5 Creepy Things Lots of People Collect

Categories: Random Ephemera

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Photo by the author
Old side show banners like this tend to be huge, and are very expensive.
There have always been folks who collected weird things. Of course, the idea of what is a "weird" thing to collect is completely subjective. To me, it's odd that lots of people collect modern super hero comic books, since they take up a ton of room and are printed in such enormous quantities that few ever seem to appreciate in value. But collectors of anything are a strange and dedicated breed, and trying to understand the appeal of many collectibles might be futile for a person looking in from the outside.

But there are some things that people collect which might seem unsavory to a majority of folks, not taken with the same collector bug. Things like:

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How to Paint a Motorcycle With Spray Paint and Get Great Results

Categories: Random Ephemera

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Photo by Chris Lane
The supplies I ended up using. I'd estimate all of it cost me about $150, far less than the almost $3,000 I was quoted by the pro shops.

Several months ago I bought a used chopper from its original owner. Great bike, but it had a ridiculous-looking "Tribal tattoo" paint job that was pretty much the exact opposite of anything I would consider cool.

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Is Marriage Still Important or Does It Just Make You Miserable?

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Photo: Prashant Gupta, FX
In FX's "Married" all Nat Faxon wants is his wife and all she wants is to be left alone.
Because of the onslaught of positive reviews, I recently felt compelled to check out FX's summer sitcom Married. The plot, a married couple with children, is something I can most certainly relate to at this point in my life. Both of the show's leads, Nat Faxon and Judy Greer, are fabulous comic actors and deserve their individual days in the sun. Plus, Jenny Slate plays Faxon's wacky gal pal and I would marry/adopt her if she was willing. So I tried it, and it's pretty funny. Enough.

I don't often find sitcoms worth watching past their pilots, but I've already watched a few episodes of this show. As mentioned, the acting is good, the writing is fine, but there's something I don't like about it and it was hard to put my finger on at first. This married couple don't really seem to like each other all that much. They love each other in a Roseanne and Dan Connor kind of way - foibles and all - but unlike that real-feeling married couple, Faxon and Greer don't like each other. I don't understand why they are still married.

As a television sitcom whose focus is dysfunctional married life, FX has tapped into some new territory. But for a married woman with children, this has got me worried. Is this the obligatory path of the married couple; husband always wants sex, wife always has headache, kids are obnoxious, we can't afford the luxuries we really want. Can marriage be chalked up to just those things, and if so, why is anyone still getting married?

There are about a million research studies about the state of marriage and coupledom, many contradictory to another. Marriage makes you live longer, makes you miserable, married women are happier than single, married women are less happy than single, married men with hot wives are happier, the key to a happy marriage to for the wife to be thinner than her husband (weird), and the list goes on and on.


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7 Odd Things I've Discovered Working at a Health Food Store

Categories: Random Ephemera

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Photo by Steven Depolo

These days it's common to bump into people that are pursuing some form of healthier living, exercising more, and watching what they eat. Eventually, a lot of these individuals will start to do their grocery shopping at health food stores, places specializing in the food and products that they feel will benefit their new dietary requirements.

I spend the work week toiling away in a health and natural food store. My current job is interesting to me, because I encounter lots of people who are trying to live healthier lifestyles, but who also seem to buy things that aren't particularly healthy, or are completely ineffective. There are a lot of examples, but some of the biggest would have to include:

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Kelly Gale Amen Takes on Cancer Below the Belt With Vagina Pillows

Categories: Random Ephemera

Celebrated designer Kelly Gale Amen is a cancer survivor. Specifically he is a prostate cancer survivor, and he's looking to call attention to cancers in places that most people feel are frankly embarrassing. His latest initiative is called Cancer Below the Belt, and he's encoyraging people to get involved using the hashtag #getcaughtwithyourpantsdown.

The project got started when Playboy model turned photographer Shelby Murry was being photographed with Amen by Allen Henson. She remarked that it would be funny if he took his pants off, Amen agreed, and that was the beginning of an idea.

"We're focused on uterine, cervical, testicular, prostate, colon, anal, ovarian, and rectal cancers," says Murry. "People don't like to talk about having a sick prostate, but we're trying to use this campaign to remove some of the stigma, make it fun, and hopefully catch cancer in the early, most treatable stages."

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4 Teenage Activities That Technology is Making Disappear

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Photo by Saad Faruque
"Leave the house? Why?"
Technology has always altered the ways in which we communicate with one another and entertain ourselves, but those changes are accelerating and dramatically affecting the ways that we socialize. Much has been said about how social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are transforming the ways in which we communicate, and it's clear that's true. But there are other effects that our increasing reliance on the Internet as a socialization tool is having on our culture. These trends are obvious everywhere, but especially when it comes to social customs among young people.

4. Malls may disappear, and the Internet is partially to blame.

I never thought of myself as a mall rat when I was a teenager back in the '80s, but I guess my friends and I spent a lot of time hanging out in Houston malls (such as Sharpstown and Memorial City) way back then. The mall was a destination, a place to go when we wanted to get out of our houses, girl watch, and play some arcade games. Sure, we'd occasionally shop at places like the original Dream Merchant in Sharpstown Mall. But for the most part, we went to malls as a way to socialize, and a way to interact with other teenagers.

Malls were sort of their own world. A place where adult authority was still present, but somehow seemed diminished. I think the only time I ever felt the stern hand of the adult world in an '80s shopping mall was when my group of pals ran into an older friend of my mother, and she gave me grief for wearing an obscene Circle Jerks shirt. I don't think we were alone. Malls were an important part of teenage life for decades.

But malls are in trouble these days. There are estimates that of the roughly 1,100 active malls around currently, about half will close over the next 20 years. Teenagers just don't seem to view the mall as the center of their universes anymore.

There are a lot of reasons for this phenomena, ranging from consumers buying online more and more to the death of certain types of retailers once common to shopping malls. Which bring us to...

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5 Things People Should Quit Putting on Their Bucket Lists

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Photo by Purple Slog

Bucket Lists have become very popular in recent years. The idea of compiling a list of things to do or achieve before shuffling off the mortal coil seems rather appealing to a lot of people, and it's understandable. We all want our lives to mean something, and most of us have longed for adventure at one point or another. It's easy to end up 40 or 50years old and realize that time is not an inexhaustible commodity in our lives. Having a list of stuff we want to experience before we die seems like a rational way to plan and make those things come to pass.

But I'm beginning to hate a lot of the common things I see on bucket lists. Not judging people's choices, but if one scours the Internet, there are lots and lots of "Top 10" and "Top 100" bucket lists. Some of these are undoubtedly fantasies that some writer came up with for a website, and others seem to be the most popular answers from surveys, so who knows how many folks really have these things on their personal bucket lists. Still, some of these entries seem pretty badly thought out for one reason or another, and maybe it's time to rethink them before they end up on another list.

5. The I'm a Good Person List Item

I think most people want to be considered kind and compassionate to others. Yes, there are some unrepentantly selfish people that don't seem interested in being nice, but most of us seem to place some importance on that. That's probably why I see quite a few Internet bucket list "best of" articles that include something like, "Perform a kind deed without expecting anything in return."

Yes, we should perform a kind deed without expecting the person benefiting from your kindness to repay it in some way, or without it benefiting us at all.

Shouldn't we do that kind of thing anyway? Why is that a bucket list item? Unless a person is a total rat bastard, shouldn't he or she be treating people kindly and trying to be helpful throughout their lives? If being kind or acting selflessly is such a rarity in a person that they reserve it for a once in a lifetime bucket list activity...wow.

I can see them walking off afterwards saying, "I hope y'all enjoyed that one act of kindness of mine, thanks for helping me scratch something off my bucket list, I'm going back to being an awful person now."



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The Reasons a Person Is Unlikely to Be Attacked by a Shark in Texas

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Photo by Travelbag Ltd.
Probably not going to see this in Galveston anytime soon.
In Texas, your chances of being killed in a shark attack are less than being struck by lightning. A person has a higher chance of being bitten by any number of snakes in this state, or getting crushed by a tractor trailer on the drive to the beach.

Although recently a teenage girl was bitten by a small shark in Galveston, unprovoked shark attacks are exceedingly rare in Texas, with the International Shark Attack File recording a mere 38 since 1911. Of those, only two were fatal, the last occurring in 1962. Considering that the last time a person was killed by a shark in Texas waters was before Beatlemania, it makes the chances of a fatal encounter with a shark around these parts look unlikely.

Contrast that to Florida. Volusia County, home to Daytona Beach, which is statistically the area of this country with the highest number of past shark attacks, has 257 recorded since 1882. We're looking pretty good here in the Lone Star State.

The honest truth is that people are a lot more dangerous to sharks than vice versa - something that we hear over and over watching the Discovery Channel's famous "Shark Week", usually during a show exploiting our collective fear of sharks.


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The Reasons I Changed My Mind About the Death Penalty

Categories: Random Ephemera

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Photo by Ken Piorkowski

Years ago, when I was still a teenager, an elderly great aunt of mine was viciously raped and murdered by a person that broke into her house one night. Despite this crime happening in another state, and her being a distant relative I'd never met, I still remember the raw feeling of wanting her murderer to face justice, and to get the death penalty. I grew up in Texas after all, and we lead the nation in executions. The idea that they are a just form of punishment was something I took for granted.

The kinds of capital crimes that can earn a criminal a state-enforced meeting with the Grim Reaper are almost always the worst possible. Very few people I know can feel sympathy for a person that has callously raped, tortured and murdered their way onto Death Row, and that is understandable. It's a lot to ask of a person, perhaps too much.

At the time of my great aunt's murder, I was completely accepting of the death penalty as an instrument of justice. It appealed to my sense of fairness, as the exchange of a killer's life for robbing an innocent of theirs seemed to make sense. Certainly not an "even trade," but the best kind of justice society could hope for in such terrible criminal cases.

As the years rolled on, I began to question my feelings on the matter, primarily because some of the arguments against capital punishment began to make more sense to me than the reasons supporting it. I began to question whether the death penalty was a just sentence for society to impose on those convicted of horrific crimes. I respectfully understand that many people will disagree with me, but several issues kept popping up that changed my mind about supporting the death penalty.

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5 Things Radical Conservatives Have Ruined for Everyone Else

Categories: Random Ephemera

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GOP.com
I have an addiction that is worse than heroin and twice as likely to end in my tragic death at my own hands... I read the comments under political news stories. In part because keeping my finger on the ketchup-and-gravy-infused pulse of America is my job, but really because I was that kid who always wondered if it was possible to summon demons.

You can. Just write a story about our Attorney General appealing the ruling that strikes down Texas' rather blatantly unconstitutional same-sex marriage ban and all the posse of Old Scratch himself will bubble to the surface to gibber and scream.

In reading these comments, I've realized that there are certain words and concepts that the radical conservative right have actually ruined for the rest of us. Thinks like...

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