Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Brits Seeking Toilet Paper Holders

If you’re reading this, chances are:

a)      You’re British
b)      You’re looking for a toilet paper dispenser, and
c)       I owe you an apology.

A month or so ago, I jotted off a post about the odd search terms that have brought people to this blog. One example was “Whimsical toilet paper holder man riding unicycle.“ At the time, I had never written anything about toilet paper dispensers, whimsical or otherwise (point: search-engine algorithms are funny!).

Since that time, EACH AND EVERY DAY, legions of poor, unsuspecting pilgrims are led to Marguerite-aville in their quest for a More Perfect Toilet Paper Holding Device. According to my trusty Blog Statistics counter, a hefty percentage of these searches originate in Great Britain. This is not surprising, as the English have a long and proud tradition of utilizing toilet paper. (The Anglo-Saxon love affair with “TP,” as they affectionately call it, dates back to the little-known King Charmin the Incontinent, back in the Golden Age of Gout and Dysentery.)

So, to my accidental British friends: Welcome! When I implied that people scouring the Interwebs for “quaint” and/or “farting” TP holders may be mentally deranged, I didn’t mean you!! I meant, somebody else doing that exact same thing.
But/t, is the paper orientation "Over" or "Under"??
If the traffic that comes to this blog is any indication, the global hunger for toilet-paper-related hilarity rivals our species’ appetite for videos featuring cats with their heads stuck in things. If I had the ability to do anything practical whatsoever, I would stop doing whatever it is I don’t-do and start making and distributing novelty toilet paper holders. Unfortunately, Stanton College Preparatory School didn’t offer anything so useful pedestrian as shop class or home ec, where we might've learned valuable life skills, such as how to assemble plastic and/or wooden buttocks with tissue sticking out of them (I could've been rich!). Instead, we just learned to write flippant essays speculating about, say, the latent post-colonial Weltschmertz that drives British subjects to seek out such contraptions (again, dear reader, NOT YOU!). 

Out of curiosity, I Googled “toilet paper dispenser,” to see what would come up. You are strongly cautioned to NOT try this at home. The depth and breath of scholarly information on this subject is astounding, and full of facts you can’t un-know. To wit: "Toilet Roll Holder" has its own entry in Wikipedia. The article takes care to elucidate the finer points of this admittedly hard-to-grasp concept. VERBATIM QUOTE: “A toilet roll holder, also known as a toilet paper dispenser, is an item that holds a roll of toilet paper. “ (Thank God somebody finally cleared that up!)

More amazingly, "Toilet Paper Orientation" also has a page of its own. I had no idea this was the subject of a heated national debate. Who cares if a mature, consenting roll of tissue wants to have sex with another roll of tissue? It’s a free country, right?

Turns out, they're talking about how the roll is hung—over, vs. under (illustrated below for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of toilet paper).The Wikipedia page notes that advice columnist Ann Landers said this subject was "the most controversial issue in her column's history.” And she wasn't the only moral arbiter in this ongoing debate. VOLUMES have been written on the topic. Some sociologists have even posited that one's preference for over-vs.-under speaks volumes about “gender roles, the public and private spheres, race, ethnicity, social class, and age.”  (Full Disclosure: This blog takes a firm editorial stance in favor of "Over.")
"Over "Orientation, i.e., "Right Way"
"Under" Orientation, i.e., "Wrong Way"
"Bunny" orientation, i.e., Very Wrong Way
In summary: if you orient your toilet paper to the back, you are probably very sexually repressed, and have some serious Daddy issues. And if you have one of those farting TP holders that obscures the orientation of the roll… well, you probably have at least one human head in your freezer. 

This is a crucial issue, and I urge you to contact your lawmakers. Those perverts who orient their toilet paper to the back are taking away from MY normative toilet paper experience!! Hopefully, Congress will get its act together and pass a Federal law to prevent weirdos from living the Rear Dispensing Lifestyle.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why I'm Super Glad I'm Not Fabulously Rich and/or Famous

Lately, I’ve been reconsidering the whole concept of being a Late Bloomer. Is there really any such thing, or is it just something we tell kids who are going through an “awkward stage”? Mine has lasted about twenty years now, and I’m getting kind of sick of it. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the boobs aren’t going to happen (at least not without the eventual help of a handsomely-compensated plastic surgeon). But I still actively harbor plenty of aspirations that, according to things like “logic” and “probability,” may very well never pan out.

If there was a school for magical thinking, I would be its Dumbledore. On the boob front, for instance, I held out hope until long after it had ceased to be a rational. Well into my 20s, I kept expecting to have an unexplained, highly localized growth spurt. A second, more effective puberty, if you will. In the way that some people buy jeans a size too small for when they loose a few pounds, I would buy bras that were a bit too big. You know, just in case.

Part of the fun of being very young is imagining the things that could be a part of one’s future. Over the years, those possibilities are slowly infringed upon by the unflattering neon spotlight that is reality. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, at my age, the chances are fairly slim that that I will become the first white hip-hop superstar to go up in space as part of a reality show involving monkeys that takes place on the International Space Station (Title: Best Show Ever). And I’m probably not going to marry Prince William, or even the old and fugly Crown Prince of Monaco. Which is for the best, since my actual husband is undoubtedly much more fun to watch TV with, and unlike the royals, he is in no way related to himself.

Regardless of whatever may be missing, my life is actually pretty darn good. I know that this is at least in part due to my impressive capacity for self-deception (“those tasseled gold lamé hot-pants are super flattering on me, and entirely age-appropriate!”). But I can live with that.

Besides. I wouldn’t want to be all rich and famous anyway. Really, it sounds like a giant pain in the butt. I know what you’re thinking, but this is NOT sour grapes. Well, not exactly. My philosophy is: when life gives you sour grapes, make cheap wine! Throw in some grape-flavored cough syrup and weapons-grade caffeine, call it EL Torro Loco “Wine Product” and sell it at 7-11 in states with relaxed product liability laws (hello, venture capitalists?!).

In no particular order, here are several reasons why I’m glad that success, fame, and massive wealth have thus far eluded me.

1. No need to make small talk with overly-friendly doormen who are doctors or scientists or what-not in their impoverished home countries. There’s the inevitable awkwardness when the doorman has to sign for the delivery of, say, your new solid gold foot stool
Then, you have to feel awful about the fact that, for the price of said stool, you could eradicate malaria/end hunger/build a school in the doorman’s native village. But, the coloring of the piece perfectly offsets that gilded ceramic giraffe that Carson Kressley (remember him?!)  gave you for inviting him to your place in St. Bart’s, so …

2. You’ll never see a headless, candid photo of me in a bikini on the cover of Us Weekly, a circle around my thighs and a caption, “Guess Who Has Cellulite?!”  For those of us who are so white and pasty we could check the box for “Clear” as our ethnicity, wearing a bathing suit in public is already traumatic enough. What if professional photographers with zoom-lens cameras could make serious bank for taking photos of my thighs? Egads. We are ALL better off that this is not the case.

3. I don’t have to feel a wave of relief, followed by pangs of guilt, when the Bush Era tax cuts to the richest 1% are extended, against all fiscal logic.  After all, those solid gold footstools aren’t going to pay for themselves…

4. When I make major life decisions, I don’t have to run them past my agent, manager, or anyone from the Church of Scientology. Not that I don’t like Tom Cruise. Have you seen Cocktail? It was hilarious. But still. I’m glad its star has nothing to say about my career choices, or my taste in solid gold home furnishings.

5. I don’t know the difference between an annuity and a mutual fund, but I bet it is extremely boring. Both of these terms are familiar to me from parental lectures on the ever-popular subject, “Things You Should Have, Already, At Your Age.” This is a category that includes children, home ownership, and knowing how to operate a weed whacker. “But at least I have low blood pressure!” I argue, to no effect.

Most of the things on the TYSH,A,AYA list are known to cause hypertension, ulcers, and/or a desire to wear pastel plaid golf pants. As long as I can remember, my parents have both had impressively high blood pressure. In my dad’s case, this lead to a quadruple by-pass operation some years back. Go to their house, and you’ll find lots of publications about “investment products” and "financial instruments" (which are neither instruments nor products, since you can neither play them nor put them in a landfill, but nevermind). While it would be irresponsible to suggest that the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and sundry mutual fund newsletters are the direct cause of my dad's myriad health problems, I’ll go ahead and say it – Financial Publications Are Hazardous to Your Health.When/if I ever have tons of extra cash lying around, I’m sure my opinions on the subject will change. But as it stands now, I’d rather re-watch Mannequin 2: On the Move than have to read newsletters about mutual funds. And I’d rather get a colonoscopy than re-watch Mannequin 2.

The list could go on and on. But I have to go not-read back issues of Forbes, so I'm pretty busy with that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Brindle Cat, Fundraising Executive

For many years, I was employed in the exciting field of charitable fundraising. During that time, I worked with some amazing fundraisers—people who could convince donors to give away upwards of $100K in exchange for nothing more than the nebulous sensation of “a good feeling in their hearts.”

However, none of those nonprofit leaders can hold a candle to this cat:
Brindle Cat, Fundraising Executive
Brindle Cat, as we call him, technically belongs to the family two doors down from us. But I happen to know that no less than five people in the neighborhood (including myself) feed this little fundraising genius on a regular basis.Through a series of highly effective “donor acquisition and retention strategies,” the neutered tabby has secured a cadre of Regular Donors (a term that, deceptively, has nothing to do with fiber consumption).

If you count petting sessions (get your mind out of the gutter!) as One-Time Individual Contributions, Brindle Cat has attracted more donors than Barack Obama, The United Way, and The Red Cross combined. He routinely stops random passer-bys in their tracks. He'll insist that you scratch his belly or behind his ears for at least five minutes. If you dare not comply, he’ll run in front of you and flop down on his back to block your path, as if to say, “This belly isn’t going to pet itself, bee-yach.” 
Won't YOU make a difference, by petting my belly TODAY?
Even Cat Agnostics are no match for Brindle Cat. I’ve seen people who profess to be morbidly allergic to cats stopping to pet him, at peril of going into anaphylactic shock. He’s just that good at what he does. In fundraising-speak, Brindle Cat knows the art of “The Ask.” Wordlessly, he can solicit Major Gifts in the form of cat food, caresses, and shelter from the rain and/or cold. 
A Regular Donor Provides Back Door Home #5 for Brindle Cat
I could be rushing out the door, late to an appointment, or perhaps on the way to the Emergency Room with a burst appendix, and Brindle Cat can always convince me to go back into the house to get him some cat food. If he isn’t in the mood for dry food, he can guilt me into “increasing my generous support” to include wet food. 
Brindle Cat with a One-Time Donor
They should hire Brindle Cat to be a University President. He would be great. Let’s say a school needs a new wing for a library building. Below is a transcript of Brindle Cat’s would-be conversation with a Potential Major Donor, Mrs. Henry R. Van Der Money.

Mrs. Van Der Money: Six million? Why, Mr. Brindle, that is a significant amount.
Brindle Cat: Meeeow. Meoow?
Mrs. VDM:  You flatter me. But no, I haven’t had work done! Just getting more rest, lately.
BC: Purrrrrrr.
Mrs. VDM: Well. You make a good point. I would feel good about showing up the Livingstons, who were bragging about their donation to … (ahem) I mean … I would feel good about helping to eradicate poverty.
BC: Mrrr-ow?
Mrs. VDM:  Promoting knowledge, whatever. How big would the letters be on the “Van der Money Library” signage? Will it be visible from the window of a passing limousine?
BC:  Rooow.
Mrs. VDM: Naturally, name recognition means nothing to me. But the signage will be on the main entrance?
BC: Purrr. Purr. [leg rub]
Mrs. VDM: For another four million?! Brindle cat, stop nuzzling my neck!  Normally, I don’t approve of premarital nuzzling, but …What? I’ll be profiled in the Annual Report? An article called “Mrs. Van Der Money: Best Person Since Jesus!”? My!  Oh my!
BC:  Me. Ow?
Mrs. VDM:  Okay, ten million. Really. That’s the best I can do. What with the price of jet fuel going through the roof…
BC: [Silent Meow]
Mrs. VDM:  You really want to break me, don’t you? Okay, fine. I’ll throw in a case of wet food. Don’t look at me like that, please. (Sigh) Fine. I’ll throw in some of those Fancy Feast Appetizers, too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Ode to Gluttony

On the Fourth of July, I like to take a moment to celebrate the most American of all sports. Specifically, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to a man whose World Record cannot be recognized due to a technicality. 

The sport in question is, of course, Competitive Eating. And the athlete is Takeru “Kobi” Kobayashi, a.k.a. The Tsunami. Ranked among the world’s top speed-eaters, Kobayashi can stuff food down his throat so fast, and in such vast quantities, you’d think he was on a Carnival cruise (if you’ve never been on one, they’re basically a floating Golden Corral, but that’s a subject for another day).
From 2001 to 2006, the 150-pound Kobayashi was the undefeated champion of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, which takes place in Coney Island every year on the Fourth of July. If you’re not familiar, this event is essentially the Super Bowl of Gluttony. This contest is organized and governed by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), an organization I sincerely wish I were making up.

For the past six years, I’ve been following this contest with more enthusiasm than I can justify to myself or anyone else. I’m not exactly a fan of this so-called sport, which is disgusting on just about every level. Still, I can't look away. Over the years, I’ve grown far too familiar with its ahem, “athletes,” who are also known as “gurgitators” (no, seriously). I have to admit that this is in no small part because of The Tsunami.

Takeru Kobayashi did for over-eating hot dogs what Michael Jordan did for basketball; what Picasso did for 20th Century art; what Vanna White did for game show hostesses. He transcended his medium. The sport—nay, the world—would never be the same.

On his website, Kobayashi notes that, growing up, he “lacked any outstanding talent.” Tragically, he didn’t grow up in America, where a lack of talent combined with a total lack of shame is a sure-fire recipe for meteoric stardom [SEE: Snooki on the cover of Rolling Stone]. But his father encouraged him to “strive for the top in whatever he decided to do.” 

In 2001, Takeru—then a 23-year-old upstart—astounded the audience and judges when he downed 50 dogs at that year's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest. At the time, they didn’t even have printed signage for such a number, forcing the judges to scribble out the scorecards by hand.

Until that point, the record for consumption was 25.5 dogs, set in 2000 by Kazutoyo Arai, also of Japan. The previous record was 24.5, achieved by Hirofumi Nakajima, yet another native of the Land of the Regurgitating  Rising Sun. To give you some perspective, between 1916 and 1990, the official record was a measly 16 hot dogs in ten minutes. Most years, the winners downed an average of 11 or so wieners and buns.

For a while, it seemed that Japan would reign supreme in the field of competitive eating. This trend caused some people to wonder why Americans weren’t as competitive in the global Gluttony Marketplace. (While we're on the subject, are we not teaching our kids the definition of irony??) 

In 2007, the playing field changed yet again when Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, a gurgitator from San Jose, California, took back the title. In that year’s Coney Island contest, he scarfed 68 wieners and buns compared to Takeru’s 63. America, at last, had a Champion.
The Tsunami vs. Jaws in 2007
Earlier today, Chestnut once again won the Mustard Belt at the official Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, eating 62 hot dogs in just ten minutes. Although the winner by a landslide, Chestnut, whom the IFOCE non-ironically describes as “an American hero and a national treasure,” didn’t even meet his own official record of 68 dogs.
Check out the mustard & ketchup in the talons...
Meanwhile, at a posh Fifth Avenue rooftop bar in Manhattan, the great Kobi unofficially broke Joey Chestnut’s official world record by eating an astounding 69 wieners and buns (wasn’t that a Magnetic Fields album??). However, Takeru’s name is unlikely to appear on the official record. He’s currently involved in a contractual dispute with the aforementioned International Federation of Competitive Eating (kind of like the NFL of over-eating), which has the last word in food-gorging records.

Even though Kobi’s victory is unofficial, he brought honor to his country. Granted, a very disgusting sort of honor. One that kind of makes you want to barf just hearing about it. But he went the distance.

Why is it that everything Americans start has to be perfected by the Japanese? They already have the most efficient cars, electronics, and giant, city-destroying lizards. 

Why can’t they even leave us our dignity in a sport that, clearly, has none to begin with?