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  INCOMING! FEBRUARY 7, 2005.  
   
   
 

Monday

Poop is funny. There might not be very many things to laugh about on a Monday morning, but poop is definitely one of them. Poop jokes have been making life more bearable for humans since the dawn of time. From kindergarten sandboxes to late night television -- all across the world, jokes about poop and farts and butts are being laughed at every single day. So it takes someone pretty special to improve on the poop joke -- to somehow amplify its hilarious powers.

On this day in 1960 a man was born who would do just that -- who, using nothing but a rubber dog hand puppet and a cigar, would deliver an unprecedented poop joke renaissance. That man is Robert Smigel, also known as Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. Smigel appears on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" in various forms. He provides the lips and voices for all of Conan's Clutch Cargo-style 'interviews' -- including the mind-blowing Arnold Schwarzenegger gibberish, and an Oscar-

 
 
 

worthy Zell Miller-on-crack. But Triumph is surely Smigel's masterpiece. He pops up at various gatherings to spew a concoction of dog dick and poop-centric insults, in a wild, eastern European growl. Some might say he picks easy targets -- Bon Jovi fans, Star Wars nerds, politicians, celebrities, residents of Quebec -- but the skill and accuracy with which Triumph heaps his poopy provocations reveals true mastery.

One of Triumph's greatest performances involved covering a Bon Jovi concert in New Jersey, where he insulted everybody from the roadies to the fans to the band members themselves, and despite it all, ended up on stage with Bon Jovi performing his own version of the classic cheese-rebel hymn "You Give Love a Bad Name." Just to give you a taste of his magic, here's a partial transcription:

"Humped a shar-pei/pulled out too late/Now the bitch has a litter of eight!/ They eat all the Alpo right off my plate/Why the hell didn't I just masturbate? Whoa-oa, I'm a loaded gun! Here comes Bon Jovi/ The pooping's begun!"

 

 
 

Tuesday

On this day in 1915, D.W Griffith's movie Birth Of A Nation premiered at the Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles. Based on Thomas Dixon's novel The Clansman, this silent, three-hour behemoth tells the tale of two American families -- one from the North, the other from the South, and their trials and tribulations (mostly tribulations) during the Civil War. It was America's first feature-length movie and became the first box-office smash ever.

As anyone who ever suffered through a film history course will tell you, today Birth of A Nation is heralded as one of the most important film masterpieces ever produced, and Griffith is credited a the father of cinema for his revolutionary editing techniques. You can thank him for such razzle-dazzle as the "close-up," the "scenic long-shot" (or "establishing shot") and the ever-popular "fade-in" and "fade-out." Eat your heart out, Jerry Bruckheimer!

But then there's the issue of content: Birth of A Nation is also one of the most revoltingly racist examples of political propaganda ever produced. Don't let that little 'C' in Clansman fool you -- this

   
 

is the (thankfully) fictitious story of the Ku Klux Klan's bizarro rise to save hysterical Southern white women from the evil clutches of Yankees and "black" people, played with eye-bulging ferocity by white actors in charcoal-smeared blackface. The success of Birth of A Nation at the box office jump-started the Klan's prominence across the North and South

Riots and protests broke out at some northern screenings of the film, and eventually the movie was banned outright in several cities, and various scenes were censored.

Do yourself a favor and don't see it unless you have to -- frankly, it hasn't aged well. But the next time you find yourself sitting in a movie theater watching another bullshit Hollywood car chase or tanker explosion and wondering where it all went wrong -- just remember where it all started.

Only five years prior to the premiere of Birth of A Nation, on February 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts was founded -- coincidence? Probably. But look at the similarities: In both clubs, members roam the countryside in uniform, tie intricate knots and feel the same way about gay people.

 

 
 

Wednesday

Today marks the first day of the Chinese new year -- year 4703 to be exact -- the year of the Wood Rooster. But what does it all mean? For the average Chinese citizen it means a weeklong vacation, and quite possibly the biggest travel nightmare on earth. An estimated two billion trips will be made by car, plane, bus boat and train in the 40 days surrounding the lunar new year. Compare that to the 202 million or so trips Americans make each year for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's combined.

The lunar new year is China's most cherished holiday, and this year is considered particularly lucky; many Chinese think their country is shaped roughly like a rooster, and the word for "rooster" bears the same pronunciation as the word "luck." The origin of the new year festival is traced to several legends. One of the best known involves an evil, man-eating beast called Nian who was said to devour people on New Year's Eve. Only one thing was said to have the power to stop Nian's murderous rampage, and luckily the Chinese just happened to have invented it: firecrackers!

 

 
 

Traditionally the house should be thoroughly cleaned before the new year, and at the stroke of midnight, all the windows and doors are supposed to be opened to allow the old year to leave in peace. All debts are supposed to be paid by New Year's Day, and nothing should be lent either, lest you end up lending all year.

Chinese new year sounds like a lot of work. In fact, it sounds like the kind of holiday parents would make up to scare the shit out of their kids and make them clean up their rooms. Not a bad idea.

For New Yorkers who want a first-hand taste of the fun part of Chinese new year, head to Chinatown beginning at 11:00 a.m. today. Events include an impressive fireworks display at noon, a parade on Sunday and tons of great food. For all the info go to ExploreChinatown.com.

And don't forget to wish a big, hearty Gung Hay Fat Choy! (happy new year) to all your Chinese friends, and don't even think about asking them to loan you money.

 

 
 

Thursday

Soon after its founding sometime around 765, the city of Baghdad became one of the greatest cultural, commercial and intellectual hubs of the Muslim world. By the 9th century, nearly half a million people called it home; many consider this period the Golden Age of Islamic civilization. Yep, everything was going just fine for Baghdad -- they had a nice thick wall around the city to keep out all the desert rabble-rousers (giving it the name 'the round city') and a nice big palace where the Caliph lived. Then it all came crashing down.

On this day in 1258, having refused to accept Mongol sovereignty, the Mongol army -- led by Genghis Khan's grandson Hulagu -- marched in and destroyed the city of Baghdad. They killed the caliph and had a grand old time demolishing

 
 
 

buildings and burning down neighborhoods. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers reportedly ran red with the blood of 800,000 massacred people.

What lessons can we draw from history, given the current war being waged in Iraq? According to IraqBodyCount.net between 15,000 and 18,000 civilians have been killed in this war, not including about 1,600 Coalition troops, in the effort to "spread democracy" there. Apparently we're not as brutal as the Mongols, which isn't saying much. At any rate, it's only been a week since Iraq's first democratic election in 50 years, so here's to hoping that this is the war that finally worked. Here's to hoping that all those people haven't died in vain; here's to hoping that Baghdad will finally be able to live out it's original name: Madinat as-Salam (City of Peace).

 

 

Friday

Former presidential hopeful and Vermont Governor Howard Dean will almost certainly be elected the new chairman of the Democratic Party today, succeeding Terry McAuliffe, a man with all the galvanizing appeal of a dead fish. Considering that the Democrats are supposedly eager to widen their appeal in the heartland after losing the presidential race, Dean seems like a risky choice. Scrappy, snappy, huffy, puffy Dean. He is, after all, a certifiable wacko-grassroots-northeastern-liberal. He does support civil unions for gays. He has smoked pot, probably numerous times. But whether you agree with these things or not, there is no denying the man's charisma. He can fire up a crowd and raise money, and he knows how to use the internet. So forget about all this 'if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them' crap. I say -- If you can't beat them, get somebody who can talk a lot of shit about them. Give 'em hell Dean!

On Sunday at 8:00 p.m. the 47th Annual

 
 

Grammy Awards will invade your television and most likely pre-empt 60 Minutes, which pisses me off because I like 60 Minutes. Like all award shows of this magnitude, the Grammys are mostly an overblown, self-congratulatory jerk-off fest. Don't get me wrong: I love music, and there are some well-deserved nominees and heartfelt aspects to the Grammys, but in general they tend to affirm the view that 90 percent of popular music is bullshit.

For instance, the pre-show buzz this year has been devoted in large part to Jennifer Lopez's planned duet performance with her (allegedly) new husband Marc Anthony -- i.e. the musical equivalent of Gigli.

 

Brian Bernbaum writes about restaurants and stuff for The Black Table.

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INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.