It has come to Unreal's attention that Alex Jones, the radio host and filmmaker who predicted the events of 9/11 two months before they happened (and, because no one paid him heed, has since made a career of saying "I told you so"), recently uncovered some sinister doings at Macy's.

The venerable department store is in league with the group of secret international conspiracies that make up the New World Order!

Why else, Jones reasons, would Macy's sell T-shirts that identify their wearers as members of the Council of Nine and the Rosicrucian Brotherhood or as Illuminati Knights?

Not, Unreal hastens to add, that there is anything wrong with that. After all, we live in a nation built upon Masonic imagery. But since we are delving into conspiracies and everything, isn't it a little weird that Macy's would declare its allegiances to secret societies so blatantly? Even ones that are alleged to run the world?

The Illuminati, for instance, are said to have achieved international mind control through far more subtle means: They insert the word "fnord" into newspapers, books and other widely disseminated publications. One would think this would be an obvious strategy. One would be wrong. Instead, the reader's eye skips over "fnord," but the brain registers it and, over time, the mind's resistance to the Illuminati begins to crumble.

(Unreal doesn't recall including "fnord" in our copy, so either it happens during the production process or our mind is really well controlled.)

If an organization has that much subtle power, why would they resort to T-shirts?

Vern Isenberg, master of the St. Louis Lodge of the Rosicrucian Order, was unaware of the T-shirts when Unreal called him for comment. "I'm not particularly upset about it," he said. "'Rosicrucian' is a generic term, and it's their legal right to use it. The word catches attention. And it does kind of spread public awareness that the Rosicrucians are still active. But AMORC, which stands for the Ancient Mystic Order of Rosae Crucis, is copyrighted and patented."

Fair enough.

Nonetheless when Unreal attempted to phone Macy's and find out why, precisely, they had decided to stock New World Order T-shirts in the first place, we were informed that the public-relations woman responsible for St. Louis could not take our call.

She had been seriously injured in a skating accident and would be out of the office for the next several weeks.

We tried calling her substitute. Once we asked her, point-blank, why Macy's was supporting the New World Order via its Young Men's department, she cut off all further communication with us.

Normally Unreal is kind of pissed when a source blows us off, but in this case, we fully understand. (DO YOU HEAR US, MACY'S?) And, in the meantime, we are trying to watch our back without twisting our neck. 

Soaps Get in Your Eyes
Not long after the presidential election, Unreal was feeling a little at sea. We were still devotedly devouring every scrap of news, but compared to all the drama of the past year, everything seemed a bit...lacking.

Maybe, we thought, it was time to embrace the good, reliable, old-fashioned soap opera, the kind with evil twins and people coming back from the dead. So we headed over to the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton where The Young and the Restless was holding auditions to find one female St. Louisan between 18 and 35 to play a featured role in an upcoming episode.

"What would that role be?" we breathlessly asked casting director Camille St. Cyr.

"We're looking for someone special," she told us, "someone with good personality and a lot of energy. Then we'll tailor the role to the person we find."

Unreal briefly speculated about all the possible one-day roles for a soap opera. If we were going to be on The Young and the Restless for one day, we'd want it to be memorable.

"Will that character get to die?"

"I don't know," St. Cyr replied coyly. "You'll have to ask the writers." Of course they were back in LA.

The hundred or so hopefuls at the audition were a mix of seasoned actresses and seasoned fans.

"I've been watching for twenty years," said Consuelo Manning, 32. "It's a staple in my family. Even when I'm working, I always come back. John's a spirit now and Nick's in Paris and Jill is looking for her mom. I'd love to meet Victor. He looks like he smells good. And Brad. He was a cool boy. He kept his shirt on hardly ever."

Bryton McClure, who plays troubled teenager Devon Hamilton, came to St. Louis to read with the lucky actresses who made it through the first round of auditions. For the benefit of KMOV news, he gamely read a page of dialogue with Lindy Howland, who had been randomly selected from the audience.

Unreal tried to pay attention to the scene. It seemed like Howland was supposed to be seducing McClure. But to us she sounded more like a bitchy high-school cheerleader.

"She's never acted in her life," Howland's friend whispered.

Howland had no illusions. "God, I did horrible!" she laughed as soon as the cameras went off.

Nick Taylor accompanied his wife, Mindy, to the audition. "There's so many beautiful women here," he said, looking around. "It's nerve-racking."

The atmosphere was beginning to have an effect on Taylor. "People have been saying I look like Bryton's brother," he confided to Unreal. Maybe, we suggested, he could play Devon's evil twin?

"Nah," Taylor said. "I'd rather be his fill-in twin. Who's the scriptwriter? We need to set that up."

Laugh and the Lord Laughs with You
In the beginning, David Peters decided to write an encyclopedic account of biblical humor. Then came the editing. The result is the 444-page tome The Many Faces of Biblical Humor. Remember the Good Book? With all those hilarious stories about sacrificing a son on the altar, turning wives into salt and nailing a certain someone to the cross? Now you can yuk your way through it!

Unreal caught up with Peters, a Washington University engineering professor, to find out what's so funny about the word of God. Given his background in helicopter mechanics, we expected a choppy ride.

Unreal: What's the first joke in Genesis?

David Peters: The dysfunctional families. Jacob was supposed to marry Rachel and ended up with Leah. So what happened was, Rachel finally got so angry that Jacob stopped sleeping with Leah. Then Rachel wanted mandrakes, or may apples, which was considered to be an aphrodisiac, from Leah. So Rachel said, "You can have a night with Jacob if you give me those." There's an irony in the story, because Leah gets pregnant. That one kinda backfired on Rachel.

This sounds like Jerry Springer stuff, not intellectual humor.

It's all about what it means to be funny. There is some pointed irony or sarcasm. Some of it is pretty crass, like in the book of Ezekiel when God says, "You're going after false gods." He says, "You go out and have sex with men as big as donkeys. You're just like adulterous lovers that want men with the biggest male members, as big as a donkey, instead of coming back to me."

OK. Give me a typical joke in the Bible.

Before David was king, Saul was trying to kill him. David ran away to the Philistines and pretended he was a madman. The Philistines hauled him in front of King Achish, who looks down at David foaming at the mouth. He says: "Why did you bring a lunatic? I have enough lunatics in my entourage!"

Even Jesus used a little humor. He said to the religious leaders of the day: "You're trying to get a speck out of someone else's eye and you've got a log."

Ever think the timing of this is tricky, coming as it does at the end of a lame-duck evangelical's presidency?

This is an exciting time in America. These next few years are going to be great. I don't see this book as tied to any one brand of Christianity or one brand of religion. The Bible is one of the best pieces of literature every written. It was just part of the culture.

And you read it once a year?

It's fine if you read about six pages a day. It's not a huge task. Some people even purchase special Bibles that have it marked out. I try to spend time and pick out something to concentrate on. 

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