Monday, December 27, 2010

Man Grapples with Appropriate Holiday Greetings

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After jokingly offering his pescetarian secretary a bite of his Chick-fil-a spicy chicken sandwich, Jerry Maybell had to attend an HR-ordered sensitivity training session where he was schooled in the differences between octo-lacto vegetarians (no meat, fish, or seafood), pescetarians (no meat, but fish is okay) and fruitarians (only what falls from a plant).

Chastened by the experience and eager to demonstrate sensitivity to religious and cultural differences, Maybell, a senior manager at an office supplies company, has been on tenterhooks since Thanksgiving as he has struggled to craft appropriate holiday greetings for his co-workers.

An offering of jelly-filled doughnuts to his Jewish co-workers was an exclusionary disaster, he lamented, after he failed to realize that his adjoining office mate, Anne Marie Buckley (nee Siegel), is Jewish.

His "Joyous Kwanzaa" greeting – for a holiday honoring African-American heritage – to the company's intern, a Jamaican immigrant, was greeted with a blank stare.

Maybell scrapped his cards depicting a snowy landscape and "Season's Greetings" message after he remembered that his boss is Australian, and like other Southern Hemisphere countries, Australia has its summer in December.

Buckley said that she was not offended when Maybell neglected to offer her a doughnut, one of the traditional Hanukkah foods. "I probably confused him because I always wish him and others a Merry Christmas," Buckley shrugged, as the strains of Silent Night streamed through her computer. "All the Jews I know do – if you didn't take off work for Yom Kippur, chances are you celebrate Christmas. Even if you don't you're used to Santa's domination of December."

Lauren Bacani, who is non-religious but celebrates Christmas "from the purely commercial standpoint, by exchanging presents," said Maybell should stop worrying. "Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, it's a time to eat good food, have time off from work, and go to parties. My old boss thought I was Indian and always wished me a happy Diwali," said Bacani, who is Filipino. "I milked that for extra long lunches and early departures."

Bacani, an account manager, said that though Maybell was overestimating how much people cared about the specifics of holiday greetings, "it's a lot better than this jerk in IT who went around telling everyone, Christian or not, 'Best wishes and that generic nonsense is what they tell suicide bombers. Merry Christmas!'"

After much agitation, Maybell ultimately decided to skip wishing anyone a Merry Christmas for fear of offense, settling on a "Happy Holidays" E-card with surreal silver and gold snowflakes falling diagonally that could, he said, be interpreted as "rain for people who never see snow, or shooting stars."

Maybell plans on having a small gathering Friday afternoon to celebrate New Year's Eve for those in the office. And he already knows what he will say in his toast if John Chen, of Chinese heritage, attends: "Happy New Year to everyone, including and as well as to John, who will usher in the Chinese year of the rabbit on Feb. 3!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds Disappoint Tabloids with Classy Marriage, Divorce

Hollywood stars Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds made their split official Thursday as they filed for divorce a mere two years after their top-secret marriage in Canada two years ago. While the dissolution of their union has led some to cluck their tongues disapprovingly at short-lived "Hollywood marriages," their discreet handling of their relationship and lack sexting with a Vegas stripper or acrimonious alimony fight has left gossip sites and tabloids devoid of material.

"First they screwed us by getting married in the woods in Canada. No $100,000 of roses flown in from Ecuador, no arrival on an elephant, no 'Save the Date' card with harsh demands of utmost secrecy that's conveniently leaked to People Magazine," said photographer Alvin Wood, as he waited outside of a Studio City Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that Britney Spears often frequents. "Then they refused to gush about how great their sex life was once they were married. And now I hear from the reporters that they can't even get their 'close friends' to dish about how Ryan was emotionally distant or that Scarlett had a fling with [Iron Man 2 costar] Robert Downey, Jr."

Johansson was vacationing with girl friends in Jamaica when news of their split was broke, but the only pictures paparazzo were able to snap showed her with a shirt over her swimsuit. Usually, said Wood, celebrities go out of their way to show how happy they are post-split. "That means frolicking on the beach in a skimpy bikini while laughing uproariously, often with friends of the opposite gender. See: Cameron Diaz, Paris Hilton."

The lack of rancor has had economic ramifications beyond just gossip sites. The manager for Kitson, a boutique favored by A-list reality TV stars hoping to become B-list actresses, said that no one had requested a "Team Reynolds" or "Team Johansson" shirt. "We still sell 20 'Team Aniston' and 'Team Jolie' T-shirts each week, but nobody really cares about picking sides in their case," said the manager.

"It's hard to even feel much Schadenfreude about them," said Harvey Levin, editor of, a gossip site renowned for posting unflattering pictures and information about celebrities. "Ryan has that nice Canadian thing going for him and Scarlett campaigned for Obama before it was the super cool thing to do."

Reynolds and Johansson met for a friendly dinner shortly before filing for divorce but onlookers said they were careful not to touch each other or do anything that could be construed as canoodling. They have since continued their low key lifestyles, with Reynolds and Johansson expected to spend Christmas with their families -- however calls to their publicists to inquire about their holiday plans were not returned.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Al Gore Admits Infidelity to Recycling

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former Vice President Al Gore has admitted to cheating on his carbon-offsetting lifestyle during a tempestuous months-long affair with wastefully packaged 100 calorie snacks, plastic bags and SUVs.

The hasty admission came just hours before the National Enquirer was set to run a story detailing a Coca-Cola fueled night in which Gore rode in a Hummer through Georgia and South Carolina and ended with him printing out reams of e-mails on single-sided paper with 1.75 inch margins in a Charleston hotel.

The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, received an anonymous tip about Gore’s indiscretions last year but was unable to verify the allegations. “The source claimed that he flew over 30,000 miles from June to August of 2009, and failed to order carbon offsets,” Executive Editor Mark Lett said. “But we had no way to verify that.”

The world’s most high profile environmentalist began his betrayal with that Coke-filled night, and continued for several months. “I am only human, and not without flaws. For several months last year I strayed from my ideals and shirked my responsibilities,” Gore said in a statement. “I grew tired of worrying about holes in the ozone layer, acid rain and melting polar ice caps and gave in to despair. I will rededicate myself to spreading the gospel of hybrid cars and biodegradable utensils made with potato and corn starch – only when reusable ones are impractical, of course.”

The National Enquirer story reportedly contains an interview with the maid who cleaned Gore’s hotel room and noticed the discarded e-mail printouts that were brazenly stuffed into the trash can along with Coca Cola cans, Type 2 plastic water bottles and 100 calorie Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers packaging. Although The State tried to interview the maid last year, she refused to talk unless she was compensated. A source at the Enquirer said that the maid “initially demanded $1 million but later said she’d accept affordable health care and a living wage.”

That initial night of excess was just the start of Gore’s green betrayal. Over the next 11 weeks, Gore indulged in such excesses as running the air conditioning with the windows open, going grocery shopping without bringing his own cloth bag and driving non-hybrid cars. His fling with profligacy came to an abrupt halt when he was confronted by his four children.

“The intervention wasn’t pretty. He had hit rock bottom and was smoking a cigar and sitting in a pool of Styrofoam peanuts,” said a family friend. “It was only after they forced him to watch an elaborate PowerPoint presentation with a breakdown of the acres of clear cut forest his lack of environmental stewardship was equivalent to did he realize that he had a problem.

Gore’s admission of wrongdoing should lessen the sting of the Enquirer story. The tabloid allegedly paid $500,000 for a grainy picture of Gore leaning out of the Hummer’s window to deliberately discard a glass bottle in a trash can when a recycling bin was also within arm’s reach. “Before Gore’s statement, that was a money shot,” said Karla Williams, a crisis management professional. “Now that he’s fessed up, it takes away a lot of the shock value.”

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Massive Perfume Leak Spurs Accusations of Cheating, Metrosexuality

The biggest olfactory catastrophe in the history of South Carolina has struck the small fishing village of Murrells Inlet and is spreading rapidly despite efforts to contain the disaster site. Scents 4 Everyone, a perfume manufacturer, began leaking its “Carolina Breeze” fragrance three days ago, through undiscovered cracks in the 100 gallon vats used to combine the yellow jessamine flower essence and other ingredients used to make their signature “his” and “her” scents.

Beyond the colossal environmental hazards, the leak has led to accusations of infidelity, with one worker from a nearby law office viciously attacked by his wife for coming home with an unfamiliar scent. “I tried to tell her that the smell was just in the air and that I would never cheat on her with someone who wore designer imposter perfume,” said David Smith, “but she was just like, ‘Whatever.’”

The perfumes — which includes hints of fresh mandarin and musk for the male fragrance, and magnolia, peach and jasmine for the female fragrance — are designed to linger on the body with a mere spritz. But the gallons of leakage mean that the aroma is here to stay for weeks if not months, and the disaster area will not be confined to just Murrells Inlet. Nearby Myrtle Beach is bracing itself for impact, and Wilmington residents — a full hour away — might not be spared either.

The leak’s impact is not just being felt by falsely accused non-adulterers. Orinthologists have reported a worrying phenomena of “metrosexual” pelicans that are being rejected by their mates. “Pelicans are smelly birds that carry around stinky, dead fish in their throat pouches,” said Laurie Stern. “When their natural stench is diluted by the aroma of sweet smelling flowers, that’s a turn off.”

Wildlife workers say that as part of the costly remediation efforts they may try to capture the rejected birds and bathe them in a bath of salt water and rotten fish before releasing them into the wild.

Criticism of Scents 4 Everyone has been swift and harsh, but the company has been quick to spread the blame, citing “shoddily constructed vats” and “overly vigorous ventilation.” But the landlord avowed any knowledge of fragrance production. “I thought ‘Cents for Everyone’ meant they were coin collectors,” said Harold P. Giffords.

A spokeswoman for the company producing the vats said that they were intended for use in making wholesale soups, and that the alcohol in the perfumes likely eroded the metal, causing the cracks. “We can’t be held responsible for the abusive use of our products,” said Sharon Lee-Mandably.

Lawmakers have been quick to denounce all the companies involved and call for federal assistance. Gov. Mark Sanford, noteworthy for being a fiscal miser, demanded that President Obama declare the region a federal disaster area to make it eligible for federal funds, and requested that FEMA bring needed supplies such as deodorizers and nose plugs. “South Carolinians will be living with the scourge of these pernicious fissures for a generation,” Sanford said. “We need help more than I needed a better PR advice.”

Efforts to reduce the odor have thus far yielded scant success. The first attempt to envelop the factory in a large parachute to contain the smell failed due to the porous material used. Warming up the remaining perfume heightened the odor, to the bemusement of aromatherapists. And recruiting members of the public to spray their own perfumes and colognes into the air to disperse the Carolina Breeze odor merely created a stronger fragrant haze.

In addition to the enduring odor of yellow jessamine, some smelled a whiff of political opportunism as a legacy of the leak. Howard Jessop II, a blogger and former employee of state Sen. Jake Knotts, said Wednesday that his conscience would no longer allow him to remain silent about his affair with Nikki Haley, the leading GOP nominee for governor. “On election day, Nikki and I canoodled before she gave her victory speech,” said Jessop. “I don’t want to go into details, but let’s just say if it were baseball, she’s no bunter. She went for the grand slam, and you can still smell the Carolina Breeze on me as proof.”

Haley received a wave of national attention after Jessop’s former boss, Knotts, called Haley — who is Sikh — a “raghead.” Haley received additional attention after two men with ties to Sanford and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer claimed to have had affairs with her in the past few years.

When it was pointed out that Haley had campaigned near Murrells Inlet and would have likely picked up the scent then, and that he could have easily sprayed himself and his clothes — redolent of Carolina Breeze — with the perfume to provide circumstantial “evidence,” Jessop clammed up. “What we shared was special, and I won’t say another word about our improper relations. That’s between me and God and her and whatever devil she prays to.”

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Apple Moving Headquarters to Dubai

Concerned by the recent outing of the fourth generation iPhone prototype on tech blog Gizmodo, secrecy obsessed Apple is moving its headquarters to Dubai.

The Middle East emirate has long been known for its ultra luxe amenities, including an indoor snow resort and the world's largest man-made islands and the tallest building. But more recently, they were in the news for using their sophisticated security tracking system to determine that the death of a senior Hamas figure was carried out by a over a dozen Mossad agents, and was not as initially believed to be the result of natural causes.

The pairing of Apple and Dubai comes as the United Arab Emirate's most ostentatious city struggles to recover from the global downturn and attract foreign business. The deal to move the headquarters to Dubai came this past week after a visit by Steve Jobs and his associates, where they apparently stayed at a seven star hotel and ate in an underwater restaurant that they reached by submarine. But what sealed the deal, according to an employee of Dubai's sophisticated security system who declined to state his name for fear of death by firing squad, was a behind-the-scenes tour of the thousands of surveillance cameras that allow for the tracking of people. "It's more intrusive than Bill Gate's house," Jobs reportedly exclaimed in admiration.

Apple suffered great embarrassment after a software engineer left a prototype of the yet-to-be-released fourth generation iPhone at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., which was subsequently sold to Gizmodo for $5,000. The resulting video of an unshaven geek displaying the prototype went viral and led to mass hyperventilation of Apple groupies worldwide.

Using Dubai's tracking system, the man who found the iPhone would have been tracked down and jailed under trumped up charges before he had time to get home, said the employee. "There would be none of this legal nonsense over whether the search warrant was legal."

Apple has already begun relocating employees as well as making some local hires. Both groups will undergo intense cultural sensitivity training, with the former learning about verboten customs such as kissing in public and the latter learning to avoid speaking positively about Adobe Flash.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spanish Intern Tasked with Planning Cinco de Mayo Celebration

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Carolina Pascal recently called her aunt in Barcelona to wish her a happy birthday. Little did 21-year-old intern for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) expect that her overheard "feliz cumpleaƱos" would lead to her planning the office's Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

The agency's celebration of the Mexican holiday is a newly instituted practice, according to Smithson Jamesfield, the recently promoted Tourism and Recreation Department director within SCPRT.

"Nothing gets my blood boiling hotter than when people claim that South Carolina is backwards and filled with local yokels. Asheville is fine, but the Obamas should really try vacationing in Charleston for a truly cosmopolitan experience, Jamesfield said, referring to the First Family's recent getaway to North Carolina. "We celebrate people of all origins and their respective customs."

Mexico's victory over French forces on May 5, 1862, is not one that is typically celebrated outside of Mexico and the United States, and awareness of the holiday is not widespread in Europe. "It's a little befuddling because I'm Spanish, but they still assumed that I celebrated Cinco de Mayo," said Pascal. "I hadn't even heard of it before I came to the United States. I was like, what's so cool about fifth day of May?"

Despite her initial befuddlement, Pascal has embraced her responsibilities, which include ordering the food and entertainment for the celebration. She had wanted to order paella and pass it off as coming from the Catalan region of Mexico, but she wasn't able to find any Spanish restaurants. Instead, celebrants will chow down on Cubano sandwiches from Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda.

Pascal's status as a proxy Mexican is not unprecedented. Risa Fukuyama, the IT manager for SCPRT, was charged with hosting the office's Chinese New Year's celebration, despite being of Japanese descent. And Jamesfield drafted Stan Porter, a native Kansan and office receptionist, to organize the Canadian Thanksgiving potluck buffet after heard him end a sentence with "eh?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

South Carolina to Bar New Yorkers, Californians

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Following Arizona’s lead, South Carolina is expected to enact the nation’s toughest immigration laws to date, with New Yorkers and Californians to be officially declared persona non grata.

Not only are residents of the Empire and Golden states prohibited from living in South Carolina, under the bill being considered by South Carolina’s legislature, they would not even be permitted to visit for tourist purposes.

Law enforcement would be directed to arrest individuals that they knew, or suspected, were New Yorkers or Californians and deport anyone who proved to be a resident of those states. Officers could detain individuals for a long list of appearance-based and behavioral reasons, including: “evidence of plastic surgery; reading The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal or New York Times; extolling Thomas Keller or molecular gastronomy; driving a Prius; mentioning ‘my rabbi’; requesting ‘macrobiotic’ or ‘vegan’ items at a restaurant; ordering non-sweetened tea; inquiring about the availability of valet parking; speaking of Bob Jones University or Strom Thurmond with disdain; refusing to call Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rudy Giuliani a RINO; or stating a preference for Adam Lambert over Kris Allen.”

Republican Governor Mark Sanford says that he will sign the bill.

“For centuries New Yorkers and Californians have sneered at us,” said Sanford, “They marvel at our magnolia trees but call us racially intolerant and backward. The only thing that we are intolerant of is elitism, and this bill sends a clear message that we will no longer permit it inside our state lines.”

Critics of the measure say it enshrines Southern bigotry in state law.

“We already fought the Civil War, and we lost,” Milton R. Rutherford, history professor at Columbia College, said bluntly. “It has zero chance of being withstanding a legal challenge if it becomes law.”

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce issued a statement expressing concern that the state’s industries could be harmed by the loss of revenue resulting from fewer New York and California tourists as well as individuals from other states that oppose the law.

But Jackson Ross Campbell III, creator of the “Blue States Suck” Facebook page, said that any loss would be more than compensated for by tourists from states who support South Carolina’s law.

“It’s marketing magic for our hotels, which will be able to advertise that their guests won’t have to run into people at the continental breakfast buffet asking for soy milk or carrying a Louis Vuitton bag with a small, yappy dog,” Campbell said, adding that he will work to extend the ban to states beyond California and New York.

Poll results were mixed. When South Carolina residents were asked whether they supported prohibiting residents from other states from moving to or visiting their state, only 15 percent said yes in a Zogby Poll with +/-3.1 percentage points of error. However, when it was specified that the residents were from New York and Carolina, that number rose to 47 percent and when it was worded “carpetbaggers from the states where Nancy Pelosi and Bill Clinton live” the number spiked at 71 percent.

The legislation was initially drafted to prevent residents of New York and California from ever visiting South Carolina, but an exemption was made to permit relatives to visit immediate family members whose health or life is in danger and who are unable to travel.

It also gives individuals who are native born South Carolinians but have New York or California residency the chance to repatriate after a waiting period. Anyone reapplying for South Carolina residency will need to show proof, through state income tax forms or utility bills, that they have been a resident of a state besides California or New York for a minimum of three years, in addition to providing their birth certificate.

But native born Californians and New Yorkers are out of luck — unless they can provide proof that an immediate ancestor was a South Carolina resident and declare their fidelity to South Carolina.

Despite the heated debate the proposal has stirred in South Carolina, it appears to have received scant notice in the states that would be affected. When told of the proposal, Berkeley, Calif., resident Ashby Paz shrugged his shoulders. “That’s just one less carbon offset I need to buy — not that I’ve ever been or have any desire to go since I kind of lump South Carolina into the same category as flyover country.” Paz said. “In fact, maybe we could have reciprocity and bar South Carolinians from coming to California.”

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