Friday, June 27, 2008

Border Crossers, Gas, And Sex -- Oh, My!


They cross the border between the United States and Mexico for financial reasons. Some of them are breaking the law, but they're willing to risk it. They're not doing it for better jobs or a better education. They're doing it for cheaper gas. And they're crossing from the United States to Mexico. It's a surprising turn of events, and I haven't even gotten to the sex part yet.


More and more Americans are crossing the border into Mexico to fill up their tanks at a recent cost of about $2.66 a gallon. It might not sound like enough of a savings to be worth the trip, but what if you owned a fleet of trucks? How would you feel about border crossers then?


Don't be surprised if someday soon a Mexican official, or a commentator named Luiz Dobbs or something like that, decries the Americans who cross the border in search of less expensive gas. Some of them may be breaking the law because of the taxes they are avoiding. They are the "new illegals." I can just hear the outraged voices saying that these Americans are "taking gas away from Mexico's legal residents."


The high price of gas in the United States is obviously changing the way many of us live and act. People are driving less so they don't go to faraway stores as much as they used to. Big gas-guzzlers are gathering grime on auto lots. Many businesses are suffering, so they've come up with creative ways to survive the "gas crunch." Chrysler offers potential new owners of some of their cars a guarantee of paying $2.99 a gallon of gas to travel up to 12,000 miles a year for the next three years. I don't know if you'll be able to pay less if the price of gas dips below $2.99 again, but don't hold your breath on that one.


Other businesses are giving away gas with the purchase of their products. Some restaurants give a free gallon of gas with every lunch. Before putting some of its candy bars in their wrappers, Hershey's has placed an icon in there that will get the buyer free gas. Other businesses are giving away gas cards worth $50 or more. Callaway, the golf club company, is one of those giving away the cards. In other words, they'll help you out if you're so pressed for money that you're worried about how much gas costs, but you don't mind spending hundreds of dollars for a new driver.


Then there is the oldest profession in the world. According to those in charge of legal prostitution in Nevada, sex workers are feeling the pinch. These businesses are in rural areas, and with the cost of gas, many drivers who might have previously visited, have decided to keep their money in their pants and their pants on their bodies.


Those in the brothel biz are used to clothes dropping, but not their profits. Revenues are reportedly down somewhere between 20 and 45%. This is according to a lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners' Association. (How would you like to have that job on your resume?)


At least one Nevada brothel has decided to fight back. Beginning July 1st, the Shady Lady Ranch will give free gas cards to their paying customers. It's a trade-off, tit for tat. By the way, the Shady Lady Ranch was voted "best small brothel" for five consecutive years. I don't know who does the voting, but that's what its website says. Yes, it has a website, just like every business these days. For all I know, the Shady Lady might have a day care center.


So the high gas prices are affecting more than just transportation. I only bring up the world of prostitution to demonstrate just how widespread the effect of high gas prices is on American life. I mean, if gas prices are affecting the ladies of the night, you know it's serious. And of course, gas cards being in brothels gives a whole new meaning to the girls asking their customers, "Would you like regular or super?"





Monday, June 23, 2008

My Swimsuit Issue


BY POPULAR DEMAND, I HAVE REVISED A FAVORITE SUMMER COLUMN OF MINE, AND I OFFER IT TO YOU HERE. YOU MAY ENJOY THIS ONE MORE BY LISTENING TO IT, BUT IF YOU FEEL LIKE READING IT, PLEASE GO RIGHT AHEAD.


It's finally summer, the living is easy, and sex in the media is even easier. As you read this, you are participating in history. This is the first swimsuit edition of a column ever printed.


For years, sex, skin, and swimsuits have been used to attract people to products, publications, and productions. Many in the media resisted joining the flesh peddlers for as long as they could. But when "National Geographic" – of all places -- came out with a swimsuit issue about five years ago, that was the straw that broke their sunscreen-slathered backs. I held out as long as I could, but now the realities of today's competitive market have forced my hand. I have mixed feelings about being the author of this historic commentary, but I'm a realist. If I don't compete, I'll go the way of the dinosaur – the dinosaur who did not wear a swimsuit, I might add.


So, right now I'm sitting here in my 100% nylon made-in-Hong Kong "Tommy Bahama" suit. I should tell you that "Sports Illustrated" started the whole thing with its first swimsuit issue in 1964. Every year since then, the issue has grabbed readers' attention during that winter lull between the Super Bowl and the baseball season. "Sports Illustrated's" wise editors have continued to display beautiful people in bathing suits in the middle of winter, frolicking in warm, sunny places. That way, the reader whose car may be buried in snow, can vicariously be on a beach, looking at some model wearing a ridiculously expensive suit that nobody would ever actually swim in.


Looking out my office window here in Southern California, watching the wind kiss the palm trees as the mountains hover watchfully in the background, I want to tell you a little of the history of this phenomenon. The success of "Sports Illustrated's" famous issue got the attention of other magazines. "National Geographic's" February, 2003 swimsuit issue only opened the floodgates that much more. Then there was no way to hold back the water that models dip their pedicured toes in. Of course, the people at "National Geographic" and other highly regarded publications are always quick to point out that their swimsuit issues are "tasteful."


At the time, "National Geographic's" editor said that its swimsuit issue was all about "fun and wonder -- as well as total astonishment at what some people will wear in public." Really? If this were completely true, why didn't we see an edition of "National Geographic" devoted to "100 Years Of Ugly Golf Pants?" If it were purely an anthropological and sociological study, why didn't they choose, "The Majesty Of The Loose-Fitting Flannel Shirt?" or "Sweat Pants Worn by Those Who Made a Difference?" No, they chose swimsuits for the same reason all the other magazines did. And for the same reason that I'm sitting here wearing one. Because sex sells.


I'm not a prude. I like gratuitous sexiness as much as the next person. But it's just gotten out of hand. (By the way, now I'm changing into my blue Nautica suit with the orange trim). There are places that are appropriate for semi-dressed people to be displayed, and places that are not appropriate.


Who's going to be next? "Scientific American" could accompany the photos with explanations of gravity-defying design techniques. Are "Newsweek" and "Time" going to have issues devoted to, "The Swimmers of Congress?" And "Reader's Digest" should have no problem showing us even briefer bathing suits. I don't even want to try picturing the first swimsuit issue of "The Christian Science Monitor."


But I shouldn't be criticizing others as I sit here typing away, wearing the latest in swimwear. Actually, right now, I'm switching to my 100% polyester Polo Sport suit with the little fishes on it. There. I hope that's not embarrassing to anyone. I have to admit, it's quite comfortable.


Even though I'm a participant in all this, I can honestly say that I'm not sure where it will end. How many of us will be strong enough to resist the temptation to show more and more flesh as we work? But I will give you my word about one thing. I will never write one of my columns while wearing a thong. Well, if I do, I promise it will be a tasteful one.






Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do A Push-Up, Go To Jail



After reading this, you should never step out of the shower, look at yourself in the mirror, and be disappointed by what you see. If somebody teases you about not being in great physical shape, I've got something you can tell them. And the next time you're with someone whose eyes drift over to look at a person with a "perfect" body, you can just smile about what you know and what they don't. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have determined that those people with the best bodies aren't necessarily the best people.


This study that appears in The Social Science Journal, found that most people who entered prison were physically, even athletically, fit. Between 62 and 73% of the prison population was made up of hard-body athletic types. And those who were physically fit were the most likely to be imprisoned for violent crimes.


So, if you are bemoaning that the person you are with doesn't look like a swimsuit model, cut it out. At least he or she isn't as likely to knock over a bank as that neighbor of yours who works out every day and only eats low-fat yogurt.


I understand that the study only involves 5000 Arkansas inmates, so it would be unwise for scientists to generalize from this. That's one of the beauties of not being a scientist -- I can generalize if I want to.


The results of this study should be taught in every school in the land. We've been told over and over again how dangerous it is for people -- especially children -- to try to model themselves after the few individuals who have almost perfect bodies. Now, because of this study, kids and grownups don't have to see those with centerfold physiques as role models. They can view them as people who might be more likely to mug a 90-year-old World War II veteran than those of us who are a little too thin or a little too heavy.


I've always been suspicious of people who have really good bodies. Anyone who devotes that much time to looking good isn't spending enough time doing other things. If some other researchers did another survey, don't you think they'd find that those who have "six-pack" abs don't do as much volunteer work as those of us with "no-packs?" How many valedictorians are at their ideal weight? Can you name one Nobel Prize winner who was also known for having perfect calves? I rest my case.


This study is a triumph for every person who doesn't have a gym membership, for anyone who ever took an extra piece of cake instead of an extra lap around the track, and for all the men and women whose exercise bikes long ago became a convenient place to hang their clothes. This study isn't only saying that the rest of us are as good as those who have muscles in places where we just have places. It's saying that we might be better than they are -- or at least less violent.


Instead of going for the chiseled or the silicone look, maybe this will encourage men and women to start choosing a mate or a date with bony knees or a double chin. Perhaps employers will start recruiting people whose waists enter the room before their faces. In fact, I'm really looking forward to the headline someday that will proclaim the large number of people who are suing companies for not hiring them because they're too good looking.


Obviously, more research is necessary. (And if I know our government, it will probably be spending billions on it before you can say, "bridge to nowhere"). We have to find out if there is a causal relationship between the number of situps people can do and whether or not they end up wearing a number. Or is it just a coincidence that those with hard muscles are the ones doing hard time? After all, there is another explanation for all this: maybe those who are out of shape are just too lazy to get out there and commit crimes.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

What About Bill?


We've heard a lot of pleas of sympathy for Hillary Clinton ever since she conceded that she didn't win the Democratic nomination. We were told that it was going to be necessary for there to be some time for "the healing process." "Newsweek" even suggested that candidates who lose Presidential elections generally suffer from a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. If this is true, I have the utmost confidence that Hillary will triumph over these difficulties. She has certainly demonstrated her strength and resiliency during the campaign. The one I'm worried about is Bill.


More than ever, during the interminable campaign for the nomination, the former President demonstrated his love of the limelight. For several years, he had seemed content to be off the front pages and the evening news. He appeared to be happy doing both philanthropic work and making a fortune giving speeches about being philanthropic. But then he got a taste of it again, and he remembered what he'd been missing all those years. It was publicity, feeling important, and having cute young reporters writing down every word that he said.


If he couldn't be President again because of some silly little Constitutional thing, he'd be the closest thing to it. He could be the First Gentleman. Not only that, but he'd be the first First Gentleman.


However, the more obvious it became that Senator Clinton wasn't going to win, the more desperate Bill became. "Hey, this isn't fair," he probably thought. "I'd make a better First Spouse than Michelle Obama. She doesn't even know how to signal to the Secret Service guys to look the other way." If Bill hadn't acted so unprincipled in those final weeks of the campaign, he would have seemed pathetic. So let's not ask that question about Hillary anymore. Instead, let's ask, "What's Bill going to do now?"


Is he really going to be able to go back to the shadows after people made all this fuss about him again? I don't think so. His kind of "attention deficit disorder" happens when the world gives him a deficit of attention.


It's not out of the question, but I doubt that he'll do the reality show, "At Home With The Crazy Clintons." (Note to the Fox Network: When you steal this idea, I'll sue but I'll settle out of court). I don't see him as an All-Star for the Yankees, and he's not going to run for the mayor of Hope, Arkansas. So what can he do that will satisfy his appetite for approval?


As I was worrying about poor Bill, I happened to hear that former basketball player/bridal gown model Dennis Rodman, and child star/do anything guy, Danny Bonaduce were going to be on a new television show called, "Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Wrestling." I immediately thought this might be just the thing for Bill.


He'd get plenty of attention, he could show off his reduced body, and he'd have fawning female fans. But my insanity was only temporary. Bill Clinton is not Danny Bonaduce – and he can quote me on that. Bill doesn't just want the spotlight. He desperately wants to be remembered respectfully. They might not always act like it, but Presidents apparently care what the history books will say about them.


I gave it some more thought, and then realized that Bill had not made a fool of himself for at least a week. He hasn't tried to upstage anyone lately. And he has stopped saying anything negative about Obama.


This last fact is what made me finally understand what Bill is up to. Why is he behaving himself? Why is he cozying up to Barack Obama? It's simple. Bill has figured out what he'd like to do next: he wants to be Vice President.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tennis' Dirty Little Secret


There's something rotten going on in the sport of tennis, and nobody seems to want to talk about it. Historically, tennis has presented itself as a dignified game. It's a sport of ladies and gentlemen. Players are called Mr. or Mrs./Miss/Ms. So-and-So. They can be penalized for unsavory behavior. So the foundations of the game itself are rattled whenever there is any kind of scandal in the sport. But that's no reason for all of us to stick our heads in the sand -- or in the reddish clay -- when there is something undeniably going on that warrants exposure. I'm not talking about the current alleged gambling scandal involving some players. I'm talking about something much more serious, something that involves all four of the Grand Slam tournaments. I'm talking about the rain.

Even a casual fan of tennis has to notice that it almost always rains during Wimbledon, as well as the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens. Matches are interrupted, and sometimes entire days are rained out. I had wondered how this rainy weather could so often coincide with the biggest tennis tournaments in the world. And then I went to the French Open at Roland Garros and found out.

As much as the officials and the commentators complain about the rain delays, they are intentional. What am I implying, that those who stage these tournaments want it to rain? Yes, and more than that. I believe that those in charge have found a way to actually make it rain during the championships.

And why, if this were possible would they manipulate the weather so that the games are interrupted by precipitation? They do it so the fans will seek shelter. And where do they seek shelter? In the gift shops.

That's exactly what my wife and I did to get out of the rain when we were at Roland Garros. And we weren't alone. The store was packed, and the cashier lines were long. People were buying all kinds of things with the Roland Garros logo. They were spending their valuable Euros to buy clothes that they would probably wear once, if that. They were purchasing presents for people who would smile and then put the gifts on that high shelf that never gets dusted.

The store was selling things faster than the dollar was dropping. Naturally, they had caps and T-shirts. But they also had beach towels, "players towels," shoes, watches, key rings, head and wrist bands, regular sized tennis balls, huge tennis balls, socks, sweatshirts, and "overgrips," whatever they are. People bought skirts, shorts, and skorts. They also bought tops, pants, and "vibration dampeners" (which apparently are not sex toys).

I'm not a meteorologist. I'm just a guy who wore his Roland Garros cap all morning today. So I don't know how they make it rain, but the facts don't lie. When was the last time there was a major tournament that had sunny weather every single day? If they had a big championship in Death Valley, I guarantee there would somehow be rain before the semi-finals.

I'll leave it to the conspiracy theorists to figure this one out. Perhaps Oliver Stone will make a movie about it. Maybe there's a cloud-seeding rifle on the grassy knoll at each stadium. Maybe they make it rain with the blimp that's always hovering above. Let's face it, that would be a much better use of it than taking pictures of cars arriving and leaving.

However they do it, I can personally testify that it's a big success. They even had little Roland Garros merchandise stores in other parts of Paris. And sure enough, while we were walking near one of those, it started to rain. We went inside, but showed great restraint. We did not buy the little bottle of red clay dirt that was selling for 15 Euros. That's right. They actually sell dirt. What kind of suckers do they think we are? Of course, if it had only been 10 Euros...


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