The Spice Of Life Tastes Like Ass

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Memo to the Star Tribune Variety Section: HOO-BOY, DUMBER THAN USUAL.

I don't have high expectations for any paper's "variety" section. It's like the Special Olympics of the newspaper. If they fill the news hole at all by the time they go to print, they get a hug and a cookie. But man, today's edition probably shouldn't have gotten the cookie.

But first, let me take a moment to awkwardly segue from the paper's Variety coverage to their Non-Special Regular Olympics coverage. So the U.S. basketball team loses a meaningless match to Puerto Rico that doesn't keep it out of any medal contention, plus this one runner who had a chance at 8 medals now has a chance at 7. Does this really justify, in 96-point bold headline, "DAY OF DEFEAT"? Isn't every day at the Olympics a day of defeat? I was watching one of them swimming races, and I could have sworn that of the eight guys swimming, SEVEN of them got defeated. That's a whole lot of defeat.

But anyway, the Variety section. Right off the bat, you're in trouble. The front page article - how to talk to your children about... politics. It gives handy advice like "Don't rant..." and "Help them get the facts," and "Don't demonize the other side." Which is great, if the article were "Talk To Your Kids About Government". But this is Politics. And politics is all about ranting, ignoring facts, and demonizing the other side. Teaching your kids about respectful discourse, respecting other points of view, and such is commendable, but at some point, you're going to have to stop putting quarters under their pillow.

It doesn't help that the article's author implies she had to use the Web to find the answer to "Mommy, what's a republic?". Way to inspire confidence in the readership right there.

On page two, right below some old fart bitching about new-fangled begadgetry, there's Heloise. I don't know if this is the same Heloise or a new Heloise, but today's useful hint is that wire baskets can be used to hold loose change. Tune in tomorrow, when Heloise recommends that a couple taking a trip to the desert that they don't need to buy an expensive "canteen" if they happen to have a spare colander in their kitchen. Nobody will read it, of course, because they can't buy a paper, because all their dimes are trapped in, amongst, and between the metal bits of a wire basket.

Just below that, we have an Ominous Portent of Doom. The Strib wants to hear your compelling stories about how your life changed after September 11, 2001. You know, I know we were all touched by that tragic day blah blah cue mournful music and soft-focus flag bullshit blah, but come on. It's Minnesota, and it's three years later. If anyone in Minnesota is still blathering on about their momentous life change caused by two buildings falling down, they do not deserve press coverage. From the timing, I bet this is going to appear on the third anniversary maudlin-fest, too. Hooray.

"Dear Abby" is harmless today, but I'd just like to state for the record that the new Dear Abby looks like the love child of Elvis and The Joker. Thank you. I'll be here all week. I'm here every week. There is no veal to try, I'm afraid, nor wait-staff to tip.

But it's the last page that really takes the cake. Entitled "Budget Living", it's full of the worst ways to "save money" in the history of the planet. Like a pair of $18 earrings shaped like cherries.To help you retain that summer feeling. No, I don't fucking get it either. Do cherry-shaped earrings usually retail for -more- than $18? If you're on a tight budget, maybe you should spend the $18 on REAL cherries. Plus, they're from a website, so I bet that $18 doesn't include shipping. Maybe it just seems like "budget living" compared to their other suggested purchase, the $300 plastic chair shaped like a pair of lips.

The main feature in Budget Living is... BACKYARD CAMPING. OK, that's fine. I get that. But first, they suggest starting a campfire in your own backyard. Yes, nothing makes the neighbors more calm and relaxed than a rising plume of smoke from the other side of the chain-link fence. And once you've got the roaring fire going, what better way to enjoy the evening than to... drag your TV and DVD player into the backyard with extension cords to simulate a drive-in movie!

It's just like being in your living room, only you're... outside, and bugs crawling in your DVD player, and smoke from your runaway backyard campfire is turning your TV into a surprisingly flavorful mesquite treat, and hey, was that thunder?

But let's assume, for the moment, that nothing will go horribly wrong when you drag your television into your backyard. What does the Strib recommend you watch? Teen classics! Meatballs! Little Darlings! Wet Hot American Summer!* WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER?! "Mommy, what are the two naked men doing in the tool shed?" "Um.., they're doing... exercises, honey." It's like some kind of elaborate practical joke played on the community by the staff writers. You can introduce your children to the wonders of anal sex**, right before lightning strikes your television and your house burns down. All while wearing your cherry earrings. Now THAT'S a Wet, Hot, Budget American Summer.

* This is the only disadvantage to YAD not being some kind of Flash-based multimedia cartoon. The column desperately needs that "needle being dragged suddenly across the record" sound right here, but all I can do is add this footnote.

*In retrospect, I probably should have considered rewriting this sentence to make it clear I mean via the scene in the movie where the two guys are screwing.