When Unreal heard that men and women from across the nation would be gathering in Forest Park this weekend to dance jigs and throw tree trunks, hammers, rocks and hay (all while clad in plaid skirts), we wondered if there was some strange cult movement afoot. Turns out it's only the seventh annual St. Louis Scottish Games and Cultural Festival.
Unreal's exposure to Scottish culture comes largely from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, which, though one of the most wonderful and addictive books of all time, does not mention anyone throwing trees. So we turned for guidance to Charles Henderson, a member of the Scottish Games board and a proud son of Clan Henderson.
Unreal: About those tree trunks...
Charles Henderson: That's actually called the caber toss. It comes from the Gaelic for "felled tree." It's very difficult and involves a certain amount of danger because you're throwing something that weighs 80 pounds and looks like a telephone pole and you have to toss it high enough that it flips over in midair.
And you wear a skirt while you do this?
Yes, all the male and female competitors wear kilts.
What do they wear under their kilts?
There's an old joke that a Scotsman wears nothing under his kilt, but it's all in good working order. But I wear underwear. Worsted wool can get very uncomfortable.
Will there be haggis?
When haggis is bad, it's really bad. It's really difficult to fix out in the open. But there will be meat pies and potatoes and a few scones.
What about beer? This being St. Louis, are you obligated to serve Bud?
Actually, we get our beer from Schlafly. They've been quite generous, and they've produced several Scottish-type ales. The beer tent always has a steady business.
Does ale improve one's caber tossing?
Our athletes have to stay sober. You have to be cautious and focused, though people do drop things from time to time.
What about dancing?
Oh, after a few beers, people think it does.
Are the clans going to rise again and attack the English?
No, no. We just like to celebrate where our ancestors came from. I guarantee you'll be more Scottish when you leave.
I'm from Louisiana, but I can do a Scottish accent with the best of them.
Tots 'n' Socks
We don't know how you dress your toddler. But Unreal's shorties wear Burberry onesies, Hermès silk bibs, Kangol bonnets and the finest European hosiery money can buy. You can imagine, then, our dismay when physicians at Washington University School of Medicine recently warned that tight socks might lead to temporary red marks on infants' legs.
"The lesions appear to be harmless but as the condition has only recently been recognized, whether scarring will be permanent remains unclear," reports health news Web site News-Medical.Net.
In search of more information, we dialed up David Berk, a Wash. U. dermatology resident who helped author the report, which will appear later this year in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Unreal: How many babies have died or been seriously injured from too-tight socks?
David Berk: As far as we know, none. The changes we see are when parents bring their babies in months later for a checkup. We've noticed some red marks on their legs. They generally go away after a while.
Have tight socks reached the "epidemic" stage?
So far we've observed these sock lines on about a dozen babies in America and Europe. I'd call it a curious phenomenon that we're tracking.
If parents aren't supposed to dress their children in tight socks, how are they expected to keep the socks from falling down? Would you suggest garters?
That is not a question we've considered.
We've noticed that tight socks can cause old men to lose hair on their shins. Do you plan to study that phenomenon next?
No. We have no plans for that. We'll continue to follow the infant patients we have and make sure nothing bad or dangerous develops. At this point it's more an observation.
Stand-up comic Carlos Mencia, star of Comedy Central's Mind of Mencia, was in town recently to promote his October 25 show at the Fox Theatre. You might have heard him talking on a local radio station about how his real name is Ned, and that he loves custom motorcycles. (Don't tell his wife that he paid $150,000 for the last one.)
What really lurks in the mind of Mencia? Unreal tagged along on his 7 a.m. visit with 97.3 FM "The Bull" morning hosts Craig Cornett and Beau Vighn and found out that it's never too early to talk plagiarism.
Vighn: Before I make an ass of myself on the air, did you work with Alex Reymundo and stuff?
[Vighn is referring to the movie The Original Latin Kings of Comedy.]
Mencia: No, I did one before that. Don't say this on the air, but we did a show with Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez called Three Amigos, and all this other stuff happened, like, after that. That's kinda what spawned it.
At this point Unreal's thinking: You mean that's when Lopez accused you of stealing his jokes? But before we ask...
Mencia: Then they stole my fucking idea!
[During another off-air break, Mencia says he's gotten over comedic backstabbing.]
Mencia: Comics have always been little bitches about I tell young comics: Just do your shit. It just happens. People are going to take your stuff when it's funny.
[Sympathetic, Cornett relates a story about an audience member who chided comedian Eddie Gosling, who has lost tons of weight, for stealing a joke from "that fat guy," inspiring Unreal to finally pipe up]: What about when audience members accuse comics of stealing jokes?
Mencia: That is bad for comedy, dude. You're out to have a good time. You're not going to listen to a love song and go, "Hey, that's bullshit! I already heard a song about a guy that couldn't get the girl and in the end he got her!" It's like: Yeah, fucker, that's every other love song, you dickhead. Let us do our thing.
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