Archive for October, 2011

Life As A Man

He considered tucking his shirt into his pants, decided the President probably wouldn’t be stopping by that day, and shuffled out into the kitchen in his sock feet. The bright sunlight coming in the east windows made him squint.

—Stephen King, The Stand

By Any Other Name

Among the unacknowledged hazards of board games, is that one may suddenly feel compelled to leap across the table and repeatedly stab another player for perceived “cheating at Monopoly.”

A New Mexico woman repeatedly stabbed her boyfriend after accusing him of cheating during a Monopoly game early yesterday, according to police.

Laura Chavez, 60, and her boyfriend were playing the popular board game at her Santa Fe apartment when the dispute occurred. Chavez allegedly admitted stabbing her beau, Clyde “Butch” Smith, with a kitchen knife.

Police reported that both Chavez and the 48-year-old Smith appeared to be intoxicated. The man, who cops found bleeding heavily from wounds on his head and right wrist, was hospitalized yesterday in stable condition.

When cops arrived at Chavez’s building, she was sitting under the porch “covered with suspected blood.” Asked if the blood was Smith’s, she answered, “Yes, I fucked him up.”

Chavez’s 10-year-old grandson, who had been playing with the two adults, told officers that his grandmother began to argue with Smith because she thought he “was cheating at Monopoly.” The boy, who had gone to bed before the stabbing began, did not further describe the alleged cheating.

My first thought was: is this sort of thing now considered Normal in New Mexico? Seems unlikely. But then again, GOoPers are constantly on about the necessity for permitting individual states to become “laboratories of democracy.” And so it is possible that there in New Mexico people have returned to knives as necessary and proper items in conflict resolution.

My second thought concerned the name “Clyde ‘Butch’ Smith.” Yes, I understood almost at once, if one is named “Clyde ‘Butch’ Smith,” it is inevitable that at some point in your life you will be stabbed. Because such a name condemns one to the sort of earthly existence in which knives will feature prominently. You might escape stabbing if your name were limited to “Clyde.” Or “Butch.” Or “Smith.” But if you put them all together—Clyde “Butch” Smith—stabbing is your destiny.

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I Flew With A Zombie

In the November 2011 Harper’s, pharmacopeia correspondent Hamilton Morris recounts his journey to Haiti, there to attempt to duplicate the decades-old exploits of Wade Davis, and, like Davis, return with evidence of zombies and zombie powder.

Morris’ sojourn becomes a farce and a fiasco, though he does learn that that these days zombies are enslaved before computers—”they work on the computers,” he is told, “making accounts, like spread-sheets; they make Excel”—and that some of the island’s women will fly if presented with “six tubes of Ultra Strength Bengay.”

However, the most intriguing information Morris unearths may be that NASA was involved in Davis’ research, the agency seeking zombie powder in order to zombify astronauts headed for Mars.

Yes. This is Real. For details, follow along beyond the “furthur.”

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A Little Spin

So. NASA is now going to build gas stations in space.

That’s not what the NASAoids are calling them—”propellant depots” is the preferred euphemism—but that’s what they are.

Says the New York Times:

By considering a proposal to put filling stations in the sky, NASA is looking to accelerate plans to send astronauts to distant destinations.

The filling stations—NASA calls them propellant depots—would refuel a spacecraft in orbit before it headed out to the moon, an asteroid or eventually Mars. Currently, all of the fuel needed for a mission is carried up with the rocket, and the weight of the fuel limits the size of the spacecraft.

Next month, engineers will meet at NASA headquarters in Washington to discuss how propellant depots could be used to reach farther into space and make possible more ambitious missions using the heavy-lift rocket that NASA is planning to build.

However, the space agency has rejected the study’s most radical conclusion: that NASA could forgo the heavy-lift and use existing smaller rockets, combined with fuel depots, to reach its targets more quickly and less expensively. Those targets, for the next two decades at least, include a return to the moon or a visit to an asteroid.

Oh hell no. Let’s not consider the cheaper and quicker alternative. Because what’s really important is the ability to drive big ol’ RVs around in space.

It is touching, really, that humans think they are going to be able to rumble through the universe in RVs. It’s not going to happen, of course, but they can’t see that yet.

The first reason that it’s not going to happen is because space doesn’t want humans in it. At least not as humans are presently constituted. The reasons why are made abundantly clear in this compilation of clips from the 1951 documentary film The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Put simply, space does not want humans in it, because humans do not know how to behave.

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“No, Those Are Next Door”

They are making some interesting humans in Egypt.

First we had Al-Sayed al-Essawy, the self-described “strongest man in the world,” who lives to enter cages and there fight lions (who, to date, have not been interested), and has vowed to “pull an airplane with my teeth, and I will pull an airplane with my hair[;] I will also be run over by an airplane.”

Now there is Ahmed Mohammed, a Cairo tour guide who recently escorted a writer for the journal Bidoun through the Egyptian Museum. Below is a partial transcript of their encounter. It’s Mohammed who kicks it off. The Bidoun seeker’s remarks are in italics.

You see this statue? Man or woman?

Man?

A man with breasts?

So it’s a woman?

A woman with beard?

I have no idea. Transgender?

It’s Hatshepsut. Better to say, Hot-Chicken-Soup. So complex. She’s the only queen that ruled the country. She married her half-brother. Her husband took another woman, so she poisoned everybody in the food. She presented herself as pharaoh, dressed as a man. She wanted to say there’s no difference between man and woman. In my opinion, she was a very successful leader, but she lost herself as a woman.

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Drive Me To The Moon

In a reluctant attempt to move into something resembling the 20th Century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently decreed that women will be allowed, here and there, to vote.

Driving, however, remains out of the question. Under Saudi law, women are prohibited from driving; it is forbidden for x-chromes even to ride a bicycle. And they’re pretty serious about it. One Shaima Jastaina was recently sentenced to 10 lashes for defying the nation’s driving ban; the sentence was not carried out only because 87-year-old King Abdullah intervened.

Jastaina is part of the intertubular Women2Drive campaign, in which uppity females get behind the wheel and go rolling across the desert, law or no law. Saudi mossbacks are getting active in return, gathering on oppositional Facebook sites to ululate about the Horrors and Dangers of women drivers. Below are some excerpts from their postings, which I nicked from the November 2011 edition of Harper’s.

I’m not against women driving so much as the chaos that’ll occur.

It women tried simultaneously to direct their family’s upbringing, guide the nation’s moral education, and, on top of all this, drive a car—this country would record the highest mortality rates in the world.

It is the Saudi man, with his intense love for his wife, who provides her with a chauffeur. And yet they reject this part of his charity and love.

It is obvious to any sane person that to empower women with driving will rob the man of his household role. This will increase the divorce rate—already high—and scatter families, children. Girls will be lost, trampled by extortion.

The economists say that money spent on car insurance for women will be at least ten times more than what is now spent on women’s transportation, private and public. And the notion is still raised! They say, “What does the West say about us? They’ve landed on the moon! Let’s catch up!” The West did not get to the moon with women’s driving!

It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Okay. This is a mighty magic mushbag story.

Norma and Gordon Yeager were married for 72 years. We are going to assume that it was good. Because: it was.

On Wednesday, they went driving. He was 94. She was 90.

They were hit by another car. They were transported to a hospital in Marshalltown.

In the intensive care unit of Marshalltown’s hospital, nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma.

“They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together—and they were holding hands in ICU. They were not really responsive,” said Dennis Yeager.

Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife as the family they built surrounded them.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going,” said Dennis Yeager. “But we were like: ‘he isn’t breathing. How does he still have a heart beat?’ The nurse checked and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up.”

“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna Sheets.

At 4:38 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed too.

So, what, really, is “life”? And what, really, is “death”?

More than by measurement, we can know.

So long as she lived, he did, too. Whether he was “breathing,” whether his own heart was “beating,” or no.

They lived, both of them, through desire.

Until, together, they “lived” no more.

And then: together they did float. Into the mystic.


When I Worked

October 2011
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