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Lyle Zapato

Nixon Memorabilia

Lyle Zapato | 2006-02-13.9350 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots | Crass Commercialism | Fashion

The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace website doesn't have any proper GPMs (perhaps they'd like my moribund one?), however it does have a gift shop with a kids section.

Most of the Nixon memorabilia there are cute and harmless, such as the Presidential Yo-Yo (trivia: in 1974 Nixon was the opening yo-yo act at The Grand Ole Opry; that signed yo-yo later sold for a record $16,029), Future Commander In Chief Bib, or the Air Force One Playset ("Tax policy might not excite the kids, but this 30-piece die cast metal Presidential transportation set will.")

Some seem to have been chosen for their dark humor potential:

Ultimate Spy Kit

Turn your room into a spy headquarters, and keep it safe from enemy agents. Inside the spy case you'll find everything you need to detect intruders, listen in on secret spy meetings, and pass on classified information.

Assemble the components to make a range of super-sleuth gadgets, including a movement detector, a pressure pad, and an intruder alarm. The kit also includes a ready-made listening device, an invisible-ink spy pen, and a spy training manual with instructions for carrying out the ultimate in top-secret missions.

(What? No Lil' Plumber Playset?)

And then there's the book Richard M. Nixon and his Family Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney:

Richard and Pat Nixon paper dolls, by Tom Tierney
White House Christmas party, 1972

(If kickin' around with Tricky Dick in his skivvies isn't your cup of tea, Tom Tierney also has paper dolls of other presidents and their families, including Reagan (w/Bonzo) and the Bushes. Heads up for you political snark miners on the last one: be sure to Look Inside!™ for a young George and Laura modeling vacation wear.)

The Library shop also has an entire section dedicated to The Day Nixon Met Elvis. Now you can get the famous picture of Nixon and Elvis shaking hands ("the most requested image in the history of the U.S. Government") on a mousepad, note cube, or float pen.

True Nixonalia aficionados will want a bird house in the shape of Nixon's boyhood home. Or if you have always longed to live out your Nixon role playing fantasies, why not get a reproduction of the presidential desk for a mere six grand? (No word if it comes wired for microphones.)

Lastly: Looking for AFDB camouflage? Try this stylish Nixon Beanie with the classic Nixon oval surf logo. No one will suspect your paranoia when infiltrating GOP conventions in that (DNC infiltrators, go here.)

Lyle Zapato

GPM #18: Bobby Or Bobbida?

Lyle Zapato | 2006-02-13.0660 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots | Fashion

Hot on the high heels of Crypto Cat comes some more GPM gender bending, this time from, who else, the FBI.

On the FBI kids' page there's a game called Special Agent Undercover. It features young Bobby Bureau, the quintessential FBI Special Agent:

Bobby

Bobby needs your help to get into disguise for his undercover assignment. He's depending on you to drag the disguise elements onto his head and make him look like different people...

People... all going somewhere. All with their own thoughts, their own ideas. All with their own personalities. One is wrong because he does right... one is right because he does wrong. Pull the strings! Dance to that, which one is created for...

... Anyway, here's one of Bobby's favorite undercover disguises:

Bobbida

Purely work related, of course. All in the line of duty. Bobby wouldn't be caught dead off the job like this, especially without his pink angora sweater.

Also on the site, Darrel the FBI working dog (an uninspiring GPM, so no number) has an Internet Safety Tip for you:

Remember that people online may not be who they say they are. Someone who says that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could really be an older man.

Or maybe even an FBI Special Agent.

Finally, as long as we're giving out safety tips, here's some wise words from Bela Lugosi:

Beware... Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys... puppy dog tails, and big fat snails. Beware, take care... Beware!
Lyle Zapato

GPM Update: Crypto Cat

Lyle Zapato | 2006-02-06.5556 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots

The very first Government Propaganda Mascot reported here was the NSA's Crypto Cat. Well, their site underwent a major revision at some point and Crypto Cat was reassigned... sexually.

Crypto Cat

Once a manly cat sporting regulation NSA trench coat and fedora, Crypto Cat is now a perky female in a tight, midriff-baring sweater. Also, her fur has gone from blue to white -- probably a side-effect of hormone treatments.

When she was a he, Crypto Cat would handle all aspects of NSA operations on his own. Now a she, her only responsibility is code creation, the various remaining intelligence sectors having been delegated to six other characters, collectively known as the CryptoKids:

  • Decipher Dog: cryptanalyst quarterback, with man-bag.
  • Joules: squirrel engineer, with pet chihuahua named Socket.
  • Slate: rabbit mathematician. (Do you see what they did there?)
  • T. Top: totally KEWL computer science turtle, with soul patch.
  • Rosetta "Rosie" Stone: homeschooled language analyst vixen.
  • Y. R. Tap: domestic spying fly, with Congressional approval.

(You can't see the last one on the site, but he can see you.)

There's also a military bald eagle called CSS Sam. Sam's bio is classified, but presumably he's in charge of defending DVDs from terrorists. He also heads up Operation Dit Dah (a Morse code game).

As with the site's pre-op incarnation, Crypto Cat encourages kids to use totally insecure forms of cryptography such as simple substitution and shift ciphers. No free 256-bit public key crypto downloads for CryptoKids. As far as the NSA is concerned, if you want the good stuff you'll have to enlist: "How can I work for NSA?" Don't worry kid, you probably already do.

So, why the sex change? Most likely they just wanted to make their site more appealing to a broad range of kids, which would explain the new cast of characters with their calculatedly balanced sex ratio and excessively detailed cover stories (seriously, do we really need to know that one year Joules won second place in a sand castle building contest? I can see telling us about first place, but second?) Then again, maybe it's a subtle dig at their FBI rivals.

UPDATE: Read the cartoonic adventures of Y. R. Tap...

Lyle Zapato

GPM #17: Homeland Security Cougars

Lyle Zapato | 2006-02-06.2980 LMT | Government Propaganda Mascots

Are you Ready Kids?

The US Department of Homeland Security wants you to secure the homeland with the help of a family of mountain lions who teach preparedness for the unexpected.

Rex

You are about to meet a family of mountain lions that are prepared for any situation. Rex the dad is an explorer who loves taking his family on adventures. Purrcilla is the energetic and wise mom. And Rory is the strong-willed daughter who loves helping her parents plan for the family's many adventures.

There's also Hector, Rex's speedy, begoggled hummingbird buddy. Hector delivers important security communiques between the forest and the office of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who, if he were an anthropomorphic mountain lion, would look something like this:

Mountain Chertoff

When not attending CougarCon and creeping out the normals, Rex and family like to engage in preparedness activities such as: Making a kit, making a plan, knowing facts ("In 1280, 'earthquakes' were called 'eorthequakynge'."), and crouching with flashlights while gazing romantically into the distance. After learning these crucial aspects of preparedness, children are invited to take a quiz. If successfully completed, they receive a diploma from Readiness U -- equivalent to a BS in Homeland Security.

Sure, all this preparedness is useful for securing the homeland, but why mountain lions? Simple: if there's one animal you can trust with homeland security, it's the mountain lion. Well, except that one mountain lion that threatened Jack Bauer's daughter on that one episode of 24. But that was probably a Manchurian cougar sent by Serbians. Kim wasn't prepared for the unexpected, e.g. brainwashed mountain lions, and it nearly cost her her life. Are you prepared?

Come to think of it, mountain lions seem to have a lot of aliases: cougar, puma, American lion, Mexican lion, Florida panther, painter, silver lion, brown tiger, deer tiger, ghost cat, sneak cat, king cat, catamount, mountain screamer, Indian devil, purple feather, Felis concolor... awfully suspicious behavior for a cat. Instead of trusting them to instruct children in preparedness preparation, shouldn't they be on some sort of watch list?

Lyle Zapato

Manatee Monorail?

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-31.2980 LMT | Monorail Danger | Nature | Pneumatics

Sufferin' Sirenia! Florida's Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park wants to build a monorail for their manatees:

Although the state plans improvements to make the manatee treatment pools work better for the animals, [park manager Art] Yerian's wish list includes a $100,000 monorail system that would allow park officials to slip manatees into slings, hoist them with pulleys and use the rails to move them from the spring run to the holding or treatment pools.

Aren't these gentle creatures endangered enough without exposing them to the risk of collisions, spontaneous combustions, or abductions? Even worse, the manatee's closest relative is the elephant -- do park officials not know how poorly elephants take to monorails?

I propose a better, more manatee-friendly, less manatee-cidal, way to get them from pool to pool: a Pneumatic Manatee Distribution System. Given their fusiform shape, you wouldn't even need pods; just stuff them in the tube, close the hatch, and press Send.

Zapato Pneumatic Manatee Distribution System

Lyle Zapato

Cardiff Giant Tree Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-23.6750 LMT | Cephalopods | Cascadia | Sasquatch Issues

ZPi reader and bumpersticker consumer Karla directs our attention to an interesting find:

Please allow me to direct your attention to evidence of tree octopuses in New England. Of course, this is unverified, so it may just be a red herring. Or it may be the remains of a PNWTO brought back by one of those venturesome New England sea captains of old.

New England tree octopuses, such as the Sugar Octopus, are not unknown, but none achieve anywhere near the size shown in those pictures. While there have long been rumors of giant forest octopuses in Cascadia, these have never been verified by serious cephalopodologists and are generally agreed to be the product of the over-active imaginations of hungry Sasquatch out gathering normal-sized tree octopuses.

I'm afraid that that giant "tree octopus" (much like the Cardiff giant) is a fraud -- most likely created by cryptozoologists to lure gullible Sasquatch to New England -- and not an actual petrified terrestrial octopod.

Lyle Zapato

Response To The Chilliwack Progress

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-22.9800 LMT | Aluminum | Mind Control | Letters | Complaints Department

Arthur Black's Jan. 22 editorial "Paranoid? Who's paranoid?" claims that the paranoid community hasn't responded to the MIT paper impugning the effectiveness of Deflector Beanie technology. This is false. The MIT paper was debunked last November, as can be read here on my website.

In short, the MIT experiment was unsuitable for the phenomenon in question and had procedural irregularities that would have disqualified it from a reputable peer-reviewed journal.

As the published author of one of the seminal works on personal mind-control protection using aluminum foil, I find it odd that I was not contacted by Mr. Black for a quote. Regardless, simple research on his part would have revealed the response to the MIT paper (it's the very first hit on Google for "'deflector beanie' MIT").

That Mr. Black either chose not to do any research or to ignore the existence of a response brings into question his competency as a journalist. I would expect such behavior from a writer for the Chilliwack Times, but I am disheartened to see it in someone from the Chilliwack Progress. I hope this is not indicative of a lowering of journalistic standards in our great Republic of Cascadia.

Regards,
Lyle Zapato

Lyle Zapato

More Chennai Monorail Revelations

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-20.5580 LMT | Monorail Danger | Politics

The Tamil Nadu Government is now claiming they went with a monorail because they feared a Chennai earthquake. Obviously, when the Big One hits, the best place to have multi-ton metal vehicles is balancing over the heads of pedestrians (not safely ensconced in pressurized, quake-resistant underground tubes).

Also, after a government assembly where critics were denied the ability to raise questions, PMK member G. K. Mani revealed that the monorail "bogies" the government plans to purchase are currently sitting abandoned in Malaysia. It's unknown at this time if they're in the same state of disrepair as the ones found in France, but considering how desperate Lava is to unload them, it would be wise to check the cars for vagrant orangutans before signing for them.

Lyle Zapato

Pieglasses

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-17.5580 LMT | Letters | Food | Technology

"planet036" from the UK writes:

YOU LOT ARE WEIRD

Ive got to say i think you lot are weird, i mean what are you goin to make next! wooden hats that send out lazers!!! nor glasses that taste like pie!!1

Wooden hats that send out lasers are just silly. Changes in humidity would cause the wood to expand and contract, making precise alignment of the lasers impossible, thereby negating any benefits from having them cranially mounted.

However, ZPi Labs Pasteo-Optometry Division has been researching glasses that taste like pie -- pieglasses -- for a number of years. Here is our current prototype:

Pieglasses

While our marketing department is still trying to determine practical applications for our pieglass technology -- or at least a catchy jingle that would convince people that they want a pair -- we are certain that we will be able to successfully bring this product to market within 10 years.

Lyle Zapato

Madras Monorail Malfeasance

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-15.3330 LMT | Monorail Danger | Politics

DMK opposition party president M. Karunanidhi says the Tamil Nadu government, which recently threatened a new monorail project for the city of Chennai, has been involved in shady deals with monorailmongers Lava Consultants and Consortium Limited, a shadowy organization operating out of Malaysia, possibly from a secret layer hidden deep inside an active volcano, although this hasn't been confirmed.

According to Karunanidhi, the government had already completed talks with Lava prior to accepting bids for the project and there will be "kickbacks":

The project is estimated to cost around Rs 20,000 crore [200 billion rupees, or ~4.5 billion US$] of which Rs 1,000 crore will be given to a person in Tamil Nadu, and an individual living in Malaysia is holding talks with the government to finalise the project, as per information reaching us.

Will this turn out to be yet another monorail project mired in corruption and fiscal shenanigans that will ultimately leave citizens in transportation limbo? Undoubtedly yes. If only governments would consider wiser alternatives...