Category Archives: Asinine Mideast Analogies

My choice to succeed doomed Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak

King Tut, the Yale Egyptology professor stuck in a state of amnesia/delusion after being hit on the head during student riots.


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When did Weird Al Yankovic join the Israeli Navy?

Absolutely ingenious.

My favorite singer is the Hamas Bruce Springsteen guy. The Israeli/Palestinian/Turkish Cyndi Lauper isn’t obnoxious enough.

Via Latma TV:

There comes a time
When we need to make a show
For the world, the Web and CNN
There’s no people dying,
so the best that we can do
Is create the greatest bluff of all

We must go on pretending day by day
That in Gaza, there’s crisis, hunger and plague
Coz the billion bucks in aid won’t buy their basic needs
Like some cheese and missiles for the kids

We’ll make the world
Abandon reason
We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas
Is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
With guns and our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV

Ooooh, we’ll stab them at heart
They are soldiers, no one cares
We are small, and we took some pictures with doves
As Allah showed us, for facts there’s no demand
So we will always gain the upper hand

We’ll make the world
Abandon reason
We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas
Is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
we’re waving our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV

If Islam and terror brighten up your mood
But you worry that it may not look so good
Well well well well don’t you realize
You just gotta call yourself
An activist for peace and human aid

We’ll make the world
Abandon reason
We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas
Is Momma Theresa
We are peaceful travelers
We’re waving our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV

We con the world
We con the people
We’ll make them all believe the IDF is Jack the Ripper
We are peaceful travelers
We’re waving our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV

We con the world (Bruce: we con the world…)
We con the people (Bruce: we con the people…)
We’ll make them all believe the IDF is Jack the Ripper
We are peaceful travelers
We’re waving our own knives
The truth will never find its way to your TV
The truth will never find its way to your TV

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Gitmo’s Boombox: Does an official “Music Torture” song list actually exist?


DOUBLE STANDARD? When John Cusack bombards his girlfriend's home with music, it's cute. When the CIA uses a boombox, it's torture.

So, a pretentious group of musicians is upset that their music is being used to torment America’s most dangerous enemies?

And now they want the U.S. government to release an official song list?

I can’t imagine that such a document actually exists. Are we supposed to believe that CIA and Pentagon interrogators around the world were issued official playlists by some audio-torture DJ?

It’s a safe bet that the music choices used to keep terrorists awake 24/7 were straight from a gazillion different iPods.

However, Culture Schlock has learned that there WAS an official songlist when the U.S. Army flushed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega out of hiding in 1989.  The psychological warfare guys surrounding the Vatican Embassy during “Operation Just Cause” called in their requests to Army Radio.

How retro.  But before we share that hilarious playlist, check out this Boston Herald column arguing why it’s time to stop apologizing for music torture at Gitmo and at secret CIA detention centers around the globe.

We also believe that the use of the Meow Mix advertising jingle as torture is totally justified and worthy of a smiley face emoticon 🙂

And as an aside, this is also the 20th anniversary of the movie “Say Anything,” in which John Cusack hounds his girlfriend Ione Skye with a boombox blaring “In Your Eyes,” a song unlikely to have been used at Gitmo or Panama.


Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" made this dictator's skin crawl!


(Fully applicable to 2009 interrogations minus the Panama jungle jokes)

1. (You’ve Got) Another Thing Coming — Judas Priest
2. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover — Paul Simon
3. All Over But The Crying — Georgia Satellites
4. All I Want is You — U2
5. Big Shot — Billy Joel
6. Blue Collar Man — Styx
7. Born to Run — Bruce Springsteen
8. Bring Down the Hammer — Georgia Satellites
9. Change — Tears for Fears
10. Cleaning Up The Town — The Bus Boys
11. Crying in the Chapel — Brenda Lee
12. Dancing in the Streets — David Bowie
13. Danger Zone — Kenny Loggins
14. Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo
15. Don’t Look Back — Boston
16. Don’t Fear the Reaper — Blue Oyster Cult
17. Don’t Close Your Eyes — Kix
18. Eat My Shorts — Rick Dees
19. Electric Spanking of War Babies — Funkadelic
20. Feel a Whole Lot Better (When You’re Gone) — Tom Petty
21. Freedom Fighter — White Lion
22. Freedom, No Compromise — Little Steven
23. Ghost Rider — The Outlaws
24. Give It Up — KC and the Sunshine Band
25. Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down — Paul Young
26. Guilty — Bonham
27. Hang ‘Em High — Van Halen
28. Hanging Tough — New Kids on the Block
29. Heavens on Fire — KISS
30. Hello, It’s Me — Todd Rundgren
31. Hello, We’re Here — Tom T. Hall
32. Helter Skelter — The Beatles
33. I Fought The Law and the Law Won — Bobby Fuller
34. If I Had a Rocket Launcher — Bruce Cochran
35. In My Time of Dying — Led Zeppelin
36. Ironman — Black Sabbath
37. It Keeps You Running — Doobie Brothers
38. Judgment Day — Whitesnake
39. Jungle Love — Steve Miller Band
40. Just Like Jesse James — Cher
41. Mayor of Simpleton — XTC
42. Midnight Rider — Allmond Brothers Band
43. Mr. Blue — The Fleetwoods
44. Naughty Naughty — Danger Danger
45. Never Gonna Give You Up — Rick Astley
46. Never Tear Us Apart — INXS
47. No Particular Place to Go — Chuck Berry
48. No More Mister Nice Guy — Alice Cooper
49. No Alibis — Eric Clapton
50. Now You’re Messin’ With an SOB — Nazareth
51. Nowhere Man — The Beatles
52. Nowhere to Run — Martha and the Vandelas
53. One Way Ticket — George Thorogood and the Destroyers
54. Panama — Van Halen
55. Paradise City — Guns N’ Roses
56. Paranoid — Black Sabbath
57. Patience — Guns N’ Roses
58. Poor Little Fool — Ricky Nelson
59. Prisoner of the Highway — Ronnie Milsap
60. Prisoner of Rock and Roll — Neil Young
61. Refugee — Tom Petty
62. Renegade — Styx
63. Rock and a Hard Place — The Rolling Stones
64. Run to the Hills — Iron Maiden
65. Run Like Hell — Pink Floyd
66. Screaming for Vengeance — Judas Priest
67. She’s Got a Big Posse — Arabian Prince
68. Shot in the Dark — Ozzy Osbourne
69. Stay Hungry — Twisted Sister
70. Taking It To The Streets — Doobie Brothers
71. The Party’s Over — Journey
72. The Race is On — Sawyer Brown
73. The Pusher — Steppenwolf
74. The Long Arm of the Law — Warren Zevon
75. The Star Spangled Banner — Jimi Hendrix
76. The Secret of My Success — Night Ranger
77. They’re Coming to Take Me Away — Henry VIII
78. This Means War — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
79. Time is on My Side — Rolling Stones
80. Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die — Jethro Tull
81. Voodoo Child — Jimi Hendrix
82. Wait for You — Bonham
83. Waiting for a Friend — Jimi Hendrix
84. Wanted Dead or Alive — Bon Jovi
85. Wanted Man — Molly Hatchet
86. War Pigs — Black Sabbath
87. We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel
88. We Gotta Get Out of This Place — The Animals
89. Who Will You Run To? — Heart
90. You Send Me — Sam Cook
91. You Shook Me All Night Long — AC/DC
92. You Hurt Me (And I Hate You) — The Eurythmics
93. You Got Lucky — Tom Petty
94. Your Time is Gonna Come — Led Zeppelin
95. Youth Gone Wild — Skid Row

SOURCE: U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs report about SouthCom Network Radio’s involvement in Operation Just Cause. PDFs of the document are posted at George Washington University’s National Security Archive.


Artists such as REM, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and David Byrne have not made a squawk about the beheading and torture of Americans, but they are ready to march on Washington when the Guantanamo Bay jukebox is played a little too loud.


Jules Crittenden’s FORWARD MOVEMENT — “Twenty days of Slim Shady? That does sound like torture. I don’t think I’d last 20 minutes. But as Garnick suggests, it beats the heck out of being an extra in a jihadi music vid while getting your head sawed off, your vehicle blown up, or your lower Manhattan office tower vaporized.”

Solomon’s SOLOMONIA — “Maybe they should substitute (The Talking Heads) David Byrne’s big white (shoulderpads) suit for those horrid orange jump suits. Remember the big white suit? “You want us to wear what? I’ll talk!!”

MondoReb’s DEATH BY A THOUSAND PAPERCUTS — “Torture music is all in the ears of the beheader.”

David Goldstein’s OUR ANNOYING WORLD — “Billy Bragg? Let’s face the facts, Billy. These days, Gitmo detainees forced to endure your music probably accounts for at least 75% of your listening audience. There’s a time to be sanctimonious and a time to be grateful.”

And a bonus historical essay for context:The Use of Music in Psychological Operations,” at

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Egyptians to Israel: 30 years of peace is OVERRATED

Egypt's October 1973 War Panorama Museum  (New York Times photo)

Egypt's October 1973 War Panorama Museum (New York Times photo)

One of my biggest regrets during my post-college backpacking jaunt through Cairo was that the October 1973 War Panorama Museum was closed.

Like a kid stretching his neck over the fence at a shut-down amusement park, I stared through the iron grates at a sculpture garden decorated with Russian MiG fighter jets.  I wanted to at least bring home a snowglobe from the gift shop, but the place was undergoing renovations.

This museum is a monumental tribute to Egypt’s “victory” in the 1973 October War (or Yom Kippur War if you’re willing to acknowledge the military value of surprise and meanness to attack on a religious holiday).

According to the Egypt State Information Service, the museum was inspired by President Hosni Mubarak’s 1983 trip to North Korea and is divided into four areas:

The Circular Hall: Highlights the achievements of the Egyptian Armed Forces in the period from 1967 to 1973.

Hall 2: In which the crossing of the Suez Canal is graphically shown.

Hall 3: Showcases the achievements of the various branches of the Army during the October War.

Hall 4: A library with a reading hall attached.

Now, thanks to The New York Times, I can see what one of the museum panoramic views looks like.  Looks like a lot of Egyptian model railroaders were employed by the state in some kind of job stimulus package.

The Times also reports that many younger Egyptians are pissed about the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords. An entire generation grew up without shedding a drop of blood in the Sinai desert and they are pissed.

They saw a couple of war movies and well, it looks like a whole heck of fun!

From the Times:

“Today Egypt is not influential in anything,” said Osama Anwar Okasha, a leading Egyptian television writer. “It is a third-class country in this region. Egypt was the leading country and it gave up this leading role. Now it is like a postman, delivering messages.”

“The public mood is dark all around right now, and the sentiment points to the treaty as the start of Egypt’s decline and diplomatic impotence.”

But the 81-year-old Mubarak, who has been eligible for his AARP membership for those same 30 years, is still alive and he remembers how unfun bleeding in the Sinai can be.

Yet, he’s also the guy who likes to build war museums. Even if his exhibits don’t tell the full story (memo to Mubarak: Israel won — even Wikipedia says so), I still want my October Panorama snowglobe.


* Visit the Hezbollah Children’s Museum!

* Learn the Arab-Israeli conflict’s impact on Syrian lingerie exports!

* Compared to Jessica Simpson, how popular is Yasser Arafat at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum?

* Reminisce about the Saddam Hussein Yard Sale!

* Netflix Kitschy Pick of the Day: Otto Preminger’s “Exodus!

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Middle East Surprise: “Austin Powers” Fembot Fashions Thrive in Syria

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

What’s really underneath those burkas?

If you’re a Syrian bride on her wedding night — or even a bridesmaid at the bachelorette party — chances are there could be a Tweety Bird thong that plays the soothing tunes of Kajagoogoo. Anyone who grew up in the MTV age is intimately familiar with that British pop band for their 1983 anthem, “Too Shy.”

Or perhaps you might see this the next time you are underwear shopping in the outdoor Damascus shuk. There’s no way this is more comfortable than 100 percent organic Syrian cotton:

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Image courtesy of Chronicle Books

"The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie" -- Image courtesy of Chronicle Books

These fashion gems were culled from a kitschy new coffee table book by Syrian lingerie experts Malu Halassa and Rana Salam. Despite the bondage theme above, most lingerie drawers north of the Golan Heights are filled with cutesy feathers, fake flowers and fur. Liberace meets the Fembots from Austin Powers. Without the nipple guns.

The authors joke that they sometimes felt trapped in a “1970s transvestite disco.”

Think a plastic cell phone would ever make it into a Victoria’s Secret thong?

Cell phone thong courtesy of Chronicle Books

Cell phone thong courtesy of Chronicle Books

“Doesn’t matter whether you wear a miniskirt or a hijab, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to put on some of those outfits,” Halasa says. “Rana and I ended up admiring those women, and we thought some women in the developed world could use a little joy like that in their lives.”

So what does this have to do with the prospects of Middle East peace?

As U.S. Sen. John Kerry raves about the potential of an Israeli-Syrian thaw, the authors have their theories. Check out my full book review, “Damascus After Dark,” in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

You’ll learn….

… Which Israeli leader the authors would like to dress up in these outfits, and it is not Bibi Netanyahu.

… The previously undiscovered link between the 1973 Yom Kippur War and meteoric rise of the Syrian bra industry; and

… Regardless of the cultural context, can Tweety Bird possibly considered a sexual turn-on?

If you prefer the old-fashioned print layout, which includes more fascinating fashion pictures, the PDF download is available here:

“DAMASCUS AFTER DARK: How the kitschy Syrian approach to underwear cuts through the image of the all-concealing burka” (Page One) (Page Two)

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Austin Powers Fembots, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Syrian Lingerie

Yanking Yasser: Evicting wax terrorists is a slippery museum slope

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph

Originally published: June 1, 2001
In perhaps the most ludicrous government act since the Nashua City Council outlawed back-to-back yard sales a few years ago, the New York state legislature is exploring the possible eviction of a wax Yasser Arafat from the new Madame Tussaud’s museum in Times Square.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and 50 of his fellow lawmakers called on the museum to give Yasser the boot solely because of his career choice: terrorism. The demands are largely symbolic because Madame Tussaud’s is a private business and could, if they wanted to, replace Tony Bennett with Ayatollah Khomeini as their official greeter.

Nonetheless, smelling good copy from the New York Post, Hikind and his supporters recently picketed the museum to pressure Gov. George Pataki to cancel a June 14th Republican Party fundraiser scheduled there. Pataki won’t give up his opportunity to charge $100,000 for stuffed mushrooms and cocktail franks. But the governor did say that he would party with non-terrorist wax figures to prove his opposition to evil and his support for goodness.

Here’s what apparently only Madame Tussaud’s understands: wax museums need villains to counterbalance the heroes. Including unsavory characters in these kinds of exhibits is vital. O.J. Simpson belongs in the mix. So does Tonya Harding. And Ivan Boesky. And every Russian leader (who died every two weeks) when Reagan was in power. Toss in the CEOs of tobacco companies.

I visited Madame Tussaud’s the weekend after Assemblyman Hikind’s protest. Well before I got to the world leaders room, I was offended. I was first outraged by the disproportionate representation of New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle… Joe DiMaggio… George Steinbrenner… disgusting. Not a Red Sox cap in the building. Then, there’s Woody Allen, a “comic genius” who gets away with sleeping with his stepdaughter because he made a few good flicks in the 60s and 70s. And perhaps the most offensive of all, Larry King, proof that the devil is swinging deals for journalist souls.

It’s instantly apparent that this wax museum, which attracts far more foreign tourists than Americans, has no interest in making political statements. Why bother rooting for one side, when you can herd bitter rival factions into the same gift shop? If there is any conspiracy, it was forged between the museum and Kodak. This is a Disneyland where the costumed characters don’t take lunch breaks or strike for health benefits.

Madame Tussaud’s is all about pictures.

Scene 1: An Italian visitor instructs his young son how to pose with supermodel Elle McPherson. The boy, whose height placed him at eye level with the wax figure’s chest, instinctively stretches his arm around Ms. McPherson’s shoulders. No good, says the father, shaking his head. He redirects his son’s hand, firmly pressing it on her behind and smiles. Perfect picture. A father-and-son bonding moment.

Scene 2: Indian man eyeing John Travolta. The tourist hands me his digital video camera, a model which no doubt is the most expensive on the market, and inexplicably asks me to record him for “six seconds.” Like Stallone in both the Rocky and Rambo movies, Mr. DigiCamera writes, directs and stars in his own films. “Hi there!” he says, waving at the camera. “I am here with my friend, John Travolta.” Cut. End of shot. No exploration of his fictitious relationship with Mr. Travolta. No references to Olivia Newton-John, Vinny Barbarino or the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Imagination, unfortunately, does not come with the camera.

Scene 3: Museum visitor getting a little too intimate with jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Oblivious to everyone around him, the man is caressing Armstrong’s teeth. He does so for at least 15 seconds, an amount of time bordering on obsessive (disclaimer: I am not a licensed psychologist). The guards are looking the other way at Princess Diana, the only wax figure in the museum to be surrounded by fancy velvet ropes.

Yasser Arafat needs no bodyguards at Madame Tussaud’s. Most visitors walk right by him, preferring to be photographed with Pope John Paul II or Lady Di. The anti-Arafat crowd has nothing to fear and nothing to gain by his eviction. The wax Yasser is unloved. Nobody wants to fondle his scraggly beard or pinch his terrorist tush.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s “Encore” magazine. Feedback and ideas are welcome via e-mail at cultureschlock (at)

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

Culture Schlock Story: “Threatened by Wax?: Arafat deserves museum spot as much as the Penguin or the Riddler.”“Shedding no tears over the wax Hitler beheading.”

Schlock Blog: “The Hezbollah Children’s Museum: A Cross-Cultural Study”

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Yasser Arafat deserves wax museum spot as much as the Penguin or the Riddler

Does Yasser Arafat deserve to be evicted from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum?

Does Yasser Arafat deserve to be evicted from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum?

By Darren Garnick
The Jerusalem Report

Originally published: May 26, 2001

Does Yasser Arafat make good company for Barbra Streisand, John Travolta and the Dalai Lama? The new Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square says he does, and it is not melting under pressure to remove the Palestinian figure from their world leaders room.

Remarkably, a wax statue eviction notice is being backed by 50 members of the New York state legislature. Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), an Orthodox Jew, shockingly asserts that Arafat’s image does not evoke pro-Jewish sentiments – and thus, does not belong in the most Jewish city (population wise) on earth. Furthermore, reveals Hikind, Arafat is a “terrorist,” an occupation that makes him a very bad man.

I went to go visit Yasser the weekend after Hikind and his supporters picketed Madame Tussaud’s, urging Gov. George Pataki to cancel a $100,000-a-plate Republican Party fundraiser scheduled for June 14. Pataki also branded Arafat a “killer,” and a “terrorist,” promising he’d raise the money with non-terrorist wax figures instead.

Before I got to the world leaders room, I tried to put myself in Assemblyman Hikind’s shoes. Who else should be yanked from this museum for dissing the Jews? Richard Nixon would never have worn a kippah and spun a dreidel in the White House like Bill Clinton did. Listen to his tapes, Dov, he used the word “Jew” like the “F-word.” (Ironically, the wax Nixon has to stare at Jew Mark Spitz and his seven gold medals).

Henry Ford wasn’t a great guy either, practically having offered complimentary copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” with every purchase of a Model-T. Give Elton John the boot, too. Remember his 1993 hissy fit when he canceled (and later rescheduled) a Tel Aviv concert because he didn’t like the security goons at Ben Gurion Airport?

Personally, I’ve never been a big Arafat fan. I think Benny Begin got it right when he said, “A snake in a coat and tie is still just a well dressed snake.” Arafat never wears Armani, however. He is like Charlie Brown, wearing the same clothes every day. Olive green shirt. Olive green pants. Khaffia folded in the shape of Palestine. Trusty gun in his holster. Arafat’s career goals may be a mystery, but his wardrobe is not.

Encountering Arafat “in person” is empowering to any pro-Zionist museum visitor. Most striking is how tiny and frail this scraggly weasel really is. Forget Ariel the Bulldozer, even skinny Shimon Peres could make some convincing points with his fists. But alas, the Middle East conflict cannot be resolved like the Cold War was in “Rocky IV.”

In the world leaders room, Arafat is surrounded by Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Mikhail Gorbachev and Golda Meir. It’s a good mix. For pure historical drama, Madame Tussaud’s needs good guys and bad guys. Featuring Golda without her old PLO nemesis is like watching Batman without the Penguin or the Riddler. In my world view, Israel is Batman, and Arafat’s been the bad guy for way too many episodes.

As for “glorifying” Arafat, pro-Israel forces need not worry. He’s generating far less camera flashes than supermodel Elle McPherson or transvestite RuPaul. Then again, not too many tourists want their pictures taken with Golda Meir, either.

Culture Schlock Story: “Yanking Yasser: Evicting wax Arafat is a slippery museum slope.”“Shedding no tears over the wax Hitler beheading.”

Schlock Blog: “The Hezbollah Children’s Museum: A Cross-Cultural Study”

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Darren's Archive Vault, Elton John's Hissy Fit, Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem Report Flashback, Middle East, Uncategorized, Yasser Arafat wax statues

Saddam Yard Sale: Hussein secretary stole more than paper clips

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

The Once-in-a-Lifetime Saddam Yard Sale

CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
October 11, 2007

Saddam Hussein is now having a yard sale.

Yes, he’s thankfully dead so he can’t profit from any of the memorabilia from his tyrannical glory days.

And technically, the latest batch of Saddam stuff to hit the market is up for auction. But at the end of the day, there will be plenty of unsold trinkets that will be begging for a best offer.

Get a load of these prices:

— $150,000 – Saddam’s favorite diamond-encrusted Rolex watch that he wore to banquets, Arab summits and other social events.

— $12,000 – Fancy sliver cigarette box allegedly given to a teenage Saddam by his stepfather as a reward for killing his first human being.

— $12,000 – Saddam’s favorite pair of Christian Dior sunglasses, which shielded his eyes from the glare of the Iran-Iraq desert battlegrounds in the 1980s.

— $5,000 – Designer Cartier pen used by Saddam to sign the execution orders for 66 condemned members of his Ba’ath Party.

— $4,000 – Christian Dior necktie taken straight from Saddam’s tie rack (several available).

A bunch of miscellaneous items bound for the “Everything for $5” table include a Thai paperweight given to Saddam by an ambassador, a piece of granite from the original London Bridge, and a ceramic leopard that used to decorate the dictator’s “private recreation room.”

The sale is being conducted on-line by Haitham Rashid Wihaib, Saddam’s chief of protocol (essentially a glorified personal secretary) from 1980 to 1993. Wihaib, who defected to England a decade before Saddam’s capture in the spider hole, does not explain how he got his hands on his former boss’s personal stuff.

As he was fleeing Iraq, did he stick all those Christian Dior accessories under his shirt? How did he cram that ceramic wildcat into a suitcase – or was it an airline carry-on?

The auctioneer’s Web site bio claims his father was an “Iraqi general who was killed in a car accident orchestrated by Saddam.” If that was the case, why would the Iraqi dictator ever want to hire a traitor’s kid as a trusted aide?

Whatever the true origins of this Saddam memorabilia are, there are indications that the items are genuine. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark demanded that Wihaib return a royal Danish medal from Saddam’s collection to her country. The Knight’s Cross of the Order of Dannebrog is awarded for special service to Denmark, and is customarily returned upon the death of the recipient.

Wihaib, who has reportedly agreed to give the medal back, promises to donate 20 percent of his profits to needy Iraqi children, new hospital buildings and various other Iraqi war victim charities.

The other 80 percent goes to a charity named Haitham Rashid Wihaib.

If you’re upset about Wihaib getting rich off genocidal souvenirs, you may take modest comfort in the fact that his marketing timing stinks.

Quite frankly, Saddam Hussein is so 2006.

The buzz has migrated east to his nefarious archrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I wonder if he’s been keeping an eye on his personal secretary lately.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in
Encore. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at)

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Revenge of the Wimp: Jeff Kinney dares to revisit middle school demons

Jeff Kinney is the most humble best-selling author you will ever meet.

Jeff Kinney is the most humble best-selling author you will ever meet.

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph
February 14, 2008

Before I saw an in-store advertisement for his recent Barnes & Noble book signing, I was not familiar with Jeff Kinney’s work. That’s probably because I’m almost four times his typical reader’s age.

Kinney is the cartoonist who morphs himself into the brain of the average middle school boy, and through handwritten angst and crude doodles, chronicles a life of bully avoidance and the heartache of being grounded from video games.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” his first “novel in cartoons,” soared to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List last year. As of Feb. 3, his freshly published sequel, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules” was Number 8 on the USA TODAY Bestseller List – only four notches behind Stephen King, but 12 spots ahead of Danielle Steel.

His cartoons belong much more in the horror genre than romance. The world of skinny protagonist Greg Heffley, who goes to school “where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner and already shaving,” doesn’t involve any puppy love.

In fact, Kinney deliberately draws all his girl characters with the same shaped heads (only the hairstyle changes) and bodies, while the boys come in all shapes and sizes. The reason: the befuddled Greg sees all girls as equally mysterious creatures and he doesn’t pay much attention to any of them.

At his Nashua book signing, however, the cartoonist’s throng of pre-teen groupies included a smattering of girls. And these are girls who actually have different sized heads and bodies.

Kinney says he’d guess his readership is about 40 percent female.

“Girls are bigger readers than boys, so there might be a law of averages at work here,” he explains. “But Greg is also not overly masculine, not overly sporty. Perhaps they think they can relate to him.”

When the 36-year-old Kinney was a kid, he was a huge fan of Judy Blume’s “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.” He didn’t keep a diary or classroom journal, but he now wishes he did and encourages boys to write down their feelings — but not in a touchy-feely kind of way.

Part of the ‘Wimp’ character’s appeal is that he’s far from being an angel. In his school election for class treasurer, for example, Greg makes posters falsely accusing his opponent of having head lice. “Do you really want him touching YOUR money?” the campaign ads ask.

Kinney’s alter-ego also ridicules self-esteem videos and the anti-smoking coloring contests they have in his health education class. Because of the heavy cynicism content, the author says he wants his sons, ages 2 and 5, to wait at least until they turn 13 before reading his books.

At the book signing, a reading specialist at Nashua’s Broad Street School told me that the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is a huge hit with third and fourth graders and has provided an incentive for less advanced readers to try harder.

Of course, wimps can’t exist in a vacuum. In a twist on Eleanor Roosevelt’s declaration that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” wimpy kids can’t exist without the fear of being bullied. Kinney vividly recalls sitting in the top row of the gymnasium bleachers and watching his class bully methodically punch each kid down the line. When it was his turn to be pummeled, he was mercifully rescued by teacher intervention.

“I definitely felt terrorized in middle school, but I emerged relatively unscathed,” the author reveals, adding that he does not advocate fighting back. “I get lots of letters asking for advice about bullying. There’s no easy way out. I suggest that kids tell every adult they know about their situation.”

Kinney’s position totally contradicts The Brady Bunch Doctrine on bullying. If you recall, the lisping Cindy Brady was only rescued from the taunts of thuggish Buddy Hinton after her brother Peter courageously punched (the much larger) Hinton in the mouth. The lesson is a universal one and applies to both the school yard and the Middle East.

Then again, Kinney’s pacifism is about story preservation. If Greg Heffley strikes back and convinces the bullies to turn their swords into plowshares, the most dramatic source of tension would be gone. And Kinney’s headed into Harry Potter territory. He’s signed on with his publisher for a total of five “Wimpy Kid” books and there is even talk of a “Wimpy Kid” movie.

But beyond the huge financial windfall for this once struggling cartoonist (the book was a 10 year project), Kinney’s lasting legacy might be his influence on young boys to become writers.

“Start a journal,” he tells his fans. “It will give you a window into your own childhood when you become an adult — and will be one of your most valuable possessions.”

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs Thursdays in Encore magazine. Feedback is welcomed at cultureschlock (at)

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How is the Mideast cease-fire like a Manny Ramirez contract?

It's just "Manny being Manny" and the "Mideast being the Mideast."

Really the only way to guarantee a ceasefire is to wait until your enemy runs out of bullets. So it’s baffling what the nutcake negotiators from Israel and Hamas are trying to achieve with these “temporary” cease-fire proposals.

The latest scoop from Israel’s Haaretz newspaper:

“Hamas’ Gaza spokesman Ayman Taha, meanwhile, has said recently that Israel has offered his Palestinian Islamist group a 10-year cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt is also demanding a truce of a number of years’ duration. But Taha said the group would agree to a cease-fire of anywhere between one year and no more than 18 months. Another Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said a long-term cease-fire “kills” the right to resistance by the Palestinians.”

OK, so Israel wants to sign a 10-year deal, Hamas wants to sign a one year contract with an option for another six months to re-arm. And Egypt wants both sides to go to arbitration?

Sounds like the Manny Ramirez negotiations, although this horrific analogy stops right here, because I don’t think the Red Sox, the Dodgers or the free agent Manny’s next employer deserve to be compared to Hamas.

Haaretz also reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who once dressed like a girl in a daring commando operation, is now ratcheting up his testosterone rhetoric in a way that should send chills to plumbers throughout the Middle East.

“In a bid to gain the vote of the Russian immigrants in the elections, Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will quote Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement about killing Chechen terrorists “on the toilet.”

“As you people say, they should be wacked when they’re on the toilet,” Barak will say in a radio election broadcast intended for Russian speakers. Labor, which is launching its campaign among the Russian speakers this afternoon, will ask them to support him, as they did when he last ran for prime minister 10 years ago.

The indirect allusion to Putin is Barak’s way of fashioning his image after that of an aggressive leader whom many Russian immigrants see favorably.”

If Barak does win the election over the favored Netanyahu, look for headline writers worldwide to have a blast with “Barack to meet Barak” headlines.

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, politics, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock