Author: themagpieonline


The Sad Tale of Japan’s Hikikomori


hikikomori painting

Asian cultures often face harsh critique when placed under Western scrutiny – we prize freedom, individuality and creativity over the rigid conformity that many eastern countries are depicted as. Brutishly intelligent, we think of Japanese students devoting all their time to studying lest they bring great dishonor to their families. In truth, we project these stereotypes because we really don’t want to live our lives under that kind of pressure, and an overwhelming number of Japanese youths feel the same way. Therein lies the resoundingly sad tale of hikikomori.

 

hikikomori painting

 

Hikikomori (ひきこもり,引き籠もり) roughly translates to “pulling inward,” and has affected around 1% of the population, or close to a million reported cases. Statistically made up of young males, the person becomes so introverted that they seek refuge in their rooms and some don’t come out for years. It is a sociological condition many Japanese psychologists believe has developed within the last 30 years in response to Japan’s economic stagnantion, its aging and dwindling population, and a generation of parents nearing retirement who have deep pockets. If you’re waiting for something funny to come up, this story is not a funny one, and it’s only going to get sadder. So get some tissues and prepare to feel worse than Jim Gaffigan does after eating a hot pocket.

 

The condition of hikikomori will sound similar to that of depression, people who have severe anxiety disorders, agoraphobics and to some extent a state summarized by the T S Eliot poem J. Alfred Prufrock. However, hikikomori seems a condition unique to Japan, as psychologists do not attach any other form of mental illness to its source, but attribute it as a condition or even subculture in and of itself that compels a person to reject the cultural rigidity so squarely placed on the shoulders of Japanese youth. What, then, makes these guys so sad?

 

Some background knowledge into the Japanese educational hierarchy would make most North Americans want to turn to the comforts of their various video games consoles and forget that such a system is in existence anywhere in the world. To quickly summarize the archaic education system in Japan, imagine having to memorize for rote everything you ever learned from the time you were in elementary school until you landed your first job; your ability to regurgitate all of these notations will determine your degree of success in life starting in elementary school, when you take an exam to get into an esteemed junior high school, then an exam for a top ranking academic high school and thus providing your greatest chance at getting into the best universities, in turn landing you an excellent job as soon as you’ve got your degree in hand. You’re set on course for life by the time you’ve barely started growing pubic hair because you have to decide then what you’ll do for the rest of your life. If you don’t get into that good junior high school, you’re fucked.

Hikikomori

 

There’s no room for late bloomers in this strict educational hierarchy; there is a standardized test for all students wishing to enter university, but the idea is that the high school you go to grooms you to attain a score that matches the caliber of your desired university. So, bad junior high school = bad high school = very, very little chance of going to a well-regarded university. Japanese high schools used to have nine classes a day 6 days a week, which has graciously been cut down to 7 classes and five days, but has resulted in an influx of cram schools to “make up for lost time.” If a student does not pass the standardized exam nor that of their desired university, it is expected that they will spend the entirety of the next year studying for almost ten hours a day in order to pass the next time around. Imagine for a moment leaving your house to go to cram school the whole day, coming home and studying for four more hours, then repeat for the next 365 days. This would be apt time for a vomit break.

 

The amount of pressure put on students and young adults is crippling to say the least, which has largely contributed to the increasing number of hikikomori cases over the years. Other factors include that the once guaranteed job out of university has not been the reality for many years, and a spreading apathy that asks what the point is. Whether the catalyst is a poor test score or bullying, these dejected people turn inwards and spend excessive amounts of time either in their room or indoors, with parents that can afford to financially support them for a near indefinite period of time.

 

Many Japanese live at home well into their 20s and even 30s as it is, so it’s not as if hikikomori are in any way odd to have their parents care for them even as young adults. However the longer a person remains a hikikomori, the more their ability to re-enter society atrophies. With many of their parents approaching retirement, it’s become a unique problem that could produce unprecedented problems in the near future.

 

Dr. Tamaki Saito first coined the phrase hikihomori about thirty years ago, when families or those suffering with hikikomori began to seek him for help. Different from ‘social parasitism’ which also plagues Japan and it’s economy, Saito found that mental illnesses such as OCD were symptoms of what he came to define as hikikomori rather than the other way around. It is largely caused by the interdependence of Japanese parents and their children, exacerbated by the social pressures put on (usually the eldest) young males to perform well in school and their career. This crippling tug-o-war between parent and child for support while trying to rise to the mounting expectations that define Japanese masculinity has been detrimental to the mental health of young males especially.

 

The declining birth rate has only served to put further pressure on boys with fewer children to diffuse reliance on by parents, as well as the intense competition for jobs straight out of university. Many companies will only hire what they call “fresh” graduates (those who have sought employment immediately following the March graduation), so many students will continue to pour money into attending university for another year if they don’t get a job just to maintain this crucial status. Well, fuck.

 

With the rise of the culture of rejection has come new research and companies in response. Halfway houses and similar programs have been growing quickly to help draw these people out of their isolation with a gentle hand so as not to cause a relapse. One program, called New Start based out of Tokyo, provides dorms and job training to help integrate hikikomori back into society by initially sending a “rental sister” over to the person’s house. She acts as the segue way between their isolation back into the world of social relationships, providing them with the initial building blocks to feel comfortable interacting with people and their culture again. This is not to say the programs are attempting to force the social rigidity hikikomori reject back onto them, but rather illuminate them to the fact that they can create meaningful relationships and find enjoyment in work.

 

The rate of school refusal in Japan has more than doubled in the past twenty years, and birth rates point towards a threatening population drop within the next thirty. While Shinzo Abe’s government has made some massive overhauls to the country’s economic policy that has seen the nikkei rise in May for the first time in five in a half years (and since fall 15%), it’s hard to say how their fiscal stimulus will positively affect the economy in the long run. While hikikomori are not the only social issue that requires desperate attention, they represent the startling antithesis to the Japanese proverb “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/15/magazine/shutting-themselves-in.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/hanging-out-with-japan-s-lost-generation-1.893734

The French Bulldog is an Abomination


French Bulldogs

French Bulldogs hold a specific place in the dog world as one of the most fetishized and meme-worthy of breeds. Usually ensconced in some ridiculous get up and staring back at us with their big dumb lovable eyes, they make habitual appearances on sites like Buzzfeed or Reddit, and belong to the triumvirate of fawned over internet dogs that includes Corgis and Pugs. But unlike those other two breeds, Frenchies, as they’re affectionately known, happen to be the spawn of pure evil. Please, let me explain.

 

French Bulldog

 

Many breeds of dog are bred for a specific purpose – Border Collies are singled out for their herding abilities, hounds for their scent and tracking, and Golden Retrievers are sometimes chosen just based on disposition alone to be used as companions for PTSD victims. The Frenchie is obviously a small breed, and like many diminutive breeds (outside of the vermin-hunting terriers) they don’t really have a specific skill or use – their purposeif they have one, is to amuse us.

But while if Border Collies stopped being good herders the breed would undoubtedly continue, due to the nature of French Bulldogs, if the breed ever fails to entertain us, it’s very possible it will rapidly cease to exist. This is because what goes into producing French Bulldogs is unique, as they’re not so much bred as they are made.

 

The horrible secret behind Frenchies is that they can’t naturally procreate, their x’s and o’s just don’t line up and try as they might their odd little bodies can properly intertwine. Each and every one of them has to be artificially inseminated by the hand or turkey baster of man. Through selective breeding humanity created the Frenchie, prized for it’s hilarious and pathetic features, but in the tradeoff we made an unnatural abomination.

 

Bulldog

 

We’ve engineered a creature that cannot fend for itself, reproduce, or really do much of anything but trot around in playful ineptitude. The French Bulldog can’t even give birth without our assistance, with nearly all puppies delivered through caesarean due to their abnormally large heads and the females small hips. Nature does not want these animals to live, but through our force of will and demand for their stupid cartoon features, we have made them so. The french bulldog is an example of playing God in the most involved way possible, manually forcing creation of each individual animal.

 

If this wasn’t bad enough, the process of creating Frenchies has resulted in innumerable health problems including breathing difficulty, skin disease, and a predilection to heatstroke that causes the breed to become “confused” and have “diarrhea” at the drop of a hat, according to the French Bulldog Club of America. These defects are especially pronounced in the Frenchies that have been selectively bred to exhibit what’s pejoratively regarded as a “fad” color, because apparently we thought it would be funnier if we made them look like miniature Rottweilers and we didn’t take “please don’t, this will kill them” for an answer.

 

French Bulldog

 

Now that this beast we’ve created exists, it’s tough to know what exactly we should do with it. If left to its own devices the breed would naturally die out, but should we let it? Is more humane to let this breed fade away or is it now our burden to take care of this useless animal we’ve brought into existence? Whatever society decides is the case, we should admit that in making the french bulldog we have committed a terrible sin.

Squirrel Girl: The Forgotten Superhero


Squirrel-Girl

The comic world has seen its fair share of drama, whether it be the continued discrimination of mutants or the narcissistic melancholy that drives a billionaire playboy to wear a bat suit. Shit can get pretty heavy in both the DC and Marvel universes. But sometimes creators realize the need for a more light-hearted approach towards the art of cartoon escapism can be both refreshing and entertaining, which is exactly why, in 1992, Squirrel Girl was created by Will Murray.

Squirrel-Girl

Inspired by an ex-girlfriend’s love of wild rodents and a mob of squirrels that would enter his bedroom window on occasion (lesson not learned), Murray premiered his carefree brand of comic delight in “The Coming of… Squirrel Girl,” Marvel Superheroes vol. 2 no. 8 to what would initially be a lack of fanfare. But the heroine still persists to this day in Marvel comics, which begs the question, what exactly can Squirrel Girl do?

 

The answer is pretty much everything you’ve already thought of. Her official biography goes as such: a mutant girl of 14 years of age AKA Doreen Green hailing from Los Angeles, California, who possesses a prehensile tail 3-4 feet long, buck-teeth, sharp claws, and an unhealthy infatuation with Marvel’s sexiest superhero, Iron Man (any objection to this statement is unequivocally dismissed). Naturally, she needs not telepathy but can also communicate with squirrels by speaking their native language, an impressive feat no doubt given the limited sounds of the language.

 

Squirrel Girl Marvels

She has squirrel agility and squirrel sense, she can bite through a tree of wood faster than a woodchuck, has retractable knuckle spikes thanks to the creative liberty of artist Steve Ditko, and her lips reportedly taste like hazelnuts. If you aren’t all about Squirrel Girl already, I can guarantee you will be by the end of the next paragraph. Warning: spoilers ahead.

In her debut, Squirrel Girl tracks down Iron Man in an adolescent thrust of naivety, believing he will take her on as his sidekick and bed maiden. Logically finding him the forest, she puts on an impressive show as she goes through each one of her abilities, which resoundingly do not impress the playboy genius, because I mean, squirrels? But as happenstance happens, Iron Man is captured by the nefarious Dr. Doom, who also denounces Squirrel Girl’s abilities thus not giving a shit to leave her furry hands freed – a mistake he would come to rue moments later when flying over the ocean with them in his jumbo jet, Squirrel Girl calls upon her rodent brethren through a vent to attack the super villain with everything they’ve got. Thanks to comic book magic, hundreds of squirrels somehow board the aircraft, chewing through the wires and annoying the absolute pants off of Dr. Doom. “Confound these wretched rodents!” Dr. Doom curses. “For every one I fling, a dozen more vex me!” in what has to be the greatest reaction to a squirrel ambush against an armoured man of all time.

Squirrel Girl of Marvels

Unfortunately for Squirrel Girl, she would not get to taste from the fountain so, so many women before her did, nor Tony taste her Nutella-infused lips, insisting that maybe when she was older, and had some minor dental work done, he could think of some things to do with that tail she had never even dreamed of.

 

Crushed, Squirrel Girl took a decade long hiatus, wherein she fell into perpetual adolescence, but grew absolutely gigantic breasts.

 

Returning in 2005, Squirrel Girl retained the childish allure so connoted by her name but with the brazen curves of a woman of a far superior age. She had unexplainably moved to New York, where she took it upon herself to keep Central Park free of baddies. So impressed with her cleanup was the team of Great Lakes Avengers, who recruited her and her trusty side-kick, a companion squirrel by the name of Monkey Joe. In a histrionically and completely fantastic twist, Monkey Joe is murdered by a rejected member of the GLA called “Leather Boy,” who was understandably denied access because he has no powers and just a leather fetish. Poor, poor Monkey Joe.

 

Now a part-time nanny in addition to her duties as a member of the GLA (now called the Great Lakes Champions), Squirrel Girl and her new sidekick “Tippy Toe” are nothing to balk at in the superhero universe. Despite her namesake and aptly named “nut sack” utility belt, Squirrel Girl is the black sheep of Marvel characters, who has defeated not only Dr. Doom, but also Thanos, Deadpool and even Wolverine in hand-to-hand combat, chalking up victories as a result of her squirrel mutation and cunning. All of this makes clear why she is such a beloved and often underrated superhero amongst fans, with her 2010 announcement to be included in the New Avengers met with applause and cheers of such gusto, the Comic-con panel rivaled the reaction to if Stan Lee walked into the room.

 

squirrel girl defeats wolverine

 

Listed as one of UGO Networks’ totally not sexist “Women We’re Ashamed to be Attracted To” polls, Squirrel Girl may find herself the object of affection of more than just Iron Man in the near future. Furries, you’re welcome.

Travel the World, Go to China


paris

Since China began it’s Great Leap Forward following centuries of humiliating cowings, the nation has become a pioneer in the art of knock offs in an attempt to catch up with the rest of the world. Of course, we all know the standard fare of what this entails, namely Louis Vuitton bags and Versace sunglasses, leaden children’s toys, and even fake Apple stores. Now China has extended its tracing paper to cover even more ground, constructing complete copy-cat towns of some of the world’s most famous cities, co-opting tourism into one convenient location. Want to travel the world? Just go to China!

 

paris

Charnis! Parchina! It’s everywhere at once!

 

Not nearly as monumental as the originals, mind you, but still impressive in their scope, these replica towns are a true marvel of industrial and economic ambitions. These towns are remarkable yet completely unoriginal, unlike the comical miniatures erected specially for dwarves – arguable China’s greatest addition to the world since Sun Yat Sen’s warfare bible The Art of War. Rather, these ostentatious copies contain smatterings of the originals to draw not only tourism but also permanent residents who want to carve out a life a la The Truman Show.

 

couple

Yes, this feels right.

 

British architect Tony Mackay was commissioned to design the replica of Thames Town, which many Chinese relish for its locational convenience and European feel. Mackay, however, is unsettled by the town’s aesthetics, feeling that it doesn’t look “quite right” because those who constructed his designs did so from a palette of styles, resulting in a veritable witches’ brew of architecture.

 

But why the obsession with producing replicas anyway? In fact, the copycat culture so synonymous with China is a longstanding one, with evidence dating as far back as the Qin Dynasty.Thames Town Sign

China’s first ruling dynasty would commission replicas of palaces of its conquered rivals to be built near the capital, a tradition that continued along successive dynasties. So copying wasn’t and isn’t necessarily either a shiesty nut grab nor an expression of flattery, but rather an assertion of dominance and power:

China can produce exactly what everyone else can, down to every painstaking tedium of detail.

 

The culture’s use of art as a vehicle for power assertion is not predicated on originality, though of course China used to be a pioneer in the realm of the original, especially warfare. But originality stands for little in the way of architecture and art, because China has no specific laws to protect architectural design. Only artistic merits are protected by law, whereas the combined functional and artistic qualities of architecture together leave the profession in an all too ambiguous gray zone of legality. Chinese law conveniently ignores the improbable separation of these two  forms in architecture, allowing designers to licitly cherry pick from the world’s most revered buildings to use for its own.

 

But when it comes down to brass tax, we don’t really need to care why China’s counterfeit cities came to fruition or that they look like a model fit for the opening of a Mr. Roger’s episode. No, there is a much more terrifying plan in action here, dear readers. China is not just taking over the world, it is literally taking in the world. Best to start learning Mandarin now, because the new Hallstatt is not going to be speaking Austrian, I can assure you of that.

 

travel china

NOT Austria

 

DCChina

Washington DC – one of the most popular fake cities in China.

World Theme Park

This theme park in Shenzhen combines travel and fun while effectively at keeping out the poor and homeless.

Disney First Dates (Part I)


Aladdin

While true love generally triumphs in Disney films, be it between a man and a woman or anthropomorphic fox and lady fox, the meet-cute of characters on the other hand can range from wildly romantic to straight up kidnappings. In an attempt to parse the weird world of Disney dating ,and perhaps shed some light on what effect our favorite childhood films have had on our present day relations, The Magpie presents a series analyzing the first dates of some beloved characters. This is Disney First Dates part 1:

 

Aladdin

The Date: The first date in Aladdin is actually one of the better ones, if you ignore that it’s entirely predicated on lies. On the date Aladdin takes Jasmine on a non-euphemism magic carpet ride as he sings to her about showing her the world, at this point Jasmine believes Aladdin to be prince Ali (fabulous he) and not a plucky street rat. They laugh, they sing, they kiss, it’s all very romantic. Jasmine asks if Aladdin is actually the commoner she saw earlier in the week in the market, he makes a bunch of stuff up and they make out some.

 

’s a little odd that they’re riding on Aladdin’s carpet, which is alive and can think. It’s like forcing your friend to drive you and your date around town but not say anything or look at you, then standing on their back as you fool around. In fact, with the exception that they’re flying through the air, the entire date is pretty much just the magical arabian version of 1950‘s-style driving up to lookout point for a jibber.

The Message: I suppose from a male point of view the message is to lie and pretend your a big shot in front of women. At the very least this is a pro-lying to women movie, oh and don’t bring Robin Willams along as a wingman in any form.

From Jasmine’s point of view I guess the message is don’t trust your instincts, trust whatever the rich flying man tells you to believe. You can’t really blame her though, he’s got the monkeys.

 

Beauty and The Beast

Beauty and The Beast

The Date: After being kidnapped, imprisoned, and starved by an abusive beast-man Belle agrees to have dinner with him after seeing his wicked awesome wolf-fighting abilities. During the dinner she mostly talks about how she misses her father as a result of being a prisoner, and he changes the subject by doing magic tricks with mirrors, essentially.

After the dinner the Beast reluctantly decides to release her, and gives her a gift. Belle leaves but quickly returns out of love and/or Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a awkward but heartfelt first date, with the elephants in the room being that Belle is there against her will and that he is a eight foot tall hairy monster.

The Message: He’s not bad he’s just misunderstood, forgive and forget abusive relationships, women like hairy guys. There’s a lot of messages in Beauty and the Beast, all of them are terrible and shouldn’t be heeded by anyone. If this is your favorite Disney movie there is a good chance you have emotional problems, or at least a thoroughly dog eared Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy near your bedside.

Mulan

Mulan

 

The Date: Mulan doesn’t feature a traditional first date per sé, but instead it’s more of a sexual tense montage of Mulan and her male superior officer Li Shang growing closer while training for war. In an ever escalating series of challenges Mulan and Li Shang spar while looking at each other intensely. For Mulan it’s a exciting time of breaking out of her gender barriers and also finding love, for Li Shang it is an intensely confusing period in his life.

Since Mulan is under the guise of a man, Li Shang is most likely perpetually questioning whether he’s gay or not. While this is no doubt a time of introspection for Li Shang, it’s not as big of a deal as we may think from a western judeo-christian viewpoint. Homosexuality was actually allowed and even promoted in ancient China, meaning that if anything Li Shang is probably bummed out when it’s revealed that Mulan is actually a woman.

The Message: Love knows no bounds? I don’t know… lie to your gay future husband I guess.

The Chicago Everleigh Club: The Pinnacle of Brothels


Chicago club

It’s 1902. You’re a notable, wealthy and swarthy prince hailing from the Balkans on a trip to the US to procure a present for your brother (a boat). Dying to sample  what the American estrogen market has to offer, as well as an exemplary meal of oysters and caviar, washed down with live music and champagne before retiring to your gold-laden Japanese throne room, you wonder where you might go to sate your understandable desires while that damn boat is built. And then, thanks to the intel your fear-driven minions retrieved for you, you discover that such an adult playground exists, in one high-end extravagant  bonanza. Welcome, dear prince, to the Everleigh Club.

Established in 1900 by sisters Minna and Ada Everleigh, their club set the precedent for top rung brothel experiences. These two savvy business ladies were keen to sink their teeth deep into the always booming sex trade. They sought out a location that was both lacking in high end services of promiscuity while bustling with rich men whose stodgy boners had been left wanting despite their copious amounts of cash. The sisters followed the rainbow to South Dearborn Street in Chicago, and found their pot of gold at one Effie Hanken’s brothel. They bought the place, fired the girls, and bathed the joint in rococo splendor.

 

Chicago club

Having had their run as the town pony prior to establishing the club, Minna and Ada knew what they wanted out of the girls who would come to inhabit the club and set the bar very high. As the club’s draped and curtains were made of silk, those of their girls had to be of a similar caliber. Ada, the more conservative of the two brothel founders, pulled girls from across the country and personally conducted face to face interviews to ensure the Everleigh Club was providing girls that would be worthy of doing unspeakable things in a room like this:

 

Rose room

Opulence at its finest.

 

Seeking employment from the Everleigh Club rivaled the ferocity and popularity of those who wished to be patrons, as the sisters maintained a work environment enviable by modern standards at any company. Girls were required to prove they were at least 18 years of age, “have a pretty face and figure, and must look well in evening dresses.” The girls also intent regular medical checkups, ensuring their health, while the sisters ensured their girls’ safety by refusing to work with pimps, sex slaves, parents wishing to sell off their daughters and of course turning away a large surplus of the population. “the Everleigh Club is not for the rough element, the clerk on holiday or the man without a check book.” Entering for whatever reason became more exclusive than a Laugh-in cameo, keeping the working girls safe and their vagines legendary.

 

Such women included the legendary Suzy Poontang, one of the club’s most popular girls and big draws. Hailing from China, Poontang was infamously good at satisfying the clientele, so much so that her name would later become synonymous with the now sullied term of “gonna get me some poontang.” Needless to say, her name and the term still maintains a more dignified connotation than that of a “Rusty Venture.”

 

Similarly, the Everleigh Club’s popularity garnered its own moniker cum colloquial sex reference with clients referring to it as “the Leigh”, becoming the “get laid” we all associate the term with these days, but with far gold and caviar.

 

The Everleigh sisters knew that the more you can’t have something, the more you want it, and we thus notoriously strict about the admission of their clientele. I’m sorry, did I hear through the grapevine that you don’t care for our $15,000 gold-leafed piano? No club for you? Oh, no no, you’re much too obese to afford the luxury of watching yourself bask in the pleasures of our women in our mirrored ceilings – no club for you! Your stench would destroy the carefully garnered bouquet produced by our perfume fountains present in every room – no club for you! Your eyes are too bloodshot to deserve looking at our gold framed nude portraits – no club for you! Your penis is too small to ejaculate into our $650 gold cuspidors- no club for you! Too short – no club for you! Godzilla noises – no club for you!

And so on and so forth.

 

Yet this tactic garnered the club’s high brow reputation and Ada’s club Nazi title, only fueling people’s desires to experience the reality of this luxury brothel. Of those deemed worthy to eat off their gold rimmed China and drink from shoes of champagne were heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, Marshall Field Jr. (founder of Macy’s), barbed wire inventor John Warne Gates, and Prince Henry of Prussia. To be permitted to enter the Everleigh Club was not only an honor, but an expectation to immerse yourself in all it had to offer. Indeed, patrons would spend hours and even days at the club, gorging themselves on the decadent servings produced by the 25 chefs employed there, dancing until their feet bled at the behest of one of he three orchestras, and constantly fondling/licking all the gold, everywhere, and always. If there was ever a place to go out on a rampage, this would have been on the top of the Sterling Archer triple A power play, and yes, the A stands for awesome.

 

Like all great things, the Everleigh did come to an end. Perhaps people were simply not worthy of what it had to offer, a taste of divinity that many choked on, as several people literally died under suspicious circumstances after their Everleigh benders. Ultimately, Mayor Carter Harrison Jr demanded the club be shut down after a report came in stating 600 brothels were in operation in Chicago. Thus, in 1911, the sisters walked out high their heads held high, a million dollars in cash, with Minna happily stating, ” If it weren’t for married men, we couldn’t have carried on at all, and if it weren’t for cheating married women, we could have made another million.” A trip across Europe, a string of benders and a death threat later, the sisters settled down in NewYork to live out their lives in a comparatively quieter fashion. The next time you get laid, ask yourself, ‘where’s the gold and caviar?’ and enjoy it a little less, for Minna and Ada.

 

Chicago club interiors

Sources:

The Everleigh Club, The Chicago Tribune, Louise Kiernan 2013

The Everleigh Club, Wikipedia

The Rise and (Often Explosive) Fall of Space Chimps


space-monkey

In 1948 the US Air Force strapped a nine pound monkey named Albert to a rocket in New Mexico. The operation was a complete failure and a lack of oxygen killed Albert in his capsule before the rocket ever breached the atmosphere, a fact that mattered little as the parachute system failed to deploy on return, incinerating Albert as well as the rocket in a fiery crash landing. Albert was the first space monkey but not the last, in a program that extended from his launch up until, wait, that can’t be right… until 1996? Why in gods name were we still launching monkeys into space in 1996?

 

space-monkey

Launching monkeys into space is as American as apple pie. The greatest achievements of United States astronauts, and victory in the space race itself, could have never been achieved without the efforts of multiple test monkeys who paved the way for their human counterparts. If you want to make an omelette, as the saying goes, you’ve got to kill some chimps.

After Albert became the primus primate to leave earth, NASA followed up the attempt with Albert 2. If the name was chosen out of a reluctance to get attached it proved prescient, as Albert 2 exploded in a ball of fire somewhere over the Nevada desert.

 

Undeterred by the monkey ghosts that haunted their dreams, NASA scientists continued to tinker with the rockets and make adjustments to the simian pilots gear until they found success. In 1959, Able and Miss Baker, two rhesus monkeys who had been lovingly cared for in preparation for their flight were fed their favorite dessert of strawberry gelatin and bananas then rocketed into space. Surprisingly, they returned alive and well, with Miss Baker particularly revered as an adorable little hero.

The success of Baker and Able emboldened NASA to send bigger and smarter monkeys into space – working up the evolutionary chain until it was safe for humans. The first and best known of these was Ham, whose name was an acronym of Howell Aerospace Medicine, but more accurately stood for Hard As a Motherfucker.

 

These were the monkey precursors to human flight, and their success and methodology bred into NASA a strong culture of space ape experiments. Astronauts are immensely rare and expensive, while apes are readily available and minimize risk. It’s inhumane, though understandable, that they be used as test subjects during a time when so much importance was placed on space exploration, though this still begs the question:

Why in gods name were we still launching monkeys into space in 1996?

In a word “science”, but in a more granular sense, the idea was to monitor the effects of microgravity on biological organisms in a way that might be harmful to humans (a fancy term for shooting monkeys into space and watching them float around). It’s perhaps not the loftiest goal, which is why one of the monkeys choked on its own vomit in terror and died, the whole idea of blasting non-consenting animals into space came into question. The joint space program of Russia, the United States, and France resolved to maybe give it a rest on space chimps after the incident. It also didn’t help that Aladdin and Babe had just come out in recent years, society reaching both the zenith of people caring about animals and enjoying monkey-antics.

Gravity and space simulators have also come a long way, and austerity has pared down most nations space programs to where there just isn’t a budget anymore for space chimps. These days the only state crazy enough to still use monkeys is Iran, who in 2013 launched a monkey into space, killed it, then tried to switch it with another monkey. Barring such attempts by eccentric/evil states the era of monkeys in space is seemingly now over, but they will always remain the first to reach beyond the trappings of earth, and if movies are to be believed, perhaps they will be the last as well.

The Eternal Childhood of Newt Gingrich


Newt Gingrich

Recent polls suggest Newt Gingrich, last of the not-Romneys, will not be able to sustain the surge of popularity that won him a surprise victory in the South Carolina primary a week ago. It seems that despite receiving one of the largest campaign contributions in U.S. historyfrom corrupt billionaire Sheldon Adelson, there are too many voters who look past the soaring egotism of Gingrich’s rhetoric and see the real Newt.

 

Newt Gingrich

But who exactly is the real Newt? There have been a number of journalists who have tried to place themselves inside Gingrich’s formidably sized head, or see what lies in his heart besides thickly lined walls of fat and cholesterol. They have all come to varied, though often negative, conclusions: Newt is bipolar, Newt is an egomaniac, Newt is an emotionless political operator, and so it goes. While there are degrees of truth to all these assessments, I believe the media has missed what strikes me as the man’s most salient quality: He is a child, somewhere between the ages of 10 and 15, who is suffering from the disease that Robin Williams had in Jack.

You may find this claim to be incredulous, and ask how a man with the mind of a child could possibly become such a prominent political figure. By making this claim you would of course reveal that you have no knowledge of politics, an occupation that contains major party senate candidates that justify their credentials with statements like “I’m the man. I’m the man. I’m the man. Greene’s the man. I’m the man. I’m the greatest person ever”.

 

 

The Alvin Greene’s of the world aside, I do realize that I will have to factually back up my claims of a high profile political figure having the mental capacity of a young boy or high functioning retard. Luckily the evidence is overwhelmingly on my side, in fact there’s so much of it I don’t really know where to begin.

Newt has the interests of a child

“I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there’s a cookie. I don’t know where it is but I know it’s mine and I have to go find it.” – Newt Gingrich

This remark, made in a speech to small business owners, is how Newt describes the way he lives his life. If this was the only time Gingrich mentioned a childlike desire then I would chalk it up to just an awkward metaphor and nothing else, but judging by his other remarks, and porcine build, he quite literally just wants a cookie.

 

newt-gingrich

Newt’s quest for baked goods isn’t the only thing he shares with kids, he also likes dinosaurs, I mean really likes dinosaurs. He has a well document fascination with the prehistoric beasts and considers himself an amateur paleontologist. He also took time off from an election bid to dig for fossils, pouting and becoming morose when it didn’t look like he would find any. At one point in time he even had a tyrannosaurus rex skull in his office and has many times opined sentiments like “why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park?

I suppose Newt can’t really be blamed for these childish wants, as they don’t necessarily impede his ability to do his job, and to be fair cookies and dinosaurs are pretty awesome. Where Newt’s childishness begins to become a concern is when it poses a threat to peoples tax dollars, and more importantly – lives.

Such is the case when it comes to Gingrich’s ideas for foreign policy and national defense. While most sane people base their security views on such tenets as realism or liberalism, Newt chose another route. His foreign policy can probably be best summed up in two words: Space, and Lasers.

 

Gingrich has long been an advocate of technology designed to shoot airborne lasers at missiles headed towards the States. This would indeed be cool, if it were not scientifically impossible and a failed program that is currently 4 billion dollars over budget. In spite of these realities Gingrich has kept the program alive, presumably because no one in charge of it has the heart to crush his boyhood spirit.

 

Another facet of Gingrich’s policy is his much-publicized advocacy of “Moon bases” that would be American and permanently manned. One can only speculate that behind the scenes Gingrich describes this plan as thus:
“It’ll be so cool you guys! They’ll be like ‘we hate America cause we’re fucking stupid’ and then we’ll be like ‘activate the moon base!’ and the moon base will be all like ‘byuuuwoooop! ksh-ksh-ksh!’ and then the plane with lasers will fly from the moon and be like ‘tzoo! tzoo!’ and the terrorists will totally die into the sea or something! And then we’ll go back to our base, on the Moon”

 

How Newt sees himself

There are few better ways into a persons mind than through the writings and drawings that they believe to be solely for personal use. These documents show a person candidly and without emotional filters. It’s no surprise then that when Newt had a series of sketches and notes he made during a senate hearing subpoenaed and made public record, that they turned out to be the work of a toddler.

Newt-Gingrich

 

The doodles, which were published in Slate, show a man who is either dangerously insane or an 11 year old with delusions of grandeur. Amongst the doodles there is a section entitled “possible names for myself” which includes such gems as “civilizer of the free world”, “defender of civilization”, and other titles which we may have come up for ourselves if we ate too much chocolate at recess and pretended we were a superhero. Another page even includes a stick figure with energy arrows shooting out of it and the caption “Newt action”.

 

Either a child or a psychopath

The evidence I have listed above is just the tip of the penis when it comes to Newt’s immaturity. There are thousands of examples to be drawn from speeches, personal accounts, statements from ex-wives and girlfriends, and Gingrich’s own writings. I appeal to you that given all these facts, Newt Gingrich either is a young boy trapped inside the fleshy deteriorating body of an old man, or he is severely mentally unsound. I say this because calling yourself a “defender of civilization” and advocating space lasers, while treating people as playthings and being obsessed with dinosaurs is either something a petulant child does, or it is padded cell, writing-in-feces, insane.

 

It’s up to you which to believe, but personally I prefer to see Gingrich not as a cretinous old letch but as a stubborn kid whose tantrums are tolerable as long as they don’t break anything. Ultimately, I can suffer Gingrich the child better than Gingrich the adult (as long as he has no chance of holding office), because at 68 and with a heart that could burst at any time, it’s not long before he heads to his final time-out.