Florida Is Cleaner

No sale!

If Gerstein is right, 30 years of state laws establishing no-wake zones in manatee habitats in more than 20 counties might have done more harm than good. Back to the drawing board?

Tailpipe has determined that there's absolutely no truth to reports that Gerstein's research was funded by the Florida Eat-My-Wake Canal Surfing and High-Speed Excursion Society.

Polluted River

The J.P. Taravella High School Marching Band plays its biggest parade ever next month: the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Never have the Marching Trojans had the opportunity to participate in an event of this historical magnitude, says Neil Jenkins, the Coral Springs school's band director since 1990.

So what tune will the Marching Trojans play for our nation's first black president?

"It's going to be something generic to Florida," Jenkins says. The arrangement might include references to our longtime state song, "The Swanee River," cleansed of its offensive 1851 lyrics.

"The Swanee River," in its original incarnation, is sad and melancholy — and a musical racial stereotype. Composer Stephen Foster penned the meandering tune for a troupe called Christy's Minstrels, who performed in blackface. The minstrels mimicked the so-called dialect of Southern "darkies," singing about "longing for de old plantation."

Jenkins says he doesn't think piping out "Swanee River" will offend anyone. "If [the arranger] used it at all, it was going to be subtle. In fact, Florida A&M used part of it in the inauguration for the governor in 2007."

Not so. Noted white man Charlie Crist, in fact, had the song barred from his inauguration because of its racial undertones. A song by Pompano Beach music teacher Jan Hinton, titled "Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," supposedly will soon replace Foster's ditty as state song.

In fairness, there are updated versions of "Swanee River" (including Albert Ammons' "Swanee River Boogie" and "Swanee River Rock," by an awesome trio of Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Ray Charles). Many Floridians still consider the tune a memorable piece of history — though Stephen Foster, who was from Pittsburgh, never set foot in Florida.

Blanketing the U.S.

An infomercial for "The Snuggie — the Blanket With Sleeves!" has been invading television sets around the nation this past month like Asian flu. But why is Tailpipe telling you? If you've got a TV, you've seen it, with its peculiar, space-alien-looking Snuggie lovers and its infectious jingle: "Blankets are OK/But they can slip and slide/And when you need to reach for something/Your hands are trapped inside!"

A casual internet search, though, turns up the disturbing revelation that Snuggies marketers may actually be parasitic invention stealers who have piggy-backed on somebody else's idea. Not only have there been abundant horror stories of the Snuggies company overcharging customers for shipping charges that exceed the cost of the robe but the product itself was a rip-off of... the Slanket!

Tailpipe tracked down the inventor of the Slanket — an amiable 20-something kid from Maine named Gary Clegg. Unlike the phantoms behind the Snuggie (telephone and internet ordering is computer-automated, and the only other way to contact them is via snail mail), Clegg responded immediately.

"I am the inventor of The Slanket," he wrote in an email, "and the one responsible for spreading the warmth of this awesome product around the globe." He had just sealed a deal to distribute Slankets at a certain national chain of brick-and-mortar home-goods stores and was about to hop on a plane to peddle Slankets in Germany.

Clegg says he invented the Slanket four years ago. He has a design patent (though it wasn't foolproof enough to stop the makers of the Snuggie). However, "the term 'the blanket with sleeves' could possibly be grounds for some legal action," he warned. Slankets beat Snuggies any day, he says, because they're bigger and made of much thicker fleece. Plus, he has real live people handling customer service.

What about allegations that Snuggie/Slanket-wearers look like monks from some strange cult? "I don't think Snuggie wearers are like a cult," Clegg says, "because there is no sense of community there." How does he describe Slanket wearers? "Their only ideals are positive attitudes and lazy, cozy lounging around."

This just in: There's also something called a Cuddle Wrap. More on that later. This blanket with sleeves is so comfy, Tailpipe... doesn't... want... to... move...

P.S.

The folks at the Broward Sheriff's Office put a big-time emphasis on prevention and safety — and Tailpipe loves 'em for that. But sometimes, your local Deputy Do-Right can be a dreary killjoy. Tailpipe recently overdosed on dark messages of holiday danger (from BSO and elsewhere), from exploding turkeys to ball-of-fire Christmas trees.

The boys and girls at BSO were probably concerned that the 'Pipe might be relaxing his vigilance, because this came in last week:

"Homemade Decorations Can Be Fun But Dangerous." All right, some of their pointers — like "remember to water your Christmas tree" and "turn the Christmas lights off when you go to sleep" — are sensible fire-prevention tips.

But then: "Only use lights and decorations listed by a testing laboratory." What, the Pipe can't stick a candy cane on his tree? Or: "Never use lit candles as tree decorations"? Does anyone actually do that?

The 'Pipe is already imagining the warnings to come: St. Patrick's Day: "Don't Smoke the Shamrocks." Easter: "Bunnies Turn Vicious When Trapped." Fourth of July: "Putting Sparklers Up Your Nose Can Be Fun But Dangerous!"

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