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    You may be able to stave off audible laughter for the first part of this blooper reel from a recent commercial shoot for Dysart's truck stop & restaurant in Bangor, Maine, but as soon as grandma starts fumbling her words and grandpa gets all LOL on her ass you'll be wondering if adopting grandparents is a thing.

    By the way, here's the finished product, in case you were wondering how it all turned out:

    [Reddit via Tastefully Offensive]

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    Miss USA Crowned Miss Universe (Right Before the Universe Ends)America is strutting around the universe with a little kick in its step today, as Miss USA was crowned Miss Universe last night for the first time EVER in the last 15 years.

    The new ruling commander and supreme god of the universe is Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old sophomore at Boston University, who appeared in her first pageant last year wearing a $25 rented dress with a hole in it.

    Culpo won that pageant—Miss Rhode Island (though what does it say about Rhode Island that any bum off the street with a ratty dress and a passion for musical education can come in and be voted President?)—and then went on to win Miss USA and now Miss Universe in rapid succession. She has never known failure. According to her charming 10 Things You Didn't Know [And Didn't Know You Didn't Know] About Olivia Culpo video, as a child, she slept with her butt in the air. She is everything.

    As Miss Universe, Culpo will receive an undisclosed salary, a new wardrobe, many products (skin-colored and otherwise) to put on her face to make it more attractive, and a "luxury apartment" located in the universe. (This specific apartment happens to exist in New York, NY, USA, Earth, Solar System, Local Interstellar Cloud, Milky Way, Virgo Supercluster, Pisces-Cetus Supercluster Complex, the universe.)

    When asked during the finals (by Rob Kardashian) whether she would support the crowning of a transgender Miss Universe, Culpo said that she would:

    "Today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it's a free country."

    Under Olivia Culpo, who plans to use her title to champion HIV/AIDS prevention, the whole universe is a free country.

    In keeping with tradition, last year's pageant winner, Leila Lopes from Angola, was stuffed into a rocket and fired off into the stratosphere at daybreak.

    [Miss Universe // Image via Getty]

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    In a video posted to his YouTube page Thursday morning, Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced that he would not challenge Gov. Chris Christie, and instead will finish his second term. He also announced the possibly of a run for Senate in 2014.

    "There's still a lot of work to do," he says. "And so, let there be no doubt I will complete my full second term as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. And as for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014."

    Booker — by virtue of his heroics and sense of humor — has become one of America's most popular (but maybe not best) mayors. This announcement puts to bed weeks — months, even — of speculation that he'd challenge Gov. Christie in next year's election.

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    Upping Miss South Carolina Teen USA in the incomprehensible beauty pageant question response department is no easy task, but last night during the Miss Universe competition, Miss Venezuela gave it her best shot.

    And dammit if she didn't out-awk cringe-master Caitlin Upton.

    Asked — by a Spanish translator mind you — which new law she would make if she could and why, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero decided for a reason as indecipherable as her reply to answer the question in English.

    What followed was by far the most memorable response of the night, if not the most intelligible.

    Luckily for Ms. Esser, being able to speak coherently about matters of jurisprudence doesn't matter that much in these things, so she was still crowned the contest's second runner-up.

    [H/T: Guyism]

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    Your Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse, the Secret Planet Nibiru, and the End of the World, Which Is Happening TomorrowThe world is ending! Thirty-three schools in Michigan are closing "in part because the Mayan calendar predicts the world will end on Friday." The New York Post is trying to help a model have sex. And yet for some reason, you're at work, instead of your bunker/place of worship/celestial energy node. But that's because you knew that Gawker would help explain to you why the world isn't ending tomorrow, and why everyone else thinks it is.

    What is happening tomorrow?

    Depending on whom you ask, either: the apocalypse will begin, humanity will ascend to a higher plane of consciousness, a planet will collide with earth, some combination of those three things, or nothing.

    Why tomorrow?

    Tomorrow — December 21, 2012 — corresponds to the seemingly-auspicious date of in the ancient Mayan long-count calendar. According to some people, this marks the "end" of the Mayan calendar, or, at the very least, of a calendar cycle, and the start of a new one.

    So? Like... get a new calendar.

    The last time the long-count calendar hit — in some renditions of Mayan mythology — was the day of the creation of the world of humans. For 13 bak'tun (the longest time division in the calendar, around 394 years), gods had been trying, and failing, to create people, creating three successive "worlds" (animals, mud and wood); finally, at the end of the 13th bak'tun — — they succeeded in creating the world we live in now, and the calendar was restarted. Some people, people who you probably should not trust, hold that the end of the 13th bak'tun of this cycle means the end of this, the fourth world — either literally or in some cosmic-vibrational-frequency way.

    You don't think the world will end tomorrow, then.

    Honey, even the Mayans didn't (and don't!) think the world will end tomorrow. Meso-Americans had stopped using the long count calendar well before the Spanish arrived on the continent, and most contemporary Mayanist scholars think that ancient Mayans would've greeted the arrival of the 14th bak'tun by just adding it to the calendar, not restarting the cycle. (The date would've heralded, at best, a big New Bak'tun's Eve party.) Some think that bak'tuns would've been grouped in 20s, not in 13s. And it definitely wasn't regarded as the date of a coming apocalypse: archaeologists have found Mayan inscriptions referencing dates hundreds of years from now.

    So how did it become such a big deal, then?

    In 1975, the novelist Frank Waters wrote a book called Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness (described by Wikipedia as "a discussion of Mesoamerican culture strongly colored by Waters' beliefs in astrology, prophecy, and the lost continent of Atlantis"). Waters, who'd written similar books about the Hopi, played up the coming of — then incorrectly pegged to the Gregorian date of December 24, 2011 — as the dawning of a "sixth world of consciousness."

    Waters' fellow New Age authors and vibe-ers, who never met a vague and probably incorrect statement about ancient Amerindian belief they couldn't spin a book out of, were quick to sign on. Over the next three decades, José Argüelles, Terrence McKenna, John Major Jenkins, Daniel Pinchbeck and others built a cottage industry around the idea that 2012 represented the start of a new age of consciousness and vibrational energy and turquoise jewelry, or whatever.

    What do these guys think is going to happen tomorrow?

    The real New Age pros are all too practiced to make any really specific predictions about what's in store for all of us. But it's not really an apocalypse: most of them think that what's coming is, in the words of McKenna, "a potential transformative event." Arguelles claims that the date marks the end of the earth's passage through a "galactic synchronization beam," at which point we're all synchronized to the galactic iPod and will be, no joke, "plugged into the Earth's electromagnetic battery." Jenkins thinks that the Milky Way and the sun will align in a certain way, leading to a kind of spiritual awaking across the planet.

    And this is... a good thing?

    Generally speaking, yes, the New Age crew is pretty hyped on the mass consciousness-awakening that's about to take place. There are exceptions, though — notably Graham Hancock, whose book Fingerprints of the Gods argues that the date prophesies a natural disaster, most likely (according to Hancock) the same kind of tectonic shift that capsized and hid the lost continent of Atlantis.

    So this is where the whole 2012 apocalypse deal comes from.

    Much of it, yeah: Hancock's book was the inspiration for the 2009 disaster movie 2012, and the internet as a whole seems to have been much more inspired by Hancock's predictions of cataclysm than by Jenkins' prediction of New Levels of Global Chillage, even if they don't buy Hancock's plate tectonics idea.

    What do the apocalyptic types think will happen?

    Some of them, like the New Agers, think that we're looking at a semi-mystical galactic alignment — but one that, instead of making us trip balls, will destroy the earth by lining us up with Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way; or that will cause a global extinction event by pulling us through a comet cloud. Others think that the magnetic poles will switch, or we'll see an increase in solar storms. Scientists, by the way — real, actual, people who have spent decades studying the planet and outer space as part of a collective effort to further the knowledge of mankind — don't think any of these things will happen.

    And then there's, uh, the planet Nibiru.


    Yes. The secret hidden planet that will either collide with us, or if nothing else pass very close by so the aliens that first gave the earth culture can say hi.

    Uh, what?

    Back in the 1990s, a woman named Nancy Lieder had a website on which she claimed to be relaying messages from aliens ("grays," to be specific) from the Zeta Reticuli system. The aliens, through her, announced that in 2003 an object would pass close by the earth, wreak havoc on its gravitational and magnetic fields, and kill most people. This object was called "Planet X."

    Obviously, uh, that didn't happen. (It was a "white lie," the Zetas wrote, through Nancy). Lieder's Planet X concept was later sort of casually merged with Nibiru, which is, naturally, the home planet of the aliens that came to earth as Egyptian, Babylonian and Mayan gods, according to ancient aliens guy Zecharia Sitchin; combined, the Nibiru/Planet X concept was then folded into the December 2012 thing by various YouTube scholars and message board thinkers.

    It is not, according to astronomers, physicists, or people with eyes who have looked at the night sky, real.

    So if the world's not ending tomorrow, when will it end?

    If we can slow global warming enough, we'll get another Ice Age in about 50,000 years.

    By 500,000 years from now we'll most likely have been hit by a meteor with a diameter of 1 kilometer or more.

    Within a million years we're likely to see a supervolcanic eruption of about 113 million cubic feet of magma.

    In 100 million years we will probably have been hit by a meteorite the size of that which triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs.

    By 800 million years from now the carbon cycle will have been disrupted, lowering carbon dioxide levels to a point at which multicellular life is no longer sustainable.

    In a billion years the oceans will have evaporated.

    And in 7.9 billion years the sun will expand to 256 times its current size and likely destroy the earth.

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    LeAnn Rimes' rough year has included a stint in rehab for "anxiety and stress" (or maybe not), a breakdown on E! regarding her first marriage (which ended in her cheating with actor Eddie Cibrian, who left The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Brandi Glanville for Rimes) and an accusation from Glanville that Rimes is addicted to laxatives ("LeAnn has a severe eating disorder. She has [a laxative] in every purse," is the poetic way in which Glanville informed the world).

    And now there's this performance with X Factor finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar, which aired on last night's show. It was, in a word, a disaster. To call Rimes' vocal performance "pitchy" on this duet version of her signature song, "How Do I Live," would be like calling her hair "tussled." She missed more notes than she hit, sing-babbled inarticulately and started out nearly stumbling, which she vocally telegraphed in what sounded like a hiccup. Maybe she had an off night, or maybe she's losing the one thing she had left: that phenomenal, acrobatic voice of hers.

    X Factor judge Britney Spears described the performance as "shockingly amazing." Well, she got the "shocking" part right, at least.

    For her part, Rimes is carrying on her merry way, if her sole post-performance tweet is to be trusted:

    Update: Rimes tells TMZ she wasn't impaired, and has opted to throw her duet partner under the bus. "I was trying to help this 13-year-old girl who was having some trouble with the song," she says, apparently oblivious to her status as the one with the problem.

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    On last night's episode of Conan, millennial movie star Aubrey Plaza regaled the audience with a potentially tall-tale of how she came to hang a portrait of a nude, callipygian woman alleged to be her in full view of all who enter her home.

    According to Plaza, the painting is the handiwork of dirty-style artist/Facebook gazillionaire David Choe, who personally delivered the artwork to her home one day out of the blue in bare feet.

    Plaza says Choe told her he had painted it after spending some time in the slammer (for the record, if it's the David Choe, he was jailed for months not "years," and he was arrested for assault not theft), and that it was of her.

    Some of parts of her story are curious — Choe got out of jail in 2003, six years before Park and Rec first aired — but the bottom line is, Aubrey Plaza has a giant picture of ass in her dining room and she made her mom stare at it.

    This Is the Nude Portrait of Herself that Aubrey Plaza Keeps In Her House (NSFW)

    [H/T: Warming Glow, video via TeamCoco]

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    'Do You Want to Die Alone?' OK Cupid Asks in Email With Bizarre Obama Asteroid CartoonMany people now, at this point, have forwarded us the email they received from online dating service OK Cupid (screen-shotted) above, which was sent out with the subject "do you want to die alone?" which would probably just barely fall on the side of "cute" if it weren't accompanied by a graphic of an asteroid emblazoned with President Obama's face hitting the earth, in the process ripping to shreds what appears to be a rather large copy of the U.S. constitution. Hmm.

    (In all likelihood, we're guessing, OK Cupid is not suggesting that an enormous Obama meteor will kill us all tomorrow, and whoever sent out the email just grabbed the first "apocalypse" graphic he or she could find, settling on this one without noticing that it, uh, isn't really appropriate for an OK Cupid email.)

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    Investigators Say Information on Adam Lanza's Destroyed Hard Drive May Be 'Impossible' to Retrieve It's been nearly a week since Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six women in Newtown, Conn. and we are still no closer to knowing what motivated the, by all accounts, reclusive 20-year-old to kill.

    Investigators have revealed Lanza destroyed the hard drive on his computer before shooting his mother Nancy, driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School and using her guns to kill 20 children and five teachers. They believe Lanza spent most of his time in the weeks leading up to Dec. 14 playing video games on his computer in the basement of his home.

    Without the computer, it will be difficult to figure out whether Lanza had mentioned his plans to anyone online or whether Lanza left behind some sort of vendetta revealing his motives for the crime. The Hartford Courant spoke with an expert in computer forensics:

    Depending how the metallic disk at the center of a computer hard drive is broken or cut into pieces, it can be difficult or even impossible to retrieve information, said Eric Friedberg, New York- based, co-president of Stroz Friedberg, a computer forensics and investigations firm.

    "It is hard to put Humpty Dumpty together again," Friedberg said. "I have never actually seen this done – but the physics would say that you could do it. If it is in three or four pieces the physics suggest that it is conceivable."

    Investigators are still, however, attempting to get whatever they can off Lanza's computer, as well as his cell phone. They're also continuing to investigate the crime scene at Sandy Hook Elementary, where police are picking up bullets, and going over video surveillance at nearby gun stores, to see if Lanza tried to buy a gun in the days before the shooting. All three guns he brought into the school were legally purchased by his mother, Nancy.

    One of the biggest problems with the investigation is that, aside from online, Adam Lanza appeared to have very little interaction with anyone besides his mother, whom he killed.

    Lanza had no job, never used social media, seemingly had no friends and rarely if ever had any contact with his brother or father.

    A new report from HLN suggests Nancy Lanza had left her son home alone from Tuesday to Thursday of last week, just one day before the shooting. Lanza had just returned home from a two-day trip to Bretton Woods, N.H. when her son shot and killed her Friday morning. The New York Post reports friends of Lanza's say she often took short trips, leaving Adam home alone.

    [Hartford Courant // Image via AP]

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    You Know Who Doesn't Believe the World is Ending Tomorrow? The Maya

    NASA claims that the world isn't ending tomorrow have largely fallen deaf ears despite overwhelming evidence that it's already tomorrow in some parts of the world and those parts are still intact.

    China, for example, is rounding up members of a doomsday cult to prevent a breakout of mass hysteria. Serbian and French villagers claim they will be spared the worst of the apocalypse thanks to mystical mountains that guard their respective abodes. And even here in the US, schools have been shut down in Michigan due to "rumors" of a looming End of Days.

    But perhaps the talk of fire and brimstone might ease up a bit now that scientists are getting some strong support from an unlikely source: The Maya people themselves.

    According to Reuters, many of the seven million ethnic Maya still alive and well in modern times are "rolling their eyes" at talk of a Maya-predicted Armageddon.

    "It's a psychosis, a fad," says Vera Rodriguez, a psychologist of Maya descent who lives in Mexico. "I think it's bad for our society and our culture."

    Most of the Maya recognize the alleged prophecy for what it is: Just another way to exploit their cultural heritage for money.

    "There's the legend and there's the reality," said Yolanda Cornelio, a tourism official from the city of Mérida where 60% of the people are of Mayan ethnicity. "Some people take the legend and abuse it, using it to make money. There's a lot of con artists."

    What is perhaps most unfortunate is that in all the talk of a doomsday that is highly unlikely to materialize, an historic occasion is being ignored: The start of a new cycle in the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar.

    "It's an era," Santos Esteban of Yaxuna told CNN. "We are lucky to see how it ends."

    [photo via AP]

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    The NRA Reports Massive Swell in Membership Since the Sandy Hook Shooting

    One day before it's scheduled to hold a press conference on "meaningful contributions" it plans to offer in the fight against rampant mass shooting incidents, the National Rifle Association appears to be signaling that it's not nearly ready to let the government pry the gun from its cold, dead hands seeing as how it's very much alive.

    According to an anonymous NRA source who spoke with Fox News's James Rosen, the group reportedly saw a rise of 8,000 new members in the days immediately following Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

    Rosen says that "while this broadly mirrors trends seen after similar incidents in the past," the source claims the most recent surge "dwarf[s] trends discerned in previous years."

    One things that is important to note: These numbers are coming from an organization which The Atlantic Wire points out "has been accused of puffing up its numbers," and whose overall membership figure remains unclear.

    Two other things worth noting: Nearly half the members of the new Congress were elected in part thanks to contributions made by the NRA's political action committee, and the CDC says that deaths from firearms will eclipse car accidents for the first time by the year 2015.

    [photo via AP]

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    Facebook Will Let Just Anyone Send You a Message for a Measly Dollar Like son, like father. As Instagram reels from the backlash over its new Terms of Use, announcedand then revised — earlier this week, its parent company Facebook has introduced a new service that's likely to be highly unpopular.

    On its blog today, Facebook announced it will be testing a new feature that allows people to pay $1 for the ability to send you a message, regardless of whether you're friends or not. Previously, messages you received from strangers went into the "Other" folder you probably didn't even know existed, you were never notified and the message was easily ignored. Now, it will only be one dollar for anyone who wants to bombard your inbox with whatever they want.

    "Today we're starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance," reads Facebook's official blog post about the change. "This test will give a small number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to the Inbox rather than the Other folder of a recipient that they are not connected with."

    Dangling preposition aside, this sentence is so whitewashed it may not sound like a bad thing. But it is.

    Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful."

    This is exactly the opposite of true. Letting anyone — from those paid by companies to market products to that one guy you met once at a party — send you a Facebook message is not going to "discourage unwanted messages" but encourage them.

    There is some good news, however. First, Facebook makes clear this feature is "only for personal messages between individuals in the U.S." Fortunately, that means companies themselves will not be able to message you directly.

    Secondly, a spokesperson for Facebook told Mashable you will be able to mark these messages as spam, they'll go to the "Other" folder and that person won't be able to reach you again.

    Brace yourselves, here come the unwanted messages.

    [Image via Facebook]

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    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid CameraCatalog is a look at things you can buy and comes from the biz side of Gawker. (So to be clear, this post is not editorial). Today's contributor is Bureau of Trade, a digital authority in acquiring analog cultural objects.

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid CameraThanks to the diligence of two or three people on planet earth that actually read a Terms of Service agreement, Instagram faced an epic shit-storm this week, and the company was forced to backtrack on their plans to sell our very private images – of food, your feet at the beach, and a picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror in which you think you look skinny. We're sticking with them for now, but if spurned users take to the streets in open revolt, we're prepping for it: by investing in a tried-and-true alternative — actual Polaroid cameras. Think of them as a photo-sharing earthquake kit. Real social functionality, defined by giving real photos, to people you know in real life.

    These cameras – from the 50s, 60s, and 70s – effortlessly overmatch their more modern counterparts on the basis, function, looks, and lo-fi luster. Better yet, even the correct film stock is in stock, courtesy of the geniuses over at The Impossible Project.

    Our collection today includes several accordion-lens models from the "Land" series, named after company founder Edwin Land. Even with overnight shipping, gratification may not be instant, but it'll be worth the (slight) wait.

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid Camera

    1. 1954 'Land 95A' Camera

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid Camera

    2. 1961 'Land J66' Camera

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid Camera

    3. 1965 'Swinger Model 20' Camera

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid Camera

    4. 1971 'Land SX-70' Camera

    Rebel Against Instagram With a Vintage Polaroid Camera

    5. 1977 'SX-70 OneStep' Camera w/ Q-light

    Have thoughts on Catalog and Polaroids? Send 'em here:

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    Pizza Hut Achieves Pizza Within A Pizza; Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the LordPizza-within-a-pizza was previously a menu item that existed only in hypotheticals.

    "Inception was okay," people said as they exited theaters two years ago, "but what I'd really like to see is a pizza-within-a-pizza. Yumyumyum."

    "What's my favorite topping?" they asked themselves as they filled out their online dating profiles. "Pizza! Pizza on top of pizza!"

    "Don't you see, you fools?" exasperated grad students yelled at their colleagues, banging their fists into chalkboards. "Pizza-within-a-pizza can never occur! The pizza would become too unstable!"

    But now pizza-within-a-pizza has occurred. And it is beautiful.

    Pizza-within-a-pizza was achieved by the ragtag bunch of dreamers at Pizza Hut Singapore, who see not see pizzas as they are and ask, "Why?" but instead imagine levels of pizza that never were and ask, "Why not?"

    As observed by Brand Eating, the so-called "Double Sensation Pizza" is structured around two rings of crust. The outer ring, stuffed with mozzarella, Parmesan, and cheddar cheeses (that ooze out of holes poked intermittently), frames the Ur-pizza. This is the pie on which all subsequent pies will be constructed. This pizza is topped with turkey ham bell peppers, and mushrooms, on top of salsa (?).

    Working our way from the outer ring to the inner, we encounter Enlightenment in the form of a second pizza. This crust is stuffed with chicken sausage and yet more cheese. It is topped with smoked chicken and zucchini on "pepper alfredo" sauce.

    The meta-pizza is garnished with a single red cherry, representing the blood of all those who have come before and failed.

    Unfortunately, the pizza will only be offered through the end of December. Following that, the algorithm will be erased; the technology for pizza-within-a-pizza destroyed before man can use it to harm himself.

    A large retails for about $27.49

    [Brand Eating // Image via Pizza Hut Singapore / Facebook]

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    The Twitter Police Beat and the Tolerant LeftWhen you hear complaints about academic suppression on the blogosphere, they usually emerge from the political right. A right-wing professor attempting to promote academic diversity by giving a space for conservative ideas only risks being kept off the tenure track or fired by Dean Adolf Karlmarx, over at Surrender University of New Yellowcurs-Oneonta.

    It's this odious censorship that's necessitated institutions like Regent and Liberty University. Otherwise, kids will never learn the facts about America revealed by angels to only the wisest of our Hebrew Prophets—like how Jesus wrote the Constitution himself in tiger blood. (America: #Winning!)

    But of course, after eliminating all their other enemies, liberals have turned on their own, blogger and University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor Erik Loomis.

    You may have read him by venturing to Lawyers, Guns & Money, thinking it was some Warren Zevon fansite. (Seriously? You have a Cafepress store, but you don't sell guitar picks, Chinese menus or piña coladas? Fuck you.) It's actually a liberal blog, and there Loomis says liberal things. Often. Where people can see it and everything.

    What got him in trouble was his Twitter feed. Reacting to the shootings of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, Loomis tweeted that he'd like to see NRA President Wayne LaPierre's "head on a stick." To some people, that equalled a call for a ritual beheading. Now it's Loomis' head potentially on the chopping block.

    Maybe he was angry. In fact, a lot of people have come away from his Twitter feed (since deleted) with that impression. But Loomis' Twitter feed was surprisingly frank. (Full disclosure: we exchanged tweets.) He admitted to being angry that a bartender told him he couldn't use his laptop in a bar, when all he wanted to do was get a beer and work. He admitted to having a few drinks to get through writer's block. He took an honest—and almost universal—snickering amusement in admitting that he got to relevantly use the word "dildo" in a class lecture on sexual history.

    To most people, this sounds like pretty human behavior. Politics makes them mad; beer makes them feel good; words like "dildo" still make them laugh inwardly, like teenagers. But you have to remember the character of the Twitter feeds of many big-time bloggers, journalists and politicos. They become so reflexively self-censored, high-minded and depersonalized that they call to mind that Mozart line about opera from Amadeus: people so lofty they sound like they shit marble. But Loomis shoots from the hip. In this context, perhaps it was easy to think of him as a renegade prof. Then again, compared to the average New York Times bureau chief's Twitter, a teen's feed would sound like the DNA of Attila the Hun, Dracula, Napoleon, Rasputin and all the members of Body Count assembled into one human playing the GWAR discography. So, Serpentor crossed with Ice-T, basically.

    Of course, liberals are always going on about context. The intent behind words, the atmosphere in which they were said, the audience to whom they were addressed. So it seems particularly galling that the President of the University of Rhode Island (contact info here) issued this statement about Loomis' tweets (emphasis mine):

    The University of Rhode Island does not condone acts or threats of violence. These remarks do not reflect the views of the institution and Erik Loomis does not speak on behalf of the University. The University is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and equitable culture that aspires to promote positive change.

    Who said anything about acts of violence? Somewhere a silent whistle outside normal auditory range triggered Allen Iverson, who's stuck in a tiled guest bathroom, spinning in circles and saying, "We're talkin' about tweets." Tweets, the internet's equivalent of yelling at the television with your buddies on gameday.

    Even then, context is key. About the last famous time I can think of anybody's head being stuck on a stick, it was Oliver Cromwell's on London Bridge, and that got taken down in 1685. (I haven't even bothered to audit Heads on Sticks class, because it's not in the distribution requirements, because it doesn't matter.) Loomis' career is now at risk for a metaphor that had as good a chance of being put into effect as someone calling for Wayne LaPierre to be drawn and quartered like William Wallace, pressed to death with stones like Giles Corey or—Christ, I don't know—exiled to Cappadocia with his slaves to think about the nasty things he said about the Emperor.

    You'd think that some ivory tower university president would remember liberals' appeals to context to explain how Michelle Malkin's whitewashing of American concentration camps seemed dangerous amidst a climate of rising anti-Arab eliminationist rhetoric. Or perhaps he'd recall liberals' disgust at Rush Limbaugh saying, "Don't kill all the liberals, leave enough around so we can have two on every campus; living fossils, so we will never forget what these people stood for." They were disgusted not just because Rush echoed old Nazi jokes about preserving The Jew in a museum or zoo as an example, but because he addresses an audience that embraces visions of new revolutions and removing the liberal cancer eating away at the people.

    And maybe that college president could have recollected why Sarah Palin—a pro-gun enthusiast known for hunting things down via helicopter and adored by gun owners—marking Gabrielle Giffords and others Democrats' congressional seats with cross-hairs was a bad thing and claiming that she was "blood libeled" was worse. Or he might remember liberals' invoking the context of Gabrielle Giffords' shooting when denouncing NRA-fan favorite Allen West's statement that he'd like to take anti-war congressmen over to Afghanistan to "get shot at" a few times. Or he might remember leftist critics' belief that West's urging liberals to take their message to "the bottom of the sea" transcended mere rhetoric when considering a tendency toward violence that got him drummed of the army, after he told a detainee, "I'm going to kill you," and fired a gun a foot away from the man's head.

    But, no, no—no nuance from these people who hate vivid language, beer, metaphor and dildos. Not when it's time for heads to roll because of a little imagery.

    In fact, I can think of no one who summed up this phenomenon better than RedState's Erick Erickson:

    The attacks are not about what [he] has said or tweeted... The attacks are about silencing an alternative opinion... Conservatives do not go out of their way to shut down and silence alternative voices. Conservatives are not out boycotting MSNBC or canceling Comcast subscriptions because of MSNBC. They are not avoiding Avery printing labels because one of the Avery family members funds left wing causes... But time and time again, the left tries to silence... They take offense, they scream, and they complain. They want to be the arbiters of acceptable voices and, slowly but surely, will whittle away all opposition in the name of "reasonable dissent." Arbiters of the opposition rarely want opposition.

    Wait, sorry, I'm getting all messed up. He actually said that regarding this tweet by a RedState co-founder:

    But you get my point. Way to be tolerant of all voices, academia. Some people are willing to do more to stand for others than circle the wagons just for their own.

    Anyway, these were just some things I was thinking. I gotta hop on BART and head over to Berkeley. I'm late for my Human Rights Law class with John Yoo.

    Image by Jim Cooke.

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    Earlier this week, the key AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)/Treatment Action Group (TAG) activist Spencer Cox died in New York of AIDS-related causes. He was 44 years old. Cox and his colleagues essentially made the current, life-extending treatment of AIDS what it is through their knowledge, force and will. As one person in David France's How to Survive a Plague documentary puts it, "Activists created a system that was able to do everything faster, better, cheaper, more ethically and more effectively." Gay men (with the help of crucial allies) essentially saved themselves, though the documentary warns that people with AIDS are not yet out of the woods. Cox's death is a very sad reminder of just that.

    Cox was featured in Plague, which we wrote about earlier this year. Here is what Plague's France said of Cox (via Towelroad):

    As a very young man fresh from Bennington, where he studied Theater and English Literature, he arrived in NYC after finishing just 3 years. He was diagnosed with HIV soon thereafter. By 1989, at age 20, he had become spokesman for ACT UP during its zenith through the early 90s. A member of its renowned Treatment & Data committee, and later co-founder of TAG (the Treatment Action Group), he schooled himself in the basic science of AIDS and became something of an expert, a "citizen scientist" whose ideas were sought by working scientists. In the end, Spencer wrote the drug trial protocol which TAG proposed for testing the promising protease inhibitor drugs in 1995. Adopted by industry, it helped develop rapid and reliable answers about the power of those drugs, and led to their quick approval by the FDA.

    Even before ACT UP, he began work for amfAR, first as a college intern, eventually going on staff as assistant to Director of Public Affairs, responsible for communications and policy. ). He left there to co-found the Community Research Initiative on AIDS (now the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, ACRIA) with Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and Marisa Cardinale (Marisa Cardinale ). At ACRIA, he ran public affairs and edited all publications.

    From 1994 to 1999, he was Director of the HIV Project for TAG, where he did his groundbreaking work in drug trials designs. He designed the drug trial adopted in part by Abbott as they were developing Norvir, the first Protease Inhibitor to head into human trials. It had an "open standard-of-care arm," allowing people on the control arm to take any other anti-AIDS drugs their doctors prescribed, versus the arm taking any other anti-AIDS drugs plus Norvir. It was this study that showed a 50% drop in mortality in 6 months. Norvir was approved in late 1995. Though the results were positive, the proposal sharply divided the community, many of whom thought it was cruel to withhold Norvir on the control arm. Spencer defended himself in a controversial BARON'S coverstory that made him, briefly, the most-hated AIDS activist in America. Ultimately he was vindicated.

    It should be noted that Cox was also Gawker commenter FrenchTwist40. (misslinda points out that you may have known him under his old Gawker name, Shanghai Lil.) He and I discussed the site when I met him while moderating a Plague Q&A after a screening at the IFC Center in October. He was smart and passionate and we also talked about a project he had spearheaded. It was a fascinating, important idea and I wanted to find a way to somehow work with him on it. I never got around to making that happen and that I deeply regret. From what I could tell, he had a terrific mind.

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    Yes, @Virginia, Reindeer Are Real

    You may want to swallow that eggnog or hot chocolate that's in your mouth before proceeding to the next sentence.

    Yes, @Virginia, Reindeer Are Real

    Reindeer are real.

    That's right: That species of Arctic deer best known for being Santa's beast of burden of choice is 100% genuine.

    Merry Christmas to your brain.

    Now, you may be asking yourself "why are you telling me something I already know"? Well, that's because if Twitter is any gauge of what people do or don't know, there's a good chance you don't already know this.

    Yes, @Virginia, Reindeer Are Real

    In fact, as Aaron Cohen of Unlikely Words points out, searching Twitter on the phrase "reindeers are real" brings up hundreds of tweets from people who neither know that reindeer are real nor how to properly pluralize the word reindeer.

    And as to the theory that reindeer are named so after their connection to Father Christmas, that, as it happens, is false.

    Here's this from The Free Dictionary:

    Although Saint Nick uses reins on his reindeer and reindeer are used to pull sleds in Lapland and northern Siberia, the word reindeer has nothing to do with reins. The element -deer is indeed our word deer, but the rein- part is borrowed from another language, specifically from the Scandinavian languages spoken by the chiefly Danish and Norwegian invaders and settlers of England from the 9th to the 11th century. Even though the Old Icelandic language in which much of Old Norse literature is written is not the same variety of Old Norse spoken by these settlers of England, it is close enough to give us an idea of the words that were borrowed into English. Thus we can cite the Old Icelandic word hreinn, which means "reindeer," as the source of the first part of the English word. The word reindeer is first recorded in Middle English in a work composed before 1400.

    See? Even if you already knew that reindeer were real you still came away from this post having learned something new. And that's what Christmas is all about. Right? No idea. I'm Jewish.

    [tweets via Twitter, screengrab via YouTube]

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    The Secret Lives of Santa's Ungrateful Elves, Keeping the XXX in X-mas, and Other Questionable AdviceWelcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."

    I work for a company with about 40 other professionals which is owned by a very wealthy man (I'm talking a full-time chauffeur, a couple of live-in maids, a butler, etc.) who is extremely tight with money. So tight in fact, that this holiday season, like all the others gone by, we do not expect bonuses or any vacation days. Instead, we receive Christmas gifts from him.

    These presents are bestowed upon us in a peculiar manner. At 6pm every Christmas Eve, after all of our work is complete, we stay late at the office to drink cider and eat cookies. After a little bit of small-talk and a lot of watch-checking, the "grab bag" presents are passed around. We are obliged to open them in front of him and it becomes kind of uncomfortable.

    Some of the presents are weird: one male coworker received gift cards to GNC and Sephora. Some of them are from his home: my colleague got a pillow and a tea set. And some of them are (unintentionally) offensive: a slightly over-weight receptionist was given a gym membership and a box of tea. Over the years, the presents have ranged from a Metrocard with $17 of credit to an un-boxed Bedazzler.

    Even though there is always a little bit of entertainment value in it for us, some of my coworkers and I find it offensive. Maybe he is trying to do a nice thing by giving us these gifts, but I see it as a rich man giving his employees his hand-me-downs as a substitute for the cash bonuses that we really want. For me, it would be no different if he went to lunch at Le Cirque and brought us back his leftovers to share as an afternoon snack.

    I need to know if it is okay for me to give him a gift this year. You know, something from my house that I am not using like the set of cloth napkins and napkin rings he gave me last Christmas. Am I within bounds in doing this? Is that okay?

    Thatz Not Okay.

    First of all, I have to address the elephant in the room, which is that you are obviously an elf who works for Santa. (Required to work on Christmas Eve for a wealthy, eccentric man who feeds you cookies and gives you presents from a big bag? Cool Santa, bro.) Thank you for this chilling glimpse into North Pole-itics. In order to protect your anonymity, let's give your boss a pseudonym. I'll call him "Surnta Clurz."

    It is a very foolish idea to mess with Surnta Clurz who, in addition to being magic, is also your boss.

    I'm sorry you don't like the weird presents your boss gives you. However, please note that under no law is your boss required to give you fantastic Christmas presents. Or even any Christmas presents.

    And, to be honest, I would be thrilled to receive any of those gifts. What wouldn't I Bedazzle with a Bedazzler from Nick Denton's home? A $17 MetroCard? What a terrible gift of free money. These hypothetical leftovers from Le Cirque? I'm starving! Give me that half portion of warm salad, plated two hours ago.

    It doesn't sound to me as if your choices are "random shitty present" (And how is it a "grab bag" if everyone's gift is specifically chosen for them? That is just a "regular bag in which presents are temporarily stored") or "cash bonus." It sounds like your choices are "pillow from your boss' home" or "nothing." My mom would probably prefer I give her a cash bonus of $10,000 this year rather than the (SPOILER ALERT MOM; SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH) Christmas ornaments she's getting, but it would be unreasonable of her to complain about this. I'm not trying to hear her noise on Christmas.

    Let's say you wrap up the napkin set your boss gave you last year and present it to him as a re-gift. What's the best case scenario here? That your boss opens the gift, has no recollection of giving it to you, and is so moved he appeals to you to guide his sleigh tonight? That's unlikely.

    Odds are he will open it and:

    A) not recall giving it to you, then feel confused about why you gave him this lackluster gift.


    B) recall giving it to you and immediately dislike you for making such a passive-aggressive power play.

    "Remember that guy who got fired for throwing the boss' present back in his face?" your coworkers will say at next year's Christmas party. "What a bad-ass, who is now unemployed." Then your boss will pass around the No Rules Grab Bag of Carefully Selected Gifts and someone else will receive the cloth napkins.

    If you find the gift-exchange so abhorrent, see if there's a way you can sneak out early this year. Otherwise, pipe down, accept your gift with a smile, roll your eyes at your coworkers, and let the man move on.

    He's got to fly around the world and give cloth napkins to a ton of children tonight.

    I've been with my boyfriend for nearly three years now and we are both in our late 20s (no kids). Last year was the first time we spent Christmas together because he decided to make the four-hour trek with me to visit my family. This year, we've decided to spend the weekend with my family, return home on Sunday, have our own celebration on Christmas Eve (Monday), and then spend Christmas Day with his family.

    ...That was until today when I started talking about my plans for our Christmas Eve meal and he suggested that we invite his parents over that night to join us after we exchange gifts. I faltered when he asked me this because I have a surprise plan to do a candlelight dinner and the whole shebang and didn't want to give it away. He got pretty touchy then and said "I always spends Christmas Eve with my family." Well, I've always spent it AND Christmas Day with my family too!

    I was really looking forward to a romantic/intimate/adult/possibly XXX Christmas Eve celebration with the man I love... that does not involve parents, familial chatter, and (not to mention) doubling the meal I planned. I don't want to start an altercation with him over Christmas plans since it seems to defeat the whole point of the holiday, but, I really don't want him to extend the invite to his parents..Is that okay?

    Thatz not okay.

    I'm glad you see that to start a big fight with your boyfriend about Christmas would be "to defeat the whole point of the holiday." However, you seem to miss the point that cutting out family time in order to have an XXX rated dinner also misses what some Peanuts might describe as "what Christmas is all about."

    As I see it, you have two options here.

    Option 1: Slutty Mrs. Claus

    Fuck your boyfriend's parents. NOT literally, although that is in keeping with your Good King WenSEXlas holiday theme. If you have time and live near bagels, combine the two by suggesting they come over early in the day for Christmas Eve brunch. Otherwise, I'm afraid you will be forced to blow your surprise. (As someone who loves planning surprises, I do empathize with you on this.) Tell your boyfriend Mary and Joseph are not welcome at the inn because you've planned an elaborate holiday fuckfest that starts with oysters and ends with an autumn baby.

    Option 2: The Spirit of Christmas
    Bite the bullet and invite your boyfriend's parents over. So what if you have to serve your elegant fondue-for-two out of a bucket now, or prepare a second edible bra? It's Christmas! Welcome them into your home. This is not a time to be exclusive.

    If the "familial chatter" starts to drive you crazy, steer the conversation back to your idea of a perfect Christmas party which I'm guessing consists of one person alone, in a room, masturbating.

    Your boyfriend won't feel like he's cheating on his parents with you and, when they leave, you can ho ho hump him till dawn.

    Personally, I'd go with Option 2. It's Christmas Eve, not Arbor Day—not traditionally a time for sexiness. Plus, you can have sex whenever you want if you're an adult. You can plan a romantic dinner any night of the year. Technically, yes, this includes Christmas Eve – but why not arrange the meal for one of the other 364 days when there's not a conflict?

    Also, the fact that your boyfriend has already suggested including his parents pretty much guarantees that all he'll see when he ogles your tatas, all decked out in lights and tinsel for the Christmas season, are the sad, lonely faces of the people who gave him life.

    That's no kind of XXX-mas fun.

    Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here.

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    High School Student Suspended Over 'Threatening' Facebook Post Was Planning to Dress Up Like Santa and Hand Out Candy Canes to Classmates

    When John George III posted a Facebook status update promising his fellow high school students "a big surprise tomorrow," he thought it was clear that classmates should expect him to show up to school dressed like Santa Claus, given that he does so every year.

    But one Crawford County High School parent who wasn't aware of John's annual tradition became alarmed by his signature — "let the games begin" — and phoned the police.

    Following a brief conversation with the Georgia teen in his Roberta home, law enforcement officials concluded that there was no immediate threat and left "without further incident."

    Unfortunately for John, principal Mike Campbell wasn't satisfied with the authorities' response, and instructed officers to escort the kid to his office the following morning.

    John was subsequently suspended pending a school hearing scheduled for after the Christmas break. A statement released by the school called John's Facebook post "disturbing" — sentiments echoed by Superintendent John Douglas.

    "If I had to do it over again, we'd do the same thing, just to be cautious," Douglas told The Macon Telegraph. He excused the action by arguing that it would be horrible if "we knew about this ahead of time, and we did nothing, and something happened."

    But John's father, John George Jr., still isn't quite sure what his son did wrong.

    According to George, John also has a habit of dressing up for St. Patrick's Day and giving out candy on Valentine's Day. He's a "typical teenager," who "likes to play video games, watch wrestling and jump on his trampoline."

    "You can't be too careful about anything," he told the Telegraph, "but I think they should have listened to the children, and not overreacted and put someone out of school."

    [screengrab via 13WMAZ]

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    Eddie Floyd is a soul legend, who recorded several fine singles for Stax, including the ingenious "Knock on Wood." Now he is 75 and back with an album of Christmas originals, I'll Be Your Santa Claus. You'd probably expect the title track to be a little creepy (Santa gives toys, he doesn't throw dick, damn it), but not this level of moany creepiness:

    The snow is falling down
    It's so cold outside
    But don't you worry
    I'll keep you warm
    We'll make love till morning comes
    Santa's gonna love you
    Santa's gonna kiss you
    Santa's gonna give you (mmm) everything you've been missing

    Then, on repetition, the "Mmm"s become a lot more sexual, telegraphing the word "scrumptious" in a single syllable.

    Just think: on Christmas morning, your stack of presents could include Santa's penis. This song is like "Dick in a Box," but serious.

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