Speed Bumps

Unreal narrowly averts Car-mageddon, dispels a Brad Pitt rumor and gets some berry good news about vino.

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Brad Pitt

This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions."

"What do you mean, 'biblical'?"

"He means 'Old Testament,' Mr. Mayor. Real wrath-of-God type stuff."

"Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling...."

"Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...."

"The dead rising from the grave."

"Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!"

Though the preceding exchange is taken from the climax of the seminal 1984 film Ghostbusters, it could just as easily be a sampling of the discourse that led up to the closing of Highway 40. In the months prior to the shutdown of the freeway, or "Car-mageddon" as some affectionately referred to it, the anxiety was palpable. People were scared.

Now more than two weeks later, the shutdown is a letdown. People, it seems, simply found another way to get where they need to go.

Still, the absence of one of the area's major thoroughfares remains a hot topic, dominating headlines and water-cooler chatter alike. Not to be outdone, Unreal checked in with several area residents to see how they've been affected by the closure.

"I was a lonely man before the highway closed, but now I carpool with some neighbors. It's a blast. We karaoke to '80s songs all the way to work. 'Everybody's workin' for the weekend...!'" — Peter Venkman, St. Charles

"It turns out it only takes me fifteen minutes to walk to work from my house. With the way rush-hour traffic was before the highway closed, my commute was taking almost 45 minutes. I'd like to take this opportunity to say to MoDOT and Pete Rahn: Thank you very much." — Raymond Stantz, Clayton

"This really worries me. How is St. Louis going to maintain its status as one of the nation's most obese cities when more people are getting exercise by walking to get to mass transit?" — Janine Melnitz, Kirkwood

"Did you know that St. Louis has a Metro system? They call it the 'MetroLink.' Isn't that great? It's like a cross between a train and a bus. It's comes really frequently and is almost always on time. I think they built it for the World's Fair or something." — Dana Barrett, Shrewsbury

"The highway is closed? At Lindbergh? You're kidding me. I drove on it this morning. Oops. Guess that explains why traffic was so light." — Louis Tully, Town & Country

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to get to the Galleria now? I haven't had an Auntie Anne's pretzel for weeks." — Winston Zeddmore, Ballwin

"Really? You're telling me the traffic isn't that bad? I quit my job and haven't left my house since the highway closed. Dammit, I bought all those batteries and bottles of water for nothing. I swore I wasn't going to fall for this crap again after Y2K." — Egon Spengler, Ladue

What Would Charles Bearkowski Do?

Maxine "The Monetizer" Clark turned the one-step act of buying a teddy bear into a six-step process that became the mall phenomenon Build-A-Bear Workshop. Employees of the shop actually do most of the bear-building, but the important thing here is that you are (or, if you're not Unreal, your child is) invited to choose a bear, name it and — for an additional $2 to $15 — clothe and accessorize it.

Wall Street loved the idea and for a time was quite bullish on the bears. BBW reached a 52-week high of $31.50 on February 16. Alas, attentions fade, and BBW has been dropping since.

Not surprised? You must be under the impression that a kid can only play with so many well-built bears. You have not visited buildabearville.com.

The 'Ville is where you can decorate your very own Cub Condo. That's right. Condos. For bears. Well, OK, the condos are for the avatars of your kid's stuffed animal. (Can you see the argument in Toy Land? Plush bear: I have glasses just like Johnny. I'm the original avatar. Digital bear: That's great. You keep it real, original avatar who sleeps in a plastic bin with other toys. Johnny is putting me up in my own penthouse with a rooftop garden.)

Clark & co. aren't the first purveyor of plush toys to use them as keys to a virtual world. Bearville attempts to up the ante on Webkinz World, by adding richer graphics and special events.

To which we say: Sweet! Yep, 2008'll go down as the year Unreal got down with the avatar of a middle-aged businesswoman and hung our first roll of digital wallpaper. 


And now for installment Part Deux in what may yet become a series: Remember that recent groundbreaking Washington University study that revealed a distinct correlation between alcohol consumption and avid consummation? Well, soon afterward, the following e-mail made the rounds among Wash. U. administrators and staff:

"To my friends who enjoy a glass of wine...and those who don't,

"As Ben Franklin said:

"'In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.'

"In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli, (E. coli) — bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop.

"However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting. Remember:

"Water = Poop,

"Wine = Health.

"Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of shit.

"There is no need to thank me for this valuable information: I'm doing it as a public service."

If true, this comes as particularly good news for Unreal, for we are so often accused of being full of shit. In fact, we have just been talking stupid.

Bottoms up!

For Pitt's Sake

It was a shot heard 'round cyberspace on Monday, January 7: The city of Springfield, Missouri, plans to build a museum dedicated to the life of its hometown hunk, Brad Pitt.

And with that, Pitt's career ended. OK, not really. (Wishful thinking.)

What happened was, something called the "World Entertainment News Network" released an online "article" announcing plans for a Pitt shrine in Springfield.

The story quoted Susan Wade, "head of PR for the town," as saying, "We're glad to have Brad as part of our history and culture. In fact, we need a Brad Pitt Museum."

Wade's phone at the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau promptly began to ring off the hook, and the former journalist suddenly realized she was at the center of the most pitifully false Brad Pitt story in all of human history!

"It's all a big fat lie," she tells Unreal. "It was the figment of somebody's imagination. I was quoted in [OK!] magazine saying, 'We joke that we need a Brad Pitt museum,' and some publication in Thailand got a little free with their editing and put an interesting headline on it, and it's just gone gangbusters. It's really disappointing."

Replies Unreal: "That's too bad. We were going to ask if Jennifer Aniston would get her due place in the chronology."

Wade laughs.

OK! magazine got all the info correct, says Wade, so there are no hard feelings there. The flack also reports that neither Pitt's family nor spokespeople for Brangelina called to complain. Wade says she did leave a CYA voicemail for a family representative to clear up any confusion.

"It makes me wonder if we do need a museum," Wade adds. "Would you go?"

Unreal pauses. "Personally? No."

Wade doesn't miss a beat. "I probably wouldn't care about him if it wasn't for my job," she says with a laugh. "Maybe that would change if I met him." 

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