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I was spinning the car radio dial the other day when it happened upon a worked-up Southern preacher talking about space aliens.

Space aliens, he said, are the devil in disguise.

And the media, he said, are evil for imagining space aliens to be friendly E.T.-type creatures that have come to enlighten us with their superior intelligence.


I never thought about it that way, but maybe those zippy flying saucers are from the underworld, not the outerworld. Come to think of it, there's a lot of stuff around that, it now becomes clear, is the devil's work.

But you have to be looking for it. Consider:

People who make quotation marks in the air with their fingers. Doesn't it just send a chill down your spine?

"Classic rock" radio. Why else would they play "Sympathy for the Devil" in the daily rotation, 22 years after it was a hit? They want your mind, and the seduction is rock 'n' roll with all of the pleasure and none of the challenge of the real thing.

The hot wax hard-sell at the car wash. Get thee behind me, salesman.

Bob Saget. The man who turned Americans into camcorder-toting disaster hunters who would rather roll tape than rescue their grandmother as she falls into a mud puddle. Only the devil could smirk like that.

TV news updates. In the business they're called "teasers," and for good reason: They tell you nothing. They're merely there to distract you from the idea that the show you're watching probably isn't worth watching and maybe it's time to turn off the set. If you can get hooked into staying up for the news, you're theirs for the evening.

Tomatoes. Perfectly beautiful, perfectly bland. The converse of . . .

Chocolate. Talk about temptation! Talk about an endorphin rush! Talk about heart disease!

Bank service charges. Wherein you pay for the privilege of allowing the bank to use your money for whatever they want to use it for, such as gold-plating the latrines in the executive washroom.

Drivers who signal a left turn only after the light turns green. If these people aren't straight from hell, they're headed that way.

Multiplex movie theaters. Secondhand doses of love and death, comedy and gunplay -- all this and the movie you're actually watching, too.

Call waiting. Unspoken message: I'm busier than you, so rot on hold while I deal with it.

Final Jeopardy. Most of us can come up with the questions for maybe half the answers in the two rounds of TV's most popular game show. But that last stumper . . . night after night, it makes for a hell of an inferiority complex.

The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. For turning men's minds away from sports where they belong.