O-Bits: Live to Fight Another Year Edition

We’re lovers, not fighters, here at O-Bits, so, boy, were we surprised to find out we already practice Krag Maga, the Israeli close-combat fighting system. Not that we can make any of the kicks or know any of the moves. We’re not that advanced, especially seeing that we’ve never taken a single lesson. But the New York Times’ story about the Lear-like fight brewing among the disciples of the late Emrich Lichtenfeld, the creator of the self-defense movement (and possessor of a name you’d expect to find given to an international villain, Bond division), had some advice we can get behind. Haim Gideon, currently head of the Israeli Krav Maga Association (an wouldn’t his name would make the perfect secret identity for an Israeli superhero?), teaches the best defense is “to avoid getting into a confrontation in the first place and, if possible run.” If only the leaders of Israel and the United States would take this advice.

From the “How Do You Say Potter’s Field in Mandarin?” desk, we hear of a backlog of dead bodies in Chinese mortuaries. The South China Morning Post reports of a morgue in Hunan Province where nearly half the chambers are filled with unidentified or unclaimed bodies, including one that’s been parked there for more than a decade. Adding to the problem are families who refuse to claim a body over some legal dispute, or who refuse to pay the eight yuan  (approximately $1.25) an hour storage fee. Authorities are stuck in a Catch-22 of conflicting laws. Mortuaries are forbidden to keep bodies for more than two weeks, but they are also enjoined from cremating or disposing of the remains without a family’s permission.

Finally, it’s the New Year, and what better time for some undertaker humor. The Shamokin (Pennsylvania) News-Item relates the story of a mortician in the late-19th Century who received an odd request from a young widow. It seems she wanted her husband’s coffin buried perpendicularly. It was odd, to be sure, but he complied. Turns out, she was being thrifty: she ended up out-living five—count ’em, five!—husbands, each buried upright, and all five fitting in the same space as a single grave. But really, you’d think by dead husband number three, men might have thought twice before putting a ring on it…

Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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