MAD DOG: A Non-Reality Check

It's getting hard to maintain a healthy sense of reality these days. You know, the kind of reality where you can believe your eyes and ears and sense of smell. What is one to think when a peck on the cheek by a six year-old boy isn't cute, it's sexual harassment? When possession of Midol becomes an offense punishable by expulsion from school? And when people pretend Kenny G plays jazz? With a straight face, no less. The great state of Virginia (official motto: "We're a Commonwealth, dammit!") is leading the way in making sure seeing is not believing. Maybe it's because they're getting tired of lagging behind southern cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Skillet Drippins, North Carolina that there's been a rash of photographic beheadings, but I suspect it's actually because they finally got a copy of Photoshop and stayed up all night playing with it. A recent political commercial for Senator John Warner (hereinafter known as the Warner of the first) showed opponent Mark Warner (hereinafter known as the Other Warner) shaking hands with former Governor Douglas Wilder and current President Bill Clinton. The only problem is it wasn't Mark Warner in the original photograph. It seems someone removed Warner's head and placed it on the body of Chuck Robb, which not only caused a political stink but aroused Robb's wife, Lynda Byrd, for the first time since she discovered Robb wasn't, in fact, a wooden Indian. This in itself might not be so bad, except that several months ago a state agency published a photograph of Virginia Governor George Allen rafting down the James River sitting next to Jimmy 'Wanna see my sausage?' Dean. In this case Dean had actually been in the raft, he just hadn't been sitting next to the governor. Someone thought the photo op could be improved upon and grafted Dean's head onto someone else's body. Probably Lynda Byrd's. Lest you think sight is the only sense that can be fooled, don't forget, we're living in the 90's, or the "Whatever Decade". The next time you get stopped by a cop and smell doughnuts on his or her breath, ask for proof. You know, like powdered sugar on his hands or raspberry jelly stains on her pants. Especially if you're in Los Angeles. Winchell's Donut House, a chain which is more prevalent in L.A. than silicone in a bathing suit top, has released this year's hot Christmas gift item: Doughnut Cologne. Really. While they admit they're not sure their friends in blue will dab the stuff behind their ears, they do suggest it would go well sprinkled in patrol cars or even spritzed on police dogs. "Honey, did you just eat a dozen crullers or are you trying to seduce me?" Not to be outdone in the Believe It And You're An Idiot sweepstakes, a Japanese talent agency is getting ready to release a CD, video and computer game featuring teen singing star Kyoko Date. The only problem is she doesn't exist. Kyoko was created during a brainstorming session in which the department heads of the talent agency decided what attributes a star really needed, then used a computer to create her. She sings, speaks several languages, and is doing such a good job of nonexisting that she was bombarded with requests for interviews and TV appearances months before her debut. At the rate she's going, don't be surprised if she wins the Senate seat in Virginia. (Go ahead, vote for Kyoko Warner. I dare you.) Meanwhile, in Italy they recently decided there was no sense in believing your marital status, so they scrapped most categories and decided there would be only two choices: married, or 'libero', or free. While this may be true in the strictest sense -- something married couples would rather not be reminded of -- it eliminates the traditional unattached distinctions like divorced, widowed, or haven't-found-anyone-dumb-enough-yet. Apparently some Italians thought being called "widowed" brought bad luck and "divorced" just plain looked bad. Face it, if you're widowed you've already had your bad luck and these days divorce is so common it doesn't look bad. Unless, of course, you're Elizabeth Taylor or Mickey Rooney. Back here in the United States, it's gotten so bleak that even subliminal advertising -- which by definition isn't what you think it is -- isn't what you think it is, which means it's not what you think it's not or, to put it simpler, is actually what you thought it was in the first place. Subliminal advertising, for those of you who have never had an uncontrollable urge to shoot down a World War I flying ace after watching a frozen pizza commercial, is the concept that a short, barely perceptible image flashed on a screen or embedded in a photograph will sink into your unconscious and make you crave whatever it is the nefarious subliminal advertisers would like you to buy. This, as anyone with a lick of sense can tell [send money], couldn't possibly work [send lots of money] because we as human beings [send all your money] just aren't that gullible [care of this newspaper].It turns out that a psychology professor at the University of Washington (motto: "Not that one, the other Washington") has proved that subliminal advertising doesn't work. His experiments showed that students who were exposed to a letter flashed on a screen only retained the information for about one-tenth of a second, or about the same amount of time it takes to move Chuck Robb's head onto a doughnut scented Japanese star's divorced (or "libero") body.And that you can believe.

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