Entry 581: The Unfine State

Well Thursday I’m once again heading down to the Ft. Lauderdale area. It’s my favorite destination…if the alternatives are prison and the dentist.

I’ve written often about how much I hate the place, and how I sometimes root for global warming just so the entire state will find itself underwater during my lifetime.  It’s going to end up underwater by the end of the century anyway, or so the scientists say, but I want the satisfaction of seeing it happen.

Hopefully it won’t happen while I’m there, though, which I am frequently to take care of various issues concerning my mother.  And, as I said, I’ll be there again this weekend, at the end of August, when the climate is likely to be somewhat akin to the weather on the planet Mercury, only more humid.

bill[1]And now, not only do I have to dread the usual stuff: afternoon monsoons; near-continuous strip malls; utterly charmless architecture; obnoxious attorney billboards; old people driving massive cars in totally random ways; railroad crossings where you can get stuck for what seems like hours while a 50-car freight train goes by; drawbridges where you can get stuck for what seems like hours while a single yacht goes through; and the world’s largest congregation of Subway franchises…

…I also have to look forward to:

>Brain-eating amoeba. Amoeba are stupid. I mean, if I was a brain-eating amoeba, I amebAwould go someplace with a better-quality food supply. But these single-celled numbskulls chose Florida, and they just attacked a resident of Broward County, which is where I’m going!

And in case you’re thinking that these creatures are rare, here’s what the local newspaper has to say about them:

“If you cup your hands and scoop up water in any lake or stream in Florida during the summer, there’s a good chance you’ve scooped up some of them.”

Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure I’m not even going to venture into the swimming pool at my hotel, unless it’s to escape from one of Florida’s leprosy-causing armadillos, about which I’ve written previously.

News of brain-eating amoeba in Florida is really too easy a subject for a humor writer, so I’m not going to spend much time on it, other than to say I wouldn’t be surprised to see stores selling amoeba netting to help citizens protect themselves.

>Virus-carrying mosquitoes. Hopefully, if I purchase one of those amoeba nets, it will fl-zika-billboard-florida-removed-20160817[1]also protect me from mosquitoes carrying the zika virus so I don’t have to wear a condom the whole time I’m down there (ah, another lovely billboard). Yes, I know, these little guys are mostly hanging out in Miami, plus I’m not planning on getting pregnant in the near future for about 30 million different reasons, but still…I don’t like mosquitoes anyway, even if they’re only carrying a small purse.

>Face-eating lunatics. A young man in Florida got high on something called Flakka, killed a couple in their home, and began eating their faces. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But, Mark, this was a one-time crime perpetrated by a stoned college student who has been apprehended. Surely you do not need to fear having your face become an appetizer while visiting your mother.”

Shows what you know. Florida has seen face-eating episodes before; I even wrote about one about four years ago. And that time, the face cannibal was naked!

This is from the previous Florida face-eating story. Frighteningly, the eater was the guy on the left!

Victim and perpetrator from the previous Florida face-eating story. Frighteningly, the deranged person was the guy on the left!

Actually, the intriguing part of this story is that the attack on the couple occurred while they “were relaxing in their garage.”

This raises an important question: Who the hell relaxes in their garage?

Apparently, they had turned it into a second living room, including a television, couch and bar. According to their son: “…(the) garage was always open. They called their garage the garage-mahal.”

I’m imagining driving down this street and seeing the couple on their couch in front of the TV, bowl of popcorn between them, framed by the open garage door, as if they were a diorama at the Museum of Natural History. There might be a plaque next to it: “Typical habitat of humans in Florida circa 2016. Notice the drug-crazed face-eater preparing to strike.”

I have two more questions about this:

  1. What did the couple use their first living room for, a meth lab?
  2. Did they frequently use their “garage-majal” line with their neighbors? If so, the neighbors may have hired the kid to eat their faces.

>Fatal police drills. A 73-year-old woman named Mary Knowlton, evidently having police-academy-8-524983l-175x0-w-cac1894fnothing better to do on a non-Bingo night, decided to take part in a Florida “citizens police academy.” I can only guess she had never seen any of the 39 Policy Academy movies starring Steve Guttenberg and that guy who did the sound effects.

Anyway, these “policy academy” things have gained popularity across the country amid a heated national debate about police violence. Which makes what happened next particularly unfortunate. According to reports, “the hosting officers chose two students to role-play a lethal force simulation, a scenario intended to demonstrate how and when officers decide to pull the trigger.” Seemingly, one of the officers was a bit hazy on the definition of the word “simulation,” because he demonstrated when to pull the trigger using a gun with live ammo to shoot and kill Ms. Knowlton.

It wasn’t a very realistic simulation anyway, since the woman was white.

rubio-con-man-575x335[1]Marco Rubio running for Senate re-election: I actually thought Rubio was one of the more reasonable presidential candidates Americans had to choose from this election cycle. However, I just detest the unrelenting partisan politics (of both parties) that compels people to support for president somebody about who they once said: “America can’t give the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.” Especially, Rubio might add, one with such a small penis.

See you soon–assuming I get back from Florida with my brain and face intact.

P.S. For more reasons why I hate Ft. Lauderdale, see: Entry 135: Wish You Were Here (Instead of Me); Entry 249: This is Where We Send Our Old Jewish People? and Entry 542: Seven More Reasons I Hate Ft. Lauderdale (Including Marty Kiar).

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Entry 580: That Old-Time Rock ‘n Roll*

I’ve been writing a lot about getting old recently, spurred by my daughter turning 30. However I thought that, with my last post, I’d be done with that subject for awhile, or at least until I found myself going out to dinner at 4:30.

But then came this news: Ringo Starr has become a great grandfather.

Ringo & Son

Ringo & Son

And by that I do not mean that he is an exceptional grandfather. I mean that his granddaughter, Tatia Starkey and her partner, Adam Low, have given birth to a son.

If that doesn’t make you feel old, how’s this: Ringo is just four years shy of his 80th birthday. He’s still active, though. In fact, Ringo and His All-Starr Geezer Band are touring now. The current band line-up includes 68-year-old Todd Rundgren on guitar, 69-year-old Gregg Rolie on keyboards and 63-year-old Richard “The Kid” Page on bass.

I don’t know how they manage to do more than three songs without at least one of them having to go to the bathroom.

Getting back to Ringo’s great-grandson: The boy’s name is Stone Zakomo Low, perhaps named after The Rolling Stones. His middle name may be a nod to Tatia’s father, Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son, who will turn 51 next month. Zak is a musician, too, most recently playing the drums for The Who, featuring 72-year old Roger Daltrey and 71-year-old Pete Townsend.

Considering the quantity and variety of substances that these folks consumed over thehqdefault[1] decades, it’s amazing how many of them are still able to stand up, much less do concerts. We saw Leon Russell a few years ago when he was touring with Elton John, and it didn’t seem as though he could stand up. I think a couple of roadies actually wheeled him up to the piano on the piano bench, and he looked like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

We saw Graham Nash in concert recently. He’s 74 and still sounds great. Sometimes he tours with Crosby (75) and Stills (71), but not with Young, who isn’t.

Of course, some of these old-timers, while still technically active, appear as though they’ve keith12_68426b[1]been mummified. Mick Jagger comes to mind. He’s 73, but his lips are 97. His bandmate Keith Richards (72) looks like a raisin.

My favorite songwriter of all time, Paul Simon, is 74, and may literally be shrinking. I believe he is now only as tall as Garfunkel’s hair.  And have you seen Steven Tyler lately? I think his face is actually melting.

Even rock stars who had the good graces to die when they were young can’t help getting rockstars-then-and-now-9[1]old.  That’s because there are websites that show you what they would have looked like now if they hadn’t died then. For instance, here’s Janis Joplin. You have to admit she looks pretty good for being 73 years old and, you know, dead.

A lot of my friends like to go see these folks. They attend concerts with acts like AC/DC (combined age of the four current members: 256) and The Steve Miller Band (combined age of the five current members: well over 300). Very few of these bands are in their Simon & Garfunkel Publicity Stilloriginal configurations. Often you’re seeing whichever member had the rights to the band name and some other musicians he picked up along the way. For instance, over 50 different people have toured as Blood, Sweat & Tears. The current lead singer is Bo Bice, who lost the Season 4 finale of American Idol to Carrie Underwood.

One of those people has had a more successful career than the other.

With the exception of Simon, what all these acts have in common, besides their demand for having their dressing rooms stocked with Ensure, is that they rarely do anything new. It’s just kind of, whenever they need money, somebody winds them up and sends them out on stage.

I’m proud of the fact that I prefer newer music, created in this century, by artists who were born after Woodstock instead of artists who performed there. I rarely tune to the classic rock station.

It’s not that I have anything against Geriatric Rock. It’s just I have enough reminders that I’m getting old without also listening to them.

See you soon.

*Bob Seger, age 71.

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Entry 579: My G-g-generation

Well, as I mentioned in my previous post, our lovely and talented daughter Casey turned 30 last week, which can only mean one thing: my wife and I are friggin’ old.

I remember how old I felt when I turned 30, so my kid turning 30 makes me feel ancient. Think of it: just 100 years ago, there would have been a good chance that we’d be great-grandparents at our age. Of course, 100 years ago, there would have been an even better chance that we’d be dead at our age, so there’s that.

Back then, the only real difference between a 62-year old and a 30-triangle-factory-fire-nfront-page-of-the-brooklyn-daily-eagle-26-march-FF9T9K[1]year-old would have been that the younger person might have been slightly less likely to make her own clothes. That, and the being alive thing. Early in the 20th century, your children more or less lived the way you did, waking at sunrise, milking the cows, working 16 hours in a shirtwaist factory with no windows or means of escaping a fire, coming home to a tenement where 47 people lived in squalor, and sitting down to a meager dinner of oysters, apples and horse turds that you bought for a penny from a waif on the street. (“Turds, sir?”) Over dinner, multiple generations discussed the political issues of the day such as “What’s a shirtwaist?” Then you fell asleep exhausted while wondering if you had only dreamed about milking cows.

It was a hard life. And you proudly passed it on to your children.

But now our children don’t want anything we have, unless we have a lot of money. Their lives are completely different than ours. Sometimes I even have the nagging suspicion that our daughter’s generation exists on another plane of reality than we do, perhaps an alternate universe that exists solely on their phones, which explains why they never look up from them.

I don’t think there’s ever been a larger technological gap between two successive generations than there is between my generation and so-called millennials.

I grew up in the 60’s when everyone talked about the “generation gap.”  We had different values than our parents and very different tastes in music, but, like earlier generations, we pretty much knew how to do all the same sorts of things, except maybe mom and dad would have had a problem rolling a joint.

But Casey’s generation has a completely different skill set than we do, and they speak a totally different language that includes the phrase “skill set.”  There are lots of things they just don’t know how to do.  For instance, have you ever seen someone under 30 try to hand-address an envelope? For some reason, they believe that everything–the address, the return address, the stamp, any emoticons they care to add for effect–has to be on the top half of the envelope. When my son-in-law Alex sends mail, it looks like a 4-year-old’s letter to Santa, only with worse penmanship. And they never have stamps! I don’t think any of them has ever bought a stamp in their lives!

Millennials don’t write anything.  If you handed one of them a retractable pen, they might not even know how it works.  That’s why they’re always carrying things with keyboards.

mobile_banking_apps[1]If a millennial owes you money, you could be in trouble.  Even if they haven’t spent all their money on craft beer, they won’t write you a check, and it’s not only because they don’t know how a pen works. Mostly, young people just zap money from here to there. To them, money is just a concept; it has value, but it’s not tangible, like powers in a video game. You use it, you earn more of it, and the numbers change to tell you how much you have. Go to a mall, or walk down a city street, and I doubt you’ll find a single person under 30 carrying more than $20 in cash. And that’s probably only because their mothers always insisted that they carry “mad money.”

And whatever you do, don’t let a millennial pay you in Bitcoin.  I’m certain that nobody really knows what that is.

Here’s another thing: I can’t even imagine any of Casey’s friends strolling into a car dealership to purchase an automobile. Casey hasn’t done it. She drives a car, but’s it’s an old one of ours, and it’s still in my name, which is just as well, because she’d have no clue how to buy car insurance (“What’s ‘collision,’ dad?”). In fact, many millennials don’t even have driver’s licenses. The percentage of young licensed drivers in America is at its lowest point since 1963.

According to Money Magazine, millennials much less frequently buy homes, have babies, invest in stocks or have cable TV. And although Money Magazine didn’t mention this for some reason, I’m pretty sure millennials don’t purchase many magazine subscriptions.

So anyway, it’s a whole different world out there now, and it’s kind of interesting to see things that have been around seemingly forever disappearing before our eyes. Pay phones. Putting coins in a parking meter. Coins, for that matter. Taxis will be gone soon. Maybe network TV.  Cell phones are also just about outta here.  Not the objects themselves, but the term.  There are no more “cell phones” or “smart phones.” There are only phones. The only time “phone” needs a modifier is if it’s a landline phone.  You know, like I use.

Keys will be gone soon, I think.  People will be using their smart phones (sorry–phones) to open and close doors, start cars, unlock their gym lockers.*  This does not bode well for folks like me who don’t take their phones whenever they leave the house.  Although, personally, I’m not too worried about gym lockers.

Let’s see, what else? When was the last time you saw a folding map? Used a fax machine? Listened to music that was on some sort of actual object like a CD?

Soon, there won’t be any professional reviews of restaurants, books or movies. Millennials dc-comics-fans-rotten-tomatoes-shut-down-petition-suicide-squad-score[1]rely only on Word-of-Yelp. And you can already see movie ads showing Rotten Tomato ratings instead of reviews. There probably won’t be professional anything in a few years. Everything will be crowd-sourced from amateurs. It will be a total Wiki-world.

But here’s the really interesting thing: as far apart technologically as our generation is from the one following, it seems like we’re closer together. Millennials and their boomer parents appear to be much more comfortable hanging out together than we boomers were with…whatever our parents’ generation was called (“Generation Ike?”). Communication seems freer and relationships seem friendlier. Some of that may be because millennials are more dependent on their parents than we were on ours, but I also think that, despite our differences, our kids are more like us than we were like our parents.

But they really should learn how to address a friggin’ envelope.

See you soon.

*I know what you’re thinking: if you use your phone to lock your gym locker, how will you unlock it after your workout?  Your question has a faulty premise–that the millennial would place their phone in the locker with their other valuables.  A millennial would never do that.   A millennial cannot be separated from his or her phone for that long.  They might miss a status change on Facebook!  For a millennial, the phone is less like a valuable and more like a limb.

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Entry 578: Something Tells Me It’s All Happening at the Zoo

So last weekend, I took my daughter Casey to The Bronx Zoo.

That, in itself, is not a remarkable statement, since parents in the New York Metro area have been taking their children to The Bronx Zoo for well over a century.

But the thing is, my daughter turns 30 tomorrow.

My family always loved going to the zoo. When Casey was a kid, we lived in Westchester, just a bronxzoo0001short ride away. We’d buy annual passes and go often to visit what Casey called “the ammals.” She’d talk to them in their own languages. (“Roar!”) She’d ride the camel or the elephant (whichever one was working that day.) We saw giraffes mating once and had to explain to her why one of the giraffes had five legs.

There’s a Children Zoo, and we’d go in there, and Casey would pop her head into the prairie dog exhibit, and slide into one of the turtle shells, and feed the farm animals. We never kept track of Casey’s growth by drawing a ruler on the kitchen wall, bronxzoo0002but we have this series of official Children’s Zoo photos of Casey with various animals sitting in her lap and her head getting closer to the Children’s Zoo logo on the wall behind her.

When she got older we stopped going as much, but we made a sort of tradition of visiting the gorillas on Father’s Day. I’d like to think that wasn’t meant as any sort of commentary about me; we just enjoyed watching the gorillas.

Our trip to the zoo last weekend reminded me bronxzoo0003of days Casey and I spent together when she was a pre-teen. My wife Barbara is a real estate agent and was often working on weekends, so Casey and I spent a lot of time together. I still remember two days in particular. On one day, we went to the old World’s Fair grounds in Queens. There was a cool art exhibit there, and some memorabilia from the fair, and the Unisphere, and of course that weird building where the climactic scene in Men in Black took place.  I tried to describe what it was like going to the fair when I was more or less her age; it was difficult to bring it to life while looking at the long-abandoned remnants. Then we went to the Museum of the Moving Image (also in Queens) which fascinated her. I don’t know if that day had anything to do with her going to art school and becoming a film teacher (probably inheriting her mother’s artistic genes had something to bronxzoo0004do with it), but I recall it as being one of the first times I spent a day hanging out with her where I felt as much a friend as a parent.

I will also never forget the Saturday when we drove all the way to Coney Island on a whim and rode the Wonder Wheel. We were disappointed that the Side Show was closed; I had promised her we could see some freaks.  But I told her about all the time I had spent at Coney Island with my grandfather, who she had met only once when he was a very old man and she was an infant.

Both of those days happened almost 20 years ago. I don’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday, but I remember those days.

As an adult, Casey has been closer to my wife Barbara, I guess because they can talk about woman stuff and perhaps complain to each other about their husbands. But Barb wasn’t feeling well last weekend, so a planned family trip to the zoo ended up being just Casey and me. For the first time in a long time, I got to share an afternoon with Casey and watch gorillas and just talk.

We talked about babies and her plans for having some, and where she and her husband Alex might move when she did. We talked about some film projects she and her students were beginning. We talked about money and other grown-up stuff.

There were lots of baby gorillas, and they were riding on their mothers’ backs just as Casey used to ride on mine.

On the way out, we stopped at the Children’s Zoo so Casey could have her picture taken. I IMG_5803felt the need to explain to the person in the booth why this young woman was having her picture taken with a chicken in her lap. We were disappointed that they had removed the Children’s Zoo logo from the wall.  I believe Casey’s head would have finally reached it.

We had lunch on Arthur Avenue and I dropped her off at her apartment, which is virtually across the street from the zoo.

And then I went home, thinking, as I often do, about what a wonderful, successful, loving and somewhat nutty human being she had become.

Happy birthday, sweetie. No father loves his daughter more.

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Entry 577: I Can’t Wait for My Next Emergency

IMPORTANT: If you start reading this post and think it’s about baseball and then want to stop reading because you don’t care about baseball, please don’t, because it isn’t about baseball at all. In fact, if you’re not a baseball fan, you can skip to the fourth paragraph below.

I don’t listen to much radio because I’m not in my car very often and, really, why would you listen to a radio anywhere else.

However, each year on the afternoon of the Major League Baseball trade deadline (August wfan_banner[1]1 this year), I stay tuned to sports radio WFAN in New York so I know the instant my beloved New York Mets make the deal that will put them into the playoffs or, as is much more frequently the case, a horrible trade like Scott Kazmir (107 wins lifetime and still pitching) for Victor Zambrano, a pitcher who, for all I know, may have tripped and hurt himself putting on a uniform.

I participate in this annual ritual despite my growing suspicion that WFAN is getting its news from MLBtraderumors.com, a site I’m constantly refreshing throughout that day until the 4pm deadline. Seriously, a headline will come up on the website like “Rangers to Acquire Carlos Beltran” and, a minute or so later, Mike Francesca, the nasal-voiced afternoon host at WFAN will say, “And now we’re hearing that the Yankees have traded Carlos Beltran…”

But this post isn’t about the trading deadline, or the Mets, or even about baseball. It’s about surviving in an emergency.

You see, one of the side benefits of spending an afternoon listening to sports radio–especially before “drive time” starts–is that you get to hear some of the worst commercials ever to hit the radio airwaves. These are spots targeted to the regular listeners of sports radio. In case you can’t tell how pathetic these people are by the stupidity of their opinions and the fact that they have nothing better to do than stay on hold for an hour in order to share them, all you have to know is the type of companies who are going after their business.

In just one commercial break, in between a call from Omar in Flushing who was very excited about the Beltran trade and a caller from Bay Ridge who inexplicably wanted to talk about golf –on trade deadline day!–, there were commercials for: paying off the IRS; getting out of debt; curing prostate problems; getting rich with real estate; suing for any injury you might have incurred; getting a car loan even if you have a bad credit rating; repairing your bad credit rating; cut-rate health insurance; cut-rate vision insurance; and the company I want to talk about right now.

That would be The Wise Company®, purveyors of fine emergency food.

I should begin by telling you that this is not the same company that makes Wise Potato Chips, although those, too, would be good to have in an emergency, as long as you also had emergency onion dip.

No, we’re not talking about chips here. According to the commercial, we’re talking about wise-company-food-storage-bucket[1]ready-made gourmet meals with a shelf life of 25 years that you prepare by adding water. That’s something that can really come in handy as long as your emergency isn’t a drought. The commercial offered a free sample if you called the toll-free number. “Don’t waste your next emergency on an empty stomach,” concluded the announcer. “Call now.”

Okay, a couple of things here. First, “next emergency?” How many emergencies do talk radio listeners have? Second, and I could be taking this the wrong way, but are they implying that I should be looking forward to an emergency just so I can indulge in their delicious dehydrated and freeze-dried cuisine? “Gosh darn it, Mildred. That nuclear blast provided the perfect opportunity for some fine dining on pouches of water-enriched cheesy beef, and we wasted it!”

UntitledThere was no way I was going to give these people my name so I could get a free sample, but I did look up their TV commercial online. A smiling blonde spokeswoman (why is she smiling–it’s an emergency, damn it!) tells us that we can keep enough of these luscious meals to feed a family of six for a year in the space taken up by a washer/dryer, which I suppose is fine, unless you spill some of the food on your clothes.

“What good is emergency food,” asks the blonde, “if you and your family don’t love the taste?”

Something tells me that if things ever get dire enough for me to dip into the supply of emergency food I keep in my laundry room, the fact that it’s not up to Food Network standards will be the least of my problems.

Nevertheless, I went to the company’s website, where I found that, for only $89.99, I can wise-food-storage-bucket-84-servings1[1]acquire a 52-serving assortment of dinners, breakfasts and drinks, including: Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini; Savory Stroganoff; Tomato Basil Soup with Pasta; Southwest Beans and Rice; Brown Sugar and Maple Multi-Grain; Apple Cinnamon Cereal; Orange Delight Drink Mix; and Whey Milk Alternative.  And it all comes in a tub that’s sure to come in handy for some emergency barfing.

I have two questions about this package:

  1. If we are holed up in the close quarters of my tornado cellar or my 1950’s era fallout shelter, do I really want my family to be eating beans?
  2. Why only breakfasts and dinners?  What’s the point of surviving a disaster if I can’t have lunch?

Keeping in mind that WFAN’s audience is primarily in the New York metro area, it’s difficult to guess what sort of months-long emergency its listeners are imagining when they purchase large quantities of pouched food. On the other hand, a six month supply is $419.99, and how else can you eat in New York for only $2.33 a day?

Maybe when they talk about survival, they just mean getting by in New York on a normal income.

See you soon.

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Entry 576: Seriously, Have You Ever Heard of These Sports?

Tomorrow athletes from all over the world will gather together and try to avoid getting the zika virus.

Yes, it’s NBC’s Summer Olympics: time to dust off Bob Costas (whose eyes have hopefully 021114_five_costas_640[1]recovered from the last Olympics) so he can tell us about all the dramatic stories behind the games, such as open-water swimmers being devoured by floating debris.

While NBC’s prime time coverage will focus on the events that are most popular for the American audience, like gymnastics, basketball and shooting, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about some of the lesser-known sports, all of which I swear are real.*

Let’s start with the canoe slalom. This is the most dangerous of all the Summer Olympics sports, except perhaps javelin catching. You’ve probably seen skiers have bone-crunching falls in the slalom events of the Winter Olympics. Now imagine how perilous it is to come down those mountains in a canoe! The medals in this event do not go to the athletes who negotiate all the gates in the shortest time but, rather, to any athlete who is able to remain upright on the medal stand.

Next we go to cycling. You may be familiar with the drug-infused Tour de France type of cycling competition, but that’s not all there is in the Olympics. For instance, there is also mountain bike cycling, where riders have to avoid various obstacles such as crashed slalom canoers. Then there’s BMX cycling, which is essentially what kids do when they make revving sounds and pretend their bikes are motorcycles. In fact, “BMX” stands for “bicycleKarabatic_nikola_03_Pillaud_565[1] motocross,” but if your bike has a motor, you’ll probably get disqualified.

Let’s move on now to handball, which is not what you think it is: two or four people whacking a small, hard ball against a graffiti-covered wall in a school playground. Olympic handball (or “European handball”) is like European football, except with hands. Seriously. It’s soccer without the feet. Well, I mean, you have to use your feet, but only to run, and possibly to kick the players on the other team. You use your hands to pass the ball down the court and to throw it into a goal which is protected by a goaltender who must feel like the last player left in a lopsided game of dodgeball. America doesn’t even compete in this event, so you can just ignore it.

Finally, let’s talk about the modern pentathlon. If you’re old like me, you may remember img1_53310[1]when Bruce Jenner won the decathlon back when he was, you know, Bruce Jenner. They don’t even have that event in the Olympics any more, possibly because nobody has the attention span for 10 events these days. Instead, we have the pentathlon, which is arguably the dumbest competition in the games. It’s as if they threw all the other events into a hat and picked five at random.

The modern pentathlon, I kid you not, is fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping (with horses!), pistol shooting, and a 3200m cross-country run. To make it even crazier, you have to do the run and the shooting at the same time!

This is called the “modern pentathlon” to distinguish it from the pentathlon of the ancient Olympic games, in which athletes competed in a foot race, wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus. This was intended to simulated the skills of the warriors of that time. I’m no historian, but I must say I’ve never heard of the ancient Greeks going into battle flinging 4 1/2-pound frisbees, although that may be why they suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Judging from this painting,

battle-thermopylae if the Greeks did have discuses, they probably used them to protect their private parts.

In any case, legend has it that the modern pentathlon used the same business model, tossing together events that simulated the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers. I do not know if the athletes in this event get to shoot the other competitors while racing for the finish line.

One thing is for sure: now that we’re two centuries later, it’s time for a modern modern pentathlon that reflects today’s military campaigns. I’m thinking the events would be driving a Humvee through an obstacle course of IEDs; firing a sniper rifle at synchronized swimmers; landing a drone on Matt Lauer’s head; hacking another athlete’s email account; and firing a surface-to-air missile at the Goodyear Blimp (or whichever blimp brand is covering the Games).

I leave you now with part of a post I did four years ago before the last Summer Olympics. It’s my 7 Defining Laws of Sports, which should be used as a guide for eliminating many of the current events and preventing some future ones from ever joining the Olympics.**

It’s not a sport if…

  1. There are costumes instead of uniforms. (And especially if the costumes have sequins.)icedance
  2. There is a choreographer involved.
  3. Music is an integral part of the event.
  4. There is no way for a regular person to know how well a participant is doing, beyond being fairly certain that a face plant is not a good thing.
  5. dwsThere’s a very fine line between the “sport” (top photo) and “Dancing With the Stars” (bottom–or is it the other way around?).
  6. The difference between winning and losing can come down to how you “stick the landing.”
  7. Results are determined solely by judges. If the winner is not determined by who went faster, farther, higher, heavier or longer, or who was left standing, it’s not a sport. (Yes, I know, boxing matches are often decided by judges, but only as a second resort.)

See you soon.

*The events are real, not necessarily my descriptions of them.

**Sorry all you figure skaters, ice dancers, divers, gymnasts and synchronized swimmers. I’m not saying what you do is not athletic, I’m just saying it’s not a sport.

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Entry 575: I Don’t Wanna Do It Myself

The headline read:


This was horrible news! I already knew, of course, that Ikea had changed furniture forever, and I really didn’t like the way that turned out.

Once upon a time, furniture was a solid, functional item that burly men would deliver to your home. The burly men would place the furniture where you wanted it and leave, and you could begin using the furniture immediately. Within seconds, you’d be putting things in the furniture’s drawers, unless you had bought a couch.

This furniture would often last for years. You could move with it several times. If you grew tired of the furniture and you lived in Manhattan, you could just leave it on the street and know it would be part of someone else’s home decor the very next day. Or you could give it to your children and they could use it in their homes if, in fact, they ever moved out of yours. And if your kids thought you had “old people’s furniture,” they could keep it and eventually sell it as antiques.

But then the damned Swedes came along with their meatballs and their fish and their Swedish-Fish-Wrapper-Small[1]furniture. Now you have to go to these humongous stores where all the furniture seems to be beige, and you say, for instance, “I want that table,” but you’re talking to yourself when you say it, because there’s no one to take a deposit and tell you when your table will be delivered. Instead, you to go into their warehouse and march up and down the aisles looking for the number of the table you want, and when you finally find it, you learn that you’ve only located the table top, and the table legs are all the way on the other side of the warehouse, as if there might be an occasion when someone would only want table legs.

So now you have your beautiful new table, only it’s somehow been made flat and stuffed into boxes, and instead of being delivered by two burly men, you’re standing with it in the friggin’ Ikea parking lot, realizing that the box with the table top is just an inch or two too large to fit in your vehicle which, ironically, is a Volvo, but at least you didn’t have to put it together yourself.

But you calm down, and you tie the table to the car’s roof, and you drive down the highway at 30mph for fear that your new dining room table will become a projectile and end up in someone’s windshield. And since Ikea stores are never near where anyone lives, you have to do this for about an hour while drivers are zipping past you making very unScandinavian hand signals as they go by.

And now your new table is in your dining room, on the floor, in its box. You’re already exhausted, and you consider just eating off the box. But company is coming, so you endeavor to assemble the thing.

This is when you learn that there are no assembly instructions. There is no piece of paper that says “Take Part A, align it with Hole B in Part C, and attach it using Screw F.”

Instead, there are assembly graphics, because that way, Ikea doesn’t have to translate its Billy bookcase instructionsinstructions for all 28 countries in which it does business, and you don’t have to suffer with a dining room table that stands perfectly straight. You try to determine what the pictograph people in the illustrations are doing, and which parts they’re doing it with, and you become convinced that, if translated into English words, the graphics would say, “Take Part A, align it with Hole B in Part C, and Screw You.”

And even if you manage to get the thing together, and it’s straight enough so that things don’t slide off it, and you don’t have any mysterious parts left over, you’ll still be somewhat afraid that your Thanksgiving turkey is over the weight limit of what your table can bear.

As soon as you can afford to, you’ll replace this table with real furniture. If you live in Manhattan, you can leave the Swedish table out on the street and wonder why it’s still there days later, albeit with the legs missing, which means that either somebody else bought the same table but didn’t go to the other side of the warehouse for the legs, or that a homeless person is using the legs to hold up their refrigerator box.

So, all that is what’s going through my mind as I read:


Obviously, my thought is that, five years from now, I’m going to go into a restaurant and order a burger, except there won’t be anyone to order it from. Instead, I’ll have to go into the kitchen and find multiple flat boxes with the beef patty, top bun, bottom bun, cheese, bacon and lettuce. I’ll get it all to my slightly lopsided table and stare blankly at the assembly graphics, which look suspiciously like the illustrations on the restaurant’s “what to do if someone’s choking” poster. Three hours later I’ll be sweating buckets as I hold my meal: two parts of bun between a patty and two strips of bacon, with cheese and lettuce on top. Plus a pickle off to the side that I’ll swear was not shown in any of the instructions.

It turns out, however, that Ikea’s restaurant project is not a restaurant at all. Also, Swedish-chef[1]disappointingly, there isn’t even a Swedish chef involved. Ikea just wants to market hydroponic gardens to restaurants so that eateries can grow their own food.

Note to restaurants that buy into this: the meatball seeds are in Aisle 3.

Ses snart (which may or may not be “See you soon” in Swedish).

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