Triumph With Your Own Beach Olympics

The Summer Olympics may come only once every four years, but the (tiki) torch lighting of your own Beach Olympics can happen any time -- as long as you’ve got sand, water, a volleyball net, a plastic flying disc and that age-old desire to pummel your buddies in contests of strength and stamina.

“Competing in events and being out on the beach brings out the inner athlete in everyone,” says Michelle Knight, co-owner of Adventures by the Sea, a Monterey, Calif.-based adventure-planning outfit.

Organizing tip No. 1: Limit your olympiad to a couple of hours at most so energy won’t drop and tempers won’t rise. Tip No. 2: Plan the individual events carefully.

“Choose games that will really appeal to everyone and match your group’s fitness level,” says Cynthia Shon, president of Bay Area, Calif.-based Corporate Games, an organization that helps companies foster team building among employees. “Remember that running around on sand is not easy.”

The events below -- picked by our dream team of athletic contest-organizing experts -- should ease your burden. And heck, most of these will work in a grassy park if there’s no beach around. What to use for gold medals is up to you.

Beach Volleyball
This is the one must-do contest in any Beach Olympics. Anyone who’s ever taken gym class already knows how to play. And thanks to the sand, taking a heroic dive for the ball will make you look like a stud without scraping or bruising. Traditional volleyball rules work great, but if you’ve got eight or more people, Kevin Vander Vliet, owner of Team Building California suggests this variation: Create four teams and set up four nets connecting at 90-degree angles in the center. (So the nets form an X.) If the ball’s served to you, you can hit it across to any of the other three teams. Normal rules for serves and point scoring apply. “It’s a lot of fun because if you have one team that’s really good, the others can gang up to beat them,” says Vander Vliet.
Official rules:

Sand Ultimate
This is another easy-to-organize, fun-to-play favorite. But when you’re on sand, the going is too slow for people to be sprinting all around the playing area, like in typical Ultimate. So Shon applies slightly different rules. “We mark off assigned boxes where one person from each team stays. That way there’s less running but people are still diving for the frisbee,” she says.
Official rules:

Flying Disc Golf
It’s adaptable to the terrain of just about any beach and easy to set up. If you’re using teams, then play by “scramble” rules like in real golf. Here’s how it goes: Everyone tees off. Choose whose throw on your team was the best, and then you and all your teammates take your second shot from where that disc landed. Repeat until reaching the end of the hole. “There’s great team interaction. There are always some people who have rarely, if ever, thrown a frisbee, and the other team members really get into teaching and helping them,” says Knight.
Official rules:

Tug of War
This one needs little explaining. You can buy a thick rope made especially for the sport at If you’re really ambitious, you can dig a shallow “pit of shame” for the losers to fall into.

Balloon Launch
A surprise favorite among the experts, chosen because it involves strength, aim and luck -- and requires the kind of open space a beach provides. You’ll need a three-person balloon launcher. (There’s one available at Then, instead of the hassle of filling up balloons, use foam balls (available at sporting goods stores) and soak them in water before you shoot. Points can be scored based on distance or for hitting specific targets.

Relay Race
This is the grueling grand finale -- much of what’s in it will be based on your imagination, as well as the terrain, size and crowdedness of the beach.

As part of the relay, you can have a kayak race, a fill-the-bucket-with-water event using only your hands, a three-legged race in the water, a beach chair obstacle course or a combat crawl through the sand (maybe under a fishnet).

Vander Vliet recommends you include elements that involve brains over brawn as part of the relay, like a jigsaw puzzle that the team has to complete before advancing (very “Survivor”-esque, no?). “Putting in mental elements is an equalizer if one team is better physically than the other,” he says.

One team challenge that combines both the physical and mental aspects is a paper plate minefield. Blindfold one person per team, and have his teammates verbally guide him around the plates, from one end of the minefield to the other. If he steps on one, he starts over. The options are limitless.
Official rules:

Useful TV Shows to Make You a Better Man

Still struggling to find your masculine mojo? Or maybe you’re just looking to torque up your sense of style, witty banter or modern-music street cred. If you’re looking to be a better man (and we assume that’s why you’re here!), it might not hurt to take a peek at your telly for some “TV Guy-dance.” (Oh, yes, we did!)

That’s right, many of the best role models can be found right in your living room! Here are a few useful TV shows we recommend you monitor closely to help you get your man on.

1. Suit up in style.
You don’t have to show up for work looking like the guy who’s there to water the plants anymore. Check out “Mad Men”’s Don Draper and the rest of the retro dudes who’ve set fashion back 40 years -- and gotten a whole lot of women being a lot more nostalgic as a result of their backward-thinking fashion statements. Think: seer-sucker suits, slicked-back hair and super-skinny ties making everything old new and hot again. So if you want to cut a stylish look in the future, take a step back into the ’60s, son.

2. Get in tune with the coolest new bands.

Before “Scrubs” flatlined this season, it held the distinct honor of being the venue for the coolest tunes on the tube. Rock, pop and indie artists used to fight for the right to have their stuff wind up in the ending montages that summed up each episode’s themes. Artists who scrubbed in included Lazlo Blane, The Shins and the Butthole Surfers.

But since this useful TV show went belly up in March, the best place to get a diagnosis of the best new beats is (sigh) the girly “Grey’s Anatomy.” Always featuring new -- and surprising -- cool acts, each episode is themed and named after a song. (The show was instrumental in launching the careers of Snow Patrol and The Fray.)

Also, if you can repeat this information to any girl (we have scientific data that proves they worship this show), they’ll find you sensitive and open-minded.

3. Learn how to treat a woman … by watching football!

It turns out that some of the most sensitive and supportive men play or coach football. Surprised? Don’t be -- this is a TV show we’re talking about.

The men and boys on “Friday Night Lights” are largely solid citizens (when they’re not juicing or boozing, that is). But when they’re standing up, they’re standup guys.

The high school coach makes sure his players follow his game plan as he dutifully respects and works for his loving wife -- who also happens to be the principal. And this season, the star quarterback is willing to follow the golden rules when he steps out of bounds and knocks up a cheerleader. He wants to take care of the girl and the baby and be a dad.

In every case, when the guys are under the gun, they take care of their women with all-star style. Follow their playbook, and you’ll score with any woman.

4. Get your black belt in banter.

Want to be the funniest guy in the room without having to take off your pants … again? Then watch the better-man-friendly “30 Rock.” Pilfer a healthy dose of dialogue from this useful TV show, inject it into your real-life shtick, and you’ll never lack for wit again.

Take this exchange between Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and boss man Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) as a quality case study of classic comebacks. Her question: “Why are you wearing a tuxedo?” His answer? “It’s after 6. What am I, a farmer?”

Looking for more versatile quips? Try these other classic “Rock” classics:

  • “I want to go to there.”

    Faux overstatement, phrased to mimic preschool-type desire for something. Works great to express instant overpowering infatuation with a lady.
  • “What the what?!?”

    To express dumbfoundedness in a way that conveys hip, ironic wit to the elite class (while simultaneously mocking the vulgar and illiterate classes).
  • “Oh … sarcasm!”

    A sarcastic way of acknowledging lame sarcasm expressed by others.
  • “Well played, [insert your foil’s name here]. Well played.”

    A tongue-in-cheek, pseudo-classic-gentlemanly way of acknowledging victory to a foe relating to an issue that ultimately lacks importance. Hyperbolic.

Avoid These Movie Shaving Bloopers

Some shaving scenes in films should warn, "Don't try this at home." For the best razor experience, learn from these characters' mistakes.

In the same way you wouldn’t trust Ron Burgundy to educate you on the duties of an anchorman, you can’t necessarily count on movie characters to be good shaving mentors. In fact, some movie men make perfect role models for what not to do: They scrape when they should glide, sting when they should soothe and drive the razor north when they should roll south.

Health and beauty expert Kyan Douglas, best known as the grooming guru on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and present host of TLC’s 10 Years Younger, took a sharp look at the shaving scenes in some popular flicks and shows us why they should be recut.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

In Front of the Mirror:

Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) must battle for real estate in front of the bathroom mirror as his freshly showered wife (Myrna Loy) cuts in front and foils Grant’s attempt at achieving uninterrupted shaving.

The Wrong Cut:

Douglas concludes that a shaver needs to be able to focus on the task at face.

“There are times when I’m rushed or in a hurry,” says Douglas, “and those are the times I knick my Adam’s apple. And then those become the most inconvenient times -- because now you’re still late, and you’re also bleeding. So just give yourself the time to really respect your face. It’s delicate skin, your face. Take care of it.”

In the same way you wouldn’t trust Ron Burgundy to educate you on the duties of an anchorman, you can’t necessarily count on movie characters to be good shaving mentors. In fact, some movie men make perfect role models for what not to do: They scrape when they should glide, sting when they should soothe and drive the razor north when they should roll south.

North By Northwest (1959)

In Front of the Mirror:

In the men’s room of Chicago’s Union Station, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant again) must shave to disguise his identity but only has access to a teeny women’s pink razor (the property of his romantic foil, Eva Marie Saint).

The Wrong Cut:

Sure, Grant had to make do with whatever kind of blade he could get; after all, he was on the run from the law, mistaken for a killer. But obviously, you should avoid using a woman’s razor on your face.

“Women often use those kinds of disposable razors,” notes Douglas. “I don’t know that ‘lady shavers’ -- if that’s what you want to call them -- are really designed to get the close kind of shave the way the men’s razors are. Plus, on a very practical level, you really shouldn’t be sharing razors with anybody -- it’s not sanitary. Things can definitely be transmitted, like warts. And because it can be a bloody situation, sharing razors has even been linked to transmission of Hepatitis C.”

As for the teeniness of that pink shaver, Douglas adds, “It’s not so much the size of the equipment, it’s really the quality.” And Douglas opts for a good multiblade razor.

The Graduate (1967)

In Front of the Mirror:

While attempting to scrape off some bristle (stroking the razor upward on his neck), Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) gets a visit from his mom who basically asks him if he’s tomcatting around at night. Shocked at the question, Hoffman slits his finger on his safety razor.

The Wrong Cut:

“This is kind of an almost iconic image of a man shaving,” says Douglas. “He’s got his chin up, he’s lathered up, he’s going against the grain -- shaving up from the Adam’s apple. But here’s the deal: One is supposed to go with the grain.

“Now what if the hair on your neck grows in different directions, as it does with many men? Or around your chin, for example? Shaving up is perfect if your hair grows upward. If you get a 5 o’clock shadow very easily and you want to control that, rather than go against the grain, you can go sideways into the grain -- it’s not as traumatic on the skin. You’re less likely to get razor bumps and irritation.

“But the lesson is to really pay attention to the grain of your facial hair and do your best to shave with it,” says Douglas.

And the other lesson?

“Don’t talk about sex with your mother while you’re shaving.”

Home Alone(1990)

In Front of the Mirror:

In an iconic motion-picture moment, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) indulges in bathroom grooming capped off by a splash of aftershave -- resulting in the sting heard round the world.

The Wrong Cut:

Forget that the 8-year-old in the movie never actually “shaves.” The takeaway involves the use of boozed-up post-shave elixirs (which can really smart a freshly shorn face).

Says Douglas: “It’s just a very old-school mentality about aftershave -- that stinging is good because it’s disinfecting. It should be used to soothe the skin.”

The Aviator (2004)

In Front of the Mirror:

Because he needs to emerge from seclusion, Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) must finally shave off his ratty beard. Helping him perform the deed: Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).

The Wrong Cut:

Based on our shave-with-the-grain rule, it would seem this scene gets it wrong, since Beckinsale slides the razor up DiCaprio’s neck, against the grain. But after careful inspection, Douglas concludes the scene actually got it right.

“Straight-blade professionals will often shave against the grain,” notes Douglas. “But only after they’ve shaved the face once with the grain. And it looks like that’s what she had done: There was just a little bit of shaving cream on his cheek, but the rest of his face had been shaved.”

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

In Front of the Mirror:

Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) shaves in the police department men’s bathroom.

The Wrong Cut:

At first glance, it would seem Wilson has his technique wrong, holding his razor nearly full-on vertically. Were you to follow suit with a modern-day razor, you’d be gaffing.

But for this scene, Douglas blames Wilson’s equipment: the retro safety razor (the movie’s set in the ’70s). “With those old-school razors, it’s really like working with a straight blade,” explains Wilson. “The angle in which you hold it is really important. So I think the actor was holding the blade the way it actually needs to be held, so he didn’t cut himself.”

Douglas adds, “One of the things I really like about this scene is that Owen Wilson really seems to be taking his time -- taking small strokes, sort of like doing detail work. And that’s really great if you’re someone whose facial hair growth pattern goes in many different directions.”

Hancock (2008)

In Front of the Mirror:

About to emerge from prison to commit acts of super-heroism, John Hancock (Will Smith) first decides to clean up his act. He parks himself in front of his cell’s sink, applies shaving cream and shaves … using his fingernails. 

The Wrong Cut:

Since we mere mortals can’t fairly evaluate the effectiveness of fingernails as razors, Douglas found another flaw.

“What struck me about that scene is that he didn’t use any water,” says Douglas. “He just put the cream on there and just … thwack. And in our imaginary Shaving 101 lesson book, the first thing you talk about is applying water to soften the beard. You should really first wash your face, or take a shower, or splash water on your face for a minute or use a wet hot towel -- something that keeps moisture and heat on your beard long enough to moisten that hair shaft.”

Nail the Tailgate Party

Football season’s best action isn’t on the field -- it’s in the stadium parking lot. Here’s how to throw a bash that’ll make people forget about the game.

Sure, the real celebrities are inside the stadium getting ready for kickoff. But the parking lot is your place to shine -- as the Peyton Manning or Tom Brady of tailgating parties.

Reaching elite level isn’t easy, though. It takes discipline, practice, the proper equipment and the right coaching -- which is provided here by two of the world’s top minds in this ever-competitive field. Follow their game plan, and you may never even bother making your way to your seats inside for the main event.

Know the Ground Rules
Stadiums set up strict rules for tailgating -- and their security crews enforce them aggressively. Are bottles legal? Can you use only charcoal grills, or does it have to be gas? “What’s most confusing is that the rules can change from year to year. So even if you’ve been to the stadium before, check on its Web site beforehand to know what you can and can’t do,” says Joe Kahn, who runs the Tailgating Web site and has cooked out at 31 NFL stadiums, 123 college stadiums and nine NASCAR venues.

Create a Checklist
“The biggest mistake people make for the tailgate barbecue is actually forgetting to bring the grill or the food,” says Deidra Darsa of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. (She should know. Her organization actually took a poll on the topic.) Trying to come up with a new game plan from the parking lot is always a disaster. So before you go, write a list of everything you need to bring -- the food, fuel, grill, condiments, ice, utensils, napkins, chairs, cheese-heads and whatever else. Then, as you’re loading the vehicle, double-check that all’s accounted for.

Get There as Soon as the Parking Gates Open
The time varies, usually between three and four hours before the event -- though in some places, like Penn State, visitors can arrive up to two days beforehand. Arriving at the parking area early “will allow you to get the grill going so you can enjoy the food and socialize,” says Darsa. Adds Kahn: “A tailgate is like a community social. You want to enjoy yourself and not feel rushed.”

Keep It Simple 
Overlook this rule at your peril. Serving up prime rib and chicken cordon bleu sounds great, but in practice can be a pain to prepare, and more important, hard for partygoers to eat. “This isn’t a cooking contest. Emeril isn’t going to show up,” says Kahn. His advice: Prepare the food beforehand as much as you can so it’s easy to cook at the tailgate, and make everything bite-size so your guests can eat with one hand. Instead of steaks, do kebabs. Instead of super-size burgers, make sliders. And leave the deep fat fryer at home. Not only is cooking with it a hassle, but it’s a safety hazard in confined areas like parking lots.

Spy on the Opposition and Steal Their Plays
“Walk around while you’re there, look at what other people are doing,” says Kahn. “You’ll get a lot of great ideas for future tailgates.” The more you learn from the success of others, the greater your chances of becoming a prime-time player -- in the parking lot.

Movies to Make You a Better Man

Looking for a get-smart shortcut? The right mix of flicks will serve as a veritable Cinema U: You can really learn something by watching them. Here’s our brain-boosting lineup.

Where can you find a better blueprint for life than the movies? These days we look to cinematic fiction for answers to life’s most perplexing questions, such as, Where else can an over-the-hill fat dude like Jack Nicholson be paid zillions to parody himself again?

Ah, but we digress. Educationally speaking, the movies don’t just lecture you like a burned-out, tenured professor: They put you in the action. Plus the movies can out-multimedia just about any lecture class. Watch enough of the right flicks, and you may just qualify for a degree in business, politics, sociology -- even grifting. And think how far all that will go when time comes to make career choices, sound witty at social mixers and impress a worthy lady.

Yes, Cinema U is officially in session. These flicks are packed with smart bombs that’ll serve you well for the rest of your life. Watch and learn:


Check It out: September 4

John Cusack is a U.S. intelligence operative desperately trying to find his missing American buddy in Shanghai just days before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. As he frantically tries to find his friend, the search is complicated by local gangsters, Japanese invaders, a Chinese chick (Gon Li) who runs sweet and sour on him, and the realization that he’s not sure he can trust his own government.

The Smart Bomb
Cusack’s undercover navigation of pre-war Shanghai reveals a fascinating, culturally rich -- but also slightly seamy -- melting-pot community we never knew existed. The film shows that pre-World War II Shanghai was an international community of refugees, artists, spies, and best of all, breathtakingly beautiful Gon Lis.

Also …
Creativity cannot be stifled. Shanghai’s international community was the birthplace of China’s thriving film industry, which was squashed by the Japanese occupation during the war. The industry clandestinely slipped out of what became Red China and off to Hong Kong to give birth to the careers of our favorite imports: Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.


Check It out: September 11

Based on the wildly popular 1998 graphic novel, Whiteout is the story of the world’s hottest United States marshal (Kate Beckinsale), who is, um, hot on the trail of the first and only serial killer in the world’s coldest place, Antarctica. The problem? Winter is only three days away (so forget about seeing Kate slip into a bikini at the polar ice cap). Also, with winter come six months of darkness … in which she would be stuck with the Abominable Snowciopath.

The Smart Bomb
Geography meets criminal justice studies meets ice-onography. The story offers the eye-opening and groin-freezing scenario in which we see how U.S. marshals are the only law enforcement agency charged with protecting the world’s largest and least inviting continent. When Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) is sent to the most isolated, barren and scariest landmass on earth to shut down a serial killer terrorizing a U.S. research base, she has to do it in temperatures that drop to 120 F below 0, winds that will rip your skin off at up to 200 mph and a serious absence of backup when the bodies begin to pile up -- all of which leads us to wonder who her high school career counselor was.

Also …
In the original graphic novel, Stetko was a little overweight and got a bit of help from a female U.N. investigator … with whom (it was implied) she melts a little ice. In the film, though, the investigator is a dude (actor Garbiel Macht). Maybe we should go back to using comics as reference books.

The Informant

Check It out: September 18

Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) was bored working at an Illinois food processing company. So, more to make himself feel important than to actually help anybody, Whitacre goes undercover for the FBI to uncover his company’s massive price-fixing scandal -- while he’s in the midst of stealing $9 million bucks himself. True story.

The Smart Bomb
Aside from focusing on Whitacre’s clueless efforts to be a hero, this story offers riveting detail about how the food industry holds not only your tummy hostage but also your wallet. In real life, Whitacre wore a wire for three years and helped record video footage of high-level meetings, where execs conspired with each other to set food additive prices well above market value so they could stuff their pockets as you stuff your face.

Also …
Elaborate FBI stings follow white-collar crime everywhere -- even in boring industries. That’s right: Somebody’s making dough by charging too much for, um, dough. So if you’re jacking up the sugar packets at your local 7-Eleven, watch your back, Jack. And if you’re going to be an informant, you may want to avoid being a thief while working for the man. Whitacre’s prison term was three times longer than that of the guys he helped nab.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Check It out: September 23

Michael Moore, that hefty dude with the baseball cap and suspicious nature,  celebrates the 20th anniversary of his breakout film Roger & Me -- about the suspicious collapse of the auto industry -- with a new film about the suspicious collapse of the overall economy. The new flick takes a comical look at the corporate and political high jinks that culminated in what Moore has described as “the biggest robbery in the history of this country”: the massive transfer of U.S. taxpayer money to private financial institutions to bail out fat guys with billion-dollar bonuses.

The Smart Bomb
Forget smart bomb -- this one’s an all-out genius bomb: A study of economics, politics, business and thievery all in one! Were this one to translate to college credits, you could cash it in for a quadruple major.

As in his previous documentaries, Moore blindsides his targets when they least expect it. Here, he corners top corporate and banking executives as they fly to their private islands on personal jets that they bankrolled with bonuses they set aside for themselves -- despite managing funds that bankrupted investors. Then Moore gets them to not explain how they can live with themselves on our money.

Also …
Moore details how these guys siphoned funds, pensions, savings and more while the people who trusted them with their life savings went broke. So if you’re up to no good, you may want to stay on Moore’s good side.

More Than a Game

Check It out: October 2

This documentary follows five poor kids from Akron, Ohio, through their high school hoop careers. Not unusual, except when you consider that one, LeBron James, has gone on to become the world’s best player and that they wind up playing for the national championship.

The Smart Bomb
The kids are shown dealing with the pressures of poverty, publicity that comes with competing in the national media spotlight and the heat from that spotlight intensified 100 times because James has been earmarked by the media -- and NBA scouts -- as the best high school player in the cosmos. But despite everybody wanting to get their hands on James, nobody is able to pull these five guys apart. Even when James is banned from a game for allegedly accepting the gift of a car (a no-no he was later cleared of), the kids rely on the bond they formed in Akron to keep them together and help them achieve their individual goals -- as a team. 

Also …
Be true and loyal to your friends, and teamwork will always win out. (Of course, it’s easy to win games with LeBron James on your team.)