Yesterday I watched the epic Federer-Roddick Wimbledon final. I hadn’t watched a tennis final in years and had forgotten how absorbing it can be. Although I found myself thinking that it would be even more enjoyable if Andy was named Frederick, so that it would be ‘Frederick Roddick’ vs ‘Roger Federer’ and have a kind of matter-vs-anti-matter vibe.
Anyway, during the match, they kept showing shots of a florid, smiling, very Swedish-looking man in a suit whom I soon realized was Bjorn Borg. This happily reminded me of the Borg-McEnroe years, which seems curiously like one of the great under-reported sports episodes in modern history (er, given how over-reported everything else is, I mean). How has this not been made into a bio-pic yet? Other than McEnroe maybe refusing to give permission, which come to think of it is probably exactly why it hasn’t been made into a bio-pic yet. But seriously, given that Paulie Shore and Steve Guttenberg have already been the subject of recent Oscar-winning bio-pics, why not Johnny Mac? For one thing, his feud the crusty old Wimbledon committee was more or less the last historical installment of the ‘Brash American vs. stodgy old English’ trope that had been running for about 300 years. Nowadays, civility has declined to the point where an American being rude to Brits or vice versa would no longer have any kind of cultural narrative– it would just be another example of some person flipping some other people the bird.
Being a tremendous poor sport myself at sports and especially board games, I have a kind of perverse affection for the luminary poor sports in professional athletics. Not the contrived, sociopathic trouble-makers like Terrell Owens, but the true tantrum throwers: the McEnroes, the Charles Barkleys, the Billy Martins and Lou Pinellas. The ones who feel compelled to scoop up dirt and pile it onto home plate in order to convey disgust with the umpires.
I’ve always been fascinated by the protocol of petty bribes: the folded bill nonchalantly inserted into a functionary’s pocket, the suavely encoded ‘suggestion’ indicating what the bribe is for. One of my unrealized goals in life is to subtly condescend to someone by pretending to try to bribe them with a one dollar bill. Imagine your friend drags you to a posh nightclub that you don’t want to go to anyway and the doorman refuses you entry because you’re wearing sneakers instead of fancy shoes. Theatrically slip him a crumpled $1 and conspiratorially murmur, “My friend George Washington would like to join the party,” then enjoy the series of expressions that pass over his face as he realizes that you’ve essentially tried to buy him off with a candy bar.
In the Czech Republic, these ‘My friend so-and-so…’ lines take on an added dimension because the historical figures printed on Czech bills have biographies that are both more dramatic and obscure than their American currency counterparts. Imagine the fun/confusion that could result from slipping someone a 100 crown note (equivalent to five dollars) and indicating, “My friend Jan Komensky would like to come in and develop a language where false statements are impossible.” Or: “Excuse me, but I think my friend is late to his defenestration.” A Tomas Masaryk would set you back about $250, but you would get to say, “My friend would really like to join the League of Nations.”
Czech currency, incidentally, is really beautiful– I will be sad when it’s eventually retired in favor of the Euro. The very first Czechoslovakian bank notes (along with the first stamps) were designed by the great art noveau artist and Czech patriot Alfons Mucha.
The worrying mention of an unholy alliance between ants and bees in Krafty’s ant domination post (clearly the animal kingdom’s answer to Stalin + Hitler in 1939) reminded me of my pilot idea for one of those Fox lowest-common-denominator TV shows about things blowing up and people experiencing horrible accidents and whatnot: When Natural Disasters Collide. The idea would be to film footage of various natural disasters encountering one another: earthquake vs. tidalwave, killer bees vs. hurricane, etc etc. I can just picture something like this airing after Cops.
One issue this raises is the need to clearly define the official canon of natural disasters involved. When I was a little kid, these were all-to-clearly defined in my mind and only shifted in terms of ranking– earthquake, tidal wave, hurricane and tornado as the Big Four; killer bees as a close fifth. I even remember exacting a stern promise from my father that we would not go vacation in Barbados ever, because I had somehow heard about that island being hit by hurricanes. Anyway, I think it would be important to define natural disasters, and to limit their inclusion to occurrences that are either easy to dramatize (earthquakes, tidal waves, etc) or involve more amped-up versions of things people are already afraid of (killer bees), or both (giant killer bees). I think this is a lot more fun than including things that are more abstract, grown-up and legitimately dangerous (Swine Flu, climate change, etc).
I seem to remember those ant fun facts coming from the printed side of a disposable Dixie drinking cup at the Bachrach for Congress headquarters where the young Krafy and I volunteered. But I could be mistaken.
In the spirit of ‘ants have psychiatrists’, here are other spurious ant fun facts that sound plausible but are made-up:
- Ants cannot move backwards.
- In order to perform certain tasks, one strong ant will throw a smaller ant, called a ‘jumper ant’, into the air.
- If you put all the ants in the world together end-to-end, they would reach the moon and back some arbitrary amount of times.
At some point many years ago, somebody (possibly my older brother) told me several “ant facts” that I have been repeating to anybody who will listen ever since: 1) The bio-mass of ants is greater than the bio-mass of all other living creatures on earth, including all other insects (and elephants); 2) There are more ants on one square mile than there are people on earth; and 3) Certain ants can blow themselves up to spread poison on their enemies, thereby protecting their colony. After a few years I added some other ones, such as that ants have psychiatrists. Of course, I have no idea if any of these “facts” are true, and I’m not about to use the internet or some other resource to find out now. But lo and behold, a credible news source (the BBC) has this headline to a story: “ANT MEGA COLONY TAKES OVER WORLD.” It appears that some tribe of ants has, well, taken over the whole globe, and they are all working in concert to accomplish their devious ant-aims.
Click here for more breathless details on “the true extent of the insects’ global ambition.” And don’t miss the links to related articles detailing, among other things, ants’ punishment for “cheaters” and their no doubt ill-intentioned cooperation with bees.
An indication of how totally un-into cars I am: we bought a new car on Monday – the first car of any kind I’ve ever owned in my life – and I still haven’t seen it. It’s been parked on our street for two days, fifty feet from the door to our apartment, but I keep forgetting to go look at it when I leave in the morning.