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People are slapping gold on anything these days: playing cards, Reddit accounts, cyborg cells that cure cancer. But not everything improves with gold. "Gilding the lily" means to unnecessarily attempt to improve something that's great the way it is, perhaps even ruining it in the process. It's also a sex act we won't discuss here, but to pull it off, you need three rubber gloves, a sousaphone, a lunar eclipse, an oil with a high smoke point, and the tears of a jilted bride.

Now let's look at some gilded gewgaws that really are Midas-touched in the head.

Your Face

You know the difference between a satirist and a millionaire? A satirist only writes about their horrible ideas. If I enacted every funny innovation that would require me to lose faith in humanity or myself, I'd be rich in a week, and dead by my own hand the week after, because I'd made my fortune selling Rapid Ramen Cookers.

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Caution: Gold tray not safe for microwave.

Here's another one of those times reality elbowed in on the satire racket with its old friend the placebo effect. Not content with smearing every food on the planet into your skin and hair, cosmetics makers have realized they can scatter a few flakes of gold into cream and raise the price like it's the colloidal version of your dreams.

The result is gold moisturizer, which claims to rejuvenate skin -- and does! But not because of gold, obviously.

How It Gilds the Lily:

There are big benefits to keeping your skin moisturized, not the least of which is that you might attract the attention of high-profile serial killers who can make you famous. But gold will not help with that.

The New York Times already called bullshit on gold facial care, but let's boil it down: gold will not keep you from decaying, because you are not a robot. Not flakes of gold, not a gold mask, not gold nano-particles, unless that mole on your face is cancerous -- but if you have access to nanotech treatments, we assume you also have scientists who can explain why magic doesn't work.

Here, I've annotated a passage to better illustrate for you.

New York Times
Never trust someone who can't even spell her own name correctly.

The only substance she's scientifically qualified to discuss is bullshit. You'd get a more chemically accurate description of gold from back issues of Metal Men.

DC Comics
At least the phony science there comes from things robots can't do, not gold.

Gold even beat out The Backstreet Boys for 2001's allergen of the year. So a select few who have never rubbed gold into their skin are going to discover an ugly reaction. Everyone else's ugly reaction is limited to realizing they paid premium for an inactive ingredient. The Lily Meter says:

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Putting gold in rejuvenating creams is like trying to build a skate park out of chocolate pudding. Almost nobody gets hurt, but you've wasted something great on a function it can never fulfill.


They're just staples, but golden. They can't pierce deeper than the regular kind. Leprechauns won't trade you one for a wish. And they're not inscribed with runes that reveal the secret location of the Orc King's treasure (which is also gold staples).

Darling, will you collate documents with me for the rest of our lives?

Now, there are plenty of things dipped in gold that don't need to be -- Rolexes, Zippos, James Bond's lovers -- usually for thousands more than it would cost to have done it yourself. Hell, you can even get a gold vibrator that says "Fuck Design" if you really want to pay $375 for a pun and an orgasm. (But, girl, I would give you one of those two for free, and throw in the other for $200, and good luck guessing which is which.)

We're not talking about any of those. A gold vibrator still has a purpose, even if it never fucks design. Tacky gold plating at least serves the function of motivating people to fling sex at unattractive rich folks. But those things all function more or less the same. The staples are less effective thanks to the gold.

How It Gilds the Lily:

Designers Guido Ooms and Karin van Lieshout (don't let the names fool you; they're not douchebags, just Dutch) suggest these staples be used "primarily as a form of jewelry" and that they "can be applied to clothing." (Back it up; they might be douches after all.)

First, a designer should know that no fashion benefits from staples. Stapling clothes together is the retreat of the impoverished and insane, or in the case of Internet comedy writers: both, and I still wouldn't wear this. Right now I'm clad in leather slippers and khakis with a torn crotch, and I am telling you that stapling them would make me look too much like a homeless person.

They're too comfortable to throw out
Pants that would get you arrested are the surest way to stay at your desk until the article's finished.

Second, no human being ever bragged that the office supplies holding their clothes together cost $75. That's not how you impress people. That's how you let them know the police can't help them now. Gold staples are only jewelry in a world where duct tape is treated like the Tyrian purple silk it deserves to be.

Third, they don't work as staples. Imagine a document so important that it deserved gold staples. Now try to imagine one so brief that a single, ordinary-sized staple could bind it. Did you picture your child's first attempt at writing a storybook? Because nothing else hits that overlap.

They also fail as staples because they're no longer disposable. You can't reuse them, and you can't, in good conscience, throw them out. If there's a practical function to these things, it's that they're the only way to get America's many psychopath CEOs to do their own stapling.

Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images
"Wooo! Fuck you, peasants, and your TPS reports! Also, due to budget concerns, we will be letting six of you go."

In some countries, it's rude to tip the staff because it implies they need charity. That's the statement behind each and every one of these gilt fuckers: scrabble for my leavings, worm. Sure, from a one-off standpoint, these $3 staples are just as effective as the ones used by The Poors. But their only real function is to say, "Here, peon, take unto thy hand this pittance; I trust you to salivate discreetly from it."

Remind your underlings that they will never escape the life they were born and bred into with each slam of the El Casco stapler. (Of course it's an El Casco. You think these gold spikes of ire would ever be found in a Swingline? That plebeian tool?)

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The only realistic use for gold staples is in your skull, because you'd need a serious head injury to consider these. Also, it's as close to jewelry as these things will ever get. BONUS: Gold gives us energy and promotes healing.

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Gold soared in value from 2009 to 2013, surely driven up to its current worth only by sane and reasoned consumers who weren't being reactionary at all. So why not use gold as money itself, like people did in the days of witch-burning?

It kind of makes sense. For the longest time, gold was currency, even after it left circulation. America used the gold standard to guarantee its dollars until 1933, followed by the Bretton Woods System of Confusing the Hell out of Me. Bretton Woods was neither gold standard nor fiat but a transitional state between the two.

So hey, gold money, why not, right? You need gold because pretty soon Obama will initiate "Phase III: Economicon." Then the dirham will become America's new currency and FEMA stormtroopers will march us into the streets to be forcibly vaccinated by fluoride-laced contrails. We're going to want a new form of money that's intrinsically valuable.

Enter PaperGold, the "dollar-sized bill with all the purity of a gold bar." It contains one-tenth of a gram of laminated 24-carat gold and looks like American money as imagined by people who don't have plumbing.


When the United States of 'Murica secedes, this shall be their currency.

PaperGold values its bills at $10 each and recommends a $100 starter pack "as a stocking-stuffer this holiday season, birthday gift, and a versatile item that can be contributed towards a child's education, first-time home purchase, and more." It is also complete bullshit.

How It Gilds the Lily:

Money has a primary purpose, and that is to procure cocaine and hookers. Secondary uses include:

Spreading disease
Lighting cigars
Inspiring the most atrocious human behavior
Saving rich kids from the consequences of their crimes
Getting some real nice music out of Barrett Strong
Pacifying the underclass with dreams of winning the lottery
Piling up in montages to show your anti-hero's criminal empire growing
Purchasing goods and services other than cocaine and hookers, if such things exist

Jyn Meyer/Hemera/Getty Images
It is doubtful.

But hang on. At the time of this writing, gold is trading for $1,189 per ounce, which, assuming that's Troy ounces, is just over $38 per gram. One-tenth of a gram is worth $3.82, not the $10 charged by PaperGold. This is pseudo-currency masquerading as investment. If you have $10, just buy $10 worth of gold. Done. These people added gold to money and managed to devalue both. That's not someone you trust with your financial future. That's not even someone you trust to dispose of a diaper correctly.

The same gold that gives this garbage its fiscal value gives it less practical value than simply buying gold. Its whole existence is just surfing Tea Party certitude that the economy will crash and the dollar will be worthless. Put your faith in lucre, whispers PaperGold, and live in luxury until the Second Coming.

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
When Jesus sees how much money you have, you're sure to get into Heaven.

For the record, 37 out of 40 economic experts think going back to a gold standard is a terrible idea, and the other three didn't answer the question. But if we were to return to that, we still wouldn't put the actual gold in people's hands. PaperGold takes gold out of safe storage where it can guarantee worth and puts it in circulation to be damaged, lost, and sent out of the country.

Although that's a great argument for us to adopt the Andy Dick standard.

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This actually uses gold to make gold less valuable.

A Shirt

If I had to list the basic requirements of a shirt, they would be that it weigh 7 pounds and cost as much as a house. But since I'm paying so much, I'd also like it to be extremely hot, if possible, and to require two bodyguards to ward off assailants.

Ah, sorry ... wrong list. Those are my requirements for the world's sexiest baby.

But such were the shirtular needs of Datta Phuge of Pune, India, who commissioned a $235,000 gold shirt and had enough leftover gold to forge some jewelry to match.

Gold is a big deal in India right now, as you'll see from that clip's related videos, featuring numerous dudes in gold shirts and enough jewelry to tip Mr. T off balance.

How It Gilds the Lily:

Shirts protect you from the elements and make you look good. Phuge's does neither, unless he's in a cool yet sunny climate, which he is decidedly not. It is pure peacockery, and Phuge knows it. He purportedly told MSN New Zealand: "I know I am not the best-looking man in the world, but surely no woman could fail to be dazzled by this shirt?"

This man peacocks on levels we cannot even conceive.

That's ... aw, Datta, c'mon, dude. There's nothing wrong with you. You're a decent-looking guy, you obviously have a successful professional life, you grow an excellent mustache. Why don't you try talking to a lady without the gold shirt? You don't want a woman who loves you only for your shiny metal style.

Ohhhh, wait. I get it. The shirt's just an excuse to surround himself with manly bodyguards so he can pull off the cheerleader effect.

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You know, it's probably the nicest gold shirt you could commission.

I can't hate this. He's forthright about how much he loves gold, and he points out he'd rather have this than some sports car. At least he didn't make the rich-guy mistake of thinking that buying something badass makes you a badass. Phuge took the time to commission something that excites him personally.

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Last of all, ladies and gentlemen: gold-plated poopy pills.

To be fair to artists Tobias Wong and Ju$t Another Rich Kid, these aren't intended to bring a faint glow of what used to be called joy to what used to be the hearts of the decadent rich. They're artistic commentary on indulgence and consumerism that appeared in the Museum of Modern Art (the art world's richest source of both gold and shit). But you just know someone will buy them to take a post-ironic poop.

phanuchat/iStock/Getty Images
A pretty accurate portrait of post-irony, to be honest.

Anyway, intent doesn't matter, because $425 is way too much to spend on gilding your shit. The same effect can be had with a shot of Goldschlager, and that only costs $6 and the bartender's respect.

But why even ingest precious metals? If you'd prefer not to make the effort yourself, artist Terence Koh will gold-plate his poop for you.

How It Gilds the Lily:

Excrement is useful if you're a farmer or a bug or a sewer technician. For everyone else it exists only to get the hell away from us and occasionally hurl at our foes. Its function, by definition, is to get rid of it. Even babies are experts at this. It's so easy to do that sometimes it occurs when we least want it to. But these folks have invented a way to disable nature itself by making poop too precious to lose. Or gold too disgusting to keep. Either way, there are people in developing nations whose yearly income is less than one session on the toilet.

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Ironically, it's the perfect gift for people who couldn't give a shit.

The world has no shortage of maniacs and slobs, and where the two intersect are hundreds of names we'll never hear, saving their waste in pickle jars and thinking, "At last! This is the one that will make me rich." But for one of those maniacs, that actually happened, and now we can never call those people crazy again. Thanks so much, Terence Koh. You broke art and psychology in one gesture.

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A feat equal to three L. Ron Hubbards.

Brendan doesn't have the Midas touch, but he does have the ears of a donkey. Call him an ass on Twitter @BrendanMcGinley.

We struck gold before in 5 Real Buried Treasures That Can Make You Rich (or Kill You) and 4 Insane Solutions to America's Biggest Problems.

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