Monthly Archives: September 2008

Also, He’s Not Here to Make Friends

It turns out it’s not just Top Design contestants spouting alternafacts about history. Here’s VP candidate Joe Biden on the current economic crisis.

“Part of what being a leader does is to instill confidence is to demonstrate what he or she knows what they are talking about and to communicating to people … this is how we can fix this,” Biden said. “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, ‘look, here’s what happened.'”

And at that moment Philo Farnsworth shouted, “Who is this guy, and where the hell is President Hoover?” This is like one of those “world history according to schoolchildren” compilations, only created by adults who really should know better.

Another Great Quote From Bravo

“Sweet, ’cause my hands can use a break. My hands look like a Polish potato farmer during, like, the famine.”

Top Design contestant Eddie Ross, from Greenwich, CT

First I learned about the Chinese and the Hiroshima bomb, and now this. By the end of this season I’ll have a whole collection of alternafacts about the world. Tune in next week when the designer who wins the challenge describes herself as feeling “just like Lance Armstrong did when he stepped onto the moon.”

I Bet I Could Have Beaten Him at Call of Duty 4, Though

People often say that war-themed first-person shooters are completely unreasonable. No one person, they point out, could really do what your in-game avatar does.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Major Robert Henry Cain, recipient of the Victoria Cross. His weapon of choice was the Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank (PIAT), an early rocket-propelled grenade launcher. During the Battle of Arnhem, on Tuesday, September 19th, 1944, tanks killed many of his men. After that, he made it his personal mission to destroy as many tanks as possible.

On one occasion, two Tiger tanks approached the South Staffords position, and Cain lay in wait in a slit trench while Lieutenant Ian Meikle of the Light Regiment gave him bearings from a house above him. The first tank fired at the house and killed Meikle, while the chimney collapsed and almost fell on top of Major Cain. He still held his position until it was 100 yards away, whereupon he fired at it. The tank immediately returned fire with its machinegun [sic] and wounded Cain, who took refuge in a nearby shed from where he fired another round, which exploded beneath the tank and disabled it. The crew abandoned the vehicle but all were gunned down as they bailed out. Cain fired at the second tank, but the bomb was faulty and exploded directly in front of him. It blew him off his feet and left him blind with metal fragments in his blackened face. As his men dragged him off, Cain recalls yelling like a hooligan and calling for somebody to get hold of the PIAT and deal with the tank. One of the Light Regiment’s 75mm guns was brought forward and it blew the tank apart.

But it’s okay: half an hour later his sight returned, so he ignored medics’ advice, grabbed a PIAT, and went to town. At one point he found and used an anti-tank gun instead of a PIAT, but its recoil mechanism broke. He fired so many rounds that by Friday his eardrums burst, so he shoved scraps of field dressing in his ears and kept going. When PIAT ammunition ran out, he switched to a two-inch mortar, at times firing it nearly horizontal.

By the end of the week-long battle, he had destroyed or disabled some six tanks, four of which were Tiger tanks, the most feared in the German arsenal. Oh, and he was thirty-five at the time.

Doesn’t that make you feel like a complete slacker?

For the Record, I Don’t Like Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

When I was in middle school, I was–well, “pudgy” would be the kindest word for it. I weighed about what I weigh now, but was half a foot shorter. I resembled Jerry O’Connell in Stand By Me. When I went to Space Camp, staffers took a picture of me in the Moon gravity chair. I look like a young Old Elvis, all pasty white and bloated in my blue jumpsuit.

Unsurprisingly, I was not great at sports. The bane of my existence was Physical Education. The PE instructors didn’t help. One coach made us play a version of dodge ball where all of us students ran around the gym’s perimeter while he hurled balls at us. The last person standing won. Given that the coach once knocked a student unconscious, I guess what you won was freedom from a concussion. Later on he was fired for making advances on 12-year-old girls, so he was an all-around good guy.

One day we ran relays. Our whole class was divided into teams. I don’t remember if the coaches running the class did the dividing or if they picked relay leaders who in turn picked their teams, but either way, my team wasn’t happy to have me on it. I was fat. I was slow. I was not going to help our team win.

We were all sixth graders, with the social skills that implied, so my teammates were happy to tell me that I’d better run fast, that I’d better not lose the race for them. Eventually something snapped inside me. I smiled at all of them and, when I was handed the baton, sauntered down the length of the gym and back like a debutante strolling into a ball.

One of the coaches pulled me into his office. “PE may not be a perfect example of how life works, but it’s the best one we’ve got,” he told me. While I was still puzzling out what he meant, he spanked me with his fiberglass paddle.

I’ve thought about this episode a lot while watching Eli play soccer. In games, especially those played in the morning, he loses focus. He’ll run vaguely in the direction of the ball, or stop and hope the ball comes somewhere near him.

On the one hand, I want to tell him to keep his mind on what he’s doing and play as hard as he can. One thing soccer can teach him is the need to follow through on what you say you’re going to do — in this case, playing ball as part of a team. On the other hand, as my checkered athletic career taught me, there’s a big difference between intrinsic and extrinsic pressure. While I’d work as hard as possible if the sport interested me, if it didn’t, I wasn’t going to waste my time. I expect Eli to do the same. On the third hand, he’s four. As long as he’s having fun running around, he’s good. I’m stockpiling worries for the future, I suppose.

But if he ever gets punished for walking in a relay race, I’m going to smile and tell him a story.

If It’s My Fault, Where’s My Pile of Filthy Lucre?

“Wall Street has rocket scientists creating securities…. A scientist sort of in the back room with lots of test tubes and bunsen burners–they’ve created monsters. They’ve created these securities that no one has a handle on.”
Nancy Kimmelman, former Wall Street economist

That’s right, it’s all our fault. We’re done creating V-2 rockets to rain down poorly-aimed destruction on England and Peacekeeper ICBMs with MIRV warheads bearing 200 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. No longer are we content with splicing genes until we have glow-in-the-dark bunnies. Now we’re taking over the financial systems of the world! Mua ha ha ha!