Whither Punching?

In what seems like a blink of an eye, Chuck Norris has become a true Internet Phenomenon. Is he a “straight-talking, no-nonsense American hero“? A Jungian archetype? A deity? There are no easy answers.

One thing does seem clear: much of this misplaced adulation stems from Norris’s ability to deliver devastating roundhouse kicks to the face. This, good people, perfectly encapsulates the long, slow decline of values in America today. What is with this emphasis on solving problems with violent kicking? Why do the youth of America think that the right thing to do when you’re angry is to lash out and kick someone? In short, whatever happened to punching?

Fortunately, Chris Sims of the Invincible Super-Blog has attempted to correct this imbalance with his wistful-yet-uplifting Ode to Punching. It’s good to know that some folks in this country still have their priorities straight, and I’m sure we can all look forward to some equally powerful works from this formidable young talent in the very near future. Ode to Stabbing! Explosions: a Retrospective! Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Bludgeoning! That said, if Chris happens to be planning a series on the ancient Japanese art of Kancho, let’s just say I’ll take a pass.

So, Lone Star, Now You See That Evil Will Always Triumph

So Pub Quiz is pretty simple. The announcer asks ten trivia questions, and if your team answers the most questions correctly, you win a free round of beer. Generally, each round has a few easy questions, a few moderately difficult questions, and 2-3 challenging questions. Winning even one round is pretty good — the bar is packed with teams of four, so your odds are pretty bad to start with. To make matters worse, the perennial champion teams The Usual Suspects and Four Fat Indians usually win 2-3 rounds a piece, leaving the middling teams to fight over the scraps. Basically, it’s pretty hard work. TANSTAAFB and all that.

Anyway, last week we noticed a huge group of maybe 12-15 sitting next to us. A couple of them were wearing Google T-shirts, and a Google water bottle was sitting on the table. Hmmmm, we wondered… could they possibly be our good friends from Mountain View? Our suspicions were confirmed shortly thereafter when the announcer asked a question that went something like, “What is the technique by which bad guys steal your personal information by setting up fake websites?” The answer was “phishing”, but Team Google decided to be cheeky and call out, “Yahoo Mail!”

Outraged, we shouted out, “Gmail!” Team Google swiveled to look at us, blinking in surprise.

“Oooooooo,” said the rest of the bar.

Fortunately, our teammate Chris piped up with his soothing British accent, “People, people! Let’s just agree it’s AOL Mail and move on, shall we?” Crisis averted.[1]

And thus the evening progressed. Now, a better man than I would just leave it there. It’s unsportsmanlike to gloat.

But I haven’t signed any sort of “Do No Evil” agreement, so what the hell: at the end of the night, Team Yahoo! had won three rounds; Team Google, zero.

When we won the seventh and final round, we were clinking our glasses in triumph, and Team Google was busy getting their coats. We even heard the sweet sound of, “mumble Yahoo! mumble mumble…” At this point we had far too much free beer to drink (discounting Chris), and the gentlemanly thing to do would have been to give our largess to our worthy competitors to the northwest. So… we gave it to the nice young couple with the piercings sitting behind us. Yeah, that’s right. This is our house, baby! Well, okay, actually it’s the house of The Usual Suspects and Four Fat Indians, but Team Google doesn’t need to know that.

1. Look, they outnumbered us 3-1. Even at Eleanor’s best, she could never defeat so many.

The Decline and Fall of Chanukah

Chanukah just ain’t what it used to be, and this year was worse than usual. First, in response to the putative War on Christmas, our president quickly ordered a retaliatory strike on Chanukah. Not a good start.

Next, an innocent discussion at the lunch table led to a crisis of faith. I mentioned that I had always been fuzzy who the Maccabees were rebelling against. The Syrians? The Greeks? The Syrian Greeks? No, my boss said: the conflict actually was about the Maccabees (right-wing, hard-ass, traditionalist, rural priests) versus Hellenized Jews (liberal, effete, assimilated, urban professionals).

Guess who won?

So for a while I was having serious thoughts about not celebrating Chanukah, ever. Oh, maybe the Hellenized Jews had it coming, what with the sacrificing pigs in the Temple and all. But still.

Fortunately, a little more research revealed that there was more to the story. A couple hundred years later, the rabbis took the reins. And apparently, the early rabbis hated, hated Chanukah, because it was this huge celebration of the military victory of the priests. So the rabbis fixed up the holiday by inventing the miracle of oil and shifting the emphasis to be on the spiritual victory. This is why, if you ask little kids about Chanukah today, they can tell you all about the miracle of the oil and the lights, but they’re usually kind of fuzzy on the assassinations-and-bloody-reprisals part. I think this is the true lesson of Chanukah: the eventual triumph of wussy, lefty, scholarly types, using our evil powers of Postmodernism and Relativism and whatnot to rewrite history. Woo-hoo! Go team!

When I pointed this out to my boss, he responded by saying that this is the way Americans celebrate Chanukah, while in Israel they emphasize the old school interpretation — tiny force triumphing over overwhelming numbers, et cetera. I decided I preferred my blue state interpretation, and we left it at that.

Of course, my boss was wrong about one key point: real Americans don’t focus on the spiritual aspect of Chaunkah. We celebrate Chanukah in a uniquely American way, which is to say, by focusing on the commercial aspect. And that brings me to my third issue with Chanukah this year: the loot.

Don’t get me wrong… now that all the kids are grown up, it’s good to scale back the presents. And it’s nice to chill out a bit, not have to rush around getting everyone presents. Still, the nicest present I got this year was a large set of matching dinner glasses. Which would have been a fine gift, except I already have glasses. It turns out that my impeccable upbringing did not prevent me from bringing this up right away with the gift-giver. And so Mom and I had a conversation that went something like this:

“Look, you need a set of new glasses.”

“Why? I have a perfectly usable set of glasses.”

“Because none of them match. When we come over for summer barbecues, I end up drinking out of a glass shaped like a boot.”

“Oh, the Big Texan glass. But that one is… fun and kitschy.”

“You’re over thirty now, you should have matching glasses. Which reminds me, you also need new plates.”

“Why on earth — those are perfectly usable too, and they actually do match!”

“They’re all chipped!”

“Yes, but they were your plates, that’s why you handed them down.”


Fortunately my little sister broke the impasse by pointing out that next year, she would be out of school and in desperate need of glasses, plates, and silverware. And thus balance was restored to the Force, peace descended once again on the Goer household, and the all-important Lifecycle of Motley-but-Usable Kitchenware was permitted to continue.

So I’ve come around to liking the dinner glasses, although I am baffled why the manufacturers give you twelve regular glasses and twelve useless short glasses. At best, the short glasses only provide adequate fluid intake for persons under thirty pounds, and those persons have sippy cups. As far as I can tell, there is only one true market for short glasses: restaurants that choose to serve totally inadequate portions of orange juice at breakfast.

Come to think of it, if Chanukah wants to get back in my good graces for next year, a Miracle of the Restaurant Orange Juice would be an excellent start.

The Pitch

Thanks for seeing me. No, don’t get up. Oh, thanks, I’ve been good. How’s Linda doing? Awesome.

Heh, that’s what I like about you, man. Always down to business. Okay, here goes:

There’s this guy, see, and he plays in this tiny little club in Podunkville that nobody’s ever heard of. You can’t find it on any map, it’s totally underground. Now sure, there are a lot of bands that play this place, but they’re all just retreading old shit. You know, dinosaurs. But this guy? He’s different. He’s a beast. He’s the fucking King. Anyway, even though it’s a small place that no one’s ever heard of, the natives, like, worship him. It’s all, like, his own private little island. Know what I’m saying?

Now, what happens is, this sleazy producer hears about this place one day, you know the type — heh, right back atcha, man! — anyway, this really extra-sleazy producer type finds the place and brings his crew to check out the local talent. And this guy just blows ’em away. They can’t believe what they’re seeing. They’ve got to have him. So they bring him to the city…

How do they get him to the city? Oh, you know, the usual. Drugs, of course. And a hot chick. I’m thinking a Rachel McAdams type… well, anyway. That’s not so important.

The point is, they bring him to the city. And the sleazy producer was dead-on, the dude is a mega-star. No one’s ever seen anything this big before. But it’s not all wine and roses, you know what I’m saying? First off, the contract — well, you know how these things work. The guy is basically a slave. And he’s feeling trapped, you know, like he’s in a cage. He’s not the same artist he was before. He’s not the fucking King anymore. So what does he do?

He escapes his handlers! Breaks out! Goes on a fuckin’ rampage. Wrecks half the city!

What happens next? Well you know the rest. He takes on the city, the city destroys him. Fin. Tale as old as time.

Aha. Yeah. Well, okay, I hear that. No, I realize you’ve got a bunch of biopics coming up, but this isn’t really a — no, I understand. No, that’s cool, makes sense. I mean, I think it’s got some appeal in the tween market, but if you don’t think — yeah, okay. Hey, I just appreciate you hearing me out, you know what I’m saying? Thanks, you too. Let’s get lunch sometime soon. Excellent. Talk to you later. Give my best to Linda…

Wait, what’s that? Sorry, I didn’t catch that, say again?

Do I think there’s some way… to work in a monkey?