Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Custer: Still Standing

June 25 marks the 132nd anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. More than a century later, Custer's Last Stand remains one of the most memorable failures in American history. To mark the anniversary, "Custerphiles" from around the country will, as they do each year, descend on eastern Montana to re-enact the battle — at several different locations, no less. (The mock massacres will take place on the weekend of June 27-29, to accommodate 21st century obligations like work and family).

It shouldn't surprise you that no one at Failure is available to travel to Montana next weekend, and we imagine you won't be going either. But you can still get a flavor of what will take place by reading Still Standing, Failure's recent piece on the enduring legacy of George Armstrong Custer. An equally compelling option is to read our companion interview with Steve Alexander, who considers himself the country's pre-eminent "Custer living historian." There's no doubt in my mind that Alexander will be on hand for Little Bighorn week, not to mention at least one re-enactment. After all, he lives for it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

$1 million offered for proof of Bigfoot

Great marketing ploy on the part of both binocular manufacturer Bushnell and Field and Stream magazine. Lots of free publicity and no one can ever collect the prize. The scary thing is that as of this posting 45 percent(!) of AOL users polled think Bigfoot is real (with 40 percent saying "no" and 15 percent saying "I'm not sure").

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Poetic justice?

Today's AP Wire features a story highlighting the fact that more than two dozen youngsters who trashed Robert Frost's former home have been ordered to take classes in which they study his poetry as part of their punishment. Last December 28, a large group of teenagers broke into Frost's place, had a beer party and completely trashed the place, causing approximately $10,000 in property damage. Now many of them are making good by going to classes in which they read poems like "The Road Not Taken" and other Frost classics.

"I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people's property in the future and would also learn something from the experience," prosecutor John Quinn told AP reporter John Curran.

On the surface, this punishment seems especially apropos. But in the bigger picture, the exposure this AP story receives will only help perpetuate the idea that reading poetry equates with punishment, hardly the message that poetry loves want broadcasted all over the country.

Monday, June 02, 2008

You Want Fries With That...? (book review)


Prioleau Alexander isn’t the first white-collar worker to abandon a lucrative career, try his hand at a succession of minimum wage jobs, and then write a book about the experience. But unlike most of his progenitors, Alexander’s goal isn’t to enlighten readers or make a political argument; he’s just trying to be funny.

A former advertising agency executive, the forty-something Alexander spends the better part of a year delivering pizzas, scooping ice cream, flipping burgers and cleaning up construction sites. He aspires to work for a big-box retailer, but fails to land an “associate” position at either of the big-box stores to which he applies.

While the rejections deflate Alexander’s ego, his sense of humor remains unaffected, at least until each of the individual jobs begin to drive him crazy. In the case of the ice cream “shoppe” this moment occurs around the time he hits “five-thousand pinks”—the five-thousanth time a customer asks for a pink-spoon sample. One day, “going pink” may have the same meaning as “going postal,” he quips half-jokingly.

In the end, however, Alexander turns serious, noting that since completing the book and returning to the white-collar world (as a freelance media planner) he makes it a point to say “thank you” and “have a nice day” to all low-wage earners. But Alexander seems to reserve the most sympathy for pizza deliverymen: “To avoid having a freakin’ pizza smashed into your freakin’ face by an enraged Pizza Man, make sure you have the freakin’ numbers of your freakin’ address on your freakin’ home,” he advises. How’s that for words to live by?

* The above book review isn't up to Failure magazine standards, so we killed it. But to avoid a total loss we decided to make it available on our blog, where our standards are obviously lower. Click here to read some of our more "successful" reviews.