Sunday, February 18, 2018

Washington and Lincoln are the reason for the season

Tomorrow is Presidents Day, or in some states Presidents’ Day, or even President’s Day, proving again that states’ rights should be limited. 

I do not think we should trust punctuation to a bunch of state hacks. Punctuation matters, as illustrated famously by the difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.” The presidents being celebrated, Washington and Lincoln, were apparently unaware of punctuation, and didn’t know their f from their s, but all is forgiven now. 

I liked it better when it was still Washington’s Birthday. As a kid, you knew who to thank for being able to watch “Gigantor” on TV instead of sitting and learning things. Every year my mom would bring out the Washington shrine for us to thank. It had the little George figurine, and the cherry tree, the tiny axe, the replica of Mount Vernon and the slave quarters. I would get out my little Speed Racer car and try to drive the slaves to freedom, but George had my Godzilla figure on his side, so it was a losing proposition.

I liked it better when they called it Lincoln’s Birthday too. My sister and I would take turns reading the Gettysburg Address during the commercials of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” We could not pronounce “consecrate,” and for some reason we thought it was a dirty word, so there was a lot of giggling. But the speech is all about people who died for freedom, so by the end we were always somber. It made Eddie’s father’s dating problems seem a lot less serious.

Combining the Washington/Lincoln birthdays into “Presidents Day” renders the day generic, as if it just honors presidents in general. It feels like a dilution. How about instead of Christmas we celebrate Famous Holy Figures Day? 

I suppose there are those opportunists who might use Monday to urge friends to “Take another look at Warren G. Harding!” But if you have a day off from school or work, it should really be to honor someone Mount Rushmore level or at least, like, an Oscar winner. 

“Best Presidents Day” might be a compromise. That way Americans, used to being able to personalize their lives in every way, could celebrate a quality president from a short list approved by, say, the judges from “The Voice.” We wouldn’t even have to tell each other which one. No arguments with friends! Remember, though, you would not get off entirely scot-free. God would know. 

. . .

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Winter Olympics might be even better in the buff

I don't know of a winter Olympic sport which could not be improved by putting the word “naked” in front of it. 

Naked two-man bobsleigh. What a visual! The sprinting to get up to speed, the jumping into the sleigh, the whooshing down the course, the posing for the Wheaties box.

And when did a bobsled become a bobsleigh? Last I checked, a sleigh involves a horse, some bells, singing, some laughing. I suspect Russian linguistic doping. 

Naked skeleton. Just the name would inspire a generation of children. Kid watching TV:

“Dad, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.” 

“What’s that, son?” 

“Naked skeleton.” 

“You...want to strip down, jump naked on a sled and fly face-first down an ice chute 75 miles an hour?”


“Why not just go into politics?”

Some people only watch car racing to see a crash. I feel safe in asserting that the same would definitely be said for naked ski jumping. 

I think if I were going to be a Winter Olympics athlete, I would choose the biathlon. Any sport that lets you to strap a gun to your back like John McClane in “Die Hard” is my kind of sport. The cross-country skiing would suck, but every sport has a down side. 

I wish they let you choose what shape of target you shoot at. You ski up, drop to your belly and take out a Smurf. Who needs a medal?

Did you know horses once took part in the winter games? As an exhibition sport in 1928, skiers raced each other while being pulled behind horses. Which is to say, horses raced each other in the Olympics. This is called "skijoring," which is a Norwegian word meaning "cheating creatively." Olympic skijoring was never repeated again, but the figure of a riderless horse dragging a guy behind does live on, coincidentally, in my own family crest. 

There are four entirely new events this year, including "mass start" speed skating. Skaters line up six-abreast in four rows and after the first lap it's a free-for-all for position. All while wearing 19 inch razor blades on their feet. In the middle of the race there are four sprints to gain points. So finishing the race in first does not mean you won; you could still lose on points. 

It's like the Olympic version of the electoral college. Well, it's nice to see that a little bit of America is finally rubbing off on the world. 

. . .

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Olympics can’t compete with the Super Bowl

“Winter Olympics can’t hold a torch to the Super Bowl”

The Winter Olympics begin Friday, with all the usual pomp which attends the ceremonial (and legally required) peeing into a cup by 200 Russians. In December, because of systematic doping, the whole Russian team was banned by the International Olympic Committee from competing as a team from Russia. The IOC left open the possibility that it could compete as a team from Las Vegas, Orlando or North Korea. 

Reversing its hard line this week, the IOC is allowing roughly 170 Russians to compete, as long as they do not tell anybody they are from Russia, wear a Russian uniform, wave a Russian flag, or express an affinity for bears. They must wear an unidentifiable uniform, maybe coveralls with their name stitched on the breast, except the name has to be Manny. If they win a medal, the IOC insists that the national anthem to be played will be “something neutral, like ABBA.”

It is hard to express the sheer level of excitement Americans have about these Olympics, because today is the Super Bowl. I expect most Americans know the name Tom Brady. Ask them who Apolo Ohno is, and they are likely to say “That judge from the O.J. trial?” Tom Brady has won five Super Bowls, but Ohno has eight Olympic medals to his credit, and appeared on "Dancing With The Stars" twice. (O.K. I know. I never heard of him either. Hang on while I stir this Queso Dip.)

The hotshot of these Winter Olympics should be snowboarder Shaun White, "The Flying Tomato," named presumably for his red hair and airborne prowess. You probably didn't know, but White is the first boarder ever to land back to back "double corks," the only skateboarder ever to stick the 540 degree “Armadillo," and the first to ever pull off the elusive "Cab 7 Melon Grab." I really have to come up with a cooler name for the way I refill the stapler at work. 

Team USA may not win the most medals, because the sports involved do not require bloodshed. But we are golden when it comes to names. There’s Breezy, Wiley, Kikkan. We have no fewer than three Madisons. Dudes named Mick, Red and Chase. I admit it is hard to get excited about skiing when the Patriots are playing the Eagles, as if the country’s political turmoil has caused its very symbols themselves to start beefing. Will we ever reunite? Sure. Next weekend. When tomatoes fly. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Some Yelp reviews of things you never see reviewed

Nowadays a lot of people post personal reviews of restaurants and shops on Yelp, but I think those types of places are too limiting. Here are some reviews of less tangible things, written, of course, in the style of a typical Yelp reviewer, who was not ever, shall we say, valedictorian in high school.

The Women’s March

I’ve been to a lot of marches, and this one was just O.K. There were some good signs people carried, like one with a poop emoji. Sooo many pink hats. LMAO. Some people acted kind of mad and others seemed really happy, like almost too happy, like they never get out of the house or something. The best part was we marched down Spring Street and I discovered my new favorite taco truck. I mean the march was O.K. but there weren’t as many hot chicks as at, like, a hunger walk. ★★★

My neighbor’s dog’s manners

I walk my dog every morning, and so does this guy with a chihuahua. He has one of those extendable leashes so you can give your dog a lot of extra line, like he’s a marlin you’re trying to tire out. The chihuahua is too friendly, so the first thing he does is wrap his leash around mine about 150 times, so then I have to make small talk with this guy whose only topic is the Patriots. I’m just glad the dog doesn’t know. ★★

The Eagle Rock

This is a giant slab of granite overlooking the 134 freeway. It looks more like a turtle than an eagle. You know what would be awesome? If they painted the whole thing to look like Darth Vader’s helmet. Or a humongous Pokemon ball. If you’re going to put a rock next to a freeway, it should be more entertaining.

The consistency of oranges

I like the taste of oranges, but I could do without all the chewy pulp. Who has that kind of time? If oranges chewed like bananas then you would really have a great fruit. Seems like one of those guys like Bill Gates should be able to solve this. You know what is a perfect fruit? Papaya. You don’t even have to chew it. You basically look at it and it ends up in your stomach.  Sometimes I wonder what nature was thinking. ★★

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Interview with an exceptional dolphin

A researcher at the National Aquarium of Baltimore reports that a dolphin was able to recognize itself in a mirror at only seven months old. That's more than I can do on a Monday morning. 

Most human babies only manage this feat of self-recognition at one year old, meaning if dolphins drove cars, their bumper stickers would say “My calf is smarter than your toddler.” Dolphins would also drive up a lot more curbs, I’m guessing. 

I have traveled to Baltimore, and I am lucky to have with me today the brainiac dolphin in question. Her name is Bayley, and I have outfitted her with a state-of-the-art dolphin voice translation system I invented, called writing. Welcome, Bayley.

Bayley: Thanks.

GW: So you seem to have outdone every other animal species on Earth when it comes to early self-recognition. Is there something special about you, or is this typical of dolphins?

Bayley: Pretty typical. Our brains have to develop very quickly in the ocean, to avoid getting eaten. 

GW: When you saw yourself in the mirror for the first time, what did you think?

Bayley: Baby girl’s looking FINE.

GW: You knew it was you immediately.

Bayley: Well, at first I thought my sister got outside the tank somehow, but then I remembered—nobody leaves the tank.

GW: Do you know what’s outside the tank?

Bayley: Only what they teach us—sharks, killer whales, something called “politics.” Nothing good.

GW: So you feared for your sister’s safety?

Bayley: Yeah! But then I noticed her teeth were way too straight.

GW: And the light bulb came on.

Bayley: The what?

GW: The scales fell from your eyes.

Bayley: The what?

GW: You saw you. Yourself. That must have been...

Bayley: It was a trip. I had to take a moment. 

GW: It's kind of special. Only a few animals manage self-recognition. Humans, some apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies. That’s about it. 

Bayley: Dude, you are holding your breath a long time for this interview. 

GW: Yes, I am. And thanks for playing along. So what else are dolphins great at?

Bayley: I can catch eight plastic hoops on my face.  

GW: Can you shatter glass with your voice?

Bayley: Yes, actually, but that would be bad. The water would run out and that politics stuff might get in.

GW: Yeah, don’t do that.

Bayley: Can I ask you something?

GW: Sure.

Bayley: What the heck’s a magpie?

. . .