Weekly Review — November 6, 2012, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

National polls showed President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney to be virtually tied, suggesting that Tuesday’s presidential election will be among the closest in U.S. history.[1][2] Obama held a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, at which Stevie Wonder performed “Higher Ground” and “Superstition.” Romney campaigned in the traditionally Democratic state of Pennsylvania, taking the stage in Bucks County to the theme song from Rocky.[3][4] Vice president Joe Biden admitted to watching clips of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Air Force Two, and Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan played cornhole with his children and several Romney grandchildren while tailgating outside the Green Bay Packers game in Wisconsin on Sunday. “You have to have your cheese on your head,” Ryan told the kids.[5][6] Tiny campaign signs set up outside prairie-dog burrows near Boulder, Colorado, were evenly split between the presidential candidates, and in Kenya, a bull named Barack Obama beat a larger bull named Mitt Romney in a fight. “It’s clear now,” said a spectator, “that Romney can’t beat Obama.”[7][8] A blindfolded Egyptian child selected the new Coptic pope, and Muslim clerics suggested that Hurricane Sandy, which killed 113 people in the U.S. and left 8.5 million without power, was punishment for the ills of American society. “It is revenge from God,” tweeted Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim.[9][10][11][12] In New York City, where the storm killed at least 41 people, an estimated 750 shoppers waited in line outside Apple’s flagship store to buy the new iPad mini. “There’s no electricity,” said Eytan Friedman, “so I figured I’d get up early and get my new iPad rather than lie in bed and stare at the ceiling.”[13] New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted that holding the New York Marathon as scheduled would boost the city’s morale, then canceled the event a few hours later and announced that blankets and bottled water intended for runners would instead be distributed to hurricane victims. “I feel like it was a trick,” said Italian runner Giuseppe Paladino. “I feel like I was robbed.”[14][15]

Russia’s parliament approved an expanded definition of high treason that includes “giving financial, technical, consulting or other help” to foreign entities. Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that groups engaged in “totalitarian activities” were “growing like mushrooms” in the country; nationalists marched in Moscow to protest Putin’s support of Caucasian and Central Asian immigrants; and a pro-Kremlin Russian youth group promoted a ban on Mormons because of their “questionable activities.”[16][17][18] In the United States, the Christian American Family Association accused “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” on which children sit with someone new in the cafeteria, of being “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.” “I use poisoned Halloween candy as an illustration,” said Bryan Fischer, the group’s director of issue analysis. “This looks harmless on the surface, but you don’t realize how toxic it is.”[19] Trick-or-treaters in Royton, England, were given packets of cocaine instead of sweets, and in Surrey, a former history teacher built a 60-foot World War I–style trench in his backyard. “We can hear the gunfire from the house,” said his neighbor, “but as it isn’t very often we don’t mind.”[20][21] France’s equality ministry began “sensitization sessions” for government ministers after Housing Minister Cécile Duflot was catcalled at the National Assembly by male legislators, who claimed they were merely complimenting her flowered dress.[22] Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, stopped telling users where to find prostitutes in China, and Israel’s minister of public diplomacy toured Tikun Olam, Israel’s largest medical-marijuana farm. “This is God’s doing,” says the farm’s logo, “and it’s marvelous in our eyes.”[23][24]

Biologists with Alaska’s fish and game department killed a grizzly bear that was attempting to break into homes in the Stuckagain Heights neighborhood of Anchorage, while a bear that had stolen local chickens remained at large.[25][26] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals requested that a memorial sign be placed at an Irvine, California, site where hundreds of saltwater bass died in a traffic accident. “Although such signs are traditionally reserved for human fatalities,” the group wrote, “I hope you’ll make an exception because of the enormous suffering involved.”[27][28] Computer scientists at University College London and the University of Barcelona created a program in which rats control a person-shaped avatar that interacts with human subjects in virtual reality, and a lonely Seoul elephant spoke Korean to his trainers.[29][30] Pet behaviorist Karen Wild helped design a bedtime story to relax the United Kingdom’s dogs during Guy Fawkes Night fireworks, and NASA considered sending Camilla Corona, a rubber chicken with a popular Twitter feed, to the International Space Station. “Sometimes,” said one of her followers, “she says things that are at a high scientific level.”[31][32]

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
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