Oddly Enough In January: State of Affairs Weird Stories Roundup

26 Jan

The internet is awesome, but sometimes it pisses me off. “But Alex”, you might be saying, “the internet is your bread and butter! How can you ever be angry at something that loves you so much? Why won’t you love me back? Was it something I said? I’ll make it up to you any way I can, I promise! I’ll nag less! I’ll stop sleeping around! Just come back, baby!”

What was I talking about again? Oh, the internet.

The big problem I have with the interweb (which, to be fair, has been a better companion to me than any girlfriend ever – okay, I’m done airing my emotional trauma) is the sheer volume of information available. It’s rare that my writer’s block stems from an inability to find a topic to write about – usually the opposite is true. There’s too much I want to say, on too many different topics, and standing before the vast landscape of blogs, news outlets and memes I often find myself more than a little overwhelmed.

So today I’m going to try something a little different. Usually I only do multi-topic posts at the end of the month or the year, but I’ve come across three different stories today that, in my opinion, warrant my attention and yours. Individually they don’t really require a full-on State of Affairs rant, but together they form a triumvirate of weird I just can’t ignore.

Without further ado…

A Cold Bed Does Not A Good Sleep Make

I’ve spent the last fifteen years sleeping in the same bed. My father custom-built an entire bedroom set for me when I was about ten, and it’s beautifully crafted, so despite the fact it’s somewhat small (the bed is a single) I’m rather attached to it, to the point where I’m not especially inclined to share my sleeping quarters with others. Leaving aside the fact that my bed isn’t realistically big enough to house my six-foot, 200 pound frame whilst leaving room for anybody else’s (unless the other person in question was a midget, and I have yet to cross that off my list), I’ve always been kind of leery about other people resting their bodies in the same place I do. I mean, do you have any idea the amount of unpleasantness that sloughs off your skin when you sleep? I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the thought of somebody else’s bed ticks eating my discarded skin cells and meandering around my pillow is enough to make me want to fumigate my entire apartment every time I bring a woman home from a bar (insert cynical incredulity here).

Unsurprisingly somebody out there doesn’t agree with my estimation of the situation, which shouldn’t come as a shock to my regular readers, and even more unsurprisingly it’s the British. International hotel conglomerate Holiday Inn, famous for its overpriced rooms and embarrassingly poor-quality continental breakfasts especially in Merry Olde England (I’m looking at you, H.I. Liverpool) is trial-running a new optional add-on to their room package at three of their locations in London and Manchester that can politely be described as somewhat left of centre, and realistically be described as “blitzkreiging the boundaries of personal space”. It’s bad enough sleeping in someone else’s bed (see the last paragraph for my reasoning on that, only invert the subject matter), but it’s worse when someone else is lying in that bed scant moments before you take to the beer-fart pillows and filthy down comforters for a well-deserved rest. Who is this stranger cuddling up in your dearly-paid-for lodgings, you might ask? Why, the human bed warmer you requested, of course. You strange fucking person.

Apparently the trial locations are offering patrons the option of having a volunteer from among the staff to don a one-piece jammy set (think the ones with feet and the hole in the bum your parents used to make you trundle around wearing on Christmas morning. Until you were fourteen.) and climb into your rented bed for an hour or so before you get there. Ever had a coworker steal your office chair and then claim they were just “keeping it warm for you”? Same principle applies here, except you asked them to do it. And it’s your bed.

Spokeswoman Jane Bednall (how apropos) likens the service to “having a giant hot-water bottle in your bed”, which I suppose is true in that most people have the relative IQ of a wineskin and contribute about as much to society, but in my general estimation she’s patently wrong. Rubber is synthetic, reasonably sterile, and not alive. Rubber doesn’t leave dollops of hair grease, dead skin and nameless bodily fluids in the place you’re trying to convince yourself isn’t already swimming in those substances – jammies notwithstanding, people do leave all those things behind, and likely more.

The best the Holiday Inn can do to assuage the fears of sensible folk like me who would never, ever request this service to begin with is to assure us the human bed warmers would be fully clothed whilst between the sheets and their hair would be fully covered. They did not, however, confirm whether said employee would shower first. Clearly the presence of clothing discounts the need for a regular bathing schedule – a fact I can prove empirically false by referencing Jim Fairthorne, who thanks to some Fixer-related assignment has been sleeping at the Compound for the last four days with nary a shower to be had – and we can all tell.

Either way this is definitely a perk that will appeal to the old-world Imperialists still alive and well in the Queen’s home country, but come on England – I thought even you got over using people in place of inanimate tools around the same time the rest of the world made you give India back to, well, the Indians.

And You Thought Your Parents Were Strict

I used to be very smart, once upon a time, and as we all know intellectual aptitude breeds laziness, so I frequently waved off school work in favour of reading lengthy fantasy novels written by authors who had the infuriating tendency to die before their twenty-thousand page epic was completed. My parents, concerned that I would spend the rest of my life resting on the laurels of my high intelligence without putting in a great deal of effort towards a higher calling (or, you know, becoming a blog writer), were predictably hard on me as far as my school grades were concerned. Anything less than a 90% was more-or-less anathema in the James household because they were well aware I was more than capable of meeting and exceeding those lofty expectations if I expended more than a modicum of effort. Translation: bringing home a B when an A was within my capacity resulted in grounding and other sundry schoolboy-appropriate punishments.

At the time I railed against the perceived injustices levied against me by my brutal, fascist parental units who I felt were asking me to unfairly exert myself when I could just sit back and watch the Bs roll in, but retrospectively I’ve come to realize they were well within their rights to kick my lackadaisical ass. Besides which, they really weren’t all that strict depending on who they’re measured against.

Take Georgia resident Lynn Middlebrooks Geter, a 38 year old mother who has taken child discipline to levels that would make Eli Roth blush. As punishment for bringing home a bad grade, she ordered her 12 year old son to kill his pet hamster with a hammer.

Let’s just pause and appreciate the absurdly grotesque nature of this crime, and while we’re at it let’s look at it from a few angles.

The idea of reinforcing a child’s understanding of the world using the “tough love” approach makes sense to me – in the past I’ve argued against the criminalization of corporal punishment in the home, suggesting that a good swat now and again might actually do a wayward child some good. I stand by that sentiment, but apparently Lynn felt an old-fashioned ear-boxing just wouldn’t suffice in this situation, so she opted for animal sacrifice. More than that, she actively forced her child to participate in an activity that can be found in mental health texts as a red-flag for sociopathic behaviour. Don’t believe me? Go read up on any of the major serial killers of the last half-century and you’ll discover that one of the things they share, apart from the whole “murdering people for fun” thing, is an early childhood predilection for torturing and killing small animals. Unless Lynn is training her child to be the real-life incarnation of Dexter, this doesn’t exactly fall into the category of positive reinforcement.

I mean, a hammer? Leaving aside the moral ambiguity and the inevitable emotional trauma, can you imagine the mess? There are far more efficient ways of executing a rodent than chasing it around its cage with a ball-peen – every time you miss (and believe me, you’ll miss – those little bastards are wily) you’ll be sending up a fountain of sawdust, miniature carnival rides and hamster poo all over the place. To say nothing of the blood – while an argument could be made that the sawdust (and, presumably, the boy’s teeshirt) would soak most of it up, for a comparatively small mammal a hamster holds an alarming amount of plasma. And who gets to clean up? She’s making more work for herself in the long term, effectively cutting off her ears because she doesn’t like her earrings. Inefficient, stupid and unfathomably cruel – on the topic of triumvirates, this woman is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of Fucked Up.

Currently, Geter is languishing in the Meriweather County Jail, presumably scanning her cell watchfully, seeking rats to slaughter. Her husband declined comment, likely because he was too busy running all over his house hiding the power tools – because God forbid his nutter wife should happen upon a skill saw or a drill or something.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for settling on a simple grounding rather than forcing me to smother the cat.

The Word Of God: Eat I

I’ve shied away from talking about the tragedy in Haiti in any real depth because realistically I’m not exactly what you’d call a reputable news source, and quite frankly I’d be doing far more good if I skipped writing a blog post no one will read and just sent money to the victims. But I will never, ever miss an opportunity to poke fun at one of my favourite group-based kicking posts, the Christian Right. I already said what I had to say about That Douche Pat Robertson, but in a splendid twist of fate (or was that tiresome predictability?) his slack-jawed trailer park dwelling PBR swilling followers have provided me with ample fodder for an entire article based on how intolerably stupid they actually are.

Everybody can agree on the building blocks (or at least most of the building blocks) of this initiative. Green energy? Good Thing. Helping people in need? Good Thing. Spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ and imploring people to accept him as their personal lord and saviour? Well, the jury’s still out on that one, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say the hearts of the missionary types are essentially in the right place.

Now put them all together and what do you get?

Apparently, you get a bunch of misinformed evangelists from New Mexico sending solar-powered Bibles to victims of the Haitian earthquakes.

I was confused by the British bed warmer thing. I was discomfited by the hammer lady in Georgia. But I’m jaw-droppingly infuriated about this.

According to the “Faith By Hearing” organization, the Bibles are programmed to blare scripture (accommodatingly translated into Haitian Creole) with enough volume to get the message out to three hundred people at a time, and as I mentioned, they’re powered by solar panels that allow them to run non-stop as long as the sun is shining (which in Haiti is more-or-less all the time). In typical condescending Guilty White Middle Class Christian tone, the website says the so-called “Proclaimers” were designed with “poor and illiterate” people in mind, proving once and for all that absolutely nothing, not even an inability to read or feed yourself, will stop evangelists from ramming their dogma down your throat whether you like it or not.

The website goes on to say the idea is to remind Haitians that God has “not forgotten them”, which I think most Haitians would agree is pretty clear considering He just visited upon their little island nation a natural disaster of rather spectacular scope and severity. I can already hear the blood-curdling screams of the few Christian readers I’ve not yet alienated, and those screams echo with the sentiments of “how dare you suggest that God is responsible for this tragedy” (well, except for those who agree with old Pat that the Haitians had it coming for making a deal with the devil, but I fervently hope those people don’t visit my blog, because they’re awful). Well, my dear Christian readers, the Far Right has spent considerable resources trying to convince me that God has a plan for all of us, and if that’s the case, I rather think a 6.5 on the Richter scale would either have to factor into that plan (it’s kind of a big thing to miss) or else it might just invalidate the concept of a master plan altogether.

Either way, I would be willing to put a lot of money on the bet that the Haitians have better things to do with their time right now than listen to the Gospel According to Saint Voicebox of the Impenetrable Dullards. They’re probably a little bit more involved with, you know, rebuilding their country and all. I don’t know if anyone made Faith By Hearing aware of this, but the Word of God lacks somewhat in nutritional value. Translation: you can’t eat scripture and expect to garner anything other than some half-decent roughage and regular bowel movements. With six hundred of these stupid boxes on the way I suppose an argument could be made that you might be able to build a serviceable shelter out of them (like Holy Lego blocks or something) but otherwise they’re patently useless.

I can’t be too hard on these backward Jerry Springer fans, though – these are the same people who included in the Proclaimers’ selling points the fact that it can be used “in the jungle, in the desert (you know, where most “poor, illiterate” types tend to hang out) or even…on the moon!” On one hand I’m tempted to make a joke about a moon-based Proclaimer being totally inaudible thanks to the lack of a conducive atmosphere, but upon reflection, that’s probably where the Biblical boom-boxes probably belong.

So What Did We Learn?

They say hindsight is 20/20, and upon completing this article I guess we haven’t learned much that we didn’t already know: the British are creepy, people from Georgia are insane, and Bible-thumpers are morons. Not exactly breaking news. But you know something? I actually feel a lot better after airing these grievances with you, my dear readers. It almost makes up for the gaping hole in my soul where a meaningful personal relationship should be.

Just kidding – faceless interaction with an ambivalent readership on the internet satisfies me just as much as a gratifying sexual experience would.

Right?

2 Responses to “Oddly Enough In January: State of Affairs Weird Stories Roundup”

  1. Meaghan January 26, 2010 at 11:20 PM #

    Okay, I agree with the “British are creepy” verdict on the bedwarmer thing. The mom forcing a kid to kill his hamster with a hammer is downright cruel and vindictive (not to mention indicative of the mother herself having sociopathic tendencies). But the solar powered Bibles is a waste of time, money, energy and is so absurd it is downright offensive. I am Christian and I am disgusted by the way they market their “product” and the sentiment behind it in the first place. Perhaps the quake was part of God’s plan, I’m not God so I can’t comment on that. But forcing dogma down anyone’s throat during a time of suffering like this is inexcusable. (Not to mention the news reports of congregations, hospital wards, and tent cities gathering to pray together, sing hymns and worship as is. Something tells me they are about five steps ahead of the so-called “Faith by Hearing” members). It’s because of organizations like that, that I am ashamed some days to call myself Christian. My advice to all of them? Shut up, get off your fat, lazy ass, and actually BEHAVE LIKE JESUS CHRIST!!! You know, reaching out the poor, the sick, the dying, the dispossed and do GOOD WORKS FOR THEM. You know, healing the sick, feeding the hungry….maybe try handing out some fishes and loaves or something. I dunno, just an idea.

  2. Devitri DAVIS May 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

    Added your blog post. Appreciate discussing. Absolutely really worth enough time clear of my research.

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