You Might Be a Zombie . . . (3 page)

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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Wel , actual y, science says it might not be a coincidence that all those blue things make us feel so damn good. After all , blue is the only color in the spectrum that has actively prevented people from kil ing themselves.

Wait, what?

Blue has a scientifical y proven calming effect on human emotion, and that’s being exploited in a variety of ways. In 2000, police in Glasgow, Scotland, instal ed blue streetlights in high-crime areas. Since then, crime in those notoriously dangerous neighborhoods has dropped by 9 percent.

Figuring anything that might reduce drive-by head butts in the heart of
Braveheart
country was worth a try, police in England and parts of Japan began using the color blue around popular suicide destinations like Blackfriars Bridge in London, which was repainted blue in an attempt to reduce the number of jumpers. For the same reason, several large Japanese railway companies switched exclusively to blue light at all their railroad crossings. So far it’s been an astounding success: In 2007, the year before the lights were instal ed, there were 640 suicides by train. In 2008, after the switch was made, there were none. Zero!

If you find yourself asking the perfectly valid question, “What the hel ?” hold on: It gets weirder from there. One theory states that the color itself has a tangible, biological effect on our brain chemistry. Harold Wohlfarth, president of the German Academy of Color Science, conducted a study that found the color of lighting did indeed have an effect on children, but even more bizarrely, it had an equal effect
even if they were blind
.

It’s hard to argue that children have preconceived notions associated with a color when you have to stop in midsentence and explain the entire
concept
of color to them until they break down and cry about all the things they’re missing. Wohlfarth believes that traces of the electromagnetic energy that makes up colored light affect certain neurotransmitters in our brains. When light of a certain color falls on an eye, even if it’s the defective nonseeing variety, it’s relayed to the gland that produces melatonin, which sets off a chain reaction that elevates mood and calms emotions. Basical y: blue gives you eye orgasms.

2. RED

It’s what you “paint the town” if you’re about to go out and get drunk (assuming you drink with your grandpa). It’s the color that tell s bul s to charge, that tell s people to stop (assuming they’re not suicidal and approaching a Japanese train track). It’s what mysterious women wore in 1980s soft-rock bal ads, a decade when it was general y assumed that painting your car red would make it go faster. Yes, people have believed and said a lot of contradictory, ridiculous things about red over the years, and they can all be backed up by science.

Wait, what?

Behavioral studies have revealed that the color red leads to heightened respiratory and cardiovascular rates. This encourages a sense of heightened awareness, making people more likely to act on impulses and therefore more aggressive.

That’s why red is a common color in bars and restaurants. An experiment on partygoers was conducted by a group of designers and architects, who special y built model rooms decorated entirely in solid colors. They found that the red room was by far the most popular with revelers, who not only flocked to that room in greater numbers but also left substantial y earlier. “But why would they leave early?” you might ask if you’ve never had irresponsible, drunken sex with a stranger. It’s the same reason why “red-light district” isn’t just a name—where you find brothels, you will usually find red lights bathing the street in the international color of bad decisions.

But if red makes us worse at control ing our impulses, why do we use it on stop signs? well, as coffee drinkers know, having elevated heart and breathing rates helps people pay attention. In a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, red was proven to focus attention and increase performance in detail-oriented tasks.

But the stimulant red seems most closely related to is cocaine. Like that drug, red speeds up your pulse, heightens your awareness, and was integral y involved in making the eighties an embarrassing decade to live in. Only, red is still getting you high every day of your life, whether you know it or not.

1. PINK

So all those connotations of femininity—of passivity and gentleness—that’s all a lie, right? Wearing pink is just a way of expressing how comfortable you are with your masculinity, right? Not so fast: turns out pink may actually be girlier than you ever imagined.

Wait, what?

Back in the day, high school footbal teams would often paint the visiting team’s locker room pink. The gesture was probably given as much thought as whether to cal the opposing kicker Nancy or Sal y, but then it began to show serious results. Teams that did it won. A lot. So much so that the University of Hawaii and University of Colorado adopted this practice in the NCAA. Unbeknownst to visiting players, the wall s didn’t just mock their sexuality but actually sapped their will to fight: Overwhelming win-to-loss ratios were recorded by home teams whose visiting locker rooms were painted pink. It was so effective, the NCAA’s Western Athletic Conference banned the pink visitor’s locker room like it was a performance-enhancing drug.

Operating on the same logic, the sheriff’s office in Mason County, Texas, converted all its inmates’ uniforms to pink, including shoes, socks, and even underwear (which brings up an important, if slightly tangential, question: There’s jail-appointed underwear?). The chief goal of this practice, according to the sheriff, was to reduce theft. And it worked. Not only did theft rates drop to zero after the switch, but overal repeat-offender imprisonment rates are down 68 percent as wel .

Pink is such an effective calming influence that a specific shade, called Baker-Mil er pink, currently graces the wall s of many drunk tanks and solitary confinement cel s across the country. One such facility is the U.S. Naval Correctional Center in Seattle, Washington. Before switching its color palette, it averaged one assault on staff every day. After going pink, there was none for six months. So either pink is subliminal y pacifying violent criminals across the world, or the secret motivation for all crime is the desire to be pretty, and having satisfied it, these hardened criminals are simply and final y happy.

Dr. Alexander Schauss, director for the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, has suggested that pink also has neurological effects on physical abilities. Even if a person wanted to be angry or aggressive, their body would be less likely to respond in the presence of pink. Somehow it limits their heart rates and makes the adrenaline surge needed for most violent actions nearly impossible.

Of course, wearing pink doesn’t necessarily mean that
you
are affected by it. After all , if it’s on your body you’re less likely to see it yourself. But everybody else? well, they have to see it every time they look at you. Do you realize what that means? Wearing pink doesn’t make you a wimp; it makes
everybody around you a wimp
. Technical y speaking, that means the toughest guy in
any
given situation is the guy in the My Little Pony shirt.

THE FOUR MOST BADASS PRESIDENTS OF ALL TIME

THE
stories you learned in school about some of America’s most important presidents skipped a few details. Most of what you know about the guys whose faces are on the money in your pocket and the mountain in North Dakota were edited for the same reason health class edited out the best aspects of human sexuality: Because tell ing you the truth was far more likely to end with you putting someone’s eye out.

4. ANDREW JACKSON

When the 1828 election rol ed around, a lot of people were terrified when they heard Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson was running. If you’re wondering how a guy we’re cal ing a badass got such a lame nickname, it’s because he used to carry a hickory cane around and beat people senseless with it, and if you’re wondering why he did that, it’s because he was a freaking lunatic.

Former Democratic senator and secretary of the treasury Albert Gal atin feared a Jackson presidency because of the man’s “habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions.” In other words, the guy was a loose canon—nineteenth-century Washington’s answer to Martin Riggs. Sure, he probably didn’t have an irate black lieutenant to answer to, or a weary partner who was too old for this shit, but he most certainly had a death wish.

How do we know? Despite everyone’s best efforts, Jackson was elected to the top office, and when he wasn’t busy shaping the presidency as we know it today, you could find him out back dueling. In case you haven’t been to the nineteenth century lately, this unmanly sounding activity involves standing across from an armed man and shooting at him while he in turn shoots at you. The number of duels that Jackson took part in varies depending on which source you consult: Some say thirteen, while others rank the number somewhere in the hundreds, either of which is entirely too many times for a reasonable human being to stand in front of someone who is trying to kil them with a loaded gun.

On one occasion, Jackson chal enged a man named Charles Dickinson to a duel (the reason behind it wasn’t important, not to us and certainly not to Jackson), and Jackson even politely volunteered to be shot at first. Dickinson happily obliged and shot Jackson, who proceeded to shake it off like it was a bee sting. When Jackson returned the favor, Dickinson was not so lucky, and that’s why his face isn’t on the twenty. The bul et, by the by, remained in Jackson’s body for nineteen years because he knew that time spent removing the bul ets would fall under the category of “time not dueling”—Jackson’s least favorite category.

Looking back on his life, spent murdering people for little to no reason, Jackson reflected, “I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.” Calhoun, it should be noted, was Jackson’s vice president.

Greatest displays of badassery
: Andrew Jackson was the first president against whom an assassination attempt was made. A man named Richard Lawrence approached Jackson with two pistols, both of which, for some reason, misfired. Jackson proceeded to beat Lawrence nearly to death with his cane until aides pull ed him off.

The guns were inspected afterward, and it was discovered that they were in perfect working order, leading some historians to believe that it was an odds-defying “miracle” that Jackson survived. But we’re pretty sure the bul ets, like everyone else, were simply scared of Jackson.

3. JOHN F. KENNEDY

Nowadays, John F. Kennedy is remembered mostly for getting shot in the head, which, while admittedly badass, barely makes the top ten of badass things he ever did. Plagued with a bad back his entire life, Kennedy was disqualified from service in the army. Instead of using this as an excuse to pursue the decidedly saner strategy of staying away from exploding things, Kennedy had his dad pull a few strings so he could sneak his way into the navy, where he eventual y became a lieutenant. Just to get some perspective, Bil Clinton dodged the draft, Grover Cleveland paid someone else to go in his place when he was drafted, but Kennedy beat the system by forcing his way
into
the navy. Once there, he handled himself like a gravel-eating shit miner instead of the rich Boston pretty boy he actually was.

Upon leaving the navy, he took up boning on a near ful -time basis. Sure he dabbled at being a senator and a president or whatever, but his ful -time job was pimping. While almost no two sources are in agreement as to just how much tail Kennedy snagged, historian John Richard Stephens says that

“Kennedy confided with friends that he could only be satisfied with three women a day.” Kennedy’s closest friend once recal ed that “Jack could be shameless in his sexuality . . . He would corner them at White House dinner parties and ask them to step into the next room away from the noise, where they could hold a ‘serious discussion.’ "

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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