Conducting the survey: renowned listmaker Bert Sperling, whose Sperling's Best Places (www.bestplaces.net), creator of Money magazine's annual "Best Places to Live" study, ranks cities on everything from well-stocked libraries to respiratory infections.
Unreal: What does this survey tell us about St. Louis and why it's such a great place to live?
Bert Sperling: To get the best places, you have to rank all the cities on the things that make them great and the things that detract from them. This is one of the studies you don't want to be on top of.
If being a "hot spot" for migraines isn't a good thing, why don't you change your company's name to "Sperling's Worst Places"?
I believe each town has something about it that makes it a good place for the people who live there. This study simply suggests that people in St. Louis might be more susceptible to headaches.
There are a number of things, St. Louis' mercurial weather being one of them. Rigorous exercise can also cause migraines.
But we're routinely ranked as one of the nation's fattest cities.
Lack of exercise can also be a factor. So can food and drink like cured meats and alcohol.
What about Long John Silver's? We have a boatload of those.
I don't know. That wasn't one of the causes mentioned by the medical community.
Any idea where we rank in rectal discomfort? There are a lot of people around this office, in particular who can be a real pain in the ass.
No idea. I guess the question would be: A discomfort for whom?
Well, are there any surveys in which St. Louis ranks favorably?
I'm glad you asked that. We're coming out with a new survey that shows St. Louis is one of the best cities to take advantage of telecommuting!
The military can teach us the darnedest things, as Unreal was reminded not long ago when we heard this roll off the tongue of a U.S. Marine: "Yeah, man, I pounded hole pretty hard last night!" To pound hole: a dandy little construction, n'est çe pas?
It sprung to mind last week when we opened an e-mail touting a contraption called the Gravitizer, "the biggest news in toys since the vibrator!"
The Gravitizer, as far as we're able to discern, is a small black rubber trampoline mounted on a rockable red steel frame. In the center: a hole.
"Hmmmmmm," murmurs Jasmine Arnold as she cybersights the toy at www .gravitizer.com. "Oh, man that's pretty neat! I haven't seen nothing like that. Ooh, that's cool. Hunh...hunh."
Arnold, manager of Hustler's Boutique Erotica in Washington Park, concludes her critique with an I'll-be-darned laugh.
Although advertised with heterosexual illustrations, couples of most kinds and girths (up to 500 pounds) could probably pitch a Gravitizer near their happy hearth. From the Trot to the Bliss Box to the Plunger and Doghouse, some twenty ways to pound hole are illustrated and described in loving detail.
Still, we're left with so many questions: Can ya Gravitize on a waterbed? On a picnic? Any celebrity endorsements? And whose Eureka! moment do we have to thank for the Gravitizer, anyway?
Alas, messages to customer service go unreturned and our e-mails bounce back like...a Gravitizer?
Dang. We'd sure like to know if we could put one-a them $189.95 love machines on layaway.
Old Father Hubbard
Unreal has made no secret of the delight we take in mocking spokespeople from Scientology-front groups. There was the fellow who didn't want us to have sex with our psychiatrist, and the guy who thought L. Ron was mightier than Katrina. Somewhere along the line, though, we got a little paranoid. When we found ourselves telling our oh-so-hot shrink about how we dreamed we woke up to find the severed head of our Schnoodle, Fluffy, beside us on the pillow, we resolved to lay off awhile.
But time heals all wounds, and after receiving a plethora of press releases from Narconon Arrowhead, an Oklahoma-based drug- and alcohol-rehab center that employs technology developed by L. Ron Hubbard, we kissed Fluffy on her furry little noggin and picked up the phone. What we learned put a real scare into us.
Unreal: How did you get our e-mail address?
Holly Conklin, 41-year-old Narconon counselor: Our press releases are sent out through a media contact list program called Campaigner.
So you're probably not aware that we have a, um, history of mocking Scientology?
[Laughs.] That's fine. We get that a lot. About a year and a half ago, I came to this program with a severe addiction to methamphetamines, prescription pain pills and marijuana. I'd lost everything. I didn't think that any program would help me get my life back. But the bottom line is that this program works with a 76 percent success rate. I don't know much about the Scientology aspect.
So you're not a Scientologist?
If you were, we were gonna ask you to rank these evils from one to five (one being the worst and five the least worst): Illegal drugs, psychiatry, masturbation, binge drinking and South Park.
I'd give illegal drugs a one. I hate South Park, so I'd have to give that a one. It's hard for me to rank those things. Why do you guys make fun of Scientology? That's my question.
Which Scientology-front organization do you think will send us a press release next?
We're not a Scientology-front organization! You're cracking me up. And we're not a Scientology-front organization.
Local Blog O' the Week
"Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips"
About the blogger: Sarahlynn works in the publishing industry and is also "a feminist, a liberal, and mom to an amazing little girl with Down syndrome." Her husband's name is Paul.
Recent Highlight (March 13): The Parenting Olympics
And now, a summary of the medal count to date.
Event: Going to Sleep
Despite Sarahlynn's early superiority in this area given her breasts body type, Paul has emerged as the stronger competitor in this event.
Event: Potty Training
Despite Ellie's the fans' strong support of Paul, Sarahlynn pulls ahead with consistency and enthusiasm. Neither competitor is performing at Olympic levels here, I'm afraid. Hopefully we'll soon see a big improvement.
Event: Coping while Tired
This competition has been fierce in places (cough cough) but Sarahlynn emerges the clear victor. Judging is closed and no disputes are currently being heard.
Event: Balancing Career and Motherhood (some categories are single-sex)
There is a strong showing in this category by the women Sarahlynn works with, and it has been decided via consensus that no single gold medal will be awarded. Instead, all the women will pool their resources for group lunches and the occasional happy hour.
Event: Enriching Activities
Sarahlynn took an impressive early lead in this category, but lately both contestants have been floundering. Neither seems motivated and both seem exhausted. I don't think they're in the proper shape for such a long-haul event. Frankly, they're competing for the bronze.
Northern Sun Olympic Moment:
[insert 2-part, emotionally manipulative editorial shot in warm lighting and soft focus profiling the amazing job Paul's and Sarahlynn's parents did in their day. Conclude with tearful modern-day contestants revealing their fears that they are doing but a pale comparison of what their parents did before them.]
Know of an Unreal-worthy local blog?
Send the URL to firstname.lastname@example.org.