By staff writer David Nelson
August 2, 2006
Essential New Word of the Week: shitmath (definition hint: hold it in)
What comes to mind when you hear the word “hero”? Probably some kind of ultra-muscular vigilante, ready to use his powers of laser vision or fish mind control to fight crime. Or perhaps you envision an oversize sandwich, loaded with delicious processed lunchmeat, swimming in mayo, and garnished with a delightful toothpick-mounted olive.
Well, I’ve got news for you. Superheroes are anything but admirable. If you can match a cape to your underwear, you’re already overqualified. And if reality TV is to be believed, most superheroes have previously appeared on Jerry Springer, where Steve the Bodyguard probably handed them their first defeat. And as for hero sandwiches, scientists have recently discovered that America’s ham levels are reaching dangerous proportions.
“Larry Walters' balloon stunt proved that even the dangerously retarded are capable of great courage, no matter how misguided.”
No, the only heroes worth a damn are the old-fashioned kind; real men and women noted for feats of courage and nobility of purpose. And I included women above to be polite, but let’s not kid ourselves—women smell nice and they’re good at selecting wallpaper, but they can’t be heroes. It’s not like the Princess is going to battle her way through a swarm of karatebots in order to save a +4 Paladin who’s tied to a bomb at the bottom of a shark tank.
That doesn’t even matter, because the very idea of heroism is on the decline. Kids today just don’t have great role models. For example, WWII soldiers were unequivocal heroes, but today’s soldiers don’t deserve quite as much respect for making POWs wear dog leashes, then arranging them in a hilariously depraved cuddle puddle.
Likewise, I’m not saying firefighters aren’t brave, but I also think there’s something heroic about finding a job where you can avoid death and/or manual labor. Thanks to Ang Lee, cowboys are now associated more with homo butt sex than with valor. And astronauts are certainly less heroic now that any jerk with enough money can become a space tourist.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled my own list of heroes for the modern age. Chances are, you’ve heard of their great deeds in passing, but don’t quite regard them as heroic. I want to change that. I’ve also indicated how future generations should honor these great individuals. Remember, these are just predictions, not actual facts passed on to me by Timeperius the Chrono Master, so don’t get offended if you disagree.
My first new hero is a guy by the name of Larry Walters. Larry was an ordinary guy who lived in California. One day, he decided he was going to buy 45 weather balloons, tie ‘em to a lawn chair, and go for a ride. Ever since I didn’t wake up in a bathtub full of ice, I’ve learned not to take urban legends too seriously, but this awesome balloon flight actually happened.
Demonstrating remarkable forethought for a modern-day Icarus, Larry packed a pellet gun, some sandwiches, and a camera, then strapped himself to his kickass Rocket Chair 3000. In order to descend, he planned to shoot a few balloons. I can only presume he also planned to eat the sandwiches, but who knows? It’s entirely possible he thought the altitude would somehow bring them to life.
In any case, Larry planned to get his hover on at about 100 feet, but instead, he soared to about 16,000 feet, smack in the middle of federal airspace, with planes zooming around him. Now, if the Wright Brothers are considered heroes for pioneering aviation, surely Larry Walters deserves the same accolades. His stunt proved that even the dangerously retarded are capable of great courage, no matter how misguided.
Later, when asked why he did it, Larry replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” And if you can come up with a more heroic sentiment than that, thank you for reading my column, Jack Bauer. Unfortunately, he committed suicide in 1993, but his death means he’s now eligible to appear on a postage stamp, and that’s how history should honor him. Hey, fat Elvis got a stamp, and I bet he wouldn’t have made it past 5000 feet.
Walters is a hero through and through. He’s inspired a movie, won a Darwin Award, and probably scared the shit out of some pretty-boy pilots. I hereby salute Lawnchair
Larry! When he makes plans, it’s all up in the air.
The next hero is a guy by the name of Aron Ralston. Aron was a student of French and mechanical engineering who enjoyed mountain climbing. That doesn’t sound very heroic, but how many French students are also experts in arm removal? Luckily, it paid off when Ralston found himself in a predicament where knowing the French word for “arm” wasn’t useful, but his pocketknife sure was.
(By the way, it’s “bras,” something else that can be removed only with great difficulty).
While on a canyoneering trip in Utah, a boulder fell and pinned Aron’s right arm. He spent six days trying to lift or break the boulder, drinking his own urine to stave off dehydration. That’s gotta put things in perspective for the stars of German porn, for whom amputation and pee-drinking are considered light foreplay.
Ralston finally realized that he wasn’t going to be rescued and decided to take action. Using the blade of a low-quality multitool, he cut away at the soft tissue around his elbow, and used the pliers to tear away at his tendons. I think I speak for the entire arm-having world when I say, “HOLY SHIT DUDE!”
If I found myself in Aron’s situation, I’d like to think I’d have the courage to do what he did, but let’s be honest: I sometimes have difficulty clipping my toenails. There’s no way I’m getting through an arm. This is just another reason for me not to go canyoneering, whatever the fuck that is. Besides, I love my right arm! It’s everything to me: wiper of dirty asses, maker of snacks, changer of channels, and, most importantly, twice-a-day lover.
After Aron freed himself, he was still 8 miles away from his truck (which, in one of God’s cruel comedic moments, happened to be a stick shift). Fortunately, he encountered a group of hikers who were able to call in a helicopter to rescue him. History owes Aron Ralston a very special honor. After losing the arm, his torso is probably quite a few inches narrower. I bet sculptors could fit him in the space between Roosevelt and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
I may be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube faster than this guy, but I’ll never possess even a fraction of his courage. We should applaud him, since he can’t exactly do it himself. So here’s to Aron Ralston! When he was caught between a rock and a hard place, he decided to make a clean break of it.
Fortunately, you don’t need to defy death in order to attain heroic status. Sometimes, all it takes is a brilliant idea in conjunction with a ballsy plan. That’s why I admire Paul Michael Larson. Armed with nothing more than a VCR and a lot of spare time, Larson made game show history by racking up $110,237 on the game show Press Your Luck.
In case you’re a game show hating communist, Press Your Luck was the one where badly-dressed contestants sat before a colossal screen of epileptically flashing lights and bells. They would take “spins” on the screen, trying to accumulate cash and the most fabulous prizes 1983 had to offer. But approximately every six spins, a cartoon “Whammy” would come out and steal all the money. And seeing that happen was a lot more gratifying than it sounds.
Proving that some ideas can be so retarded that they’re actually brilliant, Larson sat and figured out the game board pattern that would allow him to spin indefinitely without ever landing on a Whammy. My university degree cost something like $30,000, and I’ll never have an idea as good as that. By landing on spaces that granted him cash and a free spin, he was able to make a run of over 40 spins.
I know that $110,000 doesn’t sound like much, especially in an age when Howie Mandel threw million dollar bills at people with enough skill to pick a number between 1 and 26, but in the early 80’s, that was enough money to keep you in cocaine and Max Headroom videos for the rest of your life.
The best part of this story is that Press Your Luck and CBS had no legal recourse against Larson. You can’t punish a game show contestant just for paying attention, even if his actions are infuriating to an animated race of mischievous, money-hungry gremlins.
How should history honor the man who beat the system with an actual, bona fide get-rich-quick scheme? Let’s put it this way, if countries were named after heroes instead of Italian explorers, you’d all be pledging allegiance to the United States of Larsonia. And I wouldn’t have a problem with that. You kick ass, Paul Michael Larson! You’ve earned the right to play in the bonus round… of our hearts.
The last hero I will mention is no mere man. And I don’t mean he’s some kind of transcendent super-being; he is in fact a member of the species panthera tigris, which, for the kids who didn’t pay attention during Latin, is a tiger. But make no mistake, this is no baseball mascot or frosted cereal spokesman I’m referring to. My striped hero, Montecore, accomplished something we’ve all dreamed about: taking out stage magician Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy fame.
In October of 2003, Montecore bit Roy on the neck during one of the duo’s performances at The Mirage. Roy was critically injured and sustained severe blood loss. I can only guess how many kids in the audience were forced to trade in a childlike sense of whimsy for gritty, cold-hearted cynicism on that day. Each of those kids should send Montecore a thank-you note printed on a delicious steak.
It may seem strange to bestow this kind of admiration on a tiger, but have you ever seen Siegfried and Roy’s act? It combines all the tedium of regular magic with the tackiness of Andrew Lloyd Weber, and tops it all off with a great big dollop of gay. I see Montecore’s attack as a near-perfect expression of criticism. Given the opportunity, I would probably bite Roy’s neck, too. Only I would wear some kind of dental dam.
Siegfried later claimed that Montecore was actually trying to help Roy by dragging him to safety after a fall. Another source claimed that a woman in the audience with a “big hairdo” distracted the tiger, causing Roy to intervene. While I don’t doubt the prevalence of big hairdo women in Las Vegas, these excuses sound dubious. Let’s give Montecore the credit he deserves. If you had to spend every night riding around on a little bike wearing a Hitler helmet, you’d want revenge too.
According to sources, as Roy was being taken to the hospital, he gurgled, “Don’t kill the cat,” once again proving Montecore’s innate superiority to your average magician. I know tigers are endangered and all, but if one bit me, I’d do everything in my power to see that its penis was cut off, desiccated, and repackaged as a Chinese aphrodisiac.
Most of society’s great honors are reserved for human beings only, so Montecore will require a somewhat creative tribute. When America finally decides that it doesn’t want any more immigrants, the Statue of Liberty will need to be replaced. And what better way to say, “Keep out, immigrants” than a 300-foot statue of a heroic tiger chomping one in the neck? Three cheers for Montecore the tiger, whose bite is worse than his bark.
shitmath [‘šItmæ? ] n: Not everyone is great at numbers, but there are times of extreme distress when one’s mathematical skill rises to the occasion. Just like mothers can summon superhuman strength to lift cars off of their children, retards like you can become supercomputers when it comes to calculating the distance to the nearest toilet… and determining if you’re gonna make it. Sure, you may have flunked math in school, and you’ll never get into NASA, but when you’re fighting a chili dog and a prune juice smoothie, I’ll bet you become Steven Hawking.
“Let’s see, the nearest usable toilet is 2 blocks away, which is equivalent to 212 metres. The bowel movement I’m holding in is exerting about 5 pounds of pressure per square inch on my colon. Since all the food I’ve eaten for lunch equals about 8 square inches, that means I have exactly 19 seconds to make it to the toilet. Uh oh.”
That, my friends, is the magic of shitmath.