back to the Black Table
               
  INCOMING! AUGUST 9, 2004.  
   
   
 

Monday

Rrrrrrrum. Rrrrum rrrum RRRRRRRRUMMMM!!!

What's that racket? Why, child, it's the 64th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, beginning today in Sturgis, South Dakota. Sturgis

 
 

Bike Week is the world's largest motorcycle event, boasting an estimated attendance last year of more than 500,000 fine, upstanding pillars of society with incomparable senses of humor, none of whom would dream of hunting down and injuring anyone who might deign to make a few jokes at their expense on a snarky upstart culture Web site.

Founded by local businessman and motorcycle enthusiast J.C. "Pappy" Hoel, the rally has rumbled through Sturgis every year since 1938 (with the exception of a two-year hiatus during WWII). Initially nothing more than nine riders showing off around a half-mile dirt track, the rally didn't take off as a spectators' event until the 1940s, when

   
 

Pappy realized he could attract a much larger audience by spicing up the schedule with such crowd-pleasing activities as head-on collisions, ramp jumping and board-wall crashes. What can we say? The man knew his audience.

For those interested in attending, the Rally's official website provides a wealth of information, including a newsletter, maps and ride routes, weather conditions and … ah, yes, a list of frequently violated city ordinances and their associated penalties, ranging from a paltry $20 fine for an "Illegal Handlebar Height" infraction to a mandatory court appearance for the slightly more sinister "Underage Alcohol Possession/Consumption In Motor Vehicle."

Saddle up, boys. And if you can read this Incoming, the bitch fell off.

 

Tuesday

On this day in 1949, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Bill, establishing the Department of Defense. The measure streamlined what, at the time, was a complicated and bureaucratic

 
 

assemblage of military agencies, by making the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force subordinate to the secretary of defense and creating the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to eliminate inter-service conflict. The rationale for the bill was that, faced with the emerging Cold War, the mishandled application of U.S. military force could have disastrous consequences. Luckily, thanks to the bill's passage, nothing like that has ever happened.

Our current president is now in the midst of some government shuffling of his own. George W. Bush, acting on the advice of the 9/11 Commission, has said he supports naming a national intelligence director to head up a new counterterrorism department for coordinating intelligence analysis, essentially centralizing the work of the 15 intelligence agencies that can't seem to do the job

 
 
 

themselves. Critics complain that the Bush plan wouldn't give the new intelligence chief authority to control budgets and hire agency staff. But give the guy some credit. After all, the president is showing great leadership in pretending to be enthusiastic about his own watered-down version of proposals made by a committee whose vital work he fought every step of the way. So it's a start.

 

Wednesday

It's time for Sweden's crayfish premiere! Finally!

Yes, the Swedes are just wild about those crafty crustaceans known as crayfish. So wild, in fact, that about 100 years ago they gobbled

 
 

their crayfish stocks almost to the point of extinction. With regulations in place to curb overfishing, the second Wednesday in August is now officially the first day crayfish can be sold in Swedish stores and restaurants. Why the second Wednesday in August? Because doing it on the third Friday in July would be just silly.

Crayfish, also known as crawfish, can be found in freshwater habitats throughout the world, as well as jammed on every last one of The Black Table's fingers during that drunken New Year's Eve brunch in New Orleans a few years ago. Still, the Swedes are unmatched in their sheer enthusiasm for the

 
 
 

little suckers. The scrappy Scandinavians spend most of August celebrating their triumphant return with elaborate parties complete with funny hats, traditional songs, copious amounts of aquavit and, of course, cartloads of crayfish. You can prepare your own Swedish delicacy by boiling your crayfish in a pot of water, salt and dill, then chilling them in the cooking water overnight. For best results, eat while lounging on your IKEA futon and listening to ABBA.

And you thought the only good Swedish fish were the little red licorice variety.

 

Thursday

Google.com goes public today. Spend the afternoon kicking yourself for not figuring out how to open a brokerage account in time to get in

 
 

on the action.

Okay, so that may not be entirely true. Google, the internet search engine that revolutionized stalking ex-girlfriends, filed for its highly-anticipated initial public stock offering back in April, and though as of this writing the IPO date is still TBD, speculation says it should begin trading right around today. If it does, consider us stock market geniuses. If it doesn't, then that'll teach you to pick up financial tips from a Web site that gets excited about crayfish jokes.

The company will sell about 24.6 million shares at

   
 

between $108 and $135 a share (ticker symbol: GOOG), using both a large number of underwriters and an unconventional Dutch auction sale to ensure that shares are available to first-time investors as well as big-money players. Registration has already begun for bidders, but many analysts are wary, viewing the stock as risky and overpriced. Whether the Google IPO lives up to the hype remains to be seen, but goldmine or not, one thing will always be certain: As long as you can find those clips from her college newspaper, she'll never be completely out of your life.

 

Friday

Hang on to your torches, because today marks the Opening Ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympics. The Athens Games have been something of a punchline for a long time, having been plagued

 
 

by years of cost overruns and delayed construction. (I mean, have you seen the Parthenon lately? It's in ruins! There's no way that thing is gonna be ready in time.) But organizers claim the final stadium roof has been placed, and the city is ready to embrace the world's attention. Details of the opening ceremonies have been a closely guarded secret for months, but inside sources inform us we can expect some combination of puppetry, incomprehensible interpretive dance and lots and lots of foreign athletes taking pictures with their camera cellphones during the Parade of Nations.

The Black Table loves the Olympics because of the

   
 

effect it has on those watching it at home. No, not a sudden heartwarming swell of patriotism or a renewed admiration for the Olympians' inspiring accomplishments and superior athleticism, but rather the sense that simply watching the Games on television automatically makes you an unqualified expert on whatever event happens to be going on at the time. Not five minutes after you settle in to catch some gymnastics, you'll be shouting back at the screen. "You call that a Yurchenko Vault into a double salto with a half-twist? Hey, judge! Only a half-point deduction? Christ, are you blind?" Save your voices, you armchair athletes, because it's going to be a long two weeks.

 

Jason Reich is an Emmy award-winning writer for The Daily Show.

***

INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table. Writers will be rotated, and if you're interested in contributing one, email Will Leitch at leitch@blacktable.com.