Why Not to Store Live Ammunition in Your Oven
(Originally ran on February 23rd, 2004)
Before we get down to business, I thought I'd acknowledge that today marks the 108th anniversary of Leo Hirschfield's invention of the Tootsie Roll.
I found this little bit of information on a website called "on-this-day".com. This fine pillar of the internet community also told me that today is the 85th anniversary of the forming of the fascist party in Italy by Benito Mussolini.*
Do I bring this up because I am a Tootsie Roll-eating fascist? Not at all. I bring it up because Leo and Benito are very funny names.
I've been struggling lately as I've tried to fathom how certain parents have justified the names they give their innocent children. Take "Monte," for instance. This is a name that seems totally appropriate when applied to a man in his mid-fifties, of course. But a wee toddler? How many kids do you see running around a playground that make you stop and say, "Aye, now there's a Monte!"
It could be worse. "George" isn't a terrible name for a kid, but when you share that same first name with your four brothers, as the sons of former heavyweight boxing champ George Foreman do, you have crossed the faint line that separates mainstream humanity from fans of "American Idol."**
Of course, the all-time violator here is rock legend Frank Zappa, who named his children Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Motorhead. A quick analysis of Frank's music catalog, which includes such benchmark albums as "Grand Wazoo," "Zoot Allures," and "Hot Rats," suggests that in Zappa's case, the issue wasn't as much about cruel parenting as it was horse tranquilizers.
Which brings me to my next moral dilema: The aforementioned "on this day" webpage mentions that four years ago, Robby Knievel made a 200 foot jump via motorcycle over an oncoming train. Good for Robby, but you know that if he had been obliterated, there would have been some tragic news story about a stunt gone awry. Then, if he actually managed to live, the clip would live on in immortality on one of those "You've Gotta See This!" or "Real TV" home video shows on cable. (Which would also brag about how he didn't let that little mishap discourage him from jumping in front of more trains, cause hey, Robby ain't no quitter.)
I watch these shows on occasion. They're funny. But should I enjoy the sight of a bullrider getting stomped on? Should the sight of a skateboarder flying off of a half-pipe and crashing into a wall warm my heart? Is it OK to snicker when the guy on the bulletbike doing 105 hits the broadside of a transit bus?
Yes. Oh, yes.
These marvelous examples of humanity reinforce one simple lesson: we may have choice, but we can't escape consequences.
And so I laugh openly when I read about the guy that stored ammunition in his oven, then had to dive for cover when his wife turned it on, heating the bullets and causing them to explode all around the kitchen. I gleefully remind myself, that, hey, I've got my problems, but I'd never keep my live ammo in my oven.
I also know to never bring grenades to a wedding. In rural Ethiopia*** four people at a wedding party (including the bride) were killed when a grenade went off during a celebratory dance. Put "freak grenade accident" next to "bearded babies" and "stampeding guest cow" on the list of common bridal concerns.
Apparently in rural Ethiopia it is common at weddings to fire guns in the air, just as it is common in urban areas in the states to celebrate sports victories by setting fire to your neighborhood. It is a display of masculinity, not unlike the dramatic neck flaps of the collared lizard, or the machismo tattoos of Mike Tyson. Anyway, some dude was dancing while wearing some grenades, and one went off.
I don't feel guilty. I don't feel bad. I just wonder if the groom was named Monte.
*I also learned that I share the same birthday with a guy named Y.A. Tittle, who either played Quarterback for the NY Giants or played bass for the Rolling Stones.
**The AI Winning Formula: 1. Lousy performer embarrasses self. 2. British guy insults them. 3. Everyone else performs bad karaoke for three weeks until America decides which one gets to be the number-one celebrity in the crucial 13-15yr old girl demographic. STOP THE MADNESS, PEOPLE!
***Is there an urban Ethiopia? If I go on a trip to Ethiopia, will I be able to find a Chili's?