Thursday, December 28, 2006

Holidays- The Horrible Truth

It's that time of year- overeating, overdrinking, oversleeping and pretty much overdoing everything that's bad for you. Yes, the holiday season is upon us in all of it's fury and we are once again caught up in it's throes. In America, the holidays are like a kettle that's placed upon an ever-increasing flame starting at Thanksgiving, brought to a whistling boil at Christmas and allowed to percolate through the new year, at which point the kettle is hurled out the window.

It all begins with the after-Thanksgiving sales: after our yearly worship of gluttony, companies prod you to indulge your lavish side on crappy gifts that the people you're buying them for probably don't even need or want. Does your Aunt really need another pair of slippers? Are you sure your nephew wants an E-Z-Bake oven? It doesn't matter: they're on sale, and so you will buy them. We stress over gifts for a month, worrying that we're getting the perfect thing for someone when in actuality they'll stuff it in a closet for a year before they pass it on or they return it (but only for store credit!).

If you don't celebrate Christmas, there's still room for you in the gift-buying season. It doesn't matter if you're Jewish or you worship an obscure Norse pantheon; somewhere, someone is having a "pre-Ragnarok" sale. It's not as if Christmas is a religious holiday; not really, anymore. Oh sure, there will be someone who puts out a "Jesus is the reason for the season" bumper sticker: that person will then take the proceeds from the sales of those and put them towards XBoxes and soft cardigan sweaters.

The tumult continues unabated for a month, everyone swept up as if in a rolling ball of pure consumerism that rolls into a mall, rumbles around, and then rolls out covered in gift cards. Not that you have to endure the people who are semi-decent to each other in the spirit of the season: You can avoid all of the cheery decorations by ordering your gifts online.

Then, on December 24th, all is quiet. The dust settles in empty shopping malls. NORAD tracks "Santa", which is actually just a spy satellite decorated with a little tinsel. All is calm, except for those parents who attempt to deceive their children about Mr. Klaus by wrapping and assembling all of their presents the night before.

Then, the shutters fly open and a man yells out to the Cockney lad, "What day is it?" and he shifts his weight from one patchworn shoe to the other and yells back "Whoy eet's Christmas daye!" The children run downstairs, tumbling over each other and ignoring their fracture wounds to get to the tree to open the toys that will be obsolete by the next year. Tired parents torture their kids by making them wait until after breakfast to open the shiny, shiny gifts. Then, it's time for all to enjoy their ill-gotten goods. Look, it's a Galgatron for Jimmy! Oh, he wanted the Galgatron X with the extreme lasers. And Sally gets a gift card to an office supply store because she didn't make a Christmas list. Dad gets a handmade card from his kids, which is plenty of recompense for the loads of debt he went into this season, and mom gets another sweater that doesn't fit. Grandma and Grandpa are oohing and aahing over the gifts and are just happy to be included, even though nobody got them anything or even really acknowledge their existence. Then, it's a huge meal and everyone hurries off to their individual rooms to enjoy their gifts without the others annoying them.

This may sound a little...bitter, perhaps? Maybe, but isn't that what the season is all about- anger and frustration? Okay, perhaps not, but I'm trying to end on an upbeat note:

How about the fact that many people celebrate not only the commercial side of Christmas, but also genuinely care for their families and look at the holidays as a time to come together?

How about snow? Everyone loves snow who doesn't have to deal with shoveling it.

Eggnog made with a little too much rum so that Uncle Gene tells you about that hooker he picked up? Dazzling strings of lights that urge you to convert or be roasted in the flames of Hell forever? Families going a-caroling in period garb and then asking for something called "figgy pudding" which sounds a bit lewd? That one Chinese food place that's the only place open on Christmas day?

How about the saddest Christmas tree ever? How about that, Charlie Brown?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advice to bloggers

I am, I realize, the paragon of blogging reliability, apart from an unannounced 5-month hiatus that was punctuated by my wife stating that I hadn't updated the blog in x number of days. Then she would shake her head sadly and only by focusing really hard on whatever unconstructive activity I was doing was I able to squelch the Voices of Guilt in my head, who not surprisingly sound like my mother. After all, how could I let down my legions of fans who depended on this blog for a daily laugh?

Then I remembered, there are no legions; at least, if there are, they are fans of the hilarious Milk- Delicious Cow Mammary Fluids blog which I am not associated with. (Not since the...unpleasantness).

Regardless of where I've been or who I've been doing, I am back now with the intent of producing the finest blog-based content available. To that end, I am now drawing upon my vast experience of something like 20 blogs in 3 years. With those kind of credentials, I should write a book: because I am lazy, I will bullet point a few things I have learned.

  • Blogging is hard to do on a daily basis- Even if you discount the fact that you need an idea every day, the day-to-day struggles of life make it difficult. With fine television comedies and dramas and many delicious chocolately options available, as well as a marked improvement in sofa "cushiness", I predict blogging will slowly die out over the next 2-4 months. Please note that I also predicted that 60's styles would be making a comeback this year. On an unrelated topic, if you know anyone that wants to buy a tie-die machine, message me.
  • No matter what you blog about, you will gravely insult one of the major world religions. With this bullet point, I have offended them all.
  • Advertising your blog is a useless endeavor- you are only advertising to spammers who will fill your comments with things like "I really agree with you on the subject of plush toys vs. rubber ones. If you would like to know more about my blog about great stock tips, visit me!" The best way to advertise your blog is to pretend that you are someone famous, like George Bush, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the lead singer of Led Zepplin. As long as you sound like them from time to time, nobody will ever know that you're not them. (Examples: "The Axis of Evil, nucular", "She's buying a stairway to heaven", "Hey, I'm all philosophical up in here, because I am Ralph Waldo Emerson")
  • If you can't write a lot of words, at least have a lot of links to Myspace profiles, web cartoons, and YouTube videos. Note: People may not return to your blog if you link them other places, especially if those other places have free porn. Because, hey, free porn.
  • Updating consistently and reliably is the best way to cultivate a thriving community discussion on your blog. Moving on....
  • A political blog is a great way to get loudmouth jerks to argue endlessly in your comment section. They are drawn to such discussions like snakes to a Snake Attractor 2000. To have fun with them, vehemently argue one side, then the other. This will confuse them long enough for you to delete all of their comments.
  • Beautiful backgrounds and pictures will really spice up your blog and make it more attractive to people. If your blog does not take at least 1o minutes to load, add more dancing hamsters.
  • If nobody is commenting on your posts, feel free to create multiple accounts and post on your own blog. Eventually, you will create an entire world of fake characters, and your skewed sense of reality will warp what is true with your deceitful creations, utterly destroying everything you are. On second thought, do not do this.
  • Blogging will ultimately lead you a more fulfilled person with a large group of friends from around the world who will want to sleep on your couch when they come in from out of town.

There you go. There's probably more there, somewhere, but frankly, it's going to take a large book advance (or lack of blog topic) to get it out of me.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Updating this blog is so passe, or so I was told. Then I realized it wasn't.

Actually, the real reason I haven't posted is because I've been held prisoner against my will in a foreign land. My nights were spent in wailing horror and my days in a wallowing solitude.

I was held at the Disneyland Main Street Jail. The jailor was that demon himself, Mickey, and a heavy crop he wielded, and painful.

But enough of that- I'm here to describe that "Magic" Kingdom to folks who have never visited the place (With the Disney Relocation Plan, that will soon be remedied, by the way).

As an overview, Disneyland is the realization of a dream, which is immediately and effectively absorbed by children, and somewhat more cynically viewed by adults. It's the world as viewed through a brightened lens, in which the soils of our world are stripped away and the resulting remnant is the ideal of a half-century ago. That is to say, Disneyland takes us back to a 50's ideal, and makes boatloads of money in the process.

Case in point is Main Street, U.S.A., the first section of the park in which colorful storefronts line a street of dreams that is perpetually celebrating the 4th of July. Horse-drawn carriages ride triuphantly down the road and double decker buses toot their horns gaily. The entire scene is incredibly appealing and bears about as much reality to any main street in any town in the US as the world of Mary Poppins does to the UK. Still, it's an appealing fantasy and one could easily get lost in it. Apparently, Mickey and his friends have moved to the town, because they wander around hugging children in their peculiar cephalopodic way. Bright flowers and shining fountains abound, as do humongous tourists.

What's that? Fat people? In America? If you had suggested the idea to me prior to going to Disneyland I might have vehemently disagreed with you. But after...well, the evidence abounds. That is not to say that I dislike or loathe them, but there's so many, and everywhere.

To be sure, Main Street does nothing to provide healthy meals for these people. The ice cream shop is next to the candy shop which itself is next to the soda fountain. One can safely assume that none of the aforementioned sell a small green salad with light dressing.

Fortunately, if you do find you've had ten too many sundaes, you can head next door to the dozens of clothing shops that will outfit you in all of your favorite clothes (provided your favorite clothes all have some sort of Disney-inspired logo on them). Are you mainstream? Go with a classic pair of Mickey ears. Are you a rebel? Don't worry, Disney will cater to your needs as well, offering apparel with all of the nefarious villians.

Once you've passed all of the shops, assuming you don't go into hyperglycemic shock, you have an important decision to make: which land within Disneyland do you visit?

In Adventureland, you visit a vast tropical jungle, without the pesky natives or malaria. Here, you can go on rides with Indiana Jones and on a boat throughout an animatronic river. "Anamatronic" is a key word that means that many of the creatures on the rides are robots rigged to move realistically, which by 1960's standards when the park was built means "jerking back and forth like a raver having a seizure". You may believe that the staff is also made up of animatronic robots, but they're real. They're just realllllly high.

Further along in Adventureland, you'll get to Tom Sawyer's Island, which has lots of fun paths to run on and things to climb and explore, making it the second least popular attraction at the park. The least is canoeing- for some reason they thought that getting into a boat with 19 heavyset people and dragging their asses around in a boat (ostensibly they should help, but unfortunately Disney axed out the guy in the back with the whip, which means there will be slackers). The waterway is very crowded as well: You have to share the river with a paddleboat and a pirate ship that make their way around. Alongside the river is a quaint representation of a New Orleans long past. There's the obvious hurricane joke, but I'm going to ignore it.

Adventureland does get some high marks for having two of the most popular rides in the park inside of it: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted House. The former puts you in with a dozen other people who conveniently ignore the multiple signs stating not to use flash photography. You can get your revenge by splashing some of the river water on them, which probably is acidic enough to burn. The latter takes you through a creepy mansion full of the living dead- the perfect way to scar a child emotionally for a long time. Nonetheless, these rides, while not the fastest, are still classics. Though they should really kill someone on each of them every once in a while, just to shake things up.

In Frontierland, re-create the old west as it should have been, with spaghetti western music blaring out of speakers hidden along the well-demarcated path. Head over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of two good coasters at the park and entertain yourself by watching the man at the head of the line have a screaming child drag him off the ride. So much for your 30 minute wait, sucker!

It is fairly obvious that waiting is an integral part of the Disneyland experience. In fact, waiting patiently in line is a skill you will rapidly develop here, because you'll be doing it for everything: tickets, food, rides, bathrooms- all of them have waits, and chances are you'll be behind someone whose body odor is above reproach.

Tomorrowland takes us of the future of the 70's! Imagine that you could drive a horrendously slow car around a predefined track- well, Autopia lets you do that, today. To add insult to injury, they flash fatally unfunny jokes on a big screen, such as "Why did the auto go to the hospital? Because he was having car-diac arrest!" Put up with this long enough, and you'll experience another time honored Southern Californian driving tradition: the drive-by shooting.

If that's not enough, you can head over to the Starcade, which has all of the greatest video games in one place. I certainly know that I would be fine with my kid wanting to play some Dance Dance Revolution when I just paid 65 bucks for an admission to the park. There's the Buzz Lightyear ride, which rewards years of playing violent video games by letting you shoot at targets on the walls, and Space Mountain, a roller coaster which can be best described as "turning left really fast in the dark". Still fun, though. Star Tours is a ride where they put you into a box and shake you around, but it's a Star Wars themed ride (I bet you didn't see that coming). Sadly, Michael Jackson's 3d performance in Captain EO has long since perished from the world, and we are lessened by it.

Straight across from Main Street is Fantasyland, whose entrance is the iconic castle in all of Disney's products. Defensively, it's a poor structure, whose drawbridge doesn't even close in case of an attack by the godless heathens of Knott's Berry Farm. Inside is the idyllic medieval setting where Characters-who-have-become-Disney-products like Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty dwell, and the rides bearing their name. It is here that you will find most of the parents of young children, tired and bedraggled from riding on the Mad Hatter's teacups for the fifth time. This is also the home of the Matterhorn, whose line could probably extend up the side of the real mountain.

Each land has a plethora of food and shopping options, lest you take a break from spending money like water for even a moment. Of course, each shop and restaurant has different things, so if you want that clam chowder, you're hiking over to Adventureland. See a hat you like? Better get it now, because this store is the only one that has it.

At the end of Fantasyland is the infamous 'It's a small world" ride, whose music blares like an unholy cacaphony, deafening the lucky ones, and driving the rest insane. Inside, a slow boat takes you through a myriad of nations, each singing the same song, perhaps in a hope that all people want the same thing in life; peace and joy. Then the German puppets invade the French puppets and a miniature carbomb explodes in the Isreali section.

The final land is Toontown, where Mickey and his pals really live. Everything is presented in bright, cartoony colors and is shaped perfectly for young ones, and you'll be telling yourself "Finally, something for the children." My heart could not bear to be here for too long, so I couldn't tell you much about it, but I do know one thing that resonates with truth throughout every fiber of my being: When I die and my immortal soul is judged, and weighed down by my sins here on Earth, I will be dragged to the pits of Hell for all eternity. And it will be Toontown.

So this is Disneyland. It is a refuge for that place within each of us that yearns for the good old days, when Main Street was more than just a road, when adventurers and frontiersmen were revered, when the hero saved the princess and when the future seemed to hold infinite promise. It is also a place where a bottle of water costs $3 and you are assailed at every point by mountains of cheaply-made merchandise peddled off at ridiculously high prices. Parades will serve to remind you of all the characters you loved as a child and which your child loves, but also that you can buy collectible plates with them in the store behind you. For some reason there are things called Disney Dollars which are equivalent to American dollars for fun's sake, but they are also non-transferable back to US Dollars.

This is the duality of the place: There is obviously a corporate machination here whose intent is to have legions of people swarming out of the place with mouse ears, but there's also the original intent- a place where we can go and believe again, relive our childhood again and see it through the unspoiled eyes of children, and perhaps unlock the child in all of us.

Except Toon Town. Seriously, that place sucks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The vacationer

I was looking forward to my trip, a short hop out to some sun-drenched islands reeking of humidity, icy drinks and scantily-clad girls all eager to find a rich foreigner to take them off of the sun-drenched island. I guess people who live in the tropics dream of the cold grey metropolises that the rest of us want to escape. It's either that or they're sick of seeing tourists wrapped in too-short and too-bright polyester clothes pile out of a tour bus, take a picture of some chickens and pile back in to the next predetermined site of Interest.

The girls didn't matter anyways, seeing how I had a wife and two kids back at home; the thought briefly flickered in my mind of a dark-skinned hula dancer in a french maid outfit, but that thought disappeared after a moment. I'm sure I could pay for that on the island if I wanted it, but what I really wanted was a cocktail.

So where were my wife and kids, you ask? Well, theoretically I have an friend who lives on the island who I've been close to since I was a kid, but really my friend's name is spiced rum and he and I get along just fine without the family tagging along. It works every time, I go to the island, relax, and come back and we do something as a family. Everyone is happy, and I come back without the urge to go on a murder-suicide rampage, so that's an added bonus.

And I've never been unfaithful to my wife. No, sir. I may have had some titties shook in my face, and maybe I grabbed a few, but every night the only thing I'm cradling in my arms is that bottle. I may lie to my wife to get away from her yap every so often, but I'm true. She's got a sweet ass anyways, so it's not like there's anything better out there. Besides, when I get home, I'm more in love than ever. That and she lets me do her from behind.

My job? Heh, nothing special- I work two jobs. The first is your traditional 9-5 corporate shmuckery- I sit in my office all day, stare out the window or look at porn on the Internet, take lunch, maybe do about ten minutes of work and then sneak out early. The boss would say something, I guess, but since I have pictures of him and his male secretary safely locked away, I pretty much don't give a crap.

I have another job, and that's a weekly gig playing drums at a nightclub. I tell my wife that I'm going to a poker night with the boys, and they all corroborate the story, especially since I get them in for half-price. It doesn't hurt that Lana the waitress knows what's up and gets all of us drinks throughout the night. I play pretty good drums, but when I've had a few in me, I just relax, you know, and play loose. The job pays like shit, frankly, but it goes in my fund to come out here. When that fills up, I tell my wife that old Bobby has called me up and wants me to come out, and finances are too tight to take everyone. One time, just to mix things up I brought the family out; too bad "Bobby" was away on business that week.

I've got it pretty good. A happy, loving family and the ability to get the hell away from them every so often. My wife even works- she's a nurse at a local school. She's so good at it that every year they elect her to go to some School Nurses of America celebration out in Palm Springs. I've never been to it, and she says it's boring: she goes every year, though. I suppose she likes talking the trade with the other nurses; which kid stabbed himself in the eye with a pencil or whatever. Sounds like a snooze to me.

Anyways, none of that matters- I'm on a plane to the tropics, and a beach, and a tall glass of alcohol. The rest are cares that can disappear, for now.

Edit: After re-reading this, let me state that it's a work of fiction. While I'm certain that my wife wouldn't mind me skipping off to a tropical island to carouse with sexy native women, I'm not sure I would want to deal with the unfortunate "accident" that would occur upon my return.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

An Interlude

It seems like forever since my last post. Impossible, of course. One unit of forever would preclude any others. It's a singular quantity, much like one's need for Everlasting Gobstoppers.

This week, again, I leave for Hawaii, the Garden State. Spending twelve days in that tropical place would normally give me an overall pleased and contented air, but it's a business trip which immediately precludes any enjoyment. Indeed, the aim of the work is to make you forget that you're in one of the few true paradises that exist on Earth. Instead, one is greeted by featureless and bland block buildings inside which one will spend most of the day. I have commented on this in the past and, at the risk of repeating myself, I will complain about it again: there's nothing more satisfying than complaining, I think, and if the matter is a minor one, all the better.

There is another factor to the equation of this trip. It is the absence of my wife's presence, the thought of which puts me in a somewhat melancholy mood. I am an independent person, able and even eager to be alone in my (mis)adventures. At the same time, though, I am gripped in the clutch of sadness to think my only contact with her will be dependant on the weak link of a cell phone.

Ideally, I could bring her in a backpack with me, not unlike C-3p0 from Star Wars.

The only explanation is that I have become physiologically attached to her. I could try stabbing myself to see if she feels it to, but I'm already certain of the fact (also, stabbing hurts). When a few miles between our work places separate us, I can call her and know that I will see her shortly, hug her, pinch her ass and give her an evil grin. It's a daily dance whose steps will never cease to grow old for me.

And now, there's a wrench thrown into that schedule, that certainty. Take away the work and replace it with a cool pina colada and hammock, and my wistfulness doesn't change. Take Hawaii away and replace it with the middle of Kansas, but add her, and all is well. Give me an aching, scorching desert, devoid of life or water, and give me her, and I will perish smiling. Then she can use my body as an umbrella. So we both win, as long as she finds someone who can raise the dead- it shouldn't be hard, quite a few holy men wander around in the desert.

Twelve days, and each lasting forever. And then home, and joy returned.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Restroom Public

There are, in life, two events that are inescapable, the first being death and the second being, for lack of a better term, pooping. All people face these two things at some point, though generally with a widely varying degree of trepadation between them, unless a burrito combination plate is involved.

Yes, everyone in history has had to excuse themselves to use the bathroom, chamber pot, woods or what have you. The mightiest Kings and Emperors of the world all defecated. Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Moses all felt the call of nature. Everyone of your friends, family, coworkers and superiors all have done it, as have your ancestors, leading down to you. Yes, that means that your Grandpa pooped when he was off in Europe fighting the Nazis, themselves defecators.

Distasteful as the thought might be, it is also comforting. No man or woman is so great that they can transcend our daily needs. It's humanizing, and I for one am glad nobody gets a pass. Certainly, it's something to which we can relate: death might also be a shared experience, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of limiting conversation from those who have gone through it.

One thing we never read or hear about is when those leaders might have been stricken with a sudden need to evacuate. Did Hitler really have to pee at one of his rallies, perhaps? Maybe Julius Caesar was thinking he could just get done at the Forum real quickly before he had to go. Did Poncius Pilate think over his decision on the can? Nobody ever tells us, and that's a shame.

One result of our collective doody needs is the requirement for public facilities. These range from whitewashed, clean facilities with lovely floral patterns and wall sconces to dank, steaming pits dug haphazardly in the ground, where a single misstep would end only in human misery. If you have been to a gas station in the Southwest United States, you have encountered the latter.

There is always the question of toilet etiquette. One widely-known rule is to separate yourself from other expellers of waste by the maximum allowable distance. Many feel fear and trepadition when entering a nearly-full restroom: this is normal, and you should feel anxiety, because someone could be making judgements about you based on how you conduct yourself in there. If you foolishly break one of the unpublished and unknown rules that vary from person to person, woe will be your only companion hithermore.

Among public restrooms, there is no greater sublimity than the empty restroom complete with vacant handicapped stall. Seated there, you can survey the great and wide tracts of your domain, enclosed by the stall's flimsy metal walls. Here, in peace, you can let your mind wander over whatever choice memories or troubles you have, and contemplate them with a peace unbeknownst to others. If Heaven has any chance of living up to it's reputation, then it's restrooms must consist entirely of handicapped stalls.

There are problems of hygiene in these places. Fortunately, modern science has done away with the idea that troublesome bacteria could somehow infect you in these places. If the crack staff of the cleaning crew that comes bi-weekly to replenish the paper products in the restroom and pour bleach haphazardly all over the place isn't a comfort, then surely you must be put at ease by the semi-translucent sheet of paper separating your backside from the well-worn seat. Certainly, there is no way to violate that impermeable and sturdy material. For you worrywarts, use a few of them until they approach the thickness of a hair.

For those restrooms without bidets (and I believe no American establishment uses them), you are similarly greeted with a roll of toilet paper, crudely ripped by whoever's hand preceded yours. One thing is for certain- that person was no doubt a paragon of health and civility, and you can be sure that they had no form of bowel irritation.

There is progress once one moves to wash one's hands. Automatic toilet flushers, soap dispensers, faucets and paper towel dispensers/blowdryers all offer you a way to stay disease-free on your way out of the restroom. While you may need to flail your hands wildly to get them to work, it's well worth it knowing that you are antiseptic for the few seconds before you touch the door handle. These devices are not universal, however, and there is an inverse relationship between the availability of such devices and the places where they're needed.

So, what have we learned? All people go to the bathroom: shocking in and of itself. But more important is how we go to the bathroom, and if we have to use the air freshener afterwards, and why they put up a sign instructing food workers to wash their hands, because they should do that anyways. This, more than anything else, is what makes us human.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mahd's guide to the world, Part 10: The Caribbean

It's been a while, but we're back with the newest installment of the Guide. In this part, we'll be travelling to the lush, sunny coasts (at least when they're not being ravaged by hurricanes) of island paradises. Please note that, in the same way that Heaven might get boring after a few millenia, the lush, tropical paradises listed below are generally similar. In order to help alleviate this, I will be assigning each a Piracy Rank based on past, current and future piratical acts.


Here's how the Caribbean works: A foreign nation comes to the islands populated by native peoples, wipes them out, imports slave labor from Africa and raises sugar and tobacco. Every island pretty much followed this history up until around the mid 19th-century.

Anguilla is a collection of islands and cays that distinguishes itself by being one of the most expensive island chains in the region. In some ways, the only way to see the Caribbean is from your chaise lounge which is carried by your servants who are themselves carried by their servants.

Piracy Rank: 7 (Good potential for future)

Antigua and Barbuda

The more I read about all of these island nations, the more I'm coming to realize that there is a private island for every man, woman and child on earth. Antigua boasts that it has 365 islands in it's dominion, one for each day of the year. Each one a tropical paradise, blah blah blah. More interesting is that a few years ago the Prime Minister of the island was named Lester Bird, which may be the most unfortunate name ever.

Piracy Rank: 6 (Lots o places to hide loot)


Aruba managed to avoid the prototypical Caribbean fate in a strange way: the soil was not good for farming, so every nation that came here moved along real quietly. Spain and the British didn't want it, so the Netherlands finally took control. It turns out to have been a good choice, with gold discovered in the country in the 19th century and oil refining in the 20th.

Although the interior might be a desert-like wasteland, the tropical coastlines will always ensure that there will be plenty of pale Dutch and American tourists for years to come.

Piracy Rank: 4 (Gold's run out and oil's no good to a pirate)


Barbados is referred to as "Little England". This isn't so much because of unpalatable food and bad teeth as their penchant for English names and pasttimes. The British themselves love the little island, often choosing to come here rather than experience something unfamilar.

In spite of their love for things British, Barbados still retains some of it's Caribbean charm. Dark-skinned natives still listen to calypso music on the sandy beaches. Even if it does happen right before they go to the cricket match, it still counts.

Piracy Rank: 2 (Stay away from the British navy)


Aside from Bermuda, this series of islands (over 700) is probably the most popular in the Caribbean. The islands have some interesting history: these were the islands that Christopher Columbus first discovered for Spain (much to the surprise of the people who were living there- they had thought they had discovered them much sooner). Thousands of British loyalists were sent here after the American Revolution- they now have their revenge on Americans by charging $10 for a Pina Colada. It's not all a tourist wasteland- the outlying islands are more true to the original peoples, who we can only assume burn effigies of Columbus every day and twice on Mondays.

Piracy Rank: 9 (Once a Privateer's Republic, always a Privateer's Republic)

British Virgin Islands

Once a hunting ground for pirates, these islands have since become home to a small number of upscale resorts. Unlike the US Virgin Islands, there's little commercialism, which might be interpreted as a commentary on a larger scale. Yachts are common here, and the well-heeled crowd often derides anyone with a mere "50 footer".

The true reason these islands exist is for shady offshore banking firms to ply their trade. If you can't afford a Swiss bank account, a BVI one is the next best thing- after all, if you can't semi-legally launder your money, how are you ever going to be able to afford that bigger yacht?

Piracy Rank: 10 (Shady money practices combined with a history of buccaneers)

Cayman Islands

Everything that was said for the BVI goes double for the Cayman Islands. At least the money laundering part of it. Tourism is invariably here as well, especially for divers who enjoy the crystal clear waters. Combine this with a relatively common amount of shipwrecks from the old days and you can have a good time. Just don't buy anything here, because there's a massive tax on imports. If possible, bring a tent and daquiri machine with you to save some money.

Piracy Rating: 5 (Money laundering, but kind of far from everything)


Cuba- the Communist Paradise! Where Soviets came to play in the surf and sand. Where nearly everyone on the island has used every imaginable piece of equipment to escape, from rubber boats to 1950's trucks. Cuba is judiciously goberned by Fidel Castro, who in recent years has been discovered to be a cigar-smoking robot. Other highlights of Cuba include the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, where a number of people are currrently enjoying the fresh tropical air- whether they want to or not.

Piracy Rating: 1 (Communists dislike pirates - trust me)


Dominica may be one of the last unspoiled Caribbean nations- despite the efforts of its government. Tourists aren't interested in beaches that aren't covered in white sand, and a notable lack of shopping, dining and nightlife. Natural beauty abounds, and that sickens developers who could be using the land to create a luxury resort. It doesn't help that the country's leaders keep dying in office- according to the chain of succession, the new leader is the former Secretary for Very Small Cats Affairs. His reign promises to, if nothing else, be adorable.

Piracy Rating: 2 (Poor countries make for poor plunder)


Grenada might be most well-known as the country the United States invaded.

Okay, maybe I need to be more specific.

Grenada was invaded by the US in 1983 when the US thought the Cuba was trying to take over the island. The reason given was, of course, merely to rescue some U.S. students at a University there. The real reason- the US needed to secure vital supplies of nutmeg and cinnamon for their Christmas eggnog. And that's how the US saved Christmas.

Piracy Rating: 4 (unless those spices are going into rum, in which case make it an 8)


A French island that was repeatedly seized by the British, given to the Swedes who then gave it back to France, Guadeloupe has settled into a traditional Caribbean tourist destination. Yes, there have been strikes against the government, but the protesters generally give up to go nap in hammocks on the beach. Speaking with inhabitants is near impossible, since the language is a mish-mash of English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and perhaps shockingly, Aramaic. Don't worry, they'll get the picture when you raise your voice and shake your empty drink glass at them.

Piracy Ranking: 6 (A history of violence)

Dominican Republic/Haiti

These two nations are lumped together both geographically, but I also do it to contrast them. Where the Dominican Republic is a peaceable nation, Haiti is basically a 24-hour murderfest. The Dominican Republic boasts a number of all-inclusive resorts catering to your every need: Haiti boasts that you may not be lynched within 5 minutes of landing at the airport (which itself is probably on fire). The Dominican Republic is a stable democracy: Haiti has pretty much been in continuous rebellion since 1821.

If I had to choose between the two, I'd say go to the Dominican Republic- just a hunch that you'll have more fun there.

Piracy Rating: 10/ 2 (I'll let you guess which is which)


Jamaica- has there ever been a more stereotyped nation? Yes, we know they're all a bunch of pot-smoking rastafarians who have a penchant for bobsled racing. Sure, that stereotype might be dead-on, but what don't we know about these people? Well, not much- the people pride themselves on reggae; on their rum; and on the availability and legality of their pot. They seem to have learned that if you have music and mind-altering substances, then you don't really need or care about things like infrastructure or jobs. It's kind of like a music festival, except the water isn't $13 a bottle.

Piracy Rating: 7 (Rum! I wonder if they have reggae sea shanties?)


In every area of the world, there is one nation that seems to be relatively boring and stable. For the Caribbean, it's Martinique. Oh sure, the country is French-speaking, which is somewhat exotic to us Anglophiles, but otherwise it's had an almost eventless history for the past century. Frankly, it's irritating: without some interesting and bloody coup, what can I write here? Nothing- and that's why I'm done.

Piracy Rating: 1 (No fun to be had here!)


Do you enjoy the outdoors? Perhaps to the exclusion of any other activity? If so, Montserrat is the place for you. Their slogan is "The Caribbean the way it used to be". To translate, this means "The Caribbean without any exciting dining, casinos, indoor activities, ATMs, hotels, flush toilets or running water." If you are the outdoorsy type, you can go see the active volcano, or hike or kayak. And if you disappear, nobody will ever, ever find you. So this might be a good place to take someone you're planning to murder.

Piracy Rating: 2 (No loot or rum, however violence is possible)

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico! Home of the Pina Colada, which can be now lovingly dispensed from a high-tech Homemade Pina Colada Machine (tm). Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth, which means that they get all of the benefits of being citizens without the culpability of having voted for our elected members of Government.

It's not all icy alcoholic drinks and government subsidies, though. Puerto Rico faces a number of problems, from air pollution to water shortages. The nation is a great stopover for trafficking drugs into the U.S., so check that out too. Although, we really don't like it, so if you're bringing speedboats full of cocaine to our country, please stop.

Piracy Rating: 8 (Yo ho ho and a bottle of...)

St. Kitts and Nevis

Now we come to the "Saint" islands. The only reason that more of these islands aren't named for revered religious figures is that they ran out of sainted persons before they ran out of islands.

St. Kitts and Nevis are unique in the number of monkeys running around them. There are more monkeys than people, and you may find yourself in a bar ordering a drink and having it served to you by a friendly simian. They are piano players, innkeepers, DJs, and, shockingly, organ grinders that use smaller monkeys to collect coins.

Fortunately, many shops sell monkey repellent so that you can avoid these. The more common name for the repellent is "guns".

Piracy Rating: 7 (A monkey is a good pirate pet. A monkey with a parrot on it's shoulder- even better)

St. Lucia

Another semi-developed island, St. Lucia is smaller than New York. It's also less developed than New York, and you're less likely to be randomly urinated on than you would be in New York. Your chance of getting in for a taping of The David Letterman Show is about the same, though.

St. Lucia has interesting black-and-white sand beaches, rainforests and a sulphur volcano, the latter making any travel here a smelly proposition. More shocking, they decided to build a hog fat rendering plant on the island next to a chicken farm. Only half the population has complained, though- the other half were found dead in their houses.

Piracy Rating: 5 (Pirates don't mind the smell- they never shower anyways)

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

This is a group of 30 islands. There is excellent yachting and snorkeling thanks to the beautifully clear waters. The people are friendly and welcoming, and will cater to every need and whim. As the tropical sun darts low on the water, remember why you came to St. Vincent and the Grenadines- for the ultimate in relaxation and luxury*

Piracy Rating: 0 (There are no pirates here, just plenty of fantastic family activities)

*This guide paid for by Grenadine Island #23, which is the one with the money.

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago created steel drum music. For this, I suggest a lengthy air campaign followed by an enveloping ground war. We must cleanse the earth of these people and their irritating music that is played at every faux Caribbean party that exists. Truly, they are an evil force and should be dealt with accordingly.

Piracy Rating: 0 (No self-respecting pirate would go within 20km of this place)

U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a great place to finish up. Much like Pirates of the Caribbean shows us a false and idealized image of pirates, the USVI are something of an animatronic ride through the Caribbean. Oh look, there's the friendly black man with a brightly shining smile selling us fresh coconut milk! And over there is a brightly colored bar serving "fresh" cocktails. These beaded necklaces seem more Polynesian than Caribbean, but they're both islands, right? No, this is definitely the Caribbean; I can hear the spicy tunes of a steel drum cacaphony off in the distance. What, we have to go back on the cruise ship already? Well, now that I have experienced this island, I can make safe assumptions about every other Caribbean island...

This is a dangerous, dangerous place. Make sure that you remember it's not real, like Never-never land, Middle-Earth, or Los Angeles.

Piracy Rating: 10 (Hapless tourists will buy anything! And it's not even robbery- not in the traditional sense, anyways)