Friday, July 6, 2012

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Friday, April 27, 2012

10 Bizarrely Inappropriate Children’s Products that Somehow Hit the Shelves

Despite the fact that most parents put an awful lot of time and effort into selecting only the most suitable and age-appropriate toys for their children, companies seem hell-bent on putting out products whose inappropriateness beggars belief. Of course, this almost always leads to a backlash from concerned consumers, leaving the company with egg on its face and an awful lot of products to recall. Let’s look at some of the most inappropriate children’s products ever.

10. Hasbro’s “Spastic” Transformer

People might think that such a long-standing company as Hasbro would do some elementary market research to make sure that their product names don’t have people staring at the toys in disbelief. Apparently not, as they decided to name one of their Transformer toys “Spastic with Stunticons” in 2010, apparently unaware that the term “spastic” is a derogatory term used in the United Kingdom to refer to people with disabilities. When contacted about this cross-cultural blunder, Hasbro denied ever having planned to release the toy in the UK — though some reports say such plans were scrapped. They declined to rename the figure in the US.

9. Primark’s Padded Bras for Children

The cut-price UK fashion retailer, Primark, caused a wave of public outrage in 2010 when it emerged that they were selling padded bras and bikini tops for little girls. The products sparked calls for a boycott of the store and were widely condemned by those opposed to the sexualization of children, including parent groups and the British Prime Minister David Cameron. After a whole lot of angry recrimination, Primark not only stopped selling the clothing, but pledged to donate any profits they had made from this sexual targeting of children to charity.

8. Mattel’s Oreo Barbie

A toy company partnering with a company that sells sugary treats might be seen as problematic in the first place, but Mattel took such a union into the realm of the unacceptable when they partnered with Nabisco’s Oreo cookies to produce a black Barbie back in 1997. Clearly there was not a single black or even somewhat socially aware person in the room when this decision was made, nor through the lengthy design and marketing stage. If there was, they probably would have mentioned that “Oreo” can be used as an ethnic slur to describe a black person who is “white in the middle.” The dolls were met with outrage and disbelief, and as soon as Mattel understood the nature of the problem, they quickly pulled all the Oreo Barbies from stores… and, one would hope, instituted racial sensitivity classes for their employees.

7. Twin Towers Attack Toys

Someone would have to be from another planet to not realize that they really shouldn’t make light of the September 11th terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. And yet, in 2004, toys depicting the attack and a man appearing to be Osama bin Laden at the Twin Towers began turning up in bags of candy. Consumers and Lisy Corp, the company that distributed the candy, were shocked. The distributor had bought the toys from an importer as part of a mixture, where the offending figures had been labeled as plastic swing sets. Lisy quickly sprang into action, recalling the candy, and doubtless directing extremely sharp words the manufacturers’ way.

6. Dick Tracy Tramp Figure

One of the action figures from the 1990 movie Dick Tracy depicted a character called “Steve the Tramp.” Somewhat insensitive already, this toy became downright offensive towards the homeless when parents read the packaging, which stated such nasty sentiments as “Ignorant bum… You’ll smell him before you see him,” and proclaiming him to be “Stinking up the city sewers.” At least one church leader contacted the manufacturers to explain to them why this was not the kind of thing children should be taught about the homeless, protests were held, and thankfully the manufacturers were shamed into withdrawing the product.

5. Mattel’s Teen Talk Barbie

Mattel has often been criticized by those who feel that Barbie gives little girls unrealistic ideas about women, but Teen Talk Barbie really took the biscuit. While each doll could only say four of a possible 270 phrases, there was a chance that they would say such harmfully stereotypical phrases as “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, “I love shopping!” and “Math class is tough!” This led to criticism from the American Association of University Women and was even satirized by the pop-culture institution that is The Simpsons. In a matter of months, Mattel altered production so that the phrase “Math class is tough!” was not part of any of the dolls’ verbal repertoire, and offered to swap any which had been programmed with it.

4. Morrisons’ Misspelled Toddler Toys

Educating a child starts with teaching them to read. It’s one of the best things a parent can do for their child, so the last thing any parent needs is to be undermined by the learning tools on which they’ve shelled out their money. British supermarket Morrisons was left red-faced in 2009 when they discovered that educational toddler toys that were supposed to help small children with their letters and spelling were themselves rife with spelling errors (“yacht” misspelled as “yatch” and “umbrella” as “umberlla”). At first, the supermarket chain refused to withdraw the toys until existing stock had run out, but complaints from concerned parents forced them to pull them from the shelves and issue an apology.

3. Mattel’s Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Vibrating Broomstick

Mattel were yet again in the firing line, this time for the release of a toy that sought to capitalize on Harry Potter mania. The idea of a real Harry Potter broomstick would appeal to any child, but one would have thought that Mattel might have realized that a long vibrating stick that was designed for children to put between their legs might raise some eyebrows. Tongue-in-cheek rave reviews for the product from adults quickly sprang up online, and a contrite Mattel pulled the vibrating broomsticks from the market.

2. Costco’s Cuddle With Me Dolls

Diversity in hiring isn’t just a good PR exercise; it can help stop companies from releasing products whose inappropriateness seems blindingly obvious to anyone with even an ounce of real-world experience. It’s shocking, then, that Costco didn’t realize that packaging a black doll (wearing a hat proclaiming it to be a “lil’ monkey”) with a small monkey teddy would cause concern and upset in the African-American community. They couldn’t even claim that the dolls simply liked monkeys, as no dolls representing other ethnicities were packaged with them (while panda bears were an equal-opportunity accessory). At first, many parents were simply shocked, but the growing outrage led to an apology from Costco and the dolls’ manufacturer as well as a recall of the product from stores.

1. Tesco’s Peekaboo Stripper Pole

Anyone who does not believe that companies target children with inappropriately sexual toys should simply be pointed towards this product. While many women (and some men) are now taking up pole dancing as exercise, the fact is that it is still, and probably always will be, linked with stripping for money. In fact the Peekaboo Pole even comes with a “sexy garter” and fake money. After some pointed questions and utter disbelief from the media, parents and family organizations alike, British retail giant Tesco moved the product from the “Toy” to the “Fitness” section of their store, but refused to admit that they had targeted children, maintaining that it was for “adult use.” Funny that it was put in the “Toy” section then…






Thursday, May 20, 2010

30 Things to Never Do at a Funeral

Doing any of these things at a funeral would be a grave mistake. Sorry.

I was just dying to make that joke. Sorry again.

1. Tell the widow that the deceased's last wish was that she make love with you.

2. Tell the undertaker that he can't close the coffin until you find your contact lens.

3. Punch the body and tell people that he hit you first.

4. Tell the widow that you're the deceased's gay lover.

5. Ask someone to take a snapshot of you shaking hands with the deceased.

6. At the cemetery, play taps on a kazoo.

7. Walk around telling people that you've seen the will and they're not in it.

8. Ask the widow to give you a kiss.

9. Drive behind the widow's limo and keep honking your horn.

10. Tell the undertaker that your dog just died and ask if he can sneak him into the coffin.

11. Put a hard-boiled egg in the mouth of the deceased.

12. Slip a whoopee cushion under the widow.

13. Leave some phony dog poop on top of the deceased.

14. Tell the widow that you have to leave early and ask if the will can be read before the funeral is over.

15. Urge the widow to give the deceased's wooden leg to someone poor who can't afford firewood.

16. Walk around telling people that the deceased didn't like them.

17. Use the deceased's tongue to lick a stamp.

18. Ask the widow for money which the deceased owes you.

19. Take up a collection to pay off the deceased's gambling debts.

20. Ask the widow if you can have the body to practice tatooing on.

21. Put Crazy Glue on the deceased's lips just before the widow's last kiss.

22. Show up at the funeral service in a clown suit.

23. If the widow cries, blow a trumpet every time she wipes her nose.

24. When no-one's looking, slip plastic vampire-teeth into the deceased's mouth.

25. Toss a handful of cooked rice on the deceased and scream "MAGGOTS! MAGGOTS!" and pretend to faint.

26. At the cemetery take bets on how long it takes a body to decompose.

27. Goose the widow as she bends over to throw dirt on the coffin.

28. Circulate a petition to have the body stuffed instead of buried.

29. Tell everyone you're from the IRS and you're confiscating the coffin for back-taxes.

30. Promise the minister a hundred dollars if he doesn't keep a straight face while praising the deceased.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NCBI ROFL: Did Gollum have schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder?


Taking a leaf out of an old book
A precious case from Middle Earth

Nadia Bashir, medical student1, Nadia Ahmed, medical student1, Anushka Singh, medical student1, Yen Zhi Tang, medical student1, Maria Young, medical student1, Amina Abba, medical student1, Elizabeth L Sampson, lecturer in old age psychiatry1

1 Department of Mental Health Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London NW3 2PF

Correspondence to: E L Sampson

Tolkien's character Gollum is certainly disturbed, but is he physically or mentally ill? Gandalf the Wizard provides the history

Sméagol (Gollum) is a single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode. He has presented with antisocial behaviour, increasing aggression, and preoccupation with the "one ring."

Sméagol comes from a wealthy and influential family, his grandmother being a wise woman in the river folk community. Nothing is known about Sméagol's birth or schooling. He was spiteful to others and had only one friend, Deagol, whom he later murdered after stealing the ring from him. For Sméagol this was an important life event; the ring enabled him to disappear and listen secretly to conversations. His family and community, appalled by his actions and believing he was a thief and murderer, banished him to a solitary life in the misty mountains. He lived for many years with the ring as his only friend and began to detest the outside world—loathing the sun, moon, and wind. He ate only live animals or raw fish. Eventually Sméagol created Gollum, the outsider, who had a more violent personality. When Gollum was 25, the ring was stolen by Bilbo Baggins.1 Since then Gollum has had obsessional thoughts and has dedicated his life to reacquiring it, sometimes with violence.

His forensic history consists of Deagol's murder and the attempted murder of Samwise Gamgee. He has no history of substance misuse, although like many young hobbits he smoked "pipe weed" in adolescence. Sméagol has forgotten many memories of his childhood, and we have limited collateral history on his premorbid personality. Before obtaining the ring he was an inquisitive child with odd interests, who enjoyed causing mischief and solitary activities such as burrowing under trees to look at roots. He dislikes himself, stale raw fish, and "hobbitses."

Gollum, from the film trilogy Lord of the Rings

Mental state examination

On general examination, Gollum is a pale, emaciated hobbit, with scanty hair and big eyes: "A skulking gangrel creature with an ill-favoured look."2 He is unkempt and wearing only the remains of a loin cloth. He displays animal-like behaviour, including crawling and hopping. He shows no evidence of clinical depression, although he subjectively feels sad and is anxious to be reunited with his "precious"—the ring. Objectively, he is emotionally labile and becomes jittery and nervous when discussing the ring. His speech is abnormal and he repeats phrases and noises—for example, "Yes, yes, yes" and "Gollum, gollum." In The Hobbit Tolkien writes of the many solitary years Gollum spent in the misty mountains: "He always spoke to himself through never having anyone else to speak to."2

There is no disorder of the form of thought. He uses neologisms such as "triksy" and "hobbitses." Gollum has nihilistic thoughts, believing that he is a murderer, liar, and thief; although there is some basis in fact for this and he shows little guilt or remorse. He is preoccupied with, and deeply desires, the ring. He has obsessive thoughts but no compulsions, though he would do anything for the ring. He is hostile towards Frodo, the current owner of the ring. He has paranoid ideation about Sauron ("the eye is always watching") and about Samwise Gamgee ("the fat hobbit... he knows"). Gollum has difficulty controlling his thoughts and actions, exacerbated by prolonged contact with the ring. As Gandalf and Frodo have similar symptoms in the presence of the ring, we can attribute this somatic passivity to the ring. There are features of dissociation. Sméagol has separated his personality and is now Gollum as well.

He shows no evidence of any cognitive impairment. He has poor insight into his condition but he is aware of the Gollum-Sméagol dissociation.


Several differential diagnoses need to be considered, and we should exclude organic causes for his symptoms. A space occupying lesion such as a brain tumour is unlikely as his symptoms are long standing. Gollum's diet is extremely limited, consisting only of raw fish. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause irritability, delusions, and paranoia. His reduced appetite and loss of hair and weight may be associated with iron deficiency anaemia. He is hypervigilant and does not seem to need much sleep. This, accompanied by his bulging eyes and weight loss, suggests hyperthyroidism. Gollum's dislike of sunlight may be due to the photosensitivity of porphyria. Attacks may be induced by starvation and accompanied by paranoid psychosis.

An internet search found over 1300 sites discussing the nature of Gollum's "mental illness." We asked 30 randomly selected medical students if they thought Gollum had a mental illness. Schizophrenia was the most common diagnosis (25 students), followed by multiple personality disorder (three). On initial consideration schizophrenia seems a reasonable diagnosis. However, in the context of the culture at the time it is unlikely. Delusions are false, unshakeable beliefs, not in keeping with the patient's culture. In Middle Earth, the power of the ring is a reality. The passivity phenomena Gollum experiences are caused by the ring, and these symptoms occur in all ring bearers. Gollum does not fulfil the ICD-10 criteria for the diagnosis of schizophrenia.3

The presence of two personalities, Gollum and Sméagol, raises the possibility of multiple personality disorder. In this diagnosis one personality is suppressed by the other and the two personalities are always unaware of each other's existence.3 In this case, Gollum and Sméagol occur together, have conversations simultaneously, and are aware of each other's existence.

Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course. His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfils seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum's problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.

We thank Peter "Treebeard" Raven for his encouragement.

Contributors and sources: NB, NA, AS, YZT, MY, and AA came up with the idea and participated in the design, analysis, interpretation of data, and writing of the article. ELS was responsible for writing the paper and revising it critically for publication and is the guarantor.

Funding: ELS is funded by the Royal Free and University College Medical School and Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust

Competing interests: We are all of short stature and have very large, hairy feet.


1. Tolkien JRR. The lord of the rings. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954-5.
2. Tolkien JRR. The hobbit. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1937.
3. World Health Organization. International statistical classification of disease and related health problems. 10th revision. Geneva: WHO, 1992.

Panda Porn' to Boost Male's Sex Drive

Scientists Say Showing Sex-Shy Males Videos of Pandas Mating Ramps Up Low Libidos

By Clarissa Ward

It truly seems an enviable existence to be a panda, spending up to 16 hours a day eating, eight hours a day sleeping, and almost zero hours moving.

But during mating time, the panda's life gets a little more complicated. Most male pandas in captivity would rather lie around and chew bamboo than stand up and get busy.

"The mating time is generally not so long. Sometimes several minutes. The shortest may be 30 seconds," said Zhang Zhihe, director of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China. "If they don't like the female's personality or the females don't like the male's personality, they won't mate. That's the biggest reason why in captivity the mating is difficult."

While that may sound perfectly reasonable for humans, it's a problem when it comes to securing the future of the species.

Pandas are known to be isolated creatures and poor breeders, and in captivity the problem may be exacerbated. Zhihe and his team have tried a number of measures to try to cure the male panda of his woefully low libido -- including showing videos of fellow pandas making love.

In the privacy of their own cages, captive male pandas watch the sights and sounds of love-making on TV. Hopefully, Zhihe says, they'll be aroused.

"We're sure the sound of the video will stimulate the panda and the males' interest," Zhihe said.

Along with watching porn, pandas are doing "sexercises," or specialized exercises to strengthen the males' hind legs and increase their stamina.

Scientists have found that the combination of porn, exercises, and the occasional menage a trois -- to get young male pandas curious about sex -- have proved successful.

Zhihe says that more than 60 percent of his pandas are now capable of having sex on their own -- up from just 25 percent twenty years ago.

OKAY Whay were these people thinking when they named their stores?

I mean seriously....

(Click for a larger view)

Rare brew buffs sip suds in Anaheim with "Dr. Bill" Sysak

By L.A. Times

Photo: Certified beer guide William “Dr. Bill” Sysak sampling several styles of designer brew during at the 5th Annual Woodshop Tasting at Bravo Restaurant & Night Club in Anaheim. Photo credit: Louis Sahagun / Los Angeles Times

They were pouring 750 of the rarest and most high falutin’ designer beers in the world Saturday at Bravo Restaurant and Night Club in Anaheim, and certified cicerone William “Dr. Bill” Sysak had something to say about the finer points of each of them.

Sysak, a Falstaffian character with a beard and easy smile, was the man of the hour at the private, invitation-only event sponsored by a group called Woodshop 5.0 and attended by more than 250 fussy connoisseurs, aficionados and fans of finely crafted beers from as far away as Denmark. Throughout the 9-hour event, he was urged to savor the scents and flavors of an array of lagers, ales and stouts, including some vintage styles more than 30 years old.

When Sysak commented on a particular beer’s foam, color, aroma, taste or bitterness, guests within earshot took notes on clipboards and laptop computers.

Sysak, the beverage supervisor at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, had this to say about a style called J & J Rose from Belgium, which sells for $150 a bottle: “Lemon, sharp, acidic at the front palate, ice-tea at the mid-palate and a champagne finish.”

Then there was the potent, zesty dark brew made with coffee beans passed through the digestive systems of rare Indonesian Civet cats. Sysak swirled a sample of that beer in a snifter, eyeballed the viscosity and sediment, took a sip, smiled and said to no one in particular, “Think wine, rich coffee, 80% dark chocolate, bourbon and vanilla.”

Page Reilly, 23, who markets beer for a San Francisco brewery, said, “What Dr. Bill says, goes. If I think a particular beer is bad or good, I like to share some with Dr. Bill to confirm my suspicions.”

Sysak, 47, figures he’s tried more than 30,000 beers over the past 30 years -- not counting the roughly 200 beers he planned to taste at Saturday’s event, which was scheduled to run from noon to 9 p.m.

Extending a glass of a Denmark beer called Olfabrikken Dekadence 2005 over the crowd gathered around Sysak, John Stern, a 28-year-old graduate student at UC San Diego, said, “Hey Dr. Bill, want some?”

“Ahhh,” Sysak said after swirling a mouthful. “Hint of oxidation, rum and winter fruit notes.”

At 3 p.m., after three hours of continual beer tasting, Sysak smiled and said, “I’m holding up pretty well.”

-- Louis Sahagun