Monday, July 6, 2015


Last Saturday, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie ate 62 HDB’s (Hot Dogs and Buns) in ten minutes, thus upsetting 8-time and defending champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and winning the 2015 edition of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.  The contest has been held in Coney Island on Independence Day since 1972, televised since 2003 (with a play-by-play announcer and color commentator) and is sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.  As Gruber would say, I shit you not.

So, every year in Coney Island (and many other times at other IFOCE events) people actually hold officially sanctioned competitions where the objective is to consume as much food as possible during the allotted time.

Since the 16th century, the Festival of San Fermín has been held in Pamplona, Spain.  From an article today on

The festival’s most enduring legacy is the running of the bulls, or encierro, from the Spanish word for to corral or enclose. Held [beginning] on the second day of the festival, July 7 [and for the next 7 days], the encierro consists of letting loose a small number of bulls in the city streets while transporting them to the bullring for bullfighting.

But loose on the streets of Pamplona are not only the bulls, but also hundreds of men (and women, but mostly men) who take to the streets to run with the bulls, all the way from their corrals to the bullring where the bulls will ultimately die a horrific, painful death.   This despite the fact that each year between 200 and 300 people are injured during the run, and 15 people have been killed there since record keeping began in 1910.

From the same article, quoting Tony Linck’s 1947 piece in Life magazine:

For a week gay blades [as the bull runners were known at the time] stay up all night dancing and drinking, then gather at 7 o’clock in the morning for the encierro, the bull run. Yelling and jostling, they lead the bulls in a mad dash through the street toward the bullring. Last month’s fiesta was such a gay affair that almost nobody noticed when two of the encierro runners were killed by the bulls.

So, beginning tomorrow (as I write this) and for eight days every year, defenseless animals are brutally tortured and slaughtered, while intoxicated humans risk their lives for no apparent reason in Pamplona.

Today I saw “Inside Out”, Pixar’s latest masterpiece.  As the title suggests, the movie takes us inside the mind of a young girl, portraying the emotions that guide her as distinct characters.  I can’t describe this movie nearly as well as A.O. Scott, film critic for the New York Times:

“Inside Out” is an absolute delight — funny and charming, fast-moving and full of surprises. It is also a defense of sorrow, an argument for the necessity of melancholy dressed in the bright colors of entertainment. The youngest viewers will have a blast, while those older than Riley are likely to find themselves in tears. Not of grief, but of gratitude and recognition.

So, this weekend I read about the hot dog eating contest and the running of the bulls.  Today, I saw “Inside Out.”  And I contemplated the incoherence.  Human beings concocted and hold the absurd contest.  Human beings sanction and participate in the unconscionable running.  But human beings also made the warm, sensitive, insightful and nuanced movie.  I’m ashamed and proud of my species at the same time.