: Elizabeth Bathory (property of Rebeca Saray, 2010)

Halloween is steadily approaching and all things spooky dwell in the darkness. Children ready their costumes, parents prepare their treats and everyone waits anxiously for the scariest day of the year. But even the most frightening slasher film or haunted house cannot compare with some of the horrors from history, including this terrifying tale from the 16th century.

Erzsebet (or “Elizabeth”) Bathory was a countess born in 1560 Slovakia and raised near the town of Vishine, just north-east of present day Bratislava. Her parents, George and Anna, were both Bathorys by birth, which made Elizabeth the product of inbreeding, a common practice among the European aristocracy at the time. The Bathorys were one of the most powerful Protestant families in Hungary. Among them were clerics, politicians, warlords and even royalty, including the Prince of Transylvania and future King of Poland.

As a child, Elizabeth suffered from seizures—most likely due to epilepsy connected to the inbreeding—and would sometimes lose control and go into a rage. She also witnessed atrocities committed by her family’s officers at their Transylvania estate. One story tells of a gypsy thief who was captured, sewn into the belly of a dying horse with only his head sticking out and left to die. For Elizabeth, grisly death and murder were commonplace. And they undoubtedly had an effect on her later in life.

At fourteen years of age, Elizabeth became pregnant to a peasant man and had to be isolated until her daughter was born. The child was given to a peasant couple to raise because Elizabeth had a different plan: she was to marry Count Ferenc Nadasdy and did so in May 1575.

Nadasdy was a soldier and was frequently away for long periods of time, leaving Elizabeth to manage the family estate, Castle Sarvar. She soon developed a reputation as a harsh master, behaving cruelly to her large staff—primarily young girls—and disciplining them endlessly to exert her authority. Bathory’s husband even joined her during his returns home, teaching her new and more sadistic ways to torment and torture her servants.

Sometimes, Elizabeth would stick pins into sensitive areas of her servants’ bodies, like under their fingernails or between their toes. In the winter, it’s said that Bathory would execute her victims by taking them out in the snow naked and tossing water on them until they froze and died. Rumor has it her husband even taught her a warm-weather version of this torture: the stripped woman would be covered with honey and left for the insects to devour.

None of this compared with what was to come.

Count Ferenc died in 1604 of an infected wound, the rumor being that it was inflicted by a prostitute he refused to pay. Elizabeth buried her husband and moved to Vienna, but she spent a great deal of her time at her castle Cachtice in Slovakia. Here she met Anna Darvula, a sadist who soon became her lover and helped Elizabeth commit some of her greatest and most disturbing atrocities.

One fateful day, a servant girl was combing Elizabeth’s hair and accidentally pulled it, leading the Countess to strike her. A few drops of blood fell on Elizabeth’s skin and she noticed that it seemed to reduce the signs of aging. According to several eyewitnesses, this was when Bathory began to kill her female servants and to drain them of their blood, which she allegedly bathed in and even drank. She was also known to bite servants’ flesh as she tortured them, a behavior that provided Bram Stoker with inspiration for his most famous character, Dracula.

Darvula died in 1609, so Bathory found a new accomplice and lover, Erszi Majorova, the widow of one of her farmer tenants. Majorova convinced Elizabeth to victimize noble girls as well as peasant girls, a move which brought the Countess too much attention. The King of Hungary eventually ordered her arrest and his troops raided the castle Cachtice. Inside, they found the bodies of Bathory’s victims—as well as some still alive and locked in cells—and allegedly discovered a register with the names of more than 650 people she killed. Elizabeth’s associates were arrested and later executed in gruesome ways—two had their fingers torn off with red-hot pincers before being burned alive, while a third was decapitated and tossed onto the same fire later.

Elizabeth Bathory was never convicted of a crime, but she did pay the price for her evil deeds. Bathory’s cousin, the King of Poland, had her confined to a room in Castle Cachtice with no windows or doors. There were only a few slits for air, as well as one for food and water. Bathory remained in this solitary room for three years and died in August 1614.

Now she bathes in the blood of eternal damnation, further proof that the “evil that men do” is always more frightening than Halloween fiction and horror films. Beware “The Blood Countess” as you venture out into the darkness of All Hallow’s Eve. She just might be waiting for you…

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