Archive for June, 2011

What Happens When You Offend God

New Track

It occurs to me that the two most recent posts to this blog have concerned chunder, horse semen, and bowel burgers.

I don’t think we need any more of that here. Lest next I descend to posting selections from the outhouse sequence in Ulysses, or maybe great chunks of Celine.

So, on this Saturday night, let’s go somewhere Real. Like space. Courtesy one of the shows from the 1971 Port Chester telepathy experiments.

Bottoms Up

Once upon a time there flickered a possibility that I might venture to Australia, there to compile a travel guide to the place. So I spent a fair amount of time soaking up information about the various whys and wherefores of the down-under realm.

Among the things I learned was that Australians, and particularly Australian males, can tend towards a relationship with alcohol that is somewhat reminiscent of that of early Americans. Which is, put simply: there can never be too much to drink. I learned that there had even occurred the coining of a word—”chunder”—to describe that process by which Australian males stumble out of pubs to spatter onto the ground their stomach contents, so that they might then be sufficiently emptied to return to the pub to consume more beverages. This practice was even immortalized in “Down Under,” the 1981 anthem from the Australian band Men At Work:

I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder

The high alcohol content ever-present in the bodies of these chunderers encourages them to engage in pursuits that would not often appeal to people when they are Ordinary. To wit, in some pubs the chunderers compete in contests to see who can furthest hurl a human dwarf.

I admit to experiencing some concern when I learned that some of these men, when not drinking and chundering and hurling dwarves, pilot upon the nation’s highways vehicles called “road trains”—endless diesel-powered assemblages linking so many freight-trailers that the things can become longer than many towns. In Australia these behemoths replaced camel trains; camels, it is true, have been known to bite and spit and buck, but rarely has it been reported that a camel plunged into a beer/vomit/beer cycle, and then stumbled out into the night to blearily guide tens of thousands of pounds of metal at alarming speeds along the asphalt.

I next learned that some elements of this drinking culture have ventured across the water to take root in the somewhat-neighboring isles of New Zealand. Though no road trains travel that nation’s roads, and chundering is less of a national sport. Still, when the Googles informed me this morning that in a pub down in Wellington they are today cheerily guzzling horse semen, I was not surprised.


Waste Not, Want Not

There are some problems here.

The planet is damaged, depleted by agricultural/industrial pollution and deranged by greenhouse gases; it’s overpopulated and over-policed; the land, it is exhausted; the oceans, they are dying.

Or so it was set forth in the 1973 cinematic dystopia Soylent Green.

Several years ago I ran this film for someone who had never before seen it. When it was over, she said: “I’m glad I waited to see this until it had become a documentary.”

In Soylent Green, the answer to no food and lots of people, we learn, is to grind up lots of people into food. Sister, brother, auntie, uncle, cousin, nephew, friend, grandma in the corner, too—all transformed into flat green crackers, distributed to the hungry, unknowing masses each Tuesday: “Soylent Green Day!”

So far as is known, here in the “real” world, people are not yet being foisted onto other people as food. However, according to this here tubes newspaper, we might soon be munching on something sort of getting there: to wit, human feces.


Each Star’s A Pool Of Water

In Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, Arbrean avout several times dialog the notion of a sun with a block of ice at its core, as an example of a Reality that might require some trouble to reach, unmoored as it is from what hereabouts is considered Possible.

Today, however, the worldtrack of a sun with a block of ice at its core, has strayed significantly closer to Terran consensus reality.

In the 1936 C&W oater “Cool Water,” a trudging wanderer presumed to be unhinged by mirages is heard at one point to observe “each star’s a pool of water.”

Now it appears that this man may actually be an astute visionary.

Yes boys and girls—and those who have Platonically reconnected, and are therefore again both—it is time, once again, to redefine Reality. For out there in the great wide open is a young’un star that is pouring forth water.

Seven hundred and fifty light-years from Earth, a young, sunlike star has been found with jets that blast epic quantities of water into interstellar space, shooting out droplets that move faster than a speeding bullet.

The discovery suggests that protostars may be seeding the universe with water. These stellar embryos shoot jets of material from their north and south poles as their growth is fed by infalling dust that circles the bodies in vast disks.

Every second, this ebullient star is sending forth more water than flows through the Amazon. No more than a hundred thousand years old—a wee tyke, then—this protostar is watering the constellation of Perseus; in doing so, it is undergoing what Science Man have now decided is a common stellar “rite of passage.”

“We are only now beginning to understand that sunlike stars probably all undergo a very energetic phase when they are young,” [University in the Netherlands astronomer Lars] Kristensen said. “It’s at this point in their lives when they spew out a lot of high-velocity material—part of which we now know is water.”

The latest Thought is that these stars form a sort of sprinkler system, which encourages the growth of other stars.

The water-jet phenomenon seen in Perseus is “probably a short-lived phase all protostars go through,” Kristensen said.

“But if we have enough of these sprinklers going off throughout the galaxy—this starts to become interesting on many levels.”

I’ll say.

Meanwhile, the June issue of Harper’s reports that, also out there in the great wide open, is a “failed sun” that burns at but 86 degrees. It has an atmosphere. Depending on what’s in that atmosphere, it might be possible for Terrans to walk around on it. So long as they have good shoes.

Feel Like Goin’ Home

The surge to retain the surge in Afghanistan has begun.

Friday morning the Wall Street Journal reported that the nation’s military “is asking President Barack Obama to hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012, in a proposal that would keep a large portion of the 33,000 extra forces in the country through the next two warm-weather fighting seasons.”

From the Journal jumping to Fox Radio “News,” where all day yesterday, every hour on the hour, blared word that the generals had decreed that any deflation of the “surge” would Imperil The Nation. The president, it was commanded, must, as was said back in Reagantime, “stay the corpse.”

No. I don’t think so.

Obama knew these people would do this. In the fall of 2009 he rejected the Kerry/Biden wisdom, which pronounced Afghanistan “Chaosistan,” and proposed confining American involvement there to spies, special forces units, and drones, all targeted solely on elements of Al Qaeda. Obama instead acceded to the demands of his generals, who wanted more bodies.

However, there was a caveat. Although he would give them the bodies, the generals would need to succeed with those bodies by July of 2011, because on that date he would begin to bring the bodies home.

And Obama extracted a promise, from the people with stars on their shoulders: that they could and would do what they said needed to be done by July of 2011, and would not instead wait until that date to come crying to him that they needed more time with more bodies.

Then, Obama and his people leaked details of that promise. Twice. To Jonathan Alter for The Promise, and Bob Woodward for Obama’s Wars.

Now that the gunmen are doing what they promised they wouldn’t do, Obama can, and should, say: “Nope. You said you wouldn’t do this. Yet you’re standing here doing it. Too bad. Too late. In Afghanistan, I feel like goin’ home.”


They’re All Wasted

I’m thinking that if I had it to do over again, I might be a Science Man. Because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that Science Men get paid money to do Fun Things.

For instance, the Science Man Andrew Adamatzky of the University of the West of England recently decided that it should be determined whether slime moulds prefer food, or drugs.

Adamatzky is something of an aficionado of slime mould; previously, he had employed the creatures to solve a geometry problem usually approached via complex computing: “finding the many-sided shape that encompasses a number of points—called the ‘concave hull’.” Slime moulds have also been used to navigate mazes, including one that reproduced the Tokyo subway system, and to mimic “logic gates,” the foundation of computers. At this fascinating link, slime moulds can be perceived forming, in a virtual United States, a more efficient interstate highway system than exists in the “real” one.

As I confessed here, I am a fan of slime mould myself. These are people neither fish nor fowl—not an animal, not a plant, previously misapprehended as fungi, now understood as, instead, “protists.”

Slime moulds wander all the world, where they feed on microorganisms that in turn feed on dead plant material. Like all protists, slime moulds are unicellular, or multicellular without specialized tissues. Meaning they don’t have what we understand as “brains,” or much of anything else.

For most of their lives, slime moulds behave Normally. But when the food supply runs low, they release signal molecules that allow them to find one another, and then they group together in swarms, sometimes creating a tiny, multicellular, coordinated, slug-like creature, that crawls like an animal to an open, sunny place, and there grows into what the Science Men call “a fruiting body,” releasing spores. A picture of one a slime mould conglomeration, going after beer, can be seen above.

With such photographic evidence, baldly exposing the slime mould’s brazen predilection for alcohol, it is not surprising that Science Man Adamatzky, once he had completed his Study, concluded that slime mould will, when give the choice, prefer drugs, rather than food.


Stringing New Wire

Peter Principle

Part of the birthright of being an American is entitlement to express an opinion on anything and everything. It’s not important that you know anything about whatever it is that you’re expressing an opinion on, or that the subject be any of your business. What’s important is your opinion, and your God-given right via The Founders to express it.

And so, every American gets to have an opinion on Anthony Weiner’s penis. People who three weeks ago had never given a single thought in their lives to Anthony Weiner’s penis, are today voluble instant experts on it.

There is of course precedent for this. To wit, the 18 months during which the entire nation was wholly consumed by The Clenis.

Prior to the advent of The Clenis, Clintontime had been a period of relative political rest for me; Bill-O didn’t seem to be mucking things up too badly, so I didn’t have to pay that much attention to him. But then some nosey buttinskys discerned that The Clenis had gone on walkabout. Cue wailing and garment-rending. From dawn till dusk, and on to dawn again. All day. Every day.

Eventually, I awoke to the fact that, during that time when I hadn’t been paying much attention, the world had somehow turned into an uber-absurd mad-hatter convocation of ur-humans. For, in the fullness of time, the United States House of Representatives entered the history books as a legislative body that put all other matters aside in order to vote to condemn a penis. The penis then formally went on trial before the United States Senate. It was touch and go there for a while, but in the end the penis was acquitted. Barely.

As I have mentioned here before, I chose to abjure television when it began blasting forth Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” to sell me dishwashing detergent. Could be a genetic thing: my brother once hurled his television set into a rice bog because people on it were lying to him. But I am deciding of late that it is necessary to return to television. Because without it, certain things cannot be explained. For instance, Sarah Palin. Her persistent presence on the national stage can only be understood, I think, via television: she is a sort of ongoing reality-TV show; say, Hell On Wheels.

So too the national noshing on Anthony Weiner’s penis. I know from my reading that there are whole television shows more or less dedicated to “regular people” who go on to relate, and receive feedback from perfect strangers on, what they have done with their penises and vaginas. And there are whole other shows dedicated to the various comings and goings of the penises and vaginas of Hollywood people. Gary Hart and Monkey Business, and then Clintontime, permitted “news” anchors to soberly discuss the peregrinations of penises and vaginas who are in some way involved in politics. It seems somewhere along the line to have occurred that one’s genitals are now also the province of other people. They have moved from private parts, to public parts. And so, yea verily, there are even TV phone-in shows enabling what George II would call “this new birth of freedom.” All day. Every day.

It’s a new dawn.

So what is my opinion of Anthony Weiner, and his penis?

Apparently, he has one.

More On God’s Feet

In the previous post, we learned that Camembert cheese has been identified as les pieds de Dieu—the feet of God. In this post, we again consider God’s feet, this time while those feet are shuffling.

Why Some People Believe Wisconsin Must Be Stopped

The flavor of cheese can provoke ecstasy in some people and disgust in others. The 17th Century saw the publication of at least two learned European treatises “de aversatione casei,” or “on the aversion to cheese.” And the author of “Fromage” in the 18th-century Encyclopedie noted that “cheese is one of those foods for which certain people have a natural repugnance, of which the cause is difficult to determine.” Today the cause is clearer. The fermentation of milk, like that of grains or grapes, is essentially a process of limited, controlled spoilage. We allow certain microbes and their enzymes to decompose the original food, but not beyond the point of edibility. In cheese, animal fats and proteins are broken down into highly odorous molecules. Many of the same molecules are also produced during uncontrolled spoilage, as well as by microbial activity in the digestive tract and on moist, warm, sheltered areas of human skin.

An aversion to the odor of decay has the obvious biological value of steering us away from possible food poisoning, so it’s no wonder that an animal food that gives off whiffs of shoes and soil and the stable takes some getting used to. Once acquired, however, the taste for partial spoilage can become a passion, an embrace of the earthy side of life that expresses itself in paradoxes. The French call a particular plant fungus the pourriture noble, or “noble rot,” for its influence on the character of certain wines, and the Surrealist poet Leon-Paul Fargue is said to have honored Camembert cheese with the title les pieds de Dieu—the feet of God.

—Harold McGee, On Food And Cooking


The busy little bean-counters back there in the wordpress admin panel tell me that I have put up 500 posts on this blog. To become, with this one, 501.

Ye gods.

I realize that some of them have been reprints, reruns, shorties, or simple splashes of music. Still, that seems like a lot of turns round the hamster wheel, in a time span of roughly two years.

I was originally going to post the old folk dirge “500 Miles” to commemorate this moment. And then I thought: no, that’s a gloomy, mournful, wallow-be. And I don’t feel particularly like wallow-being in gloomy and mournful this morn.

So I’m going instead with the “500 Miles” of youngblood Belarusian/Norwegian goofball Alexander Rybak, prodigyal son of classically trained parents in piano (mother Natalia) and violin (father Igor).

Rybak nicked his “500 Miles” from the Scottish identical twins of The Proclaimers. To be expected, as that duo’s 1988 “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” long ago got loose upon the land. It has been used to peddle ale in Canada, wake astronauts on the International Space Station, celebrate the democratization of  television in Spain. It is played amid great jubilation whenever the Scottish national football team scores a goal. And it snuck into that 1993 ode to oddballs Benny & Joon when principal actress Mary Stuart Masterson (Joon) recurrently played it on set, sparking the filmmakers to upload it into the film.

So I see no reason at all why I can’t use the impossibly ebullient Rybak invocation to evoke 500 runs at the wheel.

“Can I Pet The Nice Park, Daddy?”

(This piece was originally published in a now-deceased local paper, about four or so years ago. I am reprinting it here now. Because.)

My daughter has always been attuned to suffering. When still but a toddler, those she perceived as in some sort of pain she dubbed “poor,” and she felt compelled to actively empathize by formally, soberly, petting them. This gift she bestowed indiscrim-inately, from bloated dead sea lions festering on the beach, to cruelly shaped and tamed ornamental shrubbery.

Poor car,” she would say, running her hand over some rusted, abandoned junkheap. “Nice car.”

My daughter has not yet experienced that cruel and abusive torment of nature known today as  “Downtown City Plaza.” I know, though, that she would instantly see it for what it is: crabbed, crimped, crippled. Sterile, suffering, more or less dead. She would gaze upon it with compassion, and then she would ask: “Can I pet the nice park, daddy?”


Brave New World

Reality continues to get . . . fuzzy.

Some Science Men recently devised an experiment involving popcorn. They discovered that people who had been exposed to an ad about popcorn would later “recall” having eating the popcorn, even though they hadn’t. Even though this particular brand of popcorn did not, in fact, exist.

They asked people to read a very descriptive print advertisement detailing the taste of a fictional popcorn product made by a familiar brand name, then asked a portion of the subjects to taste popcorn labeled with the fictional name. A week later, those who merely read the detailed advertisement were just as likely to report eating this popcorn as people who actually ate it.

“Humans are a lot more inaccurate than we think we are,” said Michael Nash, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Meanwhile, a survey of some 7000 young people in nations from Spain to China, Brazil to the US, found that a majority would prefer to lose their sense of smell than eschew information devices.

Laura Simpson, McGann’s Global IQ Director, commented on the study. “What we saw is that technology is the great global unifier,” she said. “It is the glue that binds this generation together and fuels the motivations that define them. Young people utilize technology as a kind of supersense which connects them to infinite knowledge, friends and entertainment opportunities.”

McGann believes the results of the study indicate that for the youth of today, who you are is not defined by what you own or what experiences you’ve had; instead, it’s about who you connect with and what you share. McGann noted the comment of one respondent: “If there are no pics, it didn’t happen.”

France, as ever, goes its own way. In that nation, it is now unlawful to mention the words “twitter” or “facebook” on radio or television. Emitting these words, the French have concluded, is to engage in advertising.

“Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars, when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition?” Christine Kelly of  Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel asked of L’Express. “This would be a distortion of competition. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s Box.”

That “facebook” and “twitter” are English formations does not help them. The French have traditionally sought to stem the spread of perfidious Albionisms into their language. In 2003, for instance, the French heaved the word “email” right off of their tongues. That’s courriel to you.

Public Burning

This is cheery news to wake up to.

Seems there be some yahoos in Congress who don’t much understand them some intertubes, but do understand that people who use those tubes need to go to The Jail.

According to these people, a bill introduced by Senators John Cornyn, Christopher Coons, and Amy Klobuchar would potentially toss in the pokey people who manage to make it behind the Maginot Line erected by Clem Kaddidlehopper, and successfully embed videos offered by YouTube.

[T]he bill tries to also define what constitutes a potential felony crime in these circumstances:

the offense consists of 10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works

So yeah. If you embed a YouTube video that turns out to be infringing, and more than 10 people view it because of your link… you could be facing five years in jail.

Oh noez! Goin’ to the Big House! Get clickin’ on the video below, folks, and thereby commence dire straits.

Republican Right

Manicheanism is easy: I’m good; you’re bad. I try not to succumb to it, but sometimes I do. As in: GOoPers are el stupida, simpletons, smoothbrains; gnarled, twisted avatars of bigotry, intolerance, hate.

Because, you know, uh, some of them are.

But not—it is useful to remember—all of them. Not all the time.

In late May, the Minnesota state legislature voted to place on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would delimit marriage to that between one man and one woman.

Same-sex marriages are already prohibited by statute in Minnesota. But following the November 2010 “Whip The Black Man” stampede, which brought out from their hollows and holes nearly every knuckle-dragger in the nation, grunting and hooting their way to the ballot box, control of the Minnesota state legislature passed to a passel of feebs committed to de-evolution in all its forms. Nearly all of these people, natch, are GOoPers. And they needed to go the full monty, and inscribe their marriage nonsense directly into the state constitution.

However, one of the 62 members of the Minnesota House to vote against the Wrong amendment was a GOoPer, John Kriesel of Cottage Grove. This is a marketing and advertising consultant for the Minnesota National Guard, who once worked as an intern to former Minnesota GOoPer Senator John Coleman.

In 2006, Kriesel, serving in Iraq, lost both legs to a roadside bomb. He nearly lost his life—he was pronounced dead three times on the operating table. Then, thirty-five additional surgeries for this man. This is a man who suffered. Like another Minnesotan born in Hibbing, Robert Zimmerman cum Bob Dylan, Kriesel emerged unable to cabin his suffering to himself. He had grown to empathy. He couldn’t just hurt for himself anymore.


As Above, So Below

Nothing exists nor happens in the visible sky that is not sensed in some hidden manner by the faculties of Earth and Nature: these faculties of the spirit here on earth are as much affected as the sky itself. The natural soul of man is not larger in size than a single point, and on this point the form and character of the entire sky is potentially engraved, as if it were a hundred times larger.

—Johannes Kepler

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When I Worked

June 2011