Archive for April, 2010

Act As If Ye Had Faith


French Letters

In their ceaseless quest to “prove” that Destry, a.k.a. President Barack Obama, is Wrong about Everything, the wingers flew into a flap last April when Obama gifted the Queen of England with an iPod. Mossback anglophiles on this side of the Great Water fulminated that such a gift was grossly declasse, evidence that Obama is a clueless moron.

These same people next swooned, calling for their servants to bring at once the claret, when it developed that during the iPod handover First Lady Michelle Obama “breached royal protocol” by placing her arm around the Queen—in response to the Queen placing her arm around her. Apparently commoners who dare touch the Queen are, even here in the 21st Century, supposed to have the offending member hacked off, presumably with an executioner’s axe, the bleeding arm then spiked for display at the foot of the Tower of London, for the delectation of the local ravens.

It is not known whether French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid hands on the Obama daughters during his visit this April to the White House. There has, however, occurred a dust-up similar to the Obama iPod Outrage, this time involving Sarkozy’s gift to the Obama girls of several issues of the popular French comic-book series Asterix. Writing in Le Monde, Franck Nouchi moans: “Were there not other works to offer to them that would evoke French genius?” And suggests that Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, should have been subjected instead to Proust.


Listen To The Lion

A Neptune-sized planet orbiting a brown dwarf star in the constellation Leo is discombobulating Science Men because it refuses to have methane.

Science Men had previously decreed that all planets of this size and temperature must have methane. They apparently grounded this belief on the observation that the planets in our solar system of that size and temperature possess methane.

“The ball is in the theorists’ court now,” taunted Kevin Stevenson, Ph.D student at the University of Central Florida, and lead author of the study that determined that the planet, monikered GJ 436b, had successfully resisted the Science Men’s command that all such planets exhibit methane. “They will have to improve their models, taking into account the disequilibrium processes that could account for what is happening. The current models are a very good first step in determining the atmospheres of these planets, but now we need to go a step further.”

“What this does tell us is that there is room for improvement in our models,” opined Joseph Harrington, associate professor at the University of Central Florida. “The lesson here is that planets really do have individual personalities.”



Apres Moi, Le Deluge

During last fall’s presidential campaign, I listened as a woman from Marin County told talk-show host Gene Burns of KGO why she and her husband could not support Barack Obama. Their chief concern was Obama’s vow that in his administration taxes would rise only for those earning more than $250,000 per year. Her family’s income was roughly $360,000, she said, and there was simply no way they could afford to give any more money to the government.

As the call continued, it became clear that they were really scraping by, these people. While each of the three children had his or her own car, one child was mortified, because his car was nearly a year old. Some days, he was too embarrassed to leave the house. The kitchen remodel had been put off for almost three months, and the wine collection was not growing: they could no longer in good conscience entertain friends. The husband was under great strain, struggling to pour sufficient sums into the various civic, sports, and fraternal organizations that required his membership. They had recently had to wait several weeks before outfitting each member of the family with the latest Apple releases. The situation had grown so dire that some nights they now had to eat dinner at home.

Burns eventually exploded, lighting into this woman like a leveller. He had no sympathy for her. I, on the other hand, did. I know Marin County, and it is not easy to live there, on any amount of money. Marin is a vortex that can easily swallow all dollars thrown into it. I am sure that to this woman all of her family’s expenses seemed justified. Money induces in those who possess it a sort of special relativity: the more that is available, the more “needs” arise on which it “must” be spent.

I remembered this woman when I read about “luxury watchmaker” Yvan Arpa’s latest creation, a timepiece fashioned of dinosaur dung. It sells for $11,000. Now, I am sure that the Marin woman mentioned above would not “need” such a watch. But somewhere out there is somebody who does. Somebody also, I have no doubt, “needed” Alba’s “Crisis Tourbillon,” which was created as a “crisis-defying” response to the 2008-2009 world financial meltdown, and which retailed for $175,000. That is the watch pictured above. I myself am intrigued, for the sheer absurdity of it, with Arpa’s timepiece wherein he “created the first ‘watch’ which does not tell time. That piece, which costs 300,000 [Swiss] francs, only tells day from night.” I don’t happen to have 300,000 Swiss francs, also known as $282,805.44, at the moment, so, for the present, I don’t “need” this watch.



And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

—Job 1:7

Whenever I happen to drive into town, I pass a hillock upon which some pious soul has endeavored to recreate Golgotha. Three large wooden crosses have been driven into the earth, to remind motorists of the place where Jesus of Nazareth and two other fellows were crucified by the Romans. Every year, shortly before Easter, the unknown believer who maintains this crucifixion scene returns to the site, there to buck up the crosses, steady them in the earth. Then, he leaves them to the mercy of the cows.

For this ersatz Calvary occupies a site that is occupied, from late winter until the grass is crisped by the punishing sun of summer, by range cattle. Who aren’t much interested in respecting this California caricature of the Place Of The Skulls. Generally by the time the cattle have been moved to their range up in the mountains, they have knocked the hell out of these crosses, flattening them to the earth, or leaving them standing askew.

I once thought this occurred inadvertently, as a result of the cows rubbing up against them: cattle like to scratch. Until the day I saw a cow walk right into one of the crosses, push against it, back up, then move against it a second time, until it had been bent at a 45-degree angle. A second cow then moved in to knock against the cross from the side, skewing it closer to the earth. Finally, a third cow approached from the far side of the hillock, ambled up to and then sort of straddled the now seriously sagging cross, forcing it nearly flat.

This assault on the unknown pious one’s representation of the final earthly abode of Our Savior seemed deliberate to me. Which probably indicates that these animals are owned and controlled by their fellow Horned One. Dude is everywhere.

Out Of The Mouths Of Bums

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not a particularly palatable person. He is something of a ruffian, has a serious Jew problem, and I would definitely not want to be a woman, gay, or even just a person who likes to shoot his mouth off, within range of his regime.

But that does not mean he is incapable of saying right things.

At a two-day nuclear-disarmament forum held last week in Tehran—under the rubric “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For None,” which sounds like only half a good idea to me—Ahmadinejad advanced two sound notions.

First, that if the United States is so all-fired interested in achieving a world without nuclear weapons, it should extinguish its own nuclear stockpile first.

This seems eminently fair, as the US is the only nation in history to deliberately use nukes as weapons of mass destruction, and its current nuclear inventory is far greater than that of any other nation.

Second, Ahmadinejad said that future nuclear-disarmament talks should be controlled by states that do not possess nuclear weapons. This also seems fair. I have always thought the lead here should be granted to South Africa, which is the only nation known to have deliberately destroyed its nuclear weapons, after once having produced them.

Neither of these things is likely to happen any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t.

Walk This Way

Not many days go by when I do not think about William Moore, the white Baltimore postal worker who set out in April of 1963 to walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a letter to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett urging him to accept integration.

On his walk, Moore wore sandwich boards reading “Equal Rights For All & Mississippi Or Bust” and “End Segregation In America—Eat At Joe’s Both Black & White.” The cart he pushed bore, among other signs and sentiments, a “Wanted” poster adorned with a sketch of Jesus, captioned “Jesus Christ: Wanted for sedition, criminal anarchy, va-grancy, and conspiring to overthrow the established government.”

On April 23, on his third day out, and less than 70 miles into his walk, Moore in Alabama, about an hour northeast of Birmingham, was shot twice in the head and killed, his body left by the side of the road. No one has ever been convicted of his murder.


When I Worked

April 2010
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