The Postmodern Games: A modest proposal to make the Olympics more awesome

In the ancient world, Olympic events were matters of life and death. Running a marathon could be the fastest way to warn a neighboring city of an attack. Throwing spear was a legitimate war tactic. Balance beam was…never a good idea. Technology has rendered most Olympic events unequivocally useless.  When our robot overlords come, we aren’t going to be saved by boxing or table tennis.

Like your appendix, most Olympic events have outlived their purpose, but obnoxiously stumble on, occasionally causing stomach pain and nausea.

It’s high time we revamp the events to better reflect the most valuable skills in the modern world.

For your consideration:

Disarming a robot armyIf XKCD is to be believed, this would be an easy event…like rhythmic gymnastics or collecting commemorative Olympic condoms .

Related: Surviving zombie attack—This event will test participants’ ability to avoid contact with all other human(like) beings. Must be an introvert to play and a hermit to win.

Wii bowling—The Olympics should reflect the values of the culture it inhabits. Bowling was already the world’s schlumpiest sport. You can drink a beer while doing it, but with Wii, you don’t even have to set down your beer or dislodge yourself from the couch. This is the 21st century.

Tweeting—Sports are on the decline; we assert our dominance in the vaunted arena of social media. And, nothing’s quite as incapacitating as 140 characters of pure, unadulterated snark.

STEM subjects—OK, honestly, this is mostly just part of my ongoing campaign to make nerdiness cool, but at least, after the Olympics, the competitors won’t end up in a Tonya Harding Sex-Tapes-and-Celebrity-Boxing career path. Besides, Japan could use a few more events to dominate.

Live pigeon shooting—This was an actual event at the 1900 Paris games. If the zombie apocalypse does come, at least we’d have sustenance.

I was a high school loser (and other unsuprising confessions)

One of my favorite columnists, Ta-Nehisi Coates (bookmark him now; thank me later), was musing over at The Atlantic on the role of nerd culture in suicide prevention among teens.

While I was never suicidal or depressed, I knew many in high school who were, and there was an inescapable correlation between those who were struggling and those who routinely parachuted into fantastical realms.

Looking back, I’m amazed by how happy (or not unhappy) I was in high school. Nerdy, obese and generally unattractive (did I really have that haircut and those glasses?), I was mocked some and isolated often. To wit, I placed second in an online poll to determine the “ugliest b***h” (censorship mine) at my high school of over 2000 students.

I was never into fantasy, but I was a theatre kid, debater and aspiring writer, which is about 4.3 times less cool than just liking some D&D. Those were my escapes. Never one to actually bring my books to school, I slogged around a 500 page lit reader most days. Edna St. Vincent Millay got me through a lot.

Sure, I cared that I was 60 lbs overweight and seemingly wearing permanent boy-repellant, but it didn’t consume me. I had a few close friends, a loving family, and a happy home life, which made all the difference in the world. Words, though, in all their glorious forms, allowed me to peek into a world beyond my big public high school–a place where there were more nerds like me, who saw beauty in the same things I did.

But still, I had difficulties. I wielded sarcasm and angst against those who annoyed me or trod on my fragile ego. I once asked my one of my teachers (in response to what I felt was an unreasonable request) if she wanted me “to wipe her ass for her too.” I’m not proud of this.

I cared deeply about others (OK, maybe not that particular person), but I was desperately insecure. And, my foibles had casualties.  I lost one of my best friends over an argument, which (no joke) was about the vocal prowess of Bob Dylan. We still haven’t reconciled, though I’ve tried. The situation would’ve been comic if it weren’t so utterly important to 16-year-old me.

That happened at the end of my junior year. During my senior year, I didn’t debate; I didn’t act, and life was especially tough. But, I found John Steinbeck, who got me to college where I found Kurt Vonnegut…And, really, what else do you need?

Would I be happier pantless? (and other thought provoking questions)

Let me begin by saying that my pondering of eternal pantlessness began innocently enough. It is a well-known phenomenon that dresses are a tad more forgiving of a few extra pounds than slacks are. So, I began my day by wondering if I would ever wear pants again. Really, who needs the perverse garment anyway? As a modern American woman, I can wear all sorts of things: pencil skirts, togas, Elmo costumes.

I eventually decided, however, not to eschew pants completely. Rationale: What if I one day ride a dressage horse in the Olympics? Dare to dream.

But I got to thinking…What cultural prescriptions would I give up if I were completely unencumbered by social norms?

A woefully incomplete list:

Salad forks: First, why do I need two forks? I’m not Marie Antoinette (says the woman who moments ago mused about riding a dressage horse)? Secondly, salads are the least caloric food we regularly eat (regularly is debatable, but let’s go with it). So, why would I eat it with a smaller implement? If anything, salad forks should be as giant as the mouth will allow to better approximate a normal calorie-to-forkful ratio.

Pleasantries: When I ask people how they are, I want them to know that I want a complete retelling of their physical and emotional health–I want to know about their dog, the rearrangement of their furniture, their new water ballet routine (note: not a lot of people fall into this category). And, I would like permission not to engage in conversation with everyone else…or with anyone before 9 am.

Birthdays: OK, I have a caveat here. I think people should celebrate birthdays 1-12, 16, 18 and 21. You know, the ones that you (and people who presumably love you) care about. After that, it just becomes a hollow exercise in commemorating ever-decreasing potential. At 25, Alexander the Great had conquered the world. I’ve written one blog post. Whoop-de-do.

What would you get rid of?