Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Caligula: Crazed, Running Amok, and Looking FABULOUS!

In January of 41 AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by his own Praetorian Guards. This, of course, raised some doubts about his "living god" status, not to mention ruined his favorite designer toga. Caligula is widely considered to be one of the worst Roman emperors of all time, indeed one of the worst leaders of any culture. Some say this was in part due to his addiction to violent video games, other say that he may have suffered from brain inflammation or epilepsy. In any case, psychics report that his spirit is jealous that googling "worst leader ever" comes up with so many Bush hits, when he worked so hard to achieve that honor.

What was so bad about the "Caligster" you might ask? After all, did he not do much for animal-rights by building a mansion for his horse? Well, here are some highlights from his distinguished career (note - many of these may be more legend than fact, think of a giant 2,000 year sewing circle):

- Born August 31, 12 AD. His first words were "What, no cake?"

- At a young age, his father Germanicus brought him on military campaigns, dressing him up in miniature armor. He earned the nickname "Caligula" from this, which means "little boot"

- After the death of Tiberius in 37, Caligula ascended to the throne with much pomp and ado. He had a two mile bridge of pontoons built, which he rode his horse across wearing the supposed breastplate of Alexander the Great. His first several months were said to be extremely delightful and prosperous before taking a turn for the worst. Some sources see an uncanny similarity to most marriages.

-Became seriously ill in October of 37. Although he fully recovered, the "salad" days were gone, replaced by the "So, you-guys-think-you-can-party, I'll-show-you-a-party!" days.

- In 39 replaced the Consuls without Senate permission. To make more friends, he forced some Senators to run along his chariot in public like horses.

- Declared himself a god, and demanded to be worshiped accordingly. He had the heads of many divinity statues replaced with his own, including female goddesses. Freud later seen drooling with delight.

- Held auctions of Senator's wives during his "parties". He would often take the wives himself, later bragging about it in front of the helpless husbands. Some say this resulted from a comedy act in which he took the phrase "Take my wife, please!" slightly too literally.

- Had incestuous relations with all three of his sisters, making numerous appearances on the popular "Jerrius Springerus" show.

- Declared his horse a priest, built it a mansion and lavished it with jeweled necklaces.

- When convicts ran out for the lions, he would sometimes throw in random spectators.

- Claimed, "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me." Earliest recorded mention of the neo-con philosophy.

- Held an oratory contest in which the losers had to erase their wax tablets with their tongues (you read right).

- Had insomnia, and would often "order the sun to rise" when he couldn't sleep. Impressively, this usually worked if he waited long enough.

- Opened a brothel in the imperial palace. Considered changing his name to "C-Diddy"

- He was sensitive about his balding head and abundant body-hair. He made it a crime to look down on him from above, or mention goats in his presence.

- 41 ad Caligula, his wife Caesonia, and his daughter were killed by his own Praetorian Guard. His last words were "Hey, you call that a stabbing?"

Well, there you have it. Good ol' Caligula. The big "C". The man whose mere mention brings up sounds of bongo drums and images of giant feather fans. If he were alive today, he would either become a tabloid dirt editor, or a well-respected member of the Senate. Either way, I'm sure after several minutes of watching TV he would say "I just LOVE you guys!"

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sauron: Dark Lord of Mordor or Motivated "Go-Getter"?

In the ambitious epic "The Lord of the Rings," Tolkien makes it clear that Sauron and his followers are the "bad" guys - "evil-doers" if you will - to be resisted and driven back into the foul depths of Mordor. But like many conflicts, the source of antipathy could simply be based on cultural misunderstanding - an unfortunate transverse of ethnology. This misconstruction challenges us to examine not only our methodology of social perception, but canvass ourselves as a people and those we judge.

Take the Ringwraiths for example. Sure they are trying to seize the one true ring and destroy any who oppose it's return, but at least they are motivated. They have a strategic plan, and are simply following through to meet their objectives. Who are we to curse them for being efficient? Organization and motivation are qualities hallowed by our business infrastructure, yet the Ring-Wraiths are portrayed as relentless monsters. They are shown as pale, skeleton-like creatures as if that's a bad thing. Are they not just Heroin-chic? The fitness/cosmetic/fashion industries spend millions each year parading fitness plans and fads, and now we are saying that the Ring-Wraiths are ugly because they found an effective diet?

Further, what's so abominable about being an Orc? Sure they seem ugly and foul with embarrassing sweating problems, but we undoubtedly seem just as ugly and foul to them. Are we not supposed to with-hold judgment based on ones' appearance? Does this rule suddenly stop for the Orcs? What does this say to our children - that tolerance is only valid when it's convenient?

In addition, can we really blame the Orcs for such Type-A personalities? Suraman himself said that the Orcs were once elves who were twisted into Orcs. These people were obviously traumatized. Perhaps it's not their fault for pillaging and constantly yelling, but their parents. Maybe if they had some proper counseling they wouldn't have these psychotic outbursts with no outlet or sympathetic ear. The next time you see an Orc attack with a battle-Ax, remember it's not their fault. Blame the psychologist who failed to see it coming as well as their parents for not offering enough nurturing support.

Furthermore, the concept of saving Middle-Earth for the "good" creatures needs serious reconsideration. What qualifies Hobbits, Dwarfs, Elves and Humans to inherit Middle-Earth? The races are ripe with deadly sins: Hobbits eat and drink all day long. Dwarfs greedily dig in their mines to the point of unleashing ancient fire-demons. Elves are arrogant and judgmental with enough pride and vanity to put Vulcans to shame. And Humans are capable of destruction beyond Saurons wildest dreams. What makes us think we are more deserving than the indigenous population of Mordor? And who's to say our landscaping plan is more efficient?

Finally, what is so bad about serving Sauron? Sure he's cruel, demanding, and unsanitary, but is that REALLY any different than some of the bosses you've had? Yes he is trying to take over the world and rule its inhabitants, but at least he has goals. And talk about dedication - anyone who waits 2 1/2 thousand years to get a ring is an enthusiastic person. Sauron is a strong, motivated, and effective leader who doesn't follow polls or what's "popular," but rather his own heart. How many politicians can we say that about? I say it's time to take an honest look at ourselves and those we would condemn. Perhaps it's not Sauron and his hordes of blood-thirsty Orcs we really hate, but ourselves.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things to Talk About at a Fashion Party: How to Take Care of Your Antique Knives

As everyone knows, if you drive through back roads while on vacation, your car will inevitably break down and you WILL be surrounded and captured by rednecks. As they mock your well-manicured, soft hands and kick in your tail-lights, you will notice that not only are their knives functional, but well cared for. I say this is the perfect opportunity to create a common bond, a "sharing bridge" between you and the locals by discussing the fine tradition of knife maintenance.

Here are some helpful hints (note: applies to modern knives too!):

- Touch the blade as little as possible. Whether you know it or not, we all have oils on our fingers that wreak havoc with steel. When we touch the blade those oils are left behind. Over time the blade will start to corrode, even stainless steel. Use the handle for torque and leverage as much as possible. This is impractical in many situations such as whittling, skinning, or being an idiot at the campfire, so don't stress over it; just be aware that it happens.

- Keep it sharp: A sharper knife is actually less dangerous than a dull one which requires more pressure.

- After use, clean the blade as soon as possible. Honing oil works, as does many gun-kit oils and basic household oils. If you want to get traditional, use Japanese oil of cloves or camellia oil, but you have to wear a full samurai outfit. For stainless steel, just wash and dry.

- Even in disuse, oil your blade once every few months. Your blade will thank you.

- Keep it away from intense heat. Remember in Rambo II when they heated his knife to red-hot during the interrogation? Ruined the temper and edge-hardness. Luckily it was reheat-treated when they plunged it into his cheek. Also when fighting Visigoths don't dip the blade in flames for cooler effect. You will be laughed at, and probably killed.

- To remove rust spots, try rubbing with kerosene and a cotton cloth, clean off with acetone, then apply oil. Don't use sand-paper or other harsh grit unless you don't care if the blade surface is ruined.

- When wanting to hold someone's knife, it is proper protocol to ask permission first. Receive and hold by the handle - do NOT touch the blade. It is impolite to run your fingers up and down the blade (unless you borrowed the knife for use and have to). When handing back, hold by the top of the handle and present handle-first. This can be tricky with smaller knifes, but quit being so modern and do it.

Of utmost importance in the care of a sword or knife is respect. Remember always that any blade is capable of inflicting injury, especially if disregarded. Knifes are one of our earliest human tools, part of the basic canon of human technology - 100,000 years of human progression has given you this birthright. Take care of them...after all, Goggamook of the sweating-toad Cave Tribe would have wanted it that way.

Now you know how to take care of a knife. Make sure to bring crying tissues with you when bonding with the Rednecks!