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Friday, July 12, 2002

Heroes and Prayer

Parade magazine featured a profile of Harrison Ford last weekend, giving me still more reasons to hope that his new movie, K-19, is a flop. The article trumpets Ford's strong moral sense, which leads him to be an ardent environmentalist. All well and good, until I read that he's fathered four sons by two different wives, managing to divorce both of them while his sons were still young. Strong moral sense indeed.

Then there's the movie itself. Start with the name. K-19. It sounds like the misfortunate fusion of a really bad cop-dog buddy movie with an even worse ski movie. The trailer, while meant to project drama and intense action, simply inspires giggling. If you haven't seen it, picture Harrison Ford in a big furry cap with a defunct red Soviet star on the bill, speaking with a comic faux Russian accent. Then picture Liam Neeson replying in an even worse Russian accent. Then imagine sitting for a couple of hours and listening to these two argue in Russianese, and ask yourself how inspired you are to sit through this flick.

Finally, there's the narration by Serious Man. You know him, he's the guy who narrates the trailers for all the macho drama flicks. He says things like "They've been pushing around this town for years, but now they're facing someone who fights back" (cut to karate fight scene); or, "Sometimes, courage means standing for what's right" (cut to brave attorney standing up to corporate bigwigs).

Well, in the K-19 trailer, here's what Serious Man says: "Some men pray for a miracle; heroes make one happen."

Maybe in your tinsel world, Serious Man, there's a difference between men who pray and men who are heroes. My heroes pray. In fact, most courageous men and women with whom I'm familiar were people who prayed. George Washington: father of our country, into the God thing. Robert Lee: on his knees every night. The guys who took Omaha Beach: lots of prayers went up that day. Mother Theresa: quite the little prayer warrior. The firefighters pulling bodies out of the tower wreckage: praying to a man.

So take your faith/hero dichotomy and choke on it, because this is one man who fights back (cut to shot of fingers typing furiously).

posted by Woodlief | link | (4) comments

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The Sissification of America

A tie? A %#*!$! tie? Since when did our national pastime become soccer? If I want to watch a bunch of well-paid guys play around for three hours just to end in a draw, I'll turn on C-SPAN. This is America, for Pete's sake -- land of the free, home of the brave, nation of citizens who decided they didn't want to be Europeans. Every year, we elect our favorite baseball players from each team and league (because we are a republic, not some grubby democracy), and tell them to slug it out in a stadium until one league or the other is declared the victor.

You see, having slapped around a string of dictators for the last two hundred years, we've gotten used to seeing this sort of thing finished. Being a nation founded by Christians, we believe you should pick a side and stick to it; be hot or cold, as the good book says. It's why Ingmar Bergman was never a big hit here. It's why we like our chili spicy and our beer icy. It's why soccer will never be the national sport, at least not while a Republican is in office. If none of these things make sense, then you probably didn't even know there was an All-Star game last night. I'll wager further that you live in a place where guns are prohibited, probably with several indoor pets and lots of Anne Rice books. You have my sympathy and my contempt.

As does professional baseball. Somehow we have forgotten what we all learned as kids, that if it gets too dark or the guy who owns the bat has to go home for supper, you just show up the next day, with the same score, and finish it.

But that assumes there isn't anybody else to play, which was clearly not the case last night. I promise you there were at least a thousand guys in Miller Park with baseball gloves. So why didn't anybody think to let one of them play once the rosters started to thin? You think the crowd wouldn't have loved that? If so, you're out of touch with sports fans, and with America. We all grew up with this rule: if you don't have enough good guys to play, you just let somebody's kid brother in the game, or at worst, somebody's sister. Not only would this have been good baseball, it would have been good finance -- you let one Joe Average get into a professional game, and you'll fill every stadium for the rest of the season.

Or what about the managers? These guys already have uniforms on, for crying out loud. I know, they're old and out of shape, but so are half the professional pitchers out there. If last night's travesty isn't enough to get the managers out on the field, then they should take off the uniforms and officially bury the manager-player tradition.

All of these solutions just highlight the lack of entrepreneurial spirit among baseball officials, which isn't surprising coming from a cartel that lets the likes of Peter Angelos join its ranks. The real problem here is that the bureaucrats were more worried about some manager getting his panties in a wad because his pitcher had to go more than two innings than they were about telling 41,781 Americans -- in a time of war, no less -- that they just paid $125 per ticket to see a cricket match. So what does that say about us?

Sissies. We are becoming a nation of sissies. Don't agree? Aside from last night, here are a few cultural markers: Oprah, Title IX, chick flicks, workplace sensitivity training, gun control, rising obesity, declining military enrollment, Tae Kwon Do, guys with earrings, and the disappearance of the stick shift.

Here's an even more persuasive sign that I'm right: the word "sissy" is considered insensitive, and increasingly likely to get one in trouble when uttered in the wrong company. Only a nation of sissies would take umbrage at the word "sissy."

The solution? Well, for starters we can get everybody back out on the field to finish last night's game. If the All-Stars are too tired, or are feeling abused and underpaid, then let our armed services field a couple of teams. They're the real All-Stars anyway. Next, we can start fining people who don't shoot burglars and muggers. After that, we should bring back the slap. Watch any black-and-white movie and you'll see what I'm talking about. If somebody gets too hysterical, you just give him a solid backhand. Not being a sissy, he'll thank you for it later. Imagine being able to give your supervisor a fresh one the next time he starts hyperventilating over increasing SG&A. Not such a bad idea, eh?

These are just a few possibilities, off the top of my head. I'll put the question to you, Gentle (in the non-sissy connotation) Reader. What steps can we take to stem the sissification of America?

Update: Ciscley Frohme has a compelling rebuttal to my claim about the inherent sissiness of tie-prone soccer. Excerpt: "Baseball can't have a tie without everyone deciding to give up. Soccer does have ties precisely because the teams won't give up."

Okay, point nicely made. Can we end this argument with a draw, Cis?

posted by Woodlief | link | (17) comments

Monday, July 8, 2002

In case you're wondering why people in the business world seem to have become much more willing to lie, cheat, and swindle, perhaps this survey of college seniors will provide some explanation. The respondents were asked to choose which of the following corporate goals is the most important (responses in parentheses after the goal):

"recruiting a diverse workforce in which women and minorities are advanced and promoted." (38%)

"providing clear and accurate business statements to stockholders and creditors." (23%)

"minimizing environmental pollution by adopting the latest anti-pollution technology and complying with government regulations." (18%)

"avoiding layoffs by not exporting jobs or moving plants from one area to another." (18%)

In other words, 56% say quotas or social engineering are more important than truthful communication with investors (we'll give them a break on the environmental one, which foolishly conflates obeying the law with over-investment in anti-pollution technology).

Respondents were also asked:

"Which of the following statements about ethics was most often transmitted by those of your professors who discussed ethical or moral issues?

- What is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity.

- There are clear and uniform standards of right and wrong by which everyone should be judged."

Seventy-three percent chose the first statement, 25 percent chose the second. In short, we may be reaching the point where a college education is more harmful than useful.

posted by Woodlief | link | (6) comments

Wife Carrying

First U.S. illegitimacy reached 33 percent. Then the married couple became a minority. Then gay marriages received a court blessing. And now this -- wife-carrying competitions that don't require actual wives. That's right. The world wife-carrying championship, which was recently held in Finland, allows unmarried couples to compete.

Unfamiliar with wife-carrying? Well, friends, you are missing out. Imagine your better half clinging to your torso, her thighs wrapped about the top of your head, her arms clutching your waist, as you wade through water and jump over hurdles in a desperate contest to beat all the other husbands to win the grand prize, your wife's weight in beer. European beer, no less. The kama sutra has nothing to top this, believe me.

Only now, the rotten heart of Europe has decayed even this time-honored Norse tradition, to the point that a man and woman shacked up and childless, with nothing to do all day but go to work and exercise, can compete against couples who've had the courage to tie the knot, bear children, and take on all the extra weight that entails. I mean, anybody can walk into a bar, throw two or three skinny single gals over his shoulder, and run a couple of miles. It takes a real man to carry a woman who isn't desperately keeping her waist-size to Ally McBeal proportions.

As can be expected, once the Europeans distort a social norm, East Coast Americans will quickly follow suit. And this contest announcement from the North American Wife Carrying Championships openly admits as much:

"The title can be deceiving - wife can mean someone else's wife or no one's wife - as long as it's a male-female team."

Apparently we weren't content just to relax the marriage requirement, we threw in wife-swapping. And you thought the 70's were dead.

But surely the male-female requirement will soon fall by the wayside as well, as hyperactive gay activists and their stormtrooper lesbian muscle issue a barrage of fussy press releases besmirching the wife-carrying competition as an example of heterosexual oppression. It will quickly be renamed the "Partner Carrying Competition," and will probably occasion a brief sports comeback by Martina Navratilova.

We won't stop there, however, because soon the Alone and Proud of Ourselves crowd -- fresh from a court victory requiring corporations to extend maternity leave coverage to singles who've just purchased a cat -- will begin grousing over all this "partner" language. So, the contest will be renamed the "Person You May or May Not Be Currently Humping-Carrying Competition," which will spread the sexual and gender confusion further, but will at least open the door to some serious network television sponsorship.

But we can't be done, you see, because we will still be excluding the differently abled, whose walkers and wheelchairs aren't so simpatico with an obstacle course. Thus we'll need to replace the obstacles with a smooth path made of at least 40% recycled tires, and eliminate the "Carrying" part of the contest, because this evokes a dependence on others that riles disabled activists. They can get by just fine without any help -- once you provide the primo parking spaces and ramp over three-quarters of civilization, of course -- and they don't appreciate all this "carrying" talk.

So once we're finished making this competition into something that fits our modern lifestyles, we'll no longer have a wife-carrying contest, we'll have a lot of bitter people wheeling and limping and grousing along a walking path. Nobody will want to watch anymore, but that won't stop the television networks; they'll just weave this new sport into their Women's NBA schedule. Gatorade will make commercials featuring the reigning dyslexic lesbian champion celebrating by doing little wheelies in her wheelchair. Reebok will provide free shoes to contestants, issued with the disclaimer that its provision of shoes is not intended to suggest that one should wear shoes, or that people without feet are somehow lesser individuals.

In time, parody becomes history. You'll see. All of this means that I will have to retain my amateur status as a wife-carrier of eleven years. Which is fine, because who wants an audience for that sort of thing anyway?

posted by Woodlief | link | (1) comments