Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Iceland Poor? Follow Thor!

With the collapse of Iceland's coalition government and her economy in ruin, angry Icelanders are left with only one viable option for survival: do what their forebears did in times of political and economic turmoil, take to the sea, and maraud. Icelanders are descended from fearsome Vikings, some of history's greatest go-getters. When sputtering economy or domestic upheaval forced their hand, the Vikings sailed their longships to distant lands and pillaged the countryside, looting as much gold and silver as they could carry and slaughtering the locals at every turn. Okay, mass slaughter may have fallen out of favor in today's politically correct climate, but as we see currently in the Indian Ocean, piracy and plundering are back in fashion. And who is better equipped to raid foreign shores and restore their fortunes than the sons and daughters of the Norsemen? The necessary shipbuilding and blacksmithing skill resides in Icelanders' veins; it need only be awakened from its thousand-year slumber. No proprietor of boardwalk gift shop or manager of seaside B&B will refuse to hand over everything in the register when faced with a horde of irate, flaxen-haired warriors out of their minds on hallucinogenic mushrooms and brandishing battle axes.

Sure, Icelanders could pull an old Viking trick out of their helmets and try to fool investors into immigrating to their depressed island by renaming it something hospitable...say, Niceland. But that scheme didn't do much for Greenland, and it sure as hel didn't work for Vinland. Any benefit from such a cartographic ruse would take decades to reflect anyway...by which time, everyone would have starved to death.

So go berserk, Icelanders. Make sail again for the opulent coasts of the British Isles, Normandy, North America, and the Mediterranean. Ravage the countryside. Grab all that you can and write eddas about your conquests. Even found an obscure kingdom or two. Because, as the great Viking chieftain Eric the Red said a millennium ago, Ven thou ainst got nalthing, thou ainst got nalthing to lose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Aretha Sang the Wrong Song

Sure, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States marks a shining moment in our nation's history, both as a gleaming reaffirmation of American democracy and as the end of the deplorable Bush Administration. But as proud, pleased, and hopeful as I could be in viewing President Obama's inauguration ceremony, I found myself disappointed that Aretha Franklin sang such a predictable and stuffy ballad as "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Patriotic though it be, the tune has no groove, nothing worthy of the Queen of Soul.

I would have been much more impressed had Ms. Franklin sung her 1968 hit, "Think," which she recreated so brilliantly in The Blues Brothers. Imagine the inspiration and respect America would regain had Aretha belted out "You better think (think, think) what you're tryin' to do to me" while President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden danced and clapped à la Jake and Elwood and First Lady Michelle and her two daughters provided backing vocals. Sure, space was tight on the rostrum, but the Secret Service could have cleared out the Bushes and the Cheneys a few minutes early. And with former president Bill Clinton providing Blue Lou Marini's saxophone solo from the facade above the stage, America would again be the hippest nation on Earth.

Especially at song's end, as Aretha angrily gestures the President-Elect to take the oath with, "Well, go ahead, dammit!"

Oh freedom (freedom)...freedom (freedom)...freedom (freedom)...yeah, freedom...

By the way, I was also disappointed that Jerky Boy Johnny Brennan wasn't chosen to administer the Presidential Oath of Office...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Press Do Not Impress

Now that the combatants for Super Bowl XLIII have been set, two weeks of media superhype ensue. Coaches and players will be paraded in front of cameras to face a seemingly unending barrage of redundant questions as journalists search desperately for fresh angles on a game that often is rendered anticlimactic. Microanalyzing everything from game strategy to team meals to manufactured drama surrounding players' families, overzealous reporters inevitably run out of sensible queries and reel off such inanities as "Do you ever read in the shower?" and "What was the last movie you saw in Sensurround?"

Surprisingly, one question that is never posed to the visiting head coach, however, is whether he will choose heads or tails in the opening coin toss. It's a significant question—the coin toss gives one team the opportunity to jump out to the lead and can ultimately affect the outcome of the game. And imagine if the Super Bowl reaches overtime. Amazingly, none of the forty-two previous contests have ever necessitated overtime...but what if? This ain't the NCAA—the winner of the overtime coin toss could win the Super Bowl without the other team ever getting to touch the ball, as often happens in the regular season.

And don't forget the thousands of gambling addicts across the nation who will be wagering their rent on which side of the coin faces up. You can bet they'll be climbing the walls wanting to know what Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is planning.

Tomlin is a shrewd gridiron commander, leading Pittsburgh to a 24-11 record in his two seasons at the helm. A workaholic and master strategist, Tomlin will undoubtedly spend the next two weeks working 18-hour days with his assistant coaches, likely studying game films of past Super Bowl coin flips, taking a crash course in probability theory, and gauging the musculo-dynamic tendencies of honorary coin-flipper Roger Craig's thumb,* before deciding whether he'll order captain Ben Roethlisberger to call heads or tails.

*Roger Craig reportedly has predicted heads, but the fact that he's been practicing with a Triscuit renders his forecast suspect.

So it remains curious that reporters starved for insightful commentary on the year's most prestigious sporting event always fail to inquire about the visiting head coach's first strategic move of the game.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator, is all too familiar with the Pittsburgh franchise's coin-flipping philosophy. He may well know what Tomlin is thinking, although Whisenhunt has remained silent on what his counterpart may do, opting only to comment, "May the best team win the coin toss."

Or as Super Bowl XXXVIII honorary coin-tosser Y.A. Tittle put it: "God, I hate my surname."