Sundown this past Friday began the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the story of Exodus (the Biblical departure of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt, as opposed to “Exodus” the Bob Marley album or “Exodus” the post-apocalyptic role-playing game).
On the first two nights of Passover, it is customary for family and friends to gather for a special dinner called a Seder, meaning “order,” referring to the very specific order of rituals performed before, during and after the meal. Also, because your mother “orders” you to eat a matzo cracker heaped with chopped liver and chicken fat and you better not retch it back into to a cocktail napkin, either — do you want to hurt your grandma’s feelings? She’s not going to be around forever, you know.
After the traditional guilt is dished, we recount the 10 Plagues of Egypt, a series of divine punishments inflicted upon Pharaoh until he finally freed the Hebrew slaves from bondage. The 10 Plagues are: blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and slaying of the firstborn (coincidentally, these ingredients — plus brown sugar and Heinz chili sauce — comprise the entirety of my mom’s famous Passover brisket recipe).
Of course, the 10 Plagues went down several thousand years ago, when plagues like blood, hail and locusts proved far more catastrophic before the advent of latex gloves, chemical ice melt and Raid. What might a more era-appropriate 10 Plagues look like today?
• Wheat gluten: In the 1980s this plague would have been sodium. In the 90s, it would have been fat. In the ’aughts, carbs. Here in 2012, you can ingest as much of those as you like, as long as whatever you’re eating is 100 percent certified Gluten-Free. But be sure to read the label first; it may have been produced in a facility that also processes eggs, dairy, soy, and tree nuts (aka “The Four Horsemen of the Apoc-allergist”).
• Emo music: And everything else that accompanies the whiny, broody sniveling that somehow made Pete Wentz a star, including, but not limited to: long bangs, sweater vests, shoelaces for belts, and marrying Ashlee Simpson. If that last one won’t scare a Pharaoh into releasing his Israelite slaves, nothing will.
• $5 gas: Although, some service stations give you free coffee or bottled water with a fill-up, so there’s that.
• Pink slime: It’ll take more than a plague of pestilence to scare the modern consumer from eating diseased meat—just look at how many Lunchables Oscar Meyer continues to sell. But run one news story about a textured beef scrap product commonly added to hamburger meat and the whole country starts quarter-pounding in its pants.
• Manboobs: While medical science long ago figured out how to treat Biblical plagues like boils (e.g. antibacterial ointments, antibiotics) or lice (e.g. shampoos, combs, school-yard shunning and humiliation), Lord knows, there’s still no cure for manboobs. And not a shirt exists — not even a football jersey — that can truly hide your gynecomastia, puffy nipples, moobs, chesticles, fatboy funbags, etc. Just ask William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
• Application(s) not responding: This plague takes many forms: spinning hour-glass, whirling beach ball of death, pop-ups, blue-screens, freezes, anything else you might hear on those late-night commercials with the vaguely-Russian accented spokesmodels for the sketchy PC cleaning website that probably gave you all those pop-ups, blue-screens and whirling beach balls of death in the first place. Worst part about this plague: you’ll have to go back to analog pornography.
• Sarah Palin guest-anchoring the “Today” show: Especially if you’re trapped in the dentist’s chair and the hygienist can’t understand your garbled pleas to change the channel to Katie Couric guest-anchoring “Good Morning America.”
• Late-career Eddie Murphy: Norbit. Just… Norbit. And have you seen A Thousand Words? The plague of late-career Eddie Murphy reminds you of how much better things were 25 years ago, which is, of course, something only an old person would say. Not only is Eddie Murphy past his prime; so are you. But at least you aren’t slated to make a sequel to the 1988 film Twins, in which you play the long-lost third sibling of the original eponymous twins, Danny DeVito and a pre-pectorally deflated Arnold Schwarzenegger. That late-career Eddie Murphy film stands to be a particularly nasty plague. You might want to hang plastic sheeting over your windows on the day they release it.
• Endless presidential primary seasons that go on forever with no definitive winner.
• Expiration of all gift cards: So what if God spares your firstborn son? If he doth smite all your gift cards, how are you supposed to pay for that chambray blazer? What about the tailored slim-fit taupe plaid suit trousers? You’re sure as hell not going to pay your own money, even with the discount you get when you use your Banana Republic credit card. And yet, you’re not walking out of there without those calfskin penny driving loafers, either. This is perhaps the cruelest plague of all (which is why i saved it for last).
• Geoff Kirsch’s Great Southeast Alaskan One-Man Hair-Band Experience Experiment Projeqt will be performing all your favorites (assuming you like Bruce Springsteen impersonations and Guns ‘N Roses re-imagined for acoustic guitar and kazoo) at 9:30 p.m., Wednesday at the Alaska Folk Festival. For those about to folk, we salute you!