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Fifty shades of profit

In a hilarious take-down of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" dirty novel phenomenon in the latest issue of "The Baffler," critic Heather Havrilesky approaches the wildly popular series with scholarly aplomb:

"The fantasy life of 'Fifty Shades' certainly isn't focused on the sublime erotic encounter. The sex becomes hopelessly repetitive sometime around the third or fourth of the novels' countless, monotonously naughty encounters. Each dalliance begins with the same provocative come-on: the naive college graduate Anastasia and the dashing mogul Christian describe their desire to each other with all of the charmless unpredictability of servers mouthing their prescribed scripts at an Australian-themed steakhouse."

Harriet Tubman dissed

Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons apologized on his Global Grind website for allowing an insulting video parody starring Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman to be posted on his YouTube channel.

"I'm a very liberal person with thick skin," Mr. Simmons wrote after friends at the NAACP urged him to do the right thing. "My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of the actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there's still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry."

What? No Tang?

At theatlantic.com, there's a report about a recent experiment under a dome at the dormant Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii to simulate living on Mars. Six researchers spent four months living under conditions that would be experienced by future colonists. Their mission was to focus on eating and cooking.

What was on the menu? "Lots of stuff involving Spam, for one thing, including a Cajun jambalaya and a dish that married the canned meat with curry and fried noodles. A chicken-spinach-enchilada soup, for another. Seafood chowder, for another. And borscht. Freeze-dried fruit, too, they found, was surprisingly similar in taste to fresh produce. As for comfort food -- crucial when it comes to the combating-food-boredom aspect of things -- a universal hit was ... Nutella."

When the experiment was over, the researchers made a beeline toward the fruit and vegetable table. If they can get a farmer's co-op to make long-distance deliveries, future astronauts will be in luck.

Johnstown's lemonade heist

The Associated Press reported that a 12-year-old boy used a BB gun to rob a 10-year-old boy manning a lemonade stand in Johnstown. The boys "got into a wrestling match over the money," according to Sgt. Patrick Goggin. During the struggle, the older boy grabbed $30 and ran. Three buddies followed him and told the authorities where he lived. The police then found the incriminating BB gun. Now the pre-teen can tell the judge why he thinks crime pays.

Barack Obama, photo bomber

Remember that iconic photo of President Obama with his staff in the White House situation room the night Osama bin Laden's compound was raided? Conservative talk radio host Bryan Fischer said on his show Focal Point that it never happened. He insists Mr. Obama didn't want to be in the room if the raid failed. When it succeeded, he said Mr. Obama had himself digitally inserted into the image. "Look at the size of his head compared to the size of the head of everyone else standing in the room. Even people standing in the back of the room; their heads are bigger than his head," he said. Maybe someone should look at the size of Bryan Fischer's head.

Win-win-lose-lose

Detroit, which filed for municipal bankruptcy protection last month, will be shifting the city's expenses, debts and health care liabilities onto everybody else, writes Shikha Dalmia, analyst at the Reason Foundation.

The city's "health care costs [will become] Uncle Sam's problem ... the city will hand [young retirees] an unspecified 'monthly stipend' to help defray coverage costs -- and still save some $27 million to $40 million annually." Those same retirees, will be eligible for federal subsidies in the new insurance exchanges, set for Jan. 1:

"Detroit officials regard this as a 'win-win'-- for Detroit and its retirees. True. But what they don't say is that it'll be 'lose-lose' for the country and federal taxpayers."

opinion_commentary

Compiled by Tony Norman (tnorman@post-gazette.com).


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