back to the Black Table
  INCOMING! FEBRUARY 21, 2005.  


Today is Presidents' Day, which means you're most likely reading this from the comfort of your own home after waking up at three in the afternoon. Unless, of course, your boss hates America, in which case, you're even more annoyed than usual to be in the office.

The holiday, a commemoration of George Washington's birthday, was first celebrated in 1796, the last full year of his presidency. According to the calendar being used at the time, Prez Numero Uno (as he was popularly known) was born on February 22. However, according to an earlier calendar that dates back to Washington's birthyear of 1732, the big man was born on February 11. Even when the holiday was officially declared, Americans remained split on which day they chose to celebrate as Washington's birthday. The good news for Washington? Twice as many presents. The bad news? All the presents were wooden teeth or wooden-teeth-related gag gifts. ("Ho, ho! Do I espy a humorous pamphlet recounting two score and five ways wooden teeth be better than a woman? 'Tis a droll gift, indeed!



Martha, do put this with the others for kindling.")

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, February 12 (the day our 16th President was unequivocally born) became an unofficial holiday as well, and Americans enjoyed the dual celebrations until 1971, when noted buzzkill Richard Nixon proclaimed the third Monday in February to be a federal holiday dedicated to the remembrance of all past U.S. presidents. Nixon might have thought twice had he known precisely what it was he would be remembered for.

While commonly known as Presidents' Day, the holiday is still officially called Washington's Birthday. To this day, it remains a fitting occasion to honor the memory of our country's exalted leaders by dressing up as Uncle Sam, strapping on stilts and parading around for purposes of advertising a used car sale.




Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. No, not the time Janice Powell let you get under-the-shirt, over-the-bra at that junior high skating party, but rather the U.S. hockey team's dramatic defeat of the Soviets at the XIII Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY. The scrappy, underdog Americans held their own against a relentless offensive onslaught, topping their Commie opponents 4-3 under the inspirational tutelage of coach Kurt Russell.

While a triumphant moment in our country's athletic history, the Miracle on Ice was more than just an Olympic upset. Many saw it as nothing less than a victory in the Cold War; something to celebrate for a nation faced with recession and the Iran hostage crisis. It was a striking high point in a year of uncertainty, second only to the 1980 release of "Ladies' Night" by Kool and the Gang as an occasion with such bright implications for the future of all Americans.

For hockey enthusiasts, and there must be at least one of you out there, the Miracle's anniversary is


hopefully some consolation for the NHL's cancellation of the remainder of its already-mucked up season. Stalled negotiations over a salary cap have led to the first time in history that a major professional sports league has sacrificed an entire season. More than just a disappointment to fans and players, the cancelled season affects hundreds of ushers, trainers, officials and NHL business partners … so please, this winter, sponsor a Zamboni driver. For just pennies a day, you can provide these needy rink groomers with their very own patch of ice on which they can drive around in circles on their big honkin' machines. Give generously, won't you? Volunteers also needed at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Unemployed Arena Organists.




President George W. Bush arrives in Mainz, Germany today for a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The summit comes in the middle of Bush's diplomatic tour of Europe, the unabashed purpose of which is to salvage U.S. relations with our former overseas BFF's and shore up support for Bush's plans to rebuild Iraq. The journey is the earliest trip to Europe by any president following an inauguration, and observers say that haste reflects the importance the White House is placing on setting a new tone for the second Bush term.

Or as Jeremy Shapiro at the Brookings Institution research center in Washington puts it, "the president is in the middle of a charm offensive." Yes, it's always amusing when even our friendly gestures are couched in militaristic terms. Perhaps if this goes well, our president can follow up with an Assault of Agreeableness.

Though Bush says he's eager to visit the historic German city of Mainz, there are a few naysayers who have expressed some displeasure with the trip; namely, the 200,000 residents of the historic German city of Mainz. Not only are protests planned, but surrounding bridges and waterways will be closed, commuter traffic will be disrupted,



thousands of security personnel with be in place, and local businesses predict huge losses for the day. Despite the inconveniences, however, town hall officials insist that all the media attention will boost Mainz's image as a friendly city full of "Gemuetlichkeit," which is a special German word for "coziness and hospitality towards a leader who has rushed his country into war despite faulty intelligence and widespread public disapproval." Incredible language, that German.




Haven't done your good deed for the week yet? Well, today's the day to do your part in preventing a young, innocent woman from heading down that destructive one-way path towards a career in stripping, prostitution or real estate sales. It's Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!

According to its organizers, research shows that most girls lose interest in fields of study that lead to engineering careers long before they enter college, a disturbing statistic that may have something to do with the fact that math and science are, like, totally for nerds. But experts have identified a global shortage of engineers, and say that as other nations begin competing for the same limited pool of qualified workers, it could lead to a so-called "war for talent," which, if it's anything like a female engineer catfight for talent, sounds like it might be seriously hot.

Then again, meeting a real live engineer might be just the inspiration a young woman needs to pursue her dream in the field. And believe me, I know a few engineers who certainly wouldn't mind



meeting some real live young women. So go on…today, why not introduce a girl you love to the exciting world of engineering? Then tomorrow when it's all over, why don't you go fix me another sandwich, okay, babe? Thanks, honey. That's a good girl.

Also today, Bush continues his international tour, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. First topic on the agenda: "Hey, Vlad, sorry about that whole Miracle on Ice thing awhile back. No hard feelings, eh?"




Sure, the Academy Awards aren't until Sunday night, but today's the day you better get started preparing for your awesome Oscar Night party! What will your theme be? Should your guests come dressed as their favorite nominee for Best Art Direction? Maybe an Oscar pool in which participants lose a finger for each wrong answer? Or perhaps the attendees can each bring a hilarious Oscar-themed food item. Jamie Lox, anyone? How about a Million Dollar Babka or some Vera Drake's Cakes? Or a steaming pot of Maria Full of Grits? Please, somebody stop me. I could play this game all day.

Unfortunately, something's gotta be done to spice up Hollywood's big night. The year was something of an unimpressive one for cinema, and even worse than the rather ho-hum nominees is the fact that nobody seems to really agree on too many other films the Academy ignored. Okay, okay, tell me Paul Giamatti got robbed enough times and I'll believe you, but this year's Oscar ballots seem particularly unrepresentative of what really got people talking about movies this year. Was it really the score that made "The Passion of the Christ" such a cinematic event?

So with Sunday night's broadcast most likely a



snooze, it's never too early to start handicapping next year's Oscars. Who cares if it's only mid-February? Already there's buzz to spare. Look for one of those kids from "Are We There Yet?" to be an early lock for Best Supporting Actress. "Robots" has got nothing on "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" for Animated Feature. And next February, remember you heard it here first. For Best Picture? Two words: Constan. Tine. Man, when Keanu slams his forearms together to display that pentagram, it makes me all gooey. Let's just give the man a statuette and be done with it.


Jason Reich is a two-time Emmy winning writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.