An Open Letter

Dear Cub Scouts of America,

A quick note about your most-famous annual event, the Pinewood Derby. It really needs to stop.

As such, both the Царевич and Цесаревич will not be participating this year, even though they each came up with very clever designs this year: Back to the Future’s DeLorean DMC-12 and the Aston Martin DB-5 from Goldfinger and Skyfall. Pretty much nice angular cuts, some silver paint, and some simple Sharpie-drawn designs to finish it off.

After the Czar’s disastrous attempts to make simple cars last year with the boys, it became obvious that the problem is not really with the Czar or his notorious lack of patience. It is his lack of patience with stupid things.

Let us be honest, here. There are two types of participants:

The cars submitted by, or really conceived, designed, constructed, and painted by adults. See the car here? You need a laser-precise compound miter saw, saber saw or band saw, drill press, about $300 in Dremel equipment, and so on, to even attempt anything like this. Please explain how a 10-year-old, for example, could construct anything like this. You know perfectly well the dad said “Hey, want me to make you a skateboard?” The kid doesn’t even look up from his iPad, but mutters “Yeah, sure,” which he would also say if the dad offered to pour varnish into his mouth. This project, which the dad will thenceforth swear up and down was 100% the kid’s idea, had no involvement or participation at any point in the process. In fact, the kid probably first saw it at the actual Pinewood Derby, whereupon he said “Cool. Whose car is that?”

And you know this to be true. And you should also know that this accounts for 40-45% of the participants.

Another 50% of the participants due what the Царица wants to do: go to Hobby Lobby and buy a ready-made Pinewood Derby car. See this one here? $50, which is a fraction of the cost of the thousands of bucks required to make the one just above this. And for the fifty, they will prime it, sand the wheels, polish the axles, and basically do all the work except paint it.

No doubt you decry this publicly, CSA, because this is something the kids and dads are supposed to do together! Let the Czar point out that these kits are all conveniently licensed by the BSA, which means you get a chunk of cash each time someone buys one. So don’t pretend to be upset that people are taking the easy way out.

The remaining 5-10% are goofball idiot noobie dads, like the Czar last year, who figured it’s just a bunch of cuts into a pine block. Big deal.

Then these dads, working with their kids, discover that the wood you provide in the issued kits is absolutely crap. It splits, chips, shreds—there’s no better way to describe it—and is so grainy that simple cuts wind up bending before breaking: anyone who has worked with wood knows that a flexible saw blade can bend aside, resulting in a crooked, jagged cut. And you wind up with the car shown here. (Although the story behind this picture is awesome).

And contrary to the propaganda, no—these types of cars do not “out-perform” the sleek, fancy ones. In fact, they pretty much come in last every time.

Look, this is not merely a matter of grousing: the Czar has a lot of wood-working tools, and finds that unless you substitute the pinewood piece out with a piece of real, quality wood (not all the dads are using pine, obviously), the result will be a catastrophic mess.

So your father-and-son activity is basically either the dad doing the whole thing, the dad buying a kit, or the kid crying because his car is a piece of vomit with crooked wheels.

On top of that, put in the usual February chaos of science fair projects, career-day projects, homework, and music recitals and guess what? You picked the worst month for any multi-week project. Nobody has time for this nonsense anymore, unless of course they fall into the first two categories.

This is ultimately endorsing cheating. And the Czar elects not to participate in this anymore. Sure, the kids are the ones who suffer, but don’t look at anyone else but yourselves for that.

So either make some major changes in this event, or replace it with something more realistic, or expect to see participation drop off until the local packs simply decline to participate any more. Whatever—but don’t say you weren’t warned.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.